Finding the best walk-in tub for you
We’ve been researching and reviewing the best walk-in tubs for five years. In that time, we’ve looked at dozens of models and evaluated their features to help you find one that fits your needs. In our most recent assessment, the Ella Ultimate is our pick for the best overall walk-in tub for most people.
As we researched, we paid particular attention to each tub's design, style, price and warranty. We also considered whether you can soak in the tub, its water capacity, how wheelchair-accessible it is, whether it can be used for hydrotherapy and its safety features. In addition to our research into the tub models themselves, we scoured user reviews to see which ones actual users like most. We also reached out to industry professionals to get expert opinions on what constitutes a good walk-in tub and which models are best for people with specific needs.
Because buying walk-in tubs is such a subjective process, we partnered with Buyer Zone to help pair you with the best tub for your specific needs. You can fill out the survey to get customized recommendations below.
The Ella Ultimate 93217 is more like a spa that has almost anything you could want in a bathtub and shower combo with a triple-massage design that sets it apart. It fills and empties fast with dual drains so you don’t have to sit in the cold for long. It has 26 air and water jets to massage your back, feet and legs. It has two grab bars to make it easy to get in and out and a nicely textured floor for stability. Its handles are all easy to access and use. It doesn’t have easy wheelchair accessibility, unfortunately, but it has just about everything else.
It also comes equipped with swivel tray, five-piece faucet and retractable handheld shower nozzle. Additionally, the drain has an extension handle that can be easily opened by people with mobility issues. The warranty period for the frame, door and shell is for the lifetime of the tub, all other parts have a five-year warranty period.
Read the full review of Ella Ultimate.
The Safe Step walk-in tub is economical and has several safety features that make it ADA-compliant and easy for almost anyone with limited mobility to use. For example, the door has a low, 4-inch threshold for an easy step up, and the floor and seat are textured to prevent slips, no matter if the surfaces are wet or dry.
This model includes smart technology that senses the water temperature and turns off the faucet if it gets too hot. You can also toggle between the air and water jets, which are designed to be softer on your skin than most walk-in massage jets, and the included grab bar provides stability as you step in and out of the tub. You can get financing for this tub and they offer discounts for veterans for costs that aren’t covered by medicare.
Read the full review of Safe Step.
Best for wheelchair accessibility
Despite their names, walk-in tubs are essential for people in wheelchairs. We chose the AmeriGlide Sanctuary as our top choice for wheelchair accessibility. It has an extra wide, outward swinging door and a 22-inch high seat that helps you slide into the tub easier. Its door-mounted grab bar makes it easy to close the door once you’re in the tub.
If you’re in a wheelchair, this is the tub you want. The wide door allows enough clearance to get you close enough to slide in. However, if you’re not in a wheelchair, you should know that the 15-inch step is substantially higher than other models we reviewed and you may not be able to get over it.
There are some downsides to this model. For example, it’s smaller than a standard tub. So, it holds less water than the other products we reviewed. For contrast the Ariel Walk-In Bathtub holds 78 gallons of water and the Sanctuary only about 65 gallons.
Read the full review of AmeriGlide Sanctuary
Why trust us on walk in hot tubs
Top Ten Reviews has been reviewing walk-in tubs since 2014. Our reviewers have spent up to 60 hours researching the various models, features and styles currently available. We also consulted with experts on what consumers look for in a walk-in tub. We’ve talked to renovation professionals about how complex the installation process is and what kind of renovation you can expect if you decide to install a walk-in tub.
We understand the importance of consulting with an expert to find the best tub for your situation and urge you to fill out the questionnaire at the top of this page. Purchasing a walk-in tub is a big commitment, as it requires making significant renovations to your bathroom and can impact the performance of your water heater and plumbing.
We reached out to industry professionals to help us understand why someone would buy a walk-in tub. We consulted with Rick McDonald, owner of Heavenly Walk-in Tubs in Murray, Utah. He told us that there are three main reasons to buy a walk-in tub:
“Most people you talk to say ‘I can get in my tub, but I can’t get out.’ They have slipped or fallen, broken a knee or leg and ended up in rehab, and they don’t want to go through that anymore,” said McDonald. Walk-in tubs help you safely bathe without the risk of injury.
