The country where something is produced has no relevance or bearing on the quality of the product, so to say that all Chinese hot tubs are poor quality, at best, an uninformed statement. As the purchaser, it is your responsibility to understand what you are buying, and it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to be transparent about the product.
Why do some websites state that Chinese hot tubs are not good quality?
When you come across an article pointing out all of the potential problems with hot tubs made in China, think what their motivation may be for writing the article. Very often they are selling top of the range American made hot tubs, so it is in their interest to claim that all Chinese hot tubs are poor quality. In this article, we will look at the facts, and I will be 100% honest as I am not trying to sell you a hot tub!!
The cost of Chinese hot tubs
The most attractive quality of some these hot tubs is they are cheap. Really, really cheap. We should not be surprised by this as all products made in China can be made at a more competitive price because labour and all other associated costs are much cheaper in China. This economic advantage is one of the reasons that the Chinese export market is enormous.
Many world-class manufacturers have their factories in China and make amazing products – Apple is the perfect example of this. And nobody is saying all smartphones made in China are poor quality!
The cost of a Chinese hot tub can be as little as $2000, which compared to other brands, is crazy cheap. But there is a relationship between price and quality, so I would recommend in the strongest terms possible to research the hot tub before you spend hard-earned cash.
Hidden costs when buying online
The majority of these cheap hot tubs are purchased online through e-bay/Amazon or a similar company. Selling online means there are no overheads like rent so that the savings can be passed onto the customer.
You must, however, look at the fine print to ensure the cost of delivery and the cost of accessories like the cover are included. The cover is a vital part of the hot tub and needs to fit well and be of good quality to keep the heat in so that the hot tub runs efficiently. When researching for a new hot tub, I recommend making two checklists of things that are essential and desirable things. The hot tub cover goes on the indispensable list!
Hot tub curb-side delivery problem
Curb-side delivery is standard when you buy a hot tub online. This annoyance means that you will need to move the hot tub to its final destination, which is no mean feat given that it can weigh nearly 1000lbs!! The hot tub is also typically delivered on its side, meaning that you may have difficulty getting it flat without breaking it.
If you can pay the supplier to install the hot tub, then this is money well spent!
Inflatable hot tubs come delivered in a box that is much easier to move than a regular solid hot tub!!
The quality of the control system
Many Chinese made hot tubs come with the American made Balboa control system. Balboa has been the market leader for over 15 years, and are considered the most reliable hot tub control system. If the hot tub you are looking at is cheap then, it will only have the entry-level Balboa control, but this is good enough.
I would be wary of other control system brands. I have seen a few that have a touch screen and many functions, but if they break, then fitting a new control system will be costly as you will probably have to buy a new Balboa system, and have it installed by a qualified electrician.
I can also imagine that these fancy Chinese hot tub controllers come with a poorly translated instruction manual, but I have no proof for this!!
Quality of the pumps and heater in Chinese hot tubs
The Chinese are very good at producing electrical components, which is why huge corporations like Apple have set up there. So, China can make exceptional hot tub pumps and water heaters. A big industry secret is that many American hot tub companies use parts made in China! Nobody is shouting about this, right??
Saying this, just because China can make high-quality pumps, does not automatically mean they are installed in your cheap hot tub! This piece of information is something that you will need to check in the specification of the hot tub.
Are Chinese hot tubs well insulated?
Insulation is vital to stop the cost of running a hot tub getting out of control. The average monthly cost of owning a hot tub should be between $30-$40. If the hot tub has no insulation, then the heater has to work harder to keep the water temperature, which will result in high electricity bills.
Many hot tub manufacturers have branded and have trademarks on their insulation ‘solution,’ to make it sound fancy and unique. Some are inventive ideas, but generally, insulation consists of primary and secondary components.
The primary insulation is foam sprayed to the underside of the hot tub. Some manufacturers also spray the pipes which make them less likely to move or get damaged during transit. I am a fan of this, but some say that it makes it difficult to find leaks – my opinion is it shouldn’t be leaking in the first place!!
