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Best swim spas 2021

Best swim spas 2021: Top swim spa brands, prices, and reviews
(Image credit: Masterspas)

The best swim spas make exercising from home easier than ever. The cost of a swim spa can also be significantly lower than the cost of installing a swimming pool in your home, and because of the way they use high-power jets, you don’t need nearly as much space to swim the equivalent of full lengths in your new swim spa. That’s because the top swim spa brands use the same jets you’ll find in the best hot tubs, but instead of creating targeted hydrotherapy, they create a current for you to swim against. Think of it like a treadmill, but underwater.

You may have some questions about swim spas that need answering before you dive in. A common one is, are swim spas heated? Well, not only are the best swim spas heated for year-round use, you can also adjust the temperature to experience a warmer swim, or turn the temperature down to save on energy costs. For those with joint pain and arthritis, being able to swim in a good, hot home pool year-round is a great way of exercising without worsening aches and pains. 

Another question buyers have is, how much does a swim spa cost? Swim spas can set you back anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 or more. They’re not cheap, which is why this is a purchase worth spending some time considering. We’ve partnered with BuyerZone to bring you a custom survey that will get you started on the buying journey, pairing you with the top-rated swim spa models for your location, budget, and needs. You can also learn more about the best swim spa companies below. 

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

1. PDC Spas: Best swim spas overall

(Image credit: PDC Spas)

PDC Spas swim spas

PDC Spas has the biggest and best selection of swim spas

Reasons to Buy

14 swim spa models
Huge level of customization
Options for all ages and fitness levels

Reasons to Avoid

Not the largest range of spa sizes

PDC Spas has a big selection of swim spas with a variety of options for current power and jet customization. A handy product comparison chart on the company’s website makes shopping for a swim spa easy – it lists each available swim spa model along with its details and specifications, including jet type, type of filtration system, dimensions, lighting options and other accessories.

You can choose between models that create the swimming current with three jets or a dual prop propulsion system, which produces a really strong current. It’s easy to spot the difference between the swim spas in PDC Spas’ three series. For example, it’s easy to see you need to buy a Synergy or a TruSwim swim spa if you want cascading water spouts, not a Vitality model. In total, there are 14 swim spas to pick from – that’s the largest selection of the companies we reviewed, matched only by Hydropool’s inventory.

You can personalize your PDC Spas swim spa with audio features and LED lights. Its swim spas come in sizes between 1,792 and 2,700 gallons, and there are many jet options to choose from, depending on whether your spa is for family fun, therapy or a thorough workout. The company also has plenty of online videos to show you how to use your new swim spa.

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

2. Endless Pools: Best value swim spas

(Image credit: Endless Pools)

Endless Pools swim spas

Endless Pools is a great value option where you can see a price quote right away

Reasons to Buy

Can build your own spa online and see the price
Both fitness and leisure options available

Reasons to Avoid

Few accessories for sale
Pools are often bulky

On Endless Pools' website, you can build your own swim spa and see a price quote right away, making it the only company we evaluated that posts all prices up front. We entered our contact information on the site but didn’t request an official quote because the prices are listed in the swim spa builder tool. Even so, we got an informational mailer and DVD in the mail postmarked the day after we used the website, and we received a phone call from a helpful customer service rep in six days.

An online spa builder tool under the “Build Your Endless Pool” option in the Products dropdown menu lets you create your own customized spa and the website will show the recommended retail price. You need to know a little terminology if you plan to build your own swim spa. For example, it asks you to select which liner you want and which coping system.

Endless Pools’ swim spas range in size from 1,200 gallons up to 2,395 gallons. That isn’t the widest size range of the companies we reviewed, but it’s big enough. There are also many other design elements you can customize, including jets and lighting.

A primary reason people buy swim spas is to swim laps without needing a big pool. Endless Pools’ swim spas create a current using a 16-inch propeller, and the current it makes is stronger than those created with jets. Because of the propeller, the current is wider than your body, deeper than your stroke and bubble-free. Endless Pools has only a few accessories for sale, although it does sell underwater exercise equipment.

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

3. SwimEx: Best variety of swim spas

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

(Image credit: SwimEx)

SwimEx swim spas

SwimEx has a great selection of swim spas at all sizes

Reasons to Buy

Sells propeller and paddlewheel current models
Residential, professional-quality and plunge pool options
Options for all abilities and ages

Reasons to Avoid

Underwater exercise equipment is costly

SwimEx makes six residential swim spa series. Each model holds a different amount of water, has different dimensions, and accommodates different types of aquatic exercise and relaxation options.

