Hot Tubs Versus Swim Spas: A Complete Comparison of Features
If you’ve shopped for a hot tub, chances are its slightly bigger cousin, the swim spa, has caught your eye as you’ve considered the benefits of being able to swim and to exercise as well as to relax. And if you’re looking at swim spas, you’ve likely thought, “hey maybe a hot tub is actually what I really need?”
Here at Hydropool, one of the most consistent questions we hear from first-time shoppers is, “Ok, I’m stuck, should I choose a hot tub or a swim spa? What’s really the difference?”
Well, this article is going to thoroughly answer these questions and more, and by the end, our hope is that you have a clear idea as to whether a hot tub or swim spa is the right fit for you.
How Do You Want to Use Your Hot Tub or Swim Spa?
There are some swim spas that can do everything that a hot tub can, plus provide a hot tub experience. There are no hot tubs that can do everything a swim spa can.
Here’s the key difference between the two:
• A hot tub is a large vessel of water, with multiple seats (4-8 being most common) and it usually features jets that offer bubbles at least and advanced massage at best. It usually offers an intimate, relaxing experience and if you have children, it’s a great place for them to play in as well.
• A swim spa typically has seats with jets as well, but it also provides a large area and a current that a swimmer can swim against while staying in place. The current pushes against the swimmer, with the water providing sufficient resistance and buoyancy to ensure the swimmer won’t advance and reach the edge of the tub. Swim spas also provide sufficient depth and width to do aqua-fitness, while hot tubs generally do not.
Children will play in swim spas just as much, if not more than hot tubs, as the increased space can make a swim spa feel more like a pool. Many swim spas are bought as replacements for or instead of in-ground pools.
But lights? Music? Jets? Like hot tubs, swim spas can be had with all those things. Some swim spas are set up to have seats at every corner, so they look like a hot tub has been stretched, while others have separate hot tubs areas attached to the swim spa, so there is a swimming area and a tub.
Which Is a Better Fit in is a Better Fit in My Backyard: Swim Spa or Hot Tub?
Space is not the final frontier here. It’s often the first major consideration when you’re looking to decide between a swim spa and hot tub. There are hot tubs that compete with swim spas on size, but in general swim spas are bigger and require a larger area.
• An average swim spa is a rectangle, at around eight feet wide and between 12 and 20 feet long (between 96-160 square feet).
• A typical hot tub is around eight feet on each side and a square, or 96 square feet in area.
You need a bit more space than either of those sizes for good reason though: A good rule of thumb is to give yourself at least three feet around the tub or spa so you have enough space to access any area that may need servicing, and so that you have sufficient room to get in and out of the tub or spa as you need.
Of course, there are exceptions to the averages, both smaller and larger. There are many smaller varieties of hot tubs that can get into areas that swim spas simply can’t, such as condo balconies. So hot tubs can be easier to maneuver and put in place. Cranes can be used with both, if installations require going over top of a home or driveway.
Hot Tub vs Swim Spa Installation Costs (Concrete Pad, Crane, etc.)
An installation of a swim spa – which typically features a crane rental and a cement pad being put down as a base – is typically around $8,000 (U.S.) or $10,000 (Canadian).
A hot tub can usually be installed for less, with a comparable concrete pad costing around $1,500 (U.S.) or $2,000 (Cdn). (While concrete is best for both, other applications are also possible, as these numbers are there to show the difference between the two).
The install price for a hot tub can vary, as some roto mold models can be picked up and put into place, which costs you nothing more than borrowing a few friends to help you. Some tubs have to be placed with cranes as well though, which generally costs at least $1000 and usually a bit more.
There may be permit costs involved with either swim spas or hot tubs, but those particulars change so widely with location that it’s best to recommend you contact your local retailer, who will know how things work in your area.
Hot Tub Vs Swim Spa Initial Cost/Pricing Comparison
Swim spas are bigger, so they cost more, right? Yes, in general.
What do most people spend?
• An average hot tub costs around $12,000 (U.S.) or $15,000 (Cdn) for a hot tub
• An average comparable swim spa purchase is closer to $30,000 (U.S.) which is about $40,000 (Cdn).
There is overlap in the 2023 market: A high-end hot tub can certainly reach the cost of lower-end swim spas. But the bottom line is a swim spa generally costs more.
But at the same time, for many people, it isn’t so much more that it is out of reach: You’re not comparing a bicycle with buying a jet plane. It is entirely possible many people could afford one could also afford the other, but everyone’s situation is unique.
Hot Tub vs Swim Spa Monthly Cost Comparison
The ongoing costs of operating a swim spa are higher because there is more water to heat, and more water in the spa. That also means more water to clean.
That brings the typical operating costs closer together, but overall the swim spa costs more per month than a hot tub.
• A hot tub will cost around on average $45 (U.S.) or $60 (Cdn) a month for water, heating and sanitation
• An average swim spa is more like $150 (U.S.) or $200 (Cdn) a month.
Both numbers are approximate: It is important to note that these costs will vary significantly depending on where you live and how much you use the tub.
There is also a factor that draws them closer in typical costs that you may not have initially thought of. Hot tubs are generally turned up to a warmer temperature, such as around 100F, so people are comfortably warm. Swim spas are usually kept a little lower, in the 80s, because working out at typical hot tub temperatures would be too warm and the workout uncomfortable as a result.
Which Should You Buy, a Hot Tub or a Swim Spa?
This article looked at the key differences between hot tubs and swim spas, to give you unbiased information to see which would be right for you.
Swim spas and hot tubs have a wide variety of options and costs attached to them. Swim spas can be built to do everything a hot tub can, but a hot tub simply can’t do everything a swim spa can. Their chief differences are cost and size. Although there are value-oriented swim spas, swim spas generally cost more than hot tubs, both to purchase and maintain and require more space in your yard.
Hot tubs offer more intimacy, while spas provide more opportunities for athleticism. Both offer spaces for children to play in the water, with swim spas being more able to re-create the feeling of having a backyard pool. We hope this has helped you figure out which is the right one for you.
• Do you have questions for one of Hydropool’s dealers about hot tubs and swim spas? Check here to find a local dealer near you.