To buy or to rent? That’s the question all new divers face as they plan big trips. And there are good reasons for either choice, including convenience, cost and your own comfort while diving. So how can you decide whether renting or buying gear for your next dive trip is the right choice for you?
First, know that there is no definitive answer. Every diver and every situation is unique. And whether you rent or buy for your next dive trip has no bearing on your skill as a diver or the amount of fun you can have underwater.
Rental gear can be a great option for new divers who are just getting into the sport and for experienced divers who simply don’t want to deal with packing, maintenance or lugging heavy dive bags on their vacations.
If safety is your concern, know that reputable dive centers have their gear inspected and serviced regularly, so the chances of equipment failure are quite low.
If you’re unsure, you can always check reviews online or contact dive centers to ask about their gear selection. If the idea of using a mask or regulator that has been used by other divers makes you uncomfortable, buying your own might be the best choice.
If you’re on the fence about buying new gear, start by doing a cost estimate of renting gear for the amount of diving you plan to do in the coming year and compare it to buying your own.
Rental costs will vary, but you can expect to pay around $200 per diver for a weeklong trip, while buying a complete set of entry-level dive gear will run $1,000 or more, depending on your gear preferences.
If you’re passionate about diving and plan to go frequently both at home and on vacation, you’ll come out ahead in the long run by buying your own. You’ll also appreciate having gear that’s familiar, fits perfectly and includes extra features that are important to you, such as an air-integrated dive computer and integrated weight pouches.
A good compromise for most divers just starting out is to first invest in a high-quality, well-fitting mask, snorkel, fins and wetsuit set. These items are the most important for your comfort while diving, as anyone who has made a dive with a leaky mask or wriggled into a smelly wetsuit can attest. They’re also relatively inexpensive, easy to pack, and they can do double duty as snorkel gear when you’re not diving.
Three questions to consider before buying your own gear
How much diving will you do?
If you only plan to dive once a year on vacation, and diving is only one activity that you enjoy when you travel, renting gear as you go might be the best choice. If you travel frequently, and you plan to log multiple dives across multiple days, it could be more affordable, and more comfortable, to buy your own.
What kind of diving will you do?
Standard rental gear works great for most recreational, shallow-reef diving. But if you plan to continue your dive education into more advanced activities — such as cave, wreck or tec diving — you will need to buy gear that is specialized for your dive plans.
Do you have storage space and a willingness to maintain your own gear?
Dive gear takes up quite a bit of storage space in a closet or garage, and it requires maintenance to keep it in good condition. After each dive trip, you should thoroughly clean and dry your gear before storing it. Life-support equipment, such as your BC and regulator, needs regular inspections and service from a qualified technician.