There are a few different types of hot tubs out there, each with their own unique characteristics. Here’s a quick overview of each kind to give you an idea of which might be best for you:
Inflatable hot tubs
Inflatable hot tubs are a lot of people’s first step into the world of hot tub ownership, but we don’t recommend them here at WhatSpa? for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost is that the very best inflatable hot tubs don’t hold a candle to bog-standard permanent hot tubs in terms of performance.
A big reason for this is that inflatable hot tubs are “plug-and-play”, meaning they run on a standard three-pronged plug rather than a dedicated 32 amp power supply. This is certainly convenient, but means the jets are too weak to give the kind of hydrotherapy massage you get from a permanent hot tub.
This is compounded by the fact inflatable hot tubs’ components are much lower quality than their permanent counterparts. This keeps the price down, but seriously impacts performance.
And let’s face it: sitting on inflatable plastic is far less comfortable than luxuriating on moulded acrylic. Plus, because inflatable home spas are circular rather than square, you can fit fewer people in a model the same size as a permanent tub.
Last but not least, all but the most expensive inflatable hot tubs leak an incredible amount of heat. This not only means they take an age to heat up, but they also cost a bomb to run.
So, while an inflatable hot tub might seem like a great deal at first, it’s not going to give you the kind of hydrotherapy massage you might have experienced in a permanent home spa. Plus, the running costs are going to be so high that it might actually work out as more expensive than a permanent hot tub after a few years.
Permanent hot tubs
Permanent hot tubs, as the name suggests, are permanent fixtures in your garden.
They’re solid structures with a hard base and side panels, internal electronics, and a moulded acrylic seating area.
They come in a huge range of sizes and specifications. Some feature just two lounger seats for couples to luxuriate in together, while others can fit a whole family and have built-in bluetooth speakers (and even waterfalls).
Permanent hot tubs are what most people opt for, as they give the kind of massage their inflatable equivalents just can’t compete with. Plus, they fit a lot more people into the same space, are a lot cheaper to run, and last a lot longer, with a quality model lasting up to two decades.
In-ground hot tubs
In-ground hot tubs are bespoke home spas that are sunk into your garden and usually decorated with tile.
They look spectacular, and because they’re custom-made, they can be designed to your exact specifications. However, they’re also pricier than a standard permanent hot tub and might require substantial landscaping work to install.
If you’ve got the budget for it and have the perfect spot in your garden, an in-ground hot tub can be a great option. If you love the look of a half- or fully-submerged home spa, you can also sink a permanent hot tub, which might work out as a more practical and cost-effective option.
Hot tub sizes
While some hot tub manufacturers have their own dimensions, most hot tubs from major brands come in these standard size ranges:
Small hot tub (2-4 people)
5’4” – 7”
5’4” – 6’8”
2’4” – 2’9”
Medium hot tub (5-6 people)
6’6” – 7’9”
6’4” – 7’9”
2’7” – 3’2”
Large hot tubs (7+ people)
7’ – 9’
7’ – 9’2”
3” – 3’3”
When you’re eyeing up the perfect spot for a hot tub, keep in mind that it needs to be big enough to accommodate your hot tub of choice and ample maintenance access. As a rule of thumb, that needs to be 12” of clearance on three sides and at least 18” around the side where the control panel sits.
For more info on hot tub dimensions and how you should think about them, check out our guide.
Hot tub brands
Here at WhatSpa?, we’ve been reviewing hot tubs since 2005. Along the way, we’ve curated a shortlist of reputable hot tub manufacturers that – in our experience – you can’t go wrong with.
We’ve singled out these brands for their second-to-none quality control processes, customer support, and warranties.
Go for a model from a WhatSpa? approved manufacturer and you’re guaranteed to end up with a home spa that gives great performance over a long lifespan.
Hot tub prices
If you’ve already priced up some hot tubs online or at a showroom, you’ll have noticed that they can range from cheap inflatable hot tubs starting at around £300 all the way to bespoke built-in home spas that can reach prices as high as £25,000.
So, it can be confusing to say the least to know how much you should expect to pay for a hot tub.
For a point of reference, the average WhatSpa? reader normally opts for a permanent hot tub and spends between £4,000–9,000.
However, you need to look much further than the price tag to answer “how much is a hot tub?”.
When you’re weighing up which model represents the most value for money, you need to take running costs, reliability, and longevity into account.
