Triathlon Wetsuit – Renting vs. Buying

It didn’t take me long after getting into triathlon to realize I had chosen an expensive hobby. I was amazed when I first looked at triathlon wetsuits and saw them going for well over $600. I mean, it’s just a bunch of foam rubber glued together, right? Plus they weren’t exactly flattering to my body shape. I looked like I was well prepared for swimming around the Arctic ocean and catching krill in my mouth, but not so much for gliding quickly through the water, although I guess penguins move pretty fast, and my shape wasn’t all that different than that of a very large penguin…anyway, at first I was kept away from buying a triathlon wetsuit because they were so expensive. But now it’s not so much a matter of cost as it is cost-benefit.

Wetsuit rental generally runs about $30, but let’s say it’s $40 after tax, just to be conservative. If it costs you $40 to rent a wetsuit each time, then in order to break even on a $600 triathlon wetsuit you’d have to wear the wetsuit to 15 triathlons. In the past three years I’ve done exactly 5 triathlons. At that rate, it’s going to take me three years to break even, or if I step it up, maybe two years. And what if I lose a lot of weight (which I am in the process of doing), then my wetsuit won’t fit right in two years!

Now, this is assuming that I never use a wetsuit in my training but only for events. If you are going to use a wetsuit for training then that changes everything, because if you did an open water swim once each week, then you’d break even on the cost in one season, plus you wouldn’t have to keep driving back and forth to wherever you rented the thing from.

For me, given my evolving body shape, my lack of open water training, and the number of triathlons I do per year, buying a triathlon wetsuit doesn’t seem to make sense. If you have a different perspective, let me know. On the other hand, once I get down to my target weight, and if I start doing more open water swims, then buying a triathlon wetsuit is going to start making a lot more sense.

  • http://www.triathletesedge.com bob

    during the summer, about 1-2 times per week i swim at the resevoir out in herriman. that has helped my open water swimming a ton. sometimes we’ll start with a wetsuit then take it off in the same swim session, or one day with, one day without. all the time doing breathing and drafting drills to help OWS be as comfortable as a pool that is 4 feet deep with a line in front of you.
    but then again with your body changing, that’s a different issue. a friend of mine bought a wetsuit online for 50 bucks or so. that’s always an idea for your training while you shed your fat and get trimmed for IMFL……

  • Steve-O

    My question to you: Why do you feel like you need to spend $600 on a wetsuit? I recently went through a similar rent versus buy exercise. My conclusion was to buy a less expensive wetsuit which I expect will last me a minimum of 2 years. I will lose *some* weight over the next two years, but should still fit in the wetsuit size that I picked.

    My math was $40 rental versus 200-300 buy. In the buy situation I don’t have to put up with the hassle of pickup/drop off, plus I can use the wetsuit whenever I want.

    I bought an Xterra Vortex 3 (sleeveless) which retails for around $300, and I payed somewhat less. I am *extremely* happy with the fit and finish of the gear, and used it last weekend in my first tri of the season! Some other advice: if you buy a wetsuit, buy a mesh bag at the same time.