The Complete Homeowner’s Guide to Buying a Hot Tub
In this guide I will go over every step you need to take before entering a hot tub showroom. I’ll cover space availability, cost, how to research and how to negotiate a great deal when you’re ready to get down to brass tacks.
Why Do You Want to Own a Hot Tub?
Will you be a new hot tub owner? 60% are new buyers while 40% have owned one in the past and are usually upgrading to a newer model.
According to Alice Cunningham of Olympic Hot Tub, most people decide to buy a hot tub because they’re looking for a way to slow down, relax and find balance.
People also purchase hot tubs for physical ailments, including:
- Chronic fatigue
- Whiplash or another injury from an accident
Other reasons involve connecting with family or saving a relationship. Yes, some believe that a hot tub will save their marriage and taking the time to talk to restore intimacy.
Now that you have your reasons, let’s go through the steps of buying a hot tub.
1. Make Sure You Have Enough Room
Ideally, you should have a large enough space to fit the size hot tub you want, while allowing access to all sides for maintenance and repair.
Before you run out and buy your brand new hot tub, you need to check with the building codes in your area and be sure you are allowed to add a hot tub to your priority. Some local municipalities require that you obtain a permit to install a hot tub or pool on your property prior to installation.
If you don’t follow these procedures, you could be fined or even forced to remove your new hot tub entirely. These laws will very state to state and can even differ from neighborhood to neighborhood. Do your home work and find out exactly what you need from the government so they don’t make you remove it later.
Choose a Location
Your best bet is to have a poured concrete patio or a spa pad to place the tub. Avoid using pavers as they can be uneven and wreak havoc on your hot tub’s frame over time.
Handi-Pad, Spa Installation and Protector Pad, Gray
A thin, weatherproof pad that you can use under your hot tub instead of concrete or pavers.
If you choose to put your hot tub on a deck, make sure the deck is reinforced and strong enough to hold the heavy tub. I recommend contacting a professional deck installer (one with hot tub experience) to inspect your deck before considering it an option.
You’ll also want a walkway leading to your hot tub. This shouldn’t be a problem if you plan on putting your hot tub indoors, but a walkway is key for outdoor tubs. You don’t want to walk through grass, dirt and other debris leading up to your hot tub – those can all end up in the water and cause major problems.
Can Installers Easily Access the Location?
Survey your property and be sure the installers can easily access the location that you have decided to put your new hot tub.
Are there fences in the way? Will you need to move cars or maybe even patio furniture or other lawn decorations that they could trip over and even damage or destroy as they move the new hot tub in place? If so, move them out of the way and put them somewhere safe until after the hot tub has been delivered and installed.
This will help you ensure that none of your property is damaged during the delivery and it will also help the installers remain safe as they are moving the hot tub into place.
Consult an Electrician
All electrical work for a hot tub must be performed by a licensed electrician and then inspected to be sure it is safe and ready for use.
Hot tubs can take a 120 or 240 volt electrical hook up. Be sure you have one available near the future location of your hot tub. If you are upgrading, then this shouldn’t be a problem, but new owners need to be aware of this. Having electrical nearby will make maintenance is easier and you can quickly access them while you are using your hot tub.
I recommend consulting a licensed electrician to look at your property and make sure that proper electrical hook up can be supplied if needed. Be sure the electrician pulls a permit, because if anything goes wrong, your insurance company will not pay out if there’s no permit and you decided to install the electric yourself.
NOTE: If you live in a rural area, do not install your tub underneath any wires – low hanging or not.
- Make sure there is enough room to access all sides of the tub for maintenance and repair.
- Make room for drainage. Hot tubs must be drained and refilled every 3 to 4 months as a form of water care.
- Make sure the correct type of electric is installed and nearby (consult a licensed electrician).
- Consider a walkway to your tub. Avoid walking on grass, dirt and other debris before entering your tub.
- Ensure proper ventilation for indoor tubs.
2. Create Your budget
Let’s lay out all the possible costs of owning a hot tub so you can make the best decision when creating your budget.
Cost of Operation
Hot tubs cost money to keep hot. In fact, it takes roughly 8 BTUs (British thermal unit) to raise 1 gallon of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.
For instance, if you’re starting with fresh water that’s 40 degrees in the winter, and raising it to 100 degrees, it would require about 75 kWh (kilowatt hour) of energy. A kWh costs roughly 12 cents, so it would be a little over $6 to heat your hot tub for the first time or after each refill.
According to a blog post at TheSimpleDollar.com, a hot tub owner in the southern part of the United States estimates it costs about $30 a month to keep his tub hot 24/7 – assuming he is using a standard insulated hot tub cover. This is a rough estimate as some hot tubs have different types of insulation, which can vary kWh usage.
Cash or Finance?
Do you plan on paying cash or financing your hot tub? If you want to finance, make sure you talk to your salesman to find to best option.
Find a price range that you are comfortable with and aim for a hot tub that fits within your budget. If you find a tub that’s a little out of your price range, there might be some rebates, offers or ways to negotiate the price of the tub to fit your budget.
3. Do Your Research
Alice Cunningham recommends you do your research before entering a showroom. It’s a good idea to pick one or two brands that have the models you like. If the manufacturer’s website allows, try to download the user manuals for the ones you are interested in. 90% of hot tub owners do their research, so don’t be left out of the majority.
