How much does a hot tub spa cost?
Surprising to many is that size, seating capacity and amount of jets have very little to do with the price of a hot tub or spa.
The major drivers of spa and hot tub pricing are
- Energy efficiency
- Jet type and massage
Hot Tub Jets
One great jet can provide more therapy than 20 poor quality small jets. As a matter of fact, poor quality spa manufacturers use the number of jets as a selling point to non-educated buyers. Small jets tend to create a “pins and needles” feel while bigger, high flow jets give a wider and deeper massage. In order to power these larger jets, you need very large and well-planned plumbing as well as high powered jet pumps. To attempt to simplify all of these considerations its easiest to group
Hot Tub Categories
Hot tubs fit into several categories:
‘Entry Level’ ($1,000 – $5,000)
These tubs are generally priced between $1000 and $5000. On average the life span of these tubs is 3-5 years. If operated outdoors will run $100 to $150 per month to operate, more in the winter. To keep the costs down they contain less if any insulation which makes them the highest operating cost of all of the categories. One exception to this is the Freeflow and Fantasy spa lines. As with most tubs in this group they use a rotomolded interior and exterior.
Rotomolding is the same process used to make kayaks and is not as aesthetically appealing but makes a strong watertight material. This is a very durable and cost-effective way to build the hot tub shell, which allows decent equipment to be used while keeping the costs and therefore the prices down.
Regardless of the amount of jets, the pumps are small and the tubs have adequate jet action at best. The pump performs double duty circulating the tub as well as providing hydrotherapy. The heater is usually small or non-existent on models with heat recovery systems. A heat recovery or friction type heater plugs the air vents in the motor and uses the fact that the pumps are overheating to heat the water. This is VERY rough on pumps that are designed to be vented and cooled. The advantage to this small heater and the small pump is the ability to operate on 110 volts.
Any hot tub which is 110 volts should be on a dedicated circuit. This means that a wire should be run directly from a breaker in the breaker box to a receptacle that is specific to the tub. Nothing else can run on this circuit with them. They are often delivered to your driveway or picked up by the homeowner.
At Sandollar Spa & Pool, we offer Freeflow spas which are considered the top brand in this group.
Good ($5,000 – $10,000)
Consists mostly of tubs between $5000 and $10,000 although many manufacturers such as Arctic Spas make tubs in this category that exceed $10,000 or even $20,000., At that point, you are way into the “better” hot tub price range, however. These tubs Have more insulation than even being fully insulated. You will also find that you have many better sanitizer options such as salt, UV ozone, smart color, and mineral systems. Spas can also have cover lifters such as the cover cradle in this group which can help to remove the tubs cover for you.
The life span of these tubs is generally 5 – 10 years although I know of Hot Spot Spas that are 20+ years old. They are using larger pumps, usually one of which has 2 speeds of which one speed is low. The tub uses this low speed for its filtering, water treatment, and heating needs. The tubs in this category have better jets and more power for therapy.
Better ($10,000 – $20,000)
These tubs are generally priced in the $10,000 to $20,000. When moving to this level the tubs have much better warranties, Fully insulated construction, Small efficient dedicated circular pumps, more advanced jetting, higher technology, and more powerful jet pumps. These tubs are generally 220 volts with the exception of smaller models. Most 220 volt models come with the required breaker boxes and GFCI breakers.
Tubs in this “better” category are designed to last 15 years or more and are very well built. Normally a hot tub in this price/quality range will come with a 5-year warranty and can not be purchased on the internet and are only carried through trained dealers. Part of the reason for this is the warranty.
The warranty on a tub is essentially useless without a dealer or service company to honor it. Most hot tub dealers will not service tubs or brands they do not sell and parts for these off-brand tubs can be very difficult to come by even while under warranty. The operating costs of these spas are very low due to their fully insulated construction and dedicated circulating and heating system. The jets in these tubs are very advanced and provide an amazing massage.
Best ($12,000 – $22,000)
These hot tubs have the most advanced jets, very powerful jet pumps, state of the art electronics, the finest water treatment systems, and the most amazing massage available. Highlife series Hotspring spas as well as Caldera Utopia series tubs both come with solid floor pans, polymeric structures that are sprayed with structural foam and composite exteriors. This means no wood to rot or wood related insect problems.
The secondary advantage to the solid floor pan is that it makes it much more difficult for mice and other pests to penetrate into your tub. The lighting systems in these tubs are LED and are spread out throughout the tub to help not to blind you with single big bright lights.
The jets in high-end tubs move large amounts of water and are powered by larger state of the art jet pumps, creating a jet experience you can not imagine! One example is the Motomassage DX which gives a hydromassage that no other jet can! It is only available on Hotspring Highlife series tubs.
These tubs in this group range in price generally between $12,000 and $22,000 and although they have the highest upfront cost are the least expensive to own in the long term. The life span of these tubs is 20 years or more. Warranties are generally 5 years, with longer warranties on the shell and structure.
Insulation is sprayed in and is in every space possible ( Think Yeti© cooler!) making these tubs the most energy-efficient on the market. Water care systems such as corona discharge ozone systems, salt chlorine generation, and no bypass filtration are normally standard on tubs of this quality/price. These water care options combined with the larger filter capacity make the water care a part of owning a hot tub very easy.
Cost Of Ownership
All hot tubs cost about the same to own for a 5 year period.
The lower quality/price tubs have the highest operating costs, service needs, and the highest cost of ownership.
The higher quality/priced tubs use very little electricity, fewer chemicals, and are usually under warranty for the entirety of the 5 year period.
After the 5 years is over a lower quality/price tub has lived its life and more often than not it is in a landfill somewhere. This is due to lower quality manufacturing and parts that are not made to be replaceable and/or are impossible to locate while the higher quality/priced tubs still have 10-15 years of good use still left in them. It is extremely important to choose a manufacturer and dealer that will continue to make parts and service your hot tub.
Pros & Con Of Each Hot Tub Category
Pros: Lower Upfront Cost, Easy to move, go anywhere.
Cons: Most expensive to operate, lowest lifespan, questionable parts availability, shorter warranties, 3-5 year lifespan.
Pros: Insulated, a warranty, better jets, ability to use integrated cover lifters, lower up front cost.
Cons: No circulator pump, limited warranty than better or best, higher operating cost than better or best tubs, 5 -10 year lifespan.
Pros: Fully insulated, good warranties, great covers, integrated cover lifters, very low operating cost, 15 – 20 year lifespan, better filtration and great jets.
Cons: No Moto Massage, bypass filtration, less technology, higher upfront cost.
Pros: Most powerful massage available, best warranties, lowest operating cost, 20+ year lifespan, no bypass filtration, latest technology, beautiful, extremely jealous friends and neighbors.
Cons: Highest initial cost, more moving parts, extremely jealous friends and neighbors.
In the end the old adage “you get what you pay for” truly applies to hot tubs/spas. The goods, equipment, and more skilled assembly people to manufacture high-end tubs cost more money. Hot tub manufacturers simply can not produce a “best” category spa and sell it at an “entry-level” price. The manufacturer would go out of business and be useless to fulfill its warranty. Any deal that seems too good to be true….is too good to be true.
Taking a hot tub’s actual value and inflating it only to Give a great sale price or blow out a deal while still selling it for more than it is worth is the oldest trick in the book. Unlike human beings, all spas are not created equal! Hopefully, this information will be helpful and happy hot tubbing!