A garden hot tub has jumped to the top of many people's wish lists for the locked down summer of 2020. They can bring a variety of health benefits and hours of at-home relaxation, but if you're serious about investing in one, choosing the right type, picking the perfect brand and understanding the associated costs is essential.
A hot tub is a freestanding tub of heated water with filtration and jets. You might also hear the terms 'jacuzzi' and spa. A Jacuzzi is actually just a well-known brand name for a hot tub, while a spa is typically a tub that’s built into the ground and connected to a pool.
Use our expert hot tub buying guide to find out the different types and brands to choose from and how much you should expect to pay. Plus, we've got information on hiring a tub instead.
When choosing your hot tub you’ll need to consider how much you’re willing to spend, where you plan to install it and which features are important to you.
First, decide on your budget. Cheaper hot tubs can be a good choice, but they will probably be inflatable and portable rather than a permanent fixture. Spend more and you’ll typically get a more durable tub with extra, powerful jets and fancy features.
Ongoing costs should also be considered. Maintaining and heating a hot tub will come at a price. How much that is will all depend on the type and size of your tub and how it's made.
Space is also an important factor to consider when picking your hot tub. They can be pretty bulky and if you opt for a hard-shell or wooden hot tub it will be a permanent fixture in your garden; inflatable options can be taken down and stowed away. You can find more information on the standard dimensions further down this page.
These permanent hot tubs sit on a hard base and have hard side panels. They will also have an internal heating system and a variety of jets, lights and pumps.
Hard-shell tubs can also come with fancy features such as wi-fi, in-built sound systems and full foam insulation that seals the heat in your tub making it more energy efficient.
These types of tub can come in a variety of materials, including plastic, acrylic, wood and even recycled materials such as metal.
Costs vary widely and will typically depend on the size and any additional features you want. And it’s important to remember these tubs are permanent fixtures in your garden and will need to be set up on a solid, level ground.
These are pretty much what it says on the tin; a hot tub that you inflate with air. An external heater warms the water and an air blower will inflate the walls and power the jets.
They are normally round and instead of seats you will have a padded base to sit on. The features are a little less fancy but you can still get lights, head rests and drinks holders on some of the best inflatable hot tubs.
Even though these tubs can be moved around relatively easily, you’ll still need to make sure they're set up on a solid, level base.
This is essentially a permanent wooden tub that warms the water through a log-fired stove rather than with electricity.
Depending on the size of the tub, it shouldn’t take longer than four hours to heat up. The nature of the heating method means the water cannot be kept at a precise temperature. Hotter water will rise to the top while cooler water sinks to the bottom, so you’ll need to stir the water occasionally.
Most won’t have jets; those that do they will be powered with electricity.
Like other types of hot tubs, it will need to be positioned on a solid, level ground. But you’ll also need to consider where you’ll store wood for the stove.
In-ground or custom hot tubs are typically known as spas. Although they’re essentially a tub of warm water with jets, just like your typical hot tub, they will have a more bespoke, built-in element. Most are either set into the ground, attached to a swimming pool, within a complex or custom built in some way.
What you choose will depend on what you want from your spa. For example, swim spas allow you to exercise in the tub by swimming against a counter-current jet, while a hydrotherapy tub will be built using jets that can focus on easing specific medical issues.
If you opt for an in-ground tub or one built within a structure, always make sure you don’t need planning permission. Unless you’re in a conservation area it’s more than likely you won’t, but it’s worth double checking before you begin.
There are three standard industry hard-shell hot tub shapes and sizes:
It’s important to note that these aren’t set in stone and many tub dimensions may vary a few inches either way so always ask the manufacturer for the exact measurements before purchasing.
Some brands do offer other, less common sizes and shapes including round and corner tubs and extra-large models that can fit up to nine people.
Inflatable and wood-fired hot tubs don’t have a standard set of sizes. Instead they typically categorise them into seat capacity. This can range from 1-2 people up to 6-8 people.
The cheapest hot tubs will almost always be inflatable and will cost from around £200. You can get cheaper models from brand sites including Cleverspa, Intex and Studio.
Some larger supermarkets and high street stores such as Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Argos have also started stocking hot tubs, too.
Cheaper inflatable options are great if you want to save money and have a tub you can deflate and stow away but try to remember they won’t be super-durable. So if you’re looking for a long-term investment you’ll need to spend a little more.
Most cheap tubs will also be great to use in the summer but won’t be insulated enough for the winter. And features and accessories won’t be as fancy – don’t expect wi-fi, numerous jets or lighting.
If you’re having a party, want to try out a tub or just fancy a weekend relaxing but don’t want a long-term investment you can always opt for hiring a hot tub.
There are hundreds of hot tub hire companies that offer hot tub rentals for between 3-14 days. You can get inflatable, hard-shell and even wood-fired hot tub hires. Prices vary depending on the type of tub and how long you want it for but typically start at around £200 for a long weekend.
Costs should cover delivery, installation, cleaning on pick up and any chemicals needed for the duration of the rental. Ensuring you keep the chemicals topped up is vital if you want a hygienic soak.
We don't currently test hot tubs but Jacuzzi, Lay-Z-spa, Skargards, Intex and Canadian Spa are some of the most searched-for retailers for hot tubs at the time of writing. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks.
This relatively compact hard-shell hot tub from Jacuzzi has 23 jets. You can customise both the shell and cabinet colours.
It's at the higher-end of the budget, but Jacuzzi states that its ‘smart seal’ technology helps to reduce noise and increase energy efficiency.
You’ll also get massaging pillows, LED lighting and a waterfall that provides neck massages.
Jacuzzi has a wide variety of tubs, including the J-235 that's a cheaper option and seats up to six people.
This high-end inflatable hot tub from Lay-Z-spa has 87 air jets and can seat up to seven people.
Designed to replicate a traditional Nordic hot tub with wood-effect panelling, the Helsinki tub is pricier than most inflatable tubs.
However, you will be paying to be able to use it all year round. Unlike lots of other inflatable models it has ‘freeze shield technology’ which means you can still use it in very cold conditions.
Coined by Skargards as the ‘original’ wood-burning hot tub, the Regal 190 includes an integrated stove and comes with either a white or ocean blue cabinet.
Prices start at £3,790 as standard but its website offers a build-your-own service where you can add accessories such as underwater lighting, frost protectors and an insulated cover.
Delivered near-fully assembled, you only need to attach a few items such as the flue and you’re ready to go.
Intex claims this inflatable hot tub is ‘strong enough for people to sit on the spa side’. It has 120 bubble jets and can be inflated with the air blower in 10 minutes.
It also has a built-in hard water treatment system that aims to make the water gentler on skin, clothes and the spa system.
At £400, this inflatable tub is pretty mid-range – but remember you won’t be able to use it all-year-round.
This mid-priced hard-shell hot tub from Canadian Spa comes with LED lighting, waterfall and built-in aromatherapy canister that houses scented beads.
It has 22 spa jets and a valve that allows you to vary the pressure. The panelled edging and marble-effect cabinet also house a built-in stereo and five drink holders.
We've chosen these retailers and hot tubs based on popular UK search terms and availability. Prices correct as of 24 June 2020 and obtained from manufacturer's own website where possible; otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.