So you want a hot tub? Once a status symbol not a reality in most homes, hot tubs have become very affordable as of late. They are loads of fun and can offer fantastic health benefits when used as directed.
The good news: you don’t have to have $5,000 to experience the benefits a hot tub offers. You can get started with an inflatable model for as little as a few hundred dollars and eventually graduate to something more permanent later on.
In this blog post, I’ll answer 10 frequently asked questions about inflatable hot tubs so you’ll be prepared to make the best decision possible.
Inflatable hot tubs vs. traditional hot tubs
Let’s first discuss the differences between traditional hot tubs and inflatables. Traditional hard-shell hot tubs cost 3-5 times more than inflatable hot tubs, use more energy, and require accessories like hot tub covers and cover lifters.
It’s much easier to fit an inflatable hot tub in a small space vs. a traditional hot tub since inflatable hot tubs are as small as 50 square feet (about 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet) and don’t need to be placed on a concrete pad or wood deck.
Inflatable hot tub repairs are not cost-effective to repair relative to the purchase price, especially for pumps and such and parts can be difficult to find.
It almost goes without saying that the traditional style hot tub is more durable than inflatable tubs; always pay attention to the warranty terms if something goes wrong. Many inflatable hot tub brands like Intex have one-year warranties that covers things like missing parts.
1. What are the pros and cons of inflatable hot tubs?
Inflatable hot tubs aren’t for everyone, but they do provide health benefits and relaxation for many. Here are a few pros and cons to consider.
- More affordable than traditional hot tubs–typically cost less than $1,000
- They don’t require special skills or hiring additional people to set up.
- Great for camping and easier to move
- Can be brought indoors if desired
- Easy to move; can be disassembled
- Filters are designed to be replaced every week
- Possibility of puncture or leak
- Difficult or hard to find parts.
- Don’t include large jets; bubble jets exit from small holes at the bottom and are not as strong
- Can be loud
- Limited capacity of 2-4 people usually
- The cheapest models lack durability; many models only last 2-3 years
- They don’t insulate as well as traditional hot tubs due to plastic construction
2. What is the best base for an inflatable hot tub?
The best surface to place an inflatable hot tub is one free of limbs, rocks, and debris; any flat surface will work. Many inflatable hot tubs come with a mat to use for mounting like the one below.
Make sure you leave room to enter and exit the hot tub, and room for the pump as well. Generally, a 2 to 3 feet perimeter around your hot tub is enough.
A concrete patio or slab is the best place for an inflatable hot tub, you won’t have to worry about being near a 220v electrical outlet as you would with a traditional hot tub, a standard 110 GFI will work.
If installing your inflatable hot tub on a deck or elevated surface, just be sure the boards are reinforced and can handle the weight of the hot tub.
3. How do I select the best inflatable hot tub for my needs?
The best hot tub is one that fits within your budget, from a quality manufacturer, with great reviews, and has the seating capacity you desire.
To start, make sure you take length and width measurements for the space you intend to install your hot tub before purchase. From there, find a model that seats your preferred # of people.
Decide if you intend to use your hot tub by yourself, one other person, or 4 or 5. I’ve found when manufacturers say their product ‘seats three’, that typically means three people sitting fairly close together.
If you want the room to lounge around, the bigger the better with inflatable hot tubs; I personally wouldn’t recommend an inflatable hot tub if you have more than 3 people who would want to use it at the same time.
You’re much better off saving a few thousand dollars and purchasing a larger traditional hot tub that comfortably seats 5-6 people; even a hot tub on the used market.
Quality and support vs. price
You may find inflatable hot tub models labeled as at-home spas, portable hot tubs, and any other names; these names don’t really matter as much as the manufacturer and reviews.
Related to quality, fly-by-night companies make cheap models that simply don’t hold up, and some just don’t work well at all–particularly the heating elements and pumps.
Stick with reputable companies that produce products with lots of good reviews. Be cautious of inflatable hot tubs in the $500 range; often times the heaters and pumps play out fairly early, they tend to leak easier, and many manufacturers don’t offer replacement parts!
Above is a review on Amazon that illustrates this point; there are good inflatable hot tub options on Amazon I’ve found, just be careful to select one that’s highly reviewed, from a trusted brand.
4. What are some of the best inflatable hot tubs brands?
Out of all of these, Intex is a fan favorite due to its durability; it is a bit more expensive than other models, but worth it if you intend to use your inflatable hot tub for a few years.
This Intex Greywood Deluxe you can check out on Amazon here even comes with an LED light; the build quality on this one is just a step above most.