The smallest is the 400 OS, which holds 2,600 gallons of water. Although it is small, at least compared to SwimEx’s other spas, it’s big enough to accommodate several people with enough room for all to exercise. It uses a paddlewheel to create full-spa water currents, while its flat, non-skid floor permits all kinds of exercise, including those that require aquatic exercise equipment.

In case you need something much bigger, SwimEx makes the 1000 S – a multi-user swim spa that holds 7,700 gallons of water. It is the company’s largest model and can be used by several people at once. The paddlewheel current allows people to swim side by side, and there's also an area of still water for people who prefer that. 

Further, the 1000 S has a stationary underwater running pad built at an angle that mimics a treadmill as well as a step-up area and an exercise bench. There are also three wells you can use for weight-bearing exercises. These are fine choices, although some are expensive models.

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

4. Hydropool: Most customizable swim spas

(Image credit: Hydropools)

Hydropool swim spas

You can customize your Hydropool swim spa to your specific space

Reasons to Buy

You can build your own swim spa online and request a price quote
Options for senior living and health care
Designs fit comfortably in small spaces

Reasons to Avoid

We found response times slow

Hydropool has swim spas for relaxing, working out and even a little bit of both. With a bunch of customizable jet and design options, you’ll be able to find something your entire family can enjoy.

This company has five lines of swim spas: AquaPlay, AquaTrainer, ExecutiveTrainer, AquaSport and ExecutiveSport. In total, there are 14 different models to personalize, which is the largest selection of the websites we evaluated alongside PDC Spas.

If you don't want to deal with maintenance, Hydropool has what you're looking for. According to promotional information we received from Hydropool, the company's self-cleaning spas like the AquaTrainer 14 fX can filter 100 percent of their water in 45 minutes. These spas can cost between $14,700 and $42,295 though, so they're not cheap.

You can customize most swim spas with steps, an ozone or bromine filtration system, cover or various colors of internal shells and external cabinet. Shell options range from the whitest of whites to a dark grey which looks a little like stone. You can get external siding in varying colors of black and grey or even wood so your swim spa blends in seamlessly with your deck. 

The website’s “build your own” feature is a convenient way to figure out what you want in a swim spa and request a price quote online. We did this and while we got an email immediately saying a sales representative would follow up, we didn’t get any more information until four days after we requested the quote.

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

5. Arctic Spa: Cheapest swim spas to run

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

(Image credit: Arctic Spas)

Arctic Spas swim spas

Offering quick service, Arctic Spas models are also very cheap to run

Reasons to Buy

Most cost under $2 per day to operate
Specialists in spas for all climates
App-compatible spas

Reasons to Avoid

There isn’t a very large variety of swim spa sizes

Arctic Spas has a quick sales team and lots of customizable swim spas so you can live extravagantly or find a more affordable unit that will fit your family’s needs.

There are seven base swim spa models to customize at Arctic Spas: Hudson, Kingfisher, Wolverine, Ocean, Athabascan and Okanagan. Each has its own unique qualities and options you can adapt to fit your lifestyle whether you want to work out or just have fun with the kids. In most cases, these swim spas cost less an $2.00 a day to operate.

The Athabascan Swim Spa is an all-weather pool with quite a bit of swimming area in its 1,347 gallons of water. It comes standard with a heat transfer pure fiberglass shell and an insulation system to trap warmth even during colder months. The Kingfisher is also an all-weather pool and has lights swimmers can use to make sure they're swimming straight against the pool's current. 

You can use a smartphone app to run your swim spa from afar, opt for a speaker system and even a fancy cover to protect your investment. There are a lot of informational videos throughout the website as well to make your decision a little easier. 

The range of sizes is the smallest of the websites we evaluated with spas as small as 1,347 and only as large as 1,453, but this range does seem to be the most common sizes of swim spas on the market. There also isn’t any workout equipment for sale, but this website’s wide range of customizable swim spas make it worth a look.

Best swim spas 2020: Space-saving home pools at every price

How does a swim spa work?

