Let's get back down to earth for a moment. Before you get too far into spending money on flying, consider what you want to get out of flying.
For many pilots, it's the thrill of adding a third dimension to their visual prospective. It is being able to see their homes, workplaces, and even problems from a different prospective. Crabgrass doesn't look as important from 1,500 feet above.
For other pilots, it's the efficiency of cutting travel time and having more fun getting there. Even though a small general aviation (GA) airplane has limited performance, it can fly twice as fast as you can drive. Add to this that you can fly a straight line, so flying time could be less than half of an automobile trip. Still other pilots fly because they want to share their perspective with family and friends. They love taking kids and grandkids and neighborhood kids up in the plane.
Some private pilots are simply looking for incremental training toward a career in aviation. They start with their private pilot license, add commercial and instrument ratings, then move up to Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification.
Many wannabe pilots, however, aren't really sure why they want to fly. They just do. And they're not sure how they will use their flying in the future. They might start out by going to fly-ins and pancake breakfasts, then move to camping under the wing, and finally decide on turning their love of flying into a business or a career. For them, it makes much more sense to start with a private pilot certificate and work toward higher ratings as interest and resources grow.
What happens if the engine conks out? The typical GA airplane has a glide ratio of 9:1. If you are one mile (5,280 feet) off the ground and the engine conks out you have nine miles in any direction to find a place to land. Much of your training will be toward knowing what to do—and how to avoid it. Relax!