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Hot Tub Buying Guide: How to Choose The Best Hot Tub For You

Hot Tub Buying Guide: How to Choose The Best Hot Tub For You

There’s nothing quite like unwinding after a long day with a soak in a portable hot tub in the comfort of your own backyard. The warm water helps to relax tight muscles, relieve stress, and it can even improve sleep and cardiovascular health!

The hot tub market is extremely, well, hot right now. It has continued to grow year-over-year and it is estimated that 5.8 million households in the USA have one!

Interestingly enough, a report from Mordor Intelligence predicts that there will be even greater growth for the next five years. This spike in popularity is a result of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, where many people spent more time at home and less traveling. More homeowners are investing in a hot tub as a luxury item for relaxation at home!

Plus, buying a hot tub can be a great investment you can use all year long – even in the dead of winter!

But there are some things you need to know before buying to ensure that you get the perfect portable spa for your space.

In this hot tub buying guide, we will cover the most important factors that will help you make an informed decision when buying a hot tub:

1. Different Types of Hot Tubs
2. How To Choose A Perfect Portable Hot Tub
3. Important Features to Consider When Buying a Hot Tub
4. Pre-Installation Factors
5. Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Hot Tub
6. FAQs

Let’s dive in. 

What is a Hot Tub?

Many people get confused with the terms hot tub and spa. Are these two different products or just one?

You may even notice that the name of a hot tub or spa changes depending on the area you live in or the store you’re shopping at.

Both terms hot tub and spa can generally be used interchangeably. Jacuzzi and Whirlpool are specific brand names, but they may also be used to describe a hot tub spa. However, a simple hot tub may not include jets and pumps, whereas a hot tub spa typically does.

The hot tub was invented by Roy Jacuzzi (hence the brand name) in 1968 – however, the technology used to keep hot tubs hot dates back to the 1950s.

In the 1970s, hot tubs started to evolve to include spa-like features, including adjustable jets, comfortable built-in seats, and easily adjustable temperature controls. These days, hot tub spas are fairly common and include lots of neat features, such as Bluetooth speakers and even TVs!

Different Types of Hot Tubs

Modern hot tub spas are beautifully designed to fit into any décor and there are plenty of different designs and styles depending on your needs.

#1. Portable Hot Tub Spa

Portable Hot Tub SpaSource

Portable hot tubs and spas are stand-alone models which can be installed and removed as needed. It is not built-in to the ground and is self-contained. This means that it includes all of the parts and equipment needed to operate. It is important to note that many portable hot tubs do require a 220-volt connection, which may need to be specially installed. The standard voltage for outdoor electrical connections is usually 120 volts.

There are also portable hot tubs called “plug and play” spas. These only require a 110-volt electrical connection. This means that you can plug it in directly to an exterior outlet and use your hot tub right away.

Portable hot tubs are often made of acrylic, fiberglass, or plastics – and some are even made of inflatable latex or vinyl.


  • Portable hot tubs are available in a variety of sizes. These different sizes are measured by the physical dimensions as well as the number of people it can accommodate.
  • A 2–3 person portable hot tub is typically 5’ or 6’ in length.
  • A 4-person hot tub is usually 7’ and a 5-6 person hot tub can be up to 9’.
  • The largest tubs can fit between 8-10 people and are 11’ or larger in length.


  • One of the greatest benefits of choosing a portable hot tub is its ease of installation. You do not need to construct a specific area or lay a foundation for the hot tub spa.
  • Portable hot tub spas simply require a 120-volt electrical outlet.
  • If you move, you can bring your hot tub spa with you.
  • These are also far less expensive than custom-built designs.
  • Portable hot tubs are available in various sizes and designs to meet any budget.


  • Portable hot tub spas take longer to heat up than an in-ground spa.
  • Inflatable models can get punctured if not cared for properly.

#2. Custom/In Ground Hot Tub Spas

Custom/In Ground Hot Tub SpasSource

  • In-ground spas or custom-built hot tubs are permanent installations. These are often adjacent to a pool or part of a backyard landscape design. 
  • They are often built with granite, concrete, fiberglass, tile, or metal depending on the desired look and style.


