23 Crucial Things to Know Before Buying Your First Hot Tub

Buying your first hot tub can be nervewracking. It’s also easy to get burned by an eager hot tub salesperson. So here are the 23 crucial things to know before buying your first hot tub.

1. What you need to know before buying a hot tub?

We’re getting into all of the main things you need to know in this article.

But the biggies break down into a few simple categories:

  • How do I get the best price on a hot tub?
  • Where will I put my hot tub?
  • How do I get power to my hot tub?
  • What are the ongoing costs of owning a hot tub?
  • How do I maintain my hot tub?

You should not walk into a hot tub showroom until you at least have a basic understanding of both the questions and the answers to those things.

Luckily, we’re diving into all of the details on each of those questions, as well as the natural follow-up questions here.

I’ve owned 4 hot tubs over the past 15 years and I’ve learned a lot along the way. That knowledge has mostly been from making mistakes.

So check out all of the questions and answers below to hopefully avoid making some of those same mistakes.

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2. What kind of hot tub should I get?

There are a few different types of hot tubs, such as:

  • Inflatable hot tubs
  • In-ground (permanent) hot tubs
  • Portable hot tubs (wood frame and acrylic shell)

But then within those categories, especially with so-called portable ones, there are several different price levels.

So the budget should be your first consideration, along with whether or not you plan to live in your current home for a while.

If you’re currently renting, then absolutely, no question, I would get an inflatable hot tub. But that’s also true if you tend to move a lot.

While they are called portable, portable hot tubs aren’t easy to move, and it’s not just a question of moving it to a new home. You also have to think about the foundation you set it on and how you’ll connect it electrically.

Lots of disposable income and living in your forever home? Simple. Get an in-ground hot tub.

Most of us, however, will likely get a portable hot tub. So just expect to see pricing tiers similar to this:

Type of Hot tub Starting Price Range Top of Price Range
Entry Level $2,000. $4,000.
Mid Level $5,000. $8.000.
High End $9,000. $12,000.
Luxury $13,000 $18,000

3. Is it OK to buy a used hot tub? 

Absolutely! In fact the 3rd of the 4 hot tubs I’ve owned, I bought used and fixed up.

I did save some money that way, but I also ran into some headaches I hadn’t anticipated. Before I had this website, I wrote an article detailing the refurbishment process of that hot tub.

So take a look at that article here on my original website Middle Class Dad.

The nutshell version, however, is (unless you’re buying a plug-in hot tub) you should expect to:

  • Pay $300-$500 just to move it (locally)
  • Check your nearest outdoor breaker panel and make sure you have 1 double slot open
  • If you don’t have any slots open, it could be thousands of dollars to pay an electrician
  • An electrician may still charge $500 to run power from the panel to the hot tub disconnect box
  • Have the seller show you the hot tub full of water, powered on and functioning
  • Be prepared to potentially have to replace the heater, pump, and blower (which I detail in the above-linked article)
  • Google the make and model of the hot tub to make sure you can still get parts (especially if it’s older)

Here’s a shot of my previous hot tub (wood siding temporarily off), which I bought for $150 and fixed up.

4. Do you need a concrete slab for a hot tub?

No! A concrete slab is probably the most ideal surface for a hot tub to sit on. But it’s not the only option. I’ll get into details on the other options in the next section.

A concrete slab, however, is ideal because:

  • It’s usually totally level
  • Concrete is not going to be damaged from the weight, water, weather, or chemicals in your water
  • It is permanent and won’t need to be replaced

For concrete, do make sure you wait at least 30 days after pouring the concrete before setting a hot tub on it.

I get into greater detail on concrete and alternative surfaces (including some inexpensive DIY options) in this recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

5. What does a hot tub need to sit on? 

Well, I talked a lot about concrete in the section above.

But of all the hot tubs I’ve owned, none have sat on concrete. The hot tub at my last house I just set on pavers as you see here.

You know. The ones at Home Depot that are cheap and usually gray and red. CLICK HERE to see them on the Home Depot website.

You can also buy them online and then pick them up at your convenience at the location nearest you.

But hot tubs also go great on wooden decks.

