There was a time when retailers laughed and turned their noses up at the thought of carrying used hot tubs. Though the hot tub market has expanded to include a variety of introductory price points, there remains great consumer demand for an inexpensive path to spa ownership.
Billy Stallings moved to Nashville to follow his dream of taking country music by storm. While he still performs — though mostly for church and ministry gatherings — he found his calling 10 years ago by carving out a niche in the highly competitive world of retail spa sales under his marketing alter-ego known as The Spa Guy.
Stallings sells only used hot tubs. He also owns a successful spa cover manufacturing business.
Based in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Stallings says he quickly became weary of selling new spas. “I decided instead to focus exclusively on used spas because it’s an easier sell and has bigger margins,” Stallings says. “I have about 20 used hot tubs for sale on my showroom floor right now; another 40 tubs are in the back awaiting refurbishment.”
Larry Jones owns Hot Spot Pools, Hot Tubs and BBQ, serving the Kansas City area with locations in Liberty, Missouri and Overland Park, Kansas. For Jones, used hot tubs are both a revenue stream and customer magnet for the short and long haul. “The used spa customer in our store isn’t quite sure if they’re ready to purchase a new hot tub, mostly because they’re not sure it’s something they’ll get enough use out of,” Jones says. “During our sales conversation, we also inform them of our trade-in program. When the customer knows that, down the road, they can trade in with us and step up to a new Jacuzzi model, it often closes the deal.”
Consider Trade Later
Just as a car dealer will inspect your vehicle before telling you what you’ll get in trade, the same applies with used hot tubs. Hot Spot’s Jones says seeing is believing: “We inspect a potential trade before accepting it,” Jones says. “Our policy is to visit the customer’s home; we want to see the unit running. We also check to make sure it isn’t leaking and that it hasn’t been frozen.”
Stallings says the hot tubs with the most consumer demand vary from market to market. “A seven-foot tub with two pumps sells fast, and if you add lights and a waterfall, it sells even faster!” Stallings says. “If a tub is less than 10 years old and fits my criteria, that’s definitely one I’m going to grab. If it’s a Jacuzzi Premium, regardless of age, it won’t stay on my showroom floor longer than two days.”
There may also be creative financing options available for purchasing a used hot tub. “I started a rent-to-own program a while back; basically it’s an in-house financing program,” Stallings says. “I started doing that because at one time I couldn’t find a company to finance the purchase of a fully refurbished hot tub. The rent-to-own program addressed a need and provides an entry to ownership for folks who couldn’t necessarily write a check for $3,000 or $4,000 but can afford a monthly payment of, say, $150.”
Another way Stallings attempts to make spa ownership possible is with a line of hot tubs he calls The Handyman Special. He explains that, during the refurb process, cosmetic issues take the most time to work on — think side panels, paint and woodwork. “With this line,” he says, “I’ll make sure the unit is mechanically sound and sell it unpainted, unstained. Any cosmetic issues are the buyer’s responsibility.” He sells those cheaper than fully restored models, which provide a good product option at a fraction of the price.
Make Sure Your Purchase is Protected
Even though the warranty likely won’t be as extensive as what you’d get with a new spa, retailers selling used spas should provide a warranty in some fashion nonetheless. We recommend not buying a used spa without one.
Stallings, for example, offers a standard one-year warranty covering pumps, motors, electronics and leaks; cosmetic items are not covered. Jones includes either a 30- or 60-day warranty, depending on the model of the used hot tub.