Chapter 6 Topics

6-C: Cheap/Free Hot Tubs

cheap hot tubs

Even if you’re a handy person, always look a gift horse in the mouth! 

We usually have over a hundred used hot tubs in storage and sometimes we agree to offer a free or super-cheap un-tested hot tub to an optimistic DIY client, but both parties often regret it. No matter how clear we are about the fact that we don’t guarantee them, clients sometimes still feel upset if the thing ends up being a dud, and everybody feels bad about it. Un-tested hot tubs almost always have significant problems once they’re moved and resuscitated.

To be fair, I’m sure that some people get lucky and manage to score a wonderful free or cheap used hot tub with zero problems but we never hear those stories because they’d have no reason to contact us. However, it’s worth noting that almost every used hot tub we bring in fails our test when we put it through our detailed inspection process. No matter how good it looks in the seller’s back yard, it almost always ends up needing a considerable amount of work once we have a closer look at it at our facilities. Sometimes the repairs are cost-prohibitive even with access to wholesale parts and cheaper in-house labour.

Be wary of cheap/free hot tubs that appear to be in good condition, and be afraid, be very afraid of acquiring any hot tub that “needs work”. as it could very well end up being a heck of a lot more trouble than you could ever imagine.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are just a few real-life examples of ordinary people’s experiences:

Sonya’s Story:

Sonya from South Surrey picked up a nice-looking used hot tub off Craigslist for $2500. She saw the tub running before she bought it, but after it was moved to her place, the hot tub got noisy and she noticed water was puddling in one corner.  So she called a professional repair company to fix it. They charged her $912.78 for a new pump and plumbing fittings and $1,570.79 to fix some leaks. But it still needed work. 
This is a verbatim excerpt from the email she received from the repair company she’d hired:

Today our tech found more leaks in the diverter valves, jet seals, Y-fitting, more couplings and pipe with parts estimated at $600 plus 2 hrs labour = $800.

Despite the application of silicone to the skimmer yesterday, it is still leaking – labour to replace the skimmer estimated $700 – $900.

Labour re 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, but likely over $1000.

An estimated total for all of the above, at least $5000… and you would still have an aging tub with, no doubt, more repairs to come. 

Sonya contacted Hot Tubs Galore for a second opinion, only to have us confirm that the tub was indeed not worth fixing.  She ended up trading in her “parts tub” toward one of our refurbished hot tubs, and many years later, that hot tub is still running great.    

Joe’s Comments:

(online response to someone complaining about their used hot tub experience)

This brings back memories. Horrible, terrible memories of the time I thought “How hard would it be to get this hot tub working again?”
I never got to the point where I could put water in it. After pulling off a bunch of the sprayed on foam, I discovered that most of the jets were so fragile that pushing on them would make them crumble.
That was after probably 100 hours of work building a new frame, rebuilding the exterior of the heater, and re-doing most of the electrical. Oh, and a tetanus shot after I stabbed myself with a rusty nail hiding in all that foam. On the plus side, cutting apart a hot tub with a sawzall is extremely satisfying.

Peter’s Story:

Hey Steve, I picked up a used hot tub off CL and I’ve put a couple thousand bucks into it then lost heart.  Might you be interested in taking it on trade toward one of the used ones you’ve refurbished?
(note: we get this sort of request quite often)

Tanya’s Story:

We inherited our neighbor’s hot tub when they moved away. We were delighted that all we had to do was move it over the fence into our yard. They told us it needed a heating element ($200 max, they said). However, it turned out that the hot tub was full of rats, and stank to high heavens when we tipped it on end.
My husband did his best to remove all the contaminated insulation, only to discover the rats had chewed on the wires so nothing worked.
After wasting a lot of time and effort trying to fix the thing, we ended up having to pay hundreds of dollars to get rid of it.

Jimmy’s Story:

We bought a hot tub off Facebook Marketplace thinking it was a great way to save some money. We expected it might need a bit of work, but we never imagined what a nightmare it would end up being! No time to share all the details but the bottom line is this: DO NOT buy a used hot tub, folks! Trust me, you’ll regret it!

Jake’s Story:

Here’s an online story someone sent me a few years ago:
Hot tubs include wood frames, composite cabinets, plumbing and jets, pumps and electronics, fiberglass/acrylic and a lot of other things that might need work. If you’re a handy person willing to take a risk who enjoys projects, then by all means, go for it, but I suggest you take the time to study this chapter as well as the next chapter (7: Buying Used Checklist) first.