Buy vs. rent in sports equipment
November 23, 2005 9:55 AM   Subscribe

With a lot of sports and activities, beginners rent equipment while regulars own their own. In which ones does this make a big difference in the experience? And where does it not matter?
posted by smackfu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total)
Anyone who plays golf often enough to own his own clubs shudders at the thought of playing with rentals. I can't hit other people's clubs to save me.

not that I hit my own clubs very well.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:03 AM on November 23, 2005

Skating. Rental skates suck. They're so dull that even good skaters slide around the ice in all the wrong directions. Owned skates that can be appropriately sized and sharpened, even the cheapy ones, make a huge difference in enjoyment for all but the most masochistic.
posted by dness2 at 10:03 AM on November 23, 2005

Archery. You simply can't set up a piece of rental equipment (hell, even good borrowed kit) to shoot "your" way.

Swimming? I hate that rental water ...
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:16 AM on November 23, 2005

Snowboarding gear can go either way, depending on the destination. It's a pain to transport all the gear (snowboard, bindings, boots, helmet), esp. if you're flying, so it's very convenient to arrive and have a waxed board waiting for you. But the quality varies. Some shops, such as in Whistler (BC), carry good boards and nice Flow bindings and are a joy to ride. Other places, I'm thinking Colorado, Tahoe, etc., have horrible step-in or strap-in bindings which either don't give you much control or are a pain to get in and out of, respectively.

That said, I only go once or twice a year, so owning my gear is a big investment in $$ and maintenance for something I won't use that much. My friends who ride a lot, however, say you can't hit the "next level" (ding!) until you buy your own gear and get it tweaked out just for you.

/ wow, long!
posted by LordSludge at 10:17 AM on November 23, 2005

Surfing. It's not easy to find hard boards for rent. For the most part rentals tend to be foamies or maybe some of the surftech boards. Foamies and surftechs are just different animals from traditional boards. Different but still loads of fun.
posted by rdr at 10:26 AM on November 23, 2005

Skates and ski boots make a huge difference.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:28 AM on November 23, 2005

I've rented gear in two situations: rock climbing and skiing.

In both instances, the gear you rent sucks. The user of said gear is at a slight disadvantage for not having good gear tailored specifically to his or her person. Since I now own all my gear for those two sports, I've learned how big a difference your own gear makes.

I bet it's pretty similar in almost all sports. If gear is even marginally important, you need to develop a relationship with it. The people that rent are probably not good enough to be at that point yet.

The guys that bring their own bowling balls or pool cues always kick my ass in those games, too.
posted by teece at 11:07 AM on November 23, 2005

Scuba. Very easy to find rental gear, but it's a lot nicer and safer to own your own gear. Mainly for items that need a proper fit like: wetsuits, dry suits, or BCDs. For other items it's best to own just because the rental versions aren't usually high quality and that you won't have to figure out how the rental one functions.
Most people rent until they can save up to purchase their own.
The dive industry also likes to mention that owning your own gear makes you more active in the sport. Nearly all Dive Training magazines have this paragraph on the rear cover explaining why you should buy instead of renting.
posted by mister e at 11:12 AM on November 23, 2005

I'd imagine the more you depend on your gear for safety, the more you'd want your own kit.

I wasn't keen on the communal fencing gear I used in college. The French grips on the foils didn't suit me and I flat-out did not trust the masks. I bought my own gear after only a few lessons and it made a world of difference.
posted by Sangre Azul at 11:15 AM on November 23, 2005

I would just like to add to mister e's comment on scuba stuff - I think renting is fine at first for almost all equipment except a mask. A good mask is the key component to really enjoying the sport and buying one that fits and is comfortable should be the first thing a beginner does.
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:18 AM on November 23, 2005

Rental bikes? Not even on the boardwalk.
posted by fixedgear at 11:33 AM on November 23, 2005

