Hot Tub, Spa & Jacuzzi – What’s the Difference? Is One Better?

The terms hot tub, jacuzzi, and spa keep popping up when you do your Google hot tubs. So, what’s the difference between a hot tub and a jacuzzi? Aren’t they all the same?

Here’s what I know from owning 4 of them:

Yes, those terms all mean the same thing; a hot tub.  More often they refer to above-ground hot tubs, but they can be used for in-ground as well. Jacuzzi is simply a brand name of hot tub. The term spa can also refer to businesses that offer things like facials and massage in addition to hot mineral baths.

But there’s a lot more

What’re the differences between all three? Is one better than the other? Do they come with different features?

Keep on reading to find out the differences or similarities between hot tubs, spas, and jacuzzis.

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What is a hot tub?

A hot tub is a large tub or small pool full of water. It is used for hydrotherapy, relaxation, or pleasure.

While many people may think that a hot tub is really just a warm bathtub, that’s wrong. Contrasting a traditional bathtub, hot tubs are designed to be used by more than one person at the same time.

There are countless types and models of hot tubs, able to fit four or even more people at once.

Another contrast between hot tubs and bathtubs is that hot tubs are usually used outdoors, while bathtubs are used indoors. However, hot tubs can be installed and used indoors, similar to bathtubs. Hot tub water is also not changed with each use, unlike a bathtub.

Hot tubs, however, have a definite lifespan.

If you’re curious about hot tubs and how long they last, check out this recent article.

What really surprised me was how many years proper chemical maintenance can add to the life of your hot tub. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Hot tub water is kept sanitary by using different chemicals, similar to the sanitization of a swimming pool.

Here’s a little history lesson. The earliest known hot tubs were calderas (a large hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcanic eruption) that were filled with water and hot stones. After World War Two, Japan started the modern-day hot tub craze.

Hot tubs are usually heated by either the use of electricity or a natural gas heater. However, you can purchase solar hot water heaters or submersible wood fire hot tub heaters.

What is a Jacuzzi?

Just like how Kleenex, Chapstick, Ping Pong, Tupperware, Velcro, Q tips, and Powerpoint are actually a brand and not the name of all the tissues, the same can be said of Jacuzzi.

Jacuzzi is a private LLC, and a global manufacturer and distributor of baths, hot tubs, pools, and saunas.

The company was founded by seven Italian brothers (who also had six sisters) from Casarsa della Delizia in Northern Italy in 1915. The family immigrated to California in the twentieth century.

The brothers originally made wooden propellers under military contracts. The brothers also dabbled briefly with aircraft design and manufacture. They eventually moved into hydraulics and pumps in the middle of the twentieth century.

However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the modern jacuzzi was created by Roy Jacuzzi, a third generational family member of the family. He created a specially designed tub that incorporated both water filtration and heating.

The company is currently headquartered in Chino Hills, CA. Jacuzzi is simply the trade name that hot tubs are known by.

What is a spa?

Spa is a term that is often associated with a special water treatment known as balneotherapy.

But the word spa is thrown around so much now, that it still may be confusing. In fact, people as far back as in ancient Egypt went to the spa! Ancient Greeks and Romans had a love for communal hot baths, which were fed by natural hot springs.

Many of those ancient hot springs included areas where massages took place! Did you know that the word spa is an acronym for “sanus per aquam” which means “health through water”?

The whole point of a spa is to be pampered and relaxed. Throughout their history, spas have grown exponentially to include other facilities such as hydrotherapy pools, steam rooms, hot tubs, ice caves, salt steam rooms, and saunas.

While you can call hot tubs spas, and it does fit, spas are really large facilities that include hot tubs, in addition to other ways of relaxation and pampering.

Is a hot tub the same thing as a spa or jacuzzi?

Yes, although the term spa can also refer to a type of business that also offers not only hot water soaking but massage, facials, and other pampering treatments.

Spas that offer hot water soaking sometimes offer mineral baths from naturally heated water sources. Hot tubs, of course, can be in-ground, above-ground, or even inflatable. Those are filled with water from your hose, and then chemically treated to be sanitary.

Jacuzzi is simply the widely known brand name of the original hot tub creator/manufacturer.

Can spas, Jacuzzis, or hot tubs all be above ground or in-ground?

Hot tubs can be both in-ground and above ground. You can also place a hot tub indoors or outdoors, it is up to you.

However, there are a few things you should know before making that decision.

For outdoor hot tubs, it is common to place hot tubs on surfaces such as decks and patios made out of both concrete or brick. In fact, hot tubs can be placed on any uniform, solid, level surface.

But the hot tub must be on a level surface. A dip in the surface your hot tub is on can cause the hot tub to crack.

Additionally, do not place your hot tub on grass. In general, it should never be placed on the bare ground at all. When placing your hot tub on a surface such as a wooden deck, you should be mindful of the weight of the hot tub (especially when filled with water and occupants) and the amount of weight that the deck can hold.

