Cessna 182 vs 185 Compared: Which Is Better? [2022]

When comparing the Cessna 182 to the 185, it’s worth understanding the genesis of both designs in the venerable and much loved Cessna 180. Introduced in 1952 as a four-seat conventional landing gear aircraft, the Cessna 180 was initially powered by the 225 hp Continental O-470 series engine, upgraded to 230 hp four years later.

In 1963 Cessna added two additional seats, and the aircraft was produced as a six-seater until production ceased in 1981. Over 28-years, Cessna manufactured almost 6,200 of the 180.

The Cessna 182 was introduced in 1956 as a tricycle undercarriage variant of the 180, sporting the larger 230 hp Continental O-470-L engine of the now-upgraded 180. Named the 182 Skylane, production stopped and started a couple of times over the years but is still manufactured by Cessna today.

In 1977, Cessna changed the engine to the 235 hp Lycoming 0-540-J3C5D and, in subsequent years, toyed with injected and turbocharged variants of the Lycoming. In the 65 years of production, over 23,000 normally aspirated, injected, and turbocharged Skylane have been produced.

The Cessna 185 was a stretched variant of the 180, introduced in 1961 as a six-seater, maintaining the conventional undercarriage configuration and using the more powerful injected Continental IO-470-F producing 260 hp.

In 1965, Cessna fitted the 300 hp Continental IO-520-D, marking the different engine configuration with an A-prefix to the model number. Over 4,400 185s were produced from 1961 until 1985 when production ceased.

This article will compare the 182 and the 185, one a four-seater 230 hp aircraft and the other a six-seater with 260 or 300 hp engines. We’ll look at performance specs and maintenance issues to identify the mission profiles best suited to each.

  1977 

 

Cessna 182Q

1965

 

Cessna 185D

1968

 

Cessna A185E

Powerplant O-470-U IO-470-F IO-520-D
Horsepower 230 260 300
Crew 1 1 1
Passengers 3 5 5
Length 28′ 25′ 9″ 25′ 9″
Wingspan 36′ 35′ 10″ 35′ 1′”
H’ig”t 9′ 3″ 7′ 9″ 7′ 9″‘
Win’ Ar”a 1’4 s” ft 174 s’ f” 1’4 “q ‘t
“mpty Weight (lbs) 1700 1560 1575
Max TakeOff Weight (lbs) 2950 3200 3350
Max Useful Load (lbs) 1250 1640 1775
Fuel Capacity (gals) 92 65 65
Baggage Capacity (lbs) 200 350 350
Stall Speed (kts) (Flaps up)  56 61 58
Stall Speed (kts) (Flaps down) 50 54 51
Best sea-level rate-of-climb (fpm) 1010 1000 1010
Take-off Ground Roll (ft) 705 650 745
T/O Dist. over 50-foot obstacle 1350 1510 1330
Landing Ground Roll (ft) 590 610 480
Ldg Dist. over 50-foot obstacle 1350 1265 1400
Service Ceiling (ft) 16,500 17,300 17,150
Do Not Exceed Speed (kts) 179 179 182
Max Structural Cruise Speed (kts) 143 143 148
Cruise Speed 75% pwr (kts) 144 145 147
Fuel Consumption 75% (Gals/hr) 13.3 14.0 15.6
Cruising Range 75% (nm) 880 725 585

The Cessna 182

The Cessna 182

Cessna got it right with the thinking behind the 182. Designed with a nosewheel to be an easier step from the traditional pilot development pathway of 152s and 172s, the 182 provides:

  • More power
  • A larger cabin
  • A constant speed prop
  • A hotter performance
  • A greater true carrying capacity.

The fact that 65 years and 23,000 aircraft later, Cessna still produces the aircraft is testimony to a brilliant design. If you want to fill the aircraft with people and fuel and still get a reasonable range, you can, and if you can get it into an airstrip, you’ll get it out.

If you’re looking for a stable, reliable, rugged, and versatile cruiser for four with benign flight characteristics, the 182 needs to be near the top of your list.

The Cessna 185

The Cessna 185

The 185 may not have sold in the same numbers as the 182; in fact, Cessna sold a total of 4,400. Yet, the aircraft has become iconic, owned by die-hard enthusiasts and trading ownership at prices that can make your eyes water when you consider you’re paying for a 20 to 40-year-old aircraft. So what’s the attraction?

The Cessna 185 offers advantages the 182 can’t match. As a load lifter, the lower horsepower 185 lifts 400 pounds more than the 182, while the 300 horsepower A-model trumps it by 500 pounds. The (almost) tongue-in-cheek statement from bush pilots regarding the 185s load carrying capacity is that if you can close the doors, the 185 will lift it.

Rugged and powerful, the 185 is a true short takeoff and landing (STOL) performer. Used worldwide by backcountry pilots, the 185 will do things and go places the 182 will not; it’s a 182 on steroids.