That’s how 3 of the 4 hot tubs I’ve owned have been. You just have to make sure your deck can take the weight. If it’s less than 2 feet off the ground, it’s probably fine.

But whether it is or not, check out this recent article where I walk you through how to check your deck. And I show you exactly how to reinforce yours if needed.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

6. Are salt water hot tubs better?

Better is subjective. Most of the hot tubs in the world are not salt water.

I’ve owned 4 and never once had a salt water hot tub. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even been in one. That being said, they are growing in popularity. Why?

  • They tend to be gentler on the skin
  • You don’t use as much chlorine or bromine in the water
  • They can go longer between water changes

It’s also worth pointing out that the water in a salt water hot tub doesn’t taste like the ocean.

You can buy a salt water hot tub (which tends to be more expensive). But you can also retrofit any hot tub to be a salt water tub fairly easily with a kit you can get on Amazon.

Check out this recent article to see that kit and to learn more about the pros and cons of salt water hot tubs.

7. What is the best hot tub for the money?

This one is pretty subjective.

The best-known brands include Jacuzzi & Sundance (technically the same company), Master Spas, HotSpring Spas, just to name a few. If money is no object, I’d probably get one from HotSpring Spas.

They are super quiet and you have their CoolZone option which allows you to not just lower the temp but actually have it be cool in the summer (or any temp you like). They also have an A+ rating with the BBB.

However, if you’re on a budget and can’t afford to spend $15,000 on a hot tub, I would consider one from Essential Hot Tubs.

Essential Hot Tubs are available from Amazon with free delivery. CLICK HERE to see my favorite hot tub they have on Amazon. It is currently under $2,500 and seats 7 people!

It’s the kind you just plug into a regular outlet. But you also have the option to hardwire it to a 220/240 volt circuit which helps on your electric bill.

It’s also a great way to get something nicer than an inflatable hot tub without spending a small fortune!

8. What is the best time of year to buy a hot tub?

This one is a no-brainer.

Just like with cars, the last few months of the year are the best time to buy a hot tub from a showroom. Why?

  • It’s coming into their slow season (winter)
  • They are also wanting to make room for next year’s models
  • The salesperson will be more apt to negotiate or throw-in extras

How much can you save?  Well, that depends on a few factors. Luckily, I detail all of that in a recent article that walks you through the process.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

9. What is a good price for a hot tub?

The average customer pays about $7,000 for a hot tub that fits 4-8 people.

But some, like the one on Amazon I mention in greater detail below, is well under $3,000 and can just be plugged into a wall outlet.

But here is the general range of prices depending on which level of quality and features you want.

Type of Hot tub Starting Price Range Top of Price Range
Entry Level $2,000. $4,000.
Mid Level $5,000. $8.000.
High End $9,000. $12,000.
Luxury $13,000 $18,000

10. What is the most reliable hot tub brand?

The best-known brands include Jacuzzi, Sundance, Master Spas, HotSpring Spas, just to name a few.

My current hot tub, which was here when we bought the house, is by Master Spas.

I’m not 100% sure of how old it is. But I’d bet it’s 8-10 years old. It’s still in fantastic shape! The only repair I’ve had to do is replacing some worn rubber gaskets in the PVC pipes on either side of the heater (a $4.00 part).

The head pillows probably need to be replaced too. But it works great and looks great too. But I think you’d be just fine going with any of the brands I listed above.

11. What is the difference between a hot tub and a Jacuzzi? 

Nothing. Jacuzzi is simply a brand of hot tub. Some would also say they are the originators of the portable hot tub.

But unlike a lot of hot tub companies, they also make bathtubs and other jetted tubs.

But Jacuzzi, the last name of the brothers that started the company, is simply a well-known brand of hot tub.

12. Can you negotiate hot tub prices?  

The short answer is yes. Hot tub dealers are a lot like car dealers (including some that are occasionally a little slimy).

Hot tubs can be marked up as much as 100%.

So just know that walking into a showroom. You have a LOT of options when it comes to hot tubs, and if 1 dealer won’t budge, another one probably will. Or at least they should throw in a few freebies.

Remember too, you don’t just need the hot tub. You also need:

  • Delivery (is it free? Do they set it curbside or exactly where you want it?)
  • Stairs to the hot tub
  • A good-quality insulated cover
  • Chemicals
  • A hot tub disconnect box and electrical work (do they/can they provide that?)

