- Why you should trust us
- Getting started: An overview
- Choosing your hot tub: Size, features, brands, and costs
- Get ready to wait—but do get ready
- What about inflatable hot tubs?
Why you should trust us
We spoke with two lifelong hot tub dealers—whose companies have stellar reputations and highly positive customer reviews—to get their expert advice. Frank Carmona, manager of sales at All Florida Pool & Spa Center, has been supplying hot tubs to Miami residents for more than 20 years, and the company itself was founded in 1971. Marco Prisco is the owner of Prisco Hot Tubs, a shop that has served the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut markets for more than 30 years. We also interviewed Josef Pettus, online merchant for bath at the Home Depot. And, as always, we pored over manufacturer and dealer websites and customer reviews to identify options and uncover common questions and complaints.
Getting started: An overview
A hot tub is a major purchase, and it’s one that should last you at least 15 years. During that time, it will require constant upkeep (cleaning, balancing the water’s pH, regularly refreshing the disinfecting chemicals, occasionally refilling), as well as occasional larger servicing (pumps eventually wear out; electronics can go on the fritz). In that sense, buying one is a bit like buying a car: You have to factor in the upfront cost plus the cost of long-term maintenance.
Buying a hot tub is also a bit like buying a car in that you have almost endless options available. Some hot tubs fit two people; some fit 10. Some are bare-bones, with just a few water jets and simple seating; some have all the bells and whistles, like built-in speakers and underwater lighting. Some even cost as much as a new car, though a reliable, durable model can be had for much less. (Carmona said the baseline price for a hot tub he’s comfortable selling is about $6,500; Prisco’s baseline is about $4,000.)
You need to prep your home before installing a hot tub. This can be as simple as creating a level surface using sand and concrete pavers, but many installations require a professional contractor—a deck might need to be reinforced to handle the weight, for example—and many require the services of a licensed electrician to run a 220-volt power line.
For all of these reasons, we strongly recommend working with a local, specialized hot tub dealership, rather than ordering a hot tub from one of the major retailers that carry them (Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Costco among them). You’ll have more options and more salespeople who can walk you through them. You’ll get advice on the site prep you need, as well as manufacturer specifications that contractors can use to ensure a safe setup. And your hot tub will be installed and hooked up by the dealership. The big-box stores simply drop the hot tub at the curb, and then it’s up to you to figure out how to get it into your backyard or onto your deck.
You’ll likely have multiple dealers in your area—so how do you pick one? “The main thing is, look for a reputable dealer that has longevity, that has a service department—and that Doesn’t. Sub. Out. Their. Warranty. Work,” said Carmona. “And the reason I say that is because I’ve seen so many smaller stores disappear, so they leave the homeowner holding a warranty that nobody’s going to take care of,” he added. The national retailers, for their part, leave warranty issues up to the customer and manufacturer to resolve. The highly negative reviews of that process (click on the 1- and 2-star ratings), regarding the Home Depot’s top-rated hot tub, are representative.
Find dealerships that meet those qualifications, and then visit a few, or make some phone calls. Most dealerships carry just one or two manufacturers, so you’ll see more options if you shop around. And you’ll also get a sense of each dealership’s approach to sales and customer service.
And, Prisco said, try to resist the temptation to impulse-buy a hot tub you may be lucky enough to stumble upon while shopping. “A lot of people want a hot tub so bad, they’re just quote-unquote buying anything,” he said. Prisco warned specifically against buying a “straggler” you may find in a store that sells hot tubs but that doesn’t specialize in them: “Yeah, they’ll get a hot tub quick, but the longevity—they might not get what they want after five or six years. It might not be the best hot tub, the service might not be that strong.”
Choosing your hot tub: Size, features, brands, and costs
I asked Carmona and Prisco how they match a prospective customer with a hot tub that meets their needs. And they gave similar answers: They start by asking a series of questions because—intending no insult—“most people don’t have a clue” as to what they want and need when they come into the store, Carmona said. Thinking like a hot tub dealer—asking yourself the questions they’ll be asking you, before you begin shopping—will make you a smarter customer. And this can help you narrow down your choice more quickly.
How many people will be using the hot tub, and is it for grownup relaxation or family playtime?
“Do you want the spa to fit four people, or six, or more?” Prisco asks. “And do you want to fit six people comfortably, or close to each other? In my area [New York City and its surroundings], people tend to be more family-oriented, so they always get something that would hold six people. There are a lot of instances where, say, a couple gets a hot tub that’s only big enough for another couple, so a four-seater. But again, usually what I hear is ‘family,’ so two parents, two kids, and maybe one day the kids have a couple friends over. The family-oriented spas leave a little more room, ’cause the kids want to jump around a bit.” (The Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, the industry’s main trade group, has advice on keeping children safe in hot tubs.)
