Hot tub buyers guide.

  We will start our hot tub education with used hot tubs. Over the last few years  used hot tubs have flooded the hot tub market. Tens of thousands of used hot tubs can be had for free. Tens of thousands more are for sale with prices from $50 to $8,000. The hard part is finding a good used hot tub with little or few problems.  
With the cost of a top of the line new hot tub at $8,000 - $15,000, the low used hot tub price can be atractive to hot tub shoppers.. Twenty years ago the cost of a hot tub was $2995. Hot tub prices have gone up. Today the average consumer simply can not afford a quality hot tub. To most Americans A top quality hot tub is out of  reach. The average American consumer has been priced out of the hot tub lifestyle.  A pre-owned hot tub can be had for 5% - 50% of the cost of a new quality hot tub    Over 7 million hot tubs are now in backyards all over America. This large pool of hot tubs gives a pre-owned hot tub shopper a lot of choices. The key is to make good choices when shopping for pre-owned hot tubs. The more you know about the hot tubs you are looking at the better.
Hot tub useful life span has went down. Twenty years ago you could expect 20-25 years from your hot tub with proper care. The hot tub of today average usefully lifespan is about 10 years. After the 10 year mark a modern hot tub is due for major
renovation costing thousands.
Why do hot tubs last  longer 20 
years ago than today? Two main
reasons; Computer controls and
the explosion in the number
of jets in a hot tub. Hot tubs were simpler 
20 years ago. Modern hot tubs are far 
more complex and expensive to repair.
* Computer controls - All modern hot 
tubs are controlled by a computer 
system called a control pack.
Some of the Computer control packs
even use Intel chips for the brain of the system. Just  Like your home computer the  computer control pack has a limited useful life. Good   hot tub maintenance calls for  replacement at a 8-10 year schedule. The computer control pack replacement typically cost $900 - $2000 to   have replacement by a hot tub pro.  Older hot tub computer control packs 
are not up to newer state mandated energy standards enacted by a group of  states. The new hot tub  retrofit kits are now used to modernize hot tubs that have older control systems. A good many used  hot tubs for sale on       Craigslist are in need of   a new computer control pack. This is why the owner wants to get rid of the spa.
* Leaks - Twenty years ago hot tubs had 3-6 jets, now they have up to 150 jets. More jets than the airport.  Unfortunately with more jets have come more leaks in hot tubs. 99% of leaks are from failed glue joints. Simple math, more jets, more glue joints, more leaks. A 5 jet hot tub has about 30 glue joints. A 40 jet hot tub has about 250 glue joints, far more chance for a leak. The 40 jet hot tub has 8 times the chance to leak in any given year.  Leaky tubs are energy hogs, The water can waterlog your hot tubs insulation degrading the R-value of your hot tub, costing you more to heat.  A leaky hot tub can cost anywhere from $200 - $3000 to fix  by a hot tub pro. Most hot tubs on Craigslist have 1 or more leaks. Buying a used leaky hot tub can be a costly nightmare. The more jets a hot tub has the more chance you will have for costly leaks. Specialized hot tub pros can renovate the plumbing to virtually never leak. This is called Hot Tub Armour and can only be found at a handful of hot tub service organizations in the USA. Check in your area for this rare hot tub pro.
Want a used hot tub? Keep in mind: it can be a somewhat risky proposition, even for the very committed do-it-yourselfer.  A used hot tub  can be a big challenge.  
You must learn  how to evaluate second-hand hot tubs:Finding sources of used hot tubs, what to look for, and how to spot trouble to avoid the shock and expense of buying somebody else's problems.
Hot tubs are a high maintenance item. Heaters, computer controls, data sensors, covers, jets, lights, filters, cabinets, installation all need to be taken care of. You must ether do this work yourself or hire a hot tub specialist to take care of the work for you.  
Before you take the plunge with a used hot tub take in to account all the issues and costs that will immediately confront you after writing that check: 
Removing hot tub from sellers backyard - This can take 4-8 people, moving dollies, a boom truck, You risk injury, damage to the hot tub, damaging sellers property. A big challenge.
