How to Buy a Hot Tub


Hot Tub Buyer's Guide


At long last, you've finally decided to buy a hot tub. You're ready to improve your life and your home with a new spa. Even just thinking about it, you can feel your muscles relaxing in the soothing water as your frets and cares melt from your mind.

But before that happens, you'll want to be an informed shopper through the hot tub buying process. If you haven't done it before, it's natural to have plenty of questions, both about the process and about the ongoing relationship you'll have with your spa. Don't worry, though - we're here to help! With years of experience selling and installing spas, combined with Watkins decades of listening to buyer's questions and concerns, we've discovered what most first-time buyers wonder - and we're here with the answers.





1. How much does a hot tub cost?


The first question many people ask is, "How much does it cost to buy a hot tub?" Of course, the short answer is, "It depends on the spa." There are roughly four tiers of hot tub quality: entry-level, value-priced, premium, and luxury.

• Entry-level hot tubs cost around $2,500 - $5,000

• Value-priced hot tubs cost around $4,000 - $8,000

• Premium hot tubs cost around $6,000 - $10,000

• Luxury hot tubs cost around $9,000 - $16,000+

So what's the difference between these levels of quality? Well, the price of a hot tub varies based on size, features, materials, components, and engineering. Higher-quality spas will generally offer more varied sizes and configurations, have more entertainment options and more powerful jets, be built of more durable materials, and offer greater energy efficiency. To get the full details, read more in our hot tub pricing guide.


Additional Spa Pricing Factors

Based on your local area and your unique backyard or deck, a few other factors will affect the total price of your hot tub:

Landed costs, such as freight costs to your location and the dealer's overhead, will influence the final price of your spa.

Installation costs can vary based on any unique location-based challenge, such as narrow access, deck remodeling, and backyard setup. These costs can also fluctuate based on payments from dealers to their service team, plus fleet maintenance and associated vehicle costs.

Of course, the upfront costs should be compared with the long-term value of spa ownership. It's important to consider how you'll benefit from your hot tub, and how many years of enjoyment it will bring you. Many hot tub owners have made their spa time part of their daily ritual, perhaps taking a quick soak before or after work. When used in this manner, the benefits of owning a spa can enrich every other aspect of your life. Hot tubs made of durable, high-end materials tend to easily last for over a decade. And while some components may wear out over time, these can be repaired or replaced. All told, a well-loved, quality hot tub can deliver daily benefits for many, many years.


Other Price Concerns for Hot Tub Buyers

The factors above account for most of the price variation in hot tubs. Still, there's more that first-time buyers frequently ask. Here are some other questions you may seek answers to:

• How do I know if I'm getting a good deal? It's important to do a little research. Know what you're looking for and how much you're willing to spend, and consider a variety of local options before making your purchase. We have done our level best to price our spas competitively and fairly so that you're getting a great deal and we're making enough money to stay in business! We try to offer a variety of special promotions throughout the year, and of course, Watkins helps us out a few times a year by offering extra-special national sales.

• Where's the best place to buy a hot tub? The best place to buy a hot tub is almost always a local dealer with a national support network, who will be able to provide service for the life of your spa. We have been selling Hot Spring and Caldera spas for years now, have certified technicians on staff, and have amassed the level of expertise necessary to provide you with quality, professional support.

• What accessories should I buy? This depends on your preference. Generally speaking, functional accessories are the most important. Investing in a cover lifter for your hot tub greatly increases your ease of use, and therefore the likelihood you'll frequently soak in your spa. A skimmer is a useful tool to clean out any unwanted detritus. To easily get in and out of your hot tub, consider a handrail and steps. An umbrella is great for keeping the sun off of you when using the spa during the day or if it rains. Finally, depending on the level of your spa's filtration and water purification systems, water care chemical kits can be important as well. 


We include the following with every new spa purchase:

     • Matching Spa Cover

     • Sub-panel or Weatherproof Receptacle

     • Water Care Package

     • Standard, Local Delivery & Installation

     • Mention reading this page and we can probably throw in an extra accessory for you!


2. How do I begin the research process to be a confident shopper?


It's always a little tricky to do something like buying a hot tub for the first time. Where do you start? We recommend checking out different resources and asking people with experience. Maybe you have a friend or family member that owns a spa or has recently purchased one - several of our customers come from such referrals. The beauty of the internet is that there is a wealth of information and 3rd-party review sites where you can learn from someone else's experience.