Swim spas are mostly shaped like a traditional swimming pool, but they also include jets like a hot tub. But these jets create a current for you to swim against to strengthen muscle groups and extend your endurance. The jets have different settings to vary current speeds, so you’re continually challenged as your strength increases.

For more advanced swimmers, who enjoy a more challenging swim, the jets can be replaced with a propeller. These propellers are usually designed to go at the front of the swim spa to push the swimmer backwards, and give them a greater resistance to push against. These models are usually more expensive than the jet models, with prices starting in the $25,000 range. 

Swim spas with paddlewheels are the most expensive design and usually cost $35,000 or more, but offer an excellent current to swim against. This design creates a cycle of water that is taken out of the back of the tank, and reintroduced to the front to create a smooth and stable current. 

Some swim spas have treads at the bottom, much like a treadmill. These allow you to walk in your pool providing you with a whole different workout. And you can still use your jets to create resistance during your run. Side bars offer not only support, but also a means for additional water aerobic exercise. Some swim spa models, including those offered by Endless Pools, support mobile fitness apps that monitor your workout and send the results to an online fitness trainer.

Several swim spa models have a section dedicated for cooldown and relaxation. This area generally doesn’t hold more than one or two people at a time, and its jets mimic those found in traditional hot tubs. This area helps massage tired or sore muscles and lets you decompress after a good workout.

How we evaluated the best swim spas

We have been researching, ranking and reviewing swim spas for more than four years. During our research, we learn about swim spas made by well-known companies. We consider the styles and sizes of swim spas each company makes as well as the number of spas available, the kinds of water jet propulsion systems used and price range. In addition, we look for swim spa manufacturers that offer a variety of extras to enhance your swim spa experience, including spa covers, underwater workout equipment, sound systems, railings and LED lights.

Further, we consider how promptly companies respond when we request a quote. The faster the response, the better, as it could indicate the level of service you can expect later. We also take into account how informative the customer service representative is versus how eager he or she is to just make a sale.

Armed with quantifiable information as well as our own perceptions, we put the data we gather into a chart and use a proprietary system that weighs different factors. This helps us select which swim spa companies should be included in our reviews.

For research, we requested a quote from each company. To be as fair as possible, all requests were made during mid-morning hours on a weekday. Our requests were all for a residential address in northern Utah and if the website required it, we said we wanted to buy a swim spa in the next one to three months. We then timed how long it took for a salesperson or customer service representative to get back. We counted weekend days because there was actually one company which did call us on a Saturday. If we didn’t hear back in seven days we stopped waiting and counted it as a nonresponse.

Of course, we also looked at the swim spa systems each company offers. We favored those that sell spas with paddlewheel current systems, since they’re usually the strongest. In addition, we preferred companies with wide selections of therapy and swim jets. Other factors we considered include whether the company provides informational videos and which accessories it sells. We counted the number of swim spa models for sale on each website and gave preference to companies that make models in a wide range of sizes. You can personalize most swim spas by adding more jets, lights and a plethora of other features, making the actual number of models for sale nearly limitless.

As part of our research we also spoke with a regional representative for Master Spas. Kevin Richards explained some of the inside workings of the industry, what to look for, questions to ask and where to purchase a swim spa. For example, most swim spa companies have clearance sales in November and December to make room for newer models that typically hit showrooms in early February. It isn’t uncommon for people to get a quote during the clearance season, but it won’t be valid once the new models are delivered.

Richards also encourages you to purchase a swim spa directly from a reputable dealer in your area. This is because installing your spa may come with some necessary plumbing or electrical work. A dealer will be able to recommend a reputable plumber or electrician in your area to ensure your spa’s warranty is compromised during self installation.

Health benefits of a swim spa

Christine Schulte, president of the American Physical Therapy Association’s Aquatic Physical Therapy Division, said you should always go to a professional if you need aquatic physical therapy. However, something like a home swim spa can be a great transitional tool afterward for staying in shape.

“We absolutely have patients who go out and purchase pools for their home because they’ve had such success with the therapies,” she said.

And if you’re interested in swimming laps without installing a massive pool, swim spas are a great alternative. Schulte said in her opinion, spas with paddlewheel water current systems create an experience that’s truest to regular lap swimming.

Aquatic exercise in a swim spa can be helpful for people with chronic conditions, but Schulte said it varies by person. For example, people with multiple sclerosis should avoid a swim spa because warm water can exacerbate symptoms, while people with arthritis tend to prefer a pool that is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Putting them in a pool and using depth and buoyancy, it gives them an environment where they can freely move,” Schulte said.

