Tips on buying a second hand neoprene wetsuit
The main reason to buy a used wetsuit is to save money. Maybe you don’t surf that often and don’t need a brand new one, you just want to get the feel for using a wetsuit. Maybe you don’t want to spend too much money, maybe you can get a better used wetsuit for less money than a new cheap wetsuit would cost. Maybe you are buying it for a kid that grows so fast that he will need a new one in a month :). Anyway, whatever the reason, there are a few thing to keep in mind when you are buying a used wetsuit.
Used wetsuit probably stinks!
Yuck. When you buy a used wetsuit you have to be prepared for the smell. Wetsuits are constantly wet, constantly in the sea and on the top of that it is not a very good idea to wash them (except with fresh water). So an used wetsuit will be a bit smelly. There is also the thing about people peeing in their wetsuits. Grose? Whatever, if it keeps you warm, go for it LOL. Sometimes it is just too much hassle to get out of the water, undress, pee, get dressed again, get back in the water. Also – if you feel cold you pee more often. OK, enough about that. It’s just, if you have an uneasy feeling in your stomach after reading this, you are probably better of buying a new wetsuit not a used one :)!
Then again, there are ways to wash a used wetsuit so it doesn’t stink. You can read more about that in wetsuit maintenance tips. But just in short:
1. you can buy a special soap made for washing wetsuit, for instance one brand is called Piss-off. After that your wetsuit will smell nice and fresh.
2. Or if the thing is really bad and the wetsuit is pretty worn out anyway – throw it in a washing machine, use only a little washing powder and use the lowest temperature possible and your wetsuit will smell much better than a new one. But be aware – this should be your final option since washing wetsuit in a washing machine is a great way to destroy your wettie. Don’t do it unless the smell is in the throw up range :).
OK, now we have the nasty part covered. What else?
How long does a wetsuit last?
This is a thing that is nice to know when you are buying a used wetsuit. What is an average lifespan of a wetsuit? Unfortunately wetsuits do not really last that long. What influences wetsuit lifespan?
1. Use and abuse: how many days a week/month is wetsuit in use
2. How good did the owner take care of his wetsuit? Ask: Did he rinse it with fresh water after every use? Did he dry it in a shadow? Did he store it properly? Or did he leave it in the hot trunk of his ca, wet and all mashed up to cook for hours after every session, dry it over the fence in the sun and mash it into a box later. Neoprene is sensitive to sun (UV rays) and it ages and deteriorates quickly if it is left in the sun very often.
So how long does a wetsuit last? A top-of-the-line high-performance wetsuit should last a season if you’re a hardcore user and you use it more than 3 times a week and two seasons if you use it less. If you do not use it very much it can last three seasons, but the thing with neoprene is that it will age and deteriorate if you use it or if you don’t. The elasticity of a wetsuit will change even if it is hung in your closet all the time. A suit that is used daily will stretch out over time, but a suit that is never used will begin to harden and seem to have “shrunk” when put on.
What about not so high-performance wetsuits? It’s interesting that the best (read most high tech) wetsuits don’t last the longest. They are garbage material sooner than other more entry level wetsuits. Why is that? All the super stretchy and soft rubber puts more strain on the material and on the seams, so they have a shorter lifespan that slightly lower-end wetsuit. There is a trade off between warmth and flexibility on one side and longer lasting wetsuit on the other.
And at last it is also a matter of perspective, one mans old wetsuit could be just the thing a beginner needs.
What to look for in an used wetsuit?
First (duh) you have to decide what kind of wetsuit do you want – short, long, how thick…etc. Now you are holding a used wetsuit in your hands. Check the following:
- General look of the neoprene
- Neoprene flexibility
General look of the neoprene
Before buying a used wetsuit got to the store and feel how a new one feels like. Just by touching an old wetsuit you can tell a lot about the condition it is in. How?
- New neoprene feels really smooth and soth. The further you are away from that, the more aged the neoprene is.
- Look for thin places – places where a lot of stetching took place. This is where you will have less warmth, the neoprene will feel looser and there are more chances that it will tear in the near future.
- Are there any colors on the neoprene? Color pale faster that a black neopren so they can be an indicator of an old wetsuit.
- But if the wetsuit is really old, also black double lined neoprene will be pale.
There is new, stretchy and flexible neoprene and there is old more rigid neoprene. This has nothing to do with the age of the wetsuit but with materials themselves. Lower end wetsuits have more non-stretchy neoprene and higher end are made of the latest elastical neoprene. So when you are holding a wetsuit in your hands, make sure you know if you are looking at a stetchy model or not (the difference should be ebvious). Now test how flexible neoprene still is. Less flexible wetsuit means that it is older, it was in the sun a lot, it will be less comfortable to wear, less warm etc…
Stitches and seams
This is the first place used wetsuti starts to tear. That is if the owner didn’t kiss rocks a lot. The obvious thing to do is to chekck all the seams if they are getting loose, it there are any holes etc… The other thing is the type and quality of seams. This has nothing to do with the age of the wetsuti but with the seving process. Read our wetsuit guide to find out what kind of stitches there are and which are the best. Just a hint – double blindstitched seams with liquid seal / liquid taping ate the shit at the moment. If you see some tears and cracks in the seams, you can asume that this willl soon start happening in other places on your used wetsuit.
And finally – holes
This is the most obvious thing you can notice. Somene hit some rocks, a fin, threw his wetsuit over a wired fence…whatever.. now there are holes. But actually this is not a really big problem. Holes in neoprene itself are quite cheap to repair if they are not to big (around up to 4 inches) and after you get them fixed your wetsuit is as good as new! So this might be a great way to get your hands on a pretty good wetsuit for a cheap price.
To sum things up
This is mostly it. If you check all the things mentioned here you can be sure you won’t buy the first and worst used wetsuit youcan get your hand on.
Thanks for reading and see you in the water!