Our Used Hot Tubs Buyers Guide will show you what to look for
Hot tubs and Spas are big ticket purchases, so previously owned can be a great way to get your toes wet without spending too much. You might be looking for a tub for your vacation home, want to try a spa, you aren’t sure if you want to invest long-term, or perhaps you are just handy and looking for a project. We will help you to make the right purchase and what issues to watch out for.
Purchasing a Hot tub or spa from a dealership. The hot tubs are cleaned up, cosmetic and equipment repairs are made and should include a warranty period for those repairs. The cover is usually replaced, the filters and the tub is deep cleaned so you don’t have to.
Free or cheap hot tubs are sometimes available, but keep in mind you usually get what you pay for. If you choose to go this direction, you will be investing a great deal of time and money into a fixer-upper. You may end up spending the same or more than you would for a fully-functional or new hot tub or spa. There may be too many critical components that will need to be replaced and you will have to pay a service tech for the labor.
What to look for in a used hot tub
When you purchase a used spa, especially from an unknown seller, viewing the tub before purchase is vital. Make sure that the hot tub or spa is turned on and full of water for at least 24 hours before you come to inspect it. Ask to see the owner’s manual, repair and maintenance records, the same way you would if you were purchasing a used car or RV. Keep an eye out for possible issues.
Equipment and Control Area
While the spa is running, ask the owner to show you how to operate the control pad. Go through the various functions, and make sure that the high and low jet pump speeds, the thermostat and light all work.
Make sure to check the various top control functions such as the air valve to make sure it’s providing good air injection to the jets when rotated to the on positions, decreasing it gradually to no air when rotated in the opposite direction. If air is still being injected when turned fully off, the valve is defective. Make sure to check the hot tub diverter valves if it has them.
If you hear a rapid clicking or chattering sound coming from the control system, that indicates that there are defective relay contractors or related problems that can be very expensive to repair. Listen to the pump while it’s running. Make sure you hear a strong and steady hum from the motor. If there is grinding, whining or pretty much anything else, an expensive replacement is in your future. A burned out light is a minor issue. Replace the bulb to verify that the problem is with the bulb and not the light control circuit.
Look for dripping and puddles while examining the equipment area. A cracked union, filter lock ring or other obvious leaks are simple repairs. If you can’t see where the leak is coming from, look for dark or discolored insulation. Leaking from somewhere that you can’t identify in a foamed spa can be a difficult repair and should be avoided.
Make sure to ask the owner about how the hot tub has been used. Was it stored empty for long periods of time? Has it been empty over long cold winters? Was it kept full of water without power? Ever after the hot tub has been drained, up to 6 gallons of water can still remain in the pipes, pump and plumbing. The water can freeze, expand, crack the plumbing or an unheated spa full of water can cause similar problems.
Hot Tub Shell
Make sure to carefully inspect the spa shell for issues. Look for large cracks, blisters, or other issues. Acrylic that is badly broken cannot be repaired. So tubs with large cracks or holes should be avoided. Small cracks or cosmetic defects can be filled with Plast-Aid, which can be colored to match the acrylic for a seamless patch.
Hot Tub Cabinet
A faded, ugly cabinet can be updated and improved by sanding, refinishing and a couple coats of paint. One or two broken slats or panels can be repaired with wood or synthetic paneling from a home improvement store. Just make sure the cabinet isn’t totally dilapidated, because replacing the cabinet entirely will be a costly.
Spa Insullation and Framework
The cosmetic appearance isn’t as important as the condition of the framework that supports the hot tub. Make sure to remove the panels to inspect the frame. Look for rot and warmping, especially if the spa was sitting on bare soil. The frame needs to have enough structural integrity to support the shell and at least 2000lbs or more of water and people.
Another thing to look for is rodent or insect activity. Look for droppings. They are attracted to the warmth in the cabinet and can cause havoc by damaging plumbing, nesting in the insulation, and eating the wood frame.
How Much Should a Used Hot Tub Cost?
Even when you get a used hot tub at a great price, keep in mind there will be additional costs after that initial purchase. Here is a list of possible expenses:
- Delivery: Hot tubs are large and usually require a few people, dollies, and a flatbed truck or trailer. It might be beneficial to hire a moving company that can move the hot tub easily, without damaging the shell, cabinet or components.
- Setup: A concrete pad, patio or deck that has the appropriate load rating is needed. You will need to install a level surface for the hot tub.
- Electrical Connection: You will need an electrician to wire the spa at your house, including a GFCI Disconnect.
- Repair: The repair costs will vary depending on the condition of the tub and the service technicians fee.
- Cover: Hot Tub Covers often need replacement when buying a used spa. If the cover is heavy or the vinyl is in poor condition, get a new more energy efficient hot tub cover.
- Filters: Replace every filter in a used spa before use. Dirty filters are unsanitary!
- Chemicals: There are supplies that are needed when you get started. Hot tub chemicals are less effective over time. It is best to buy new supplies instead of taking the sellers collection of used chemicals.
- Accessories: These are not required to operate your hot tub, but steps, a cover lifter, handrails and other accessories can make your hot tub much easier to use.
Similar to a car, a new hot tub depreciates considerably the moment it goes out the door. Sellers that use the original price as a starting point are over valuing their hot tub. The spa may be in good condition, but part of the original price included a warranty, brand new cover, filters, and possibly delivery, which you won’t be receiving.
After Your Purchase
After you have found the hot tub that works for you, there are still some things to do before you can enjoy the hot water and relax.
Repair – some used hot tubs will need some work before they are filled up. Even if the spa is in good condition, expect to do repair work with in the first year of ownership
Those repairs can include new heater element installation, plumbing work, replacing the ozonator. These repairs are usually easy fixes that can be done by almost anyone and are fairly inexpensive.
Some of the costlier repairs may include the Pump or Control System replacement.
Sanitation – It is vitally important that any used tub be deep cleaned before you use it. Even if you scrub the interior of the spa, without full system decontamination you could get rashes or serious infections from the microbes in the plumbing. Deep cleaning includes a Spa system flush, super-chlorination and filter replacement.
Chemicals – After the hot tub is decontaminated and filled, then the water needs to be balanced and sanitized so that it performs properly and stays clean. Make sure you start with brand new bottles and store them in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.
Hot tubs and Spas are big ticket purchases, so previously owned can be a great way to go without spending too much. You might be looking for a tub for your vacation home, want to try a spa, you aren’t sure if you want to invest long-term, or perhaps you are just handy and looking for a project. We will help you to make the right purchase!