Flight Handling Differences

You would expect the two aircraft to handle very much the same, and for the most part, they do. Stable, heavy, with a great deal of inertia, you feel like you’re flying a bigger aircraft but with a nice solid feel. That nose wheel on the early 182s did add a cruise and climb penalty, but many chose that over the more interesting landing issues of the conventional gear 185.

The 182s and the early 185s had a reputation for being relatively spritely compared to the more truck-like feel of the more powerful 185s. Being heavier in all three axes, the rudder on the 185 is heaviest, followed by the elevator, with the roll axis the lightest, relatively speaking. All three aircraft trim out well and hold altitude and heading without wandering, handling turbulence well.

It’s on landing that the major differences occur, with the nosewheel 182 making life easy for pilots transitioning from the smaller 172. In the 185, however, it takes more than a few hours to begin getting comfortable with the poorer visibility and the challenges of crosswind landings.

The hoary old saying that you shouldn’t stop flying the aircraft until it’s in the hangar is particularly pertinent to the Cessna 185, with most ground loop incidents occurring below 30 knots. Think of constant small control inputs and changes to keep everything straight, not allowing a diversion to gain momentum. Full rudder input and judicious use of the throttle is sometimes the only thing that works.

Prices

Cessna 182

Prices for a good condition Cessna 182 range from US$85,000 through to US$165,500 depending on engine time and avionics fit. Airframe hours average 4,300. 

Early model Cessna 185s have a price average of US$240,000 with airframe times around 5,500 hours, while newer models average US$400,000 with 3,000 hours or less on the airframe. Good condition, late-model, low-hour aircraft can fetch north of US$600,000.

Insurance

The standard aviation insurance all aircraft owners take is liability coverage, while hull coverage is optional. Liability coverage covers damage caused by the aircraft, including passengers, while hull coverage covers damage to the aircraft itself. The greater the experience of the owner/pilot, the lower the premiums.

The 182 has lower insurance premiums than the 185, given its fleet size, reliability, and loss history. For a private pilot with 300 hours total time and 25 hours on Cessna 182s, the 2019 cost per year for US$1,000,000 liability coverage is in the range of US$260 to US$350 per year. 

Pilots with less experience can expect this range to rise to between US$375 to US$750 per year. If the insurance includes additional hull cover for US$50,000, the annual premium for the experienced pilot will be between US$530 to US$1,200 per year and US$1,200 to US$1,900 for lesser experienced pilots.

The 185 insurance premiums for a private pilot with 750 hours total time, 250 hours on taildraggers, and 25 hours on type, the 2020 cost per year for US$1,000,000 liability coverage is in the range of US$384 to US$505 per year. 

Pilots with less experience can expect this range to rise to between US$470 to US$630 per year. If the insurance includes additional hull cover for US$110,000, the annual premium for the experienced pilot will be between US$1,945 to US$2,440 per year.

Which to Choose?

The Cessna 185

While the two models may be related, the mission profiles have become quite diverse. Yes, both aircraft have good STOL characteristics, flight handling, and load-carrying ability. Both end up on floats or skis and operate in and out of bush strips. However, ask any bush pilot, and they’ll tell you the 185 will go to places and carry loads that the 182 simply can’t match.

If you want an aircraft you can fill with fuel and people and then travel comfortably from point A to point B while operating out of some pretty short and unmade strips, the Cessna 182 is the aircraft to buy.

There’s a reason Cessna has sold 23,000 to date and counting. The ease of transition, affordability, benign flight characteristics, and decent cruising range make the Cessna 182 a much sought-after aircraft.

Yet, there’s a reason good condition 185s command prices twice that of the 182; scarcity and capability. If you want, and can afford, the equivalent of a rugged truck that you can load with people and cargo, climb and cruise at the same rates as the 182, but also drop into some pretty inhospitable places with rugged or no airstrips, look no further than the Cessna 185.

Added to that, the rating looks so much better in your logbook!

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What Does STOL Mean?

Answer: STOL is an acronym for Short Take-Off and Landing. It refers to an aircraft’s capabilities, allowing it to operate out of, and into, shorter than standard runways.

Question: What Does Service Ceiling Mean?

Answer: An aircraft’s service ceiling is defined as the height at which the aircraft cannot climb at a rate greater than 100 feet per minute.

Question: What is the Meaning of the Term TBO?

Answer: TBO means Time Between Overhaul, which is the manufacturer’s recommended running time, in hours or calendar time, before overhaul.

Question: To What Does TTAF Refer?

Answer: TTAF stands for Total Time Airframe, which refers to the number of flying hours the airframe has accumulated since new. Thus, it is an indication of age and use.

Question: Aircraft Gross Weight Refers to What?

Answer: Gross Weight is the total aircraft weight, including pilots, passengers, fuel, oil, and cargo.

Question: What Does Max Structural Cruise Mean?

Answer: Maximum structural cruise, or Vno, refers to the airspeed above which the aircraft should be flown only in smooth air. Above this speed, turbulence or rapid control deflections increase the chance of structural damage.

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