How to Buy a Hot Tub: Ultimate Guide


a woman sits in an outdoor hot tub and looks across the mountains

 

I’ve always wanted to buy a hot tub. But part of the reason I’ve put it off is that it seems so confusing to figure out the right model at the best price. Recently, though, I’ve embarked on my journey toward hot tub bliss!

 

a man relaxes in hot tub

 

I’m guessing that part of the reason you want a hot tub in the first place is to increase relaxation. If that’s the case, you certainly don’t want the buying process to stress you out!

To buy a hot tub, get familiar with how hot tub dealers price spas. Next, set your budget. Visit local showrooms that can back a warranty. During the fourth quarter, dealers will be more flexible on price. Use your knowledge of hot tubs pricing to negotiate for the construction, features and accessories you want.

Follow the How to Buy a Hot Tub Ultimate Guide. In it, I share everything I’ve learned from the various types of hot tubs to choose from, price points for different hot tubs, where to place the hot tub, and hot tub features, filtration systems, alternatives like blow-up hot tubs and air tubs, plus much, much more!

You’ll end up with the hot tub of your dreams—at a price that makes you feel great.

 

 

How To Buy a Hot Tub at a Good Price

 

 

Before you buy a hot tub, it’s probably a good idea to clarify the definition of a hot tub and other terms people use to refer to the same type of tub.

Today, the terms “hot tub” “spa” and “jacuzzi” are used interchangeably to refer to a jetted tub that seats usually four or more people. Hot tubs (or spas or jacuzzis) can be in-ground, above-ground or portable.

When you buy a hot tub and are finally relaxing in the bubbles, you want the satisfaction of knowing you made your purchase for a good price. To that end, here are some critical tips to keep in mind:

 

Don’t Fixate Solely on the Sticker Price

 

The first thing to know is that when you buy a hot tub, you need to consider the upfront purchase cost plus any delivery and installation fees. You also need to factor in maintenance costs—and there always will be some, no matter what the salesperson claims—plus your monthly energy bill. 

Then there is the longevity of your hot tub to consider. Most hot tubs will last at least a decade, but the higher quality you purchase upfront, the longer you can expect it to last. You might get 20+ years out of a high-end, luxury hot tub.

 

There is Room to Negotiate

 

Similar to buying a car, hot tub dealers have considerable room to negotiate. They are more likely to strike a deal toward the end of the calendar year, when they are trying to sell off old inventory to make room for newer models.

 

Hot Tub Showrooms Use Tiered Pricing

 

Most of the best hot tub manufacturers offer tiered pricing. So you can get “value” hot tub models at the lowest price range. Then you can get “midrange” hot tubs that begin to add features and accessories, and then luxury hot tubs with extraordinary construction and design.

It’s important to understand what you get at different price points and how dealers think about the price. The more you understand what goes into the price of a hot tub, the better position you’ll be in to negotiate a great deal.

 

So How Much Does a Hot Tub Cost?

 

outdoor hot tub with purple LED lights

 

According to Consumer Affairs, the general price of a hot tub can range from $1.5k-4k for a “value” model, 4k -8k for a “mid-range” model, and 8k-16k for “luxury” and 16k+ for ultraluxury. You can also buy an inflatable hot tub for $300-$2,000.

That said, pricing out a hot tub can be tricky. The reason is that there are so, so many types of hot tubs. Asking how much a hot tub costs is like asking how much a car costs. It depends. What features do you want, how much energy efficiency will you get, what quality of motor is under the hood? The questions go on and on.

But we’re here to reduce the stress, and break this down piece by piece. 

 

8 Key Factors Built into the Cost of a Hot Tub

 

under water photo of hot tub jets

 

By understanding how hot tub showrooms arrive at a price, you’ll be better equipped to end up with the hot tub of your dreams at a price you can afford. Here are 8 components that typically factor into the price of a hot tub. For each component of the price, we contrast what you can expect to get at value and luxury pricing tiers. Unless specified, you can expect a mid-range hot tub to offer something in between value and luxury.

 ValueLuxury
MaterialsPlastic, Steel, WoodAcrylic, Resin, Galvanized Steel
FiltrationFewer Gallons Per Minute (GPM)More Gallons Per Minute (GPM)
Energy Efficiency110V Plug 'n Play220V or 240V, Connects to Breaker Box
ConstructionNo Access PanelAccess Panel
Seating4-6 Plastic Benches6-12 Individually-Molded Seats
JetsLess PowerfulMore Powerful
Features & AccessoriesLED Lights Sound System, Temperature Control, Touchscreen Panel, Cold Water Bath, Waterfalls
Design & EngineeringFunctional Design & Basic Engineering Built to Last 5-10 YearsHot Tub as Work of Art & Outstanding Engineering, Built to Last 20+ Years

1. Materials

 

Hot tubs can be made from a variety of materials. However, unlike indoor bathtubs, hot tubs are often placed outdoors. For this reason, the durability of the material and its ability to withstand harsh weather becomes key to how long the hot tub can last. 

