Shopping for previously-owned items is a great way to save money and be environmentally conscious. The trend of “thrifting” or buying second-hand has sky-rocketed in the last several years. But, if you’re in the market for a used hot tub, consider several important factors first:
- How to evaluate the tub to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
- What’s involved in moving it?
- How to spot defects in order to avoid the shock and expense of buying somebody else’s problems.
With the following tips, I will help you learn how to distinguish between a lemon and a great deal.
Spotting a Good Used Spa
Although a hot tub store seems like the logical place to start shopping, buying a used spa from a dealer should be your last resort. In order for spa stores to make a worth-while profit on a used model, they would have to price it well above its actual value.
There are also many used hot tubs going up for bid on online auction sites, but buying sight-unseen is very risky and not recommended.
For the best deals and largest variety, the classified section in your local newspaper or Craigslist.org is the best place to start. Families often have to sell their hot tubs when they move, and these operational spas can be great candidates.
What is a Good Deal?
This can sometimes be a difficult question, and will depend on a number of factors:
- Age of Tub
Unfortunately for the seller, the price they paid for the spa initially has little relation to its second-hand resale value. For example, if the seller paid $6,000 3 or 4 years ago for the new tub, charging $3,000 might seem reasonable, after all that’s half price! However, consider that many internet suppliers now sell brand new spas with similar features and a warranty for $3,000 delivered. Keep this in mind when negotiating with the used hot tub seller.
“When buying a used hot tub, you should expect to spend $30-$300 on service sometime within the first year after purchase.” said Mark Walsh, Hot Tub Technician for SpaDepot.com.
Things to Avoid
Just as with a used car, if allowed to sit empty or not operating for a period of time, the parts in a hot tub can quickly begin to go bad. Condensation on electrical components will cause corrosion, resulting in bad or even hazardous connections. Pumps can rust and lock up; seals and gaskets can dry out or shrink and cause future water leakage, and the list goes on.
Note: a spa stored empty in sub-freezing temperatures is a prime candidate for leaks. Why? Because if even a small amount of water resides in the plumbing, once frozen, it will expand and crack the PVC pipes.
When shopping for a used hot tub, avoid units that have been stored or neglected. Only spas that are currently set up and operational should be considered for purchase.
Inspection & Evaluation of Used Tubs
When contacting a seller to arrange to see the tub, be sure to request that the spa be filled with water and running for at least 24 hours with temperature set to maximum. This way you can inspect the spa while it’s running.
1. Carefully inspect every inch of the hot tub shell. This is the vessel that holds water, so it is vitally important. Do not purchase any tubs with large cracks, blisters, breaks, or evidence of leaks.
2. Be sure that the used tub was situated on a level surface. On an unlevel surface, filled with thousands of pounds of water, a hot tub’s acrylic shell can slowly bend out of shape and begin to form small fractures. Walk away if you see evidence of these problems or if you can’t verify that the tub was operated on a level surface.
3. With the spa running, ask the owner to show you how to operate the topside control pad. While switching through the various functions, verify that they are all operating. A rapid clicking or continuous chattering sound coming from the control system is indicative of a defective relay or related problems which can be very expensive to repair.
4. Ask to see the owner’s manual. This will be an invaluable resource for future reference information, should you decide to purchase the tub. You’ll also want to see the repair & maintenance records, just as if you were purchasing a pre-owned vehicle.
5. Carefully inspect the interior equipment bay and wood cabinet surround for wood rot and signs of vermin. Underlying wood rot in the framing or support is not always visible from the outside. If you notice any signs of rot, vermin droppings, or disintegrated insulation, it’s time to make a quick getaway!
6. Carefully examine the spa cover. If deteriorated, heat leaks will occur due to improper seating. Most importantly, a heavy cover indicates water-logged foam insulation. Water-logging ruins the cover’s heat retention value. A defective spa cover will need to be replaced immediately.
Moving the Tub
Once purchased, you will probably be responsible for moving the spa. Hot tubs are heavy, so plan to have 5 or 6 friends on hand to help with loading and unloading. You will also need to rent a flatbed truck or trailer to transport it with.
Your Used Tub Will Need: Once you have your new used hot tub, you are going to need the following things to operate it and keep it clean:
While the prospect of scoring a cheap or free used hot tub is very enticing, the reality is that it takes a great deal of scrutiny to ensure you don’t get a junker. Save yourself from disaster by shopping around, inspecting prospective used tubs carefully, and keeping your options open. Sometimes you can even find a better price on a new hot tub that includes a warranty, filter, and a startup chemical kit.