  • In-ground hot tubs can be built to any desired size. Some are even as large as standard swimming pools! However, the larger the spa, the more energy it requires to heat up.
  • If you want to build an in-ground hot tub spa that accommodates between 2-4 people, you should expect the spa to be 5’-7’ equally long and wide.
  • A medium-sized hot tub which can fit up to 6 people should be at least 8’ by 8.’
  • Larger tubs made to fit groups of 10 people or more will be at least 9’ by 9.’


  • In-ground spas can increase your home’s value, as the return on investment for a custom spa can be up to 50% of the initial hot tub’s cost.
  • In-ground hot tub spas are quite durable and if taken care of properly, they can last for years and years.


  • Installing a custom in-ground hot tub spa is extremely expensive.
  • Part of your lawn will need to be dug up to install the spa and connect the plumbing to the main water pipe.
  • It is extremely difficult and costly to change the design or repair damaged parts.

Any type of hot tub spa can be a fabulous addition that compliments your backyard’s overall design. Both styles of the hot tubs are great for different reasons – however, a custom-built design is not something that everyone can afford. Luxury portable designs can be a great alternative that provides many of the same features at a lower price point.

So, let’s cover some of the most important aspects and features to consider when choosing the right hot tub for you and your family.

How To Choose A Perfect Portable Hot Tub?

To find the right size, shape, and overall design of a hot tub spa for your home, you will need to narrow down your options. Purchasing and installing a portable spa can be a big investment – so you want to be sure that you get the right type to fit your needs.

Here are some things to consider before buying a hot tub to determine which type is going to be the best fit:

How many people will be using it?

Having a large hot tub that can fit your whole family or a large group of friends sounds like a great idea. However, it requires a lot of energy to regulate the temperature of a large hot tub.

So, it is highly recommended that you purchase a hot tub that fits the maximum number of people who will be using it the most.

Hot Tub - 110 Volt Plug & Play - by American Select

  • Two to three-person portable spas are perfect for couples or small families. Some of these designs have full-body support so you can recline comfortably with jets to hit your back, legs, and shoulders.

    4-Four Person Hot Tub & Spa


  • If you have a larger family or like to entertain often, consider buying a hot tub that can fit between four to six people instead. These designs can either be rounded for optimal seating space, or they may have built-in seat options.

    Hydrotherapy Hot TubSource

  • Some hot tubs that can fit five or six people will have a mix of seating options, with one or two reclining seats for maximum relaxation.

    hydrotherapy hot tub - Large Rectangular Spa with Huge Seating Capacity


  • If you want the space to have lots of people in the hot tub spa at a time, then your best bet will be to buy a hot tub that fits either 7 to 8 people or a 9-10 person hot tub. Since these models are larger, there are varying seating arrangements, deeper pockets for feet, and reclining chairs on the side.

How often will you be using your hot tub?

  • All the time: If you plan on hopping in the hot tub multiple times a week, it is best to invest in a top-quality model that is well-insulated and energy-efficient. Hot tub spas require a lot of energy to heat up fully. For instance, even in 76° weather, it takes about 4 hours to fully heat up a tub. It will take even longer in colder temperatures.
  • Every Once in a While: If you will be using your hot tub spa only every once in a while, you may not need a large tub or a high voltage. It will take your hot tub longer to warm up, so you will just need to plan ahead.

What Are Your Therapy Needs?

  • Relaxation: Hot tub therapy can be as simply as relaxing and winding down. You should look for hot tubs with a spa-like design with lounging seats and adjustable spray jets.
  • Pain Relief: Some types of hot tubs are designed to be more therapeutic than just for lounging around. If you suffer from back pain, arthritis, stiff joints, or sore muscles, investing in a hot tub spa with strategically placed jets can be beneficial.

How Long Do You Plan To Keep Your Spa?

While there are some cheaper hot tub spa models available, remember that lower-quality spas will wear down faster. They also may require more repairs and cost more to heat up – which will end up costing you more in the long run.

  • Short-term Use: Portable hot tubs are a great choice for renters or people who plan to move and want to bring their spa to their next home. Portable spas can be moved as needed, so this is something to consider before opting for a permanent custom-built spa.
  • Permanent Fixture: If you intend to keep your hot tub as a key feature of your home for years to come, then it is highly recommended that you go with a top-rated model instead of a less expensive one.

