Answer: You have one of two options.
1. If you want a great hot tub ownership experience, buy from a local dealer with a real store.
2. If you just want to get soaked, buy online.
Really, we’re not ordering diapers and dog food here. This is a major home improvement investment for your peace of mind, health and well-being. Why buy another headache just because it’s cheap?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but one test soak is worth more than a thousand pictures. You won’t know if it’s comfortable until you’re in it, and if it’s shipped from out of state, it’s too late. If it’s not a good fit, you’re in for a return-policy hassle and starting over on your hot-tub shopping. You don’t want to buy a product you can’t return, even a “clearance” item in a store, and certainly not something from somebody in cyberspace.
Here’s another thing: online orders are probably dropped off at the end of your driveway by some delivery service. We’re talking about 400 to 1,110 pounds to get to the precise spot in your back yard without breaking the tub or your back. If the seller can’t install, the buyer should beware.
Of course, there’s also the question of service after the sale. Maybe the seller online has some subcontractor in your area that can get to it sometime and may or may not be qualified. You want a local certified spa technician trained in your specific brand.
Don’t buy from anybody, online or otherwise, until you get satisfactory answers to these questions:
1. How long has the manufacturer been in business? You don’t want a tub from anybody in business less than 30 years with a good reputation.
2. How do I get service?You need the local number of a factory-trained and certified technician who works for the dealer and makes house calls.
3. What’s the warranty? If you can’t see the warranty before you buy, that’s a red flag to not buy. If a warranty is provided, read it! The standard is five years for parts and labor and seven years on the shell, with no disclaimers about water chemistry on the heater. Don’t accepts a warranty that requires you to ship anything out of state for repairs. And don’t believe the old saw about “Lifetime Warranty”. Lifetime is considered 7 years in Washington state.
4. What are my energy costs? You need full foam insulation on your unit to save on energy, and don’t buy unless the seller can show you third-party independent test results. One test, for example, showed that it costs less than $20 a month in Puget Sound to keep Hot Spring Spa’s Sovereign model hot 24/7 and use it for a half-hour every day.
5. What of water care systems are available for my hot tub? The ACE Salt sanitizing system available for Hot Spring & Limelight Hot Tubs set a new standard for automated, easy, environmentally-safe water care. Natural products like SilkBalance should be available for your unit. Avoid hot tubs that require bromine, chlorine and biguanide for sanitizing the water – they’re a hassle to use and can irritate your skin and eyes.
The scary truth: You’re not going to get those answers from an online seller, so you might as well start with a local company that has quality products and a long-standing relationship with the manufacturer. Buy the right hot tub first! Then you can really relax.
SANUM PER AQUA Latin for Health through Water.