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10 Things to Avoid When Buying a Used Hot Tub

Posted by Steve Anonby on

Beware When Buying Used

Hot Tub Dealers are Right to Warn People Against Buying Used!

As used spa specialists, we know better than anyone about the dangers of buying used hot tubs! Just like used cars, there are lots of OK-looking used hot tubs out there that would be a huge mistake to buy. Sometimes repairs can cost thousands of dollars, and there are safety issues to consider as well.

Even if a used hot tub appears to be running fine and in good condition, lots can go wrong as soon as it’s moved. Deteriorating pipes and hoses, old electronics, finicky computers and worn mechanical components may hold out for many years as long as the hot tub sits still and is uninterrupted. But hot tubs often break down or spring new leaks due to the strain and trauma of being disconnected, physically moved then resuscitated.

Here’s a true story which may make you think twice about picking up a used tub:

A lady in Surrey bought a hot tub off Craigslist. She saw the tub running before she bought it, but after it was moved to her place, it didn’t work right so she called a professional repair company to fix it. They charged her $912.78 for a new pump/plumbing fittings and $1,570.79 to fix some leaks. But it still needed work. Here’s a verbatim excerpt from the email she received:

“Today our tech found more leaks in the diverter valves, jet seals, Y-fitting, more couplings and pipe with parts estimated at $400 plus 2 hrs labour = $600. Despite the application of silicone to the skimmer yesterday, it is still leaking – labour to replace the skimmer estimated $600 – $800.

Labour for yesterday’s silicone on skimmer and today’s further diagnostic $200. Once the repairs are complete there may still be other leaks and issues that become apparent – costs unknown.

An estimated total for all of the above $4000… and you would still have an old tub with, no doubt, more repairs to come.”

Baffled by what she had just read, she figured another set of professional eyes may help. So, she contacted Hot Tubs Galore for a second opinion. Low and behold, I was able to fix the skimmer and do a “band-aid” repair on the worst of the leaks for $500, but the tub still slowly weeps water and it’s certainly not worth refurbishing.

Even with expert care and competitive prices, the cost of fixing the deteriorating used hot tub would eventually exceed the unit’s value, even with all the investments she had already made.


We at Hot Tubs Galore Remove the Risk Factor

If the thought of buying used makes you nervous and you can justify the expense of a new spa, I would encourage you to consider exploring your new options through us. But if you are seriously searching for a used tub, please read on.

Yes, there are a lot of “bad” used hot tub out there, but there are plenty of really good ones too – it’s just a matter of knowing what to look for! It is very possible to find a 15-year old spa that will easily outlast a brand new one! An almost-new tub can have more problems than a much older one, so the quality and condition is more important than the manufacturing date.

We at BC Used Hot Tubs are in the business of finding the best used hot tubs in the province and making them available to the general public. All of our used hot tubs have passed a detailed 125-point inspection. After that, we pressure-test the system and do a deep-cleaning flush. This significantly lowers the chance of anything going wrong after we deliver them to their new home. As a result, we rarely have to do warranty work.


Things To Watch Out For

A thousand things can go wrong with a used car, but they’re still worth buying second hand. Hot tubs are much less complicated and buying used makes good sense if you buy smart. We have developed a 125-point Inspection to test each hot tub (which you can hire us to do on your own tub).

Here are just a few of the potential problems that we protect you from:

  1. Unsanitary Conditions
  2. Electronic Malfunction
  3. Mechanical Failure
  4. Plumbing Problems
  5. Computer Issues
  6. Wood Rot
  7. Rust
  8. Cracks and Delamination
  9. Blisters and Crazing
  10. Rodent Damage
  11. Tub Warp
  12. Bug Infestation
  13. Mould
  14. Insulation Insufficiency or Loss
  15. Obsolete & Obscure Essential Parts


  1. Unsanitary Conditions

Sometimes clients tell us they have heard that buying a used hot tub can be dangerously unsanitary. Although we suspect the danger is greatly exaggerated by spa retailers, we have to admit it’s gross to end up with a grungy tub. Sometimes we are surprised at the yucky stuff that comes out when we flush out a tub for the first time.

We have developed a system to aggressively flush the plumbing back and forth with special products to clear out scale, grime, and whatever else that can accumulate in the pipes, pumps, hoses & jets. Then we flush sanitizers through the system and scrub down the shell’s interior. Not only does this process sterilize the spa, but it also makes it run better.

  1. Electronic Malfunction

Hot tubs have heating elements, thermostats, breakers, submersible lights, secondary pumps and all kinds of other things that run off a combination of 220v, 110v and 12v current.

We check it all over for you beforehand so you don’t have to worry.

  1. Mechanical Failure

There are lots of moving parts on a hot tub. We make sure it’s all in working order for you.

  1. Plumbing Problems

Some of the newer style spinning jets are prone to failing and diverter valves can get stiff. But a much more serious and easily overlooked problem is brittle pipes and fittings.

We avoid hot tubs with dried-out brittle plumbing and plastic parts because they are fragile and prone to leaks.

  1. Computer Issues

Since computer technology is becoming cheaper to produce than analog equipment, many of the newer hot tubs are run by computers.

Since computers can be complicated and temperamental, they sometimes go wacky after a spa is moved and revived. That’s what the warranty is for.

  1. Wood Rot

We used to frequently buy tubs with decaying wood skirts in order to rebuild them, but now we don’t usually bother with rotting hot tubs – they are too much work and often have other moisture-related problems such as rust and mould.

