In-Ground Hot Tub vs Portable Above-Ground Spa


When most people begin their search for a spa, one of the first questions that they need to ask is whether they want a portable above-ground spa or an in-ground, sunken hot tub.

Each of these hot tubs offers advantages and disadvantages, though both are excellent when it comes to providing the benefits of health and wellness that we seek out as spa lovers.

Understanding the pros and cons of each can help you to make a better hot tub buying decision overall.

Let’s dive in as we go through our in-ground hot tub vs. portable above-ground spa comparison!




The Benefits Of In-Ground Hot Tubs

Similarly to in-ground pools, in-ground spas are made to seamlessly blend into your backyard environment (if they are made well, of course). 

Built in hot tubs are typically customized. This means that you’ll have the option to choose the design, colors, components, and materials so that it best fits with the aesthetic of your backyard. Compared to above-ground spas, in-ground hot tubs are more aesthetically pleasing. 

In terms of installation costs, in-ground hot tubs are typically installed alongside an in-ground swimming pool. This means that they will use the same filtration system, which helps to reduce the costs of labor during the installation process.

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The Disadvantages Of In-Ground Hot Tubs

One of the biggest disadvantages of in-ground hot tubs is the steep cost. Even though you save a bit of money during the installation process by utilizing the same filtration system, the overall cost is much higher than an above-ground spa. They also happen to use far more energy than most of today’s above-ground spas.

Maintaining an in-ground hot tub can be fairly difficult, especially if you live in an environment with extreme weather. If you have a custom design, finding the right cover to fit on your spa can be a huge pain. They typically require the same amount of maintenance as in-ground hot tubs, though can be harder to clean because of the in ground hot tub shells that they use. If your in ground jacuzzi is connected to your pool, you don’t have to drain it. While this can reduce the cost and time of maintenance, it can add to your pool maintenance.

In-ground hot tubs typically have fewer water jets than above-ground spas, as well as fewer features overall. If you’re looking for the deepest therapeutic experience, an above ground hot tub might deliver more!

In-ground hot tubs typically only come with bench seating, which isn’t the best for hydro-massages. It can be difficult to find the best spot for a back, neck, or leg massage, especially if you’re like us and you don’t want to submerge your head! The lack of seating options is a deal-breaker for many seeking out pure comfort.

Because in-ground spas don’t run all the time, they do need to be heated prior to use. This means that you’ll have to wait longer to get in them, as well as spend more money and energy trying to get them up and running. 



The Benefits Of Above-Ground Spas

Above-ground spas are far more portable than in-ground hot tubs, which makes them perfect for sitting well in just about any environment you live! If you’re up in the cold mountains where it snows often, you can get yourself a weather-treated portable spa with a nice cover to protect if. If you live in a small condo in the city, you can get a small, portable hot tub that fits nicely on your deck! The choice is yours when it comes to above ground hot tubs, and the portability factor is a major advantage. 

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Above-ground portable hot tubs typically have a variety of jet configurations to choose from. The jets offer a wide array of different massage options for those seeking out the best in hydro-therapy. Plus you can pick from a variety of ergonomic seating options, entertainment options, water feature characteristics, and more, perfect for just about any buyer. Many above-ground portable hot tubs offer specialized hydrotherapy options, allowing you to sink in with the ultimate relaxation. 

Above-ground spas have tons of different filters and water care options, which helps make portable hot tub care simple. Plus, most of them come with covers so that they stay clean most of the time. A majority of modern portable hot tubs are designed with better components for energy efficiency, so heating them up only takes a few minutes. 

Because above-ground portable hot tubs are, well, portable. You can take them with you if you end up moving! You can also move them around your backyard if you end up altering the landscape. This is much better than having to pick one place for your hot tub and commit to it for life. 

Above ground hot tubs are very energy-efficient. They maintain their temperature very well and they don’t need to spend time heating up for an hour before every use. This reduces your energy costs and allows you to enjoy your hot tub at any time whenever you want without having to wait. You’ll likely end up using your hot tub more than not!




The Disadvantages Of Above-Ground Spas

One of the biggest disadvantages of above-ground portable hot tubs compared to in-ground tubs is that above-ground spas aren’t nearly as aesthetically pleasing for your backyard oasis. They typically come pre-built, meaning you can’t custom-build them to fit the vibe of your backyard. While this won’t matter to some, creating an aesthetically-pleasing environment to relax in can mean a lot to many consumers. 



Budgeting For A Hot Tub

It is very important to keep a budget in mind when you are looking to purchase a hot tub. Of course, you can always finance a hot tub to help cut down on your initial price, but it still makes sense to correlate how much you are spending with how much you will be using your hot tub or how important your hot tub is to you!

When purchasing a premium above-ground spa, you can expect to spend anywhere from $3,000-$16,000.

On the other hand, you can pay up to $25,000 for an in-ground spa, which can be almost double the price of an above ground jacuzzi or portable hot tub. The finance charges and destination charges for an in-ground spa are typically far more.



Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?

Now it’s up to you to decide which of these is best for your home and your needs. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you okay with waiting for your hot tub to heat up or do you want immediacy?
  • Do you have a specific location in your yard that you want your hot tub?
  • Are you looking for the latest in features or hydrotherapy?
  • Can you commit to the maintenance and upkeep of a spa?


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Tyler Connaghan

Contributing Author