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What are the different types of hot tubs?

You’re interested in owning a hot tub, but the problem is you don’t know what’s out there. You don’t know what your options are, what you could have.

By Jon Filson

Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas

Published Oct 30, 2023

You’re interested in owning a hot tub, but the problem is you don’t know what’s out there. You don’t know what your options are, what you could have. 

You’ve seen stories that talk about prices ranges for hot tubs from hundreds of pounds to tens of thousands. How can the range be that vast? 

We are asked about this frequently in our 27 Hydropool stores across the UK and Ireland. We know searching for information on hot tubs and looking for what’s available can be difficult, because we are asked these questions in our retail outlets. So we wrote this article about the different kinds of hot tubs to try and simplify the process for you. 

In this article, we will explain:

  • What are the three different kinds of hot tubs
  • The pros and cons of each kind of hot tub

Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a much better sense of the type of hot tub you’re looking for. 

What is the best type of hot tub to buy?  

There are three types of hot tubs:

  • Inflatable – prices range from hundreds of pounds to £3,500
  • Rotationally molded – prices range from £3500 to about £7,500
  • Acrylic – prices range from £6,500 to £25,000

At Hydropool, we focus on high quality acrylic hot tubs, which are the shiny ones that most people picture when they think of a hot tub. Our retailers generally feature a rotomold option we recommend called DreamMaker, which you can read more about here.

But we will explain all of the types available and give the pros and cons of each, in the most unbiased way possible. 

Why buy an inflatable hot tub?

Inflatable hot tubs are a low-cost way to try out hot tubbing. They are often round, and usually have a little block-style motor on the outside of them, like you might see on a boat.

We don’t make or sell these kinds of hot tubs. Brands include MSpa and Lay-Z-Spa as well as InTex. But we understand why some people look for them. Here are the pros on how these hot tubs are designed:

  • They are low cost. If you’re not sure if you want to commit to a hot tub, then this is a great way to dip your toe in the water.
  • If you’re buying a hot tub for your kids and you don’t intend to keep it long-term, inflatables make sense.
  • If you’re going to be moving the hot tub frequently or won’t be using it in the winter, inflatables are good.
  • If you want a quick set up so you can start hot tubbing immediately, these are a good bet.

However, inflatable hot tubs have remained a small part of the market. This is because of the following cons:

  • You typically sit on the floor, without seats.
  • They don’t heat as well or as fast as more traditional hot tubs. In some cases you have to turn the heat on hours before you use it.
  • They don’t retain heat as they aren’t insulated at all or effectively, so they cost you more to run.
  • The jets are minimal or non-existent. The same is true for filtration: There is minimal effort into cleaning your water.
  • If you’re not using the hot tub, the tub itself still has to go somewhere, which can be a nuisance.
  • Most people don’t often move their hot tub that much, so that attribute is wasted.
  • The list of features is minimal.
  • This is not an “impress your friends” hot tub.

Overall, we find them hard to recommend except in a few very specific situations: It’s why we don’t offer one under the Hydropool brand name.

Should you buy a rotationally molded hot tub? 

A rotationally moulded hot tub is built by pouring plastic into a mold and then twirling that mold into the air so the plastic can adhere to it and stay in that shape. Pylons and children’s toys and tough to break things like kayaks are built this way. 

These will retail around £3,000-£7,500 as price points. The main hot tub features include:

  • Cost: They are a lower-cost option to get into a hot tub.
  • Weight: When dry, a couple of sturdy types can lift these units and move as needed.
  • Durability: These are built to last. If you’re buying one for a rental home, for example, these make sense.
  • Easy start-up: They are often “plug and play” units that plug into a standard wall socket and can be used right after being filled with water, without requiring an electrician.

The main downside? 

  • They don’t look expensive.
  • They aren’t usually bigger than a six-person hot tub, because the type of manufacturing doesn’t allow for larger units.
  • Because of the lower power, the jets aren’t as good as what you’ll find in acrylic hot tubs.
  • The power often is enough to either run the jets or heat the hot tub, but not both at the same time.
  • They require a flat, sturdy base, like an acrylic hot tub.

In short, roto molded hot tub do all the same things higher-end hot tubs do, but they don’t add up to entirely the same experience. We think that is why most people buy acrylic hot tubs. 

Why do most people buy acrylic hot tubs?

Acrylic hot tubs make up about 70 per cent of the market. As a result, they come in a range of pricing: 

  • At the low end of the market, you get companies trying to cut costs with cheap hot tubs that won’t work long-term, but they look nice (here’s a tip: any company that brags about how many jets it has as its main feature, look out). Frankly, we wish many of these were out of the marketplace, as they tend to give all hot tub companies a bad name. You can expect to pay from £5,000-£8,000 in this range.
  • In the mid-range, expect to pay around £7500 to £12,000. Hydropool’s Serenity edition is in this range. These models have traditional filtering and a good massage experience.
  • In the higher-end range, you can pay from £12,000-£25,000. Hydropool’s Signature edition is in this range. Expect unique features, premium options and filtration systems with advanced water treatment and elite massage.

Here are the main reasons why people buy acrylic hot tubs:

  • More and better massage jets demand more pumps. You want about 25-30 jets per pump. With this number you get an ideal amount of pressure for each jet.
  • Quality insulation and build make them energy efficient.
  • There’s a wider variety of acrylic and cabinet colors and sizes so you can get one that fits your space and ideal looks.
  • Acrylic looks and feels like luxury. The shell of the hot tub will shine with led lighting, even at night.
  • Because they are hardwired, they have enough power to run jets and heat, as well as other features such as speakers and lights.
  • The jets are capable of delivering full-body massage or you may get specialized jets.
  • They can come with lounge seats, aromatherapy or even advanced cleaning abilities for less maintenance.

There are other issues with acrylic you will want to know before you buy:

  • Acrylic hot tubs can be placed as in-ground hot tubs, but whether they are in or on the ground, they aren’t easy to move.
  • Acrylic tubs require an electrician in most cases.
  • It’s durable, but it can chip.
  • With more options, that means more to break down over time.
  • You need a cement pad or strong flat surface for an acrylic hot tub.
  • Landscaping is usually required in your garden with an acrylic hot tub.
  • Higher-end acrylic hot tubs will vary their jet lineup from seat to seat, expanding the range of possible massage options. Cheaper hot tubs have the same jet configuration in each seat.

Is an acrylic hot tub right for you? When most people think of a hot tub in their mind, it’s an acrylic hot tub that pops up. It has more features than the other hot tubs and is more likely to cause “ooohs” and “aaahs” when people see it. But the higher upfront cost will need to be factored in any purchase. 

What type of hot tub should I buy? 

We hope you enjoyed this hot tub buying guide. There are three main types of portable hot tubs for anyone to consider: an inflatable hot tub, a roto molded hot tub and an acrylic hot tub (actually, you can also buy a wood-fired hot tub, but that’s a very niche product). They range in price and also performance, providing a wide selection of options for anyone looking for a hot tub. 

Too much choice can make things hard though, so we hope this article helped narrow down your decision for you. Each of these three kinds of hot tubs can make good sense for you, depending on your situation. 

We are asked about which is best frequently at our Hydropool retail outlets. That’s why we wanted to write this article, so you had a sense of what would make the most sense for you. 

Hydropool only sells acrylic hot tubs, so we’re best suited to help you with those! We can recommend DreamMaker as an excellent choice in the rotomold market, however.

We hope this article helped you sort out what’s available. If you have a question about any of the hot tub styles we discussed here, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our local retailers.   

Jon Filson is the Senior Content Manager at Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas.