Thinking Of Buying A Used Hot Tub?

At Roberton Billiards & Spas we have a full-service department, that sells used hot tubs as well as move and repair hot tubs.  So we will give you straightforward information about buying a used hot tub.


If you’re shopping for a hot tub, buying a secondhand spa often will enter some people’s minds.  If you don’t know anything about hot tubs, this guide will help you to be able to accurately compare the benefits and risks of a new vs. used hot tub.

Buying a used hot tub from an established store with a good reputation is always going to be a lot less risky than buying person-to-person.  You can save thousands of dollars vs. new.  The only cost is you don’t get a robust warranty like you do on a new hot tub, and you will likely have to compromise on color, layout, or size and be likely to be comfortable with having some cosmetic issues.  Below is a guide of what to look for and expect if you’re thinking about going it alone and buying a hot tub 2 nd hand person to person.  Hopefully, this will help you avoid a worst-case scenario when shopping for a hot tub.


What to check


The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure the hot tub is plugged in and full of water.  If the tub isn’t able to be tested and is not filled, be afraid.  It’s also a good idea to look at where the hot tub is sitting in the yard.  If it’s sitting on an obviously uneven surface like poorly laid pavers, concrete, or just in the grass, be careful.  Spas that aren’t on the right substrate or in a place that catches standing water, are very likely to have every problem you can imagine.  Hot tubs need to be on a generally flat dry surface.  Under a roof is even better.  Just because the hot tub is full and working doesn’t mean it isn’t leaking.  Leaks are often very slow and can take a long time to lose even an inch of water.


The next thing you’ll want to check the components and make sure everything is operational.  You’ll want to make sure all the hot tub pumps work.  Twist all the knobs on the top and make sure they are reacting.   You’ll want to make sure the heater is working properly on the hot tub as well.  Checking a heater in one of the areas we operate like St. Pete or Clearwater Florida can be pretty difficult in the summertime.  Spas will often rest over 100 degrees in the summer with the heater not running.  So when you check you’ll want to turn the heat up and make sure the water is heating up over the course of an hour.   Just touching the hot tub water and it being warm doesn’t always mean the heater is working.


If possible, it’s a good idea to bring a drill gun to open up the cabinet and look at the interior of the hot tub.  If the supports are rotted, or there is evidence of animals or bugs on the inside you’ll want to know.  You’ll want to make sure all the finished panels that cover the cabinet are tightly attached to the frame.  Make sure there isn’t rust all over the pump and/or heater. While you’re in there look for standing water.  Keep in mind hot tub leaks are often very slow, so if they sell topped it off, it may take a couple of days to lose a few inches of water.  If the inside of the tub has water in it, it is leaking.  Check for rust on the heater, pumps, and electrical connections.


The last thing you’ll need to check is the shell of the tub.  Any small defect in the shell is going to be impossible to see when the hot tub is full of water. Usually, small defects like scuffs or little scratches arnt a problem.  You’ll want to look for big bumps or blisters in the shell, if you miss one of those and they are on a chair, you’ll end up with a really uncomfortable spot to sit in the hot tub.  Those can also evolve into points that make it almost impossible to repair leaks.


After that you’re going to want to do is accurately gauge the age of the hot tub.  The only way to do this is to be verifying the serial number of the spa with the manufacturer of the hot tub, or looking at the original receipt for the spa.   The age of the spa is critical to know because that’s the only guide You’ll have to start building realistic expectations for it.


You’ll want to do some research on the manufacturer of the hot tub as well.  Even hot tubs that look almost the same can have considerable differences in the quality of the parts, shell, and supports.  If it was a high-end tub, that was well maintained and kept out of the sun, they can last for up to 20 years before you start getting into unrepairable issues.


The last thing to look at is the cover, hot tub covers need to be replaced every 3-5 years if they are not under a roof.  Under a roof, they can last longer.  Covers cost an average of $500 so you’ll want to look at it.


Once you’ve checked all those things it’s time to weigh what you saw against the age of the hot tub.


What to expect



1-5-Year-Old Hot Tubs


If the hot tub is 1-5 years old, and everything looks good, depending on the price of the hot tub it might be a good deal.  Original parts are still likely to be available for the spa, the structure isn’t likely to have degraded very much, and the shell of the hot tub is probably going to be good.  Unless the hot tub was from a very low-end manufacturer you’re probably going to be okay.  The issue is finding a hot tub this age.  Most people keep their spas for 10 or more years, particularly higher-end ones.  Even if they move most of the time a good quality newer hot tub is going to be sold with the house or moved with the owner if they are moving locally.  It’s very rare for someone to move out of town with a nice new hot tub and have the new owner of the home not want to keep it.


