Getting ready for the autumn school season or even thinking ahead to trying some new winter sports (or summer, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere)?

Here are a few quick tips for shopping smart and making the best choices when it comes to your sports and safety equipment as you venture out for yourself and your family.

Make a Plan

Decide where you want to splurge and where you want to save.

Some items can be skimped. Others, like necessary safety equipment, should be top priority.

Many things can be purchased second-hand, but you should decide before going to the store what you’re willing to purchase second-hand, and what you want to always buy new.

Make sure to never buy safety equipment of any kind secondhand — you don’t know what that helmet (or pad or guard) has been through (or if its warranty is still valid) unless it is new and still in its original packaging.

Try Renting

Consider renting at first until you know what you like and don’t like.

For example, renting kids’ bikes can help them try different styles and make sure they have the right size before investing in a high-end bicycle.

This is especially important when trying a new sport. We all think we’ll immediately love any new sport we try, but the truth is that we’re just as likely to lose interest, change our minds, or go back to an old favorite. So consider renting (or even borrowing) equipment for any new endeavors for a short period of time to make sure the sport has staying power before investing in all-new personal equipment for yourself or your kids.

Whatever you decide, make sure to have a plan before going to any store or rental shop. With so many options available, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of your strategy.

Be Patient

Shopping during the off-season or waiting until holiday sales can make a big difference, as long as you plan ahead and know what you’re looking for (and when).

One big sale to look forward to each year is REI’s annual Memorial Day sale, which comes with 20% off coupons for members and includes both new and outlet items, including new Bontrager helmets.

Shop Around

It probably goes without saying, but make sure to check out more than one store. Big box stores will have many of the accessories you need at low price points, while locally-owned and sport-specific shops often have more personalized service and expertise in the larger purchases you may need to make.

Local shops are also more likely to have gently used equipment, rentals, and recommendations for ordering anything they don’t have in-store to make sure you get exactly what you need.

Another thing to consider is that local shops will nearly always include discounts on repairs or maintenance packages for customers who purchase equipment for them (especially larger or more expensive items like your bicycle). Even if you find a better price online for that bike you want, you may want to keep in mind the relationship you will build with your local bike shop if you buy your bike from them.

Don’t forget that you can also trade in old gear when you decide to upgrade. Many shops will take gently-used gear for store credit. This is especially helpful for kids’ gear that has been quickly outgrown (or abandoned).

Do your Research

Curate good information and make sure you trust your sources. Ask your trusted community about their favorite review sites, testing, and shops. Although it’s great to listen to friends and acquaintances, take any secondhand stories and anecdotes with a grain of salt, and make sure to consider the source each time.

Although there are thousands of tips, hacks, and tricks online for finding the best sports equipment (at the best price), it all comes down to having a plan and being thoughtful and strategic, just like any other investment.

So craft a plan, choose where to splurge, and get out there and chase safest with us. Get the best prices on every WaveCel model available today at our website.