You might cut down the upfront cost by going for a hot tub on the lower end of the market, but running costs are likely to be higher, and you shouldn’t expect to get too many years of use out of it.
Spend a bit more at the offset on a hot tub from a WhatSpa? recommended manufacturer and you could slash the overall cost. Quality hot tubs often cost considerably less to run, can last decades, and can even retain resale value.
Be sure to keep all this in mind when you’re weighing up which hot tub represents the best value for money.
The best hot tubs on the market
All hot tubs certainly aren’t created equal.
Looking for a quick and easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff? Pick up your free edition of WhatSpa? magazine to discover our pick of the best buys from the models currently on the market.
Of course, you should also keep your specific needs and preferences in mind. We always recommend heading to a WhatSpa? approved dealership and talking to the staff about what you’re looking for.
No matter what kind of hot tub you’re after, be sure to follow the tips in the rest of this hot tub buyers guide to make sure you end up with the right hot tub for you.
After you have pored over our jargon-busting Spa Masterclass magazine feature, start visiting showrooms armed with your new-found hot tub expertise. Talk to sales staff and get a feel for the models and features on offer in each different price bracket.
“If you want to reap the benefits of lower stress levels, improved sleep and better physical and mental health, a quality hot tub is definitely for you.”
How to buy the best hot tub
Which hot tub is right for you isn’t always an easy question to answer. It not only comes down to your preferences, but how many people you want to fit into your home spa at any one time, your budget, and the space you’ve got to play with.
Here’s absolutely everything you should consider when you’re thinking about which hot tub to buy:
How it feels
By far the most important step in picking out a hot tub is to head to a WhatSpa? approved showroom, which will have private test swim facilities you can use to wet test models.
If this is the first time you’re buying a hot tub, be sure to test a number of different kinds of models from the bottom end of the market to the top. That way you’ll end up with the home spa that suits you best rather than one that’s perfect on paper but just doesn’t feel right to you. You’ll also get clear on whether splashing the extra cash is worth it to you when you compare lower-end models with top-of-the-range ones.
Narrow down a shortlist of tubs to test, then change into your bathing suit and get the showroom staff to show you how to operate the first spa on your shortlist.
Then ask them to leave you to take it for a spin yourself so you can get a feel for whether it’s the right hot tub for you.
A few things to pay particular attention to during a wet test are:
Does it feel like there’s plenty of room for the amount of people you want to be able to enjoy your hot tub at once?
Are the seats comfortable and the right depth to suit every member of your family?
Do the jets give a good massage?
Is it easy to adjust the jets’ power and the type of massage it gives?
Are the lighting and multimedia options, like speakers and a TV, to your liking and easy to use?
Above all else, do you like the feel of the hot tub? It’s really a matter of preference, so be sure to go for the home spa that feels best to you, even if it’s not the best model on paper.
The seating capacity
It’s crucial to consider how many people will be using your home spa – and how often.
As a general rule of thumb, you should go for as small of a hot tub as you can. That way you’ll get more for your money.
Of course, if you want to fit the whole family in your new hot tub, you’re going to have to go for one of the bigger models on the market. You’ll just need the space for it – and to be able to stretch to the upper end of the market.
For a lot of people, the decision ends up being between a smaller hot tub with better features and a larger hot tub that isn’t quite as luxurious, but can fit all the people you’d like to be able to invite round to enjoy a soak.
If you find yourself in this position, we recommend you make the deciding factor how regularly you’ll be entertaining your nearest and dearest.
If you’re planning on enjoying one of the biggest benefits of having a hot tub and making a regular event of inviting friends and family round to soak in your spa, it might be well worth splashing out for the larger model.
However, if your loved ones are only going to be swinging by for a soak every once in a while, you might opt for the smaller spa and potentially take turns in the tub with your friends and family when they do pop round.
The power supply
Hot tubs tend to either run on a 13 or 32 amp power supply.
A 13 amp hot tub runs on a standard three-pronged plug socket. Almost every inflatable hot tub falls under this umbrella.
They’re popular with first-time home spa owners because you don’t need to install a dedicated power outlet to use one. They’re also usually a lot cheaper than their 32 amp equivalents, as they have fewer expensive electronics, meaning they cost less to manufacture.
Most permanent hot tubs are 32 amp. These require a dedicated 32 amp electrical supply, meaning you can’t plug them into a standard socket. They tend to be more expensive than 13 amp models but give far better performance.
