1. Buy renter insurance. A small investment in renter insurance can save you thousands of dollars. The FBO insures its airplane, but that usually doesn’t include you. It is similar to renting a car. Sure, the rental car company owns and insures the car, but as the driver (in this case, the pilot), you need insurance, too.
2. Shop around. The best airplane rental deal may not be from your flight school, FBO, or local airport. Driving 20 miles to another general aviation airport may be worthwhile if the rental rate is substantially lower. Don’t automatically go with the FBO you know. Find the best deal by checking for rental rates or making a few phone calls.
3. Look for a deal. Some FBOs offer discounts for new customers or for pilots willing to rent on an off day. Weekends are the busiest time for aircraft rental, so you’ll likely find no price reduction then. Off-times for rentals are usually midweek: Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. If you can fly on those days, you’ll probably pay less.
What about block time? There are pros and cons to buying it. You will save money by buying a block of 10 hours, for example, not to mention the impetus a block of hours gives you to go flying. But you have to pay in advance. And if something happens and you can’t use the rental, you may have a hassle getting a refund for the unused time. The best advice is to weigh all your options before you plunk down money for block time.
Simply ask for a deal. The worst thing that could happen is that you’re told no. Maybe you won’t get a 10-percent discount, maybe you’ll get 5 percent—just ask.
4. Split the costs with another pilot. There’s a quick 50-percent price reduction. You’ll have another set of eyes in the cockpit and another pilot to ensure a safe flight. You will have to share PIC time, but flying with another pilot is more fun. Who wants to eat that $100 hamburger alone?
5. Shop around for fuel prices, too. If you are on a cross-country flight that requires refueling, download one of the fuel finder apps or check AOPA Airports to check on fuel prices. You have plenty of choices as to where you land to refuel so pick the airport with the best fuel cost.
6. Get the administrative duties out of the way. Gather your paperwork and other necessary documentation. Buy your renter insurance, and get that (successful) checkout out of the way in advance of the day you are renting. This may not exactly save you money, but when the day of your flight arrives, you can concentrate 100 percent on flight planning and being the best pilot. What’s more, you don’t want your friends or family cooling their heels while you wait around for the instructor who is doing your checkout. Do it in advance and enjoy your day.
7. Be meticulous in your preflight. Unlike pilots who own their own airplane, you don’t know anything about the last person to fly that rental airplane. In addition to the obvious flight safety reasons, you don’t want to be charged for any dings, dents, or inoperable equipment that may have happened before you took the controls.
8. Then what? Enjoy a beautiful time flying, and congratulate yourself on doing all it took to enjoy the freedom of flight.
Did you know you can buy renter insurance online, charge it to a credit card, and download proof of insurance within minutes? For more information or to apply for a policy, visit aopainsurance.org/renters. Don’t forget: You may qualify for a 5-percent discount just for being an AOPA member.