Moving hot tub from seller's location to your house. - You will need a truck and trailer to transport the hot tub on the road. A hot tub moving company will charge $300 - $700 to transport a hot tub. Pro movers are often the best option for moving a hot tub. A hot tub is only built to be moved once, when new. Moving a used hot tub can cause it to fall to pieces. Great care must be used in moving a used hot tub. This move can be make or break for your used hot tub. Very dishartening to pay $2000 for a hot tub only to have in fall to pieces on the move. Pro movers are best to move a used hot tub.
Electrical wiring and hookup- Hot tubs need to be conected to power. Plug & play 115 volt, dedicated 115 volt plug in. hardwired 240 volt.Electrical hookups big part of your hot tub expense.The electrical hookup cost will be a  Special wiring can be expensive, Plug in hot tubs are a money saving way to own a hot tub, Plug in hot tubs of today are less to operate than large 240 hardwired hot tubs. Wiring cost can be $400 - $$800 for a standard hook up. Special wiring or long power runs can cost $900 - $3000. Plug in hot tubs can be a big money saver.   
You'll likely have some repair work ahead of you, and this will give you a good basic understanding of how hot tubs work. 
CAUTION: Electrical repairs and wiring work can be dangerous, especially around water. Wiring and repairs must be made by a qualified electrician or spa technician in accordance with the National Electrical Code and local code requirements. Regardless of who performs the work, make certain that all electrical power to the hot tub or spa is disconnected prior to making any inspections or repairs. 
Shut the  power off at the service panel, and as a secondary precaution, disconnect the power to the spa as well. Do not attempt to perform electrical service connections or repairs unless you are qualified.
  *Hot tub dealers are in the business of selling new spas. Most will have a  few used hot tubs for sale  on site. Hot tub dealers mostly use the pre-owned hot tubs to bring you to the showroom and lure you into buying an expensive new hot tub. Dealers make far more on a new hot tub than a used one. Dealers also do not have the service staff or knowledge base to renovate the over 200 brands of hot tubs in the market place.   Most hot tub dealers have a hard time finding qualified service people for the brand they sell let alone the over 200 hot tub brands. Pool & Spa News and industry trade magazine has recently reported on the critical shortage of qualified hot tub repair personnel in the US. In some areas no hot tub service and repair is available at all. Look for hot tubs quality checked by a Certified Hot Tub Technician CHTT. This distinction is given by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals after a Technician has shown proficiencies in hot tub repair, service, construction, and renovation. After a lengthy hot tub school a hot tub knowledge test must be passed. Look for CHTT inspected hot tubs.
  Look on line and you will find a large assortment of pre-owned hot tubs.
Free hot tubs, $1000 hot tubs, $2000 hot tubs, $5000 hot tubs. What to make of it all. Shopping for a
used hot tub has been said is 
worse than shopping for a used car. A 
used hot tub is a different animal. The
general public is just not that
knowledgeable about hot tubs. 
Most hot tubs you will find on
Craigslist or other classified sites 
will need work or maintenance: Leaks, 
cracked pipes, bad Computer control
packs, Cracked shells, broken covers,
the list of problems can be almost endless. Many of the expensive repairs can be hidden to the untrained eye.  Buying a hot tub from a private party is like rolling the dice, it is a crap shoot. The best hot tubs are craigslist are offered by hot tub professionals. Having someone who knows the hot tubs helping you is best. Look for a Certified Hot Tub Technician CHTT to quality check and renovate your hot tub.  CHTT is your mark of a quality hot tub pro. Always see the hot tub in action before you buy. If you can not see the hot tub running do not buy that hot tub. 
*Hot tub moving / removing company's remove unwanted hot tubs all day long. With the glut of used hot tubs the removers stay busy from dawn until dusk removing the unwanted hot tubs and taking them to the dump. Many of the hot tub removal company's put the unwanted hot tubs for sale. They clean up the tubs to look good, and sell them at low prices. Buyer be ware in most cases you are buying someone else's junk. If the company you buy a hot tub from has a large moving / removal operation it is best to avoid the hot tubs they are selling. Most likely you are just buying someone else's problems. Do not buy a hot tub from a hot tub removal / moving company.
