Can I save money buying major pool parts on the internet?

    Possibly. But, while saving on the initial purchase, you could end up spending hundreds more. 
       When you buy from me you buy more than parts - you buy knowledge, experience, and expertise.    You get quality for reasonable prices. (The last thing I want to do is come back out, or have unhappy customers. My reputation is my business and my business has lasted 30 years by doing what's best for customers.
        Cheaper does not mean better? It means 'cheaper'.  

Here's a recent true scenario to ponder:
         A client's 2 H.P. "Whisperflo" pump motor died. (He knew because he had called me to figure out what was wrong.)  He paid for the service call up front. I then gave him an estimate for replacement--with quality parts. 
    He promptly went to the internet and found "similar" equipment (supposedly designed for that exact same pump, supposedly with the correct gaskets, seals and o-rings - for 30% less. That's a big savings!
Considering the hunk of money involved, the client said it warranted buying parts on-line.
            I explained I take no responsibility for anything he orders online; it would be a risk on his part.      "There are numerous parts which I considered garbage and would never purchase because they are faulty and tend to failed early. Even with one day shipping which cuts into your 30% savings, your pool would likely be 'down' for two more days in Phoenix' summer sun. Not good." 

    The customer decided it was worth the risk.

         The parts arrived in two days.  His pool was cloudy and had algae.  He called and  I recommended a $20 bottle of algaecide and $10 worth of super-chlorination. (more of his 30% gone).
           How I Deal With "Customer Purchased" Parts:
...  I bring only the tools needed to do the job.
... All else is customers responsibility. (Whatever the client purchases is 100 % his responsibility.)
... Customer pays for all service calls in cash the moment I arrive - before I even look at the parts 
the client purchased.  That is100% their responsibility.   
(This may seem harsh, but I have already invested in gas and 20 minutes to an hour of drive      time.  Those costs double to return home.)

 The Problem at Hand
            There are approximately six pool motor manufacturers.  Some manufacturers have cheaper motors and some of these put out inferior product.
    Guess what this guy bought!  In my opinion, he got the worst of all brands!  (Oh well, not my decision, not my choice, not my problem if it fails.)
     I pulled out the old pump/motor, disassembled the pieces and opened the box to pull the old motor.
Problem ... while the motor was a square flange, threaded shaft, 2 H.P, (which was correct), there is a screw that goes through the pump impeller into shaft of the motor. It is reverse threaded so, when the pump shuts off, back pressure doesn't push the impeller loose. The screw prevents the 'push'. This is unique to "Whisperflo" pumps.
          The customer wasn't happy. There was nothing I could do. He'd have to return the order and have a new one shipped. (He asked if he had to pay for another service call. I reminded him of my mileage, wear and tear, and having told him, "Wrong or defective parts 'he ordered'  were his responsibility.  Were it my error, I would have absorbed the costs.    It isn't right for me to absorb those costs when someone else was enjoying the profits." The customer reluctantly agreed.

More Issues ... Even though it was the company's mistake, the company wouldn't ship the replacement until they received the previous motor was received.  So unless he was willing to purchase another motor on his credit card, he would have to ship and wait.
    He put the new purchase on his card.  It arrived late on day two, but it was late in the day.  My schedule was booked until late morning on day three.
Another Service Fee Required!
As he paid the service fee - in advance - I am left to wonder how much of his 30% savings is left.  I then started attaching the new motor parts.  Then, open the kit with the seals and gaskets. Luckily, the seal was a perfect fit.
OH NO!!  There are 2 different sized gaskets (depending on the pump size and year).   The "go kit", which carries all gaskets and o-rings, was for "the other one."

One very unhappy customer! 
I suggested he call around, explain the situation, and see who had the kit. Explain there are 2 different sized gaskets and we need the one 1" greater in diameter. (I told the customer, we were already in for 1/2 hour on the clock and even if it took only 10 minutes each way to the parts place, the hour included in the service fee would be up  Additionally, the installation would not be completed. 
The customer paid for an additional hour of my time.  (Where was his 30% savings now?)

The customer took the "wrong sized" gasket with him to the store.  Good thing as 40 minutes later, the customer returned sporting colorful language. It seems the clerk making minimum wage at the pool store only thought he had the right parts because that's what the monitor read. He then referred him to another parts place which thankfully, had the correct part. 