Like Prisco, Carmona sells hot tubs in all different sizes. But he specifically mentioned the popularity of two-seat models in Florida: They’re often the choice of retired couples who plan to use them therapeutically, to ease sciatica and joint pain. In Florida, at least, that therapeutic concern has a financial impact, Carmona added—if you get a doctor’s note saying you need a hot tub for medicinal reasons, you don’t pay sales tax.
Where will the hot tub be placed?
This is a question in two parts. As the future owner, you’ll want to know where you’ll have your hot tub installed, so the dealer can advise on the necessary electrical work and potential construction you’ll need to arrange. Both Carmona and Prisco said that most dealerships can recommend a few contractors that they have good relationships with. “But lots of people ‘have a guy,’” Prisco added, and that’s fine, as long as they are licensed and insured: “The manufacturers have all kinds of specs for the contractors to get whatever they need to do done.”
For the dealers, the question is basically about their access to your yard for installation. Ideally, they’ll be able to drive or forklift the hot tub right to where it will be placed. But if your yard is fenced in or otherwise inaccessible, they’ll have to use other methods, which adds a surcharge. “If I have to use a crane or a helicopter, that’s extra,” Carmona said matter-of-factly. Wait—a helicopter? “We’re in Miami, so you can imagine! There’s a lot of penthouses that a crane won’t reach, so we use helicopters.”
What optional features interest you (and what’s your budget)?
Most hot tub manufacturers offer several broad product lines: a basic, a step-up model, and a premium. Prices rise as you move up through the lines, and so do the number and types of optional features. But in every category, you’ll be able to choose between open seating (where everyone sits close together in a circle) and lounge or recliner seating, which lets you and your guests lean back and enjoy more room. As you move up in price, features like UV or ozone water treatment come into play. These reduce the amount of disinfectant chemicals you’ll need to add to the water, making the soaking experience gentler on the skin and easier on the nose and eyes. Saltwater systems (where constant low levels of chlorine are produced through electrolysis) are also gentler, but they’re uncommon. HotSpring, a manufacturer Prisco carries, offers them, as does Caldera. (Saltwater systems are more expensive to maintain than UV and ozone.)
“Usually everyone thinks ‘the more jets, the better,’ but it’s not really the case,” Prisco said. “Usually what makes one hot tub more expensive than another is the way they insulate them, the materials, their reliability. There are some fancier types of jets [with multiple pulse patterns and adjustable strength, for example], and that’s an elite feature. Remote controls is another one—you can set the hot tub from inside your house.”
From Bluetooth speakers to waterfalls—there are any number of additional options to consider, and you’ll have to balance your wants with your budget. Again, Carmona said his baseline price for a good, basic hot tub is about $6,500, and Prisco said his is $4,000. The high end is about $18,000 to $20,000, with “a lot in the middle,” Prisco said. The prep work you’ll need to do will also add to your outlay.
Brands you may run into
In our research, a small number of manufacturers showed up repeatedly at the well-established, well-reviewed dealerships we spoke with or whose sites we studied. On the logical assumption that dealers won’t carry brands that will cause them major headaches (inordinate warranty work, frequent customer dissatisfaction), they’re all worth considering and comparing, in order to find the right mix of price and features for your needs. (This is also the case with other brands; you’ll begin to get a sense of quality as you get to know and trust a few dealers, and that will help you evaluate hot tubs not listed here.)
Bullfrog (which Carmona carries at All Florida Pool & Spa Center) offers an enormous range of designs, jets, and other features, and it leans toward the higher end in terms of base options and upgrades. For example, you can choose among 18 interchangeable JetPak massage nozzle options to customize the spray type as you like.
Nordic has a relatively limited lineup. Bear in mind, that still means there are at least 23 models to choose from. Emphasizing simplicity, Nordic bills itself as “Affordable Luxury,” with models at the high end of the catalog comparable in price to some midrange tubs from other makers. All of Nordic’s models share the same warranty; at other manufacturers, warranties can vary in terms of length and coverage at different price tiers.
Viking offers a wide range of designs and a notably generous warranty on its premium hot tubs: lifetime for the tub itself, and six years of limited parts-and-labor on equipment. The features are otherwise pretty standard; Viking makes a case for its exclusive SoftTouch material, which “offers a slip resistant surface that is unrivaled.”