Hot tub service and repair company's are the best place to find a good quality hot tub that will last for years. Why? Making hot tubs run great is what they do. A good hot tub repair person can evaluate, test, and renovate a used hot tub.  Most hot tub service company's do not have showrooms, but show hot tubs by appointment. This is a good time to pick the brain of the hot tub repair person.  Get the real story on hot tubs not salesperson             BS.  You will find a hot tub repair person is the most best and most             comfortable way to buy a hot tub. You have someone who can support        you after the sale.
  Quality hot tub service and repair organizations are hard to find, but will offer the best pre-owned hot tub experience. Look for members of The Association of Pool And Spa Professionals that have the Certified Hot Tub Technician CHTT credentials. You can find out the most about hot tubs from a CHTT pro. The CHTT pro has specific training on all brands of hot tubs service, repair, maintenance, construction, installation, energy consumption, durability, backyard planing, health aspects. 
Online auction sites are not reliable sources for used hot tubs for two good reasons: shipping is impractical for most sellers, and buying one sight-unseen is far too risky.
How Much Should I Pay for my used hot tub ?
This can be difficult  to determine., Price will depend upon a number of factors. Condition,   features,brand, size, ease of removal are all factors that affect the hot tub worth.   Inspected and renovated hot tubs from a hot tub pro have a premium in price over a hot tub from a backyard sale. 
Free hot tubs are easy to find for good reason, they need costly repairs. People give away hot tubs for free because they do not want to pay the big repair bill. Burned out pumps, Bad computer control packs, leaks, blown heaters. Free hot tubs could need thousands in repairs in order to make usable.
$1000 - $6000 is the general price range of a good used hot tub. See the hot tub in operation, bring your suit and jump in.  Prices vary widely with used hot tubs. Take your time and have a good look over the hot tub. 
Hot tubs to avoid;
Hot tubs that have set and not run for a period of time can deteriorate.    Condensation will form on hot tub electrical parts causing corrosion and burned out computer circuitboards. Pump motors   rust and lock up from lack of use. Seals and gaskets  dry out, shrink and cause   water leakage after refilling.  Hot tubs sitting outside empty can have freeze damage from sub-freezing temperatures. Small amount of water in the system can freeze and cause serious damage.
  Pipes, pumps and plumbing when subjected to very cold temperatures break.   Water will freeze and expand, causing plumbing system cracks and fractures.  An unheated spa full of water can meet the same fate. Thousands  of damage can happen if a hot tub is froze up.
The first rule of used hot tub shopping is always see the hot tub in operation. Take your time. Look the tub over. Try out all the hot tub functions. Inspect the hot tub closely. If the hot tub is not full, hot, and running do not buy it. 
Used hot tub inspection & evaluation;
Inspecting & Evaluating Used Spas
Hot tub repair technicians have a saying " If you are buying a used hot tub you will be spending $500 for needed repairs and service over the next 
year" .   Hot tubs can be costly to maintainer. Repair for a hot tub can cost hundreds to thousands. With a used hot tub you will be responsible for needed repairs. 
Common needed used hot tub repairs and cost;
The repair dollar estimates below can vary widely, but will give you a rough idea of your risk exposure when buying used. Repairmen that will make a house call for under $200, even for the most minor issue, are becoming rare. You will shoulder all of this burden without the benefit of a new spa's warranty.
Spa Shell & Cabinet
Carefully inspect every inch of the hot tub's shell. This is the vessel that holds the water-- so this is vitally important. Acrylic shell repairs where large cracks, checking, blisters, breaks or any evidence of leaks due to these defects is present is not possible, so avoid used spas with these problems. Since the cabinet supports the shell, check it for soundness as well.
