You've searched the classifieds for a used hot tub and found what looks like a great deal. Or maybe a friend has offered to let you buy theirs, or maybe you have even been given a used tub as a freebie. Is it really a good deal? There is no way to tell for sure until you have it installed and running.
The first and most important thing is to never buy and pay for any used spa or hot tub that you have not seen in operation and tested completely. Buying a "dry" tub is a disappointment waiting to happen. You might get lucky and everything will work fine, but you also stand the chance of having a budget-busting disaster on your hands.
You have to also keep in mind that simply moving a tub puts a whole new set of stresses on the plumbing, tub shell, and frame. An unnoticable crack in the spa sitting at its original location will likely be made worse by loading it on a truck and moving it. This is especially true if the tub has been repaired sometime in the past. So just because everything was fine when you checked it out, does not mean it will be exactly the same when you finish your move and installation.
Even with a free hot tub you will likely will have some hidden and possibly unexpected expenses:
* You have to find a way to move it. Many "portable" hot tubs will not fit in the back of a pickup truck.
* You have to hook up the electrical (and unless you are a licensed electrician this is something that should never be attempted by a homeowner). This might involve trenching for the electrical line and running a 220 volt drop, in addition to the electrical supplies.
* Once you get it all set up you have to fix anything you broke moving it, and repair damage or defects that were not apparent when you inspected it.
* You will also likely need to buy other supplies (chemicals for the water, a testing kit, a new cartridge filter, and possibly a hot tub cover).
* Check the cartridge filter to make sure it is in place and that the filter itself is not torn or just completely worn out.
* Does it come with a hot tub cover? If the cover is cracked, torn, discolored, waterlogged, or a spa cover is not included in the deal, then you might be looking at a significant additional expense.
When inspecting the hot tub, be sure and check the following:
* Use a thermometer to check the accuracy of the hot tub thermostat. If it is out of calibration that is not necessarily a problem, but is information you need to know to operate the tub safely. If it won't heat the water to normal operating temperature (usually 104 degrees) that is another issue entirely. There might be a heater problem.
* Open up any of the doors that give you access to the equipment or areas underneath the tub. Look for any leaks or signs of water. Check around the pump for any indication that the pump seals are leaking and will need to be replaced.
* Listen to the sound of the pump running. It should be a low steady hum. Any other sound should tell you that you might have a pump replacement in your near future.
* Turn on the blower and again, listen to the motor. It should sound a lot like a vacuum cleaner and if you hear any knocking, pinging, or scraping this is not normal and means you might be whipping out a credit card soon.
Any problems that you discover can be used as points for negotiating a lower purchase price. If you point out these issues to the seller, you might get a price concession which will make the deal more attractive for you.
With all this said, there are some great values in used hot tubs. Just do not fail to check things out carefully so you will not regret your decision. Budget for some unexpected expenses, and cross your fingers.