Meet new scuba divers, maintain a virtual dive log, participate in our forum, share underwater photos, research dive sites and more. Members login here.

What do you rent vs. buy?
roebot90 - 2/07/2016 10:10 PM
Category: New Diver Q&A
Replies: 20

Hello everyone,

I am new to the diving world. There is a plethora of choices for gear, and supplies. It’s a little overwhelming but I am slowly getting the hang of it. I know that a lot of people buy and own their own gear. A lot of people also just rent their gear when they go diving. I have the basics (mask, snorkel, fins, boots, and gloves). I am just wondering what pieces of gear should I buy versus having to rent it when I go diving? I plan on adding a wetsuit to my collection soon, and possibly a dive computer (oceanic geo 2). Should I be considering purchasing a BC as well? I appreciate any input!
Greg - 2/07/2016 10:56 PM
If you plan to dive more than 8 days per year, then buy. Otherwise, it may make financial sense to rent a bcd, regs and tank. Of course if you rent, the quality of the gear is usually lower and you may get different stuff each time. When you buy, you know the condition of the gear and you can get familiar with it easier.

A regulator set requires maintenance every year or two...which costs over $100. A tank needs to be visually inspected every year, which costs around $20...and hydro tested every 5 years, which costs around $35. So add in the cost of maintenance when you determine whether to buy or rent.

I own all my gear, because I like knowing I have it available anytime I want to dive. But it does get expensive to maintain.
RAWalker - 2/08/2016 1:46 AM
As Greg stated there is the questions of economics, quality of gear, knowledge of it’s condition and the comfort of familiarity with your own gear. With exposure protection 2 suits of equal material and quality can give totally different dive experiences because of fit issues. When purchasing invest the extra time to shop for a fit that minimizes air pockets and is skin tight with minimal stretching. Extra details such as a better zipper with a thick back pad to help seal, wrist seals and ankle seals can help with water control as can a lining such as merino wool. The differences in these details can keep you much warmer in colder waters and allow for extended dive times.
There is also the issue of convenience...You may find the option to dive comes up more if you don’t need to head to a shop for rental gear. Last minute opportunities to dive on a Sunday when you local dive shop is closed or night dives after hours are no problem when you own your gear.
Even those of us that do own complete outfits often find ourselves picking and choosing depending on travel arrangements. If I drive to a dive trip I bring my own tanks so I can have extra capacity. The only time I bring weights is for local diving. I do log 50-100 dives per year.
It all depends on your budget and what you value for your dive experiences.
Greg - 2/08/2016 5:36 AM
Here is a link to a past forum topic about this subject that may help:
dalehall - 2/08/2016 7:19 AM
Since they have already answered most of your questions above, I’ll touch on the BC portion. Try the different BC type before you make that purchase. Since there is jacket, back inflate, bp/w and hybrid, you’ll want to know which is going to work for you the best with your diving style and the type of diving you do. I got my O/W in a jacket, but when I got my "advanced" just a few short weeks later, I used a back inflate and felt much better in that at depth. My first BC purchase ended up being a back inflate and I’ve since had a few BP/W setups. All I’m saying is, don’
t be in a rush to make that purchase and try each type before you decide to buy so you’ll know what you truly want (at this point in time, anyway) :)
lerpy - 2/08/2016 9:59 AM
I would also agree with the buy your gear if you plan on diving even semi regularly. It better as you know the gear, and you know the maintenance. I would recommend rent for a few dives, try the different styles of BC, jacket, bp/w, etc and decide what you like. Regs you can buy as they are basically the same function, just some features that may be a little different. Don’t cheap out on regs, I see this working on a boat and I am not sure of the logic. People will spend lots on a wetsuit or drysuit so they look good, and cheap out on the regs which keep you alive. Go for a good reg, and consider a good cold water reg in the event you get into cold water.
BobW - 2/10/2016 1:35 PM
Hi Micah,

Greg gave a good analysis of the financial considerations and the comfort/safety factors for buy vs own.

RAWalker did not overstate the importance of fit in an exposure suit and I will build on exposure protection a little.

DaleHall’s advise to try renting different type BCs is solid I will add some additional advice on BCs.

And as Lerpy stated do not “cheap out on regs”

I see you are from Washington State. My first consideration would be where you will be diving. If it is all local you will need heavy exposure protection (perhaps a dry suit) and that will impact the type of BC you need and the amount of lift required. If you intend to dive primarily on tropical vacations than lighter exposure protection and a lighter (travel) BC is more appropriate. My first purchase would probably be exposure protection including a hood or beanie. In a wet suit the most important feature in my opinion is fit as RA advised. The more comfortable you are diving the more you are likely to dive.