Not sure if your deck can support the weight of a hot tub?

Luckily, I break it all down for you in a recent article. I give you the weights of all types and sizes of standard hot tubs, empty, with water and with people.

Then I map out exactly how to calculate the ability of your deck to support the weight, and I show you how to reinforce your deck if it needs it.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

As long as the surface is uniform, solid, level, and can support the weight of the hot tub (remember to include the hot tub filled with water and occupants in your calculations) then you are all set to go.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s see what some of the differences between in-ground and above ground hot tubs are.

First, in-ground hot tubs tend to use more energy in their pumps, in contrast to the portable above ground hot tubs. This means that since energy is used less efficiently, your heating cost goes up with an in-ground hot tub.

In-ground hot tubs are less comfortable, due to their plastic benches built into the side. Above-ground hot tubs have more ergonomic and comfortable seating.

While you can get both in-ground and above ground hot tubs, it’s best to talk to the seller and determine the best fit for you.

How much do hot tubs, Jacuzzis, or spas cost?

Entry-level hot tubs cost two thousand to six thousand dollars.

Mid-level ones cost four thousand to eight thousand dollars. Premium, luxury hot tubs with high-end features can cost up to thirty-five thousand dollars.

Your price can be between two thousand and thirty-five thousand dollars, depending on the hot tubs size, design, materials, and features. And of course, in-ground hot tubs will typically cost you more than portable ones that get delivered and installed at your house on a concrete pad or wooden deck.

But here’s a quick break-down:

Type of Hot Tub Pricing
Inflatable $300-$1,500
Entry Level $1,500-$4,000
Mid-Tier $4,000-$8,000
Premium/Luxury $8,000-$18,000 (can be more than $18,00, depending on features)

There are so many variations of hot tubs and so many different parts of the world where hot tubs are sold, so, of course, it’s impossible to give specific prices.

Above-ground hot tub types

A hot tub that can fit ten people costs an average of five thousand and twenty thousand dollars.

A six or seven-person hot tub costs an average of three thousand to fifteen thousand dollars. A four to five-person hot tub costs between two and twelve thousand dollars. Finally, a two to three-person hot tub costs two and seven thousand dollars.

A two to three-person hot tub is around six by six feet and is considered the smallest choice. Hot tubs that fit more than six people are large and are roughly eight by eight feet.

Professional hot tub installation costs one hundred and fifty to five hundred dollars. However, there are several factors aside from the installation that could cause your price to go up. This includes:

  • Site preparation
  • Electrical and plumbing installation
  • Delivery
  • Demolition and construction for in-ground
  • Remodeling for indoor unit

1. Wooden hot tubs

On average, wooden styles cost four thousand to ten thousand dollars. They’re easy to install but are heavy and require a strong foundation.

2. Acrylic hot tubs

The most common type of above-ground hot tub.

Acrylic products cost an average of three thousand to sixteen thousand dollars. These are heavier than wood and need a very supportive foundation. These are usually backed with fiberglass for extra strength.

3. Inflatable hot tubs

Inflatable hot tubs are a great budget option for those that don’t have thousands to spend.

And it’s also a great option if you don’t own your home and want to be able to take your hot tub with you (easily) when you move.

But there is a trade-off when buying inflatable hot tubs.

Luckily, I take the mystery out of it in a recent article. I look at all the pros and cons of inflatable hot tubs. I examine pricing, how long they last, and what you can expect from buying one.

Lastly, I show you the best ones available with the best reviews. Just click that link to read it on my site.

In-ground hot tub types

In-ground hot tubs usually cost between fifteen thousand and twenty thousand dollars. This is because the work requires extra installation services.

A hole in the ground or floor (indoor or outdoor) must be created. It then must fit a custom concrete tub into the hole or install an acrylic, vinyl or stainless-steel tub. These styles are also known as built-in.

Saltwater options

Saltwater hot tubs can add an average of two hundred to seven hundred dollars to the total cost of your spa.

This is because the process of getting a saltwater spa means installing a special saltwater generator into a hot tub, most of which can be accommodated by the system. The generator equipment runs two hundred to seven hundred dollars, though some can range up to fifteen hundred dollars.

There are several benefits to saltwater systems that make this a great feature to have.

To begin with, there is an increase in water softness and buoyancy. The chlorine created by the saltwater generator keeps the quality of the spa water consistently soft for longer periods.

Next, the water is also more gentle on the eyes and skin.

Regularly chlorinated water can harm sensitive eyes and skin. Since this chlorine is naturally generated in saltwater hot tubs, it is less likely to irritate your eyes and skin.

The most important benefit is that a saltwater hot tub requires less chemical maintenance.