Start with an internet search. Since you found this buyer's guide, it seems like you're doing great on this front! The internet is a fantastic tool for finding reviews of the best hot tub brands and general information about hot tub ownership. We urge you to seek out reviews about the brands you're considering and the specific models you're thinking about. When looking for reviews, it's a good idea to compare information from multiple sources and to find reviews from neutral sites like SpaSearch.


Visit your local dealer. We keep 90% of Hot Spring and Caldera's models in our respective showrooms, and we also stock inventory in our warehouse for quick delivery options. We encourage you to either stop by or set up an appointment with our sales staff. We can talk through the different collections and models with you, discuss delivery and installation, and tell you about our valet service options. Sitting in the different models you're considering is a great way to try out different sizes and depths.


Nothing beats a personal touch. If you know any true spa enthusiasts - someone who uses their spa daily and has owned it for a decade or longer - they'll be able to offer you a wealth of knowledge to guide you through your purchase. Their personal experiences can uniquely inform what considerations might be most important to you, both today and ten years from now.


3. What are the costs to install a hot tub?


Buying the spa is one thing, but there will be expenses in addition to the actual purchase price of your new hot tub. Knowing the costs ahead of time can help you budget and plan, making installation as seamless as possible. When all is said and done, your new spa will quickly start paying you back in rest and relaxation.


Installing a hot tub will take a few steps, and the overall cost will vary depending on size, location, and complexity, but can range from around $250 to $800+. On average, the national cost for above ground installation costs a little more than $300. Prior to installing a hot tub, you should consider and price out these elements:

• New patio slab: A cement slab or other load-bearing surface will be required to support the weight of the hot tub. Cement slabs are the most durable option; as a DIY project, it will take a few hours and around $100 in materials, depending on size. Hiring contractors to lay the slab can cost between $1,000 and $3,500.

• Electrical wiring and running conduit: Your hot tub will require an electrical connection to run the heater, pumps, filtration system, and any entertainment options. The electrical materials, which include a bond wire, service panel, ground and GCFI break, a DC converter for the pump, and PVC pipe, will cost around $250. They require approximately three hours of service from an electrician to install, which will cost around another $250-$500. Trenching work to bury electrical components will add to this price. The local electricians we commonly work with are generally happy to come give you a free quote before starting on the job.

• Gazebo or other custom installation options: Custom installation options such as building a gazebo, a wrap-around deck, or a stone or tile surround will add to your overall price. The cost of each of these options will depend on your location, the materials used, and the contractor you employ. These additions can be built before your hot tub purchase, or can be added as the years go by to improve your spa experience. Overall, the costs associated with installing a portable spa are considerably less than those associated with installing an in-ground hot tub.


4. How much will my utility bill increase?


Running a hot tub requires energy, so you should expect your electric bill to go up. However, hot tubs have come a long way over the years in terms of efficiency, and our Hot Spring and Caldera spas incorporate a number of features to improve energy efficiency and minimize this additional cost.


• Your heater, pump, insulation, and custom-fit cover are all part of the same system working to keep your water hot. High-end systems are incredibly efficient at maintaining your spa's temperature, requiring a low continuous expenditure of energy. While it may be less expensive up-front to purchase a hot tub with a low-quality heater, pump, or insulation, your electrical bills will be consistently lower with a better system.


• Hot Spring's Highlife & Limelight series and Caldera's Utopia & Paradise series all incorporate a dedicated circulation pump that provides silent, continuous circulation, while using less energy that a 40-watt light bulb and transferring heat back into the water.


A pump shroud captures heat from the equipment compartment and transfers it to the water.


• During wintertime, especially in colder climates, your hot tub will have to work harder to maintain its temperature. Your electric bill will rise accordingly, and this rise will be exaggerated in low-end hot tubs with poor components and insulation. Higher-quality spa owners will notice less of a difference.


5. I want a hot tub, but I worry it might be difficult to maintain.


While some of us are master handypersons always in search of the next project, the rest of us may be a little hesitant to take on the long-term maintenance of a hot tub without knowing how difficult or time-consuming it might be. Hot Spring and Caldera understand this hesitation and have worked hard to design hot tubs that are simple and quick to maintain. They’ve also established service practices to help hot tub owners who lack the time, expertise, or interest to maintain a spa on their own.

