We started reviewing walk-in tubs in 2014. All of the walk-in tubs we found are built for comfort, but each tub has specialty features that make it right for different people. These specialty areas include soaking, water therapy and wheelchair access. We researched online and consulted with professionals to determine which features were the most important in different specialty areas and to find the best walk-in tubs in each category.
Best Overall Walk-In Tub
Best Overall: Ella Ultimate
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.
Best Value for a Walk-In Tub
Best Value: Safe Step
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, as well as use the included grab bar for stability as you step in and out of the tub.
Best for Wheel Chair Accessibility
Editor's Note: The Kohler K-1913 has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Our second option for best wheelchair accessibility is the AmeriGlide Sanctuary, which has a wide swinging door similar to the Kohler K-1913 and similar specifications.
Regardless of your level of mobility, the Kohler Elevance Rising Wall K-1913-LB can meet your bathtub needs. It is both ADA-compliant and wheel-chair accessible, and it’s designed so you can spread out and relax. The faucet fills the tub in less than five minutes and the dual drains empty in less than two, so you don’t have to sit long without water to keep you warm. The tub’s seals are protected by a lifetime warranty.
Which Tub Is Your Type?
First, you need 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. 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.
We have extensively researched the variety of walk-in tubs on the market and picked out some of the best choices for a range of needs. Read more to learn about each type of tub and choose the best walk-in tub for you.
This is the most basic type of walk-in tub you can buy. A soaker tub usually includes the basic safety features to make it ADA compliant, such as a built-in seat, a grab bar and textured floor to prevent falls. You also get fast-acting drains, so you don't have to wait long before stepping out of the tub.
Standard Soaker: Ariel
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.
Whirlpool Style: Safety Tubs
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.
Bariatric Model: Ella Ultimate
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. One of the issues with a walk-in tub is the narrow opening that is next to the built-in seat, which makes it nearly impossible for someone who cannot walk to get into the tub without help. For these circumstances, there are tubs with large doors that open wide with clear access to the chair-height seat, making it easier to slide from a wheelchair to the tub.
One of the leaders in medical equipment, AmeriGlide offers a few wheelchair-accessible tub options. This Sanctuary model is 60 inches long and 30 inches wide, which means it can fit in a standard bathtub alcove. The outward-opening door swings wide and offers direct access to the 22-inch-high seat. This tub holds 65 gallons of water and can be used as a soaking tub, or you can add on features such as water or air jets.
ADA Compliant: Universal Tubs
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.
An Independent Choice
The decision to purchase a walk-in tub is about more than simply renovating your bathroom or replacing an old tub. This decision is about your independence. Limited mobility doesn't have to hinder your hygiene – you can stay in your own home and take a peaceful, rejuvenating bath. Read our articles about walk-in tubs to choose the one that's right for you and your home.
We reached out to industry professionals to help us understand why someone would buy a walk-in tub. We sat down 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: safety, to stay in your home and hydrotherapy. “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.
A walk-in tub can also help people remain in the homes they’ve owned for years and not go 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. He added, “The average assisted living center in Utah runs between $60,000 and $80,000 a year. That’s a lot of money.”
He then spoke on the benefits of hydrotherapy. “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,” said McDonald.
What Else to Consider
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Contributing Reviewers: Noel Case, J.D. Chadwick