A walk-in tub helps people with disabilities and seniors to remain in their homes rather than going into an assisted living center. “If they can take a bath, take care of themselves, they can usually stay in their homes – hopefully for the rest of their lives,” McDonald said, adding, "The average assisted living center in Utah runs between $60,000 and $80,000 a year. That’s a lot of money.”
This method of treating chronic joint and muscle pain is on the rise, and for good reason. McDonald explains why: “When you get in hot water and sit in it, your body becomes more buoyant. All your blood vessels start opening up ... and the jets vibrating on those gets the blood flowing all through your body and gets rid of toxins and helps a lot.”
How we evaluated walk in hot tubs
As it’s unrealistic to purchase and test walk-in tubs for overall performance, we didn’t evaluate walk-in tubs from the perspective of a traditional consumer review. Rather, we approached this as a buying guide for what you should look for in a walk-in tub and how you can find the best tub for your bathroom.
Size & Fill Capacity
Walk-in tubs vary in size. Some are taller than they are wide. Others are wider than they are tall. The size you choose depends mostly on what fits in your bathroom. Most tubs are designed to fill the space of a traditionally sized bathtub. However, the fill capacity is typically much greater in a walk-in tub, often reaching up to 70 gallons, which is 20 to 25 gallons more than a traditional tub.
With so much water, we paid close attention to user reviews, especially with concern to the tub’s door seals. The last thing you want is a leaky tub.
It will depend on your needs as to which features you should focus on. Some features are for convenience or comfort, such as water jets for massaging aching joints and muscles and multiple drains. Some features are for safety, such as grip bars and non-slip surfaces.
A walk-in tub is a big investment, costing between $2,000 and $5,000. When you’re spending this much on something, you want to make sure it’s protected by a good warranty. The best walk-in tubs should have a warranty covering at least 5 years with a lifetime warranty on the doors and seals. However, it’s common for these warranties to have stipulations about being installed by certified installers.
Types of walk-in tubs to consider
The first step to deciding on the best walk-in tub is to determine what you want out of your walk-in tub. For some, simply soaking in a deep pool of warm water, like the Safe Step Walk-In Tub, is all they need to relax and relieve pain. Others want a spa-like experience with their bathwater bubbling and different jewel-like colors blinking to brighten their moods. And still others just want a tub they can get in and out of safely. Although most walk-in tubs include a narrow door on the side that you must step over to enter, there are also specialized wheelchair-accessible tubs that are even easier to use for those with less mobility.
Here are the different kinds of walk-in tubs and why you may want to consider them:
This walk-in tub is a good example of a standard soaker. It's the perfect size to slide into your existing space for a bathtub, though it's a bit narrow at 30 inches. The tub is deep enough to hold 78 gallons of water without anyone in it. It includes a safety grab bar, so you can steady yourself as you climb in and out of the tub. Its built-in seat is contoured for comfort, and the floor is textured so you won't slip and slide when you step in or out.
Unlike most soaker walk-in tubs, this bathtub lets you stretch your legs out as you bathe. The chair-height seat is easy to access whether you step into the tub or slide in from a seated position, and the design allows you to recline rather than sit straight up. The rising wall includes dual seals with a lifetime warranty, so you can rest assured you won't have any leaks – or, if you do, they can be fixed easily. The waterfall faucet fills the tub in just three to five minutes, and the tub drains quickly with the dual drains.
Water-based therapy can relieve pain and increase mobility in those who suffer from injuries, arthritis and other conditions. Water jets provide a relaxing massage while tiny bubbles rise to the surface and promote a comforting and peaceful atmosphere. A walk-in tub that includes water jets also often includes an in-line heater to keep the water warm while you bathe.