If they won’t budge on price, at least get them to provide most of the above for free or at a substantially reduced price.

Check out all the factors that make hot tubs so expensive, AND what you can do to reduce some of those factors in my recent article.

After all. In most cases, you’re going to be spending several thousands of dollars. So it pays to save a little bit where you can!

13. Are Costco hot tubs any good?  


Costco sells a few different and lesser-known brands of hot tubs. Those primary brand names i9nclude:

  • Aquaterra
  • Divine Hot Tubs
  • Evolution Spas
  • OC Hot Tubs

The good news is that most rate between 3 and 4.5 stars. The worst-rated one currently on their website is one from OC Hot Tubs at 2 stars. However, that company does have others on the Costco site as high as 4-stars.

But overall, the other brands on the Costco site have better reviews and a lot more of them.

It’s worth noting, however, that none of the brands they sell have a page listed with the Better Business Bureau. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad or low-quality. But in this current day and age, most businesses do have a BBB rating.

So it’s curious. It’s also worth noting that on the listings I looked at, the delivery time was 6 to 8 weeks.

14. Are hot tubs expensive to maintain? 

Not really is the short answer.

Here is a breakdown of the typical expenses in a year:

  • Sanitizer (chlorine or bromine) – You’ll add maybe half a cup, 2-3 times a week depending on how often you use it
  • Shock (chlorine or non-chlorine) – Added weekly, about a quarter cup
  • Chemicals to adjust pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness – As needed weekly
  • Filters – rinsed monthly, chemical soak quarterly, replaced every 12-24 months
  • Water costs – You’ll change your water (anywhere from 300-600 gallons) every 3-4 months in most cases.

So expect to spend a few hundred dollars a year in most cases, not counting electricity. I’ll get into electricity costs below.

15. How much does your electric bill go up with a hot tub? 

Generally speaking, most hot tub owners see their electric bill go up $20-$30 per month.

Occasionally it can be as high as $50/month more. Why such a large range? That depends on a few factors such as:

  • The quality of the hot tub
  • How well yours is insulated (the cheaper the hot tub the cheaper the insulation)
  • The size of the heater (smaller=less energy efficient)
  • If yours is a 110v that simply plugs into a wall outlet (those are more expensive to operate as they are less energy efficient)
  • If you have a good-quality insulated cover and keep it closed when not in use

16. Are 110 hot tubs any good? 

Yes is the short answer. In fact, one of my favorite brands of hot tub that you can buy on Amazon make 110v hot tubs that can just plug into a wall outlet.

They have fantastic reviews and most of their models can also later be upgraded to 220v (more energy efficient) later if you wish.

Essential Hot Tubs is the brand I like. CLICK HERE to see my favorite 110v hot tub they have on Amazon. It comes with free shipping and is currently just over $3,000 and seats 6 people!

It’s a great way to get something nicer than an inflatable hot tub without spending a small fortune!

17. Can you plug a hot tub into a regular outlet? 

“Regular outlet” may not be the same at your house as it is at mine. But probably yes; you can typically just plug your 110v/120v hot tub into a standard outlet.

Here are the things to check though:

  • You need an outlet that goes to a 15 amp breaker (or higher) – most outlets are 15 amp
  • Don’t have anything else permanently plugged into that same outlet
  • A 20 amp breaker is better, especially if you need to use the 2nd receptacle for anything else
  • The outlet should be a GFCI breaker (meaning it has an internal breaker that trips if it gets wet or has a disruption to the circuit)
  • You want it close to the hot tub, but not so close that it will get splashed
  • Do not use an extension cord (most come with a 15-foot cord)

18. How often should you change the water in your hot tub?  

Most people tell you every 3 months.

However, it also depends on:

  • How often you use the hot tub
  • The number of people that typically soak at one time
  • If you are diligent about keeping the water sanitized
  • How often you clean and change the filters

If you’re diligent about chemicals and filter maintenance, and it’s just you and 1 or 2 other people using it a couple of times a week, you probably can go 4 or more months in-between water changes.

But you can also go off of how clear the water is, how it smells, and if you find yourself having to add sanitizer and shock more frequently.

