Should You Buy a Used Air Vest?

Photo by Brooke Marie Photography

Catherine Winter, founder of Ride EquiSafe, answers this and other FAQs about this popular piece of safety equipment.

As air vests have become more popular, especially among the hunter/jumper set, it stands to reason that we would also begin to see turnover in the products as people upgrade to new technology or find a better fitting vest. This means that we’re starting to see more air vests available for purchase in used condition. 

Photo by Mary Patricia Stone

When considering buying an air vest, here are the things you need to know:

When Buying New

  • If you can find a retailer that carries multiple brands, that’s ideal. Air vests are like helmets­­–the better they fit, the more effective they are, and no two are alike. Having the opportunity to try multiple vests will help solidify the appropriate choice.
  • Make sure you’re getting fitted by someone that has experience fitting vests. You want your fitter to know what to look for to ensure proper fit and also to know when a particular brand or model isn’t right for you.
  • If you have certain medical conditions, you should inform your fitter. Specifically, if you have an implanted cardiac device or any sort of bone density disorder. Some air vests have magnets, which would make them inappropriate for riders with implanted devices. If you have a bone density issue, then a vest can actually cause injury and the fit becomes even more critical.
  • Make sure you know how often the vest you’re considering needs to be serviced, where the service is done, and what the warranty is on the vest.
Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography

When Buying Used

  • I always advise clients against buying a used air vest. They are mechanical products and similar to a car, if you’re not buying from a reputable dealer, you don’t know the condition of the vest. The air chambers or trigger could be compromised. Most people know not to buy a used helmet, and the same goes for air vests.
  • If you decide to buy a used vest, I strongly recommend sending it back to the manufacturer for inspection. Again, to use the car analogy: If you’re buying something used that’s not from a dealer, you would probably take it to a mechanic to get checked out. The worst thing is to be falling and expecting your new (to you) vest to deploy and it doesn’t because it’s somehow compromised. Most of these vests are coming from Europe and that’s where the servicing is done, so by the time you send it for inspection, between the shipping and cost of inspection, you’ve probably spent the equivalent amount of money for a new vest.
  • Make sure to ask if the vest was originally registered for its warranty (some manufacturers require registration while others just require proof of purchase and date) and ask if it’s been serviced per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also make sure to be aware if the warranty is transferrable.
  • Just because we’re becoming more familiar with seeing air vests doesn’t mean we should treat them as completely familiar products. This is a mechanical safety product that needs to be in the appropriate working condition to do what it’s designed to do: protect you from injury. While it’s not my intent to diminish the cost of the products, it’s worth the additional investment to either purchase new or have a second-hand vest inspected by the manufacturer before use.  
Catherine Winter 

The Expert
Ride Equisafe’s Catherine Winter 

Catherine Winter is a lifelong rider who has competed in the hunter, jumper, and eventing disciplines. She launched Ride EquiSafe to help educate riders on the best options to stay safe in the saddle. Ride EquiSafe offers the broadest selection of safety equipment in North America.

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*This story was originally published in the March 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!