I have been considering the purchase of a hot tub for some time, as I fell and broke my back about 3.5 years ago and soaking in hot water helps it hurt less after an active day. So a few weeks ago I decided to go ahead and buy a hot tub, at first I started shopping for new models, but living in the middle of nowhere (relatively) with one pool store in town that keeps one hot tub in stock, and the next nearest dealer 50 miles away, and they only keep 3 or 4 in stock, my shopping choices were limited. More importantly my ability to comparison shop was limited, pricing on these tubs started around $5,000 new. I looked at buying online, and found most online hot tub companies seem to sell low quality junk with questionable service. Being a reasonably active DIY'er that maintains all my own pool equipment already I asked myself if I really needed to worry about having dealer support, and service which lead me to consider buying a used hot tub. I had seen the ads before with people selling hot tubs for pennies on the dollar, many it seemed were in need of hauling to the dump, yet others appeared to be of good quality mixed in. So after searching various online listing, ebay, craigslist, bookoo, oodle, etc. I came up with a list of a few contenders, note I was looking for a tub for therapy reasons, not socializing as my wife has a medical condition where she has to avoid getting too hot, so I knew it would mostly be just me in the tub, so did not need a 12 person giant tub. After a few days of shopping online a few contenders popped up in my 150 mile self imposed pick up radius, the nearest was an 8 person tub only 2 or 3 years old with an asking price of $2,000 only a couple of miles away, but upon a bit of online research I found this was not such a deal, the brand was one of those online brands mentioned above, reviews noted lots of problems, cheap construction, and I found places online that had them for sale new (off seasons specials) for as little as $2,900.
I then missed a couple, passed up a couple of buyer must load deals before finding the Hot Springs Jetsetter tub I ended up buying on ebay, the tub was in storage about 150 miles away, and was poorly listed as "hot tub" and some photos. A few messages back and forth with the seller and I found out the model and a bit of history on the tub. The Jetsetter is a small 5x7 ft "3 person" tub, but is really more like 1 or 2 made by Hot Spring brand, it is a quality tub and the current version sells for about $7,000 or so. This was clearly not the current version though, the seller, an electrician that acquired it from a home owner who had it removed for unknown reasons had planned to use it himself, but instead it sat in storage for some time before he decided to go ahead and sell it. He thought it was a 2009 model, which seemed somewhat plausible time frame, but wrong based on my initial research as this version of the Jetsetter was discontinued in 2008 (the newer Jetsetters have a couple of more jets and are 6 inches longer, etc.), The seller offered to meet me about half way for the pick up if I won the auction, so I placed a minimum $1,000 bid and was lucky there were no other bidders and won the auction. It seemed like a minimal risk to me, cosmetically the tub looked good, seller just did not know much about its history, other than "it was working when removed". After winning the auction it took about two weeks for the weather and our schedules to cooperate to arrange a pick up rendezvous at a Wal-Mart parking lot about 100 miles from here where we off loaded it off his trailer onto mine. This in and of itself was an example of overkill on the part of the trailers being used by each of us. My smallest trailer is a little 5x8 lawn mower trailer, which is 2 inches too narrow for the tub, the next one up which I used, is an 18 ft flat deck car hauler, and the seller brought the tub on a 24 ft deck over goose neck, both being pulled by 3/4 ton diesel pickups. I continued my research even after winning the auction while waiting for a chance to get the tub, and a few worrisome details started popping up, there were various small clues that this tub was not a 2008 model, or anything close. Little things like the shape of the control box shown in the equipment cabinet, and the shape of the embossing on the headrest pillow, nothing that I would have known to look for before searching on replacement parts for the slightly faded pillow, etc. This research ended up showing that the tub was in fact a 1998 model (the last year they had real redwood siding instead of fake "everwood redwood"), which was also the first year of this major revision of this tub, and not the last. The tub was obviously in good condition for its age, and probably spent its life indoors, likely with little use, but well maintained based on clues I found after getting it home.
Once I got the tub home and moved into place, and hooked up, an adventure that took much of last weekend in itself I found that the jet pump and the heater had been replaced at some point as the jet pump was missing its bonding wire and the heater was the newer 2008+ current style. I also discovered another clue to the condition of the tub and its probable lack of use, the not so dirty filters that came with the tub had a 1998 date code on them, and may well have been the originals for the tub. So I get the tub hooked up, at this point I probably have $1,400 or so invested in it, these older late 1990's Jetsetters typically sell around $2,500 - $3,000 as refurbs by dealers, and I have spotted other private seller ads asking $1,000- $1,500, but those were not nearby. $1,000 for the tub, about $75 in travel expense to get it, $200 in missing wiring to hook it up at 120VAC (this is a 120V or 240V convertible model which had been rewired for 240V operation and I already had a dedicated 20 amp 120V outlet), plus about $100 for a new Ozonator to replace the 15 year old model, just under the assumption it would be dead as they have a 3 year estimated life. After getting it all hooked up and filled it was the moment of truth, I plug it in, and turn it on and get a warning light flashing, there was air in the lines, so get the hose back out and flush things out one more time, I plug it back in, and everything starts up and mostly works right. There are a couple of hopefully minor issues, the circulation pump sounds sick and is making a clacking sound, water flow is a bit low, but not so low as to set off the low flow alarm, and water is leaking around one of the diverter valves when it is turned (needs a new o-ring). So I let it heat up over night and go for my first soak the next evening, I play with the jets and features for a few minutes, then it stops warning lights start flashing, etc. As it turns out the clacking circulation pump is not clacking anymore, in fact it is not running at all. So $170 and 4 days later (the local Hot Spring dealer 50 miles away was out of stock) I have a new circulation pump running, and I am looking forward to a nice long soak in the hot tub this afternoon as a I drove almost 400 miles in total yesterday. Overall even though there were a few bumps along the process, I think I did ok, and at about 1/5 the price of a new Jetsetter it is a deal I can live with for now.