We’ve written plenty about the differences between 13 amp and 32 amp hot tubs, but the long and short of it is: 32 amp models give far better hydrotherapy massages and cost less to run.
So, we strongly recommend you avoid 13 amp hot tubs and spend a bit extra on a 32 amp model instead.
The seating arrangement
The next decision you need to make is whether to go with an all-seater or lounger hot tub.
A lounger seat is just what it sounds like – a section of the hot tub where you can stretch out for a full-body massage.
There aren’t many better ways to take away the stresses of a long day than luxuriating in the lounger seat of a hot tub with the jets on full power.
The drawback is that a lounge seat takes the space of two or three upright seats, so it doesn’t fit as many people.
Whether an all-seater or lounger hot tub is right for you is another decision that comes down to how many people you want to be able to fit into your home spa.
If you’re mainly going to be using your hot tub for solo soaks, you might want to opt for a model with a lounger seat you can stretch out in – even if it means it doesn’t quite fit everyone at once when you do have people round.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a big household or you’re planning on making your home spa the centre of your social plans, you might live to regret going for a lounger hot tub.
Be sure to keep this in mind when you’re deciding on the perfect home spa for you.
The build quality
An important aspect most first-time hot tub buyers overlook is a home spa’s build quality.
Unscrupulous online-only manufacturers often build home spas that look the part on the outside but are seriously lacking in some crucial areas that sit below the surface.
This is a big reason you should only ever buy hot tubs in-person from quality hot tub retailers, as it’s the only way to investigate the build quality yourself.
So, ask a member of showroom staff to remove the service panel of a model you’ve got your eye on and ask them to show you:
The frame is the first place unscrupulous manufacturers will cut corners. Cheap imports you might find online often have frames made of untreated metalwork that corrodes after just a few years of use.
Only ever buy a hot tub with a frame made of galvanised or stainless steel.
The floor of the inside of a hot tub should be protected by a waterproof membrane or material that prevents damp from rising up the cabinet, so make sure this is in place too.
A hot tub’s insulation is the biggest factor in how much it costs to run.
The inside of the most efficient home spas is “fully-foamed” with high-quality foam, which will have been inserted everywhere apart from around the control panel, which requires a few inches of maintenance access.
Hot tubs that aren’t fully foamed will cost a lot more to run and might even struggle to retain heat.
Cheap imports often have softwood cabinets that look the part but quickly rot. So, make sure to go for a model with a cabinet made from treated timber.
A hot tub will be a lot more energy efficient if it has a fully-insulated, airtight cover.
Place your hand on a hot tub’s cover to quickly find out how effective it is. If it’s room temperature, that means it’s trapping in heat as efficiently as possible.
We also strongly recommend you go for a hot tub with a cover with lockable clips. These will ensure an airtight seal, stop the cover getting blown off in the wind, and prevent unsupervised little ones from being able to access your home spa.
The air jets
A hot tub’s air jets are one of the biggest factors in how good of a hydrotherapy massage it gives .
Hot tubs at the higher end of the price spectrum tend to have more jets that can be adjusted to your specific preferences, giving the perfect massage for you.
So, pay close attention to the number of jets and the amount of combinations you can use them in when you’re testing a hot tub.
The filtration system
The more effectively a hot tub filters water on its own, the less hands-on you’ll have to be with maintaining its water quality.
Go for a model with a top-of-the-range filtration system to save yourself from having to spend your time adding hot tub chemicals to keep it clean.
The bigger a hot tub’s filters and the more it has, the less you’ll have to intervene to keep the water quality up to snuff. So, as a minimum, look for hot tubs with a minimum of 100 sq ft of filter area per cartridge.
The built-in water treatment devices
Some hot tubs at the upper end of the market even come with devices that treat the water automatically.
Some come with ozone generators and UV systems that eliminate bacteria, while others come with built-in devices that steadily release small amounts of chlorine or bromine so you don’t have to top those chemicals up by hand.
The control panel
Some home spa’s control panels are intuitive and easy to access from every seat, while others are complicated and fiddly. And the more expensive a home spa you go for, the more options its control panel will have – which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how well it’s been designed.
So, be sure to get hands on with a model’s control panel to make sure it won’t end up annoying you whenever you go for a soak.
Most quality hot tubs have LED lighting laid in their acrylic seating, lending ambience to a soak – especially after the sun has set.
