Hot Tub 101 Buyer Guide

There's nothing that can provide both fun and relaxation quite like having your own hot tub in your backyard.

However, deciding to invest in a hot tub is one thing, and finding the perfect model for your needs is another. With so many hot tub models on the market today, it can seem quite overwhelming.

Luckily, you have us here to help. Let's dig into what you should look for when trying to acquire the perfect hot tub for your home.

Different Types of Hot Tubs

The definition of best hot tub is going to be different for everyone, this page aims to help define which is best for you based on your criteria. 

Traditional hot tubs are the most common hot tubs for homeowners and are typically the largest.

These are the types of hot tubs that must be wired into a particular space with 220V wiring. 

Traditional hot tubs have larger jet systems, better filtration systems, efficient heaters, and energy-efficient designs.

While they are the most expensive of the three hot tub types, they are also the most popular because of their versatility and luxurious designs.

A bit of additional work is usually required with installation due to the heavyweight materials and high-drawing power.

For installation, homeowners must have a hard surface in place to lay one down or pour a concrete slab.

Plug and play hot tubs are similar to traditional hardshell spas at first glance, though they can power up using a standard 110v outlet, meaning there is no need to hire an electrician.

These models come usually come with multiple jets, bench or lounge seating, control panels, and other spa features.

While they do not draw as much power as 240v spa models, they are less energy-efficient throughout certain times of the year, as the small power supply doesn't provide them with enough power to heat the hot tub fast. 

Plus, these spas don't have enough power to run heaters and filters at the same time, which reduces the heating efficiency.

These spa models are much smaller than traditional models and have fewer jets. However, consumers looking to get an entry-level hot tub for a low price should highly consider plug n play tubs.

Inflatable models are the most portable as well as a cheap hot tub option. 

They typically come with a smaller pump and heater that sits outside the spa in an external housing.

Similar to plug n play spas, these can be plugged into 110v outlets and are very easy to transport due to the fact that they can be deflated.

While inflatable spas are great for those seeking portability and a low initial cost, there are many disadvantages, including poor energy-efficiency, low capacity, inferior jet systems, shallow water, and less comfortable seating.

While inflatable spas are popular novelty items that are sure to entertain, they are no replacement for a traditional hot tub.

For more information, see our types of hot tubs page. 

Hot Tub Sizes

After deciding which type of hot tub is right for your backyard, next will be size selection. 

  • Medium-To-Small Hot Tubs
    There are small hot tubs available that hold 1 to 3 people as well as the standard medium size hot tub that holds 4 people, which is the most common mold among hot tub models you will find.  

  • Large Hot Tubs
    Large hot tubs are considered those that hold between 5 to 12 people. See our large hot tubs page for more information including pricing, brands and expert insights. 

Water Care Options

Traditional Water Care

Traditional water systems utilize the manual addition of Bromine or Chlorine once per week. Adding these chemicals helps keep the hot tub clean and the spa water healthy.

The amount of maintenance is dependent upon how much the hot tub owners uses their tub. While traditional systems are certainly the cheapest, manufacturers are creating safer and healthier alternatives to chemical systems for those who don't like soaking in chlorine.

Salt Water Systems

Higher-ends hot tub models often use salt water systems. Some of the most popular brands that utilize salt systems include Hot Spring and Caldera. Salt systems are great for low hot tub maintenance and ease of use. These systems work by automatically generating healthier levels of chlorine with the addition of salt.

Beyond easier maintenance routines, saltwater provides a number of skin and hair benefits.

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Ozone Systems

Ozone hot tub systems lie in the middle of these two systems, providing hot tub owners with limited maintenance needs. Thanks to the limited need for chlorine and bromine, spa owners don't need to spend as much money in the long run or worry as much about maintenance.

Ozone systems make use of powerful oxidizers, including MPS and ozone, which help reduce the need for chlorine. These units release small ozone bubbles and silver ions into the water to fend off unwanted bacteria. MPS must be manually added to the spa before each use, as well as a small does of chlorine each week. The included silver ion cartridges typically require replacement after three months.