HotSpring (which, again, Prisco carries at Prisco Hot Tubs) stands out for its saltwater system (billed as FreshWater), which requires less balancing of disinfectant chemicals and produces lower overall chlorine levels.
Sundance (the other brand Carmona carries) offers a very wide range and touts its UV-C cleaning system, which also lowers the level of disinfectant chemicals that are required to keep your hot tub sanitary.
You can get a sense of a manufacturer’s general offering on its website. But to get a price quote, and sometimes just to download a catalog PDF, you often have to make a user account and provide your name and other information.
What about maintenance and warranties?
Relative to the upfront costs, upkeep for a hot tub is not terribly expensive. Carmona estimated it’s about $20 a month in electricity, plus the (low) cost of chemical treatments.
Of course, parts can break or wear out, and that can be costly if they’re not covered by a warranty. Warranties vary among the high-quality brands carried by dealerships, and in some cases they get better as you move from basic to mid-range to premium hot tubs. (Others have blanket warranties that cover all their products.) But in general, on a mid-range tub, you can expect a 7- to 10-year or lifetime warranty against leaks and structural failure, a bit less for surface finish, and five years for mechanicals, electronics, and plumbing. Compare that with warranties of lower-cost tubs carried by big-box stores: The Home Depot’s Pettus wrote that “a customer can typically expect a warranty of about 5 years for structural components and 1 year for mechanical/electrical/plumbing components.”
Warranty issues are typically handled by the dealership and its service department, which gets back to Carmona’s advice on how to choose where you buy your hot tub. “You want to deal with a reputable dealer, and typically a dealer that has a bit of longevity is something that you’re going to want to look for. And the reason I say that is because I’ve seen so many smaller stores disappear,” he said. If you need to use the warranty in that situation, you’re often on your own.
Get ready to wait—but do get ready
When I spoke with Carmona in late February 2021, he told me that the orders he was taking then wouldn’t be delivered until October or later, “and every spa dealer’s having the same scenario.” In early April, Prisco said much the same thing: “Some of our models are a year out from getting to you. Probably in another month or two, the entire industry will be into 2022. It’s already that busy.”
The reasons for the shortage are twofold, Prisco said. “It’s part a demand issue,” due to the enormous and ongoing spike in people wanting hot tubs, “but it’s also a supply issue: Around the world there are problems getting certain components from overseas.” Even though most hot tubs—the tubs themselves—sold in the US are also made in the US, components like pumps, heaters, and electronics are often imported. Pandemic-related production disruptions, like those that have affected computer-chip makers, have put these components in short supply.
The long wait for a hot tub can be painful, Prisco acknowledged. But if you decide to put down a deposit and order one, don’t let too much time pass before you start booking the electrician and any contractors you may need to prep your space. “Much as people are upset they have to wait a year for a hot tub, all backyard renovations are extremely busy, too—the contractors are booked out. Getting one might take a long time. And materials are taking a long time, too.”
What about inflatable hot tubs?
Inflatable hot tubs can be a tempting alternative, but we can’t recommend them. Many get overall positive reviews. But every one we looked at also had an alarmingly high number of negative reviews—averaging 10% of the total—with almost all of them centering on five complaints: faulty construction that creates leaks; pumps that rapidly fail; heaters that don’t work; control panels that register error codes and stop functioning; and abysmal customer service, including non-communication, un-honored warranties, and exorbitant return fees (shipping and restocking costs can reach several hundred dollars). And many reviews say that inflatable hot tubs are terribly undersized—you’ll find lots of comments that a supposed four-seater can comfortably seat only two. Given that even a cheap one costs $500 to $600, we think they’re not worth the risk of frustration.
Caveat emptor. Or just listen to one-star reviewer Chad Colby, whose succinct summary of his experience with the popular Intex 28481E Simple Spa can speak for all: “After setting up this Jacuzzi according to the instructions, we got the E-90 error code that water was not able to enter the pump to be heated. We watched countless you-tube videos to try to solve this, emptied the tub, re-assembled all of the components, re-filled the tub, and got the same message. Now our fun new adventure is figuring out how to get the darn thing back in the box so it can be returned. What was supposed to be a relaxing purchase has been a real pain.”