Keep an eye out for models with exterior lighting, as that certainly comes in handy when you’re hopping in and out of your spa in the dark.
The multimedia options
Pay attention to the multimedia options of the hot tubs you’ve got your eye on. At the top end of the market you’ll find models with built-in bluetooth speakers and even smart TVs. These certainly shouldn’t be dealmakers when you’re picking the right home spa for you, but they’re definitely nice to have.
Step 3 – Close the deal
How to get the best deal on a hot tub
You’ve taken your shortlist of hot tubs for a spin and picked the perfect model for you and your family.
Before you put down the cash, here’s everything you need to know to get the best possible deal on your home spa of choice.
Pay upfront (if you can)
Being able to pay for a hot tub in full upfront gives you plenty of leverage when it comes to negotiating a deal. Simply ask the dealership if they’d be willing to throw in a few extras or apply a small discount if you paid in full there and then.
Of course, this isn’t an option for everyone. Luckily, there’s still plenty you can do to drive down the price of a home spa if you’re getting it on hot tub finance.
Get multiple quotes
It will take a bit of time and effort on your part, but the best way to shave a serious amount off the asking price of a hot tub is to shop around and see which retailer is willing to give you the best deal.
Simply ask a dealership if they’re willing to offer you a lower price than you’ve been quoted elsewhere and they might well be willing to undercut their competitor or sweeten the deal with accessories, extra chemicals, an extended warranty, or improved repayment terms.
Spend a few hours getting quotes from a handful of retailers and you could save yourself hundreds of pounds. Just be sure to stick to WhatSpa? approved dealerships, as taking a chance on an untrustworthy online-only retailer isn’t worth it, no matter how good of a deal they offer.
Budget for the down payment
Dealerships usually ask for a deposit of 25 to 30 percent of the cost of a hot tub when you buy it and the rest a few days before it’s delivered and installed, so be sure to budget for this.
Get the right warranty
Make sure the warranty you get on your hot tub covers both parts and labour so you’re covered for every eventuality. It’s also worth checking whether warranty calls are free or come with a call-out fee.
Pay on a credit card
Always buy a hot tub on a credit card. That way your credit provider must take the same responsibility as the retailer if things go awry with a purchase over £100 under Section 75 of UK consumer law, meaning you won’t end up out of pocket in the worst case scenario.
What is the best month to buy a hot tub?
Another way to get a great deal on your hot tub of choice is to buy it at the right time.
Hot tubs are a seasonal product, with dealerships making the most of their sales from Easter through to the end of the school summer holidays.
Brands release their new models between Christmas and April ahead of this summer rush. It’s a great idea to head to the retailers during these months, as there’s a chance you’ll land a great deal on the models being replaced since dealerships will be keen to shift them to make room in their warehouse for the latest and greatest models.
Showrooms often have January and Black Friday sales, so it’s well worth holding out for those too.
Where can I buy a hot tub?
There are hundreds of hot tub retailers out there, but we strongly recommend you only ever buy from a dealership you can visit in-person to test out your shortlist of hot tubs.
An online-only hot tub showroom is easy to set up and often doesn’t stay in business more than a few years. And if the business you buy your hot tub from goes bust, your warranty and aftercare will go with it.
Plus, getting hands-on with a hot tub is the only way to absolutely make sure that you’re buying a quality home spa that’s going to give you years of enjoyment.
So, look out for hot tub retailers with physical locations that are WhatSpa? approved and have a BISHTA (The British and Irish and Hot Tubs Association) or SPATA (The Swimming Pool and Allied Trade Association) membership. If a dealership has gone to the trouble of meeting the stringent requirements to comply with these standards, it’s a good sign that they’re a quality company that will be around for the long run.
A quality hot tub isn’t cheap, so it’s important to do your homework before you splash the cash on a new home spa.
Follow the advice we’ve laid out in this guide to make sure you get the perfect hot tub to suit your preferences, your budget, and the space you have to play with.
And be sure to pick up your free copy of WhatSpa? magazine for help narrowing down a shortlist of best buys and quickly finding the right hot tub for you.
I am the Editor-in-Chief at WhatSpa? Media Group and my job is to keep you informed about the very latest hot tubs on the UK market... the best job in the world! When I'm not being deluged with press releases and hot tub brochures I enjoy keeping fit and participating in endurance events including triathlons and distance running.