As you start researching the market before you buy a hot tub, you’ll notice the wide range of price points that are available, ranging from cheap inflatable hot tubs starting at around £300, to the most luxurious acrylic models from leading hot tub brands with price tags that can go up to £25,000+.
Whatever your budget, read on to discover
exactly how hot tub pricing works and how to get the best value when you do buy
your shiny new hot tub.
tub pricing is not unique
If you go shopping for a new car, you’ll find on-the-road prices vary from under a few thousand pounds to a few million for the latest limited-edition supercars.
They all get you from A to B in relative comfort (albeit at different speeds!), but that’s where the similarities ends.
The ride quality in a Bugatti Veyron at £1.4million is difficult to compare to a Dacia Sandero at £6,995. In fact, it will cost more than three times the price of the Dacia just to change the oil in a Veyron!
Some cars will hold their value better than others due to the brand strength and exclusivity, and the cost of ownership over the lifetime of the product will vary enormously.
The same principles apply when you’re buying a home spa.
And as we’ll discuss, you’re likely to save far more in the long run if you limit your search to quality hot tubs from renowned spa manufacturers – just as you would if you opt for a car from a reliable car manufacturer with first-class after sales.
Why it often pays to buy a premium hot tub
When you buy a cheap hot tub, its resale value drops to zero as soon as it arrives in your garden, its lifespan will tend to be short, and it will typically be expensive to run.
As you go up the pricing ladder and start looking at hot tubs from reliable spa manufacturers, the build quality tends to improve, the lifespan will be longer, residual values will be higher, reliability will be better and running costs will be lower.
Hot tub price versus cost of ownership
How much does a hot tub cost? You need to look much further than the price tag to answer that.
That’s because the initial purchase price of the hot tub is only one element to consider.
When you’re trying to determine which hot tub provides the most value for your money, you should also consider what the running costs will be, how often you plan to use your hot tub, and how many years you would like your hot tub to last in good working order.
For example, if you buy a poorly manufactured hot tub for £2,500 but it breaks down after 12 months and spare parts aren’t readily available to fix it, the cost of ownership is £2,500 a year plus any costs related to having to pay to have it taken away and repaired.
On the other hand, if you pay £10,000 for a quality hot tub from a reputable manufacturer and it lasts 10 years, then you trade it in for £3,000 after 10 years, the cost of ownership is just £700 per year.
In these terms, it makes more long-term financial sense to go for the more expensive hot tub despite the higher initial price tag.
Google the brand name to see how long the manufacturer has been in business, where they are based, what type of infrastructure they have and how they go to market in the UK.
Avoid internet-only sales websites, as many have gone out of business in the last decade. This often results in trusting consumers losing some or all of their money and leaving existing clients high and dry with no after-sales support. They also often sell unbranded grey imports using the website brand to mask the fact that the hot tubs are made cheaply in factories in emerging economies with sometimes very poor quality control.
Always look for local brick-and-mortar showroom dealerships that sell WhatSpa? Approved branded products supported by solid manufacturer warranties. That way you can view a hot tub in-person and even try before you buy to ensure that you choose the perfect spa for your needs at the price point of your choosing.
Manufacturer quality assurance protocols
Established brands have invested heavily in factory technology and also place great emphasis on quality controls to assure their products are as reliable as possible. This drastically reduces the average running costs of their spas.
Every hot tub that comes off a quality manufacturer’s production line will be filled with water and fully tested to check that every component is working and that every plumbing joint is watertight.
The manufacturing process will be highly documented and all components will be traceable for every hot tub that comes off the production line. When they get delivered to a residential customer, the manufacturer and dealer can then trace spare parts for the entire lifespan of the spa, which can literally be decades for well-built models.
Unique patented features or technologies
The biggest hot tub brands invest heavily in research and development and then protect their brand assets and new technologies via trademarks and patents.
It’s a good indicator that a brand is strong and investing in R&D if it has trademarked its logos and brand names and has patented parts like unique jet pumps, energy-efficiency features or water treatment systems.
