Thinking about splashing out on a hot tub? Our guide on how to choose a hot tub has everything you need to know, from finding the right size to working out what extra features are essential.
If you’ve got the space, the best hot tubs can transform how you use your outdoor area throughout the year, from long, hot summer days relaxing among the bubbles to cosy winter nights under the stars.
With so many shapes, sizes, price ranges and extra features to navigate, knowing how to choose a hot tub can be tricky, so we’ve got you covered with help from a couple of experts. Our 8 tips for choosing a hot tub will walk you through your options so you’ll be confident you’re buying a hot tub that’s a perfect fit.
How to choose a hot tub
1. Permanent or inflatable?
Ensure you choose a hot tub that meets you and your family’s needs and budget, and find an option that fits all your requirements. At Top Ten Reviews, we’ve rated some of the best permanent hot tub and inflatable hot tub brands out there, so you’re sure to narrow your search with our expert help. “Permanent hot tubs are solid and typically fit more people, while in-ground spas are often custom-made and bespoke,” says David Cruz, plumbing expert for MyJobQuote.co.uk. “Inflatable hot tubs are inexpensive, but they won’t fit as many people and won’t be as durable as hard-shell spas.”
If this is your first hot tub, Cruz suggests considering an inflatable option before you splurge on a permanent addition to your outdoor space. "It is an inexpensive way to test how much you would use it, and you can always upgrade to a permanent hot tub later on."
If you want to upgrade your current hot tub, you’ll find more features and extras available with a hard-shell hot tub, such as insulation, wi-fi, built-in sound systems and lighting. However, they do tend to have higher maintenance costs, and of course, you can’t store them away when they’re not being used.
David Cruz has worked in the plumbing industry for over fifteen years. David has worked on countless domestic and commercial projects as a plumbing expert and gas-safe engineer. David also works closely with MyJobQuote to provide expert plumbing knowledge to homeowners, tradespeople, and news outlets.
2. How many people will enjoy your hot tub?
"Hot tubs come in all shapes and sizes, which can make it hard to choose, so start by thinking about how many people will typically use the hot tub at the same time,” suggests Sam Beckett, owner of Beckett’s Plumbing and Heating. “If you like to socialise or want to enjoy the hot tub with your family, then I suggest choosing a model that has multiple seating.”
Cruz agrees. “The number of people who will use the hot tub regularly, and your available outdoor space, should determine the size of your hot tub. A small spa will seat 2-4 people, a medium will fit 5-6 people, and a large can accommodate 7 or more people.” Most manufacturers will list the dimensions of each tub and how many people it will comfortably sit so make sure you check this.
Once you’ve decided how many people your hot tub should safely and comfortably accommodate, measure the available space. You don’t just need to measure for the hot tub, either. Wherever you put it, you’ll need to ensure at least two feet between your hot tub and any walls so you and your guests can get in and out of it safely.
Gas safe engineer and expert in plumbing and appliances, Sam Beckett is a seasoned professional in the field of plumbing and heating with a career spanning several years. Thanks to his years in the industry, Sam knows all about what to look for when choosing a hot tub that will suit your lifestyle.
3. How many jets and what kind?
When searching for the perfect hot tub, pay special attention to the hydrotherapy features each one offers. Look at the number and type of jets - these massage the body and deliver therapeutic benefits to sore muscles and joints. Certain tubs mimic deep tissue massage, while others offer a more gentle pressure.
You can also find jets that combine water, air, variable speeds, and high pressure. For tight shoulders and backs, a tub with well-placed lounge seats, back jets, and foot jets can bring relief. If you have people in your family with arthritis, they’ll appreciate tubs with swim jets for low-impact exercise. Additional features like aromatherapy can enhance the whole experience. Take time to understand the hydrotherapy options of any tub you’re considering.
4. Consider your build materials
Hot tubs come in a variety of materials, and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, acrylic is lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. It retains heat well, but it can be prone to scratching.
Fiberglass is similar to acrylic but reinforced with glass fiber. It’s durable, scratch-resistant and provides sound insulation. However, repairs can be more difficult if it’s damaged.
Rotomolded Plastic is made using a specialized molding process. It’s sturdy, lightweight, and low-maintenance but loses heat faster than other materials.
Cedar and redwood hot tubs with wood framing and walls provide a natural, rustic look. However, wood requires more sealing maintenance to prevent rot and cracking. It's also less durable than synthetic materials.
High-end stainless steel or copper hot tubs are highly durable and retain heat perfectly, but are expensive.
So many options may feel overwhelming! Consider what’s more important to you - aesthetics, durability, insulation, or low maintenance - and take it from there.
5. Have a wet test
Did you know that lots of manufacturers have private showrooms where you can ‘wet-test’ the hot tubs before you commit to purchasing? It’s a great way to try out the hot tub jets, see how comfortable the seats are and review how easy the controls are. It’s also a fun afternoon! If you’ve chosen a particular manufacturer, ask them if they provide wet testing for potential customers.
6. Look for a good warranty
Hot tubs can be a significant investment, often costing thousands. A good warranty provides peace of mind should any problems occur and can save you significant money on repairs down the road. Look for a warranty of at least 1-2 years. Some manufacturers offer warranties of up to 5 years or more on critical parts like pumps, motors and electrical systems.
7. Read user reviews
Read as many user reviews of hot tubs as you can before purchasing. They'll help to give you a better idea of your chosen tub tub's quality, ease of use and value for money. You’ll also get an idea of how well the manufacturer rates on after-purchase care and queries.
Look for reviews that mention reliability, durability and ease of maintenance. You may even get an idea of noise levels and energy costs from reviews if those specifications are not mentioned in the product description. Do try to get a broad view, though, rather than getting caught up in individual complaints or experiences.
8. Consider which extras are essential
Now you’ve got your ideal hot tub in mind, it’s worth ensuring you have a little extra leeway in your budget to make your new purchase safe, easy and fun to use. The following features can help you make the most of your hot tub.
Look for built-in or attachable steps for safe and easy entry and exit. Steps provide secure footing and simplify getting in and out without slipping. Sturdy grab bars can also help.
If space and budget allow, a cover lifter is almost essential. Since some hot tub covers can exceed 100 pounds, a mechanical assist lift saves backs and makes accessing your tub a breeze.
If you’re planning to use your hot tub for nighttime star gazing or cocktail hours, accent lighting can transform the look and feel of your hot tub from day to night. Most hard-shell tubs include standard lighting but inflatable models need supplemental LED lights. For hot tub parties, you can even find floating lights, integrated stereos, or wireless connections to play music from phones.
Whatever you decide is essential, have fun choosing all those little extras that add up to a great hot tub experience.