Hot Tub Buyer’s Guide


Owning a spa is like having a personal hot spring right in your backyard. Hot tubs are simply perfect for relaxing and soothing those sore muscles and joints.

Once you choose to spend money on your own tub, deciding on the best you can be a big task. We created this guide to help you create the best, confident purchase.

family bathing in white bubbling spa on green lawn

Size and Space
The scale, seating and electric needs will be the biggest factors in narrowing down the perfect spa. Examine these first.

Before shopping, pick the best spot for the spa. Most hot tubs will be located outdoors on an outdoor patio, porch or deck. Whatever spot you select, be sure to measure before making a decision on a spa size.

Belize Spas UltraRay spa on aged deck with exotic tropical plants

Get an improved perspective for how your spa will fit by using rope or garden hose. Make an overview how big is the hot tub you want. Leave room for usage of the gear, steps and a cover lifter.

For more info on setup and choosing a niche site location, see our Spa Setup page.

SPA Seating
Anticipate inviting guests or relatives over? Make room for a larger tub with more seats. You will not want to take turns in your new hot tub.

Are you considering using the spa alone or with just two different people at a time? If space is bound, a 2-3 person spa will be perfect. With a bit more room, an extra seat or two is nice for stretching out.

Belize Spas UltraRay white acrylic spa lounger seat

Lounge seats
Reclined seating lets you lay back, fully submerged in spa water. Loungers will often have more jets for a full-body massage. The very best spas are deep enough to prevent you from floating from the lounger.

A lounge takes the equivalent space of up two standard seats. Tubs for families or friends the necessity more seats could miss the lounger for a supplementary spot.

Electrical Hook-up
Hot tubs that require to be moved in the foreseeable future should use a Plug-and-Play connection. These fit a standard 120 volt outlet. Many spas have convertible voltage if you wish to hard wire the tub in the foreseeable future.

240V hard wired spas heat faster and stay hot longer than Plug-and-play tubs. Qualified electricians must wire 240V systems. This does mean installing a spa GFCI disconnect panel for safety.

How exactly to Wire 240V Portable Spas

Acrylic is the most frequent spa shell material, but roto-cast polymer, vinyl and wood are also options. The spa shell not only determines the appearance of the hot tub, but also its cost, insulation, and strength.

Considering a wooden spa? Read more about wood tubs before you make the leap.

Belize Spas UltraRay white acrylic hot tub captain’s chair seat

Acrylic Shell
Acrylic is beautiful, durable, and versatile. Molds form it into contoured shapes for comfortable, form-fitting seating in a variety of sizes. Supported by a frame, a wood or synthetic cabinet surrounds the spa. The gear is completely contained within the surround.

Acrylic spa prices change from a few grand to over $15,000, but high prices don’t mean quality value. Miss the dealer, buy online and have more tub for less overall, without skimping on quality.

LifeCast Spa on waterfront-view patio

Resin Unicast Hot Tubs
Created to last, molded resin spas are built with the shell and cabinet as you piece. This creates a solid, durable spa with an eye catching, easy care finish. Resin spas share some top features of acrylic, like loungers and lighting packages, with fewer jets and a lesser price.

Not absolutely all resin hot tubs are manufactured equally. Some spa brands cut corners by heating the spa with the pump, rather than a dedicated heater. These spas do not heat as fast as spas with efficient heating factor systems like LifeCast brand. Their temperature is difficult to modify in very hot or cold weather.

Vinyl spa inside view showing liner

Vinyl Soft Tubs & Blow-Up Spas
The vinyl spa is an inexpensive option with hardly any features. There are two types of vinyl spa: the cheap inflatable and the more costly soft-sided spa.

Inflatable hot tubs are a short-term option for those seeking to have a hot tub for you to two seasons. With just bubbles no real massage action, don’t expect a lot more when compared to a blow-up kiddy pool.

Soft-sided vinyl hot tubs are true lightweight spas. The shell and cabinet is replaced with vinyl and foam more than a frame. These small hot tubs have no real seating apart from the ground itself. Jetting is minimal, and the feature set is meager.

Equipment, Features and Options
Using a size and material enter mind, find out about the details. Get more of what you would like out of a spa – without wasting money on sales ploys and marketing hype.

Hydrotherapy jets in spa with powerful streams of water

Vigorous jets that mix water and air supply the best massage. Don’t fall for high jet counts and hokey massage packs that are hard or costly to displace.

Adding too many jets leads to decreased pressure. Adding larger, energy wasting motors is the only path to resolve this pressure loss. Spa designs such as this are not efficient, and can cost up to $100 in extra energy per month.

Spa pumps provide flow to the jets. More horsepower and more pumps don’t always mean a better massage or an improved spa. A spa with outrageous total horsepower ratings or way too many pumps (we’ve seen spas with 6!) will consume large numbers of energy.

The ideal spa will have a good jet to horsepower ratio for ideal efficiency and jet strength.

gray hot tub cover and spa on cobblestone patio

Spa covers aren’t an option, they are really a necessity. Heat rises, and an excellent cover will conserve energy and cut costs on power bills. Locking straps protect the spa from dirt, weather and unwanted visitors. Dealers should include a cover. Don’t let them misrepresent it as a free of charge bonus or special sale.

Read about Spa Cover Care to get the most out of your brand-new spa cover.

Belize Spas UltraRay spa with streaming columns of water and chilled wine

Stereo, Lighting and Water Features
Its not necessary color lighting systems, water features or audio in a spa. Still, these options can make your soak better and be a great addition to a hot tub party. If you are thinking about adding these options, shop around before you pay thousands extra!

Spa dealers charge huge amounts – in the thousands – together with already high charges for added options. Some companies offer optional Bluetooth audio, interior and exterior color LEDs and lighted water features.

Also called bubblers, these motors push air in to the water through ports in the spa, creating champagne like bubbles. Even though some enjoy this feeling, we do not advocate air blowers. Blowers pump cold air in to the water, lowering the water temp and wasting energy. They may also be quite loud.

The very best spas have jets that mix air and water with no need for another blower motor. These spa designs draw waste heat from the equipment bay, further saving energy dollars.

Be kind to yourself: avoid spas with blowers, an option we won’t sell you. LifeCast Spas feature adjustable air induction jets. These mix air and water to your preference, with no need for a noisy air blower.

Filtration can be an important part of keeping your water crystal clear. Well-kept, clean filters remove large particles from water. This protects parts from damage, and improves water clarity. Filters should be replaced yearly for best results.

New hot tubs will include filters with advanced blue filter media. This blue media prevents bacteria and other microbe growth on the filter. Microbe resistant filters have significantly more effective filtration, less odor, and are easier to clean. Every spa we sell includes Clarathon Antimicrobial filters standard.

One or two filters, with respect to the spa size and quantity of pumps, are sufficient. Some spas use 3, 4 or even 5 filters, complicated or multi-part filters. Remember this adds to the long-term cost of the spa.

Clarathon antimicrobial spa filters and old dirty filter being removed from spa

Dealers charge an enormous markup for extra or special filters. You might spend many a huge selection of dollars yearly on filtration alone. Irrespective of where you get your spa, get up to 50% off retail by purchasing premium spa filters online.

Full-foam spas fill the complete cabinet with spray foam insulation. This makes future repairs more difficult and wastes heat created by the pumps.

Roto-molded spas need some foam to support the structure. For acrylic spas, insulated cabinets with air space that captures heat from the water pump is an improved choice.

The majority of a hot tub’s heat loss is through the top, not the sides, since heat rises. Like our homes, we insulate the ground, walls and the attic, to create a warm pocket inside.

The most energy conserving hot tubs have reflective backed foam insulation. Reflective foam acts just like a mirror to bounce radiant heat back to the spa.

Spas with insulated bases avoid the cold ground from soaking up the heat in the cabinet. This extra protection can cut total annual heating costs up to 20%. As an added benefit, an insulated base could keep moisture and vermin from the hot tub cabinet.

Warranty and Support
Almost all new spas have warranties, but just having one isn’t enough if the service doesn’t back it up. Warranty service is tough if the dealer is not willing or able to help arrange it. If the dealer is out of business, you might not exactly receive guarantee service by any means.

An enormous box store that doesn’t focus on hot tubs won’t be able to help you with expert support. After the guarantee is expired, you are on your own.

Since 1997, Spa Depot has been selling spas and giving expert Customer and Tech support, even long following the sale. We walk out our way to supply the best customer support with no commissioned sales. Our employees take great pride in assisting our customers.

