What Is the Difference Between a “Jacuzzi” and a “Hot Tub?” Your Complete Guide to the Types of Hot Tubs You Can Buy

By Jon Filson

Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas

Published Apr 29, 2024

Jacuzzi, hot tub, spa, swim spa, jetted tub, whirlpool bath, therapy tub: If you’re looking at buying a hot tub of any kind, you have seen these terms, sometimes even used interchangeably. You can’t help but wonder, are they all the same thing?

The answer is they are not the same, although sometimes companies will use the same or similar terms on multiple types of tubs, which can create confusion. 

There are a lot of options in the hot tub marketplace, and these questions are common at Hydropool, as a result. We understand all the different descriptive words can be a lot for people who are just trying to determine what they want to buy. 

In this article, we will walk you through the different types of tubs being sold today, so you can clearly understand the difference between spas, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, and therapy tubs.



Jacuzzi vs Hot Tub: What’s the Difference? 

There is a clear answer: A Jacuzzi is a “type” of hot tub. 

Jacuzzi is one of many brands often confused with a product itself. Jacuzzi is to hot tubs what Kleenex is to tissue, a SkiDoo is to snowmobile or Crock-Pot is to slow cooker or Chapstick is to lip balm or Band-Aid is to sticky bandages or Google is to search engines.  

Jacuzzi is one major brand. Other brands include Master Spas, Hot Spring, Marquis, Sundance and  Bullfrog, to name a few. 

Why is There Confusion Between Jacuzzi the Brand and Hot Tubs? 

The answer is there is confusion due to Jacuzzi’s long history as a hot tub and whirlpool bath manufacturer. 

Seven Jacuzzi brothers came to California from Italy in the early 1900s, where they settled and began inventing new products such as water pumps for orange groves. Eventually they invented a submersible pump, which allows water to be pumped from the ground. 

In the 1950s, the son of Candido Jacuzzi – 15-month-old Kenneth Jacuzzi -- got rheumatoid arthritis. To try and help ease Kenneth’s pain, family members developed a portable hydrotherapy pump, which could fit into any bathtub.

In 1968, descendent Roy Jacuzzi created the world’s first integrated whirlpool bath, the precursor to today’s hot tubs, which featured built-in jets. Jetted bathtubs later became the indoor-outdoor tubs sold today, synching Jacuzzi’s brand with hot tubs forever.  

The Jacuzzi family sold the name Jacuzzi in the early 1980s to Apollo, a private equity firm.  It is now owned by the private equity firm Invest Industrial. Invest Industrial also owns other hot tub brands like Sundance Hot Tubs, Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas, Dimension One Hot Tubs, DreamMaker Hot Tubs and Thermo Spas.

Hydropool is owned by the same company that owns Jacuzzi. The hot tub shown here is from our Signature Collection

Is There a Difference Between Spas and Hot Tubs?

Yes. In the world of water structures, a “spa” is generally considered to be more like an in-ground pool structure or an addition to a pool. They often offer bench-style seating and are typically built into the ground, sharing their plumbing with the pool in place. This is opposed to how a hot tub functions, as a separate tub with massage jets and individual seating. (This being said, in some parts of the world, the word “spa” is used instead of hot tub—I.e. New Zealand and Australia).

Hot tubs are typically stand-alone vessels of water. They come in a variety of formats, from valued-oriented inflatable tubs to roto mold plastic tubs to acrylic tubs (which we will discuss later in this article). They can be built into the ground or on top, and possess their own plumbing and heating. 

Some will use spa and hot tub interchangeably. This is most common in the United States, where in many locations, spa has come to mean hot tub. 

Spa also has several other meetings, such as a day spa, where someone can get a massage or a facial treatment, or the type of spa that traditionally has been built around a spring in the ground, where the water is often thought to offer medicinal benefits. Those have nothing to do with hot tubs! 

Then there’s swim spas, which are something different altogether. 

What’s the Difference Between a Swim Spa and a Hot Tub? 

A swim spa generally looks like a longer, more rectangular version of a hot tub. But it has several key differences. It supplies a current that allows people to essentially “swim in place”, that has enough force to hold people in place, so they don’t reach the end of the tub. A swim spa is built to be deeper than a hot tub as well, to allow people room to extend their arms and legs to swim. A swim spa typically has many of the same features as a hot tub as well: jets and seats in the corners of the tub for relaxing and socializing. 

In short, a swim spa can offer everything a hot tub can, plus a place to swim and exercise, while a hot tub offers jetted seats with massage in a more intimate experience. 

What’s a Hot Tub Compared to a Jetted Tub? 

A jetted tub is the kind you often see in the Niagara Falls hotel rooms, which isn’t strictly speaking a hot tub. Often you will see rooms billed as “hot tub suites” or “Jacuzzi suites,” even if the brand isn’t Jacuzzi.

Jetted tubs can also be called hydrotherapy tubs and whirlpool tubs in the marketplace, but they are all referring to the same basic thing. Blurring the lines further, some are being marketed as “therapy tubs,” which until recently has referred to another specific product, which we will address in the next section. 

This type of tub is usually found indoors and has jets, just like a hot tub. But the major difference between the two is that a jetted tub is drained after each time it is used, and a hot tub is not. So a hot tub has filters and the water must be cleaned regularly, while a jetted tub is used in much the same way a bath tub is. 

Are Hot Tubs the Same as Therapy Tubs? 

A “therapy tub” is most often used as a term to describe a specialized form of a hot tub. Often used by professional sports teams, therapy tubs are meant to keep muscles loose using warm water or to help keep swelling down in an injured area with cold water. 

Neither are comparable to hot tubs when it comes to relaxation or intimacy – the idea here is more utilitarian and purpose-oriented. They are often stainless steel and have little insulation as they are not intended to be tubs you spend a long time in, like soaking tubs, which has become its own type of tub. 

What’s a Soaking Tub Versus a Hot Tub? 

A “soaking tub” gets that adjective because that’s really the only thing you can do in it: Soak! At one point in time we just called it a bathtub – it’s still called that in most places -- but given that there’s such a range out there, you can see why some clarification was needed. 

There are hot tubs that act as soaking tubs -- especially in the inflatable line of tubs -- but this term is more commonly used to describe indoor, home-based tubs that lack accessories other than the water that goes in them.

What’s an Inflatable Tub versus a Hot Tub? 

An “inflatable tub” is a type of hot tub. 

There are three main types of hot tubs: 

  • Inflatable, which is designed to be inexpensive, portable and which offer minimal jets and massage. This is the type you often see on Amazon or at budget-oriented stores like Costco.
  • There are roto mold tubs, which are made out by pouring plastic into a mold, and are growing market as a budget to mid-range tub. 
  • Lastly there are acrylic tubs, the shiny tubs that make up most of the hot tub market which most people think of as a hot tub. 

Types of Tubs: From Hot Tubs to Spas to Therapy Tubs

In this article, we took a look at the many types of tubs and spas on the marketplace today, matching up names with descriptions of what they actually are.

There are many brands on the market and many types of tubs, which creates some difficulty for anyone trying to sort out which is the right tub or spa for them. There’s overlap in the marketplace as well, with different terms sometimes used to describe the same product and sometimes the same product goes by more than one name. 

The piece was intended to distinguish your jetted tubs from your Jacuzzis and your hot tubs from your spas and your soakers from your swim spas. Each exists in the marketplace for a different reason and one of the first things anyone looking needs to do is figure out what type of tub or spa would be best for them.   

If you know what you want and want to talk to a Hydropool dealer, please click here

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