Therapeutic vs. Recreational Hot Tub: What’s the Difference?

Learn the key differences between recreational and therapeutic hot tubs and how to know which one is right for you.

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A hot tub can turn your home into a relaxing oasis. But before you buy one, you’ll need to consider a few factors and learn the difference between a recreational and a therapeutic hot tub.

Recreational Hot Tubs

Most recreational hot tubs are designed for general enjoyment. While they may claim to offer a relaxing experience and powerful jets, they do not promise any specific therapeutic benefits, or have features specially engineered to promote hydrotherapy.

Recreational hot tubs can be above-ground or in-ground. They can even be inflatable.

Recreational Hot Tub Pros and Cons


  • Wide range of sizes, shapes and designs;
  • Many inexpensive options if you’re on a budget;
  • You can reap many health and relaxation benefits from even a basic one.


  • Lack the same level of hydrotherapy as a therapeutic hot tub;
  • Some lower-priced options may not be made to last.

Recreational Hot Tub Cost

Prices vary widely, depending on the tub’s size, features and construction. A simple inflatable hot tub can cost as little as a few hundred dollars while a luxury recreational hot tub can run $15,000 or more. Between those extremes, expect to pay about $2,000 for an entry-level recreational hot tub and about $6,000 for a mid-tier recreational hot tub.

Who Should Buy a Recreational Hot Tub?

  • Anyone on a budget;
  • Those whose primary interests are entertaining and socializing;
  • Anyone who wants the most options.

Therapeutic Hot Tubs

While any hot tub will deliver a relaxing experience, therapeutic hot tubs go a step further with special engineering. Many therapeutic hot tubs are marketed as “hydrotherapy” hot tubs, meaning they use water to treat aches, pain and related conditions such as arthritis. Most therapeutic hot tubs are above-ground, made of premium materials like acrylic. You will also find some in-ground therapeutic hot tubs.

Common therapeutic hot tub features include ergonomically designed seats; massaging jets designed to hit specific muscle groups; special lighting to suit your mood; the option to add cold water to create a cooling tub; and controls that let you easily customize the strength and position of the jets, water temperature, lighting and more.

Therapeutic Hot Tub Pros & Cons


  • Give you the ultimate relaxation experience;
  • Hydrotherapy has health benefits like improved circulation, lowered blood pressure, better quality sleep and pain relief;
  • Lots of ways to customize your hot tub experience.


  • Fewer models to choose from than recreational hot tubs;
  • Typically cost more than recreational hot tubs;
  • May be able to reap many of the same health benefits from a recreational hot tub;
  • Can be time-consuming to clean if the design features lots of nooks and crannies.
  • Therapeutic Hot Tub Cost

Some lower-cost hot tubs may claim to be “therapeutic” or to offer “hydrotherapy.” They usually aren’t true therapeutic hot tubs, though. True therapeutic hot tubs start at around $5,000 and can climb to around $20,000.

Who Should Buy a Therapeutic Hot Tub?

  • Anyone with a decent budget whose number one goal is relaxation;
  • Those suffering from chronic joint or muscle pain (always check with a doctor first).

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.