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Just a quick comment - we also live in suburban Chicago, and paid $46 today, to get one of our tanks hydro/visual tested. It's unlikely you're going to find someone just "giving tanks away" for less than that. After figuring the price of gas, and time to drive to pick them up, $80 doesn't seem like a bad price to us.
check on e-bay and keep looking. I was able to find all of my 80 cuft alum tanks (6 total) all for an average cost of around $60. ea
Most were in current hydro and VIP and the one's that weren't were cheaply inspected by the local welding gas supplier.
I picked up a brand new 30 cuft tank for $55 including shipping off e-bay, so the bargains are there. You might have to wait a few weeks to get exactly what you want.
shipping anywhere on a 80 alum shouldn't be more than 20$.
trust me... it's cheaper just to buy new tanks in the long run.
Last set of used tanks I bought for $50 each.
Cost $20 for hydro, $10 for VIP, $5 for initial airfill, which usually comes with a new tank. Then the valve starting leaking. Another $45 for a new valve and $5 for airfill to replace the air that leaked out.
once you add all that up (about $135), I could have bought a new tank for that much
The reason the welding shops said not way is most likely for reasons of liability and hassle for a small amount of money.
My local dive shop will do it for $20 or $25, but they take them to a national fire equipment dealer who just happens to be local. They HYRDO so many tanks that they have one or two full time people who do nothing but Hyrdo tanks all day long. They hydro everything there. Welding tanks, SCBA (fire fighters), scuba, fire extingisher tanks, oxygen tanks, etc. Hard to believe that there are that many tanks that need Hydro'ing, but there always seems to be a huge long line (of tanks) in there when I've been there.
I can take them there myself and get them Hyrdo'd myself for $12 or $15 and even get a VIP sticker for another $6 or $10, but they don't have a cleaning process after they hydro them. They simply visually inspect the tank before hydro, fill the tanks with water, hyrdo the tanks, air dry them, and put the valve back on. So you run the risk of oil or other contaminants in your tanks since they don't rinse them or clean them after the hydro, especially if they hyrdro'd a tank that had something other than air in it before yours.....
So it's worth paying an extra $5 or $10 bucks to the dive shop for them to do it, since they clean the tanks after get them back from hyrdo. It's also much easier to pick them up and drop them off at the dive shop than it is at the Hydro shop because of the hours of operation.
But I really don't think that the local dive shop really makes any money off doing the Hyrdo's. They might get a discount at the hyrdo shop, but in reality they might make $10 difference from what I pay. By the time they drive the tanks to the hydro shop, pick them up, take the time to clean them, etc., they've more than used up the $10 profit in the effort required to do so...
Of course this doesn't include a VIP or air fill in that hydro cost, but you'd have to pay that either place regardless.
In retrospect, a dive shop that I stopped by while in another town an hour or so away wanted $50 or $55 for a hydro, vip, and air fill according to the price on their "board". I guess he doesn't have a economical source for doing hydro's and includes the actual time costs of his employee's.
I guess I am pretty lucky. I am a volunteer diver with the rescue squad in my county, and since they do not furnish any thing other than accident victims, they pay for all of my hydros (Ihave 5 tanks) and service on my equipment.
Actually, its the least they can do since I dive into the pitch black waters of the Ohio River on occasion.
FYI, I happened to be poking around on the web, looking for other places that would do hydro testing(we've got another tank due) and I came across a very interesting article. Take a look at http://www.cdnn.info/article/high/high.html
Having read that article, and realizing that I have a tank made prior to 1988 by Luxfer, I've learned that I have the 6351 alumnium alloy, which can be subject to stress cracking, and so I probably do want to pay the extra $ to have my tanks visual eddy tested.
It sounds like the variation in what places are charging might be due to their test methods? I was told some dive shops won't even fill the older tanks without a visual eddy test sticker...Be aware of this whether you buy tanks locally, off ebay, or wherever.