Let’s be honest – buying dive equipment can really burn a hole in your pocket. And, since tech diving requires more equipment than recreational diving, owning your own gear can be challenging. Is buying used equipment for tech diving a good alternative? We’re taking a closer look here.
Ask any number of recreational divers about what keeps them from venturing into tech diving, and the equipment investment — as well as training — crops up frequently as a reason to postpone or decide against tech diving. One way to keep the gear investment manageable is by buying used equipment. While it’s certainly a valid strategy — in the interest of full disclosure, I have bought a substantial amount of used gear — there are a few pitfalls to avoid if you’re truly hoping to get a bargain.
The availability of used gear
The good news is that there’s plenty of excellent used gear out there. Quality gear manufacturers make stuff that lasts, sometimes longer than the owner’s interest in diving. Regulators, for example, can last for well over 10 years if you look after them properly. Apart from a waning interest in diving, lifestyle changes are often the impetus for a diver selling her gear.
Tech diving takes time and commitment to do safely and, rather than leaving their gear to gather dust at the back of the garage, many divers decide to sell it while it’s still holding value. What’s more, divers’ interests within diving change. Someone moving from open-circuit to CCR or back may be a good source for used gear.
What to look for
As a potential buyer, it’s worth asking why the equipment is for sale. Any mention of problems or malfunction should raise a red flag. Next, ask whether you can take a look at the equipment or even try it out before buying. Pictures are great, but it’s quite easy to hide flaws or disguise the amount of wear equipment has had.
Trying equipment out will help you see whether it suits you and your diving style. This may not always be possible but, for example, when buying a used regulator, even connecting it to a cylinder and test-breathing it is better than nothing.
Assuming everything is working, check the equipment’s service history. Has it received professional service on a regular basis? Are there records of these services? If you know the seller personally, you may already have a good idea of the answer to these questions. If you’re buying from a stranger, set aside a budget for servicing your new purchase or having it checked over by your local dive shop. Although most dive shops count on new-gear sales, many also have a thriving repair department and are very happy to examine used gear for their customers for a reasonable amount.
Speaking of money, understand what’s a bargain and what isn’t. It’s easy to check prices for new gear online to see whether what you are buying secondhand is really worth it.
Further issues for buying used technical gear
Much of this information applies to both recreational and technical diving. Technical divers, however, should consider a few more issues.
Technical diving generally puts more strain on gear, so it is especially important that any used gear is still serviceable and up to the job. Going back to regulators — ask yourself what you will use them for. If they are your back-gas regulators, the ones generally taken to depth, they must be high-performance, over-balanced regulators. If you’re going to use them as decompression regulators, they may not need to be balanced, but they must be oxygen-clean. A well-worn regulator may not be able to fulfil the criteria for those tasks. In any case, you must get the regulator serviced to that standard unless you are already buying another tech diver’s deco reg.
One of the major pieces of tech equipment you’ll find secondhand are rebreathers, so much so that there are social media sites dedicated to buying and selling them. Why? One of the main causes is the commitment mentioned earlier. Skilled rebreather diving cannot take place once a year for a week — there are simply too many skills to keep fresh and to remember. Consequently, some rebreather divers find that they simply can’t dive enough to justify keeping this piece of equipment.
On the other hand, their used rebreathers are often newly qualified CCR divers’ first units. Again, rebreathers are built to last, so bearing in mind all of the tips mentioned above, they can last a diver for years.
Last but not least, let’s examine who is the best person to buy from. Undoubtedly, the answer is someone you know and have dived with, which gives you a bit of extra knowledge about the equipment you’re looking at. Most dive clubs have at least one early adopter — the person who buys new gear almost as soon as it hits the market. Regularly, these early purchases are followed by buyer’s remorse or the realization that this wasn’t the ideal piece of equipment after all. Quite often, the person will subsequently offer the gear for sale to fellow club members. Buying used equipment for tech diving — or recreational diving — is often a good investment, as long as you do your research and choose wisely.