Second snowboarding.
Owning your own boots being more critical than the board. When you get new boots and start breaking them in, they eventually "mold" to the shape of your foot, thus lessening the risk of blisters and sore ankles. Plus it's easier to travel with boots than a board.
posted by like_neon at 11:46 AM on November 23, 2005

Bowling shoes. The cost of rental over a period of time will actually be more than buying your own. Plus, they've only been worn by you.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:04 PM on November 23, 2005

Ski boots. Having a properly-fitted pair of ski boots will make a huge difference. Once you have good-fitting boots, it becomes easier to ski on any type of ski. While the model of ski matters, having one's own boot has a much bigger impact on one's skiing.
posted by andrewraff at 12:10 PM on November 23, 2005

I think the difference lies in the skill of the user. Beginners or casual users won't notice or be disadvantaged by lower quality rental golf clubs, snowboards, skis, etc. If you are experienced you will immediately notice the difference.

That said, beginners would be wise to rent their first parachute......
posted by pgoes at 12:37 PM on November 23, 2005

I can't think of a single sport where rented equipment is as good as owned equipment. Rental equipment is abused by its renters, it never fits you right, it is usually pretty crappy to begin with. And having good equipment is just as important for beginners as it is for the experienced: good equipment will enhance your enjoyment of the sport dramatically, and enable you to improve much more quickly. There's nothing quite as discouraging to a beginner as boots that pinch, a racquet that's imbalanced, skis with dull edges or a bike that stretches you out.

For me, it boils down to money: do you intend to go at it more than a few times? If so, then renting gets to be pretty expensive and you may as well just buy the stuff. And it might make sense for growing kids whom you take skiing only once a year.

No, I am not a sporting goods salesman.
posted by randomstriker at 12:42 PM on November 23, 2005

Horseback riding. School horses can be and often are tired, intractable, and grouchy. Shell out a few grand to buy a privately owned horse, the diffference is amazing.
posted by scratch at 12:46 PM on November 23, 2005

Ski boots.
Ski boots.
Ski boots.
Can it be emphasized enough?
posted by caddis at 1:23 PM on November 23, 2005

Auto racing: If you find a good shop, which is not hard to do if you have the $$$, a professionally maintained race car you rent may well be better setup, safer, and, yes, quicker than the track rat you built yourself in your spare time. (Oh, but you'll pay for it!!)

And, yeah, I meant to emphasize that a bad pair of snowboarding boots can literally ruin a whole ski trip. I've seen it happen several times, though not to me. My brother owns his boots, rents everything else, but note that this limits what types of bindings he can rent. (Some bindings require certain types of boots.)

Also, I never thought of a horse as "gear", but yeah, no comparison!! The rental horses always want to turn and run home to their grain...
posted by LordSludge at 1:43 PM on November 23, 2005

Funny, I was just going to say that leasing a horse might be the one case where "renting" is better than owning if you are serious about improving as you can lease different horses as you move up and not have to worry about training one or buying/ resale. Having your own saddle/ boots etc. make a huge difference though- lesson saddles are always horrible.

I find with snowboarding that I can live with most boards and bindings but I have to have my own boots.
posted by fshgrl at 4:09 PM on November 23, 2005

I think it always matters in situations of fit/comfort or safety. If you don't know how to ride a bike with clipless pedals, renting one would be folly. Ditto for stuff like footwear where your primary focus will be on pain, rather than the sport.

I don't think it's important in matters of high-tech advances in kit: like fancy softball bats, golf clubs, bikes, etc. Clearly Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods would be excellent even using crappy equipment. If Tiger Woods was wearing $2 flip-flops and swinging a rented club he'd still probably kick my butt even if I was using fancy equipment. He's a pro, I'm not.

I think owning your own stuff is just a first step in being able to repeat some feat the same way over and over again, gradually removing variables from this action until you're proficient enough to detect the differences that the equipment makes.

So I guess that what I'm saying is that if the question is not related to comfort or safety, it's mostly financial until you are skilled enough to benefit from buying your own stuff.
posted by popechunk at 7:49 PM on November 23, 2005

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