I rate the saunas I have been in over the years from budget to residential to light commercial up to commercial grade.
Budget Infrared Saunas:
These are the cheapest ones that usually cost under 1000 dollar including shipping for a 2 person model and no more than 1100 to 1200 for a 3 person model. They usually have one control panel and no stereo. They have fewer heaters. The heaters, if more, are usually all the way up to the roof of the sauna to make up for a lower quality heater. The first thing I look for when reviewing a sauna under 1000 dollars is to see if it meets the CE, UL, or ETL standards. It is not illegal to sell them without these but the average person importing saunas that doesn't have 20 to 25 thousand dollars to spend for each certification. I always recommend running the numbers to see if the certification numbers are valid. Each CE, UL, and ETL certification number is unique and you can run the numbers and check them. Some of them don't have any certification numbers at all. Just know before you buy. I only promote saunas that have at least these 3 major certifications.
These usually have 2 speakers built into the sauna and an auxiliary input to hook up an your own system, such as an iPod, not a full stereo like the light commercial ones. The wood is not as heavy but more than the budget ones. These usually weigh about 250 lbs for a 2 person model. The craftsmanship is very entry level, nothing too high end. These usually are not the low EMF type like the third generation saunas (see my generations of saunas page here)
When you knock on them with your knuckles it doesn't sound as hollow as the budget but doesn't have that deep, full sound like the commercial ones. Its like when I knock on a watermelon, I know which ones is gonna be good.
These usually have 3rd 275 lbs for a 2 person one. These are not as hollow feeling as the residential models when you knock on them. These in this range are where the 3rd generation sauna companies I have researched are putting in low EMF heaters. The craftsmanship is usually as good as the commercial grades but without some of the bells and whistles. The infrared saunas in this range are the most popular, especially if someone plan on keeping it for many years. If someone is going to be using their sauna daily, and for more than one person, this type of craftsmanship is probably needed. The feel of these definitely feels more grounded than the lighter weight saunas.
These are usually about 300 pounds. The extra weight comes from the insulated walls, thicker woods, wood supports for the heater mounts, and more of the bells and whistles unique to each company that the lower end models don't have. The sound on this when you knock on it feels full. Totally opposite of the budget brands. These are usually the saunas from the companies that have been around since the late 1990's. The price of a commercial and a residential can be the same if the residential price is inflated. This is why I don't go by price alone. I compare the components of the saunas. There are certain things I look for and I WILL know what its worth. A lot of companies claim there saunas are commercial grade. After knowing the answers to the questions I ask them, and not just wants on their website, I can usually pick out a commercial grade sauna. If they start getting defensive if I am asking too many questions, then thats a red flag to me. They asked me if I had any questions about their sauna. And when I start asking they question me about why I'm asking so many questions. They often hang up on me, which I am used to by the way.
My best advice for someone who really can only afford a budget or residential sauna that wants a commercial one, is to make friends with your chiropractor or health professional or doctor or whoever has a business license, tax id, and proof of a clinic to buy it for your with your money and get their health professionals discount. This is really the only way I know. I have many items that I bought that were really expensive and I asked my colon hydrotherapist to to buy it for me. It works every time. That was my little trick back in the days.