How to Buy a Hot Tub

Thinking about buying a hot tub? You've come to the right place! Whether you're buying from a nearby hot tub dealer or you've found a smokin' deal for a portable spa online, knowing how to choose a hot tub can save you from a lot of headaches later.

Today's post is more or less a Hot Tub Buying Guide. We've put together a checklist of items to consider before making your purchase. Don't get soaked by a bad deal on a sub-par spa! Let us walk you through the ins and outs of hot tub shopping, and we'll teach you how to buy a hot tub the right way.

What's Your Budget?

The prices for portable hot tubs are all over the place, with hard shell models costing anywhere from $2,000-$7,500 or more. Hot tubs on the lower end of the price scale tend to have smaller pumps, fewer jets and few (if any) bells and whistles. On the higher end of the scale, you'll find full-featured spas with over 100 jets, super-sized pumps and heater, 10 points of light, water features, sound system, you name it. If you're new to hot tubs and just want to "test the water," so to speak, there are also inflatable hot tubs for only a few hundred dollars.

Price will also be impacted by size. If there will only be one or two people using it 90% of the time, look for a smaller tub. Smaller hot tubs will also be cheaper to operate and easier to care for.

Don't forget about the extras involved with buying a hot tub. Some hot tub packages include a locking spa cover, while others may not. Steps or handrails for safe entry and exit are normally not included in the listing price. After you buy your new hot tub, you'll also have to think about ongoing maintenance supplies, including chemicals and cleaning supplies. Finally, there's the delivery and setup fees, and most spas will need a dedicated electrical circuit. Count on about $400 for an electrician to wire it up.

Where Will You Put It?

This is very good question. When full of water, hot tubs weigh thousands of pounds. The spa has to sit on something solid, such as a concrete foundation or slab. If you want to place it on a wood deck or balcony, you'll need to install additional supports for reinforcement. If you plan to put it indoors, consider the splash-out and humidity factor. If outdoors, consider some protection from the sun and rain. No matter where you plan to put it, measure the gates and/or doors to be sure you can get it there in the first place!

Any location should be fairly close to the home's breaker panel, where the power to operate the spa will come from. Remember that only very small spas can be plugged into a 115V outlet. You'll also need access to a water spigot and hose to add fill water to the spa.

Finally, consider safety factors. Whether installed indoors or outdoors, the spa should be enclosed by a sturdy fence or locked doors, in addition to a locking spa cover.

What Features Do You Want?

Just like a car, a hot tub has some standard options. These include a pump, heater, underwater light and a spa-side control panel. Bonus options are plentiful! Here's a quick list of some popular upgrades:

  • More pump horsepower, up to 5 hp
  • Two pumps - circulation and jet pump
  • High capacity heater - 5.5 kw or 11 kw
  • Air blowers - to add bubbles!
  • 18 points of light - inside, outside, etc.
  • Water features - neck rollover jets, laminar jets
  • Ozone or UV purification systems
  • Audio or video systems
  • Upgraded insulation, ideal for cold areas

Where's the Best Place To Buy a Hot Tub?

There are many places to buy a hot tub. You can go online, to a local spa retailer, a big box retailer, or you can find tempting deals at expos and fairs.

Online: Competitive prices for hot tubs online can save you a lot of money upfront. In many instances, you can easily save $2,000 over buying locally. On the flip side, it will be delivered to your driveway and you won't have assistance with setup and installation. Empty spas can weigh 500-900 lbs, and can be very unwieldy to move from the driveway into position. But, if you have some large furniture moving equipment and a few strong friends to help you, it can be done! If you buy a hot tub online from a reputable website (like, you can be confident that you'll always have technical support and troubleshooting assistance by phone or email, should you ever need it.

Spa Store: If you want as little risk as possible, and you don't mind spending a premium for peace of mind, visit your local spa store. If you can swing the cost, having a hot tub installed by professionals really is the best way to go. You also will have the advantage of easy warranty service or repairs if that becomes necessary. With most local stores, you won't have to sweat the details. Because you spent $8,000-$10,000+ for a new hot tub, you'll become something of a VIP client - for a while, anyway. These stores will sometimes set up vendor booths at expos and fairs in the area, where they'll often promote sales with special pricing.

Big Box Retailer: Prices at big box retailers are another way to save a few thousand dollars. A select few will have installation services available, in addition to regular driveway delivery. The models they sell tend to be major brands with Balboa components, but double-check to be sure you aren't buying a cheap no-name spa pack or knockoff brand. Unfortunately, there's not much service after the sale from a big box store. They don't have any spa experts you can call, although if there is a warranty issue, the local rep can usually be called in to assist. Warranties for hot tubs from big box retailers tend to be shorter than warranties for hot tubs purchased from a trusted spa store.

What Brand of Hot Tub Should You Buy?

No matter where you buy your new spa or hot tub, be sure to buy a trusted name brand spa and spa pack. Don't buy something that's cheaply made, imported, or looks like it was built in a garage. You want equipment and components that are tried and true, not imitation generics that aren't made to the same standards. The cheaper the quality, the more you'll spend on spa parts at repairs in the longterm. With well-known, reliable spa components, you'll also have a network of knowledgeable service centers and easy-to-find parts at your fingertips for future repairs.

Do some online searching of the spa make and model, as well as the spa pack (pump/filter/heater/controls). Make sure it's made by a respected brand that has been around for some time.

One last tip - don't buy a used spa!!! The useful life is probably near the end, anyway. Even a good deal won't seem so grand if you are constantly plagued with problems. Most used tubs have been neglected and abused by the time they are sold as "gently used."

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Leslie’s makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and Leslie’s assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Leslie’s assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.