Coleman and Bestway are the other two brands that I see often, but not quite as durable as Intex from what I’ve read. Bestway actually manufactures inflatable hot tubs under the Coleman Brand so the build quality is basically identical to their SaluSpa line.
Each of these main brands (including Coleman) sell these inflatable hot tubs on Amazon; I found the Intex and Bestway stores also include optional accessories like headrests you may want to pick up.
5. How long will an inflatable hot tub last?
Expect an inflatable hot tub to last around five to seven years with normal wear and tear. Traditional hot tubs can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years, but generally cost 5 -10 times more than inflatable hot tubs.
With regular cleaning and draining, you can extend the life of your inflatable hot tub. Keeping it covered indoors also will prevent drying and cracking caused by the sun since they all are made of PVC for the most part.
6. What maintenance is required for an inflatable hot tub?
Maintenance-wise, inflatable hot tubs have filters that need to be replaced about every couple of weeks, but should only cost a couple of hundred dollars each year.
Routine maintenance includes adding chlorine or bromine after each session (you’ll need to pick up), and testing the water’s pH level using a test strip or kit. You also should drain your hot tub from time to time, and clean it; cleaning with water and white vinegar is also an effective and safe cleaning method that many hot tub owners prefer.
Make no mistake, an inflatable hot tub will also add to your energy bill as a regular hot tub will.
7. How do you set up an inflatable hot tub?
The setup process is generally pretty easy. Here are 5 basic steps that are the same for most vendors:
- Prep for setup. Decide where to set up your inflatable hot tub. You need a flat solid surface with plenty of support, as mentioned above
- Inflate your hot tub. Many inflatable hot tubs have built-in inflation systems, so you don’t have to worry about finding an air pump.
- Fill with water.
- Add chemicals and test chlorine levels using a test kit
- Heat to your desired temperature. Any inflatable hot tubs will max out at 104 degrees.
Where to install an inflatable hot tub
Outside is a great location for hot tub installation because there is often more space or already poured concrete for a base. You can always empty and remove your hot tub for the winter if you need to, as inflatable hot tubs are not suitable for outdoors during cold weather.
8. Can you use an inflatable hot tub in cold weather?
Inflatable hot tubs can be used in cold weather, but manufacturers don’t recommend using them if the temperature is less than 40° Fahrenheit. It is extremely inefficient to keep the water temperature elevated at lower temperatures, unlike traditional hot tubs that insulate much better.
9. How much do inflatable hot tubs cost?
Expect to pay anywhere from about $500 to $1,000 for an inflatable hot tub depending on the model of inflatable hot tub that you choose. Models less than $500 are generally not worth it unless you have the money to splurge on something you don’t plan to use past a family vacation at the beach.
The Intex line starts at around $700 to $1,000, depending on the accessories and options included.
10. Do inflatable hot tubs take a long time to heat up?
Because the heaters are less powerful than traditional hot tub heaters, it can take 12 hours or longer for an inflatable hot tub to heat up water to 104 degrees Fahrenheit; Most inflatable hot tubs heaters can heat water 2°-3° Farenheight per hour; it can easily take half your day if heating it for the first time for this reason.
Rasing water from 100° to 104°? That could take two hours, as opposed to a traditional hot tub with a stronger heater that could heat up the water in half the time.
Check out my post all about hot tub temperature settings to learn about what’s too hot, too cold, and where to set your hot tub temperature in the winter or summer months.
It’s best to leave an inflatable hot tub on all the time because it can be costly and time-consuming to heat water in an inflatable hot tub. Due to thinner walls and covers, it’s easier for heat to escape; the flimsy inflatable cover that comes with these doesn’t help either!
11. Are inflatable hot tubs worth it?
Inflatable hot tubs are worth it for many people because, for less than about $1,200 max, they offer many benefits of a traditional hot tub; inflatable tubs will also give you the experience of maintaining a hot tub for the first time if you’ve never done it before.
It can be stressful after spending thousands of dollars on a traditional hot tub to learn how to maintain it. With inflatables, if you decide hot tub life isn’t for you, you haven’t spent thousands. If you are on the fence, know that inflatable hot tubs won’t last forever anyway, but they can allow you to prepare your home for a traditional hot tub later on.
Ready to prep for a new hot tub?
You can begin to accumulate accessories with your inflatable hot tub purchase you can use later on –like a canopy or gazebo, a towel holder, a mounted TV…the list goes on and on.
Check out these 15 popular hot tub accessories I recently wrote about to see what you may need. If you’re on the fence, use our Hot Tub Recommendation tool below where you can plug in your budget and preferences to find the perfect hot tub for you.