As a spa salesman, that is one of the most common dilemmas that I see customers face. The cost of a new spa will nearly always outweigh the cost of a repair, but in many cases repairs can accrue an increasing cost in terms of time and energy. As a spa owner, it is important to know when to fix an old spa or throw in the towel. In more instances than I care to remember, I have had a customer decide to sink potentially thousands of dollars into their old spa and still have it condemned. Everyone wants to avoid a situation that yields diminishing returns, which is why it is important to know when enough is enough with an old hot tub.
Leaks: A leaking spa is one of the most common problems that we see on older spas. Unfortunately, not all leaks are created equal. The cause could be from something as simple as an old seal or gasket to something as complex as a multi-point freeze damage throughout the spa. When dealing with the latter, it is not uncommon to spend over a thousand dollars in labor and material costs because of the difficulty of pining down leaks. Invasive plumbing repairs can also potentially jeopardize the spas insulation, because foam is often removed and for exploratory and repair work. Depending on the vintage of the spa, some plumbing parts may be hard to come by, and in some cases, impossible to source. If your spa is leaking, fill the spa to maximum capacity and monitor the rate of the leak over the course of several days. Look in the equipment area of the spa and check all the pump unions; if it’s a seal or gasket that is leaking, then it would be wise to repair the spa. A technician should be called for anything else to determine the extent of the damage.
Structural Damage: Spas are well built pieces of equipment that can withstand the rigors of everyday use for at least a couple decades. Shells are generally made out of a strong acrylic or laminate that is built to support thousands of pounds of pressure the water and bathers generate. The frame is either made of pressure treated wood or steel. Should either component be compromised, the spa should be retired. Repairs to the shell are very costly and will often continue to leak over time, and if the frame is broken or warped, then the spa is no longer safe to use or operate.
Pump/Heater/Circuit Board Issues: Over the course of a spas life, the owner will replace the occasional heater or pump on the spa. Although some of the components can be expensive ($300-$1000+), in many cases it makes sense to replace the part rather than buy a new spa. There are, however, exceptions to consider. In cases where two or more components need to be replaced, the costs of the parts may exceed the value of the spa, especially in cases where the spa is ten years or older.
Spa Age: The age of a spa is generally one of the most important factors in deciding whether or not to condemn a spa. If the spa is older than ten years, you should consider the merits of upgrading to a new unit. Over the course of the last decade, spas have become more sanitary and energy efficient while displaying an increase in performance and durability. Does it make sense to put $1200 into an old Hot Springs spa that is going to cost $100 a month to heat and run when you could pay $5000 and get a brand new spa that runs for $20 a month? There is no right answer, but from my experience my happiest customers are those that chose to invest in a new spa and save themselves from the dreaded headache factor.