SCUBA Gear: Doing The Rent Vs. Buy Math

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SCUBA Gear: Doing The Rent Vs. Buy Math

As anyone who’s ever been SCUBA diving will tell you, it’s a hobby that can be hard on the wallet. The minimum required certification courses alone will run you US$500 or more, and then there’s the equipment. Buying a wetsuit, BCD, mask, fins and everything else you need can be costly, but so is renting the equipment.

 

It may come as a surprise to newly-certified divers that renting won’t actually cut their expenses.

 

Even With A Full Kit Rental, You May Need To Buy Certain Pieces

Most dive shops offer full kit rentals that include most of the equipment you’ll need for the dive, but many require you to provide your own mask and snorkel for hygiene reasons. Even if masks and snorkels are available to rent, buying your own is generally a good idea. 

 

Remember: snorkel mouthpieces go into mouths and are chewed on to some extent, and divers are trained to de-fog their masks by spitting into them. The silicone used in the manufacture of mouth pieces, mask skirts and straps is soft for the sake of comfort, but that means it’s easily warped by improper handling or storage. However carefully the dive shop may wash, disinfect and store its rental equipment after return, it’s generally going to take a beating while it’s in use. It seems to be a fact of life: no one treats anything they’ve rented as well as they treat the things they own.

 

Quality masks designed for diving (as opposed to snorkeling) will typically start at a cost of US$25-65, and can run into the hundreds of dollars for high-end equipment. A quality snorkel with silicone mouthpiece, purge and semi-dry or dry top will cost you another US$15-60. 

 

Full Kit Purchase vs. Rental Comparison

A full kit for open water recreational SCUBA diving will generally consist of the following parts, in the retail price ranges shown in the table below (as of this writing, in US dollars). You can beat the purchase prices shown by 25% or more by keeping an eye out for sales or specially priced bundle packages.

 

Equipment Item

Typical Cost Range to Buy

Typical Cost Range to Rent, per Day

Typical Cost Range to Rent, per Week

Wetsuit Shorty –or—

Wetsuit, Full Length

65 – 200

120 – 500

15 – 40

15 – 40

70 – 200

70 – 200

BCD

200 – 1500

15 – 40

70 – 250

Regulator , Alternate

350 - 1000

45 – 100

225 – 350

Fins

70 – 350

10 – 25

50 – 125

Dive Computer

250 – 1000

(usually included with rental of Regulator + Alternate)

(usually included with rental of Regulator + Alternate)

Weight Belt + Weights

40 – 125

15 – 35

75 – 150

TOTALS

975 4175

100 240

490 1075

 

Remember to add in the cost of your purchased snorkel and mask.

 

Many dive shops offer a rental bundle consisting of BCD, regulator, computer with compass and wetsuit for around US$60 – $125 per day or about US$200 – $400 per week (7 calendar days), but bear in mind you’ll still need to supply fins, a secondary regulator and weight belt with weights if you go that route.

 

As you can see, assuming you start at the low end of the price range, it will only take two week-long rentals or about ten single day rentals to spend as much money renting as if you’d purchased a full kit at full price. It will take even less rental time to equal the cost of buying if you can get the items you want on sale or in a value-priced bundle.

 

You’re Supposed To Dive Often To Keep Skills Sharp

After looking at the table above you might be thinking that if you only dive once a year, while on vacation for example, it doesn’t make sense to buy a full set of SCUBA equipment. But you’re supposed to dive much more often than that, and in fact it’s dangerous to dive so infrequently.

 

Certification alone doesn’t make a capable diver. It’s only through regular, repeated experience that the skills learned during certification can become ingrained and perfected. You may not be able to afford frequent dive vacations or getaways, but if there’s a lake, reservoir or beach within driving distance, it’s a good idea to get out there with your dive buddy as often as you can.

 

Owning your own kit removes one more obstacle to diving regularly.

 

It’s Not Just About The Money

Whatever small amount of money you may save through rentals, most divers would agree it’s not worth the intangible costs of having to use equipment that’s worn, hasn’t been cared for as well as equipment that a diver has invested in to buy, and will never fit as well as gear you’ve personally selected and tried out before purchasing.

 

Never forget that scuba diving is literally a death defying act, and a seemingly minor equipment malfunction or failure can create an emergency in a matter of seconds. Owning your own kit enables a level of comfort, familiarity and even expertise with the equipment that can’t be matched by rentals.

 

The One Time It Makes More Sense To Rent

The variety of brands and types of SCUBA gear is huge, and can be overwhelming. When it comes to big-ticket items like your BCD and regulator, you don’t want to find out you’ve selected the wrong one after you’ve spent the money and are away on a costly dive trip. 

 

This is where one-day rentals from a shop close to home are a very good idea. Zero in on the specific items you’re considering for purchase, then call around to dive shops in your area to see if any are available for single-day rental.  Actually using the equipment on a real dive will tell you much more than checking it out on a sales room floor.

 

You may not be able to buy all of your SCUBA kit at once but it’s not difficult to find the gear you need at sale prices, and with each new piece you purchase you’ll be reducing the cost and increasing the safety of your hobby overall.

 

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  • Watersports Staff
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