I get into exactly how to change the water, and how to gauge when it’s time for you to change your water in this recent article. While you can just hook up a garden hose to drain yours (which takes hours), in that article, I show you how I drain mine in just 15 minutes!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

19. How long does it take to heat up a hot tub after filling it up?

Another great question.

After all, aside from when you first fill a new hot tub, you’ll also be refilling it every time you change the water. Most hot tubs will take anywhere from 3 to 8 hours to reach their top temperature (104° is the max temp).

Factors involved in how long it takes to heat include:

  • The temperature of your garden hose water (can be anywhere from 55 to75°)
  • If you keep the lid closed and jets on while heating (you should do both)

20. Does a hot tub add value to a house?

In short, unless you added an in-ground hot tub, AND your prospective home buyer likes hot tubs, it’s not really adding a lot to your home’s value.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve owned 4 hot tubs (including the one I have now).

When I sold the previous 3 houses, 2 of those buyers got rid of the hot tub I left behind. In fact, one of those 2 had me remove it as part of our contract.

The last house we sold, however, the buyer was adamant that we not only leave the hot tub but that I made sure it was in perfect working order (it was).

All of those were so-called portable hot tubs and not in-ground.

But they not only didn’t really add much to the property value, but they were also a minor detraction in 2 of the 3 cases. So don’t buy a portable hot tub thinking it will add value like a kitchen remodel or in-ground pool.

Buy it because you plan to use and enjoy it.

21. Does turning down hot tub save money?

In short, keeping it permanently set below 100° will likely save you (literally) a few dollars a month on your electric bill.

Remember, the average hot tub owner pays between $20-$30 per month on their electric bill. So we’re not talking about a lot of money.

I actually keep mine set year-round to 98°. I like being able to soak longer (at 104° you shouldn’t soak longer than 15 minutes at a time). But with a toddler who loves hot tubs, I also don’t want her soaking in super-hot water either.

Plus, we live in Texas where it’s almost always hot. So lower is better for us.

What you DON’T want to do is be constantly lowering and raising the temperature after each use. Just like with your home’s AC system, it’s more energy efficient to maintain a constant temp than it is to lower it every time you get out and then crank it back up every time you want to get back in.

That will cost you more, and you’ll have to wait for it to heat up before getting in.

22. Are you supposed to leave your hot tub on?

Yes is the short answer.

As I mentioned above, turning it down (or off) every time you get out and then up (or on) every time you’re ready to soak is incredibly energy-inefficient. It will cost you a lot more, AND you’ll have to wait for the hot tub to heat up.

Hot tubs heat around 3-6° per hour. So if you let the water temperature drop to 75°, it could take upwards of 5 hours to get back up to 104°. By then, you’ll have long forgotten about it and moved on to something else.

However, if you’re going on vacation for more than 3 weeks or if you leave your home for the winter, I would power it down and drain it. If it will be cold while you’re away, make sure and follow these steps in my recent article on how to winterize it.

That way your hot tub shell and pipes will be protected from freezing (and cracking). Just click that link to read it on my site.

23. How long do hot tubs last?

The million-dollar question!

On average, most portable hot tubs last around 15 years. But yours could last a lot longer if you maintain the water chemistry and filters well. Even longer if you are handy enough to change out pumps and heaters.

I’ve swapped out all the equipment on a hot tub before, knowing nothing about it. It’s really not that hard. If you do that, yours could last a really long time.

On the other hand, with poor maintenance, it could end up beyond repair in as few as 7 years. And even shorter lifespans for inflatable hot tubs.

Check out all the factors, including proven steps you can take to maximize the lifespan of yours, in my recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about the things you need to know before buying your first hot tub?

In this article, we took an in-depth look into hot tubs and all the things you need to be aware of before you buy your first one.

Hot tubs are a major expense, often costing several thousands of dollars.

Then there is the surface you’re putting it on, electrical costs to hook it up, and ongoing maintenance expenses. You don’t want to make a decision this large without first looking at all of the consequences and costs.

I’ve owned 4 hot tubs in my life, and with each one, I learned new lessons. But they also bring me and my family and friends a lot of enjoyment too.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, hot tub lover, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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