Price vs. Cost
Given that you have a good idea in what size, features and options you would like, let’s discuss pricing.

Price is how much you purchase the tub itself. The real cost includes more: site prep, accessories, chemicals, & most important, power bills and repair costs. Subpar insulation, thin spa covers, cheap parts, and low quality enhance the lifetime cost of your spa.

sad pink money box floating in blue water

This doesn’t mean you have to pay more up front to obtain a lower lifetime cost. Spa stores sell so few hot tubs, they need to soak their customers on those they do sell. Typically, they mark them up thousands above their actual costs. They may have little choice but to charge high prices because of their low volume and high overhead.

Dealer Financing
Very few dealers offer in-house financing for spas anymore. A few may still give you the option of an installment plan. Installment plans require money down upfront. The loan is risky for the dealer, so they tack on costs to the upfront price with their spas.

Credit Cards
Many spa brands and spa dealers now offer financing in the form of home improvement bank cards. These high interest cards limit card use to certain stores. They often have higher limits to complete big projects, depending on credit.

Even though you don’t decide on a special bank card, you likely have at least one card in your wallet. Using variable or high interest bank cards for a spa can be risky, costing a lot more down the road. The credit card company may offer low monthly premiums to lure you. Their goal is to keep you with debt for so long as possible, making more profit as time passes on interest.

After you think about how precisely much money you will need for the spa, don’t forget to add in extra costs. Include hiring an electrician, pouring a concrete pad, and backyard landscaping or decking in the price. Although your borrowing limit can cover these costs, accumulating large bills leaves little wiggle room for a crisis.

Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit
Home equity seems such as a good way to finance both a spa and a fresh deck or other large project. Home equity loans provide one lump sum. Lines of credit provide a borrowing limit similar to a credit card. Both use your home as collateral for the loans.

Banks are less inclined to grant loans for a spa since it is not a nailed-down addition to the house. Some individuals with good credit scores have better luck with small credit unions. Beware: when the home is collateral, failure to repay could lead to home foreclosure.

Where to buy
The company you buy from is just as important as the tub you get. Avoid common tricks when shopping at traditional spa dealers, big box stores and online spa sellers. Always buy from a reputable and hot tub literate source.

Spa Dealer
Dealer prices are generally sky high, and can be misleading. Often “Sale” and “Close-out” signs seem to be like bargains, but are actually the everyday prices with a flashy sign.

Wet-testing is another dealer tactic to close the deal. Dealers may have only one spa of a whole line filled up with water; usually it is the largest & most expensive.

Soaking in the center of the public showroom floor in your swimwear is not suitable for most people. Your time and effort a wet test takes is usually enough to push shoppers over the edge into a far more expensive spa. Consider also that perhaps a large number of strangers and their kids previously bathed in the same water you will be soaking in.

If you do a wet test, be kind to yourself: resist the pressure to to remain the dotted line. Allow yourself a 48-hour cool down period. You will likely not regret giving yourself just a little additional time to believe it over.

empty shopping cart software

Big Box Stores
Wholesale retailers have no idea anything about the spas they sell. They may have low cost deals that save money, but can’t provide any service before or after the sale. Without spa function, chemical use, and guarantee support, you are on your own.

The outrageous pricing and used-car sales tricks are what bring spa shoppers online and from spa dealers. However, not all online sellers are alike! Anyone can begin a website, however, not everyone gets the experience and expertise of our customer support and tech staff. Our low prices and our commitment to quality make a large difference.

Thankfully, one does have a choice. The Spa Depot has been selling spas since 1997– longer than every other online store in the world. Our hot tubs cost less because:

Factory Direct
We ship your new spa for you direct from the factory. It has not been sitting in a warehouse for months, collecting dust or storage fees.
No Middleman
Since you are buying direct, you can find none of the most common retail markup.
Volume Buying Power
As America’s leading spa source, The Spa Depot gets the best pricing on the merchandise we sell. We pass the savings on to our customers with small markups.
Free Shipping
We do not charge to ship the spa to your house in contiguous U.S. (Some restrictions apply).
Curbside Delivery Included
You need to position the spa in your yard, but it’s easy to do: here’s how. An area dealer offering to put the spa for “free” just increases up-front cost of their spas.

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