Your Ultimate Hot Tub Buying Guide
The time has come: You’re buying a hot tub. You deserve it.
Then you Google, and you realize that there’s all these hot tubs … so many of them. Every company says it makes the best. Some companies are more convincing than others. They talk about insulation like it matters to you, deeply. They talk about how many jets their hot tubs have. Massage, waterfalls, cabinet colors, lights – do I even want lights? I haven’t thought of that. What is a cover lifter anyway? And what does AOP even mean? Soon, your head is spinning.
It’s too much. What to do? Well, you can do what a lot of people do, which is just go to the closest store or wait for one of those big tent sales, and just pick one.
Or you can read this guide to buying a hot tub, then do the work online to figure out which one you want and then finally go to the store and point and say, “I want that one … and give me at least $500 off for making it easy on you.”
Seriously, we know that buying a hot tub is hard. We wish it was easier, so we started writing articles like this one to try and help explain what you need to know and what you don’t before going into the store. This is our best try at the one article we’d hope you’d read before buying a hot tub.
So in this article we will cover:
The essentials for buying a hot tub
Hot tub costs
Hot tub placement
Hot tub power source
The options available on hot tubs
• One or two pumps
• Extras: Steps, Stereos, Umbrellas
How to buy a hot tub
• Do the research
• Find a local dealer
• Try beforehand
• Be prepared to negotiate
It sounds like a lot, but most of it will feel like common sense as we go through. And remember, any good retailer will be there to help you through the process.
Hot Tub Essentials
Hot Tub Costs
You’ll need to budget for your hot tub. Here’s the rundown (all prices Canadian):
• a basic hot tub is $8,000-$10,000, this is a roto-mold, plastic hard tub or a basic acrylic
• a mid-level is $11,000-$15,000, this is an established, well-built hot tub, but without the latest technology
• a top-of-the-line hot tub is $15,000 to $25,000, a hot tub with the latest technology such as elite jets, brand names or cleaning capabilities
Add anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 on installation costs, which will depend on your particular situation and are best worked out with a dealer.
Hot Tub Placement: Where does it go?
It’s not just where does it go, but can it get there? Here’s what to keep in mind:
• You need eight feet of height and 40 inches of width for most hot tubs. So wherever it’s going, that’s the path.
• Most come by truck, but they can be delivered by crane. It looks really cool (check this out, it’s a swim spa, but same idea).
• You need a flat surface. Crushed and flattened gravel, pavers, a deck or best of all a cement pad can work.
• You can put it in the ground or in a deck, but if you do, you need to leave between two and three feet around the width of the hot tub to ensure you can access it for maintenance. You don’t want to have to remove the hot tub every time it needs a bit of service work down the road.
• Here’s the most important tip in Canada: If you want to use it in the winter, have it as close to a door as possible. Running around in your skivvies, even with a robe in the winter, is much nicer if it’s only a few steps rather than 15.
How Do You Power a Hot Tub?
An electrician must do this for you. In general, it’s best to get this mostly done in advance of the hot tub arriving, so you know it’s possible and aren’t facing any surprises on arrival day. A good retailer will be able to hook you up with an electrician used to doing this kind of work if you don’t have one of your own.
Hot Tub Options: What to look for
There’s a whole bunch of hot tub options you can have. You can read our full, comprehensive list here. In this one we will quickly go through the ones that matter to most people.
You’ll see a lot of companies bragging about how many jets they have. More jets just costs you more money. Unless they are placed the right way, more jets aren’t doing anything, anyway! If you’re skeptic, hot tub massage can sound like baloney, but we have seen it make a difference to people. We have a Zone Therapy system at Hydropool that we worked out with doctors to ensure your entire body gets a massage. Other makers have special jets for backs or domes for feet.
Hot Tub Seating
Get ready to hear a lot about loungers. A lounger is an elongated chair in the hot tub that allows you to stretch out. Some people like them. Some do not. The good thing is you have choice here – most companies have models that have each. There are also S-shaped loungers, which are exactly what they sound like, and are often made for people under 5-foot-8, for example. Our best advice here is to try before you buy – a good retailer will have a hot tub filled with water so you can see which seats you like.
Hot Tub Pumps
One or two? One is enough to get you going, for sure. Two pump systems are more efficient, ultimately costing you less over time because one pump circles your water and the other operates your jets. Neither is overly tasked in this manner. But one will work and costs you less upfront. This is a choice, and entirely up to you: Both systems can work.