One thing to keep in mind about a tub with water jets is that it needs special attention to keep the jets clean. Follow the guidelines in your walk-in tub's user manual to ensure you don't compromise the warranty. You are likely going to need to set time aside to clean and rinse the pipes thoroughly. Some owners even suggest using dental floss to get in the tiny crevices around the jets and wiping the jets dry after each use to prevent mold and mildew growth.
This walk-in tub includes six water jets for massage. It has the safety options you'd expect, such as textured floors and a built-in contoured seat, along with a grab bar to help you lower yourself onto the chair or lift yourself up from it. It fits inside a standard 60-inch bathtub opening, so you don't have to knock a wall out to install this tub. You can purchase other features separately, such as Safety Tubs' quick draining system, an in-line heater, a waterproof pillow and a chromotherapy system.
Walk-in bathtubs are similar in size to standard bathtubs. Though deeper, they aren't wider. A narrow entrance and seat can be uncomfortable for some people, and standard walk-in tubs are made for people who weigh less than 300 pounds. A bariatric walk-in tub includes a wider opening and a larger seat to accommodate anyone of any size. These tubs include the same safety features of regular walk-in tubs, such as textured floors, grab bars and short thresholds.
The built-in seat on this tub model is 30.5 inches wide, and the tub can hold a person up to 600 pounds. It has all of the essentials, such as the textured floor and safety grab bar to prevent falls. Additionally, Ella offers options to make it even more luxurious; you can get the massage model, which includes air, hydro or dual therapy massage.
The biggest difference between a wheelchair-accessible bathtub and a standard walk-in tub is the door opening. Standard walk-in tubs have a narrow door next to their built-in seat, which makes it nearly impossible for someone who cannot walk to get into the tub without help. Wheelchair-accessible tubs have large doors that open wide and provide clear access to the chair-height seat. This makes it easier to slide from a wheelchair into the tub.
Just like standard walk-in tubs, this Universal Tub model is ADA compliant with its safety bar, anti-slip floor and locking door. This wheelchair-accessible tub has a stainless steel frame with a wide door that swings outward to allow entrance from a wheelchair to the 21-inch seat. You can choose whether you want a soaking tub, a whirlpool tub, air jets or a combination. Several other options are available too, including chromotherapy and aromatherapy.
How much does a walk-in tub cost?
We couldn’t get specific prices for the walk-in tubs we reviewed, as they’re sold by third parties that give you a quote based on your personal needs, the options you want and your budget. Plus, several of them offer financing, and it's hard to nail down price per month since it relies heavily on your financial situation.
However, to give you a better idea of how much you can expect to spend, we looked at the models you can buy outright on Amazon. The lowest price we found was for the Ariel EXWT, which costs $1,899. The most expensive model was the TheraPure Recessed Side-Entry at $18,109. That’s a pretty wide range, so it’s best to check the quotes the sellers give you before you decide to buy. After taxes, expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 for your walk-in tub.
How much does it cost to install a walk-in tub?
Once you’ve made your decision about which walk-in tub is best for you, you’ll need to find a contractor that will install it for you. If you go to a walk-in tub dealer that includes installation as part of the price, you’ll know exactly what to expect before you buy. However, if you buy a walk-in tub from a big-box store like Home Depot or Lowe’s, you’ll need to hire a contractor to remove your current tub and install your new one.
Depending on where you live, this can vary drastically. You should research your local contractors to get the best price. However, according to Fixr, the national average cost to install a walk-in tub is between $5,000 and $7,000.
Are walk-in tubs covered by Medicare?
If you’re getting a walk-in tub because of a medical condition, it’s natural to wonder if the cost can be covered by your Medicare insurance. Unfortunately, the answer is no. It’s considered a luxury item by the federal government, even if you’re getting it for legitimate medical reasons.
However, if you are qualified for Medicaid, it’s possible to get your walk-in tub covered depending on what state you live in. This is because unlike Medicare, Medicaid is partially controlled by individual state governments. Each state has it own coverage options and policies on how funds are distributed. We recommend doing research on your state’s policies.
What is a tub-cut?
