How to Decide Whether to Buy New, Buy Used or Rent

Winter sports are expensive. Here’s how to shop wisely.

By Reuben Brody

How to Decide Whether to Buy New, Buy Used or Rent
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19 January 2017

We’re told it’s experiences — and not things — that will provide us the most bang for our buck.

But as any adventurer knows, if you get stuck with crummy gear, you’re gonna have a bad time.

And that stuff ain’t cheap.

So we made a handy formula to help you decide whether to buy new, buy used or rent ahead of your next wintry weekend escapade.

A quick word on our methods:

To get the prices, we looked at Outside Magazine’s best gear of the 2017 and cross-referenced it with what we could find at REI and The House Outdoor Gear. We got used gear prices from Gear Trade and Amazon. And we determined our rental averages from the listed offerings at Park City, Adventure 16 and Tiny Bubble Fishing Rentals. We assumed an average of four days of use per year, with a hold time of about four years before you need to re-up. And finally, we added some additional thoughts and errata in the “verdict” section.

Happy hunting.

DOWNHILL SKIS

Price new: $850.00
Price used: $500.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $35.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 6

Verdict: If you go less than six days a year, it’s worth renting, but there are other considerations. E.g., if you live in New York City or don’t have much room in your place, you may want to rent and avoid lugging them around regardless. And spring is the best time to buy — major sporting goods stores and ski retailers slash prices on everything at the end of the season.

SNOWBOARDS

Price new: $670
Price used: $450.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $35
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 6

Verdict: Same as above. Also consider that if you live within driving distance, you’ll need to buy a rack.

NORDIC SKIS

Price new: $700.00
Price used: $183.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $35.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 4 (used); 6 (new)

Verdict: Similar to the items above, but consider that you may get more use out of these if you live in an urban area — cross-country skis don’t requires ski lifts. The tech here has also seen huge changes over the last decade, so a new pair could be a great investment. If you’re new to this and want to test the waters, buy used and graduate to a newer set once you’re ready.

POLES

Price new: $110.00
Price used: $49.00
Ave. rental cost per day: N/A — poles are included in your ski rental
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 2 (used); 4 (new)

Verdict: If you’re new to the sport, get some used ones. Pole technology evolves slowly.

HELMET

Price new: $179.00
Price used: $90.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $10.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 1

Verdict: If you’re cool with other people’s head sweat residue, then maybe buy a used helmet. However, new helmets have ways to incorporate earplugs and goggles. And your head doesn’t grow, so it should last you years. New is worth the coin.

GOGGLES

Price new: $200.00
Price used: $78.00
Ave. rental cost per day: N/A you can’t rent goggles
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 1 (used); 4 (new)

Verdict: Buy them used if you’re seldom on the mountain, but be sure to buy polarized ones that ventilate. If you go more often, don’t skimp — the technology has advanced greatly in recent years to allow you to switch out the glass to best suit the conditions. If you’ve ever skied in flat light, you know how much this matters. If you haven’t and ignore this advice, see you in the ER.

SNOWSHOES

Price new: $290.00
Price used: $184.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $14.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 5 (used); 10 (new)

Verdict: Unless you’re an avid snowshoer, buy used. The technology has come a long way, but year-to-year doesn’t advance enough for an average user to notice.

WINTER TENT

Price new: $600.00
Price used: $345.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $36.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 4 (used); 5 (new)

Verdict: There are enough advancements in tent technology to make looking into a new tent worthwhile. Consider how you like to camp: Are you a car camper or a backcountry camper? It makes a difference (but if you have to ask, you’re probably a car camper).

FAT TIRE SNOW BIKE

Price new: $2,000.00
Price used: $1,000.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $50.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 10-15 (used); 20+ (new)

Verdict: You have to be a pretty serious snow biker to justify buying one. The tech has advanced in recent years, but you may want buy a used one and then graduate once you’re hooked.

SNOWMOBILE

Price new: $8,000.00
Price used: $5,000.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $250.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 6 (USED); 10 (NEW)

Verdict: You need to either live in a snowy region or have a second home in such a place to justify buying a snowmobile. If this is the case, you’re likely prepared for the steep price, so go ahead and buy it new.

ICE FISHING HUT

Price new: $450.00
Price used: $350.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $50.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 3 (used); 4 (new)

Verdict: The cost of the rental makes investing in one reasonable, especially if you plan to go more than eight times in four years. Since they really retain their value, buying it new isn’t a bad idea.

ICE FISHING ROD

Price new: $35.00
Price used: $15.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $5.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 2 (used); 3 (new)

Verdict: Just buy it.

ICE FISHING REEL

Price new: $40.00
Price used: $22.00
Ave. rental cost per day: $5.00
No. of annual uses at which you should definitely buy: 2 (used); 3 (new)

Verdict: You got the rod. Get the reel.

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