Even a healthy-looking skirt may buckle and fall apart when it is moved or lifted because wood rot is not always visible on the exterior. Skirts tend to rot from the bottom-up, starting with the parts in direct contact with the ground, under the aesthetic woodwork. Skirts tend to rot from the inside, where it’s damp and stagnant, so damage may not be apparent on the exterior. Skirting that sits up against a wall or under a deck tends to rot much faster than if exposed to fresh air. The cross-members that hold the skirting together underneath are the most susceptible to rot, and cannot be seen without lifting the tub.

We always check the structural integrity of a hot tub skirt before considering it for our inventory.

  1. Rust

You might not think of rust when it comes to hot tubs, but there are plenty of metal parts in a typical unit. Chlorinated spa water is especially corrosive and water from a plumbing leak will aggressively eat away any metal that gets wet.

This is another one of those situations where something can be weakened but functional until it is moved. Any shift or flex or strain can make rusty parts break, and can cause all sorts of problems.

If there is visible rust or if the motor mount bolts have rusted loose or if there are brown rust stains on the pipes, we consider it a bad sign.

  1. Cracks and Delamination

Hot tubs shells can last for decades if they remain resilient and flexible. But if a tub sits empty for too long the shell can dry out and crack. Sometimes it looks fine until it is refilled and heated – then the sudden weight and temperature change cause it to crack. In rare cases, moisture can get between the fibreglass shell and the acrylic skin, causing it to delaminate.

Since cracks can be hard to see under water, a used hot tub must be completely drained for it to be properly inspected.

We don’t buy or sell stiff and brittle tubs and we don’t ever deal with cracked or delaminating shells.

  1. Blisters and Crazing

Almost all hot tubs have a colored acrylic skin heat-vacuumed over the fiberglass shell. Small Blisters and superficial fissures on the skin are more of an aesthetic issue than a real problem. They don’t affect the structural integrity of the shell and when the tub is full of water, nobody notices. But they are annoying

Usually the blisters are in the corners on the floor, so you can’t see them unless a hot tub is empty. Crazing usually takes place above the water line. It is sometimes only visible when a tub is dry – sort of like our skin.

We usually avoid hot tubs like this but if a hot tub is in otherwise very good condition, we might bring it to our shop as an option for people who don’t care about cosmetic perfection.

  1. Rodent Damage

It is not unusual to discover an intricate maze of mouse or rat tunnels in the foam insulation. Squirrels and even skunks and racoons can also be a problem (yeah, I know those last two aren’t rodents, but they’re worth a mention).

Sometimes rodents shred the insulation off of the shell and pipes. They like to gnaw on pipes, hoses and electrical wires – sometimes just enough to weaken things so they will only break down when the tub is moved. It is not uncommon to find dead rats or mice tucked away inside the tunnels.

Several times over the years, as we were inspecting and/or repairing the underside of a tub, we’ve had rats jump out of the foam insulation and actually land on us! It happened to one of our workers once, and he screamed like a little girl. When we laughed at him he insisted he wasn’t scared – “just startled”.

Many times people have become angry and defensive when we told them they had rats in their tubs and denied it adamantly, only to realize we were right when we removed a panel or showed the bottom.

We check and make sure there are no leaks or rats living in the tub.

  1. Shell Warp

Over time a hot tub can slowly bend out of shape if it doesn’t sit on a perfectly level concrete pad.

Warp is usually unnoticeable until it is relocated onto a flat surface, where it can be rocked corner to corner. Certain kinds of warped tubs can be salvaged if it’s done right, but if not, the shell may crack when it is relocated and refilled.

  1. Tiny Critters

Little bugs that are part of the organic decomposition system help accelerate rot. Nuisance insects such as wasps, bees, ants, etc. are sometimes hard to remove once they’ve made a tub their home. Termites don’t like cedar, but can attack other kinds of wood beneath the skirting and under the tub.

We take care of any bug problems before selling a hot tub.

  1. Mould

I know, “is it spelled Mold or Mould?” the short answer is “either way”. I’m going with “mould” on this one.

Sometimes one or more of the inside walls of a hot tub are covered with stubborn mould. Not only can mould be bad for one’s health, but it retains moisture and accelerates decomposition.

Painting over mould does not kill it – like rust, it continues to spread underneath the paint. Scrubbing with soap and water doesn’t always get rid of it either. We use a combination of things including chlorine bleach, tea tree oil and pressure washing to take care of the problem.

  1. Insulation Insufficiency or Loss

Sometimes the foam insulation is missing in spots (usually due to sloppy application or being scraped off for repair access). We fill any holes and cover any ‘bald spots” we find during our underside inspection.

  1. Obsolete, Obscure Essential Parts

It’s to be expected that identical parts may not be available for older models, but often usually these are insignificant, such as knobs and dials and jets which can be retrofitted with a newer version.

But sometimes there are essential parts that are completely unique to that one model that are pretty much impossible to replace. So when you hear “it just needs this one small repair”, it may not be as simple as it sounds to fix it.

We fix every tub and make sure it’s running before we even put it up for sale. If we can’t find the part(s) to repair it, we never offer it for sale “as is” – instead, we add that tub to our “bone-yard” of dozens of old tubs that we keep around for people needing old parts.

These are just some of the things on our 125-point inspection. It takes a trained eye to identify problems and recognize potential trouble. We are proud of having acquired these important skills that are essential for this business. It’s what makes us a credible and trustworthy source for buying used.

Remember that we also sell a wide variety of NEW hot tubs! Go to our “Pictures & Prices” page for a general idea of what we offer and/or contact us for details.


Learn more about our reliable and superior used hot tubs or get in touch with your trusted Greater Vancouver hot tub experts today!