After the generator is set up, the system will begin to sanitize the water. Just be sure you test the water once a week. You won’t need to purchase chemicals like bromine or chlorine, just the hot tub salt.

If you want to learn more about saltwater hot tubs, check out this recent article. Just click that link to read it on my site.

What are the top brands of hot tubs?


There are some top quality hot tub brands out there. Here are a few that have been talked about by everyone.

Jacuzzi

They are the original creators of the modern-day hot tub.

This is the brand that has been used to measure all other brands. These hot tubs work for years, mostly without issue. Jets provide full neck and back coverage. Maximizes the benefit of hydromassage with ergonomic seats and headrest.

One of the best hot tubs from Jacuzzi is the J-485 hot tub.

It features three therapy seats. These are used for total-body relief.  The RX Jet Therapy Seat is used for improved circulation through Swedish-style hydromassage.

The FX-12 Therapy Seat, which has spiral-action jets, is used for a stimulating deep tissue massage in the neck, back, and wrists. The MX2 Jet Therapy Seat allows for a full back massage.

Sundance Spas

Sundance Spas is another popular brand.

They are the largest builder of acrylic hot tubs in the world. Many of their models include a Wi-Fi option that allows you to control the tub through an app. They also feature patented jet technology and energy-efficient full foam insulation.

Sundance Spas have 26 different models, with a large variety of shapes and sizes.

Lastly, Sundance Spas also have the famous FLUIDIX jets, which are controllable through an app. You can fully customize the water pressure and air intake of these jets, creating a custom massage experience.

Cal Spas

Cal Spas is another great brand, first established in 1978.

They have a strong selection of various models and sizes of hot tubs. The majority of their hot tubs are geared towards families.

It offers hydromassage therapy features, exclusive jet technology, and a variety of seating options.

They provide shell or full-cabinet foam insulation. Side by side seating allows guests to easily move and enjoy close proximity to one another.

One of the best hot tubs by Cal Spas is the 980 series.

These include four hot tubs that can seat 5 to 6 or 6 to 7 people. These spas also feature an additional lounge deck, perfect for additional seating. They also have a built-in cooler and touchscreen control panel.

Hot Spring Spas and Hot Tubs

A fourth brand you should know about is Hot Spring Spas and Hot Tubs.

They are similar to Jacuzzi in both price and quality. But they are also known for their ergonomic comfort and design. Hot Springs Spas feature hot tubs with traditional, hydromassage and directional water jets. Insulated with multi-density closed-cell foam. They also offer saltwater systems.

Hot Spring Spas and Hot Tubs feature the Moto-Massage DX jet.

This jet has revolutionized hydrotherapy. The jet is moving and delivers two streams of warm water that sweep up and down the length of your back.

Hot Spring Spas and Hot Tubs also feature Tri-X filters.

These unique filters filter 100% of the water all the time, even when the jets are running. They last longer, allowing you to enjoy clean water with less maintenance involved.

The filters are dishwasher safe, allowing you to clean them with ease.

Of course, many hot tub filters are NOT dishwasher safe. Check to see if yours is in a recent article. I also cover the best ways to clean them, AND how often to clean them.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

ThermoSpas Hot Tubs

You can customize the design of your hot tub, including the model, seating capacity, colors, jets, and other accessories.

Their thermal insulation system will keep heat in. ThermoSpas offers what they call Total Control Therapy. This allows each person in the hot tub to individually control the jets in their seat. This can be done without disturbing anyone else.

ThermoSpas hot tubs also have something called The Throttle Control Valve.

This allows each person soaking in the hot tub to adjust the intensity of the entire seating area they are sitting in. They can adjust the jets to go from mild tingling to a strong massage.

This allows several diverse choices in regards to massage, allowing each person to find what is right for them. ThermoSpas also offers an air control valve that allows you to adjust how much air is let into the hot tub’s jets.

This feature allows the user to control the intensity of the massage.

Wondering how many years outdoor hot tubs last?

I break down all the most common types of hot tubs and their longevity in a recent article. I explore why some last longer than others and what you can do to maximize and extend the lifespan.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about the differences between hot tubs, spas, and Jacuzzis?

The terms spa, hot tub, and jacuzzi are thrown around a lot. They’re interchangeable and are mostly used to reference modern-day hot tubs.

Basically, hot tub, spa, and jacuzzi are all interchangeable terms used for the same thing. Spas can also refer to a business that offers other pampering-type services like facials, massage, etc.

But the term hot tub refers to a type of free-standing self-sufficient pool that uses heating and water filtration. Jacuzzi is simply a brand name and refers to the original creators of the modern-day hot tub.

So in this article, we explored some of the specifics of each of those terms.

Then we broke it down and looked at the best brands and models available. We also looked into options like saltwater and inflatable hot tubs.

Ultimately, we answered the question of what’s the difference between a hot tub and a jacuzzi?

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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