The secondary insulation is on the inside of the cabinet. This insulation is either solid foam or a matting. Usually, the interior is also made of a shinney material to help reflect heat.
How do I check the insulation when buying a Chinese hot tub online?
Ask for a photo! Hot tubs have an access panel on the side of the cabinet, and this can be opened to reveal the inner workings of a hot tub and the insulation. If the manufacturer has put padding on the access panel itself, then they get extra points!!
Hot tub cover
The hot tub cover need to be well-fitting and of good quality. 80% of the heat loss is through convection and evaporation, so a good quality cover is the most important part of insulating the hot tub. If photos of the cover are not supplied online – ask for them!
“Chinese hot tubs cost a lot more to run!”
Are you sure? If they are using equivalent pumps and heaters, have good insulation and use well-trusted American control systems, why would they cost more to run? Some websites claim that the cost of running “Chinese hot tubs” is four times that of running American Hot tub! Please do not believe these people! An equivalent Chinese hot tub will cost the same as any other brand. You need to do your homework to ensure you are buying a quality product.
Can you buy spare parts for Chinese hot tubs and spas?
Most local dealerships will not stock spare parts for Chinese hot tubs and cite this as one of the potential downsides of buying these hot tubs. However, many websites that specialise in the spare parts, and they have a vast stocklist. My favourite is http://www.chinesespaparts.eu as they have an extensive range and score highly on TrustPilot.
Most parts of a hot tub are modular, and you will be able to change these yourself, however for anything electrical I would recommend getting the advice from a professional.
FAKE Chinese hot tub reviews
It is difficult to know if the reviews you read online are genuine or not. Some distribution sites pay people to write good reviews, and although companies like Amazon are trying to crack down on this, the fact is many reviews out there are fake.
I use TrustPilot a lot. I do not click on the TrustPilot icon on the hot tub site (in case it is fake), but go directly to the TrustPilot website and then enter the company name. When I was recently trying to buy a robotic vacuum, the reviews on the Hong Kong-based companies website were terrific. But in TrustPilot, the company had only two stars, and it was clear many people were unhappy with the customer service.
If you are buying your hot tub from an unknown site, I would highly recommend you do the same research before you spend your hard-earned cash!!
Build quality of Chinese hot tubs
The build quality will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and the only way to be sure of the highest quality is to view the hot tub yourself. Some dealerships now stock some ‘high-end’ Chinese hot tubs, but they are more comparable in price to the known US brands.
If you do enough research, you will soon be able to see if the Chinese hot tub you intend to buy is of good quality.
Things to look for in a quality Chinese hot tub:
- The cover – Does it fit well and has child-safe locks?
- The Cabinet – Does it look sturdy?
- The frame – Does the frame inside the cabinet look strong?
- Insulation – Is it well insulated?
- Controls – Is the control system Balboa or another well-known make?
- The Pumps – How many pumps? Two? HP?
- Jets – Are there too many jets?
- The Seats – Does each seat have a different jet arrangement?
- Filters – Does it use standard filters?
- Reviews – Does it have reviews that look credible? Trust Pilot?
Should I buy a Chinese hot tub?
In the perfect world, we would be able to wet-test hot tubs before we buy them. But, we do not live in the ideal world. If you have been diligent in your research, there is no reason why a Chinese hot tub will not suit you and your family perfectly. And, compared to a big brand hot tub, you will have saved thousands of dollars!
Even if it costs you a few dollars more each month to run the Chinese hot tub, over its lifetime, you will still have saved a small fortune. If you have to wait for spare parts to arrive in the post instead of picking them up from the dealer, It’s unlikely to cause the end of the world!!
Let me know in the comments below if you have bought and Chinese hot tub and love it!! Equally, if you have experienced problems, tell us, so we can all learn what to avoid!!
Thanks for reading,