The Cessna 150 vs 172 are similar in many ways. They are both all single-engined metal high-wing light aircraft, which were made in large numbers by Cessna, and aimed at the private flying and training market.
Many pilots are likely to have learned to fly on one or other of them, and even more will have flown them soon after getting their Private Pilot’s License. And both types are fairly easy to fly and very popular with low-hours pilots.
I am very familiar with both these aircraft types. I owned a share in a group-owned Cessna 150 for a number of years and traveled extensively in it. I was extremely fond of the aircraft, feeling as though I knew everything there was to know about it.
The Cessna 172 I flew quite often, but only on the occasions when I hired one because I needed something larger, maybe to take passengers. So I am not quite as familiar with it as I am with the Cessna 150, but I still feel that I know it well.
So what are both these Cessna aircraft like to fly? Are they pretty much the same? If not, then which is best? What are the main differences between them? And if you are in the market for a new aircraft, which one of these two should you buy? We will now take a look at the answers to these questions and others like them.
My Bottom Line Up Front
If you are looking for a good all-round airplane that’s easy to fly, can carry passengers, and will do most of the things any private pilot wants, then the Cessna 172 should be perfect for you.
It will carry four people and luggage, and you have a wide choice, from completely new models to budget-priced much older ones. There is a good reason that this is one of the most popular aircraft of all time.
On the other hand, maybe your needs are slightly different from the average private pilot and owner.
Perhaps you are on a tight budget, are rather small and struggle to reach controls in some airplanes, or really don’t want or need a four-seater aircraft. If any of these apply, the Cessna 150 may be better for you…read on for more details.
Main Differences Between the Cessna 150 vs Cessna 172
Let us first summarise the main differences between the Cessna 150 vs Cessna 172…
- The Cessna 150 is no longer being made, so only secondhand models are available. The Cessna 172, on the other hand, is still being produced.
- The Cessna 150 is a two-seater aircraft, whereas the Cessna 172 is a lot larger than the Cessna 150, having four seats.
- The Cessna 172 is a lot more powerful than the Cessna 150. It also has a faster speed and a better range.
- Some smaller pilots struggle to fly the Cessna 172, while some large people find they have problems in the Cessna 150
- The Cessna 172 is more expensive to buy, and also to hire, than the Cessna 150
- Although both types are very safe, the Cessna 172 is said to be significantly safer
We will now take a look at each of these points, and related issues, in more detail.
The Cessna 150 Is No Longer Being Made
The Cessna 150 was discontinued in 1977. However, there are still a huge number being flown. Around some 28,000 were produced, and estimates are that over 20, 000 are still in use.
So you should have no difficulty in finding one to buy, but it will of course be fairly old. The Cessna 172, on the other hand, is still in production. So if you want to buy a new airplane, this may well be the model for you.
The Cessna 172 is Larger than the Cessna 150
The size may be the deciding factor when it comes to purchasing your plane. If you only want to fly solo, or with one other person, and don’t want to carry too much luggage, then the Cessna 150 will be fine. I toured all of Europe in one of these, with a friend.
But we were both fairly small, and we did have to limit ourselves to only a small amount of luggage, so as not to find ourselves with weight and balance issues.
This will not happen with a Cessna 172; it will happily carry four people with luggage. So if you plan to take the family on holiday or something similar, the Cessna 172 is probably what you will need.
The Cessna 172 is More Powerful
The Cessna 172 has a larger engine, and so is correspondingly more powerful, and it has a higher cruise speed. It will also carry more weight, as mentioned above.
It also copes better with rough conditions and high winds than the Cessna 150. So again, if you want to take the family on holiday, having a plane which is faster, more powerful, and can carry more weight, may decide things for you.
Different Sized Pilots May Have Different Preferences
The cockpit of the Cessna 150 is very cramped. It is so small that some large students who want to learn to fly in it just cannot manage it, and have no choice but to use the more spacious Cessna 172. On the other hand, smaller people may struggle to fly the Cessna 172, particularly earlier models.
I am not very tall, and I cannot safely fly early Cessna 172s – I need two cushions in order to reach the pedals and see outside clearly, and I once had one of them slip as I was about to land!
The seats move further forward in the more modern versions of the Cessna 172, but even so, I find it easier to fly the Cessna 150, where everything is within easy reach.
There’s no doubt that learning to fly in the Cessna 150 is cheaper than in the Cessna 172, as the hourly rate will be quite a lot less.
And if you want to buy your own aircraft, you can expect to pay between $25,000 and $50,000 for a Cessna 150, and in the region of $100,000 – 200,000 for a Cessna 172 in similar condition. So this might well decide things for you.
The Cessna 172 is Safer
The Cessna 172 is an exceedingly safe plane, due to its solid construction and size. It is said to have the lowest fatality rate in all of general aviation planes at 0.56 per 100,000 flying hours.
But the Cessna 150 is not unsafe by any means. Indeed. It is about the same in terms of safety as other similar light aircraft.
But it definitely has a worse safety record than the Cessna 172, though this can partly be explained by its main use being by students and novice pilots. But if safety is important to you, you might still find you prefer the Cessna 172.
