When I bought my first hot tub, it was a Lazy Spa Vegas, and it was somewhat of an impulse buy! I had looked at a few sites online and looking back at those sites, with the knowledge I have now, I can see that they were just trying to sell me a hot tub!! They were either saying inflatable hot tubs were awful, or they were saying they were the same as a regular solid hot tub!! Both statements are untrue, and in this article, I will give you my experience of both types of tub, detailing the pros and cons of each and it may surprise you what I would recommend for first-timers!!
Inflatable hot tubs are not the same as solid hot tubs
Some sites on the internet will tell you both inflatable and solid hot tubs are the same, and it is just not true. There are similarities namely that both store warm water ready for you to jump into at any time of the day and both require work to keep the water safe. There are many more differences than there are similarities.
Let’s start with the main advantage of inflatable hot tubs.
Inflatable hot tubs are cheap and easy to purchase. We bought ours while it was on offer from a garden centre. That afternoon we took it home, set it up and were able to have a luke-warm hot tub the following morning! Inflatable hot tubs can start from as little as $300, whereas you can purchase solid hot tubs from around $3000 but to be honest you will need to spend a little more than that to get something worth having.
So, if you have a small budget, an inflatable hot tub is the choice for you! (These hot tubs are also known as 13amp ‘plug and play.’ More details here?)
It is tough to state what the running cost will be for any individual user, as this will depend on many factors such as the outside temperature and the amount of time you use the hot tub. What we can say is, like for like, the inflatable hot tub will cost you more in most circumstances because the insulation is not as good. In the summer when the night is warm, the two types of hot tub probably cost a similar amount to run. I used my inflatable hot tub throughout the winter and have been told by some dealerships that I may have been spending $50 a week to run it, but I didn’t check this at the time – sometimes it’s best not to know something!
So, if you plan to use your hot tub over the winter, you need to think about what this might cost. See our hot tubbing winter guide for more information.
Water jets versus bubbles
Inflatable hot tubs, like the lazy spa Vegas, pump air from the outside through a tube that is positioned around the bottom of the hot tub. When it is turned on the water looks like it is boiling and when you are in the hot tub, it feels nice on your skin – in summer. In winter the bubbles are cold, they feel cold on your skin, and they reduce the temperature of the water significantly in a short period of time. When the air pump is on it is also very noisy, which is fine at a party or during the day, but reduces the relaxation factor if you are sitting in the hot tub on a crisp morning or gazing at the stars on an evening.
Some inflatable hot tubs at the higher end of the price bracket come with some jets, but these are limited and not on the ‘same page’ as regular solid hot tubs. The water jets in traditional hot tubs give a deep massage that can help with tired muscles or sports injuries. Air can be added to the jets, but importantly this can be turned off in cold weather to make your hot tub more energy efficient.
The heating element in a regular hot tub works independently of the water jets, so they can maintain the same water temperature no matter how long you sit in the tub for! The inflatable hot tubs I have used can keep their heat in the summer, but when the air temperature lowers they struggle if you are in the hot tub for over 30min.
Inflatable hot tubs are NOT portable!!
I have read and been told many times that inflatable hot tubs are portable and I think this term is misleading. Yes, they can be transported from the shop to your house in a reasonably sized car, and when empty they can be moved around the garden to different positions. But, calling them portable implies you can take them with you when you visit family or friends; I suppose it is possible, but I know it is impossible to get the hot tub folded to the same size it was when I bought it!!
Traditional hot tubs, as long as they have been well maintained, have a reasonable resale value. You can sell a hot tub that is 3-5 years old for more than half the price you paid. There are even companies that will guarantee they will buy back the hot tub and take it away, but they will offer less than the market value. Other companies provide hot tub transportation only so that you can direct a potential customer to them if collecting it from you will be an issue. Some dealerships will even take your hot tub as a part exchange for a newly upgraded tub, so when you are ready to sell look at all your options carefully!
The resale value of your inflatable hot tub is nothing unless it is practically new!! The cover will show signs of wear after one season if the tub is kept outside, exposed to the elements, so it will not look so pretty in your eBay photos!!
So, is an inflatable hot tub right for you?
If you have read most of this article, you may think that I am overly cynical about inflatable hot tubs and I am not!! I loved my inflatable hot tub, and it ignited my passion for hot tubbing. I think an inflatable hot tub is perfect if you have a limited budget. They are sold in supermarkets; you can drive it back home and install it yourself, and you have only spent a few hundred dollars!
Inflatable hot tubs make the perfect first hot tub
If you want to ‘try before you buy’ a big fancy solid hot tub, an inflatable hot tub is perfect. You will be able to gauge how much it would be used to see if it is worth spending thousands on an expensive hot tub. You will also get an idea of how much work is involved in the maintenance; this work may not fit in with your lifestyle and I understand the hot tub bug is not for everyone! I started with an inflatable hot tub and have never regretted it for one moment.
Inflatable hot tubs make great ‘part-time’ hot tubs!
By part-time hot tub, I mean that you may only want the hot tub in your garden for a few weeks in the summer, for a party or for when the grandkids are staying over. In this instance, the inflatable hot tub makes the perfect sense. Solid hot tubs are designed to be working all year round to ensure the pipes do not freeze in cold weather, so if they are not used regularly, it makes little sense in having them.
If you are new to the hot tub scene and have yet to decide which hot tub is best for you, the best thing to do is to try out the different types of hot tubs. Most dealerships will let you have a ‘wet try’ in their showroom, but expect a hard sell – they have to make a living too! Better still, if you have friends that own a hot tub, ask if they can offer you advice or let you try out their hot tub.
Or, just buy an inflatable hot tub, if you like it keep it! If you want to upgrade to a solid hot tub, then give the inflatable hot tub away to friends or family – I’m sure they’ll appreciate the gift!!!
Have a great day everyone,