There are times when you may not need to replace your current tub. There is an option to essentially convert your tub to something approximating a walk-in model. The process is known as a “tub-cut” or a “bathtub cutout.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: a contractor comes to your home and removes part of your tub’s wall and adds a small door in its place. You can generally have a tub-cut performed for under $1,000.
This is a good option for those on a budget or who can’t lift their leg over the tub wall. However, this merely transforms your tub into a step-in shower. And although you can take a bath once the door is closed, you’ll miss out on several of the great features that a proper walk-in tub provides: specialized seats, hydrotherapy jets and textured surfaces to prevent falls are a few of the benefits you’ll be missing out on.
Although your walk-in tub may not be covered by these programs, it’s possible to deduct the cost of materials and installation on your taxes if you’re purchasing it for medical safety reasons. Make sure to consult with a tax professional on whether you would be eligible for a deduction.
What is a shower chair?
If you have trouble standing to shower, a shower chair may work for you in place of a walk-in tub – and save you thousands of dollars and major remodeling to your home.
A shower chair is exactly what it sounds like: a waterproof chair you place in your tub so you can sit down while you shower. You can choose a simple stool model that costs less than $50 or splurge for a swiveling chair with armrests for about $150. If you’re in a wheelchair, you can buy a shower transfer bench that makes it easy to slide off your chair and in and out of your tub.
Of course, these chairs are a simple solution for those with medical ailments that don’t rise to the level of needing a walk-in tub. And they don’t offer benefits such as hydrotherapy jets and aromatherapy.
How do you clean a walk-in tub?
The best way to keep your walk-in tub clean is to make sure you rinse it down whenever you’re done using it. This may seem like a small thing, but daily rinsing keeps grime from building up on the surfaces. You also need to do a more detailed cleaning once a week, where you wipe everything down with a non-abrasive cleaning solution. Most common household surface cleaners will work, but it’s worth taking a few minutes to see if the tub's manufacturer or dealer has recommendations on its website.
And you occasionally need to clean out the tub’s whirlpool and hydrotherapy jets, especially if you use special oils or soap in your bath water. Simply fill up your tub with water, add a cleaning solution and let the jets run for a few minutes. Drain the water, refill it with clean water and let the jets run again. This should reduce buildup in your tub's plumbing over time.
Does Kohler make a walk-in tub?
Yes. In fact, the Kohler Walk-in Bath is one of the most high quality walk-in tubs you can buy. This model is designed around safety, comfort and convenience. Safety features include an extra-wide door that makes it as easy as possible to step into your bath. Additionally, it’s slip-resistant surfaces and sturdy handrails make it much less likely that you’ll fall and injure yourself when entering and exiting the shower.
This walk-in bath also focuses on comfort. Features such as hydrotherapy jets, bubble massages and heated surfaces alone make this walk-in tub far superior to a lesser model.
It has a convenient, easy-to-reach control panel and multifunctional handshower. With both of these easily at your fingertips, you won’t have to struggle to get up or lose your comfortable position while you bathe. Additionally, it employs fast drain technology, so you don’t have to wait very long to open the door once your bath is finished.
How many gallons of water are in a walk-in tub?
According to Dignifyed, traditional residential bathtubs hold between 25 and 45 gallons of water, and walk-in tubs hold 45 to 50 gallons. So, that’s potentially double your water usage and a much bigger drain on your water heater.
Home Depot states that a conventional water heater capacity falls between 20 and 80 gallons. So, you need to make sure your water heater holds enough to fully fill your tub. Furthermore, you should keep in mind that you’ll likely need wait a while before using other appliances that need hot water or before you draw another bath.
How long does it take to fill a walk-in tub?
While the door makes it convenient to easily get in and out of the tub, it also has its downsides. You must also be inside the tub as it fills up with water and as it drains. If you open the door before either has finished, you’ll spill water all over your bathroom floor. So, it’s important to know how long it will take to fill and drain.
Several factors go into how long it takes to fill up and drain your walk-in tub. How many gallons your tub holds, as well as the water pressure and drainage system. According to Aquassure, a walk-in tub manufacturer, the best models will fill and drain in about six to eight minutes, while some discount tubs can take as long as 15 minutes. So, at most, you’ll be spending an extra half hour in your tub. Make sure to find out the average time it takes before you buy.