 

Value Materials

 

For lower-end models, the interior of the hot tub can be made from plastic. The outside of the hot tub might be made from plastic, steel, or wood. 

 

Luxury Materials

 

As you spend more on a hot tub, you’ll see materials like acrylic used on the inside of the tub and resin, polysteel plastic or galvanized steel exteriors, materials built to withstand harsh outdoor elements over time. Also, at the higher price point you can often choose the color of the material you’d like to match your other furniture.

 

2. Construction

 

Value Models

 

A basic hot tub might have an exterior made from a single piece of plastic or steel. The trouble with this is that in case maintenance is needed, let’s say a leak, the exterior may need to be destroyed for a plumber to get access to the right pipes. Needless to say, one plumbing problem can greatly reduce the longevity of your hot tub.

 

Luxury Models

 

Better constructed hot tubs have access panels that allow plumbers or electricians to access the interior pumps and motors without having to damage the exterior. To allow for this possibility, the “skirt” or exterior is constructed of several pieces rather of material and includes easy-to-open cabinets.

 

3. Energy Efficiency

 

Value Models

 

Some hot tubs are called “Plug ‘n Play” models because they run on the same voltage of electricity used by other household appliances: 110V. Therefore, you can simply plug the unit into an electrical outlet, fill the hot tub with a garden hose, and it’s ready to use. A Plug ‘n Play hot tub, however, can add 4x as much to your monthly electric bill than a more energy-efficient hot tub. Also, these hot tubs take longer to warm up than a higher-end model with a stronger heater.

 

Luxury Models

 

These hot tubs use 220V or 240V. You need to connect the hot tub to the breaker box on the outside of your home. Although you pay more upfront, you save a small amount on your electric bill each month.

 

4. Filtration

 

Value Models

 

A lower-end hot tub model will filter fewer Gallons Per Minute through the filtration system. As a result, you’ll need to run the tub longer to fully filter the water.

 

Luxury Models

 

As you increase the tier of the hot tub, you’ll purchase a more advanced filtration system that gets more Gallons Per Minute of water through the filter. Whether the actual filter itself is large or small is irrelevant. What matters is how quickly the hot tub water passes through the filter so it can more efficiently clean the tub.

 

5. Seating

 

Value Models

 

A lower-end model might seat 4-6 on plastic benches rather than in individually-molded seats.

 

Luxury Models

 

A higher-end model might seat up to 12. Seats might be “lounge” style which allow bathers to recline.

 

6. Pumps and Jets

 

Value Models

 

Don’t be fooled by the number of jets offered. The jets can only force out water if they have ample power from the pumps. Buying a tub with 200 jets but not enough pump power is going to give you disappointing pressure. The lowest-end models will offer less powerful pumps.

 

Luxury Models

 

Higher-end hot tubs will offer higher-quality pumps. Look for pumps that draw 12 amps and run on 4-5 horsepower motors. You may be offered a variety of jet sizes and locations. With a higher-end model, the pump may also be quieter. If noise is an issue, be sure to listen before you buy.

 

7. Features and Accessories

 

Value Models

 

While a value model delivers basic functionality and may include just a few extra features, you need to move to a mid-range model to see a big increase in exciting features like sound systems and touchscreen control panels.

 

Mid-Range Models

 

Here is where the mid-tier hot tubs come in. Manufacturers will offer a range of features in the mid-tier level, increasing the complexity level as the price goes up. Many of the features cannot be added after the tub is purchased, so you must make decisions upfront. Features and accessories that come with mid-range and luxury tiers can include the following:

 

  • LED Lights
  • Waterfalls
  • Sound System with Bluetooth
  • Touchscreen Control Panel
  • Hot Tub Steps
  • Hot Tub Cover
  • Automated Hot Tub Cover Remover

 

While these features may be enticing and give you the feeling of luxury you want from your hot tub, don’t let them distract you from the true cost. Are they really worth the additional price being asked? If not, negotiate.

 

Luxury Models

 

Luxury hot tubs can include smart features, such as the ability to regulate temperature from a smartphone hundreds of miles away. 

In addition, the most luxurious hot tub models might include saltwater, which some people prefer as it feels softer on the skin and more akin to a warm ocean swim. 

