This is a great question, and obviously one we deal with every day. This shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer, but oddly it is. Some dive shops offer their courses for what appears to be a bargain – including online 2-for-1 deals, coupons with huge savings and more. So what’s the deal anyway? Why the big difference in price? I have seen advertised prices between $199.95 to more than $800.00.
When I look at my PADI price list, the difference in cost of the Open Water Diver crew pack (computer) from the lowest discount band to the highest is $17.35. That is not going to make a difference. Costs to deliver this course are mostly the same for all dive operations behind the scenes. Costs include learning materials, pool time, rental equipment, instructors, utilities, insurance and a bunch of additional costs.
We are all in business to make money (at least I hope so). Dive shop owners want to earn a reasonable living, travel, dive and see be in an industry we love. Yes, we want to make a bit of a profit. Scuba is no different than any other retail business – margins are not high and there are lots of costs. The joke in the business is, “How do you make a million dollars in the scuba business? Start with Two!”. Ha ha ha ha.
The real question you need to ask is, how do stores that severely discount courses keep the doors open, staff paid, and the lights on when their course price is so low? The simple answer is that discount courses are either going out of business or making money from you somewhere else.
We have had customers over the years tell us that they ended up paying far more than the advertised cost for their course from “discount vendors”, or what we would have charged if they certified with us. Sometimes they have had to pay extra for referral paperwork (you should never be charged for that), pool fees, instructor fees, additional insurance, gear rental, and so on. Others did not even receive their certifications before the store went out of business.
Everyone wants to get the best value for their money and balance cost with value and the best training they can get. They also like to deal with the people in the store, and most importantly the dive professionals. They tell us that they trust us and are confident in the people who train them and their children, servicing their gear and so on.
There is a reason for the “old sayings”:
“You get what you pay for.”
“Too good to be true.”
“Cheap costs more in the end.”
You are being trained to enter a hazardous environment with life sustaining equipment that allows us to breathe underwater. The PADI Open Water Diver certification is good for life and the most popular in the world by a significant amount (over 80% of the world’s certifications). Diving is statistically one of the safest “adventure sports”. It earns this reputation due, in a large part to training. Curriculum and course standards are the way we make good divers and keep them diving. Discount courses obviously need to cut corners to be profitable. Can you trust the education you get from stores that use bait-and-switch sales tactics or are cheaper than everybody else? What are you missing?
So when I was shopping for my Open Water Course, I asked myself, “What is my safety, comfort and enjoyment of diving worth?” instead of looking at the cost.
I made my decision - not the discount course – you figured that out, though, right?