Learning to Trike

Learning to Trike

Learners and experienced pilots sharing their knowledge

How much does it cost to operate a Trike? What does this sport cost on an hourly basis?


Exactly $62 / hr   ; )   
Well not exactly, but here are some considerations 
This does not include initial purchase cost or depreciation of the trike.  After the first purchase depreciation, trikes hold their value pretty well (ie a used trike holds it's value pretty well if well maintained)
Let's assume 100hrs per year:   To determine hourly cost, we first need to make an assumption about the number of hours you fly per year.  So, we'll assume 100hrs / yr for this exercise, this is about 8.5 hrs/mo, 1-2 flights per wkend--  many fly less, a few fly more.
Costs in US $:
  • Fuel cost:  $3.5/ gallon * 3.2gph = $11.2 / hr
  • Hangar cost lets say 500/mo shared by 2 trikes = 250 / mo = $30/hr

                         (with trikes, we are so lucky to be able to do this--  I can fit 3 in my hangar)

                          Hangar costs can be more than 50% of your total costs!!!

  • Insurance $500/yr =  $5/hr
  • *Engine rebuild for a Rotax 912 ($12K/2500hrs) = $4.8 / hr
  • *BRS Maintenance ((Rocket $800/1200hrs)+(Chute $400/600hrs)) = $1.34/hr 


          I had made a spreadsheet to calculate these next two:

  • Routine Maintenance ~ $2.75 per hour
  • Additional equipment replacement (gloves, suits, helmets/face shields, etc) = $2.5 / hr


* Engine rebuild assumes $10,000 for 912 rebuild at 2500hr (your engine may or may not require it sooner or later. SLSA has to follow the schedule)

* BRS assumes 100 hrs flown per year. Repack $400/6 yrs, Rocket $800/12yrs



  • Many of us also have to pay Luxury Tax on our airplanes: 1% of the purchase price annually, and the rate doesn't decrease with depreciation, it's forever. Mine was used, so the annual bite is not as bad as some of the new / expensive ones.

          For me annual taxes are $333 / yr = $3.33/hr

  • In some states and areas, and sometimes when in a trailer rather than reported to be at an airport (and sometimes people fly their aircraft out of state for one particular day or something), you can avoid that tax. Me, I'm stuck, I have a hangar and my aircraft is known by the county to be there (since I live in a nearby county, one year the nearby county demanded I pay them too!! : {


  • Property Tax!?:  This one really took me by surprise. I RENT my hangar from the county, but I have to pay the property taxes!!!!  I don't own the hangar, the county owns it, but I have to pay the county property taxes. Thats another $82/year = $0.82/hr
Sum:  Fuel $11.2/hr + Hangar $30/hr  + Insurance $5/hr  + Rebuild $4.8/hr + BRS $1.34 / hr
Routine Maintenance $2.75/hr + Additional $2.5 / hr + Taxes $4.15/hr = $61.75 / hr
Other costs.
You might also want to add in AOPA $45/yr (.45/hr) (I use their legal service ($39/yr .39/hr) & other flight / con-ed stuff I think it's a bargain), EAA (I get my insurance through them) and other subscription fees-- such as weather, flight planning, A/FD & chart updates, etc
No wonder it's hard to make a living as an instructor- especially when you have to have an S-LSA.
Then again, I don't know how the typical GA planes that burn 10 - 30 GPH of AvGas (even more expensive than our MoGas) do it, and I am grateful every time that for two hours of flying, it only FEELS LIKE it's costing me about $10 in my trike!!!!
But in order to plan a retirement and /or vacation even, you gotta be realistic about what things really do cost & budget for them.  Which is why I came up with the calculation.
Also if you get in over your head with costs, not realistically planning, then you will probably be forced to skimp on maintenance-- which becomes a safety risk for you and OTHERS.


  • XC Triker

    So, if it costs over $62 US  per hour to operate a trike-- wonder again how your instructor can make money at all charging the reasonable amounts they do?

    (Note:  I am not an instructor, but I am very pro-instruction / continuing ed :)

  • Charlie P

    That is a good start on computing how much a trike costs to operate. I think you over estimate the number of hours that the majority of pilots fly per year while at the same time underestimate the cost of maintenance and upkeep.  Most people will be in the sport for only a few years before family and life cause them to move in another direction. That should be factored in to the cost of your flying.

    Consider the maintenance cost and service life of critical components that need to be periodically replaced (wires, tubing, wings,  masts, props, tires, etc.).

    Read through this site and you will also be struck by the number of people who change their wings more often than their underwear. Be sure to figure in the cost of a few wings before that 912 needs it's first overhaul. :-)

    The biggie... depreciation! Look on barnstormers at trikes that are several years old but only have a couple hundred hours on them at most. They are being offered at a fraction of the original selling price and many have been on barnstormers for a long, long long, long time.  Please be realistic when you sit down to compute how much it will cost to own a trike for a few years. Trikes, especially big trikes, are similar to boats in that the best two days of ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.