Also, as cryotherapy centers open worldwide, many people now realize the benefits of cold baths for relieving muscle pain and aiding recovery. (For more info, read Will an Ice Bath Cure You? A Cool Look at the Science.) Some ultra-luxury tubs will give you the ability to run extremely cold water and then change to hot within a short time span.

 

 

8. Design and Engineering

 

Value Models

 

You usually need to move to the mid-range tier to see any particular design elements beyond basic construction.

 

Mid-Range Models

 

A mid-range model may be visually appealing and even include an exterior shell colored to match the surrounding furniture. You can expect solid interior construction that will last at least a decade.

 

Luxury Models

 

What sets apart the luxury and ultra-luxury hot tubs is the design aesthetic paired with outstanding engineering. When you purchase a high-end hot tub, you are often investing in a work of art that will enhance your home for 20+ years.

 

 

Hidden Costs of Buying a Hot Tub

 

a man installs a jacuzzi tub

 

If you think the sticker price is the final cost of your hot tub, think again. There are several additional costs that you’re likely to pay, including some or all of the following:

 

Shipping

 

Depending on where you buy your hot tub, shipping may be included. But if it’s not explicitly mentioned in the deal, be sure to inquire. You don’t want to be caught by surprise with an unexpected charge. 

 

Outdoor Foundation Support

 

You’ll need a spot to put the hot tub that can support the weight of the full tub plus bathers. According to Jacuzzi, the recommended foundation outdoors is a concrete slab that’s 4 inches or thicker. The next best alternative is wood decking with a concrete foundation. If neither of those is available at your home, you can purchase a synthetic spa pad to place on a level surface beneath the hot tub.

If you plan to place the hot tub on a balcony or roof or some other surface that isn’t part of the main home foundation, you may need to pay for a structural engineer to assess the spot and its ability to support the hot tub.

 

Indoor Floor Support

 

If you’re installing a hot tub indoors, you might need additional floor supports. The floor needs to hold the weight of the tub full of water plus the weight of all bathers. 

Often you’ll need to reinforce floor joists, which can run $100-$300 per joist. If you’re thinking of installing a hot tub an upper floor, consult an engineer to see if it’s even possible. (And don’t forget to measure the tub before you buy to be sure it can fit through your doors!)

 

Installation

 

Unless you’re purchasing a Plug ‘n Play hot tub, you’ll likely need an electrician and possibly other contractors to install your new purchase.

According to HomeAdvisor.com, you can expect to pay $150-$490 to install an above-ground hot tub.  If you’re installing the hot tub as a drop-in tub in an outdoor deck, you’ll probably need a contractor to oversee the work for you and you can expect to pay more.

 

Filters

 

You’ll need to clean your hot tub filter every week or so. (A hot tub filter wand to help you do that.) You’ll also need to replace your filter every year or so, depending on how often you use the tub. An average filter replacement is $25.

 

Cleaning Chemicals

 

Expect to pay $150-$250 per year on cleaning chemicals. These are essential to prevent bacteria growth and ensure a healthy experience for all users. Many dealers will throw in a year’s supply with your purchase as an added perk.

 

Heating and Electricity

 

A higher-end hot tub model will require less energy to heat and circulate the water, resulting in lower monthly costs added to your monthly electric bill. With a higher-end model expect to pay an additional $10/month on your bill and with a lower-end model expect an additional $20.

 

Warranties

 

There are a wide variety of warranty options. And of course, depending on what you choose, this will add to the overall price. 

Not only do you want to be sure you buy a reputable brand, but equally important is to purchase the hot tub from a reputable local showroom. Even if you need to make the purchase online, you’ll want the warranty backed up by a local dealer you can trust. 

You’ll be offered a wide range of warranties. Some last 2 years and others 10 years. There are separate warranties to cover: 

  • the exterior shell structure; 
  • the interior shell surface; 
  • electrical equipment such as pumps, heaters and control system; 
  • plumbing components; 
  • and the cabinet.

 

Buy an Inflatable Hot Tub for a Lot Less

 

inflatable hot tub

 

If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge (no pun intended) and invest in a hard shell hot tub, why not a less expensive more temporary option? 

Inflatable or blow-up hot tubs are made of PVC or vinyl and cost $300-$2,000. Inflatable hot tubs are not only significantly cheaper than permanent hot tubs, but they are highly portable. Most can be set up in under an hour.

For example, check out the Intex Pure Spa Portable Jet Spa on Amazon. It is the top-choice inflatable hot tub pick from editors at Popular Mechanics. It’s also highly rated by customers and includes 170 bubble jets, can fit 6 people and can be set up in only 20 minutes.

