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How to Get Your Pilots License On a Budget

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Someone who mentions getting a pilot’s license is usually referring to the FAA-issued pilot certificate allowing them to fly small, single-engine private aircraft. Getting a cheap pilot’s license is difficult, because you will need to pay for the minimum of 40 hours of flight in addition to the required ground training. This is the bulk of your expense and provides few discounts. However, there are ways for someone on a budget to reduce costs.

Call a few schools in your area and ask about prices. While the price of the actual flight lesson might not vary much, you might find that some schools charge a lot less for ground school. Also, some schools will charge you for a “flight hour,” which includes both the rental fee for the airplane plus the flight instructor’s fee. Schools that charge you separately sometimes end up costing less.

Ask the school whether you can buy your own study course materials. If you have to buy the books from the school, they’ll probably cost more than they will if found second-hand through eBay or a used bookstore.

Start with ultralight aircraft training. Single seat ultralights do not require a license to be flown in the United States, but you still need to learn to fly them. Training classes for ultralights are usually much cheaper, but they will prepare you for a later transition to regular light aircraft. Some flight schools recognize some of the ground training or flight hours you did for the ultralight as credits toward your license, so you will end up paying less if you decide to continue your training.


If money is an issue, schedule your lessons so you’re only flying a few hours every month. This won’t make the license cheaper, but it will allow you more time to pay it, so it’s not as financially draining. There’s no minimum number of hours you need to fly every week or month to get your license. You just need to eventually meet your 40 hours.