PA28 Piper Archer Flight Expense Calculator

What are the flight expenses per hour for a PA28 Piper Archer?  General aviation flight expense can be divided into two categories variable and fixed.

1976 Piper Archer II, PA-28-181
1976 Piper Archer II, PA-28-181

Variable costs are those that increase with the number of hours flown; such as, fuel, oil and engine maintenance.  Fixed expenses are costs incurred whether you fly or not; such as, hangar, insurance, and subscription expenses.

My flight cost calculations are based on feedback from other pilots and personal experience with flying a PA28-181 Piper Archer II for eight years.

My direct out-of-pocket expense for fuel and oil ran $57.00 per hour.  Total variable expense was about $76.00 per flight hour.  Fixed costs, such as, hangar, insurance, annual, and subscriptions were about $5,450 per year.

The Piper Archer PA28-181 is a fun, easy, and relatively economical plane to fly.  I enjoyed 8 years of ownership that included flying all across the United States.

The following Table A lists variable flight expense per hour flown:

TABLE A

PA28-181 Archer Per Hr. Rate
Avg. Fuel Exp. Per Hr.  $53.55
Fuel exp. per gallon avg.  $5.10
Avg. GPH fuel flow  10.50
Average Oil Exp. Per Hr.  $0.78
Oil exp. per quart  $7.00
Oil consumption per hr.  0.11
Oil Change Exp. Per Hr.  $2.60
Oil Change every 50 hrs.  $130.00
Direct Exp. Per Hour  $56.93
Add: Engine Reserve  12.00
Add: Prop Reserve  0.38
Add: Operating Exp. Fund  7.00
Total Hobbs per hr. Rate  $76.30

Fuel expense: The above cost of $5.10 for fuel is an average price.  We try to buy fuel on the weekends at discounted prices in the mid $4.50 range.  On cross country flights we sometimes experience higher prices in the $6.00 range depending on the airport.  Fuel flow is an average estimate for taxi, climb, cruise and decent.

Oil expense: Some discount retailers, such as, Sam’s sell aviation oil.  Our cost is based on purchasing the product by the case.  Divide one quart by the number of hours between adding a quart to your engine.  Oil change expense includes labor cost for an aircraft mechanic.  You might also want to include the cost for oil analysis by an independent third party.

Reserve Funds:  You have three planning options for deferred maintenance also called a reserve fund: budget nothing, budget something, budget everything.  This example budgets most of the costs for an engine reserve fund but assumes some expense will be paid out-of-pocket when the time arrives. The reserve fund rate also assumes any cylinder or piston work, if required, before TBO, is paid out-of-pocket as part of regular engine maintenance.

The reserve fund budget assumes reaching engine flight times of at least 2,000 hours.  Most PA28 owners use engine tach time.  Flight time is usually less than hobbs time.  Hobbs meters can run 12%-20% higher than actual flight time because of preflight & taxi time.

If a Lycoming 0-360 engine is operated and maintained correctly it can run with good compressions well past 2,000 hours.  My Lycoming 0-360 operated ten percent over TBO with the compression readings still good.  I chose a complete Lycoming 0-360 engine exchange installation, and ran the new engine for about five years and 500 hours before selling the aircraft.  These costs are based on Part 91 owner flying and not Part 135 operations.

TABLE B

 Engine Reserve Fund  Capital TBO HRS. Hobbs Hr.
 Engine Exchange/Overhaul  24,000  2,000  12.00
 Prop Overhaul  750  2,000  0.38
Total  $24,750  $12.38
Hobbs verses Flight time variance 12%

Here is an example of what total fixed and variable costs would be for a pilot flying a PA28 Piper Archer for 80 hours during a twelve month period.

TABLE C

Hours Avg.
Estimated Direct Expense Per YR Year Month
Annual Inspection  1,750  146
Pilot Hours Flying 80  4,554  380
Hangar  2,400  200
Insurance  670  56
Subscriptions, i.e. XM WX  630  53
Unscheduled Maintenance  350  29
 Direct Out-of-Pocket  10,354  863
Add: Engine Maint. Reserves  1,550  129
Total Fixed & Variable Exp.  $11,904  $992

My cost experience with “aircraft annuals” was in the range of $1,000 – $1,900 during eight years of flying the Archer.  When the aircraft flew more than 100 hours in a 12 month period a 100 hour inspection was performed.  And, with each 50 hour oil change the mechanic checked over the engine.  In 2013, I sold my Piper Archer.

This PA28 Piper Archer flight expense calculator should provide you a starting point to estimate your flying and maintenance expense.  You can download an Excel copy by clicking here: FlightExpCalculator_Archer

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8 thoughts on “PA28 Piper Archer Flight Expense Calculator

    1. Jim, good question. In 2013, I sold my Archer and purchased a Cirrus Aircraft. I hope some of our readers will respond to your question with current Piper labor rates for maintenance in their local areas.

      For Cirrus maintenance, I’ve seen the following labor rates at Authorized Service Centers: $90, $85 and $70 per hour (Houston and Dallas, TX).

      1. Just curious what the range of rates you used in your calculations over the course of your ownership of the PA-28. It makes a big difference budgeting for an annual if the hourly rate is $90/hr or $50. In other words, was your $1,900 annual based on 21 man hours or 42? Thanks for clarifying.

      2. The Archer Annual expenses are not based on an hourly labor rate. It’s based on the total bill received from the A/P for the Annual. When I checked recent Work Orders on Cirrus maintenance, neither the total hours or hourly labor rates were provided on the bill. Just a total charge for Labor. I had to call to obtain the hourly rate.

  1. Thank you for sharing your analysis, it’s very timely. I currently rent a PA-28 but my family is very interested in a Cirrus SR22 G3. Do you happen to have a similar analysis for your Cirrus? I would love to see your comparison. Thanks!

    1. Thank you for the question. The short answer is yes. I published a Cirrus Flight Expense Calculator in April 2014 after 100 hours of operation and 7 months of ownership. But interest in Cirrus Cost of Ownership has grown. We now have more than 500 hours in Cirrus airplanes over the past two years and I began a Cost of Ownership Series in July 2015 to provide more expense details and to support shared ownership in Cirrus aircraft.

      Information on fixed expenses will follow the variable expense articles. I’ll update the Cost of Ownership calculator toward the end of the series. In general, I’ve found that the cost of a quarter-share in a Cirrus airplane is comparable to owning a Piper Archer by yourself.

      I’m a planner. I like to know how much things will cost. I hope this helps.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I’m living in Europe and the calculation over here is completely different….and I mean completely. Avgas is way more expensive, even with the current iver supply of fuel, prices are barely going down. We’ve got prices around 2.5 euro per liter of Avgas. Insurance costs some 5000€ a year, and an hangar costs 3000€ a year. Etc…..

    1. Thanks for your comment. AVgas is our largest single operating expense. We could all benefit from improvements in piston engine efficiency, but the margins would be even greater in Europe.

      Currently, shared ownership or flying clubs appear to be the most immediate cost savings opportunity available to pilots.

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