Something in the world of floating have you stumped?
So… float tanks are expensive. Buying used is an option, though. What does that look like and what should you know before thinking about delving into the market of used tanks? There’s a lot to it, how the tank has aged, if there are any components that have failed, and what the filtration system is like are all good things to keep in mind.
Graham and Ashkahn go over this, as well as where to look for tanks and some tips and tricks from the trade.
Usedfloattanks.com [This website is now a list of resources to buy/sell used tanks]
Listen to Just the Audio
Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)
Graham: Today’s question for you is, “float tanks are really expensive…” Yeah, I noticed that, too. “…I was trying to get used float tanks, but I’m wondering how I even choose them. Is there anything I should look out for to avoid in a used float tank?”
Ashkahn: Good news. The good news is that I think used float tanks are pretty good. They’re surprisingly resilient. They hold up well to time. For the most part, in terms of buying generally used items, I think float tanks are on the good end of the spectrum. They tend to be pretty decent, even if they’re secondhand.
Graham: Yeah. It obviously depends, too, on the age of the float tank and stuff like that. I remember talking to one of our apprentices who was grabbing an old husk for an Oasis tank out of someone’s backyard. It’s been sitting there for five years, or something, exposed to the elements.
Ashkahn: Yeah. As far as buying used things go, I think float tanks are … it’s not out of the question. I would totally be …
Graham: Right. Yeah, yeah. If you can save a little bit of money on buying a used tank, often that’s a nice way to get started in the industry if you just don’t have a huge start-up pool of capital.
Graham: The bad news is they’re a little hard to find. I think there are more people out there who want used float tanks, than there are people selling used float tanks. Which means, you have to just have to stumble across them at the right time.
Ashkahn: It’s good news for you if you have float tanks. You should have a pretty easy time selling them.
Graham: The resale value seems to be pretty reasonable, too. With the caveat, like everything, where if you need to sell it right now and you’re moving town, you just don’t want to take the float tank with you, it’ll probably cost you more. You’ll sell it for less, is what I’m trying to say here.
Ashkahn: What to look out for if you’re buying float tank? What do you want to be careful of?
Graham: Oh, were you going to answer your own question?
Ashkahn: Yeah. I got a few things, but you can go first.
Graham: Thank you. I just assumed, because you were asking a question that you wanted an answer, you know? I was going to say let’s start with the body. Ignoring the filtration stuff and anything like that. Just the body of the float tank. Bubbling, if it’s a fiberglass float tank, is definitely something to look out … Okay. Let me backup a little bit.
One of the things that’s a nice shortcut for this finding out when the last time the float tank was used.
Ashkahn: Yeah, and where it’s been stored in the meantime.
Ashkahn: A float tank from an up and running float center is probably in pretty good condition.
Graham: Right. They’re currently running floats in it right now, and it’s just they’re going to swap out that tank for a different one, or a new model, or something like that. They’re looking to get rid of that in the process.
Ashkahn: A float tank that has been sitting in someone’s backyard with a tarp over it for the last 20 years-
Graham: Also, probably, great candidate.
Ashkahn: Don’t see anything wrong there.
Graham: Buy immediately.
Ashkahn: They had the tarp. So, that’s pretty obvious, right? Because, float tanks have been around for a while. You see used ones, sometimes they’re very old. They’re 20, 30 years old. Which again, still can work. We see float centers with 20-year-old float tanks they bought used, up and running, doing well. If they’ve been stored in decent condition, that’s not, again, a deal breaker for me.
Graham: Yeah. No. Certainly not. Especially if you don’t mind doing some small maintenance or repairs, little fix-ups, some things like that. It’s not even uncommon to find used float tanks with a completely broken filtration system. Or, one that’s just so old and dysfunctional anyway that it’s worth scrapping and starting from the beginning. I’m thinking of old … What did we have?
Graham: Yeah, Flotariums, specifically is-
Ashkahn: Here’s what I was going to say as a general piece of advice. It’s nicer to buy a used float tank from a manufacturer that still exists.
Graham: That is a good one, yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
Ashkahn: Because, again, there are some manufacturers that have been around for a long time, and there are some used float tanks that have only been used for a year or two. But, there’s also a lot of float tanks out there from … Floatarium is definitely the biggest one I see. Floatarium was a big manufacturer back in the ’80s. They’re no longer a company. You see a lot of used old Floatariums out there. The problem-
Graham: By a lot, we mean five that we’ve seen, or something.
Ashkahn: No, there’s enough. When I see a used float tank in a center, there’s a good chance it’s a Floatarium. Maybe this is changing recently with newer float tanks, but five years ago, or something, almost every used float tank I saw was a Floatarium.
Graham: Not Oasis or Samadhi?
