So your looking to add a nice bubbly hot tub to your home, and in an effort to save some dough you turn to Craigslist and EBay. Your hope is for that perfect combination of rock bottom price and perfect functionality. After crawling through all the adds, placing calls, and going out of your way to go see tub after tub that doesn’t work, you finally find the perfect bargain.
This hot tub has everything, 6 seats, 50 jets, multi-color lights, and of course the most important…cup holders! Oh, and it is all yours for the great low price of $500. The tub is about 7 years old and the current owner got it when he bought the house a few years ago. He hasn’t used it in a couple of years but started it up to make sure it worked before he placed the ad, so obviously ..”the thing runs like new!“.
You make the deal, fork over the $500 and you are pumped, finally an awesome hot tub me and the family can enjoy. The only thing you need to do now is get the 800lb spa off the 4 foot high deck, onto a trailer and back onto your 4 foot high deck at home 15 minutes away. No matter how you slice it moving a spa on and off a deck is no easy feet, especially if you have never done it before.
Then there is the part about having a trailer to move it on. Spa dealers use a specialized Spa Dolly that allows them to easily scoop up a spa from ground level and put it securely on the back of the truck. My guess is you probably don’t have access to one of those.
Now the good news is you were able to bribe a couple buddies with beer and pizza to help you move the used hot tub back to your house. Luckily one of them had a nice flat bed trailer too. While moving the tub you and your buddies are shocked by how heavy the spa cover is. Two grown men carrying the cover out to the truck are struggling, the hot tub cover is water logged. It has a few cracks in it and is probably the original cover. No worries, you think once the tub is up and running we can go to the spa store and order a new one.
So now you have set the 800 lb. 7 year old spa onto your deck and before you can turn it on, you need make a call to the electrician to get your 220v 50amp gfci breaker installed. Once your electrician finishes up he hands you a $600 bill for the wiring of the spa. Now $600 is not nearly what this could cost, depending on your houses’ electrical service, the run from the breaker box, and other considerations it can run upwards of $2,000 to install this breaker (very rare but it happens).
So you have spent more to wire the tub than what you paid for it, still $1,100 for a 6 person spa is not bad. Now its time to fire this baby up! This is the exciting part, you grab your hose and fill it with approximately 400 gallons of water, checking it every 5 minutes to see if it is full. Finally the moment of truth arrives, the spa is finally full and you switch on the breaker. You here it click on and the top side control panel lights up….the guy was right “good as new!“.
Like most first time hot tub owners when you turn on the jets you notice that no water is coming out, the pump is definitely running but no action inside the tub? “
Where are my bubbles!”, you say!
It looks like you have an air lock, a very common and easily remedied problem. You then go to the internet and find a very helpful article on: how to remove in air lock in your hot tub.
After releasing the air lock, the jets are now working perfectly, so you set the spa to 104 degrees and let it be for a few hours. You go back out to check on the tub to see what temperature it has gotten to, and the tub is off?! Breaker is tripped, what happened? You turn it back on, starts up great, jets are working, and 20 minutes later it trips again. It might be time to call in a professional.
You call up a local pool and spa store and let them know what is going on, and while your at it a quote for the 400lb spa cover you have with it. The news is not good…..the circumstances of the tripped breaker point to one thing, the heater element is dead. They find the heater element you need, it will be $250 for the part and another $150 for the labor.
So now we are at $1,500 for the 6 person 50 jet tub, still not a bad deal but then you get the quote for the new cover, $400 plus $80 shipping. The aftermarket covers are all custom made to order so it will take about 2-3 weeks to get in. $1,900 for your used craigslist or ebay hot tub. Now jst add $50 for starter chemicals and $100 for a set of steps and you have eclipsed the $2,000 mark. At least now it is running and you still got a pretty decent tub for not a whole lot of money, what else could go wrong?
When the spa technician came out to install the new heater he let you know that the jet pumps had some obvious corrosion around the shaft and one even had a small seal leak. On top of that the motor was running a little loud, meaning the bearings would probably go in the next year or so.
A pump seal replacement isn’t too bad, usually you get the seal for $10-$20 but it is another $150 service call to have it replaced. The real problem is the pump’s lifespan. A good spa pump will probably last a good 7-10 years before the bearings wear out and the motor seizes. Depending on the size and type of the pump it can cost anywhere from $500-$800 for a new spa pump.
We have now reached the $3,000 mark for a USED 7 year old hot tub. Depending on the tub this could still be a good deal. But after we add up all the additional costs, headaches, and time you have put into it maybe the $500 used hot tub was not the best idea.
Now please don’t get me wrong, the above scenario is not going to happen with every used spa but I have seen it enough for it to be a trend. What usually ends up happening it the nickel and dime repairs lead to a neglected hot tub that becomes nothing but an eye sore.
IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!
Now a days you can get a very good entry level hot tub for under $5,000 some even under $4,000 when you take into account the new entry level Marquis Spas Celebrity Hot Tubs. With that you get the piece of mind that the spa is in perfect working order and has a nice 2 year warranty in case anything does go wrong. On top of that you get a brand new outdoor rated cover, $50-$100 worth of starter chemicals, free delivery, and sometimes even a set of nice spa steps, or even a cover lifter. All this for not much more than that used spa cost you in the end.
You also should not discount the expertise and customer service you get from your local hot tub store when you buy a spa from them. From water analysis, customer chemical discounts, and of course warranty service.
If you are going to buy a used hot tub just make sure you do your research, ask the owner selling the tub if he can fill it up and run it for you. Go online ans research the cost for parts for that particular model.
I hope this in depth look at buying a used hot tub on Craigslist or Ebay has helped, and again you can find good deals on used spas from time to time, but is it worth it? That is guess it up to you.
If you are interested in buying a new hot tub, make sure to check out your local spa dealer and see what they have for good quality entry level options.