In our time selling spas, we've learned a lot about water care and maintenance, and though we are constantly improving and simplifying our methods, we believe we've dialed in an easy and efficient start-up practice with normal weekly maintenance to help you best achieve success.


• For added convenience, the bulk of the spas we sell have built-in water care systems, including the premium FreshWater Salt Water System, featuring the simplest and best water care available on the market today, and the Frog @Ease In-Line SmartChlor System in our Hot Spot and Vacanza spas.

• High-quality filters and dedicated circulation pumps with continuous circulation lessen the frequency with which you need to purify or change your water.

• Bring us a water sample and we can test it with our SmartLab for the most precise testing and analysis available. We'll send you home with a pdf detailing exactly how to balance and maintain your spa water, whether you are refilling your water or performing weekly care.

• We offer a variety of Valet Service options to local customers to make caring for your spa incredibly simple. We can take care of your drain, clean, and refills, mail you replacement cartridges, or even come out once a week to test and balance your water - whichever option works best for your lifestyle!


With today’s spas, it doesn’t take a huge time commitment to keep your hot tub running. A small upfront investment in preventative maintenance pays great dividends over the life of your hot tub. A little care ensures your hot tub never adds any stress, only reduces it.

• Investing five to ten minutes a week to assess and adjust your water levels prevents the need for more lengthy and costly adjustments later. Compared to the hours of enjoyment you can gain from your hot tub each week, this time investment is minimal.

• Cleaning, maintaining, and replacing your filters, cover, and outside paneling when they show signs of wear helps keep your hot tub functioning at peak efficiency, lowering your ongoing costs. We recommend that you clean your filters once a month with SpaGuard Filter Cleaner.

• Drain your water on a consistent, regular basis, as recommended, to preserve the life of your spa and its components. SpaGuard System Flush is a great product to use once a year before draining to clean out your spa plumbing.


6. I've heard hot tubs can be unsanitary. Is it hard to keep the water clean and safe?


The quick answer is . . . NO! While without proper treatment, filtration, and maintenance, a hot tub can become unsanitary, innovation and technology have made water care easier. It only takes a small investment of time and energy to keep your water crystal clear and safe to use. In addition to changing your water and filters regularly, there are several different treatment options to keep your water pure.


• The traditional water care method is chlorinating your water. When using a chlorine system, be sure to keep an eye on your levels so your water stays pure. A downside to chlorine is that it can irritate the skin and eyes of some people. Fortunately, these people have other options . . .


• Ozone systems neutralize contaminants by injecting ozone into the water, while a non-chlorine oxidizer combined with other minerals cleans the water and slows bacterial growth. This option is very mild on the skin and eyes.


• The Frog @Ease In-Line System introduces a breakthrough in water care sanitizing that comes ready for use on your Hot Spot or Vacanza spa. Frog @Ease uses Frog Minerals and SmartChlor® Technology that creates Fresh Mineral Water® by killing bacteria two ways with up to 75% less chlorine and a lot less work!


• The FreshWater Salt System sanitizes water by creating an odorless and non-irritating form of chlorine. Harsh odors are virtually eliminated, and spa water is gentler on eyes and skin. This option rewards spa owners with lower ongoing expenses and less maintenance time. Care is simpler and the water feels soft and natural. Caldera's Utopia and Paradise Series spas and Hot Spring's Highlife and Limelight spas come ready for the FreshWater Salt System, which provides the benefits of salt with a disposable cartridge that lasts for 4 months and can be replaced in seconds – no tools required.


7. Do I really need a hot tub? What if I get it and don't use it enough?


Live your best life! Owning a hot tub can have a profound, long-lasting positive impact. A spa can help you grow closer to your family, enhance your sense of well-being and physical health, and reduce muscle soreness. Using your hot tub regularly will help you renew yourself, rejuvenate your body and mind, and reconnect with what’s important in your life.


• Renew: Taking some time each day to relax and center yourself in the warm, welcoming bubbles of your spa will improve your sense of general well-being. It helps you forget the stresses of work or your commute and relaxes your worried mind. Your spa can improve your general physical health as well by relieving tension and unknotting tense muscles.


• Rejuvenate: To rejuvenate is to reclaim your youth, in body and spirit. Simply sitting in your hot tub helps you burn calories, as well as reduce stiffness and muscle fatigue. Even better, the combination of hot water and massage jets will improve your muscle tone. After each soak in your hot tub, you’ll step out feeling a little younger than before.


