Looking To Buy Used Equipment?
Many new divers anxious to get their first dive kit will look at buying used equipment. Even experienced divers will sometimes look for replacement or additional equipment. Locating used dive equipment can sometimes be a challenge in itself. If you are a member of a dive club, let it be known that you are looking. Rental shops generally are not a good source of used equipment, rental gear seems to be abused more often than personally owned gear. However, some companies market the fact that their rental gear is less than a year old. These companies would be a good source of used gear and you may be even able to negotiate some services into the deal. You might be able to find some equipment in a second hand shops, but you will need to be extra careful. Stores that deal with second hand sports equipment are generally better choices than non-specialized stores. Garage sales may be a good lead if you can talk to the owner to find out about the gear. Seeking out some help to learn proper maintenance of equipment before you buy is a good idea. This could be formal training like the PADI equipment specialty course, or asking your dive instructor for some additional training. Here are some suggestions for different pieces of gear.
Buoyancy Control Device
A Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) is designed to be durable and to take a great deal of abuse. Buying a used BCD is not really that much different that using a piece of rental gear. The first thing to do when examining a BDC is to look over the general condition of the device. Do not worry too much if it looks faded. Equipment used for pool training sessions can become faded in a matter of a few uses as the pools chlorine will bleach it much faster that the sun. Check the straps and connectors for frays and functionality. Checking the ribbing around the edges of the bladders for places were they may have been damaged. Often the area of the BCD near where your naval would be if it was worn shows the most usage. Check the pockets for torn linings. Using the oral inflator, inflate the vest to three fourths full. Check all the straps again so see that they function smoothly. Check each of the release valves to ensure that they are working properly. Put on the vest, adjust the straps and check the fit, insuring that you have full movement especially in the chest area. Inflate the vest until it is full. Ensure that it is still comfortable. If the BCD uses integrated weights, check that the pouches are in good shape and they release easily. Remove the BCD and release the air. Remove the caps over the valves and check the inside of the bladders. You will want to look for mold or oil, both of these can weaken the air bladders. Some mold or oil may be acceptable. If the opening is too small for you finger use a cotton bud. If you do buy a used BCD, I suggest that you treat it with a BCD conditioner before you use it and again after its first use.
After mask and fins, a wet suit is often one of the first equipment purchases a new diver makes. They are also used in other water sports so they do appear frequently in second hand shops and garage sales. The fit is the most important item of consideration with both a used or new wetsuit. An improper fit of a wet suit can create sever problems underwater. You want one that is snug but not restricting. Neoprene is normally the material used in wetsuits. This is a type of foam with small air bubbles. It is these air bubbles that give the wet suit the thermal properties and add buoyancy. While the air bubbles are microscopic they are basically the same as the bubble wrap used in packing items. I am sure that we all at one time or another have twisted bubble wrap to get the popping sound. Placing a heavy weight on a wet suit or improper cleaning one can cause some of these bubbles in the Neoprene to burst. Check the suit for areas that seem flatten. This would indicate that the Neoprene has been damaged.
A regulator is likely the hardest to judge if you are getting what you are paying for. It is also most likely the most expensive and critical piece that you will buy. Look at the over all appearance of the regulator. One that shows obvious damage should be by passed. Examine the hoses for dry rot or cuts and that they are connected to the fittings properly. A bad hose can cost over $100 to replace. If possible connect it to a tank and try it, also see if you can get a technician to do a bench test before you purchase. A bench test is relatively inexpensive. Also verify the cost of having the regulator serviced. Generally parts are not that expensive but labor can be. If you purchase a used regulator, you should have it serviced before you use it. Servicing a regulator is not something the diver can do. It takes special training to do it properly. If there is no visible signs of damage, all the hoses are in good shape and the regulator seems to work with a tank than it is unlikely that it will need repairs beyond a servicing.
If you are considering a used dive computer, the first thing you need to do is review the operators manual. Once you understand the basic functions of the dive computer, check it for damage, turn it on and evaluate the self test. Review the saved dive logs, looking to see if they appear proper. Change the setting and see if it response properly. If the dive computer links to a PC, then ask for a demonstration.
Many times you will find gear in excellent shape, there can be many reasons why it is for sale: the diver having decided to upgrade their equipment, or for medical reason can not continue to dive as examples. One of my dive buddies got an excellent deal because of a mans bad decision. Seems he bought his wife diving lessons and a complete kit for her birthday. She took two of the lessons and quit.
Photo by: US CPSC