How to handle a walk-in tub salesperson
Here's how to get the best tub for your needs and budget — and avoid the hard sell
Most of us planning for our future, retirement and beyond hope to remain in our homes as we age — a whopping 77% of us, according to an AARP survey last year. But being able to “age in place” comfortably may require a few home upgrades, including a walk-in bathtub. Walk-in tubs offer essential safety features for those with limited mobility and provide therapeutic benefits that lessen symptoms of arthritis and other health conditions.
- Walk-in tubs start at $2,000 for a basic model and increase to $10,000 or more for ones with therapeutic features, not counting installation.
- Determine first the features you need versus the features you want.
- An in-home consultation is the best step to getting an accurate cost estimate.
What to expect when purchasing a walk-in tub
Before you head to the nearest showroom to buy a walk-in bathtub, it’s helpful to do a bit of research online to gather information about styles, available features and costs. Both retail stores and manufacturers sell and install walk-in tubs, so consider the pros and cons of each before speaking with a salesperson and setting up the in-home consultation.
Retailer vs. manufacturer
When you shop directly through a manufacturer, the sales reps will be experts on their product lines and you essentially eliminate the middleman. Retailers have a good understanding of the products but may lack the in-depth knowledge you’d get from a manufacturer. Manufacturers may also offer financing options that retailers do not.
Working directly with the tub manufacturer is also typically required to receive a workmanship warranty on the installation, though a third-party installation company may provide a separate installation warranty.
On the other hand, most retailers don’t have allegiance to one brand over another, and that may be a benefit to you when you’re comparing products. Retailers can also help you explore your options all in one place without requiring you to visit multiple showrooms. This is appealing to customers who want to see a lot of choices or those looking to match their existing bathroom decor.
Retailers can often provide more options for color and style because they stock multiple styles from multiple manufacturers at any given time.”
“Many manufacturers have limited availability — they might only manufacture one or two colors per year, for example — which can make it hard for potential clients who want something specific to find what they need from one company,” said Linda Haase, a National Council for Interior Design Qualification-certified senior interior designer from Utah. ”Retailers can often provide more options for color and style because they stock multiple styles from multiple manufacturers at any given time.”
It’s likely that your first interaction with a walk-in tub company after viewing information online will be by phone. A phone consultation is a great way to get answers to initial questions you may have about walk-in tub models, but it’s no substitute for seeing the tub in person. View the phone call as just a preliminary step to help you home in on what you want to see; consider using these questions to ask a walk-in tub company.
Once you narrow down your choices, an in-home consultation is the next step. Inviting a consultant into your home may at first seem a bit intrusive, but these consultations are necessary and almost always free. It’s the only way to know if a tub you like will fit in your space, what modifications your existing bathroom may need and how much all of it is going to cost.
During the visit, an installation expert measures dimensions in your current bathroom and inspects existing plumbing and electrical hookups. They use this information to suggest models that work for your space and give you a detailed price quote that includes the cost of the tub, installation and any demolition, new construction or modifications to your plumbing or wiring.
If you choose to move forward, the company communicates details from your consultation to the installation team so it’s fully prepared for installation day.
In a review on ConsumerAffairs, Shirley from Palm Harbor, Florida, was pleased to find her Safe Step installation team anticipated every issue.
“They took out the shower which we had in there,” Shirley said. “They even had to take parts of the door frame off, but you wouldn't know it. Everything is perfect. The tub fits right exactly where the shower was. They never touched my vanity place at all and didn't have to move anything.”
Understand your wants vs. needs
Walk-in tubs combine functionality with luxury, so the hardest part of shopping is finding the balance between needs and desires — and your budget.
“The most surprising thing about shopping for a walk-in tub is how many people don't know what they want, and how much they'll need to spend,” said Haase, the interior designer from Utah, who has been in the business for more than 11 years.
Features of walk-in tubs can generally be separated into two categories: safety and therapy. Safety features like a high step-in threshold, a built-in seat, grab bars, a nonslip surface and a wide door should be your first priorities. Therapeutic features like jets, a heated seat and chromotherapy are nice to have, but they do add to your unit costs.
You’ll weigh the therapeutic benefits against the higher price. A one-time investment now in getting what you really want could lead to years of enjoyment down the road.
