It’s easiest to buy a used rig complete, but you may have to piece it together to get exactly what you want. When you’re buying in pieces you need to know that a container should come with all handles, reserve toggles (the risers are part of the harness), reserve freebag, bridle and pilot chute, main risers and toggles, main bridle, deployment bag and pilot chute. Main and reserve canopies should come with lines, links and slider. It is common for sellers to not know the above information; make a point of verifying which items are or are not included in the sale. Some of these parts are pricey – new main risers and toggles could cost over $200 depending on the type of hardware used – so be sure to adjust your offer if all parts are not included.
The price of used equipment varies depending on age, make and model and number of jumps. Before purchasing any older item that you are unfamiliar with – especially containers, reserves and mains – talk to someone who has been in the sport for years to help determine if it will be suitable for you. As long as the item is airworthy it can be safe for you to use, but be aware that many older containers were built before freeflying and AAD’s, and many older canopies (main and reserve) were not designed to be wingloaded over 1.0.
Just like cars, container and canopy make and model play a role in determining price. In some areas of the country, certain rigs are worth less than they would be in other areas because they are not as popular in that area. This regional bias can provide you with deals if you know where to look!
The number of jumps on a piece of equipment can tell you how much useful life is left in it. A ZP main parachute can still be flying like new after 1000 jumps, while an F111 constructed main is just about a car cover by then. The ZP fabric has proven so durable it’s not unusual to see canopies with thousands of jump that have been relined multiple times and are still flying fine.
A rough guide to used main pricing is to take $100 off the original purchase price and then $1 for each jump on the canopy. Even with this guide prices will vary depending on current availability of that model/size and how badly the seller needs the money.
For reserves, number of jumps and the number of pack jobs are important. There is no limit on the number of times a reserve can legally be deployed or packed – the airworthiness of a reserve parachute is determined by the rigger, not the FAA or the manufacturer – but a few manufacturers require that the canopy be returned to them for inspection after a set number of packs or jumps. Date of manufacture is very important, as most reserves built prior to the mid-1990’s were not designed to be loaded over 1.0.
Number of jumps is not as reliable a gauge for harness/containers. The overall condition of rigs often depends more on the landing skills and maintenance habits of the previous owner. If cosmetics are less important to you than price, you can pick up perfectly airworthy gear at bargain basement prices by simply buying a somewhat battered looking container. Again, have a rigger inspect it before you jump it! Pricing for used containers will depend on number of jumps, brand, overall condition, options and numerous other items.
By talking to a number of different people and scanning classified sections you’ll get a good feel for what is a fair price for gear that is suitable for you. Like buying any used item, strong bargaining skills may be helpful.