New vs. Used Hot Tubs: Pros and Cons

From the coupon boom during the Great Depression to the modern Groupon era, we've learned that deals are everywhere and should be sought. But what constitutes a good deal? In some cases, buying a used item at a discount will provide most of the benefits of a higher-cost new item—but not always.

Only very smart shoppers understand how to save money and still enjoy the rewards of new products, especially when it comes to big-ticket items, such as spas. Hot tubs come in all styles and sizes, and can be as different from each other as a Honda is from a Ferrari. However, while there is a wide range of hot tub manufacturers, collections, and models, there are only a couple of ways to buy a spa: used (from an individual, and online source, or from a dealer) or new (luxury, premium, value-priced, or even entry-level models from a trusted dealership). Regardless of whether you choose to buy a used spa from an individual or an online source, or turn to a reputable dealer for either a new or used hot tub, there are specific considerations to take into account. Here, we put them in perspective. We've also included a handy chart at the end to help with your decision-making process.

What to Know When Buying a Used Hot Tub Online or from an Individual

Owning a hot tub can bring peace and joy to your life every day, but only careful shopping will ensure you bring home the spa of your dreams and not a headache. Hot tubs from private sellers are typically sold “as-is,” meaning that the seller is not responsible for any issues that may arise after the sale. Used spas sold online are also sold “as-is” and, further, deny the buyer the opportunity for inspection. In either case, while you might spend less, the lower price comes with a few clear sacrifices, including:

Warranty. Hot tubs sold by private sellers in-person or online are unlikely to be covered by warranty. Even if the hot tub works when you inspect it, you could be forced to replace damaged or worn parts or hire a service technician shortly after purchasing because the seller had not kept up with maintenance. Repair bills could amount to more than what you paid for the spa.

Payment. Typically, when you buy a spa from a private seller, payment is made in cash. In rare instances, the seller will accept a check or even be able to process a credit or debit card transaction on a smartphone or tablet. Online payments will require a credit or debit card. Regardless of how you pay, you'll hand over a lump sum that could put a large dent in your wallet.

Delivery and Installation. It's no secret that hot tubs are big, heavy, and impossible for one person to lift. To transport your spa home, you'll need to hire a spa moving company. At this point, it's important to remember that if the hot tub you're considering is under warranty, moving it from its original location may void some or all of the manufacturer's warranty. In other words, if something should happen to it during de-installation and transport, you'll be responsible for any resulting costs.

Quality Inspection. Before paying, perform a very close inspection of the hot tub to identify any obvious and potential problem areas; you probably won't get your money back once it has changed hands. If ordering online and inspection is impossible, request current pictures and be sure to vet the reputability of the seller. When inspecting a hot tub, focus on the following areas:

Shell. Look for scratches, cracks, leaks, and warping in the shell. Small imperfections can worsen over time. Issues that may be easily fixed today can become serious, expensive problems after just months of usage.

Cabinet. The cabinet protects the spa's sensitive interior components from the elements. So, look for cracks, leaks, and discoloration, which can be a sign of water damage even if no water is visible. If the cabinet is wooden, look for warped or broken slats. As with the shell, scratches and cracks can worsen over time.

Control Panel. Be sure that the thermostat, lights, jets, and entertainment features respond correctly through the control panel. Fast-paced clicking or chattering sounds that occur can indicate damaged relays, which can be expensive to repair.

Access Panel. Look for evidence of leaks in the interior of the access panel, including dampness or standing water. If you find evidence of a leak, but cannot identify the source, it could suggest an expensive repair. Inspect the wiring for corrosion and obvious damage to connections and wire insulation. Check for evidence of pests or vermin, such as beehives, rat nests, and snakeskin. If you live in an area with dangerous insects, such as black widow spiders, perform this inspection cautiously, and don't put your hands in areas that aren't completely visible.

Framework. The interior framework of the spa should be regular and even, without dents, cracks, folds, or any other deformation, and free from corrosion.

Pumps. Hot tubs usually have separate pumps for jet pressure and for circulation. With the spa filled, turn it on to see if the circulation pump forces water movement. Turn the jets on to make sure their pumps are delivering adequate pressure. When working properly, jet pumps should produce a steady, low-pitched hum. Stuttering, chattering, grinding, belching, or any other unexpected sound indicates an issue, which may be expensive to repair.

