What to Know About Outdoor Hot Tubs

Updated: Dec. 14, 2023

Here are important things to know and consider if you're thinking about buying a hot tub.

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A dip in a hot tub is the perfect way to end the day on a relaxing note. Here’s what to know about them, if you’re thinking about buying a hot tub.

Should You Get a Hot Tub?

There are pros and cons to owning a hot tub.


  • Great way to unwind;
  • Fun way to entertain friends;
  • Unlike having a pool, in most parts of the country a hot tub can be enjoyed year-round.


  • The cost of a hot tub can be expensive up front, and there’s ongoing maintenance costs to account for too;
  • May need to modify your yard and add an outdoor electrical outlet to accommodate it;
  • Time and effort are required to clean and maintain it.

Types of Hot Tubs

These are the three main types of hot tubs:

  • Above-ground hot tubs: This is the most popular variety. They come in many shapes and sizes and are typically less expensive to buy and operate than in-ground hot tubs. Above-ground models require electrical hard wiring the hot tub, or, sometimes, it can be plugged into an electrical outlet. Besides standard recreational hot tubs, there are also hydrotherapy hot tubs that feature ergonomic design and special massaging jets to create a therapeutic experience.

  • In-ground hot tubs: Often referred to as “spas,” in-ground hot tubs are custom-built into the ground. They are often paired with an in-ground pool. While aesthetically pleasing, they are typically the most expensive hot tub option.

  • Inflatable hot tubs: These blow-up hot tubs are typically made of latex or vinyl. They are less expensive than other above-ground hot tubs and can be placed on grass or a solid surface. They won’t last as long or have the water-jet power of other hot tub options.

Hot Tub Sizing Considerations

You’ll typically work with a contractor to decide on a size and space for an in-ground hot tub. For an above-ground hot tub, you’ll want to decide on a location (a patio, porch or deck are popular picks) and measure it. Restrict your search to hot tubs that fit within those dimensions.

Above-ground hot tubs are also measured by how many people they can comfortably accommodate. That can range from as few as two to as many as 12. Consider that when determining the size of your hot tub.

How Much Does a Hot Tub Cost?

Price varies widely. While a simple inflatable hot tub can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, a custom in-ground hot tub costs about $15,000.

For a standard above-ground hot tub, expect to pay around $3,000 for a basic model. A mid-priced model costs about $8,000, while luxury models start at around $16,000. Unless you plan on installing the hot tub yourself, add another $150 to $500 for installation. According to Home Advisor, “The national cost to install an above-ground hot tub averages $316, with most homeowners spending between $157 and $490.”

You’ll also need to cover the cost of water, heat, chemicals, bulbs and filters. Electricity costs for an above-ground hot tub are about $20 a month. In-ground hot tubs usually cost more than $30 a month to run. You’ll also need to budget for chlorine, filters, ongoing maintenance and the occasional repair.

Where to Buy a Hot Tub

  • National retailers like The Home Depot, Amazon and Wayfair.
  • Pool and spa dealers. Check your local listings or go to your desired hot tub manufacturer’s website to find the nearest dealer.
  • Individuals selling used hot tubs. Popular places to look include eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
  • These are our recommendations for the best hot tub models you can buy.

Hot Tub Maintenance

Cristina Miguelez, a home maintenance and remodeling specialist at Fixr.com, recommends the following to maintain and clean your hot tub:

  • Check the chemical levels. Use tester strips to monitor the pH (it should be between 7.4 and 7.6), alkalinity (between 80 and 120 ppm), calcium (between 150 and 250 ppm) and chlorine levels (at least 3 ppm) at least twice a week. Leisure Time Test Strips for Spas and Hot Tubs let you test all four levels at the same time.

  • Clean the filter. Rinse off dirt and grime from the filter about every two weeks. Replace the filter as often as the manufacturer recommends.

  • Clean the inside. Miguelez recommends draining your hot tub every two months and using a spa cleaner like Oh Yuck Healthy Hot Tub Cleaner and a spa vacuum to clean the interior.

  • Air out the cover. At least twice a week, remove your hot tub cover so that accumulated moisture can evaporate.

How Hot Is a Hot Tub?

The recommended range for hot tubs is between 90 and 104 degrees. That’s considered a safe range for the average adult user. Anything above 104 degrees can be dangerous, and it can raise the body temperature high enough to cause heat stroke. Make sure you’re using an accurate thermometer to test the water temperature.

The Consumer Product and Safety Commission cautions pregnant users not to enter a hot tub with a temperature above 100 degrees. Water above 102 degrees can cause fetal damage during the first three months of pregnancy.

Anyone with a history of heart disease, circulatory problems, diabetes or blood pressure problems should consult their doctor before using a hot tub.