This will ensure you get a top-of-the-line spa that retains its value for years while being a pleasure to use the entire time you own it.
Size and the pumps, plumbing and water jet specifications
Surprisingly, the size of a hot tub doesn’t make a huge difference to its marginal cost of production. Electronics like circulation pumps, control panels, plumbing, jet systems, filtration systems and audio equipment adds the most to the cost of production and therefore its eventual selling price.
General build quality and materials used in manufacture
Hot tub build quality can vary enormously, so look out for the following signs of good build quality:
Shell construction with multiple layers for strength and long-term integrity of the shell surface and structure.
Sub-frame manufactured from treated timber or metals that are rust resistant for long-term strength and durability.
Cabinetry should be of either a weather-resistant synthetic material or a treated hardwood construction. Softwood should be avoided at all costs as it will quickly rot.
High quality insulation materials that will maximize heat retention and keep energy costs down.
Energy-efficiency and insulation properties
Energy costs are one of the biggest factors in your spa’s overall price.
An energy efficient hot tub will cost hundreds of pounds less to run every year than a cheap imported brand. So, make sure you’re not being penny wise and pound foolish when you buy a spa by making sure you opt for a make and model that comes with an insulated hot tub cover that maximizes heat retention.
A good cover should be tapered to allow rainwater to run away and should be at least 2 inches thick at the edges and 4 inches thick in the centre. Check that the hot tub’s cover has a ‘continuous heat seal’ down the centrefold so that the spa is fully insulated when the cover is closed.
Another hallmark of an energy efficient spa is that the area inside the cabinet is insulated with several layers of high-density foam. This will ensure heat loss is minimized between surfaces containing the hot water and the outside ambient temperature – especially in winter.
Quality spas are either full-foam or part-foam insulated.
The entire cabinet area of a full-foam hot tub is filled with foam – apart from the front section where the pumps and electronics sit.
The underside of the shell of a part-foam spa is covered in a layer of insulation, then the plumbing area is left free of insulation, with an additional thermal layer added to the inside of the cabinet panels to retain any hot air generated by the pumps and heater.
Poor quality grey imports tend to have neither and can be very expensive to run. Because these hot tubs have such a poor insulation value, their heaters have to work overtime to maintain the right temperature to make up for the escaping heat.
Which means that you’ll save money in the long run if you opt for a higher quality spa that’s been thoroughly insulated, as it will significantly reduce your hot tub running costs.
Performance of water treatment equipment
There are four main types of water treatment technologies that can be added in the equipment spec of the hot tub and may or may not be included in the price:
Ultraviolet (UV) systems
Ozone (Corona Discharge) systems
Salt water systems
Mineral systems (Frog or similar)
Each of these systems automatically breaks down pathogens in spa water, and each has their own merits and price ramifications. The important thing to consider is that your chosen hot tub has at least one of these systems built in to make safe maintenance of your hot tub water easier.
Aesthetic styling features including interior and exterior lighting
Top hot tub brands invest heavily in the interior moulds and exterior aesthetics of their models by developing stylish cabinetry with attractive exterior lighting.
Look out for the following style cues when you’re weighing up whether a spa represents value for money:
Unique jet systems.
Stylish water features.
Comfort and styling of the shell mould and seating.
Interior underwater and topside lighting solutions.
Custom control panels.
Branded smart phone apps that can control functionality remotely.
Stylish exterior cabinetry.
Exterior lights that illuminate the area around your hot tub at night.
Quality of the audio system if included as standard
Some hot tubs come equipped with third party marine-grade Bluetooth® stereo systems as standard.
Always check the brand, specification and sound quality of the stereo system as they can vary enormously in quality depending upon the subwoofer and speaker specification.
Warranty cover included in the price
Every hot tub that is manufactured by a bona fide manufacturer will come with a manufacturer warranty that is printed in plain English. So, always ask to see a copy of a warranty certificate before you commit to purchase.
