Students ask me a lot of times about gear. What gear they should buy, where they should buy it, etc. I am always happy to help people find the right gear for their scuba diving needs. It is easy for me since i don’t make any of my revenue from selling scuba gear.
As soon as I help someone figure out the type of gear that they need though, the next question that I am asked is “Where should I buy my gear?” Online seems like the logical choice to a lot of people because of the price. Honestly, if you know exactly what you need and how much it should cost then yes, go ahead and buy it from an online vendor.
If however you aren’t really sure exactly what you need, or you want to be able to easily swap things out if you buy the wrong thing, you might want to consider looking to your local dive shop. (LDS) Here are three reasons I buy all my major scuba diving gear from my LDS.
Almost every LDS I have been in has has knowledgeable sales people – many times the owners themselves. They can help you get the right gear, the right size, etc. This doesn’t mean that every LDS employee is trustworthy, but most are. Most of you who have been subscribed for a while have heard me say “You can’t make any mistake I’ve not already made.” This extends to being snookered by dive shop employees.
When the lovely and talented Kathy and I bought our first set of gear we were sold the “expensive” package and told that the other packages really wouldn’t meet our needs or weren’t good quality gear. Looking back, now I know that the medium priced packages were just find and would have saved us more than a few bucks. But we trusted the LDS employee to guide us. Boy did they ever guide us, right into the cash register.
That however is an isolated incident in my dive career. We didn’t buy much more form that LDS, we moved on and started doing business with another LDS and even now, 11 years later and 3 states away, we still book trips with them.
If you are going to enjoy scuba diving, you need a place you can trust to help you. Shop around if you need to but find yourself a good LDS with competent people that you can trust.
Beyond just helping you find the right gear, a good LDS will take care of that gear for you. Yes, you can purchase a BCD or regulator online and have it shipped to you. Did you know that regulators need to be assembled? If you’ve been diving for a while you probably can assemble it correctly. (My last one, January of this year, I assembled upside down!) If however, you aren’t comfortable doing that, you’ll need some help. You can take it to your LDS, but since you didn’t buy it from them, they will probably charge you an assmbley charge.
One thing you can’t do yourself is test your new gear. A LDS that does gear maintenance has the proper equipment to make sure that everything is properly adjusted. There are a couple of very important pressures that you need to at least check on a new regulator before taking it into the water.
If you buy a regulator from your LDS, it will come assembled and tested. if it doesn’t, it’s time to find a new LDS.
Going the Extra Mile
Finally, an LDS will go the extra mile where an online vendor can’t or won’t. I’ll give you an example.
A couple of month ago I bought the lovely and talented Kathy a new regulator and I assembled it myself. Last week while cleaning gear, I dropped her regulator on the patio. When the second stage hit the ground, a couple of pieces flew off.
I reassembled it but decided to be safe and take it in to make sure I did it right. As an instructor, the dive center does routine maintenance on my gear for free. When it comes to Kathy’s gear though I still pay for maintenance. The technician (Mike) took the regulator, disassembled the second stage totally, and reassembled it to make sure everything was right. Mike then hooked it up to the bench hardware to pressurize it. He took the top off the first stage and adjusted one of the pressures. it was within tolerences, he told me, but it wasn’t spot on. He wanted it spot on.
I’m sure Mike does a solid job on all gear brought in. I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t know if the gear was purchased online on from the LDS. Still, I want to make sure that the LDS – and Mike – are around for a long time to come. So when I buy my my major scuba gear, I always buy from the LDS.
So what is the right answer. I can’t tell you that. If you don’t live near the water and you don’t dive regularly with any one LDS, then sure, buy your gear online. You can usually save a little and they don’t charge you shipping.
If however, you have a relationship with a LDS you will want to support them. This way you can take you gear in to ask “Why is this clicking?” or “Should this be bubbling?”
Until next time,
Cal “Uncle Cal” Evans