Disclaimers and Explanations and Costs
When you begin comparing flying schools, you will find that the overall cost will vary widely between them. Why? Many schools will quote a total estimated cost, based on the FAA minimum flying time required. Others will quote on their own estimate of the number of hours you will need. As they say in the car business, your mileage will vary.
When comparing prices, it is best to look at the hourly rate for the aircraft to be used, and the hourly rate for the instructor. Depending on how the type of aircraft and how new the aircraft is, and whether the organization is a for-profit business, or a not-for-profit club, aircraft rental rates can vary from a low of $60 per aircraft flying hour to a high of $160 per hour.
The rate for flight instructor is a bit more uniform. As of mid- 2014, in the Kansas City area, instructor rates hover in the $40 per hour range. In most cases, instructors charge from the time the student arrives until the student departs. However, some charge only while actually in the airplane.
As a side note, neither system is right or wrong. Students tend to think that an instructor who only charges when he is in the airplane is providing a bargain. This is not necessarily true. There is a good deal of information that students should understand about a flight, both before and afterwards. An instructor who only charges when the airplane is running is essentially penalizing the student for not providing that information, or is encouraged to provide it while also charging for aircraft time.
The biggest factor in over-all cost for a private pilot's license is not the difference between individual schools. The biggest factor is the frequency of the lessons. And this is based on four things. First, the weather. Can't do much about it. But in the Kansas City area there are lots of good flying days year-round, mixed in with the wintery days and rain shower days.
Second, maintenance. We want to take aircraft out of service for preventive maintenance. When talking to schools, ask how many aircraft are available, and how many students and licensed pilots are asking for them. This will give you an idea of what will be available when aircraft are out of service for maintenance.
Third, instructor availability. How many students are assigned to each instructor? Do the instructors work part-time or full-time? What is the likelihood of the instructor staying to complete the training? Do the instructors have their eye on moving on as soon as possible to an airline job?
Fourth, and most important, what is your availability? Students who are able to fly several times each week will progress much faster than those who only fly a couple of times per month. Learning to fly entails learning motor skills as well as gaining new knowledge. Repetition for both is critical.
Having spent all of that time on cost comparison, I am now going to say that cost should not be your primary consideration. The consideration bigger than cost is your rapport with your flight assigned instructor.
And one last thought - Your instructor works for you, not vice versa. You should expect to be treated courteously and professionally by your instructor. You should expect that you and your instructor will be comfortable with each other. And you should expect that you are actually becoming more comfortable and competent. If this is not the case, you should expect that you can talk to your instructor (or his supervisor) and improve the situation.