A beginner’s guide to finding the best deal
By Ben Poggemiller
Since the world was forced to stay at home early last year, families have been looking to their own home as a safe sanctuary. Everything in the home improvement niche has exploded due to cancelled travel plans and working remotely.
Hot tubs have been no exception, with almost every major manufacturer completely sold out of stock since last year. In 2021, the trend continues as more families discover hot tubs are the ultimate relaxation centre of the home.
Often for the price of a family vacation, you can have a 12-month refuge in your own backyard for many years.
A guide to hot tub pricing
Hot tub pricing can be confusing, ranging anywhere from $3000 all the way up to $25,000. It can be difficult and frustrating for most first-time buyers to find the right tub when there are so many options and price points available.
On top of that, many major manufacturers do not post prices online because it is generally set at the dealer level and can vary by location or any add-on promotions and features. This means a model shown online may be one price, but the ones on display in the store may have added features and, therefore, the price will not be the same, causing even more confusion.
Hot tubs are supposed to be relaxing, yet the buying process can be anything but easy. This guide will offer you a quick primer on the different price points on hot tubs, and what you can expect to get at each category, regardless of where you end up making your purchase.
Discount tubs (up to $7000)
These are the hot tubs you will find at auctions, online marketplace, or from a big box store/website.
Usually, these sellers do not specialize in hot tubs and carry many different products, so getting detailed product information or knowledge from employees can be a challenge.
Hot tub parts may be sourced overseas and may be non-standard parts, so repair can be tricky in the future. Most reputable domestic brands have the same or similar parts like jets, control boards, and plumbing. Repair is typically much easier on these brands as a result.
Also, tubs in this range may not stand up to Canadian winters or have great insulation value.
Warranty is also minimal (or non-existent) and prices do not typically include delivery and setup. Most often, you are responsible for transportation or the tub is dropped off at the end of your driveway.
Also, you will not receive many extras like cover lifters, steps, or after-sales chemical help included.
Rule of thumb: If your budget is limited, it is often better to get a used tub from a reputable local dealer than to buy a cheap new tub. The build quality is typically better and will have a lot of therapeutic value for years to come.
Affordable luxury ($8000 to $10,000)
This is the price point where quality is more assured. Tubs in this price range will generally last more than a few years.
Parts will be more standard and repairs much more manageable, especially from a local dealer who has extensive product knowledge. Jet power will be decent, but not designed for deep tissue massage.
Some of the bigger tubs may be out of this price range, but if you are looking for a smaller tub, there is great value here. If you are more interested in sitting in hot water with some light jets opposed to a strong hydrotherapy experience, you can save some money by dialling back the jet pumps.
There are a lot of good quality four-to-five seat hot tubs in this price point.
Rule of thumb: You should look for a good warranty at this price point and see what the dealer offers in terms of after-sales service.
Mid-level luxury ($9000 to $13,000)
This is where you will find hot tubs start getting bigger and are equipped with more features. This is also your starting point if you are looking for a five to six-person hot tub as you should find a lot here. The tub’s build quality is often better in this range and cabinets and frames may also be sturdier. There are more therapy value and massage options available, too.
This is the ideal price range if you are looking for a great hot tub with excellent value, but do not necessarily want the fanciest extras.
Rule of thumb: In this category, you can get more jet power for a much more therapeutic massage if this is important to you. Spending less may be an underwhelming experience if you are expecting a good, strong back massage.
Premium luxury ($13,000 to $16,000)
At this price range the massage factor is much better, thanks to extra massage jets and pumps. Additional features include stereos, Bluetooth controls, ultraviolet (UV)/ozone disinfection units for cleaner water, and so on.
There are also more circulation pumps. These pumps consistently push water through the filtration system and cycles it more regularly. This results in cleaner water much faster than a typical hot tub.
Often, tubs in this price range have more powerful and energy-efficient filtration systems, frames will be more durable, and tubs will be made with better-quality materials lasting up to 15 years.
Rule of thumb: At this price point you can customize a lot more features, colours, jet power, and seating configurations.
Top luxury (More than $16,000)
These hot tubs are the best of the best. You will be able to fully customize everything in these tubs to get the exact therapy experience you are seeking.
These hot tubs carry a craftsmanship, durability, and elegance of design unmatched by others. The cabinets are not just functional, but a work of art to fit in with your home’s décor.
These are also usually the largest hot tubs, meant for big families or those who like to entertain.
There are so few tubs in this range because they are only for those who want the ultimate hydrotherapy experience.
Rule of thumb: This category is not recommended unless you want an impressive ‘wow’ factor every time someone steps in your backyard.
Other associated costs
Aside from the hot tub, there are a few other costs you should consider before purchasing your hot tub.
A concrete pad, packed gravel, or low deck are all acceptable. Generally, you can get these things completed for less than $2000; however, costs can vary by location. Composite pads are also an affordable option and a great way to have a temporary or permanent space to keep your hot tub. These typically cost between $600 and $800.
Every home is different, so costs will vary, but in most locations, you are required to have a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) mounted to your house, which some dealers include with the hot tub. An electrician will need to install it and then run the cable to your hot tub. Typically, this can be done for less than $1000, but every home setup is different.
Most reputable brands are energy efficient these days. Every brand will have a ‘story’ about why their tubs are better and each has some proprietary or unique design. Insulation types will vary as well, but most of the major brands are similar in terms of operating cost. Energy costs and climates will vary by your location, so it is difficult to give an accurate estimate, but it will cost you approximately $1 to $2 per day to run your hot tub. This will be higher in the winter and lower in the summer, but $30 to $40 per month in energy costs is reasonable for most tubs.
There are a few things you should buy with respect to caring for your hot tub water. There are many chemical brands and systems, but the general components you will need to start are a sanitizer, oxidizer, and pH adjusters. With regular filter cleanings, it is usually around $40 to $50 per month in chemical costs to keep your hot tub safe and sanitized. You should make sure your dealer is able to offer assistance with troubleshooting, water tests, and products.
Ben Poggemiller is co-owner of Urban Life Pools & Hot Tubs in Steinbach, Man. He loves walking people through the hot tub buying process and helping them find the right tub for them without pushy sales tactics. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.