Ashkahn: And some Oasis and Samadhi. I’m just saying, there’s a disproportionate amount of Floatarium tanks out there for a manufacturer that hasn’t been around for that many years.
Graham: We’re on the same page, I think. Okay.
Ashkahn: So, here’s the problem, is that you can’t. To continue this thought here. You can’t find replacement pieces. If something’s broken, you have to re-engineer that part of the float tank yourself. There is very likely to be some things that are broken.
Graham: If it’s a Floatarium, very likely. The heaters, for example.
Ashkahn: The heater is classic. Classic Floatarium problem.
Graham: We still get calls occasionally about people being like, “Yeah. I found this old Floatarium thing. It doesn’t seem to heat when I plug it in.”
Ashkahn: “Heaters seem to be broken.” Yeah. Yeah, you can’t call Floatarium, you know? That’s the basic issue. If there are existing manufactures, they’re usually cool with you calling and ordering replacement parts from them, or whatever it is, to get the float tanks back up and running.
Graham: Yeah. Samadhi’s a great example of that. I’ve heard so many stories from customers where they’re giving support on tanks that have probably been sold through three different owners and are 20 years old now. They’re still happy to give advice and help those people along. It also helps, I think, that we’re in a very small and generous community of float people here. I can imagine buying a car that’s 20 years old, and trying to get support on it. They’re like, “Dude, you bought a used car. You’re on your own.”
Ashkahn: Especially if the car company doesn’t exist anymore. Yeah. That’s one thing, whether the company exists. What shape the general tub itself is in.
Graham: Yeah. Some things to look for, this is what I was going to start with, but I’m glad we rewound a little bit. Bubbling in the fiberglass is, of course, a big one. That’s something that you’ll see pop up after several years, or maybe even around year five or six, or something like that. You can get some bubbling in the finish, which isn’t the worst thing. It just means you’ll probably have to spend some money fixing it up and getting that patched. Getting it resurfaced, basically, before you put it live.
Ashkahn: Same with chips. You might see chips off of the top coat of the fiberglass. Sometimes you’ll see cracks, like an actual crack, in the system.
Graham: Yeah. Cracks in the … everything can be patched. Fiberglass is just this spray on bits of fiber or sheets of fiber.
Ashkahn: Yeah, glass and fiber.
Graham: Yeah, exactly. That’s the nice thing about fiberglass systems, is they are totally manually patchable and refinishable. Unless something is really compromising the structural integrity of the lid or the basin or something like that, it’s not the end of the world. Just know that’s extra dollar signs that are being added on to the used tank to get it in good condition.
Ashkahn: Yep. I’d say the door is another quick place to look.
Graham: Oh, yeah.
Ashkahn: It’s just one of the places that is most likely to have something messed up with it. They get used a lot. They’re usually pretty intense hinges, or pistons, or whatever is going on with the door.
Graham: Some of the old ones just have hinges that weren’t made to be used 100,000 times before they had problems.
Ashkahn: Make sure that’s in good working order. It can be one of the harder things to repair properly, is the door system.
Graham: Stepping in to the tank, pay attention to how much the basin is still supporting your weight. Is it flexing when you’re going in there? Is anything weird about the weight load? Are you actually feeling the tub shift when you’re going in there? Because, that could also be a sign that something is losing structural integrity just on the bottom of the tank.
Ashkahn: I guess, the actual plumbing connections that connect to the filtration system. Those are another weak point where things could be … especially if a tank’s been moved around a lot. Those pieces could be jostled, and the actual piece parts where the pipes connect to the float tank could be loose or need a little bit of work done to make sure they’re nice and watertight.
Graham: How do you check that out, if a tank isn’t in working order, and it’s just in storage?
Ashkahn: I’d say just visually. Just look and see if it’s super messed up or not. If looks okay, then it is probably going to be relatively okay if you put another layer of whatever.
Graham: Yeah, maybe give it a little jiggle.
Graham: Kick the side a tiny bit, see if anything moves.
Ashkahn: Then generally, the filtration system. That’s probably one of the more likely places you’re going to have to replace something. Especially if it’s old. If the pump’s, or whatever, has just been sitting around for a real long time. People were just using different equipment back in the day, than they are now.
Graham: Yeah. You will see some really intense set-ups on some of these float tanks, if you actually go around and start shopping around. You’re just like, “I have never seen anything like this. That’s what a filter unit looked like back in the day?” It’s crazy.
Ashkahn: All this is true of probably older float tanks much more than it is a float tank that was bought new a few years ago, or something. In that case, it’s probably not that likely that there’s going to be very much wrong with it.
Graham: It’s true. If I hear about a 12 year old Oasis, there’s a different regiment of examining it that I’m going to give, as opposed to a two year old anything.