What are the benefits of hydrotherapy?
The best walk-in tubs feature hydrotherapy jets that massage your muscles while you bathe. This has several benefits including stress relief, improved blood circulation as well as pain and stress reduction.
Hydrotherapy jets are also effective for reducing inflammation and joint pain, which can be particularly helpful if you have arthritis. Hydrotherapy also increases oxygen delivery throughout your body, so your immune system experiences a boost.
The hydrotherapy jets found in walk-in tubs have the same technology that spas and physio centers use every day to help customers relax and recover from injuries or medical conditions like strokes and heart attacks.
What are the benefits of aromatherapy?
Many walk-in tubs have features that release essential oils into your bath. This not only makes the water smell nice, but it also puts out vapor that can have positive effects when you breathe it in. This is known as aromatherapy. Its potential benefits include anxiety and stress relief as well as pain reduction for conditions like osteoporosis and kidney stones. Some oils work well as decongestants and can improve the quality of your sleep.
However, you should take walk-in tub manufacturers' claims about the benefits of aromatherapy with a grain of salt. According to the Mayo Clinic, research on the benefits of aromatherapy is limited. However, there are some smaller studies that seem to back up the benefits we mention here.
Designing your bathroom
If you’re buying a walk-in tub as part of a whole bathroom overhaul, or building one from the ground up as part of a new home design, you may want to look into some home design software to help you make it exactly what you want. This type of software has a lot of great tools to help you not only visualize your intentions, with multiple viewing functions, but also give you an idea of what it will take to bring them into the real world with material lists and cost estimators.They’re not easy to use at first, but with practice and time, you’ll be able to design bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms and even patios and yards. Their interior design tools are excellent in helping you plan how to furnish your bathroom along with the rest of your home.
Buying walk-in tubs from Lowe’s or The Home Depot
Most of the walk-in tubs we reviewed can be purchased from a dealer who will both sell you the tub and install it for you. This makes the process much easier because you don’t have to buy the tub separately then find a contractor to install it. However, if you live in a place that doesn’t have a walk-in tub dealer, you can buy one from home improvement stores like The Home Depot and Lowe’s.
We called our local retail stores and asked if they have services that will install a walk-in tub for you. And while both have installation services, neither covers walk-in tubs. The Home Depot and Lowe's connected us with other businesses that handle installations.
Senior safety tips for walk-in tubs
Installing a walk-in tub is not only a safe way for seniors to take a bath, but it provides spa-like therapy for aching joints and muscles. In addition, a walk-in tub is a pragmatic decision, as it adds value to your home, especially in a senior community. However, just because walk-in tubs minimize your fall risk, it doesn’t mean there aren’t risks you still need to consider. Here are some safety tips for seniors:
Consult With Doctor
Before you buy a walk-in tub, you should consult with your physician to make sure you’re healthy enough to sit in hot water for extended periods. While hydrotherapy has many health benefits, it’s not for everyone.
The most important safety tip is to pay attention to the temperature. As you age, your skin becomes more delicate, especially as it begins to prune from extended soaking. To avoid scalding yourself, start with a comfortably warm temperature as the tub fills up and then increase the heat slowly to avoid damaging skin. Too much heat for too long can also have detrimental effects on muscle recovery.
Hydrotherapy with a walk-in tub is great, especially for seniors. But soaking in hot water for too long has risks, as it can cause nausea, dizziness and fainting, which could result in accidental drownings. Seniors should start with a 10 minute hydrotherapy session and increase to 20 minutes once you feel comfortable. You only need 15 to 20 minutes of hydrotherapy to gain benefits. Any session over 30 minutes has no additional benefit.
The hot water combined with hydrotherapy jets has been shown to amplify the side-effects of prescription medications. If you’re taking something that causes drowsiness or dizziness, you should avoid taking baths when the side-effects are the strongest. Wait to take the medications after your bath.
Contributing Reviewers: Noel Case, Jeph Preece