Important Features To Look For When Buying A Hot Tub

There are several key features to look out for to find a top-quality hot tub that meets all of your needs.

#1. Construction and Material

The hot tub material from which the tub is made can impact how long it will last, how well it retains heat and the way that the spa looks. The most common materials used to build hot tubs are:

  • Acrylic: These types of shells are a hard plastic-type material that is fade-resistant, quite durable, and available in a wide range of colors.
  • Vinyl: This material is typically used to cover a cement frame for in-ground hot tubs. Vinyl does not retain heat as well as other materials and can fade from the sun or chemical use.
  • PVC: Inflatable portable hot tubs are often made of PVC, which is a synthetic plastic polymer that is somewhat flexible. This material is quite inexpensive, but it is not as durable as harder plastics.

#2. Exterior Cabinets

A hot tub cabinet feature can be added to change the appearance of the outside of the spa. These come in a variety of patterns, colors, and textures, such as natural wood, faux stone, or shiny finishing.

#3. Insulation

If you live in an area with colder temperatures, you might want a more well-insulated hot tub. This will help to retain heat longer when the air temperature is significantly lower than the water. Hot tub insulation is made with different types of foam – and multi-density of full-foam are considered to be the most effective kinds.

#4. Jet Style

If you want a more spa-like experience, look for hot tubs with massage jets or directional jets. These are designed to hit specific muscle points for ultimate relaxation. Some jets are designed to add stronger pressure streams, while others rotate for a gentler experience.

#5. Lighting

If you want to use your hot tub during the evenings, you may want a tub with built-in lighting. Some models have recessed lighting below the water’s surface that can be adjusted depending on the brightness or color you want.

#6. Remote Monitoring

Some newer portable hot tubs allow you to adjust the temperature remotely. This allows you to turn the heater off and on from a distance. You can also control the force of the hot tub jets, the lights, temperature, or be alerted of any maintenance issues.

#7. Cooling

If you want to enjoy your hot tub as a pool or need to cool the temperature for smaller children, consider purchasing one with a cooling system. This will chill the water down quickly by jetting in cold streams as needed.

#8. Entertainment Packages

One way to enhance your spa experience is by purchasing models with entertainment features. Some hot tubs allow you to play music through audio plug-ins or via Bluetooth. You can even watch TV while soaking in your hot tub, as some models have all-weather HD video monitor attachments.

#9. Warranty And Support

One benefit of buying a brand-new instead of used is that the hot tub warranty and support will be included. Different brands and stores offer warranty coverage with new spa purchases.

These are designed to cover any issues that are the fault of the manufacturer – not damage from misuse or general wear and tear. Some companies also offer customer support lines to answer any questions or schedule maintenance.

Pre-Installation Factors To Consider Before Buying A Hot Tub

While different sizes and types of hot tubs are designed to fit just about any space, there are some things to check on and consider before buying a hot tub.

#1. Codes And Permits

Some neighbourhoods, cities, or counties have legal requirements and code restrictions for hot tub spas. Additionally, HOAs may have set restrictions on the style or size of hot tubs allowed. Be sure to check with your area’s codes and see if you need to apply for a hot tub permit before installing a spa in your home.

#2. Safety Barriers

You may want to consider installing safety barriers, especially if young children will be around your hot tub. For instance, it may be a good idea to add fences or gates around the tub to keep children or animals out.

#3. Voltage

You may need specific electrical equipment installed depending on the style or voltage of the hot tub. Some smaller models will connect to a standard outlet, but others require special wiring that needs to be installed by an electrician.

#4. Underlayment

There needs to be a firm and solid foundation that will support your hot tub. The surface must be completely levelled – so putting it directly on the ground is not always the best option. For additional support, it is highly recommended that you only place a spa on a strong foundation, such as a concrete slab. Any raised surface (i.e. a deck) must be rated to hold at least 150 pounds per square foot.

Mistakes To Avoid When Buying A Hot Tub

Unfortunately, many people get so excited about owning a spa that they fall victim to common oversights. This can sadly ruin your experience and wind up costing you way more money than expected – so be sure to avoid these common mistakes.