Graham: Yeah. Whatever is being manufactured now.
Ashkahn: Yeah. In those cases, it’s very rare I see float tanks in any condition other than pretty great.
Graham: Yeah. It’s something else you can protect yourself with by a contract with the person selling the tank. If you’re asking all these questions about the condition of it, and when the last time it was used, and whether it was in good working condition when it was taken down, or if it’s still in use. Getting that in writing. Just saying, “Hey, if the filtration system doesn’t work, despite you saying that it was all packed up fine and worked when you took it down. Then, we need to re-examine this price.” Or, there’s a pre-built-in discount in the contract, or something like that.
Because, if they did have a problem with it, and they are trying to just offload something. Which, I wouldn’t like to think of anyone in our industry, but you need to protect yourself anyway. There’s no telling, right? Until you fill it up with water and get it going. If it’s just in a garage dry and sealed away, everything can look completely fine from the outside. The UV light could just not turn on when it plus in, or if things could not be watertight in the filter set-up. There’s, to a certain extent, an amount that you won’t know about what shape the filtration system is even in until you get it connected.
Ashkahn: Yeah. It’s not really a story I hear too commonly, which is nice. I hear a lot of people … There’s no used tank salesman stereotype, with a used tank lot and they’re just trying to move lemons off the lot and selling people garbage. Most of the time, when people are buying used tanks, the people are upfront about what’s working and what isn’t working. That tends to somewhat reflect reality, otherwise it’s just been a long time, and the person didn’t know that some system failed in the 20 years it’s been sitting in storage, or whatever.
Graham: Yeah. It’s one of the really nice things about being in, again, such a close-knit and generous industry with people who float a lot. Again, definitely do get a contract in place. Do take steps to protect yourself. Buying a used tank, especially if it’s relatively new, is still a really big purchase. With a manufacturer, you’ll have the warranty and things like that. With a used tank, you don’t always get that luxury. Something to talk to your lawyer about, honestly. Once you are doing a sale contract, they can let you know the things to write in that will help protect you, as well.
Which, by the way, we are not lawyers, which I just feel the need to toss out there for some reason.
Ashkahn: Small plug. Maybe a quick moment for a little plug. We run a website called UsedFloatTanks.com [this website is now a list of resources for finding used float tanks].
Graham: Yep, and it’s barely even a plug, because we take no money from it at all.
Ashkahn: Yeah, it’s not really a plug.
Graham: It’s just a community listserv, where people go up and-
Ashkahn: We just built it one weekend. It seemed fun.
Graham: Yeah, list their used float tanks. Then, people who are interested sign up, and they get emails when new used float tanks are listed/new people signing up get a list of all the current used float tanks. No guarantees, but it’s a nice place to, hopefully, just get the word out there, and maybe even secure a buyer or a used float tank, depending on which side of the merchant equation you’re on.
Ashkahn: Yeah. I also have heard of people buying used float tanks on Craigslist.
Graham: Oh, yeah.
Ashkahn: More than I would think, but that totally seems to be a place where … I can’t imagine selling a float tank and being like, “I should put this on Craigslist. That’s where …
Graham: Yeah, kind of shocking. I guess, they didn’t ask that question, but what are some other places where you could find a used-
Ashkahn: But, we’re going to answer it.
Graham: Yeah. We don’t even need questions anymore. Just nothing but answers.
Ashkahn: Yeah. The UsedFloatTanks.com. Craigslist.
Ashkahn: eBay, yeah, that’s true. I’ve seen them on eBay, for sure. Float forum sites, like the Float Collective group on Facebook is the biggest one that I see float tanks for sale on.
Graham: Yep. Yeah, yeah. I do see those pop up, still, on there, for sure.
Ashkahn: Yeah. Occasionally, some manufacturers will keep track of it. They’ll have a customer … say that a center, or whatever, is going out of business, or moving, or getting rid of their tanks. They’ll contact the manufacturer they bought them from. The manufacturer, sometimes, will take them and then sell them used to somebody else. That’s an option, as well.
Graham: Yep. Or, just redirect them to that person. If someone’s calling a manufacturer and the new tanks are a little out of budget, they might just say, “Oh, well, we have this person trying to unload some used units.” And, just make the connection happen.
Graham: So, you have manufacturer direct used sales. Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe just put up a, “Float tank wanted,” ad in the local paper, I think, is …
Ashkahn: Yeah. Just go around holding a sign, “Looking for float tank.”
Graham: “Will work for a float tank.” Yeah.
Ashkahn: All right. That seems like all the advice we have to give. That’s about it.
Graham: It seems like we’re winding this down. Yeah.
Ashkahn: All right. If you guys have other questions you want to ask us, go to FloatTankSolutions.com/podcast.
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