It’s a Myth
That’s right, there is no dive shop that will charge you “just $99” to get your scuba diving certification. Dive shops have expenses, rent, insurance, taxes, utilities, and payroll. Even with a full class of 8 students a dive shop cannot just charge such a small amount. I’m here to tell you that it’s a myth, cheap dive training does not exist! Now some dive shops or instructors want to go out of business really fast, let me know where that $99 special is.
All-Inclusive Pricing vs A-La-Carte Pricing ($99 Special)
In general you will never find an all-inclusive dive shop or instructor selling you a course for $99 dollars, it just cannot be done for that price. When you calculate the the costs of the books, materials, and certification card (hard costs) it’s generally over the $99 special of a-la-carte pricing. An all inclusive dive shop or instructor will generally quote you a fee ($300-$600) that includes everything for you to obtain your certification card with no hidden fees. A-la-carte dive shops or instructors will generally quote you a low price ($99) on the tuition only to get you in the door then add on everything else to make their profit. With a lot of all-inclusive operators they will let you try different masks, snorkels and fins during training, so you know what to buy in the future. Until you’ve made a few dives you’re really not ready to make gear purchases. With the a-la-carte method you bought a mask, snorkel, fins and boots, and took the salesperson word for it (more profits anybody?), but will it really work for you?
Advertised Price vs the Real Price
We have all seen the dive specials when shopping around for our open water dive training. Prices range from $99 to $299 and most people think wow I can get scuba certified for $99 dollars. While most people call up the dive shop and ask about the $99 special, they don’t really get the full picture of the real cost. While the $99 special is there you also now have all the “extras” that you will have to purchase separately. But to keep you thinking you are getting a deal, I’m going to break out all of the prices or components for you to add up in your head.
Books and Materials
Confined Water (Pool)
Ok, Not too bad for $99 how much will those other items cost you certainly not very much. Let’s look at what some of those other items may cost you.
- $99 that usually only covers the course tuition (class room).
- Books and Materials, just like college the books are not cheap usually no cheaper than $30 but generally you will buy the crew pack which has your books and materials for about $100.
- Personal gear that you will have to purchase, now don’t think it’s a swimsuit, because it’s not. Personal gear is your mask, snorkel, fins, boots, gloves, and sometimes wetsuit, generally you can expect to spend about $300 on your personal gear.
- Rental gear can be another added cost with hidden charges. Usually you will find gear rental for about $50 a day, but you will need it at least 3 days that’s another $150, but the dive shop will be glad to sell you a full gear package for about $2,000.
- Confined water dives (pool dives), maybe $20-$100, is it one day, 2 days, 3 days who knows (don’t forget gear rental for extra days).
- Checkout Dives, some dive shops will do shore dives, some boat, some a combination. You need at least 4 dives over 2 days to obtain your certification. If they are only shore dives they are usually the cheapest with paying the “park” fees which run around twenty dollars a day ($40) for both days, but wait was the instructor included with the $99 special, if not you better add on again another $100 a day ($200 for both).
- So we are now done, we passed our tests, completed pool, and now just completed our checkout dives, where’s my certification card? Wait before we can issue you that nice certification card you just earned we need another $40 to issue it.
So let’s see how much that $99 dive training really just cost you to get your certification card. Tuition ($99) it’s the special, Books ($100), Personal Gear ($300), Rental Gear ($150), Confined Water ($100), Check Out Dives ($200), and Certification Card ($40), all that equals about $989, a far cry from the $99 that brought you into the store.
What you should ask the Dive Shop
Dive shops and independent instructors have such a varied business model you should have a list of questions to ask to get the full picture of what you are purchasing. For an all-inclusive dive shop/instructor, one question is there anything else beside the cost advertised that I need to pay? Usually that answer is park fees and or sales taxes. When you talk to the a-la-carte dive shops or instructors you may want to ask some more questions (remember to ask prices for these too).
- Course Tuition
- Books & Materials
- Rental Gear while learning
- Pool Sessions
- Open Water Fees
- Certification Card
- Reschedule Fees
- Private or Semi Private Lessons
- Personal gear (Mask, Snorkel, Fins, Boots)
- Park Entrance Fees
- Any other fees?
While I can’t possibly think of everything a dive shop may charge for, the above list is a majority of the things a shop may charge you for.
Now what do you think of the $99 Dive Special?
As you just learned what appears to be a bargain just got a lot more expensive by adding on little “extra” costs, and I didn’t even cover the part where a dive shop instructor is actually selling you more courses/equipment right in the dive shop outside the classroom. Always make sure that when you are price shopping for dive instruction you understand that the $99 dive instruction is just a myth.
Full Disclosure – The Writer of this article does sell all-inclusive dive training packages, but feels he needs to educate the public on the myth of cheap dive training.