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buying used tanks_shipping costYou’re thinking about buying a used float tank.

Whether this is for a new center, an addition to an existing operation, or a purchase for your home, it’s a big decision.

We’ve compiled some of the major questions and considerations to entertain before making such a purchase. While you have the opportunity to save money and potentially snag a good deal, there can be hidden costs and other unknowns to weigh against those savings.

What’s the condition of the tank’s shell?

Examine the external and internal condition of the tank. Are there cracks or weaknesses in the fiberglass, or spots that have more wear? Make sure to feel and look for bowing in the bottom of the tank.

If there are liners, how are they looking?

If applicable, you will want to check the condition of the liner for overall wear. If you have any concerns, err on the side of caution and pay the $400-600 to replace it. It’s much less of a headache than walking into a salty shop with one tank out of commission.

Find out all you can about the filtration system. What are the specs? How does it run?

buying used tanks_filter strengthThe muscle of any float setup is the filtration system. Day in and out, this pump and filtration system churn viscous salt sludge. This can take a toll. Make sure to get the full specifications on the model you are considering and confirm that the expected flow rate and sanitation methods work with your float schedule and relevant hygiene standards. You will most likely need a new bag or cartridge filter.

While the previous owner should give you all the relevant information, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer and learn more about the specific model and any critical updates on their recent filtration systems. Because design is always evolving and improving, you want to be sure you don’t buy a model that has known flaws or functional issues. If there are updates to be made to the existing system, can you retrofit your used tank with these and, if so, how much would that cost?

Be sure to ask all of the important questions. When was the last time it was setup and how were things running at the time? Approximately how many gallons of saltwater has the system processed? If you aren’t able to see it on-site, is the final sale contingent upon it working once it’s in your hands? Can you get a discount or a return if certain components don’t work?

Does the tank come with any extra goodies?

While the bulk of the value is found in a ship-shape tank and functioning filtration system, you also want to find out if they can throw in extra parts like filters, o-rings, liners, etc. Maybe, they even have some extra salt lying around. If a center is going out of business, you can drive the price down by bundling and purchasing more of their equipment.

If it hasn’t been in operation for some time, how and where was it stored?

The ideal purchase includes a functioning tank that you are able to see in operation. However, if the tank you are considering hasn’t been on the job in a while, you’ll want to inquire about it’s lifestyle while on sabbatical. How long has it been in storage and, more importantly, where was it kept? Perhaps it’s stored in a heated garage, tucked away, snug as a bug in a rug. Or, maybe it’s been outside, under a tarp, in upstate Minnesota for the last six years serving as a raccoon retreat center. All good things to know.

buying used tanks_size of tankHow big is it?

This may or may not be important, but you certainly want to be sure that the dimensions work for your existing or imagined floor plan. Beyond how and where you situate it in a float room, can you actually get it in your space? You don’t want to be double-parked in front of your center with a U-Haul trying to figure out where to knock a hole in your wall. 

How heavy is the tank?

Will your floor support the weight of the tank (be sure to consider the full weight including water and salt)? If you have questions about your floor, bring your contractor in on that conversation. An older floor can bow, which can create renter-landlord issues down the road and potentially affect your buildout and salt-proofing efforts.

How old is it? How many owners has it had? What version/number is this particular model?

Age matters when it comes to float tanks for a number of reasons. First, older tanks will likely have more floats and, as a result, more wear and tear on the filtration, electrical, heating pad, and audio systems, as well as the structural integrity of the shell. Second, older material simply has more time to deteriorate, no matter the amount of use. Third, older tanks are more likely to have glitches or dated manufacturing specs.

Manufacturers work hard to continually improve their systems, so make sure to compare an older model against any newer models. If there have been updates, try to get as much information as possible about the nature and importance of these changes. If there are critical updates for specific issues, can you modify the used tank using manufacturer parts? If not, this specific used model might be more headache than it’s worth. Remember, there is inherent risk reflected in the attractively low price. What’s the cost of the tank if the older filtration system breaks and floods your center?

What’s the true cost, including shipping distance and charges?

Make sure that you keep the true cost in mind when considering this purchase. Do your due diligence for calculating shipping costs beforehand. You don’t want to focus on the tank cost only to find out that shipping it will increase that figure outside of your price range. Are they going to pack and send it? If so, do you trust them with your investment? If you intend to go get your new float friend, how much will it cost you to get to the tank and lug it back to your center. Be sure to factor in your time, too. Will you have to close your center for a day or two to make the trip?

Have they made any considerable alterations on the whole system?

As people get comfortable with their systems and preferences, they might make alterations to a manufacturer’s tank. Whether that relates to the physical integrity of the tank itself or its filtration, audio, or electrical systems, you definitely want to know if there have been any changes made. If so, learn as much as you can about what they did. One of the benefits of buying from a manufacturer is that you can contact them to troubleshoot a problem and, if anything goes wrong with the core functions of the tank, they (hopefully) will be responsible. You don’t want to have to call the previous owner when their modification becomes your problem.

What’s the condition of the electrical and audio systems?

buying used tanks_sound systemIf you aren’t sure and/or aren’t able to discern this, try to find other centers who have used this model for a while and ask how their systems have held up. Again, if this isn’t something you can test, make sure to have a contingency plan with the seller. Have a list of things that they guarantee will work for the purchase to be final.

Make sure that the controller works well for these systems.

What would you be missing out on by not buying new?

While you might end up saving many thousands of dollars by buying a used tank, this often means that your purchase will not be under warranty and all tank failures will eat into your time and wallet. While it’s pretty much impossible to know if something will go wrong, there is concrete value in knowing that everything is new and that the manufacturer is on the hook for anything going wrong. Also, is shipping included in the sticker price of a new tank? As previously mentioned, line up all the costs of each option before making a decision.

How does the value stack up against the price?

What was the original sale price and how does this compare with what the sellers are asking? While there is no magic spreadsheet formula for determining a tank’s true value, consider the many aspects laid out in this post. A well-used, older model should be significantly reduced in price, especially once you factor in the shipping charges. Generally, assume that you have a motivated seller and that there is value for them in getting rid of it.

Why are they selling it?

This is a nebulous factor but, nonetheless, very crucial. Is the center going out of business or is it a home tank that someone doesn’t use? Are they replacing the older vessel with a newer version and, if so, why? If it’s the latter scenario, you want to be very careful. Being able to diplomatically understand their reasons is important because you don’t want to inherit the problems they are getting rid of.

Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to purchase a used tank rather than a new one comes down to how much you are willing to spend versus how much risk you are willing to take on. If you do your due diligence, and have a good sense of the condition of what you are buying, a used tank can be a great purchase that can save you some serious dollar billz. However, as it should be clear by now, there is a greater potential for something to go wrong and, when/if that happens, the responsibility will be squarely on your shoulders. The important thing is to do your homework, take your time, and fully weigh your options before making a decision.

Clear eyes, full hearts, salty tanks, can’t lose.