Racing safety gear is not cheap. It’s worn on occasional weekends and hopefully never used for its designed purpose. Because of this, it may be tough to stomach spending several hundred dollars for your gear. Whether you are racing with NASA, SCCA, AER, Champcar, Lemons, or even just HPDE, properly certified safety gear is an option.
“Adult owned, only used on weekends!”
If you frequent racing classified ads you may come upon “pre owned” safety gear at some very low prices. Is used safety gear a dangerous, hot, stinky mistake? Or is it savvy way to save a lot of cash?
The important distinction is that you should never compromise on safety gear: Never run anything that has cause to concern you. Walk away if you see rips, tears, wear, sketchy certification tags, etc.
6) Used Racing Suits:
The Good: Ratings don’t expire, pro suits at fraction of cost, can look really cool.
The Bad: Can be stinky. Wear and tear.
Suits are one of the biggest single expenses of all your gear. The fit, breathability, and general comfort of an expensive suit can have a huge advantage over a hot, chunky budget suit. It is hard to justify spending thousands on a quality custom suit when a budget suit for less than $300 will protect you and meet safety requirements. However, getting a second hand racing suit can get you serious quality at a fraction of the cost of new.
Verdict: Go for it!
If you find a quality suit in good condition that fits you, a used suit can be a very good buy.
What to look for: As with all safety gear, make sure it is in excellent condition, no tears, rips or worn-through areas. Be sure to make sure the suit has the proper rating for your organization (Typically SFI 3.2A/5 or FIA 8856-2000). Note: Most road racing clubs do not allow two piece suits, look for one piece. Check for damage and bad wear, give it a good sniff over, and #SendIt.
5) Used HANS devices:
Good: They don’t get grungy with use like other gear.
Bad: HANS devices need to be “Re certified” every 5 years with new tethers.
Hans devices are essential in a car with race harnesses, but their price tag is frustratingly expensive. They are occasionally listed for sale used. If your tethers are in good shape and have NO signs of wear, they will work fine for HPDE even if expired (Where HANS devices aren’t required). For racing you need a current certification. The standard “Sport” model will fit for most regular drivers and cars. The “Pro” models are a hair lighter but cost significantly more, and aren’t worth it for any racer being conscientious of a budget.
Verdict: Go for it!
A used HANS can save a lot of coin, provided it’s still valid and hasn’t been in a big wreck.
What to look for: Check the condition and rating date on the tethers, get a good look at the rating tags. Find out if it comes with all parts*. Make sure there are no signs of being involved in a serious impact.
*704sw on Reddit made a very good point, “When I was looking for a use HANS, none of the ones for sale came with the helmet anchors. By the time I bought anchors I was within $50-75 of new pricing. I just bit the bullet and got a new one instead.” So make sure you check to see if helmet anchors are included with a used HANS and see if the value is still there if they need to be purchased separately.
Less likely to be a good buy:
4) Used Helmets:
Good: Cheaper than new.
Bad: Helmet ratings expire. Ultra stinky around/on/in your face. Not easily washed. Watch for damage.
Helmets are one of the more intimate items of your racing safety gear. You breath in it, live in it, and get your face all up in it. Helmets are not easy to clean, you can’t just toss them in the wash like underwear, or clean them like a suit. Helmets do occasionally come on the market after very light use (The owner didn’t like the fit, only did one weekend at the track, etc)
Verdict: Probably not a good idea.
Unless you can get a killer deal on a barely used, still-current helmet, I’d vote to pass.
What to look for: Look for the specific hologram Snell tag inside the helmet (Not just the small sticker on the outside). Remember SNELL ratings are only good for 10 years at MOST. Look for any signs of damage, fatigue, or cracking.
3) Used Gloves:
Good: Ratings don’t expire. Can be washed.
Bad: May be very worn in the worst places
I don’t see quality gloves for sale often. Once someone has a pair they like, they’ll typically use them until they are full of holes and get tossed. However, early retirement sales and the “I tried racing once, it’s not for me” sale may get a decent deal on a lightly used pair.
Verdict: Used may be a good deal, but I would just buy new.
Used gloves don’t come up for sale used often, but if they are heavily discounted and in good shape it could be a decent buy.
What to look for: Check for the rating tag and inspect for wear, especially on seams and on the pads that touch the steering wheel.
2) Used Racing Shoes:
Good: All shoes are going to stink, so who cares if they already smell a bit? Ratings don’t expire.
Bad: Can be worn or crispy in a few places from hot car floors and walking around the paddock.
Race shoes are designed for two main purposes, protect your feet in a fire and provide a good surface to operate the pedals. They can get worn out quickly on rough interior surfaces or if a driver likes wearing them around the paddock.
Verdict: Used may be a good deal, but I would just buy new.
Like gloves, used shoes don’t come up for sale all that often… but if you can get a good deal on an excellent condition pair… go for it.
What to look for: Condition of all parts (Soles, laces, seams)
1) Used Racing Underwear:
I know, I know… it sounds strange. Think more like long-johns and less like boxer briefs.
Good: Nomex underwear is very expensive when new. It is easy to wash so you can clean off used pairs pretty easily.
Bad: It is quite intimate clothing. It is worn very close to the body underneath a very hot suit, you may not be able to get all of the previous owner’s “brand” out.
You should already have a 3.2a/5 or better suit, so nomex underwear is optional (though a good idea). Because it’s optional underwear doesn’t have any rules for tags or small rips (though repairing them would be a very good idea).
Verdict: I say go for it.
If you see one that is well priced and not terribly stained or damaged, go for it… I know I’m keeping my eyes out for a well priced set
What to look for: A good deal.
With all safety gear, make sure it is in excellent, not just good condition. Used gear can save you a few bucks, but you don’t want to come up short in the rare-but-real possibility of needing to use it. There is not a huge safety gear counterfeit industry, but there has been some counterfeit safety gear discovered over the years, so be diligent at looking at tags and making sure the gear doesn’t look sketchy in quality or tags.
Where can I find used safety gear?
The internet is your friend. Ebay and Racingjunk.com both have a number of used suits listed at any time. Facebook groups and forums for trackdays/racers have used equipment come up reasonably often, but it may be challenging to find an properly sized suit and you won’t really know what you get until it shows up at your door.
I found one website that specializes solely in used safety gear, RaceImage.com. Their prices may be a bit higher than you may find in a private sale, but they’ll stand behind their products and you have a better idea what you are getting. With the importance of safety gear, getting equipment from a source with a good reputation is a big plus.
Considering getting a used suit? Dave from RaceImage.com answered some of my lingering questions about buying used suits: Important Information about buying Used Racing Suits: -An Interview with Race Image
Not into used gear but still on a tight budget? Check out my buying guide for budget safety equipment: Budget Racing Gear Shopping List – The 7 Essential items you need to go Wheel to Wheel Racing: Post 32