I would not be in a rush to purchase a computer for a couple of reasons. Being a new diver you probably will consume more air initially and thus limited bottom time and less nitrogen buildup so diving from the charts may not significantly limit your bottom time. Also I think really learning to use the dive table is still a good thing. If you plan on doing multiple dives over multiple days like on a vacation then investing in a computer is a good idea and if you are doing multilevel profiles they can significantly extend your “safe” bottom time. Even if you are not nitrox certified I strongly recommend that you make sure to get a nitrox capable computer for future use. Most computers now are nitrox capable with only the cheapest lacking the capability.

For a BC you may want to consider the type of diving you will be doing also. The back wings do help you to orient face down underwater but can be less appropriate if you intend to have one side down like when exploring a wall or when back down such as when scanning the surface occasionally. The amount of lift will be impacted by the exposure protection and potentially by your activities as well as travel. I use a heavier back inflation for drysuit diving and a hybrid for travel and warmer water diving (with up to a 5 mil suit).

For the regs I suggest you first consider the availability and cost of local periodic maintenance. The cost tune-up costs can impact the cost of ownership over time. I would also consult reviews on regs to me breaking pressure is a key concern since a lot of my dives are shallow and long.

So I would probably get exposure protection and then decide on rent vs purchase on the other items. If I decided to purchase additional items the BC and regs would come next and a computer later.
RAWalker - 2/10/2016 3:52 PM
I wish I could agree with BobW as much as he did credit my earlier post but I have to disagree on a few points:
1) While I agree with the advise as to a computer which is ready for Nitrox I do not agree with waiting to purchase this item. Since today the sanctioning bodies have gone computer only and many students are not taught the tables a computer is a necessity. Having your own which you are familiar with increases safety margins compared to needing to learn a rental units features before a dive. There are many fine choices on the market and I don’t feel the need to get into particulars other than to advise you to keep in mind your aspirations as a diver and grow into more advanced features instead of needing to replace gear you outgrow.
2) Diving dry suit should not require excessive BCD lift capacity. The BCD is only used for surface buoyancy while the dry suit controls buoyancy during the dive. Avoid overweighting and nearly all standard BCD should be suitable with a AL80 tank.
3) Concerns for Regulators are the environment you will be diving and service. As a Reg Tech I can tell you most modern regs can be tuned to great performance. Environmentally sealed regs designed for cold water use are at the top of the scale having a pre-dive switch can avoid some surface free flow and waste of breathing gas. Having effort of breathing adjustment is nice but again a properly tuned reg will not need it. Overbalanced designs will maintain consistent effort of breathing at all depths.
4) a back inflator style BCD or BP&W which has been properly setup, weighted appropriately and used by a experienced diver will swim in any position. The complaint commonly stated about these BCD is face planting at the surface. This is due to divers experience with jacket style BCD with wrap around buoyancy who become accustomed to overinflating at the surface to get higher out of the water. A BCD’s job is to float a persons head and proper inflation of a back inflator style BCD will do so without a face plant. It is only overinflating that produces the face plant effect.

So my suggested order of purchases are:
Exposure protection
regulator set

I consider a wrist computer the best option so you can use it with rental or your own gear. If you should opt for Air Integration the computer will still function without its advance features when using rental regs without it’s transmitter.
roebot90 - 2/10/2016 10:17 PM
Thanks everyone for the advice. I am from Washington state, but I travel quite a bit. As for now, my travels have landed me in sunny Pensacola for a few weeks. I went on a purchased a dive computer that is Nitrox capable. Since I am a new diver, I am still using the charts in conjunction with a computer. That way I can sharpen both skills and get the best of both worlds. It seems like each post touched on a different piece of gear, which I appreciate because a lot of points were brought up that didn’t even cross my mind until now. I really appreciate the suggestions, especially the info about the regs that lerpy mentioned and wetsuits that RAWalker pointed out. Good info there to keep in mind. As for the BC, I think I will continue to rent a couple different varieties and try them out and see which I like best. I can’t really get tanks right now because I am traveling quite a bit so those will have to wait. For now though, I think I will continue to do my research and take it piece by piece. Thank you everyone for your wise words and input.
SeaGoat - 2/11/2016 5:39 AM
If you’re military, check out the local bases to get better deals on rentals. I don’t know about NAS Pensacola but Hurlburt Field has a good dive shop with lots of gear. Check with Outdoor Rec to see if the Airmen’s program is offering any free dives.

Whether you are military or civilian, check the Under Pressure Facebook page. If anyone is diving this time of year, it will be posted there and you’ll meet some good people.
roebot90 - 2/11/2016 3:00 PM

Thanks for the info! I didn’t realize Hurlburt has a dive shop. I am stuck at NAS Pensacola, but unfortunately the MWR doesn’t offer anything for divers. I would like to go to Hurlburt soon, but my travel is pretty limited here. Thanks again for the info!
fpsodiver - 2/12/2016 3:14 PM
I am with Greg on this one. If you are going to dive, get your own gear. I had saved up before I got certified because I was told that if I was going to dive much, it was better to have my own gear(was told by a buddy, not the LDS). I also do some diving on the side(inspections and such) and its been nice to have my own gear readily available when I get a call.
John_giu - 3/19/2016 8:09 AM
As for traveling, I manage to get all my gear (regs computer 1mm wet suit mask booties other small items) in a rolling carry-on. I think you’ll find most people here try for the same. if you like taking your own fins they make the bottom of your one piece of check luggage.