Hot Tub Lights
Corner lights on the outside of the cabinet, color lights on the inside, lights on the pad so you can see how to turn on the jets at night … there will be light options. Kids love them, for some reasons a bright green hot glowing hot tub is just more fun than a nice, clean relaxing one that doesn’t have them. Again, personal choice here – whatever you prefer.
Hot Tub Cleaning
Some hot tubs offer options when it comes to cleaning. For example, Hydropool features a self-cleaning line of hot tubs, which it calls its Signature collection. This is a system that comes from public or commercial pools, adapted for hot tubs – it’s built to a higher standard (for more, click here). Some hot tubs come with salt water as a sanitization method, while others use what’s called AOP systems to keep your water clean (it’s a combination of ozone and UV light that proactively cleans your hot tub and minimizes chemical usage). All of these are typically on higher-end models, but the benefits are clear.
Hot Tub Insulation
You can read a lot about this online if you want to. There are many ways to insulate a hot tub (we even chipped in with this article, which outlines it in some detail). In practice, we find that people just want to know if it is insulated. In that case, the answer is clearly yes. We have been in business for 40 years in Canada – if our products weren’t well insulated, we wouldn’t be in business by now.
Hot Tub Colors
Curiously, we find this isn’t a big issue for most customers either: We find most are able to find a color choice they like among what’s offered. Hot tubs generally come in neutrals: greys, blacks, browns (as well as mixes, like greyish brown). The acrylics range from browns to whites to greys to blacks with brown to champagne. A few companies still offer some old-school blues and teals (Hydropool doesn’t). White and silvers are in style right now, with greyish brown cabinets, we find, but darker cabinets have slowly increased in recent years. Your choice here: Many companies do not charge extra for special colors, but some do.
Availability: How long will it take to get my hot tub?
Great question. During the pandemic, the answer was … “let us get back to you in a year.” But with things slowly turning to normal in 2023, so the answer is usually about six weeks. In many cases, there is supply right on the lot: You may have noticed an increase in local companies offering tent sales as they adjust to new supply and demand.
Extras: Steps, Stereos, Umbrellas, Cover Lifters
Steps are a must – unless your hot tub is sunk in the ground, you’re not going to want to bellyflop into it more than twice, we predict. Stereos are nice to haves, although many people use their phone and a portable speaker, we know. Umbrellas and pergolas, ice buckets, cruiser tables, benches and stools – this is all based on how large your bank account is and how big your backyard is. Cover lifters are popular too, that way you can just move a lever instead of heaving a cover each time.
How to Buy a Hot Tub
Do the Research
We know you’re reading this article and already doing research. We think that’s great! It can be hard to do this – Consumer’s Reports doesn’t review hot tubs and you have to sift through a lot of Facebook group answers to find what you want. But do what you can. Even if it helps you narrow down your brand choices to ones with better reputations, it will help (we wrote that piece here, even though it’s about our competitors, you may want to try it).
Find a Local Dealer
We are completely in the tank on this one, but for a good reason: A local retailer will be able to support you during and after purchase. Buying from a big box store might save you a few bucks. But it will also drop a hot tub on your lawn with no ability for you to be able to move it to your backyard. We urge you to ask around and do your research specifically here. A good local retailer is like having a good mechanic. Here’s a piece from the New York Times’ Wirecutter that says much the same.
Try the Hot Tub Before You Buy
A good dealer will let you sit in the hot tub and see the seats. All seats aren’t made the same size, for the same people, it’s as simple as that. Try the massage: Anyone can say their jets are great. But you won’t know until you try them out. It can be awkward for some people (there are always those who just dive right in) but it’s better to have a few minutes of awkwardness than a lifetime of a hot tub that isn’t made for you.
Be Prepared to Negotiate on Hot Tub Price
You don’t have to, of course. But most companies expect and allow you to negotiate on price. Hydropool is one of the few that puts prices out there publicly, so you can see what the manufacturer would charge (check out the Signature 670 here – the pricing is on each product page). But sales generally offer better pricing than this, and salespeople love to throw in deals. So if they won’t move on price, maybe they will move on chemical supplies. They won’t get mad if you ask.
How to Buy a Hot Tub
Buying a hot tub isn’t like most purchases you make. You have to ask a lot of questions. You have to have enough space, and you have to have a good sense of what you actually want in a hot tub and hwo is going to use it. We get asked every type of question a lot in our showrooms, and we wanted to try and bring that information online. That’s why we wrote this piece.
We hope that gives you a sense of what you need to do before you buy a hot tub. Of course, as we said up top, you can always just go into the store and ask these questions there. You can find a retailer here.
Jon Filson is the senior content manager at Hydropool Swim Spas and Hot Tubs.