• Reconnect: As a social space, free from the distractions of television or the internet, a hot tub is a wonderful place to grow and nurture your connections with your friends and family. When you’re in the hot tub with your partner or your children, you’re able to spend quality time together away from the pressures of the world outside. This promotes conversation and togetherness in a relaxing, pleasant atmosphere.


What a way to start the day!

One of my favorite times of the day is when I first get up and have a cup of coffee while sitting in my Caldera Spa. It a great way to reflect while getting a massage. I have done this daily since getting the spa over 2 years ago. I even do some yoga stretches in it. My backyard is my sanctuary and the spa is mainly why this is so.

     Darc, Caldera Owner Since 2012

Stress Relief in my Caldera Waters

My husband & I use our hot tub daily, sometimes twice a day. We are mountain bikers, and I am a member at a gym so after a long ride or workout we wind down in the tub to relax our muscles. It is simply heaven.

     Mare, Caldera Owner Since 2014


How To Ensure Regular Hot Tub Use

Some prospective hot tub owners worry that their hot tub won’t see much use, and they won’t experience its renewing effects. And of course, a hot tub that sees little use isn’t going to help its owner much. The best way to make sure you get a good amount of use from your hot tub is to make it part of your routine. Here are a few ways to make using your hot tub on a regular basis as easy as possible:

• Place your hot tub intentionally in a place that is easily accessible from your back door—don’t place it too far out in your yard! Particularly on cold, snowy, or cloudy days, the proximity makes your spa a warm, close, appealing escape.

• Invest in a cover lifter that makes taking off the cover a one-person job, allowing anyone to hop in the spa at any time without needing outside help.

• Set up automatic chemical reorders; Purchasing water care chemicals on a monthly basis can easily slip far down on the to-do list. To keep your stock fresh - and your hot tub pristine - we offer mailer programs for spa cartridges and can ship chemicals as needed.

• We offer valet hot tub service, which means we take care of every aspect of maintenance for you before you even have to ask. With valet service, your hot tub is always ready to be used at a moment’s notice. We offer several different options to accommodate your lifestyle and budget.


Common Reasons Owners Underuse Their Hot Tubs

When we ask people why their hot tub doesn’t get used, their answers usually fit one of a few patterns. Each reason can be inhibitive, but is also easily preventable.

• Owners have a poor water experience. Poor water quality in your hot tub easily makes for a poor experience. This can be prevented by assessing and adjusting your levels and replacing filters as necessary.

• Owners have high energy bills. Some customers dislike the impact their hot tub has on their energy bill. While hot tubs will always require energy, higher-end spas are more efficient than low-cost ones, resulting in a much less dramatic increase to the electric bill.

• Owners don’t feel like hot tub ownership has positively impacted their lives. Infrequent users sometimes feel as though the experience of owning a hot tub hasn’t made a profound difference in their lives, or isn’t "worth it." But those who consistently and intentionally use their hot tub will begin to experience the physical, mental, emotional, and relational benefits of spa ownership day after day, week after week.

• Owners have difficulty getting in and out of their hot tub. People with limited mobility can experience problems entering and leaving their spas. For these customers, designing the deck or surrounding area to facilitate movement can greatly improve the hot tub experience. In addition, matching steps and handrails are available with most spas.

• Owners have trouble removing the hot tub cover by themselves. As hot tub covers can be heavy, removing them often requires more than one person. If you have difficulty lifting the cover by yourself, it may be tempting to forgo a soak. Hot tub cover lifters eliminate this obstacle by turning cover removal into a simple one-person job.


Also, generally speaking, investing in a low-quality hot tub may not deliver ideal results. The more you like your hot tub, the more you’ll want to use it. When choosing the model to take home, think about what you’ll want most from your spa down the road, and find the model that best supplies that.


8. I've heard it's a hassle to install. What do I have to do to prepare my space for a hot tub?


An experienced hot tub dealer can connect you with the help you need to ensure a smooth and easy spa installation. We provide backyard consultations to help you design a custom backyard solution and can provide you with a list of trusted and experienced local contractors. We strive to make each step of the hot tub purchase, installation, and maintenance a breeze.


Schedule a free site visit and we can help you plan for:

• Location and space requirements: We'll measure the clearance for delivery, find the best space to locate the spa, and offer alternatives for difficult installations, such as a crane.