Hot Tub Installation

One major consideration that every hot tub buyer must make is where they are going to install their hot tub. Indoors or outdoors? If the hot tub installation will take place outdoors, there will need to be year-round climate considerations. For those installing indoors, there aren't as many considerations as long as the floor can handle the weight.

Whatever the case, the installation location must meet all of the hot tub requirements. It can be useful to speak with a hot tub dealer to decide what works best, though there are a few things to consider regardless of the location.

For starters, the surface must be flat and level. Solid decks or concrete patios are great choices. A flat plot of grass or paving stones, however, are bad ideas.

One must also consider the power requirements and whether or not there is wiring in place to connect and run the hot tub. Any hot tub must be emptied and refilled a few times throughout the year. Having a running water source conveniently placed nearby can be helpful in this regard, as well as a spot for drainage.

Lastly, having enough room for periodic service should be taken into consideration. To find out how much room for a particular hot tub model, it is important to speak to the local dealer.

Hot Tub Costs

While hot tub prices can vary depending on the size and features, especially when it comes to long-term costs, there are average pricing windows that are well worth looking into prior to making a purchase.

A new hot tub will typically cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 on average. Lower-end hot tub models might sit around $3,000 while high-end, luxury hot tubs might easily reach above $16,000.

More expensive spas will have higher-quality features, such as improved foam insulation, durable metal frames, reduced energy costs, and hydrotherapy jets.

As for the cost of installation, it is important to consider what is already in place. For those that need to build a deck or solid foundation to place the hot tub on, the cost can easily rise up to $1,000 or more. Prices for decks and patios vary greatly based on materials.

From experience, concrete spa pads can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 while spa pads can cost anywhere from $100 to $500.

It is important to consider delivery prices as well and whether or not the local dealer offers delivery. Spa delivery can be quite costly, especially if a crane is needed to lift the spa into place. Crane rental prices can easily cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. To find out more about pricing for delivery and installation, it is important to talk to a local dealer.

Best Hot Tub Brands


Jacuzzi is a hot tub brand that has been around for many decades.

The brand name has become someone synonymous with spas.

Jacuzzi came about in the 1970s after the Jacuzzi brothers invented whirlpool technology.

One great thing about Jacuzzi is that there are thousands of spa dealers all around the world that sell the brand's spas.

It is almost difficult to find dealers that don't carry Jacuzzi spa models with such a massive local dealer network.

The Jacuzzi spa lineup includes high-end, feature-laden spas and minimalist, budget-friendly spas. Jacuzzi spa models utilize unique aerated jets, perfect for essential oil use. Energy costs are far less with Jacuzzi models as well, thanks to the motor-generated heat systems.

Hot Springs Spas

When it comes to high-end spa models, Hot Springs Spas takes the cake.

The company works hand-in-hand with Designworks, a world-renowned BMW design group, to craft extremely comfortable and luxurious spa models.

The Hot Springs brand is well known for its saltwater system, which works to limit maintenance by getting rid of harmful bacteria.

Many of their spa models feature lounge seats with high-end massage jets as well, providing users with all of the benefits of hydrotherapy.

Those in the market for a top-of-the-line hot tub experience may want to give Hot Springs their consideration.

Bullfrog Spas

Bullfrog Spas has some of the most highly customizable spas on the market today.

The company is known for the JetPak Therapy System, which provides plenty of unique massage benefits.

This unique hot tub system allows buyers to customize their spa with more than 18 different jet combinations depending on the hydrotherapy experience they hope to acquire.

Beyond the fact that they offer a wide variety of hot tub styles, colors, entertainment options, and more, the fact that users can customize their massage experience is incredibly beneficial.

For the full list, see our best hot tub brands page. 

Finding the Best Hot Tub

Not many people understand what goes into hot tub ownership.

While there are many benefits to owning a hot tub, there are plenty of considerations to make to avoid a negative hot tub experience.

When it comes to pricing, features, delivery, and customer service, it is important to compare different spa dealers.

 Make sure to refer to this spa buying guide when speaking with a local dealer.

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Tyler Connaghan

Contributing Author