 

Setting Up An Inflatable Hot Tub

 

Many inflatable hot tubs fold up to a compact size. Simply unfold the material and plug it into an outlet. Then easily inflate the hot tub in just a few minutes with the touch of a button on the control panel. Next fill the tub with a garden hose. With many inflatable hot tubs, however, you do need to wait 24 hours before the water will reach an ideal temperature of 104 degrees Faherenheit.

 

Size

 

Inflatable hot tubs typically fit either 2-4 people or 4-6 people. They hold 150-300 gallons of water, which gives a water depth of 26-28 inches. 

 

Hard Water Treatment System

 

Some inflatable hot tubs come with a hard water treatment system. This is good for helping filter the water through the hot tub and improves the overall functioning.

 

Jets

 

While you’ll enjoy the benefits of massaging jets, don’t expect the jets in an inflatable hot tub to be as powerful as the jets in a permanent type of hot tub. Also, many inflatable hot tubs come with air jets as well as hydrojets. An inflatable hot tub typically includes 60-130 jets.

 

Other Features

 

Just like with other hot tubs, you can find simple but fun features in inflatable hot tubs. These include LED lighting and simple bluetooth sound systems.

 

How to Turn Your Bathtub into a Jacuzzi

 

 

If you’re really not ready to purchase a hot tub—not even an inflatable version—you still have some good options!

Why not turn your bathtub into a jacuzzi?

You can purchase an Electric Bubble Bath Mat which fits onto the bottom of the tub and provides quite a powerful and satisfying massage for less than $150. (Check the price on Amazon here.) 

Another option is to literally add jets to your bathtub. Read How to Turn Your Bathtub into a Jacuzzi for more information.

Other Hot Tub Alternatives

 

air tub

 

While you may think you want to buy a hot tub, there are some variations on the theme that might be of interest:

 

Air Tubs

 

An air tub may look like a hot tub at first glance, but an air tub has smaller jets that run air streams—not water—into the tub. The effect is an effervescent overall gentle massage, rather than a deep tissue rub.  For example, check out the beautifully designed Empava 48 inch Luxury Freestanding Air Tub on Amazon. It’s double-walled, to preserve the water temperature, and allows you to enjoy a massage from 95 pinhole air jets.

For much more on Air Tubs vs Hot Tubs, see Are Air Tubs Worth It? The Pros, Cons and Alternatives.

 

Combo Tubs

 

A combo tub gives the bather the best of both worlds—water jets for an intensely focused massage and air jets for an overall lighter body invigoration. Because the combo tubs offer both, they tend to be pricier than a hot tub or air tub alone. For example, the highly-rated Luxury Water Jetted and Air Bubble Freestanding combo tub from Woodbridge offers both types of jets and a sleek, contemporary design. See it on Amazon here.

 

Hot Tub Benefits

 

a couple snuggles in a hot tub

 

Before embarking on your hot tub shopping journey, it can be helpful to clarify your primary motivation for this purchase. Is it to relieve your back pain? Is it to have a space for family bonding? Is it to improve the quality of your sleep? Or simply to add some fun to your backyard space?

While you may have multiple motivations, it can be helpful to rank them, so that you end up with the hot tub most closely suited to meet your needs.

Hot tubs have many therapeutic benefits including:

  • Muscle pain relief
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Decreased stress
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved circulation
  • Increased weight loss
  • Decreased joint pain
  • Detoxification
  • Reduced inflammation

Read much more about hot tub and hot bath benefits here.

 

Final Tips for How to Buy a Hot Tub

 

young woman relaxing in hot tub with candles lit

When you embark on your hot tub buying journey, remember to ask yourself if this is a shorter or longer-term purchase. Are you willing to invest more upfront for a more durable, energy-efficient model? 

Also, if you’re looking for a mid-range model, remember that the showrooms will try to upsell you on the features. But many of the features are eye candy. What may really matter more to you is the engineering, quality of the pumps, sound level of the running tub, and the price of the warranty. 

Finally, keep in mind that hot tub dealers are like car salespeople in that they have quotas to fill and deadlines for clearing out old inventory to make way for the new. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for what you want and consult several dealers before making a final purchase.

And once you get your hot tub, it’s time to accessorize! See The Bathtubber’s list of 10 Coolest Gifts for Hot Tub Lovers. You’ll find essentials like a hot tub cover lift and spa steps, as well as fun items like a hot tub side table with beer and wine cooler.

Shana

Shana Burg is a bath enthusiast, content strategist, and award-winning writer. She is the founder of bathtubber.com.

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