Hot Tub Buyers Guide - Part 2 - What to Look for and What to Avoid, When Buying a Hot Tub
Full disclosure: As a business, we deal in both Beachcomber and Hydropool hot tubs. It’s likely the reason you are here today looking, but if not, there’s still something in the article to assist you in finding the right product, whether it’s from our company or another. Every brand has its strengths and its weaknesses.
What I recommend looking at when buying a hot tub:
- Country of origin: I admit it, I am a bit of a made-in-Canada snob for most big purchases. But when it comes to a hot tub, country of origin can not only dictate energy-efficiency, but also the quality of materials used. You want to buy a hot tub that is made in and for your climate. It will greatly reduce the cost of operating the hot tub, as well as the maintenance costs for replacing components.
- Insulation: There’s not necessarily a ‘right’ answer to this one. Aim for a hot tub that is 5-wall insulated. Meaning the bottom, and all four sides are well insulated, using modern insulation techniques. There’s pros and cons to all of them. For example, a spray-foam hot tub has good insulation value but is very hard (and expensive) to service. Panel insulation often has a lower R-value but is easier to service. Ideally, you want easy to service with good heat-retention.
- Warranty: There are lots of terms and conditions for every warranty and it’s easy to get confused. The thing you want to look at most of all is the warranty on the expensive components. This refers to the pumps, spa pack(s), heater, and control panel. Three years would be a good warranty period for these parts. Also, ask if its parts AND labour included, and whether the company services what they sell in your area. No one wants to wait a month for their hot tub to be fixed.
- Standard features: If you have ever bought a vehicle, you may have experienced base vs equipped cost disappointment: You saw a car commercial and that model you really like was advertised for only $24,999. Well, sadly that was for the base model and not the one featured in the ad (it's written there, somewhere in the fine print no one could possibly read.) By the time you head to the dealership and price what you really wanted, that same car is now $40,000 and not such a great deal. The same can be true with hot tubs. You want to look for a tub that comes with a good number of standard features included in the list price. LED lighting, two-speed pumps, modern control panels and a good cover should all be standard.
- Know what’s included in the sticker price: Another annoyance for consumers is going through the effort of finding the right product within your budget, only to find out there’s a lot more costs you didn’t know you’d have to pay. At the bare minimum, the hot tub should come with a cover and some type of delivery included. Ideally, you want the hot tub to come with start-up chemicals, and installation provided in the sticker price as well!
- Ask the salesperson to take off a panel and show you what’s inside! You’re spending between $13,000 and $25,000 for a quality hot tub. There should be no resistance when you ask to see the inside of the tub. This will allow you to see for yourself how the insulation works, if the plumbing looks well put together and what kind of equipment is being used.
- Hydrotherapy and comfort: Fancy terminology for 'massage by water.' It’s very important to look not only at the jets, but also how they are placed, where they are located, and the amount of care taken in the seating design. You want jets that hit you in the right spots, with the right massage. The jets should be recessed into the tub, so they aren’t sticking into you when you sit and there should be lots of different massage options for different parts of your body.
- Sit in the tub: I say this to every customer I do a hot tub presentation for, 'the most important thing you can do is get into the hot tub.' Yes, it’s awkward to do, but it has to be done. This is your chance to see if the tub fits you right. You can buy on features, but it means absolutely nothing if you get into the tub and you hate sitting in it. It’s not going to be much better with water in it, so sit in lots. Find the one that fits you the best and you know you will enjoy it for years to come.
What to avoid:
- 75-100 jet hot tubs: Red flags should go off in your head right away if you see this advertised. First, if a hot tub has 100 jets, how is it getting all the power needed to pump the water to them? Either there’s three massive massage pumps in there, or those jets are barely moving any water, which doesn't provide adequate massage. Secondly, having more jets is not better. You are aiming for hydrotherapy, not a painful shower. You want jets without bearings, with the right design pointed at the right muscle groups. Ideally, you want to do this with the least number of jets, to achieve the most amount of massage. This makes the tub more energy efficient as well as ensures there’s the right amount of power needed to loosen the muscles. 30-40 jets for a small, 35-50 for a medium and 50-60 jets for a large tub are really all you need.
- Flat-seating and loungers. It costs money to create hot tubs that conform to your body. Bench-style loungers and seating are cheaper to manufacturer, but not comfortable to soak in. As discussed in the last article, a flat lounger also makes you much more likely to float.
- Excessive electronics: TV’s, stereos and other electronic gadgets are something I recommend avoiding. I can tell you from first-hand experience, the price of these add-ons for what you get is not a good deal. For example, stereos for hot tubs can add up to $1,500 very easily to the cost, and the sound quality is usually ‘ok’ at best. Better to buy a good outdoor TV and stereo if you want to pay less and get a better experience.
- Cheap materials and construction: This goes for just about anything, but have a good look at the hot tub before you invest in it. Do the jets look cheap? Are the plastics thin? Is the finish work rough or was there care taken when it was made? If it looks cheap on the outside, there are likely worse corners cut on the inside. Good manufacturers will take the time to finish their work well and build the tub correctly. Don’t hesitate to ask to see the inside of the hot tub!
- Mobile dealers: I am not referring to tent/truckload sales put on by a local company. These are legitimate events where the dealer has bought a larger number of hot tubs at a discount from the factory and is able to pass these savings along to you. We do them, and they are a win-win for both the company and consumer. What you want to avoid are companies who do event sales, with no physical store presence in the area. These guys sell the product and move on to another territory. They don’t warranty it themselves, they don’t help you with it and you have little to no assistance if something goes wrong. They are usually too good to be true prices and discounts, where they inflate the cost of the hot tub, only to show a bigger mark-down.
Hopefully this article has helped you get a better idea of what to look for when you plan your hot tub purchase. The last part of this three-part series is about the costs and process to plan for installing your new hot tub!