private is about 15K - 20K. and if i remember correctly commercial is like 40K more on top of the private license.
last summer it was about $300 for an hour flight lesson for me. who knows this summer with gas price
talk to triplez... its a lot of fucking money
I just finished my Private license about a month ago. The private gives you the ability to fly a type rated aircraft (Im signed off for a tricycle gear single engine land), and basically fly into ANYWHERE at anytime. Day, night, Madison Class C, Chicago Class B, etc. Carry passengers. The sport license or LSA limit you to under a certain HP range and you can only carry 1 person besides yourself, and you're restricted from certain airspace.
The private license is a great starting point. You can get signed off for high performance (200HP and above) with a few hours from a CFI (standard instructor). Same with float planes, complex (retractable gear / constant speed prop), tail dragger, multi-engine.
There are some restrictions, you can only fly VFR (visual flight rules). 3 miles visibility, 2000ft horizantal, 500ft below, and 1000ft above clouds (for most airspace) You can fly on overcast days, windy, ect.... but there are ceiling limitations (to be able to fly over objects and stay under the clouds). But your not a fair weather (bright sunny day) pilot. IFR rating (fly in the clouds) is another FAA rating, so training plus a check ride. So is commercial (fly for money).
Now to cost. I finished my license in 10 months, 3 instructors, 58hrs, for about $8500 (my tracking sheets at home, I can give a better number later), flying on average 1 time per week. Includes study material, a Bose headset, back-up radio, flight bag, flight planning software, etc.
There were a few cheeseburger runs that didn't need to happen. And with my primary instructor leaving towards the end, it ended up costing me about 10hrs of fly time transitioning. Average time to completion is 50hrs. Minimum is 40hrs.
Once you get your license, the only currency you have to maintain is 3 landings every 3 months to carry passengers, then every 2 years a check ride with a CFI. The PP license DOES NOT EXPIRE, but you have to stay current. You also need a medical every 5 years. They recommend flying about 4 hours a month to not forget things.
The Cessna 172 I rent is $88 an hour Wet (don't pay for fuel) and $30 and hour for the instructor. I would recommend having $4000 in the bank designated for finishing the license, but try to pay for the lessons out of your spending cash every month. Towards the end, you'll want to fly 2-4 times a week right before the check ride. The longer you stretch training out, the more it will cost, since you need to relearn things every lesson.
I put about $400 aside every month to fly friends and people around to stay current.
All that said, I HIGHLY recommend getting your license. Even if you don't know what you're going to do with it. Its very challenging (learning to land in a crosswind is a bitch), but the reward is great. And it sticks with you for life.