How to price a pre-owned SCUBA Regulator?
Shopping for a new regulator can be a confusing task. Your regulator is one the most expensive pieces of your total dive system, and is considered life support gear. You should research thoroughly and get a good fit. I recently published a blog on how to buy a regulator. The blog contains good information on types, engineering, and function, and would be a good primer for this blog. Once you have become familiar with regulators, you can decide if you want to pop for the $1800 luxury regulator set, or settle with a $250 economy model. This blog will help you decide what to pay for a used regulator set.
Your level of diving experience will have a direct impact on the direction you choose when regulator shopping. If you’re a new diver, a pre-owned base model might be sufficient until you have a better idea of the type of diving you will be doing. A good base model regulator set will run above $120 used. As more experienced diver, you may be shopping for cost savings, putting you in the middle price range. You can expect to pay $300 and up for the mid-range regulator sets. On the other hand, if you have money to burn, all the bells and whistles of a brand new luxury regulator might be a good choice. A brand new top of the line regulator set may put you back as much as $1800.
Here is a quick list of variables that will affect your decision making process:
Your regulator set needs to be dependable. If you’re a cold water or ice diver, you need a sealed 1st stage. There can’t be worries about parts freezing up on your 80fsw wreck dive. Additionally, the second stage needs to crack easily and equally at any temperature and any depth. Cold water regulator sets will cost a little more. If you’re a deep or heavy current diver, you will be on the hunt for special 2nd stage features that prevent free flow in current and provide easy cracking at depth. But, if you are a newer diver, the extra bells and whistles on the more expensive regulators may prove to be a distraction for you. A simple base model may be a better fit until you are a more experienced diver. Your regulator needs to suit the type of conditions you dive, your experience level, and be affordable.
Air delivery system
Scuba equipment engineering has come a long way since the days of Lloyd Bridges and “Sea Hunt”. Regulators are high tech, have more parts, and deliver a smoother easier breath. Regulator air delivery systems are still a big concern though. Do you go with balanced or unbalanced, piston or diaphragm? And, should you worry about sub-par function in less expensive models? These days, due to the litigious nature of society, even the inexpensive regulator sets will safely get the job done. There are regulators in the economy range that will get you safely to 130fsw and back, for many years. Some of them even have a few extras for the more extreme recreational diver.
A good regulator is one that functions safely and doesn’t cause discomfort or annoyance at depth. The mouthpiece needs to be soft, sturdy, and free of rubbing. The second stage needs to be light enough to prevent jaw fatigue. The hose needs to be flexible enough to prevent pulling. And, cracking effort needs to be minimal at all depths.
Scuba gear has compatibility issues just like electronics. A second stage hose may not be compatible with the safe second, for example. You could end up chasing around town for all kinds of adapters and extra parts. Early research certainly saves time in the end. Make sure all your gear will be compatible before you buy the regulator set. Your specific gear configuration is important. The amount and type of ports, the arrangement of ports, and swivel compatibility, will all affect your comfort at depth. The size or angle of first stage seat on the tank valve is a consideration. Your gear parts needs to work well as a whole system for you to be comfortable during your dives.
Pricing: Age and wear of pre-owned gear
My rule of thumb is pretty easy. I go back and find out how much the gear was selling for at the time of manufacture. If the regulator set was purchased by the seller in 2002, then research prices for it at that time. I look at overall condition. I hook it up to a tank and test it. If the gear has very few signs of wear and works correctly on tank pressure, I am willing to pay up to 40% of the 2002 MSRP. If the gear has average wear, I pay 25-30%. For gear more than 5 yrs old I pay 25-30%, even if it’s in “like-new” condition. If the gear malfunctions on the tank, I pay 10-20% of MSRP, or maybe I won’t buy it at all. Remember, when buying used gear (especially used life support gear) you MUST get it serviced and repaired at a authorised LDS before it ever goes in the water. NO EXCEPTIONS. Servicing is money out of your pocket, so add the cost of servicing to what you are willing to pay for the gear.
An extra note on buying Titanium regulators
More and more regulators are being built with the high tech and somewhat expensive metal, Titanium. There are good and bad things about buying a titanium regulator.
- virtually impervious to saltwater corrosion. But, so is Chrome–plated brass.
- very light weight and very strong
- scratches easily, and after several uses might look more worn than it is in reality
- recommended for nitrox mixes <40%, it is more flammable than brass. No Tech diving gas mixes
Personally, I think function and comfort are the most important things to look at when buying any scuba gear. I think buying by brand for prestige, or to fit in with your dive buddies, or because your LDS pushes you to buy, is an unsafe and silly endeavor. I also don’t buy more than I need. Why spend the extra cash on extra features you won’t use. Additionally, buying used gear may bring down the price of that brand name gear you just can’t live without.
We all want to look good while diving. There is a certain status and mystique to this extreme sport. But sacrificing comfort or function to look like a super hero may lead to an emergency at depth. Don’t succumb to peer pressure. Buy smart. In the end your purchase should come down to finding the best combination of features for your individual needs, while staying within your budget. When you find something you like, research in detail and test dive it (or make sure there is an adequate return policy). As in previous blogs, my best suggestion is to borrow or rent similar regulator sets to dive before you buy. If testing in the water isn’t an option, make sure the seller of the used gear has an acceptable refund policy and a good reputation. Expect to pay $100 – $500 for base to high end regulators, used, in working condition. And, research before you buy. It is much easier to negotiate a fair price on safe equipment if you are well informed.
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Authored by Lisa J Henry
“Be the sea”