As a dive shop owner here in Orlando one of the most difficult challenges we have is advertising the price of our Basic Scuba Certification class. You think it would be easy; tally up the costs of doing business, tack on some profit, and throw it up on the website. Unfortunately what makes it difficult is the fact there are still scuba shops that insist on using misleading marketing tactics. These tactics are constantly misleading future divers on what the true cost of a Basic Scuba Certification class should be.
These scuba dive shops advertise prices well below $200 for their basic scuba lessons, or offer “buy one get one free deals”. What they don’t tell you until you arrive at the shop and they have your credit card in hand is that you will need to “provide your own” (a.k.a. buy from them) scuba mask, snorkel, fins, booties, and a wetsuit (which is optional if you don’t mind hypothermia). This scuba apparel, if you buy the cheap stuff, is probably going to cost you another $275. If you want something descent you will be paying at least $475 and up.
Yes, these items mentioned are important to being a scuba diver and are considered “personal items” in the list of equipment needed for this sport. The sales tactic used quite often is to make you feel that if you rented those personal type items they could most likely contain the bubonic plague. Of course, any dive shop worth going to will have a program in place to disinfect all rentals, catching the plague should never be a concern that pushes you into buying scuba gear prematurely.
A good dive shop will provide in the cost of the scuba course ALL rental gear; both skin gear (i.e. masks, snorkel, etc…) and scuba gear (i.e. buoyancy jackets (BCD), regulator, tanks, etc…) and give you the option to buy when YOU are ready. I’d like to add one last note on this subject. It is important during the basic scuba course to be able to try on several different types of scuba masks. Another sales tactic to be weary of is that the way to test if a scuba mask fits is to place the mask on your face, and without using the head strap, breath in through your nose and the mask should create a natural seal around your face, not allowing any air to seep into the mask and staying on your face without the use of the strap.
This technique unfortunately is only effective about 50% of the time. The problem you run into is that every face has different contours, depths, and peaks to its surface, and our faces are constantly changing depending on our facial expressions. When you actually start diving you will find that sometimes just by smiling you may allow some water to leak into the mask. So now you are stuck with a mask that only works if you always have a serious look on your face. I can tell you that won’t work because when diving there are so many things to see underwater that will make you want to smile! The only sure fire way to test if a mask works for you or not is to actually have the opportunity to dive with it.
So once you’ve been surprise attacked by the cost of gear, the blitzkrieg may not be over yet. You will find that you now have to purchase a “scuba student packet” that can cost anywhere from $45 to $120. Is it over yet? Unfortunately the surprises may still be coming. You will find that in order to finish your scuba certification a minimum of two days of open water diving is required. Chances are if you paid less than $250 for a class these dives are not included. You can expect to pay anywhere from $75 and up per day of diving. What we see here in Central Florida a lot is the cost of the dive is included but what they don’t tell you is that you are going to a “Florida Lake”. Florida lakes, especially those in South Central Florida are on average 35-50′ deep with approximately 25’ visibility if you are the first divers in the water, if not, cut that number in half because all the activity from the other divers would have stirred the bottom of the lake up.
Most lakes are free to instructors or at most may cost them $10 for parking. At our dive shop we do not use Florida Lakes as part of your basic checkout dive but prefer you use them for specialty course like underwater navigation or “low visibility” diving. We are not saying that Florida Lakes are a bad place to dive; it’s just that you get what you pay for. Oh, and for those of you from up North or the mid-West, I realize lakes and quarries is all you have. The point I am arguing is that these local shops have awesome dive resources available to them right in their backyards but are just being cheap, cheating new divers out of a great first time experience.
Final note, be cautious of the independent scuba instructor (an instructor not directly working for a shop), as their prices might be extremely low because they don’t have the same overhead (such as costs of maintaining the life support equipment YOU will be using, active insurance, etc…). When all is said and done, what started as a $200 class cost can easily turn into $700 or more class cost.
At http://www.orlandoscuba.com/ we are one of a handful of Orlando dive shops that have set the price at a rock solid $349.95 which is truly ALL inclusive. We’ve not only included all the scuba equipment, dive trips, and educational materials, we even give free transportation to the dive sites which can also save you $30 a day on gas and tolls. At the end of your last dive, to celebrate your graduation as certified basic scuba divers we even provide a complimentary BBQ.
If you want to learn more about what questions you should be asking dive shops when shopping for scuba training or equipment you can visit the FAQ section of our corporate website at http://www.adiscuba.com/dive-faqs/.