Hot tubs are big ticket items, and pre-owned can be a good way to get your toes wet for cheap. Looking for a tub for your vacation home? Want to try a spa but aren’t sure if you want to invest long-term? Are you handy and looking for project? We’ll help you choose the right
place to buy and issues to watch out for. Where to Buy Chances are, there is a used hot tub for sale near you, somewhere between like-new and beyond repair. Whether you shop at a dealer or online classifieds, you should know what to expect before you buy.
Many spa dealers take older spas as trade-ins. They clean them up and sell them for a profit, much like buying a used car from a lot.
Spa dealers often fix cosmetic and equipment issues, maybe even including a warranty for those repairs. They often replace the cover, filters and deep clean the tub when they receive it, so you don’t have to.
With the parts and labour the dealer adds, they charge way more than if you did the work yourself. Add profit and commission mark-up, and the price is equal to or higher
Sale by Owner
Shopping for used spas in online classified ads is much cheaper than a dealer.
You can often find nice hot tubs for sale locally from moving owners, forced to sell their spa. Since they don’t come with a warranty, problems if something suddenly fails are your burden. Do a complete check and see about having a service tech look over the spa before purchase.
Cheap or free hot tubs are plentiful, although you get what you pay for. You will have to invest a lot of time and money into a fixer-upper. If too many critical parts are bad, you will have to pay a service tech for the labor. You might spend the same or more than a fully functional (or even new!) spa.
What to Look For
When buying a used spa from an unknown seller, viewing the tub before purchase is vital. Be sure that the spa is on and full of water for at least 24 hours before you arrive. Ask to see the owner's manual, repair and maintenance record. Act as if you were purchasing a used car or second-hand RV. Keep a lookout for possible issues.
Equipment Area & Controls
With the spa running, ask the owner to show you how to operate the topside control pad. Switch through the various functions, checking if the high and low jet pump speeds, heater, light, etc. work.
Check the various other functions. The air valve should provide ample air injection to the jets. Open the valve fully, backing off slowly until closed. If air is still injected when fully closed, the valve is defective. Check diverter valves, if so equipped.
Listen for a rapid clicking sound coming from the control system. This could indicate circuit board problems, which can be very costly to repair. A burned-out spa light is a minor issue. Have the bulb replaced to verify that the problem is the bulb, and not the light control circuit.
Listen to the pump when the spa is running. You should hear a strong and steady low-pitched hum from the motor. If you hear grinding, whining or just about anything else, you likely need a new pump.
Keep an eye out for dripping and puddles while in the equipment area. A cracked union, filter lock ring or other obvious leak are simple repairs. If you cannot see the source of the leak, look for dark or discoloured foam. Leaks from mystery locations in fully foamed spas are difficult to fix. Take a hard pass.
Ask the owner about how the hot tub has been used. Has it been stored empty for long periods of time? Stored over long, cold winters? Kept full of water without power? Even after draining, up to 6 gallons of water can remain in the pipes, pump and heater. This water can freeze and expand, cracking the plumbing. An unheated spa full of water can cause similar issues.
Carefully inspect the spa shell for issues, looking for large cracks, blisters, or other issues. Badly broken acrylic cannot be repaired, so tubs with large fissures should be avoided. Fill small cracks or cosmetic defects with Plast-Aid, which can be coloured to match the acrylic for a seamless patch.
Sanding, finishing and a couple coats of paint will do wonders for a faded, ugly cabinet. You can repair one or two broken slats or panels with wood or synthetic panelling without much trouble. Entirely replacing a damaged cabinet, on the other hand, will be costly.
Framework & Insulation
The cabinet’s cosmetic appearance is not as important as the condition of the framework that supports the spa. Remove the panels and inspect the frame for rot and warping, especially if the tub was placed on bare soil. The frame needs enough strength to support not only the shell, but also 2000lbs or more of water and occupants.
Keep an eye out of signs of rodent or insect activity, such as droppings. Vermin are attracted to the warmth in the cabinet. They can wreak havoc damaging plumbing, nesting in the foam, and gnawing at the wood frame.
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