    A serious question... I fly part 103 and don't deal with government rules and regulations when I fly my trike. I noticed you didn't include any costs of ongoing faa registration and annuals and licensing. Is that something one should consider? I really don't know what one would pay for those stick on numbers and the piece of paper most of you carry around in your wallets.

    Do not fear though, triking can be done relative cheaply if you are smart. Many people buy expensive new trikes and scare the crap out of themselves in the first hundred hours of solo flight and park their trikes for a few years before finally selling them. These trikes are almost new and can be had very cheaply.  Look for a good used trike and save yourself thousands. In the case of some supertrikes you can save tens of thousands.

    Another way to save big is to fly a cheap part 103 trike. I fly a basic part 103 trike with a small motor similar to those found on lawn mowers. It won't go 100mph but it is just as much if not more fun to fly. My cost of flying is:

    FAA cost: $0

    Insurance: $0

    Taxes: $0

    Parachute repacking: 6 rubber bands/year

    Fuel: about 3/4 gal/hr when the engine is running.  $0 when its not.

    hangar: $100/mo or $0 if I wasn't so lazy and set up every time.

    Maintenance: about $100/yr.

    Engine: I don't know. It is more like a lawn mower than an aircraft engine and repair cost will hopefully be cheaper.

    Depreciation: This is still the killer. In ten years my part 103 trike will be just as worthless as ten year old supertrike.


  • XC Triker

    Henry, I think the FAA regs say you can split the costs-- so it would be $62 / 2 = $31 + half of other expenses.

                  Let me know if I'm wrong on the 50% thing--  I thought you could split true operating costs.


    Charlie, I agree.  Small trikes are much more economical.  Some points I would contend would be not having insurance- IF it is available (probably through USHGA (~$60/year), or EAA (more), or via an Umbrella policy on your homeowners as I have) is important.  USHGA maintains insurance for it's members who are flying even smaller craft with no propeller because it's important.  To compare apples to apples, we need to remove insurance from both or not.  FAA costs are not much.  Only recently did registration start to be a recurring cost- it is every 3 years, & I haven't had to re-register yet since they instituted it (I was last on the list)-- it's about $50/3 yrs.  I did forget to add the cost of a Medical for Private Pilot (sport pilot not required) every 2-3 years depending on age- should be about $100.  Also I forgot to add transponder recert every 2 years (again, not everyone has one) ~$100 every 2 years.  The numbers I came up with for hourly maintenance DID include the annuals-- it was a complex spreadsheet I made and as complete as I could, soo ...   You still need to do the majority of the same things on a light trike.

    I'd say that a new super-trike or a new art 103 trike would both take about a 65% hit on value in the first year.  The difference is that that amounts to $20K to $40K on a super-trike and $2K to $4k on a part 103.  Still the same percentage lost on investment, but the gross loss is much higher with a new super trike.  Used trikes however hold their value very well I think.

    I did not factor in the cost of a new wing-  most wings should last the life of the average pilot's flying career, or at least half the life of a typical trike.  I did purchase a used Bionix 15M and am selling my iXess 15M-  the difference will cost me about $4000 = another ~ $4 to $10 per hour of use.  A bit pricey, even with a used wing exchange!

  • Charlie P

    Xctriker, ushga is now called the ushpa. I am a member and have a hang 0 rating. Membership cost is now $100/yr and their insurance does not cover powered aircraft.

  • Rebel

    (b) You may share the operating expenses of a flight with a passenger, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenses, or aircraft rental fees. You must pay at least half the operating expenses of the flight. notice it says only fuel, oil, ap expenses and rental fees. not insurance hanger fees or any other thing that you might want to add as an expense.

  • XC Triker

    Thanks Reb--  bummer you can't divide up ALL the costs.  They are true costs!

          An instructor has to have an S-LSA (additional costs), and are you required to have medical exams?

    Charlie, thanks-  I guess my mind refuses to acknowledge the change from USHGA to USHPA (Hang/Para Assoc.)    ONE HUNDRED BUCKS per YEAR now!!!!  Ouch!!!  ;)    But, they are a good organization-- and you get a magazine  ;)

  • Firstlight

    Hi Charlie:


    I think you seriously under estimated some of the costs associated with flying a wee trike. I replace my rubber bands every SIX MONTHS!


    Seriously, there are a lot of very reasonably priced aircraft out there, if people are willing to be patient and possibly contribute a bit of work. Jackye R mentioned a $5K Flycycle with a F3-225 wing. That would be a ton of fun for smooth-air boating around, which is all many folks seem to do anyway.

    I have a two-place trike again. I bought it used, and the original owner paid the 75% depreciation. I have a nice, low hours trike with a comfy back seat at a price I can afford. I reckon I can fly it for as long as I want and sell it for about what I paid for it.

    Flying is never cheap, but it doesn't have to be as expensive as many of us make it.