ABS is considerably softer than PLA. PLA is hard and brittle by comparison.
At least one brand of PLA (DiamondAge from New Zealand) is monochiral, and so hard it is difficult to shape it with sandpaper, although it prints beautifully at 200C or lower.
I would advice to start with PLA, as it's the most easy and clean material to work with. Maybe later you can try Colorfabb XT. You don't need many special tools, just a decent set of torx screwdrivers (think you need at least a T5 and T8) for dismanteling the heating unit.
For spare parts it's depending on how bad it is to not have your machine available... for normal use I would say just buy the "hot end pack" and maybe a few extra "PTFE couplers".
If you really can't affort any downtime you'll have to buy 2 machines
In general the printer is easy to take appart and maintain, it's a big plus for the Ultimaker compared to many other machines.
and about the blue tape, you dont need it IMHO;
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