A warped spa shell is another insidious problem that is normally impossible to detect by visual inspection alone. Over time, filled with thousands of pounds of water, a hot tub's acrylic shell can slowly bend out of shape if not situated on a perfectly level, hard, stable foundation. Until the tub can be relocated onto a flat surface and checked to see if it can be rocked slightly, corner to corner, this remains unnoticeable.
Acrylic Fractures
Acrylic Shell Cracks After Moving
When the spa is refilled with water on a new level foundation, a warped shell may slowly begin to form tiny fractures. Over time, this can result in vessel leaks. Walk away if you see evidence of these problems or if you can't verify that the spa was operated on a level surface by the previous owners.  Small cracks and blister voids in acrylic can be effectively filled and repaired with only one product:
With the spa running, ask the owner to show you how to operate the topside control pad. Switch through the various functions, verifying the operation of high and low jet pump speeds, thermostat, light, etc.  
Check the various other topside control functions. The air valve in particular should provide ample air injection to the jets when rotated fully to the on position, decreasing gradually to no air when rotated in the opposite direction.  If air is still injected when turned fully off, the valve is defective. Check diverter valves, if so equipped.
A rapid clicking or continuous chattering sound coming from the control system is indicative of defective relay contactors or related problems which can be very expensive 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.
Ask to see the owner's manual, an invaluable source of future reference information, should you decide to buy. You'll also want to see the repair & maintenance record, same as if you were purchasing a used automobile or second-hand RV.
Control System Repairs or Replacement:
Most spa jets are flow and direction adjustable. Check each jet with the spa running to verify these functions. Some jets have ball-bearing spinners which can become frozen-- make sure these jets spin freely. Jet bodies themselves are not terribly expensive, but the labor costs can be high since replacement is often time-consuming. Jet replacement can be very expensive. If a hot tub has 15 bad jets it could cost you  $450, ouch!
Jet Replacement (each): $25-$125 each
Heating System
Check the water with your own digital oral thermometer.  If it will not reach and maintain 104º F, it has problems. Compare your temperature reading to the spa's digital readout to see if they are a pretty close match. If the seller won't let you do this test, don't buy.
Heating System Repairs:
$ 300-$1,000+ 
Pump Leaks & Motor Replacement
Open the equipment door and check for puddling or anything indicative of active leaks around the pump shaft. Pump seal leaks are not unusual, but the repair cost can vary widely depending upon whether the pump is a common generic or a proprietary model. In some cases replacing the seals may be sufficient. If the wear and corrosion is severe, the entire pump may need to be swapped out. 
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, an expensive replacement is likely imminent.
Pump    Replacement:
  Air blower orifices can be sources of dangerous airborne mold and bacteria, since they can't be effectively sanitized by the treated spa water. Blowers quickly cool down the hot tub water, wasting large amounts of reheating energy. They are also loud, sounding like a vacuum cleaner.  Modern spas have air-induction jets which mix air with water, so separate blowers are unnecessary. Avoid used spas with blowers.
Wood Rot & Vermin
Even an exterior wood skirt surround that appears to be in good shape can buckle or begin to fall apart when the spa is moved to a new location. Underlying wood rot in the framing or support members is not always visible from the outside of the spa. Skirts rot from the inside out, and from the ground up. Spas that have been sitting on soil or next to a wall or in a deck tend to rot out faster than if situated on a concrete slab in an open-air, well ventilated area.
Without removing the panels, the only way to inspect for rot is to tilt the empty spa up on its side.  
Wet or rotting wood attracts carpenter ants and termites, which can quickly devour and weaken the entire structure. Rodents have been known to shred the insulation off of the acrylic shell and plumbing to make nests, no place is warmer than a nice insulated spa surround when the water temperature is at 104 degrees. They love to gnaw on hoses and nibble wiring, sometimes not quite enough to actually break them until the spa is moved to its new location.
Inspect for evidence of mice or rat droppings, their calling cards. If you notice any signs of rot, vermin, or disintegrated insulation, you'd better put your wallet in your front pocket and make a fast getaway!
If the spa is equipped with an ozone purification system, be aware that these degrade over time and will typically be exhausted after about 36 months. If the spa is older than that, and the owner has not serviced the unit, it will need a new one or service. Some ozonators have replacement modules, others require complete replacement.