How much do swim spas cost?

Swim spas vary dramatically in cost depending on size, jet power, features and installation. A basic model costs about $4,000, while more expensive swim spas, complete with custom features, cost upward of $30,000.

Most of us don’t have money to burn, but if it is an investment in your health, a swim spa could pay off beautifully, according to HFS Financial, a company that specializes in home improvement and swimming pool loans. An article on the company’s website lists the health benefits people with no serious ailments can derive from a home swim spa: improved sleep, reduced stress, faster recovery from injuries, weight maintenance, reduced muscle pain, increased muscle strength and better flexibility.

Besides those benefits, swimming spas can also help your heart and lungs. “When you exercise in one of these spas, you will be utilizing every muscle group in your body in a controlled setting. It is an excellent way to obtain a cardiovascular workout without having to leave your home’s property,” the article says.

They’re also great for socializing, since you don’t need to run the swimming jets all the time. Friends and family can enjoy a pleasant time soaking in the warm water and chatting. Alleviating loneliness can go a long way toward improving your health.

Safety tips for swim spas

In a report, the CDC, noted 6,400 pool- or spa-related injuries in children younger than 15 years. LiveScience gives several tips on how to keep kids safe around pools and hot tubs and reduce the risk of drowning.

  1. Always keep an eye on your child while they are near water, even if they aren’t swimming. It only takes a couple of seconds for a young child to fall in and get hurt. If your child is in the pool or hot tub, especially if they are very young, get into the water with them. This helps you stay focused and engaged with them and prevents injuries.
  2. Install fencing or invest in a sturdy cover that kids can’t fall though, even if they step on it. Also, pull up or remove ladders from above-ground models when not in use to prevent children from climbing into the pool or hot tub.
  3. Pick up around your pool. Even if you don’t have a regular recreational pool, make sure there isn’t anything enticing left around your swim spa or hot tub. This includes drinks, food, radios, flotation devices and toys. A lot of kids accidentally fall into open pools while trying to get something that’s near the pool.
  4. Establish and enforce clear rules around your swim spa. Think about the rules posted at public pools, including no running or diving, showering before and after swimming, and no peeing in the water. These same rules apply at residential spas, hot tubs and pools, too.

Pool alarms for swim spas

A pool alarm can help keep kids safe around all kinds of pools and hot tubs. They come in a variety of models including floating alarms and wearables, and all with very loud alarms to bring your attention to the water when something is amiss.

In our tests of the best pool alarms, we picked Brickhouse Pool Alarm as the best because it can monitor a decent sized pool and recognizes the difference between small debris and children. Anything larger than a golf ball that hits the water triggers the alarm, and it is loud.

Another good option is the Safety Turtle 2.0. This wearable alarm slips over your child’s wrist, like a watch, and it can only be removed using a special key. The alarm goes off when it is submerged, so you’ll know instantly if your child slips below the water while wearing it. In our tests, this pool alarm was very accurate and didn’t go off when water was simply flicked on it.

Swim spa maintenance kits

Spa maintenance professionals suggest testing the pH, alkalinity and sanitizer levels weekly. Regular water maintenance helps avoid costly repairs, and frequent filter replacement removes calcium build up and scale formation. Here are some maintenance products to keep your swim spa clean and sanitary.

Poolmaster 5-Way Test Kit

This drop testing kit comes with all the chemicals you need to test for chlorine, bromine, pH, acid demand and total alkalinity. The color-coded scale is easy to read and comes with step-by-step testing instructions and a quick reference guide. The test scale and chemicals come in a sturdy plastic case to keep all the contents organized and dry. Other kits use test strips, which are more cost-effective and easier to use, but drop test kits provide more accurate readouts if you use the prescribed number of drops.

Leisure Time Maintenance Kit

Once you finish testing the water chemistry, you may need to add chemicals to balance the levels. This kit has all the chemicals you need to keep the water in your swim spa clear and sanitary, including pH increaser and decreaser, alkalinity increaser and decreaser, calcium booster and a defender chemical to prevent scale build up. The $90 price tag is expensive, but if you perform weekly tests, the chemicals should last for several years. Leisure time also sells the chemicals individually, so if you run out of one you won't need to purchase the entire kit again.