Frank Carmona, manager of sales, All Florida Pool & Spa Center, phone interview, February 23, 2021
Marco Prisco, owner, Prisco Hot Tubs, phone interview, April 12, 2021
Josef Pettus, online merchant for bath, The Home Depot, email interview, February 24, 2021
The average profit margin for hot tubs after all expenses are included (meaning the cost of the hot tub, freight, warranties, delivery to your home, etc.) is generally in the 33% – 38% range. This means that if your total price for a hot tub was $12,000, the total cost for the retailer was around $7,800.What do I need to consider when buying a hot tub? ›
- Create a Budget.
- Ask Yourself these Questions When Buying A Hot Tub.
- A Hot Tub Cover is Important.
- Consider an Energy-Efficient Hot Tub.
- You'll Need to Maintain the Water.
- Your Hot Tub will Need More than Chemicals to Maintain it.
- Is the Hot Tub a Good Fit for the Space You Have in Mind? ...
- What Kind of Cleaning and Maintenance is Required? ...
- Who Will Teach Me the Ins-and-Outs of Hot Tub Ownership? ...
- How Are the Jets Positioned? ...
- How Much Water Does the Hot Tub Hold? ...
- How Long Will it Last?
The average profit margin for hot tubs after all expenses are included (meaning the cost of the hot tub, freight, warranties, delivery to your home, etc.) is generally in the 33% – 38% range. This means that if your total price for a hot tub was $12,000, the total cost for the retailer was around $7,800.What is the monthly cost of owning a hot tub? ›
When you factor in the cost of the water, the electricity, the water treatment, and the other hot tub maintenance expenses, then you are looking at a cost of anywhere from $50 to $100 per month. However, the cost is worth it since you will be able to soothe and rejuvenate your body anytime that you want.Do hot tubs require a lot of maintenance? ›
Unlike some modern spas on today's market, Jacuzzi's are high quality and designed to be low maintenance. All hot tubs require regular maintenance to keep the water healthy and safe for bathers. Before getting started you will need to choose what type of chemicals to add based on your needs and skin sensitivity.Can hot tub prices be negotiated? ›
But these same dealers do occasionally offer promotions or sales, and there's always the possibility of negotiating optional features or specialty items. However, If you come across a spa that is completely negotiable and has thousands of dollars shaved off the price tag, this is a huge red flag.How long does a good hot tub last? ›
Essentially, a spa's life span is based on a combination of two factors - spa quality and spa care. A hot tub can last anywhere from 5-20 years or more. Cheaper hot tubs made with lower quality materials won't last long. If those hot tubs are not well maintained, they may not last more than 5 years.What are the disadvantages of a hot tub? ›
- The water can make you sick. The CDC warns hot tub users to avoid swallowing the water or even getting it in their mouths. ...
- The steam can make you sick, too.
- You might get a rash. ...
- The heat can leave you woozy.
Above-ground hot tubs are considered personal property. This means they are not considered add-ons to the value of the home. An in-ground hot tub or spa may add value to a home. However, the biggest value-add in a property is for a home that has both a pool and a hot tub.Are hot tubs a good investment? ›
Adds Value to a Home or Rental
There are more pros to owning a hot tub than just health benefits. Hot tubs also can add value to your home or rental property. Homebuyers typically do not require a hot tub when they move, but it is a bonus to buyers when they see a home with a well-kept hot tub.
That being said, that doesn't mean you'll break the bank if you use your hot tub often, whether it's a Bullfrog or a Sundance model. While Bullfrog hot tubs take the lead in energy efficiency, Sundance hot tubs are known for their comparatively easy maintenance. And easier maintenance means “cost-effective.”What is the most expensive part of a hot tub? ›
Sometimes you can buy a fully featured small hot tub that costs as much as a larger, more minimal one. Other aspects that create different prices are materials and components that are used in manufacturing. The most expensive part (of most) hot tubs is the shell (interior surface).Are more expensive hot tubs worth it? ›
You save money over the course of your hot tub's lifespan if you invest in a higher-quality tub. The more expensive tubs are also the ones with better hot tub insulation, meaning they're more energy-efficient. If your energy bills are lower every month, at some point, you'll have paid less for the higher-quality tub.How far should a hot tub be from the house? ›
To protect your home and outbuildings from potential flooding, keep it at least 5 feet from any structure. Also, locate the spa close to a doorway into the house or provide a small changing area close by for wintertime use. Plenty of space.Are acrylic hot tubs better? ›
Strength and Durability
This process gives acrylic a much longer lifespan than we typically get from fiberglass. From the outset, acrylic is a stronger material than fiberglass, and can withstand wear and tear for many years, while fiberglass has a tendency to scratch, fade, and even crack much more easily.