If during your inspection you identify what seem to be major problems, walk away and consider the advantages of purchasing from a local dealer.

Dealer Advantages: New vs. Used Hot Tub

Quality. Whether purchasing a new or used hot tub from a dealer, one thing you can be sure of is the quality. A new hot tub will function perfectly and look gorgeous; a used hot will have been refurbished to like-new quality. Refurbishment involves a deep cleaning of the hot tub, as well as cosmetic and functional repairs when needed. Any outstanding issues will be noted by the dealer and communicated. In addition, purchasing from a dealer allows you to select from a variety of models to get the specific features you want, such as an entertainment system.

Warranty. All new and most used hot tubs sold by a dealer are covered by a manufacturer's or dealer's warranty. The warranties for new hot tubs are more comprehensive and provide coverage for a longer period of time. While limited warranties are available for certain used hot tubs, the specific terms may vary from spa to spa and dealer to dealer. Before purchasing a used hot tub from a dealer, take a minute to review the warranty to learn what is and isn't covered.

Service and Maintenance Plans. When you purchase a new hot tub from a dealer, you'll be offered service plan options of varying levels. Even if you don't opt for a service plan, you can still ask your dealer for service help, but you'll have to pay for parts and labor. Plan options offer provisions for water purification, regular cleaning, and the replacement or repair of any parts that wear out over time. Some dealers offer service plans for the used hot tubs they sell, too.

Financing. It's certainly possible to buy a new or used hot tub from a dealer with a single cash payment. However, financing is also often an option. In fact, some dealers periodically offer zero-interest financing deals. While not every dealer offers financing on all hot tub models (used models may be exempt), opting for it can significantly increase your buying power, putting a new hot tub within your reach through low monthly payments.

For example, financing might allow you to purchase a new entry-level hot tub, which often costs the same as a used hot tub, for around $100-200 per month.* Entry-level spas are typically smaller and not as feature-heavy as luxury models, but still durable and beautiful. In addition, some dealers allow shoppers who purchase an entry-level hot tub, such as a rotationally-molded model from Fantasy Spas® or Freeflow Spas®, to trade-up to a premium or luxury model after six months or so.

Delivery and Installation. Often, the cost of delivery and installation is included in the price quoted by the dealer for new and used hot tubs. That cost can also sometimes be included in the financing agreement, helping to avoid any outlay of cash up front. You'll be provided with delivery and installation instructions that explain how to prepare the area on which you'll place your spa. For example, your new spa must be placed on a strong, level surface. If you intend to put your hot tub on a deck, be certain that the deck is rated to hold the spa's weight. Consult a professional to determine your deck's load limit. These instructions should not be glossed over, as an improperly located hot tub can cause damage to the spa and/or serious human injury.

*Actual monthly financing payment will vary based on the total financing amount and the length of the repayment period. For example, a $5,000 spa financed for 40 months during a zero-interest promotion will cost $125 per month.

New vs. Used Hot Tub Pros and Cons Chart

All of the factors that go into choosing where to purchase a new or used spa can be a bit overwhelming. So, to help simplify your decision-making process, we've listed the most important aspects of buying a hot tub, and compared them by source:

Used from a Private SellerUsed from an Online RetailerUsed from a DealerNew from a Dealer
Service PlansNoNoYesYes
FinancingNo; cash onlyNo; cash onlyYes; sometimesYes
Delivery and InstallationUnlikelyAvailableAvailableAvailable

Caring for Your Hot Tub After Purchase

When you buy a high-quality hot tub, you enter into a relationship with it—one that should last for over a decade. In order to ensure your hot tub's longevity, it's important to maintain it properly. From simple tasks like water care and changing the filters to more complex deep cleanings, winterization, and replacing worn out parts, caring for your spa is important and will allow it to take care of you.

At Caldera® Spas, we believe that everybody deserves a high-quality hot tub. We design our home spas for elegance, efficiency, and longevity, so they keep working beautifully years after they're purchased. With financing options available from many of our dealers, our world-class spas are well within the reach of most homeowners. To see our full line of products, download our brochure. If you're curious about pricing, Get local pricing by contacting your nearest dealer.

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