How Much Does an Instrument Rating Cost?

Last Updated on June 10, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

An instrument rating certification allows qualified pilots to legally fly under instrument flight rules (IFR) in poor weather conditions, low visibility, or contexts where navigating solely by visual reference is unsafe or impossible. But the extensive flight training needed to achieve this advanced pilot certification has considerable costs associated.

This guide examines typical instrument rating costs, price breakdowns by training components, insider tips for keeping costs in check, and the long-term career benefits that make the upfront investment worthwhile for driven pilots.

How Much Does an Instrument Rating Cost?

On average, student pilots can expect to spend between $8,000 to $15,000+ to obtain their instrument rating certification in the United States. However, total costs vary widely based on the type of flight school or training program selected, geographic location, experience level and rates charged by instructors, aircraft rental fees, simulator rental rates, total flight training hours required, and availability of accelerated training options.

The individual components that make up the typical all-in costs to train for and obtain an FAA instrument rating certification generally include:

  • School enrollment fees and tuition – $2,000 to $6,000
  • Aircraft rental for required flight hours – $100 to $200+ per hour
  • Flight instructor fees for supervised training – $60 to $100+ per hour
  • Flight simulator rental for instrument proficiency – $150 to $300+ per hour
  • Required training materials and supplies – $500 to $1,000
  • FAA written knowledge exams (and retakes if needed) – $150 to $300
  • Practical skill checkride exam –$300 to $1,000

Additional potential costs to factor in may include current medical exam fees, aviation headset purchases, and checkride retake fees if an applicant fails initial attempts.

The Redbird Flight website discusses how to reduce the cost of an instrument rating. The article mentions that the cost of an instrument rating can be around $7,500 to $10,000. However, it also provides tips on how to save money, such as block booking and shared lessons, which can help reduce the overall cost.

The Ocean Aviation website offers an instrument rating course for airplane pilots, starting at $13,535.00. The course includes a comprehensive curriculum that covers both ground and flight training, as well as a final practical flight test.

The website emphasizes the importance of having a professional instructor and a scenario-based curriculum to help students master skills and tasks beyond basic proficiency.

The Airplane Academy website provides information on the cost of an instrument rating, stating that it typically costs around $8,000. The article highlights that the cost is primarily driven by the 40 required actual or simulated instrument flight training hours, as well as small additional costs such as FAA medical and knowledge tests.

Factors That Impacting Costs

Several important variables contribute to the overall out-of-pocket flight training costs student pilots face when pursuing their instrument rating certification:

  • Type of flight school or training program – Large accredited academies cost substantially more for enrollment than local regional flight schools. University aviation college programs can offer lower rates.
  • Geographic location – Pricing is generally higher in major metro areas than rural regions due to demand and cost of living.
  • Experience and ratings of flight instructors – Highly experienced Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs) with additional ratings charge higher hourly rates.
  • Hourly aircraft rental rates – Newer advanced planes have considerably higher rental fees per flight hour than older basic models.
  • Availability and pricing of flight training devices and simulators – Advanced FAA-approved sim devices can help lower overall flight hours.
  • Total number of flight training hours required – Minimum is 40 hours but most students need 50-60 hours or more of supervised training flights to achieve proficiency.

In general, you can expect to encounter the highest overall instrument rating training costs at an accredited flight academy located in a major city with a fleet of advanced aircraft and high-end simulator labs. But there are ways to keep costs in check through informed planning.

You might also like our articles on the cost of an A&P license, becoming a pilot, or buying a gyrocopter.

Reduce Instrument Rating Training Costs

For student pilots on tighter budgets, here are some proven recommendations and tactics to keep instrument rating training costs in check:

  • Enroll in accelerated instrument rating programs requiring fewer total flight hours to save thousands in aircraft rental costs.
  • Join university aviation college flight programs to access lower aircraft rental rates only available to enrolled students.
  • Ask every prospective flight school about available in-house scholarship opportunities for instrument rating trainees to help defray expenses.
  • Purchase quality used aviation headsets from sites like eBay to save 50-70% on equipment costs over new.
  • Utilize free online practice tests and flight simulator apps to prepare for the FAA written exams – avoiding retest fees.
  • Compare rates and train at smaller local general aviation airports to get lower cost aircraft rental options.
  • Consider financing training costs over time through student loans or personal loans to spread out expenses.

Acquiring an instrument rating is an expensive but very worthwhile investment for driven pilots who plan professional careers in aviation. With proper planning and budgeting, achieving this advanced certification is realistic even with limited financial means through some judicious compromises and cost-saving techniques.

Is FAA Instrument Rating Worth it?

Instrument RatingFor any pilot considering undertaking instrument rating training, the natural question arises – is the significant financial investment ultimately worth the monetary and time costs involved? For most professional aviators, the answer is resolutely yes for these key reasons:

  • An instrument rating vastly expands flight privileges and career options, enabling pilots to fly under IFR and tackle lucrative charter, corporate, regional airline, and commercial aviation jobs requiring instrument competency. These careers offer substantially higher pay than jobs limited to visual flight rules (VFR).
  • An instrument rating provides a safety margin allowing flight in challenging weather and visibility conditions when needed. This skill commands higher pay and makes pilots more employable.
  • The intensive flight and classroom training teaches essential advanced aeronautical knowledge and flight proficiency used daily by commercial pilots.
  • Having an instrument rating gives a competitive edge for pilot job candidates when seeking to build flight hours and experience. Many aviation employers require this certification.

In short, while instrument rating training demands dedication and short-term financial sacrifice, the long-term career payoff and versatility for pilots is well worth the demanding effort and costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How difficult is it to pass the instrument rating checkride exam?

The instrument checkride is widely considered one of the most challenging FAA practical skill exams. However, consistent simulator training on instrument proficiency makes achieving a passing score very feasible. Having an experienced CFI guide preparation is key.

Does instrument rating expire?

No, an FAA instrument rating is permanent once successfully earned and does not need to be periodically renewed. However, pilots must still complete a flight review with a CFI every two years to maintain currency and recent flight experience at IFR competency levels.

Can financing or loans help fund instrument rating training?

Yes, financing the costs over time through a personal student loan, pilot-specific loan, credit cards, or earning-as-you-learn flight instruction jobs can make achieving an instrument rating realistic for pilots without upfront cash savings. Be cautious of high-interest loan offers however.

How hard is it to get instrument rated?

The FAA minimum is 40 hours under the hood as sole manipulator of controls and aircraft systems; however 60-70 supervised instrument training hours is more realistic for mastery needed to pass the checkride on first attempts.

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