Similarities Between the Cessna 172 and Cessna 150
You should know that, despite the above, there are possibly more similarities than differences between the Cessna 172 and the Cessna 150. Let us take a look now at these.
Performance and Handling
Both of these aircraft are made by Cessna and are fairly similar when it comes to flying. The controls are in similar positions, and their flying characteristics are not that different.
Stalling and spinning are very benign in both types. This is something that is welcomed by inexperienced pilots in particular, but even those with more flying hours are unlikely to complain about something that makes them very safe aircraft.
Perhaps because they are easy to fly, some pilots complain that both the Cessna 150 and the Cessna 172 are somewhat boring.
Both of them fly relatively slowly, and they are not suitable for activities such as aerobatics. They are both basically a means to make aerial journeys, designed for touring or simply pleasure flying. But that is what most private pilots prefer to do.
Maintenance and Insurance
There should be few problems with maintenance for either of these aircraft types.
Because there are so many of them, and they have been around a long time, there are a large number of mechanics and engineers who are familiar with what needs to be done to keep them in good working order, and obtaining parts for them should not be an issue either; they are easily available, even for the older Cessna 150s.
Insurance should be similarly straightforward. Insurance companies are all familiar with both these aircraft, so their charges are likely to be reasonable. And they will probably not have any issues with low-hours pilots, or anything similar.
Owners of both these aircraft types usually like them a lot. Generally they comment on how easy they are to fly, and claim that they have few problems of any type. Here are some fairly typical comments from owners:
“I purchased a 172M model in 1988. It was my third airplane, and I was pleased with the deal I got.”
“I’ve owned this Skyhawk for 20 years and have put about 2500 hours on it, plus went through one engine overhaul. Every time I think of trading up, I have a hard time thinking of selling a really good airplane “
“The Cessna 150 is the best simple and economical airplane one could ask to own. Very rugged, durable and dependable. With a fuel burn at cruise of around 5 GPH, she does better than my Chevy S10. On average, I can see 100 MPH while spinning the prop at just around 2300 RPM.”
“I have owned two Cessna 150s, an F model that I purchased new in late 1965 and an M model that I purchased 39 years later in the fall of 2004. I put about 1500 hours on the F model until I traded it around 1970.”
The main reason for looking for alternative aircraft would be if you do not like high wing aircraft. Some pilots do not, since although they can see really well beneath the aircraft in the cruise, visibility in the circuit/pattern can be difficult.
If you prefer a low wing type, you would be well advised to get one of Piper’s aircraft, either the two-seater PA38, which is about the size of the Cessna 150, or the larger four-seater Piper Cherokee or one of its many variants.
Or you might prefer the Grumman AA5B, or perhaps the Diamond DV20/DA20 Katana, Ercoupe 415-C, or Diamond DA40 Star, all of which are said to be safe and easy to fly.
The Verdict: Which Aircraft Is Better?
So which is better: the Cessna 150 or the Cessna 172? I must admit to being biased here. As a small pilot, with a great deal of experience in the Cessna 150, I most definitely prefer it. But being a little more impartial, I would have to choose the Cessna 172, in particular the more recent models.
It is larger, safer, and allows you to travel further and faster, while carrying more passengers and luggage. Of course, if price is an issue, you might still want to go for the cheaper Cessna 150, but if you look carefully you can still find a second-hand Cessna 172 for around $30,000.
So what’s not to like? There is a reason why so many people fly the Cessna 172, and why it is said to be the most popular aircraft ever produced.
So which aircraft is better? The Cessna 172.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I learned to fly on a Cessna 150. Will I need extra training before flying a Cessna 172?
Answer: You won’t need a lot of extra tuition, but a few hours with an instructor would really be a good idea. The Cessna 172 is a lot heavier and more powerful than the Cessna 150, and when I did this conversion I found the Cessna 172 difficult to manage at first.
So please don’t just leap into a Cessna 172 with no experience and expect it to be just like the Cessna 150; it is different.
Question: I am Well Over 6 Foot Tall. Will I be Able to Fly a Cessna 150?
Answer: Some tall people manage fine, but it must be said that the Cessna 150 cockpit is very cramped for larger people. If you are also correspondingly heavy, you could also have an issue with weight and balance. But by all means give it a try and see how you get on.
Question: Most Cessna 150s Seem to be Around 50 years old. Is this an Issue if I buy one, and Would I be Better off With a Newer Cessna 172?
Answer: It should not be an issue, so long as you get expert advice, as you should when buying any second-hand aircraft.
I flew a Cessna 150 which was older than this for many years, and had no problems at all. Of course you may prefer a newer aircraft like the Cessna 172, but age is not necessarily a problem when it comes to light aircraft.
- AOPA. https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/aircraft-and-ownership/aircraft-fact-sheets/cessna-150
- Executive Flyers, https://executiveflyers.com/cessna-150-vs-172/
- Aviation Consumer. https://www.aviationconsumer.com/aircraftreviews/cessna-150/
- The most affordable single-engine planes. https://singleenginepilot.com/the-most-affordable-single-engine-planes-our-top-9-picks/