The warranty cover might be parts-only or may include labour as well. If it does include labour, check whether a call-out fee will be incurred for each service call or whether this is also free of charge.
The more comprehensive the warranty cover, the more expensive this is for the manufacturer and the dealership, which means that the retail price will typically be commensurately higher.
A good warranty is worth its weight in gold, so skimp on warranty cover at your peril. If the warranty is baked into the hot tub cost, then you could make a big saving overall.
Also be sure consider the technical expertise, training, and aftercare support offered by the retailer, as they will normally be discharging the warranty cover offered by the manufacturer.
Always buy from a well-established and secure dealership, as it is the dealer that will typically be conducting your service work and discharging the terms of the warranty coverage.
Despite historically low Bank of England base rates, 0% finance deals could be costing a dealership anything up to 15% of the RRP in commission to the company that is providing the finance (depending on the length of the loan term).
This means that the RRP will need to include some of the cost so that the dealer doesn’t go out of business, so expect to pay a little bit more for interest-free finance.
Are any extras included in the price?
A dealership might include extras like delivery, installation, commissioning, steps, cover lifter, extra filters, water care products in the price.
If the dealer is including any or all of these items in the deal free of charge, they will have to build some of the cost into the retail price, or absorb it completely themselves. These extras could cost hundreds of pounds afterwards so factor this in when you’re weighing up hot tub prices.
What’s the retailer’s pre-delivery and aftercare support programme?
Cheap hot tubs sold remotely online typically include very little in the way of pre-delivery and aftercare support. WhatSpa? has seen examples of pre-delivery site surveys being replaced by a quick look on Google Maps, which can lead to access problems on delivery day.
Some online suppliers don’t even offer an installation service, offering what is called “kerbside delivery” only. This not leaves the customer with additional installation costs, but also the problem of moving a large inanimate object weighing up to half a tonne from the street to their back garden.
By contrast, professional hot tub dealerships will offer the following services as standard:
Pre-delivery site survey and advice documentation and checklist.
A fully-trained delivery team to ensure a safe and competent delivery.
A full commissioning service including product training after delivery.
Training on an ongoing basis for safe and easy water care.
A fully-trained service engineer to provide service and warranty support.
A full stock of aftermarket products including water care products, filters, accessories and ongoing parts supply.
How much has the business invested in its brand?
It’s cheap and easy to set up (and shut down) an e-commerce website to sell cheap hot tubs online with little commitment to aftercare support.
When dealerships have invested in premises, merchandising, large displays of hot tubs and aftercare products it shows a major commitment to business longevity and professionalism, which instills confidence at the point of purchase.
So, don’t forget to consider how bona fide the manufacturer is when you’re weighing up hot tub price factors, as it can certainly make a big difference in the long run.
How well-trained and professional are the sales and technical staff?
One of the biggest indicators of a professional hot tub dealership is its commitment to staff recruitment and training. Look out for WhatSpa? Approved logos, BISHTA (British and Irish Spa & Hot Tub Association) logos and other indicators of staff development, such as Investors in People.
All of these accreditations require hot tub dealerships to invest heavily in technical staff covering courses and competencies in the following areas:
Water hygiene and safety
Safe handling of hot tubs
Safe transportation of water care products in company vehicles
Technical certification for hot tub technicians
Irrespective of the price of the hot tub that you eventually buy, it will involve a significant investment of thousands of pounds of your hard-earned money. It will also mark the beginning of a long-term relationship with your chosen brand and dealership which could last for decades if you choose a good quality model backed up by professional aftercare and service support.
While hot tub prices are important, they’re far from the only factor. Some online suppliers compete on price alone, while others may charge more but provide significantly higher quality products and customer service. It may be worth paying a little bit more for your hot tub to have the peace of mind of knowing that your local dealer will be there for you for the next ten or twenty years.
Finding your ideal hot tub
So, be sure to buy your hot tub from a WhatSpa? approved dealership. They’ll help you pick the ideal hot tub for you and provide you with first-class aftercare to make sure you’re getting a great spa and service for the price.
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.