Ozonator Service:
Foam Insulation & Vessel Leaks
Carefully check the foam insulation on the hot tub shell's underside. If you notice damp or badly discolored areas, this is indicative of leaks. So are any white chalky areas. 
Most of today's spas feature insulation systems where the shell is coated with a layer of high density foam with a dead air space within the insulated cabinet walls. In a used spa, this is superior to a spa cabinet which is fully-foamed (typically with a low density foam). Why? Eventually, even the best-maintained spas can spring a leak which will need to located and fixed.  
It is nearly impossible to pinpoint a leak in a fully-foamed spa without literally tearing it apart. Such a repair, even if you can find someone willing to take it on by digging out the insulation, can be terribly expensive. Avoid fully-foamed cabinets in used tubs.
Vessel Leaks:
$250 - $1000+ 
Energy Consumption
Spa energy efficiency has recently improved dramatically. For example, several   Spas can often be operated for about a dollar a day.Avoid old hot tubs. You might save a few bucks up front, but end up paying huge electrical bills to heat a poorly insulated, obsolete hot tub.  
Poorly Insulated Spa (monthly extra expense):
$50 - $200+ month
Electrical Service & GFCI Tripping
All spas must be connected to an electrical service protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) for safety. Any tripping of the GFCI will immediately cut the power to the spa. This is indicative of an electrical malfunction requiring the immediate attention of a qualified electrician and/or spa technician. The culprit could be almost any of the electrical components. Avoid like the plague used hot tubs with tripping problems.
Note: Modern 220V spas use 4 wire connections (L1, L2, neutral, and ground). Older spa equipment used 3-wire service with no neutral which do not meet today's electrical code requirements. Also be certain to test the GFCI if the spa has an integral one (they have a test button on them). It is common for older ones to go dead, not even sensing ground faults anymore. This is a dangerous condition that requires the immediate attention of a qualified electrician.
Electrical Repairs or Upgrades:
$250 - $2000+ 
Spa Cover
Carefully examine the cover-- odds are it may need to be replaced. If deteriorated, heat leaks will occur at the hinge-fold and on the spa shell rim due to improper seating of the cover edges. Most importantly, a heavy cover indicates water-logged foam-core insulation and zero R-value.  
Check for excessive fading from sun damage to the vinyl. Look for broken handles or missing cover locks. Check the underside too. If it reeks strongly of mold or mildew odor, you've got a rotten one which will require immediate cover replacement.
Spa Cover Replacement:
$350 - $400 
New Filter Cartridge
Replacement of the old filter cartridge is essential for sanitation. Fortunately they are easy to change.
Filter Cartridge:
$25 - $75 
Moving the Hot Tub
Don't forget to consider the expense of moving the used hot tub from the seller's location to your home. You can get free delivery with a new spa, but buying used also means renting a flatbed truck or trailer. Spas are heavy, so plan on having 5 or 6 friends on hand (and plenty of pizza) to help with loading and unloading, or hire a moving company to do it for you.  
Spa Moving Expense:
Decontamination of the Old Spa
For health and safety, it's absolutely essential that any used spa be thoroughly decontaminated and properly sanitized prior to use. Even one that appears clean on the surface can harbor a virtual witches brew of mold, fungus, bacteria, viruses and algae deep within the recesses of its plumbing systems, especially if maintenance was lax.  
These microorganisms reside within biofilm: a sticky emulsion which coats the hidden pipes and plumbing, comprised of rancid body oils from the previous users, together with slime, dirt, hair, dead skin cells, yeast spores and other organic contaminants. Following   Spa Decontamination Procedure is highly recommended prior to bathing in any used hot tub by your family and loved ones.
Good hot tub maintenance calls for the Computer control pack to be replaced at the 8 year in operation mark.. This is often when repairs become required. It is more economical to replace the  entire computer control pack than paying for the many repairs the system will have as it ages. A new computer control pack will solve 95% of the problems a hot tub can have and puts you back under factory warranty.