5-10-Year-Old Hot Tubs


If the hot tub is 5-10 years old, you can expect to need some repairs on it particularly after it has been moved.  Even high-end hot tubs will only have a 5-year structural warranty.   Even if the hot tub is operational, and the supports seem to look good, moving a hot tub from house to house can cause issues like leaks, components to break, or the structure to fail.  This is particularly true of hot tubs that haven’t been kept under a roof.  No hot tub mover will have your back when the hot tub shows up at your house, and it has a leak.  They are not going to care when you say it wasn’t leaking before you moved it.  Moving a hot tub can cause problems, even on brand new ones, with a professional crew with the right equipment.   Usually getting the right equipment for a tub in this age range isn’t a problem.  I do say usually, it’s important to check what parts are or are not available on a hot tub this age.


If compatible parts arnt available, and your heater goes out, you may have to “hack” the hot tub and need to buy a new computer, a new pump, a new heater, and a new control panel even if they are working still.  This combined with a couple of leaks can cost you easily $2000 in parts, and $1500 worth of leak diagnostics and repairs.   This won’t cover any panels or structural repairs that may be needed.  Most hot tub techs can’t make major structural repairs anyway.  Unless you get the hot tub for almost no money, you do run the risk of getting in a situation where the cost to repair can get very close to the price of a new American-made high-quality hot tub with a good warranty.


10-20-Year-Old Hot Tubs


Once the spa is over 10 years old, most movers won’t even want to move the hot tub.  The structure has likely degraded to the point where it will fail when put into a moving position.  The panels arnt likely to be tightly fixed to the hot tub structure anymore.  You are almost guaranteed to get leaks after the move.  That does not mean that all hot tubs are bad after they hit 10 years old.  It just means it’s really risky to move a hot tub that old.  They will often be perfect and stable at 10-20 years, but they may not hold up well to the rigors of moving.  Once you hit the 15-year mark, if the water isn’t very well maintained there is likely significant shell surface erosion, the glue, fittings, and gaskets will be degraded as well.  Plus you have all the problems of a under 10 year old hot tub.  Most hot tub techs will not even do the kind of repairs you may need.  So unless you’re really into DIY jack of all trades, you’re very likely to have a bad experience buying a 15-year-old hot tub.   Once you get over 20 years old, don’t even take the tub for free.  It can cost $125 bucks to take one to the dump, and that doesn’t even include paying someone to take it there for you.  10-20 years old is the most common age range for a hot tub to be put up for resale.


Properly Cleaning A Used Hot Tub


Once the deal is said and done, and your new to you hot tub is hooked up and running.  You’re now going to need to sanitize the spa.  Doing this is going to require the spa to be drained and refilled 2-3 times before it is fully sanitized.  First, you’ll want to run a product called Jet Line Cleaner/Spa Purge.  This will release biofilm build-up in the spa.  Next, you’re going to want to super chlorinate the spa.  You’ll raise the free chlorine level to 20 ppm for 72 hours.   You’ll then drain the spa, clean it with a de-scaling product, refill it, and run a pour-in descaler.  Depending on how much calcium the descaler releases you may have to drain and refill again.  This will make sure there is no icky build-up inside the hot tub piping you can’t see.


In closing buying a used hot tub from person to person is a very difficult and risky proposition.  How well it’s going to go is dependent on its age, who built it, what conditions it’s been operating in, and how well it’s been maintained.  So you don’t want to go into this blind thinking you’re just going to be on the hook for the cost of the tub and the cost to move it.  There is no shortage of people who have spent 1000s of dollars on their used hot tub and it still isn’t working right.  That is not to say no one has ever had a good experience buying a used hot tub, but again it’s a high-risk venture.  There is value in knowing what you may be getting into and hopefully, this guide has helped you.  Keep in mind that here in central Florida particularly in areas near the coast like New Port Richey, Clearwater, St. Pete, or Sarasota it is very hot, humid, wet, and salty.  These conditions can accelerate problems we see in hot tubs compared to some other areas of the country.  Here in the Tampa Bay area it’s really important to do your research and get your hands dirty when checking out a used hot tub.



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