Reliability Vs. Price
A hot tub is a major household appliance, and with any new appliance purchase, you want to choose the best quality. The more reliable the hot tub, the less you’ll pay in maintenance and repair when the hot tub fails.
When looking for a dealer, find ones that has been selling the brands you like for a number of years. This is a good indicator for warranty and out-of-warranty services. You want to find a dealer who will have the parts you need on-hand and a properly trained service staff that can fix your tub. These are extremely important as I’ve had heard horror stories from owners who purchased their tubs from a questionable source or a big box retailer.
Don’t sacrifice quality for price. It may end up costing you more in the future.
The Anatomy of a Hot Tub
It’s a good idea to know everything you can about how a hot tub operates and the different parts that are involved. Above is a picture of a hot tub that’s been cut away to show the inside.
How to Choose The Right Size
The most popular size hot tubs are 2 person and 6 person. The singles (or couples) tub and the “go big or go home” tub – enough to comfortably fit a family of 4. “No one ever regrets buying the bigger tub,” says Alice.
When buying a hot tub for your entire family, you need to make sure you choose one with enough room. A good rule of thumb is a 100 gallons per person.
How Important are Jets?
The jets need to fit you – the number of jets don’t matter. Look for a variety of different jets rather than the total number.
Horsepower is also a factor. Sometimes more horsepower might be too powerful and it also costs more to operate.
Lounge or No lounge?
Women tend to want the lounge, but often have a hard time using it due to buoyancy. Lounges tend to work out better for men. However, you won’t know what you’ll like until you “wet test” a hot tub in the showroom.
Look for Incentives and Rebates
Browse the manufacturer’s websites and look for deals that you can take with you to the showroom. It’s also a good idea to call the retailer ahead of time and ask if there are any specials going on that you might be able to take advantage of.
Rebates or specials can put a hot tub in your price range. Not all manufacturers and dealers offer incentive programs, so keep your options open when doing your research.
There are 3 accessories you must have with your hot tub:
When shopping, make sure these accessories are included with your hot tub. You can also add lighting, media and chemical packages, but these are not must-haves. Feel free to upgrade your tub as much as your budget allows.
Find out if your hot tub has an ozonator. Ozonators are a water care feature that uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria. Ozonators are located inside the front panel of the unit and come standard on most hot tubs.
Some tubs, however, may not have one installed. Ask your dealer, or research the manufacturer’s website, to see if an ozonator comes standard. They are good to have installed to help keep the water clean, but do not replace the use of chemicals.
Find the manufacturer’s warranty on their website, download it and study it. Is it pro-rated? Does it cover on-site service? These are questions to ask yourself when reading the warranty. You will also want to find out if these services will be performed by the dealer or a third party.
4. Schedule an Appointment for a Wet Test
Always “wet test” your hot tub before you buy. Wet testing is the act of actually soaking in a filled hot tub before you make your purchase.
Test the tub with everyone in your family who will be using it the most. Test the different seats with different jet pressures. If you want a lounge, make sure it’ll work for you.
Just think, you would never buy a car without test driving it, so the same should go for a hot tub.
After the wet test, you should leave the showroom. You may need to wet test other tubs at other dealers. Pick one day and try to accomplish all your wet tests. Testing the all the tubs one after another will allow you see and feel the differences that will help you make your decision.
If the dealer doesn’t allow you to wet test, take it as a sign that this may not be the right dealer for you.
5. Sleep On It
Don’t let the salesman pressure you to make a decision on the spot. I recommend you go home and sleep on it. I personally have avoided many bad decisions by employing this tactic.
Here is a list of everything you should know before you make your decision:
- How long has the dealer been in business?
- How long have they been carrying the brand?
- What type of water care options (i.e. chemicals and ozonator) are available?
- Who will deliver and install the tub. Do they just drop it off in the driveway or install it in the chosen location?
- What does the warranty cover and for how long?
- Does the tub include a cover, lifter and step?
- What type of financing is offered? What is interest rate?
If you need to know any additional information, use your salesman as a resource. They should be happy to help you.
You’re Now Ready To Buy
Now that you have all your information, you’ve wet tested the tub and slept on it, you will have a fresh and relaxed mind to enter the dealer and negotiate.
Buying a hot tub should be a pleasurable experience. Make sure you are comfortable with the salesman. If you’re not, choose another one.
Once you’ve signed the papers, you can celebrate becoming the owner of a new hot tub.
When the hot tub arrives, inspect it for any damages and make sure everything works before the delivery team leaves your property. A good team will install, fill and walk you through the process of operating your new hot tub.
Purchase All Hot Tub Care Supplies
You won’t be able to get much use out of your hot tub if you don’t have all the supplies you need. Once the hot tub is installed and ready, you will need to be able to fill it with water. If the hot tub is not close to an indoor our outdoor faucet, you will have to be sure you have a hose that will reach it. After all, without water, hot tubs aren’t really of very much use.
You will need more than water, though. You will also need all the necessary water cleaning and chemical balancing supplies to ensure that your hot tub’s water chemistry is properly balanced and remains clean and clear.
Some of the most common supplies you will need are:
- Hot Tub Chemicals
- Tester Kits
- Hot Tub Filters
- Hot Tub Covers
- Hot Tub Cleaners
It is important to be sure your hot tub and its water remains properly cared for every step of the way beginning with the very first day you have your hot tub installed. So before your new hot tub is delivered, be sure you have all the proper supplies to be able to properly care for and maintain your hot tub all year long.
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