How to Buy a Spa

hot tub led madnessConsumers know what they want when they decide to buy a new car. They understand the value differences with various makes and models.

Spas are different though. Many consumers just don’t have the knowledge base or experience to know how to buy a spa. Unfortunately, Consumer Reports has never performed an analysis of spas and Consumer Digest doesn’t actually test and analyze the products that receive their “award” as a Best Buy designation. .

The consumer often confuses these two publications. There are not any valid consumer groups or magazines that measure all spas and provide an unbiased study.

Although internet research is very helpful, there is an enormous amount of sales hyperbole or distraction from unscrupulous competitors.  Unfortunately, consumers are left with little guidance to help them decide which spa is best for them. They have to rely on the honesty and integrity of the salesperson.

What most consumers don’t realize is that they are not only buying a spa, they are also buying into the business that sells it to them. Here are a few tips that will help you make the right decision for you.

Arm yourself with common sense—not just dollars and cents

As with many products, a decision based on price alone is often a bad decision. Don’t just look at the dollars and cents–arm yourself with common sense.

Take the time to talk with the spa representative and listen carefully. If you do, you’ll be able to tell who’s being honest and who’s just trying to sell their product. Don’t believe exaggerated statements and get warranties in writing. As the old adage goes “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Avoid Discount AND Warehouse Retailers

Buying a spa from a discount or warehouse retailer is high risk. There are some things that just don’t make sense to buy at a discount–like surgery!

Unfortunately, in order to get that low price, you may be sacrificing service and quality. The money you save now will be spent tenfold later in trying to get the service that would have come with the spa from a reputable dealer!

In addition, the State of Washington now requires that spa technicians have an electrical license. Most discount and warehouse retailers subcontract out their warranty work and are having difficulty finding appropriately licensed technicians. This means that you could be stuck with a product that essentially has no warranty or the warranty will be performed by an unlicensed contractor!

Buy from a dealer who has been around for a while

Consumers don’t let bad dealers stay in business for very long. Unfortunately, fly-by-night spa companies are fairly common in the spa industry. Buy from a dealer who has been in business for a long time. They’ll be there later when you need them.

Make sure they service what they sell and are properly licensed!

A good dealer will also have an in-house service department with licensed, APSP Trained or Certified Technicians who are qualified to handle any warranty issues.

Ask the dealer who will be performing warranty service and if they use subcontracted technicians. Warranty service is not profitable business and a subcontracted technician may put you at the bottom of their priority list! The recent requirement by the State of Washington for technicians to have an electrical license has made it quite difficult for many discount and warehouse retailers to provide qualified warranty service.

You can find out if a spa retailer possesses the necessary electrical licensing by going to the Labor & Industries contractor look up site on the internet or ask the company for their electrical contractors license number.

Buy from an APSP member company

The spa industry does not have a governing body. The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) is an industry organization that attracts the better companies. Although you can’t be guaranteed quality products and great service from an APSP Member Company, your chances are certainly better.

Find out if they have been honored with industry awards

AQUA Magazine recognizes 100 companies nationwide every year as the top 100 companies to do business with and The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) honors companies every year with awards on pool and spa projects. Dealing with a company who has been recognized within their own industry is usually a good bet.

Buy in an environment that is conducive to making a good consumer decision

It’s amazing how many people buy spas from parking lots and fairs. They think they’re getting a screaming deal when they may be getting involved in a deal that makes them want to scream.

Most consumers are unaware that fairs are extremely expensive for the dealer. It’s very common for the dealers who participate in large fairs to raise their prices during the fairs and use outside professional “closers” to staff their booths.

The consumer may unknowingly wind up paying more for their spa during a fair to help cover the costs of the dealer’s booth! And the bigger the booth–the more expensive it is!

Fairs and parking lots are fun and interesting places to window shop but it is not the best environment to make an informed decision.

Buy locally

Remember that the chance of needing some technical attention during the life of your spa is reasonably high–regardless of which spa brand you select. If you buy from a dealer with a location several miles away from your residence, you may have more difficulty getting them to provide service.

It’s always a great idea to support your local businesses and enjoy the benefits of a long-term business relationship.