Just watch knives and shears. Airport security is well aware of scuba and it usually gets take just a quick check to get you through.
High quality scuba gear will last a lifetime so its a good investment even for the vacationing diver.

opinions are like A everybody has one. Do you’re homework and find out what works best for you in the way of the gear you buy.
Pixel - 4/15/2016 9:45 AM
First two pieces I bought were bc and reg. I prefer knowing that it’s my reg and it’s safe. As for the bc, I found a style that suits me so I bought it. That way two of the important pieces are covered and I can be more secure and being used to my own gear, more safe. I also got a mask right away, because I was never great at mask anything, having my own makes me much more comfortable with clearing etc.

Weights I left until the last.
I purchased in order:
Reg, bc, mask, suit, fins & boots, computer, gloves, weights.
I’ve never purchases tanks, because I don’t dive enough, and rental isn’t to expensive here.
GreggS - 9/21/2016 2:15 PM
My wife and I own all of our own equipment. We like to be able to load up any time we want and go diving.
CharlesGraves - 4/19/2018 12:07 AM
As with any purchase, you generally want to ask yourself the following questions when deciding to rent or buy:

1) How often will you be using the item per year? How many years? How many total uses?

2) Do you have a good storage place to put it- aka, what are your chances of losing it, or it getting moldy? (Stashing it in a damp area or wet basement or something, for example, is generally not advisable. Needs to be in a dry place to stay good)

3) How much more do you value "owning" the equip over renting it?

For ME, personally, I figure I will dive at least 10 dives per year. I want to keep diving for the rest of my life. I love it. And I like owning stuff more than I do renting it. And I do have a place to put my stuff, thankfully.

So for me, I purchased everything. I don’t rent anything, except the tanks, and even that, I have a standard A-80 tank that I use locally. It’s fun to be able to have your own BCD that you are comfortable with, your own clothing, wetsuit, gloves, hood, fins, etc.

But if I had to say what is most important to own, I would say in order of importance, you should buy these instead of rent them:

1) The BCD, (because you need to know where your emergency dump valves, your weights, and your inflator hose and octopus all are, in a jiffy, in case of an emergency). They aren’t THAT much, you can get a good one TUSA for like $250, and it’s just so much more comfortable and safe having your own. Plus better performance.

2) Your wetsuit and mask and snorkel... for obvious reasons. this goes along with #1 as being something I recommend. Wetsuit you want your own, you dont want to use somebody elses dirty wetsuit and you want a mask that fits your face.

3) Your fins.... pretty much everyone has their own "mask snorkel and fins" and usually renting equipment is a one lump cost for everything. So if you are buyign the mask and snorkel you might as well also buy the fins, otherwise you still pay the full rental fee every time.

From this point on, you start getting into more "elective" optional stuff... like hood, dive computer, regulator and hoses, weights, tank banger, compass, dive knife, spearguns, lights, and a whole bunch of new equipment for cave diving, along with lots of other optional items.

Cave diving has its whole other set of required items you basically need to buy, because few places will rent to cave divers for liability reasons and also them maybe not getting their equipment back if the diver croaks. lol
CharlesGraves - 4/19/2018 12:10 AM
OPTIONAL TIP: You can find used equipment that is very good, and buy it, for stuff like fins, or compass, or anything else. Many people "try" diving but either get bored of it, get spooked by seeing a shark, or realize they have problems equalizing, or they fail the class. (Or they just need money) SO, they try to sell their equipment online at a big bargain.

Buying a BCD that’s used is risky, though, same with a regulator... but if you try them out and they work just fine, then maybe it’s ok to use/buy them.

Generally speaking, if an item will not kill you if it malfunctions, then it’s totally cool to buy it used. But stuff like cave diving lights, (or really any cave equipment), or regulators, or BCD’s, you probably want to buy them new unless you are really strapped for cash
ChadS - 10/11/2018 12:00 AM
The one piece of equipment I just was not OK with renting was a wetsuit. Sounds about as appealing as rental underwear!!

Here is a rental wetsuit article about it! Read at your own risk!
MDW - 11/02/2018 1:58 PM
I think it is a good idea to own everything if you dive more than a few times a year locally (where you drive (or walk?) and can bring your own stuff from home.

For those who don’t dive locally, I would say still own everything, except tanks and weights which you will not want to haul on a plane. Rent these heavy items near your dive site and maybe additional thermal protection if the water will be colder than your owned wetsuit is designed to handle.

If you do dive locally, but not very often, again I could see renting tanks so you don’t have those maintenance costs for the months (years) between dives when you don’t use them. I still think owning everything else is worth it to have that familiarity and historic knowledge of your regs, suit, BC, etc.