Swim spas vs hot tubs: which should you choose, and are they worth it?

Swim spa vs hot tub: Which should you choose?
(Image credit: Master Spas)

For those who want to make the most of their outdoor space, it can often come down to weighing up the pros and cons of swim spas vs hot tubs. Although the best swim spas and the best hot tubs offer similarities in terms of design and components, they’re actually incredibly different machines. For one, a swim spa is designed for exercise, whereas a hot tub is designed for relaxation. The jets may be the same, but they’re positioned to work very differently. 

Swim spas are typically much larger than hot tubs. They’re designed to act as a water treadmill, using high-power jets to create a current to swim against and offer you the chance to get some water exercise from home. Hot tubs, as you probably know, are associated with luxurious relaxation. When you buy a hot tub, you’re bringing the spa to you, with built-in seating and jets designed to ease sore muscles. We’ve also addressed whether hot tubs are good for arthritis with guidance from a physiotherapist, and the hot water is a great way of taking pain and pressure off sore joints. 

Of course, you can also buy hot tubs and swim spas in one, as some top retailers such as Endless Pools offer their own hybrid machines so you can step out of the swimming pool and into the tub without having to leave your yard. The space and energy requirements of these are substantial, though, so if you’re asking yourself if you should buy a hot tub or a swim spa, here’s everything you should consider, including the difference between swim spas and hot tubs and jacuzzis. 

What’s the difference between a Swim Spa, a Jacuzzi, and a Hot Tub?  

People often use the terms “spa,” “hot tub,” and “jacuzzi” interchangeably, but in fact, each refers to something different. Here’s a mini glossary:

Swim spa: This is a small pool that uses powerful jets to propel water toward you so you can get a workout by swimming against the tide, so to speak. They can be quite big, and you can also turn the swimming jets off and just soak.

Jacuzzi: This is the trademarked name of a corporation with a history of manufacturing excellent hot tubs and spas. It’s so well-known that its name has become synonymous with these products, much like Kleenex is with tissues. Jacuzzi also sells swimming pools, saunas, walk-in bathtubs and more.

Hot tub: Unlike swim spas, these are made for relaxation. They hold warm water, have seating, and include jets that push hot water out from all sides. At the same time, water is drawn out, filtered, reheated, and cycled back in.

Hot Tub vs Swim Spa

(Image credit: Endless Pools)

Hot Tub vs Swim Spa: Why not get both? 

Swim spas are mostly shaped like traditional swimming pools, but they also include jets like hot tubs. 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. 

Although they're used in different ways, swim spas and hot tubs often feature the same elements, such as high-power jets and heating options. Due to this, many swim spa manufacturers also produce top-end hot tubs. Some even double up to produce two-in-one products that offer exercise options from a swim spa with muscle-soothing solutions for relaxation and hydrotherapy. 

One such option is Endless Pools, which offers customization for models with swim spas with hot tubs installed at the end. One drawback of these models is the size - so if you're looking to double up on swim spas and hot tubs, we suggest making sure you have an appropriate space available for the investment. 

Millie Fender
Head of Reviews

Millie Fender is Head of Reviews at Top Ten Reviews. She also works on our sister sites: Real Homes, Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, and Livingetc. As Head of Reviews, Millie is on a mission to make sure that we are reviewing all of the latest and greatest products for you and your home, whether it's a vacuum cleaner or an inflatable hot tub.