Tips for Frugal Renters

Not all pilots fly their owned wings. For a variety of reasons, many frugal pilots choose to rent aircraft. They may not fly enough hours to justify owning. They may own a simple aircraft but sometimes rent specialized planes for more capacity, IFR flights, or to add new types to their log book.

There is no specific point at which frugal pilots should consider getting rid of their plane for lack of use and renting. Many say that for flying fewer than 50 hours a year, renting is cheaper. For others, the number is higher or lower. And there are more reasons than frugality to consider renting aircraft. Most of the tips for frugal pilots apply to those who rent their wings. In addition, frugal renters have a few more decisions to make. Here are some tips for frugal aircraft renters.

Know why you fly

A couple of articles ago, we discussed annually reviewing your flying mission by asking “Why do I fly?” and assessing your logbooks to confirm or deny your assumption. At that point, many pilots reconsider owning an airplane and think about renting – or maybe owning one type and periodically renting another type. In any case, it is important to periodically review the reality of your flying. Maybe renting is your best option.

Know your budget

Even if flying missions don't change over the years, budgets often do. Instead of flying 125 hours a year, you're now flying 25 for one of a variety of reasons. Jobs, families, responsibilities, personal goals, and time available for flying are upsized or downsized by life. Review and adjust your current flying budget annually. Maybe you should be renting your aircraft – or maybe buying one instead of renting.

Make it easier

Renting an aircraft can be a hassle, requiring a check ride, document review, reserving a plane when you need it, and preflighting an aircraft you may not be familiar with. You can make some of these steps easier by selecting your primary rental service and working out the trust issues before your first rental flight. Get the check ride out of the way, select two or three preferred aircraft from the hangar, and make sure the rental service has an easy way to reserve aircraft by phone or online, and get your credit card information into their secure database.

Many frugal pilots are signing up with aircraft rental networks such as that standardize pre-rental requirements to make renting easier nationwide. Once you are accepted in the system, your certification, logbook, and financial information are available to member FBO rental services with a Universal Pilot Checkout. You may not need a check flight if you are renting aircraft that you have prior experience with.

You also can make renting easier on your wallet by purchasing blocks of rental time in advance of use. Many FBOs offer a ten percent discount for prepaid rental fees. That's like getting one free flying hour for every ten.

Get renters insurance

FBOs that rent aircraft protect their aircraft assets with commercial aircraft insurance. If the plane crashes, they get another one. But what about you and your passengers? Most aircraft rental agreements don't adequately cover you. Just how much renters insurance you need depends on what the FBO covers, but most renter policies are set up to fill the gaps.

When purchasing an aircraft renters insurance policy, the rate will depend on the depth of your logbook, what you plan to fly, and from where. Additional charges are applied if you rent multi-engine aircraft or are flying in Alaska or Hawaii. If you have had an aircraft insurance policy in the past, contact their agent first as you may get a preferred customer discount.

Aircraft renters insurance is also called non-owned insurance and is for pilots who fly other people's aircraft. For example, if you are a member of a flying club or often fly aircraft you don't own, seriously consider non-owned insurance. Even if you do own a plane, your current policy may or may not cover you in someone else's airplane. Find out before it becomes an issue.

Preflight your rental

One of the disadvantages of flying rental aircraft is that you don't know who flew it last. The pilot may have been ex-military with an extensive preflight inspection – or a kick-the-tires-and-light-the-fire pilot. Just in case your chosen rental aircraft doesn't have a checklist, consider buying a CheckMate, QREF, or other laminated model-specific checklist for your flight bag.

Flying is a safe and enjoyable pastime, even if you're renting your wings. By being a frugal pilot, you can fly more and spend less.