Reviewer Shirley from Florida was very happy they ordered a water jets feature on their Safe Step tub: “It's got so many jets,” they said. “My husband loves the walk-in tub. He's in it all the time. … It’s got so many jets. It is a miracle how the jets hit the right spot, especially around the knees. So, he's enjoying it.”
Know your budget
Let’s face it: Walk-in tubs come with a hefty price tag, even for a basic model. Minimum costs start at $2,000 but can reach upward of $10,000 — even up to $20,000 for some luxury models. The good news is many tub manufacturers and retailers offer financing plans. If you go this route, make sure you read the fine print and have adequately budgeted for your future payments.
Walk-in tubs range in cost from $2,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the type, brand and features.
If you know you’ll be paying out of pocket, have your budget in mind before talking with a salesperson. Installation costs are generally less than $1,500, but this is highly dependent on the model you choose and what modifications your bathroom needs.
One of the best tips from Haase, the interior designer, is to get your tub on sale.
“Try to avoid paying full price for anything.” Haase said. “If possible, wait until there's a sale or coupon available before making a purchase.”
With very few exceptions, Medicare does not cover the cost of a walk-in tub, but there are agencies and organizations that can provide financial assistance.
Dealing with common sales tactics
Salespeople are often unfairly depicted as pushy, aggressive or “just trying to make a sale.” The truth is most sales reps legitimately care about matching the right product with the right customer. They know how much online reviews matter and that satisfied customers recommend products and services to their friends and families. If you’ve done your homework and are prepared going in, you won’t be thrown off by an assertive salesperson.
It’s no secret that most salespeople work on commission, so we recommend asking about this upfront. Your sales rep should be able to explain their commission structure so you have a clear idea of what they’re getting out of the transaction. Knowing this won’t stop you from purchasing a tub from them, but it will establish a frank working relationship.
We have emotional connections to the products we buy, whether it’s a bag of potato chips or a new car. The trick isn’t to suppress these feelings but rather to recognize when they might be used to manipulate your decision.
For example, many people shopping for walk-in tubs are concerned about their health and safety as they age. A calculating salesperson may try to tap into this concern and oversell you on certain safety features. If you start feeling like your sales rep doesn’t have your best interest in mind, consider this a red flag and take your business elsewhere.
A walk-in tub is a big purchase, and you should never feel rushed to make a decision. Be wary of a salesperson who creates a sense of urgency to close the deal fast. True, there may be a limited-time sales event, but you should take as much time as you need to consider your choices — whether it means going home empty-handed, conducting further research or shopping around to compare prices.
Be firm yet polite if you feel pressure to buy, and simply tell your sales rep you need more time and you won’t be making a decision today. Companies may guarantee quotes for a specific period after your consultation, so be sure to ask if your price is locked in and, if it is, for how long.
Persistence vs. pushiness
A salesperson wants to give you as much information about a product as they can so you can decide if it’s worth the purchase, but sometimes this behavior can shift from persistence to pushiness. Practice saying, “I don’t want,” and then reiterate what you don’t want to the sales rep often.
For example, “I don’t want to spend more than (amount) for this, including the tub and the installation.” Or, “I don’t want to look at any models that would require a new water heater.”
- Are walk-in tubs leakproof?
The unique design of the entry door — whether inward- or outward-swinging — creates a watertight seal when closed properly. However, this does require you to be in the tub with the door completely closed while it’s filling and draining. If this is a concern, consider buying a tub that has rapid fill and drainage systems or heated seats to keep you warm during this process.
- Are walk-in tubs high maintenance?
Once your tub has been installed and inspected, it shouldn’t require much additional maintenance. That said, because walk-in tubs are larger than a standard tub, they will take slightly more effort to keep clean. Some high-end models come with “ozone sterilizer,” which sterilizes the hoses and jets each time they’re used. While this won’t eliminate the need to clean altogether, it will help prevent mold and mildew.
- Do walk-in tubs come with a warranty?
All walk-in tubs come with a warranty, but the details, including the coverage and length of coverage, vary depending on the manufacturer. Make sure to read over the fine print so you understand what’s covered, and ask questions if you’re uncertain.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.
- AARP, “Despite Pandemic, Percentage of Older Adults Who Want to Age in Place Stays Steady.” Accessed July 29, 2022.
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