The job was completed and I made nearly double what I would have originally made if he had bought the parts from me in the first place.  Everyone seemed happy and "the thing" worked when I left. 
Follow UP: (two months later)
Client calls. Remember that comment I made about the worst possible motors? Well, he had one.  The motor stopped.  I showed up and he claimed I did the installation wrong,

I went over everything... showed him the impeller spun freely, as it did when I left. There were no leaks or signs of leaks, the pump seal was in intact.  Everything looked like new and right out of the box.
What was it I did wrong? I reminded him these motors have a bad track record, and the last time I purchased one, the first one was dead out of the box and its replacement died within 3 months.

In that scenario, I  ate the price of the motor and the price of the time to do three motor replacements.  And, I never got  my money back from the company.  Years later, I tried once again to use that motor and had it die within six  months.  Needless to say, I will never buy that "brand" again ... and neither will the customer. I paid for my learning experience and he paid for his.
                When asked what he needed to do, I explained that he needed to pay for the service call  because there were no problems with it being a faulty installation, but that the service call would include a complete disassembly of the motor so he could pack it up and ship it back to the manufacturer.
 (Note: Motors require special packing materials.). He didn't want to pay
"Fine," I said, "Pay me, pay someone else, or do it yourself. Those are your options. It isn't my fault you decided to save money, and buy a cheap motor that happens to be junk."

The customer refused my assessment of this disaster.  I left saying, "Call me if you need me."

An hour later , he called.  He paid for another service call.  I removed the motor and he once again paid for a new one to be shipped,  (He was eimbursed when the company received the old one, but he had to buy a new pump seal, as you have to replace the seal EVERY TIME you replace the motor.

I got a call two days later, ... another service call, another pay check. (The 30% is now Long Gone.) We now have the "New" replacement motor, by the same lousy manufacturer, installed. 

AMEN!! - No not yet!!!
 I wish I could say we were done and this situation is rare.  It is not.  When people try to save money on pool equipment on the internet, it generally leads to disaster.  

After 3 months, the "new" motor died. 
My voice mail recorded his exact words:  "Replace this hunk of junk with something that works and throw this one in the dumpster. I assume your old price is still valid, the check is in the time clock box.

It's been about 2 years since I've heard from this client about 'that' problem...and I wish I could say I didn't hear back from this customer at all with 'problems'.  That has not been the case.

Client's fillter split. He asked me for an estimate.  I said I would never replace a 10 year old filter without replacing the 10 year old backwash valve as well, and I gave him a price. I then asked if he would like to try and save 30% on the internet...

I can't repeat his exact as children might read it?!  LOL.

I told him I could complete the work the next day and he should put the check in the box.

The "best" filter and backwash valve from me at that time was $27.00 "more" "wholesale cost' than the cheapest ones of same "type" and "size" on the internet. (Interestingly, there are filters and backwash valves on the internet that cost even more than the top quality one I offered, but are the absolute worst of all. So, even if you pay more you can end up with worse equipment)

Sorry, you can't go by price either. There is even one manufacturer who makes "Good" filters for a couple of dollars less than the one I picked up, but they have a habit of discontinuing smaller, but essential, parts. So, instead of replacing a $40 part, slightly past the warrantee period, you now have to replace $400 "Newly redesigned" assemblies.

I won't use that manufacturer either an do not recommend equipment which will cost a customer extra. (Even though the equipment is good and a lot of pool builders use their products-because their volume kickback programs can't be beat- I stay away from them... at least for filters.) They also make some of the best pumps for their price as well, but one of their "top of the line" models is, in my opinion, the worst pump/motor "combination" still available on the market.
                Caaaheaper?  kiss it worth it?an you buy things cheaper on the internet? Yes. Often you can get them cheaper than what I can get the exact same thing for at the wholesalers in town. Will you save money on buying major pool equipment on the internet? My experience says no, not most of the time. And if it goes bad, you can lose it all. You are gambling, and I believe your odds at blackjack are a better bet. Few customers, or internet equipment sales companies, know what they are doing well enough to avoid selling you things you will wish you never bought. At least at the casinos, you lose the money once and don't have to keep paying for 5-10 years. Buy the wrong piece of equipment, and even if you can limp it through, you will fight it, it will cost you extra service calls, cost you in longer operation times, more chemicals, ...
                If you call me to install a piece of your equipment that you purchase elsewhere, I am more than happy to comply. Understand that you will get the best possible "Installation", and that I guarantee every repair I have ever done, against defects in the installation, forever. The parts have the manufacturers warrantee. Hopefully you bought the right ones, and your gamble pays off. If not, I am more than happy to help you remove it and get it ready for returns, ... for the price of a service call.