• Surface base requirements: We can provide you with a list of local, dependable contractors who can pour a concrete slab or build a deck to place your spa on.

• Electrical supply: It's entirely understandable if you don't want to take electrical matters into your own hands (we, in fact, highly recommend hiring a licensed electrician to do this unless you are one). We can provide you with a list of local, reputable electricians to handle your wiring and connection and provide you with a pre-delivery guide and instructions if you want to use your own.


We are happy to discuss delivery options with you, how long delivery will take, and whether you'll need to obtain a planning permit. Once your spa is delivered and properly installed, it should be ready to use after heating.


9. I don't know the first thing about hot tubs. What features should I look for?


The most important feature to start with is functionality. After that, shop for performance, comfort, and style. Your hot tub will be part of your life for years to come, so it's a good idea to choose features you'll be happy with down the road.


What do we mean when we talk about spa features? Some of the main features customers look for when shopping have to do with why they want a spa. Do you just want to relax and soak in the hot water at the end of the day? Are you looking for a way to spend quality time with your partner, family, or entertain friends? Are you an athlete or someone whose job is centered around manual labor and you need the hydrotherapy that a spa will offer? Are you concerned about water features like lights or a waterfall? Do you want a Bluetooth Wireless sound system? Are you interested in salt?

All of these questions will factor into which spa is most appropriate for your particular needs and desires. If you aren't as concerned about the massage, then you probably don't need a $15,000 spa with the best jets in the industry, but if you have a family of four or more plus friends who might want to enjoy the spa, then a 2-3 person model won't work for you.


Here are some of the basic questions on features you should consider:

Is it large enough to fit my family? (Or friends who be frequently using the spa?)

How well does it keep the water clean?

Who is the manufacturer, and how reliable are they?

How easy is it to operate this model?

What are the model's typical operating costs?

Will I use it for backyard entertainment or just for quiet time to relax?

Will I use the spa alone or with other people?

What accessories come with this model? What other accessories do you recommend?

A good dealer will be happy to answer your questions and help you find the hot tub that suits you best. We're happy to educate you and assist in your search whether you end up buying from us or not (though we hope we have something that will fit the bill for you!). We try to carry most of the models on our floor so you can sit in the different spas and test out one from each collection.


10. Who will fix my hot tub if it breaks?


We will! Hot Spring and Caldera both offer a 2-year or 5-year full warranty on their spas, so if something goes wrong with your hot tub due to a defect, you should be covered under the manufacturer's warranty. We have certified Watkins technicians on staff and handle most repairs and maintenance on-site, cover the cost of labor during the warranty, and if you need an electrician or contractor for some reason, we can help you coordinate with a trusted technician.

When researching the warranty of different manufacturers, you should be aware that many companies offer a prorated warranty; I.e., they will provide a full warranty the first year, charge you 20% of the cost of parts of labor the second year, and so on. There is no such thing as a lifetime warranty on spas - high-quality hot tubs are built to last 20-25 years with proper care and maintenance, but you are buying a complicated product with many electrical components that holds a large body of water. We don't want you to go into this purchase thinking you'll never need any service, but we do want to assure you that we're here to help and we want you to have the best experience possible with your new hot tub! We'll do everything in our power to ensure a great hot tubbing experience - if you can't or don't want to use your spa because it's too much of a hassle, then we haven't done our job.


Caldera Utopia Warranty

Caldera Paradise Warranty

Caldera Vacanza Warranty

Hot Spring Highlife Warranty

Hot Spring Limelight Warranty

Hot Spring Hot Spot Warranty

Fantasy Warranty




So now that you have a pretty good idea of what the process entails, you can comfortably begin your hot tub search. It's okay to take your time and be patient. This is a big purchase and if you don't end up using the spa you bought because it doesn't have the right seats, jets, or features, then you're unlikely to come back to us, recommend us, or more importantly, appreciate the wellness benefits of daily hot tub use. We have models from each collection filled with water in our private test rooms, and we encourage every customer to come in and test them out, just like you would test drive a car. Remember that any time you put into searching out the best spa for you will be paid back with years of enjoyment. Think ahead to your next decade of bliss - and relax!




Our Hot Spring and Caldera spas are engineered with precision, built with top-of-the-line components manufactured by Watkins, and designed to delight the eye and soothe the muscles, ultimately providing you with the best hot tub ownership experience possible. Shop Hot Spring, Caldera, and Fantasy models now or Contact Us to start your journey!