When trying a new sport, gear can be what makes or breaks your experience. Have you ever tried to rock climb with ill-fitting shoes? You’ll wake up the next day with sore feet, huge blisters, and the desire to never go rock climbing again. Picking the right equipment is a crucial, but sometimes costly part of new endeavors. The first step of which is deciding whether it makes more sense for you to buy your equipment or rent it. Buying new gear just to try out a sport can be an expensive proposition if you end up not using the equipment enough to justify the cost. Renting on the other hand, while cheaper in monetary cost, makes for a worse experience if poor quality or mistreated gear gets in the way of your activity. So when does it make sense to rent equipment over buying it and vice versa? Let’s look at a concrete example from Statrick’s recent past to answer that question.
This past spring the Statrick’s Team had a company outing where we rented kayaks and went around the San Francisco Bay. We’ll use the rental rates we paid for our kayaking trip and our own data on the price of used kayaks to determine when it’s best to rent and when it’s best to buy.
|Renting gear will allow you to try many different styles of equipment and multiple brands without having to commit to just one. This way you can figure out what you do and don’t like- a valuable piece of knowledge.||The gear you rent is not necessarily going to fit you well. Rental gear is purchased to fit as many different people as possible and while they might have something in your approximate size it might not fit properly. The difference between correctly sized gear and ill-fitting gear is definitely noticeable and can be the difference between an enjoyable outing and a day ending in frustration. Prolonged use of inappropriate gear can even cause injuries|
|You don’t have to worry about storage or maintenance of the equipment. This eliminates some of the major hassles associated with new sports and hobbies.||The rental equipment can be in poor or mistreated condition. The equipment you’re using has been rented out many times before to people just starting out or with little experience. Beginners can put a lot of wear and tear on equipment as they learn all the skills to a new sport. Having a worn down or broken piece of equipment will just detract from you experience and might even become dangerous if the equipment is in poor condition.|
|Rental Packages usually include all additional necessary gear, like life vests and paddles.||Learning on bad equipment can teach you bad habits or slow your learning process. Paddling is a skill that takes time and practice to master. Time spent learning on the wrong paddle is worse than just wasted. You’ll have to unlearn the bad habits you developed because of using the incorrect gear.|
|Renting is significantly cheaper than buying in the short term.||The biggest argument against renting equipment is that every time you pay money to rent, that’s money that could have gone towards buying your own equipment.If you’re going to go kayaking with some frequency then renting will quickly become very expensive.|
Renting is significantly cheaper than buying. How much cheaper renting is depends on the exact models and rental prices. On our kayaking excursion it cost $39 to rent an Ocean Kayak Scrambler for 2 hours. Brand new this kayak retails for $495 and our own price report puts the used value at $346. Therefore you can rent this kayak for approximately 8% of the full retail price or 11% of the used price. The rental option puts the cost of kayaking into a much more manageable price range when just starting out.
Recommendation on Renting
Due to the flexibility in trying new equipment, the packaged rental deals that supply all necessary gear, and the cheap initial cost, it makes most sense to rent your gear when just starting out. This way you can see if you like the sport enough to invest in your own gear and experiment to find which brand or model you would want. If you stick with your sport for any length of time though, it quickly becomes not cost effective to continue renting. Therefore, renting is best for starting out, but not a good idea in the long run.
|The gear is tailored to fit you. This is very important, especially with safety gear. Wearing a life vest doesn’t help you much if it doesn’t fit right.||You have to maintain your equipment. You are completely responsible for repairs and the overall condition of your gear.|
|You can kayak on your own schedule. You don’t need to work around a rental store’s hours. You’re also not stuck to kayaking in locations with rental stores. Having your own gear gives you the freedom to explore.||If you decide to change your kayak you have to buy a new one instead of simply exchanging it. This is a significant barrier to trying new gear.|
|You know the condition of the item since you are the only one using and maintaining it.||You will need to invest in all the accessories that would normally come with a rental package, like oars and a life vest.|
|In the long run, it is far cheaper to buy your own equipment instead of continually paying the rental costs.||You need to store your equipment somewhere and when that gear is a 14′ kayak that can prove to be a challenge.|
Recommendation on Buying
Buying your own equipment is ideal if you are going to use it regularly and if you have an idea of which brand or model you want. In our example, as long as you go kayaking for more than 25 hours over the course of owning your kayak then you saved money by buying instead of renting. However, if you have purchased new equipment and you want to change your gear, buying is not ideal for someone just starting out and still learning what they need. Instead, take the time to learn what you really need by asking experienced kayakers and store owners their opinions so that when you do decide to buy you can get the right gear for you.
Hopefully this brief overview will point you in the right direction the next time you go to start a new sport. Whether you’re looking for the short term benefits of renting or you’re looking to make a decision with the long term in mind, you now have a good starting point for making an informed choice. There is however, another way of equiping yourself that can combine the benefits of buying your own gear with the relative low cost and flexability of renting. But I’ll explain why flipping your gear, instead of buying/renting, can be your best option in the second part of this blog post.