#1. Focusing More On Price

  • While sticking to a budget is always important, know that you usually get what you pay for.
  • A cheaper hot tub model could save you money upfront – but all of the maintenance, repairs, and eventual replacement will add up quickly.
  • Buying top-rated hot tubs may be more expensive, but a higher quality spa will likely be a far better investment.

#2. Hot Tub Maintenance

To keep your portable hot tub running efficiently for years to come, you need to keep up with routine maintenance, which includes:

  • Daily: You need to keep the filter running to circulate and clean the water at least twice a day and change out the filter often.
  • Monthly: It is recommended that you check the water’s pH balance and chemical levels monthly.
  • Yearly: All the hot tub jets and pipes should be purged and cleaned completely at least once a year. The plumbing can get clogged from hair, dirt, biofilm, and water minerals, which need to be cleaned out completely to keep your portable spa running properly.

Keeping up with hot tub maintenance is actually easier than you may think. Thankfully, advances in mineral filtration systems and ozonators make it really easy to keep your hot tub’s water clean. If you are using the right equipment, then your spa should only require the occasional chemical additions as needed if the water becomes cloudy.

#3. Too Many Pumps And Jets

Although having lots of pumps and jets can create a spa-like experience in your hot tub, remember that they do require a lot of energy and maintenance. Take this into consideration and go with a model that provides you with enough jets for a comfortable, relaxing soak without going overboard.

Cons of too many jets:

  • Hot tubs are only able to draw a set amount of power, no matter how many pumps are installed.
  • This power consumption is divided through all of the jets. So, having more jets could result in a weaker flow rate overall.
  • Hot tubs with tons of jets will be more difficult to clean and could require more maintenance if they get blocked or broken.

#4. Not Thinking About What Features You Will Use

It can be tempting to add lots of neat features to your hot tub. But think about which features you will actually end up using the most.

High-tech features can be impressive, but they are also quite expensive and tricky to repair. Instead, go with the features that matter most to create the kind of experience you want in your portable hot tub.

#5. Not Buying From A Good Supplier

There are plenty of hot tub suppliers that promise to sell amazing spas at low prices. But, you need to purchase from a trustworthy supplier in case anything goes wrong. Be sure to ask them about return or replacement policies, installation and delivery costs, and hot tub warranty options.

#6. Not Winterizing Your Spa

Another huge mistake that many homeowners make is failing to prep their hot tub for cold winter weather. If you are not going to use your hot tub spa over the winter, then you will need to winterize it. This involves:

  • Completely draining your hot tub.
  • A thorough cleaning of the hot tub, jets, and pumps.
  • Flushing out the jets and pipes to keep them from freezing.
  • Installing a snugly fitting cover to protect the hot tub from snow, ice, or other debris.


  • Are hot tubs high maintenance?
    Yes, hot tubs do require a bit of care to keep them running properly. However, if you keep on the recommended schedule, you can avoid major hassles like deep hot tub cleaning or repairs which take up a lot of time – and money.
  • How often should you change the water in a hot tub?
    It is best to change out the water from your hot tub every 3 to 4 months if you use your spa frequently.
  • When is the best time to buy a hot tub spa?
    If you are looking for a good deal on a hot tub spa, you will want to shop after the summer season. Starting in early fall, retailers will often try to clear out their inventory to make space for newer models. This means that you can likely score a good deal with a clearance discount.
  • Where is the best place to buy a hot tub from?
    While you may be able to buy a hot tub at a far lower price second-hand, you should be wary of buying from anyone but certified retailers. Hot tub suppliers can guarantee that you are purchasing brand-new, top-quality spas without any damage. New models often come with warranties included to cover any defects as well.
  • How long do hot tubs last?
    If a hot tub is taken care of correctly with proper maintenance, it can last for up to 20 years!


Getting a hot tub to put in the backyard is a dream that many of us have – but you can easily make it a reality. There are plenty of hot tub models available to fit any size, décor style, and budget!

If you are interested in buying a portable hot tub for your home, contact our team at Family Leisure. We offer factory direct pricing from the top-rated brands with free shipping in the United States!

Reach out to our team today to receive a personal quote and learn more about our options.

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