Disclosure: This post may contain some affiliate links. If you purchase any goods or service through one of these links I may earn a small commission, this is at no extra cost to you.
What is the true cost of a spa or hot tub?
Thinking about purchasing a hot tub for your home? Wondering what the true cost of spa ownership is? What hidden expenses are there in owning a hot tub? How much does it cost for hot tub upkeep?
We bought our first hot tub about a year ago as I’m writing this. We spent about 6 months researching and calculating before we pulled the trigger on our very first hot tub.
One of the biggest questions when we were considering buying a hot tub was how much is this really going to cost us? We couldn’t even find good information about what exactly we would spend our money on.
One of the things that helped us finally take that jump was speaking to a very honest and frank dealer. He gave us the info we were looking for, that made us comfortable with making this investment.
Since I know these types of salespeople are few and far between, let me help you with some of that.
It’s always best to have an idea of what you’re getting into before making a large purchase. Nobody wants a surprise. And let’s face it, purchasing a hot tub is an investment!
There are many factors that go into the cost of owning a hot tub, such as location, size, and type.
Some costs are easily identified, but many may easily be overlooked. Let’s take a look.
Types of hot tubs
There are several different types of hot tubs available on the market today and they vary widely in price.
Inflatable hot tubs are generally smaller than other types of hot tubs. They are made of latex or vinyl and are inflated with a pump and then filled with water. They have less seating capacity and limited features. However, they can easily be setup, moved and stored. They are the lowest cost option for owning a hot tub. You can snag one of these for around $500, including delivery!
Portable or stand alone hot tubs come in a wide variety of sizes, from one person up to the 12 person swim spas. Some of them are plug & play, with 110 motors, so they can be plugged into a regular household outlet without special wiring needed. They offer a wide variety of features such as jets, lights, radios, multiple pumps, waterfalls. They are usually placed in a permanent location and not moved, however they can be moved. You can find a wide variety of costs from $1,500 to well over $10,000.
In ground hot tubs are the most costly hot tubs available. These tubs are custom designed with different shapes and sizes than a traditional hot tub and are more aesthetically pleasing. Their equipment is not built-in, rather it is in a separate location like an in ground pool would be and it can be bulky and noisy. The most expensive option, these will run you upwards of $15,000. It’s often more economical to have these installed along with an in ground pool.
What’s included in the true cost of a hot tub?
In addition to the tub itself, there are some additional costs associated with purchase and setup of your new hot tub, as well as ongoing care and maintenance costs. First, let’s take a look at the initial costs.
Base or platform
The first thing you need when you bring that new hot tub home is a place to put it.
Hot tubs need to be placed on a solid, level surface. This can be either a concrete pad or patio, or a deck. Just make sure that the deck can support the weight of the tub, water and the maximum number of users the hot tub can accommodate. That can sometimes be more than a small car!
A stamped concrete patio might cost $4,000-$5,000, where a simple concrete pad is around $1,000.
Whether you choose a hot tub with a 110v motor or 220v, you’re going to need an electrical hookup.
This may mean you just need to have an outlet nearby or you may need to have it directly wired into your electrical panel.
Most spas will require a 50 or 60 amp breaker with an external GFCI disconnect box.
The heavy wire required can get costly. Depending on how far your hot tub is from your electrical panel, materials can range upward from $150. We had to run the heavy wire around the outside of our house to the opposite side where our hot tub was placed, which was around 150 ft of wire. Materials cost us about $350.
My father is an electrician, so we handled all of the wiring ourselves. If you have to pay an electrician to install and connect the hot tub, you can expect to pay them $350-$1000 for labor.
There are solar options available, but you’ll likely need to run some sort of auxiliary power at some point as well.
Delivery and setup
Hot tubs are very heavy and cumbersome and maneuvering them into position can get tricky. Sometimes you will have to pay for delivery and setup. Many dealers will deliver within a certain distance for free, however they may charge outside of that.
We live over 50 miles from the dealer, so delivery cost us $150. They were able to roll the hot tub on a cart right up to the deck and maneuver it into position.
If you can’t easily access the spot the hot tub will be placed, ramps may need to be built, or it may need to be craned into position over your home. This can cost $1000 or more.
There are lots of accessories available for hot tubs, but to start with, you really only need one thing: a cover.
Some hot tubs come with a cover, so there is no additional cost, but if you need to purchase one, expect to pay around $500 for a decent one.
Although not necessary, I highly recommend buying a set of steps for easier access to your new hot tub. It may seem like you won’t need these, but when you’re wet, or in a hurry, it makes accessing the tub much safer. You can get a set of steps for around $100.
Of course if you have placed your tub next to a step, you may not need these.
A cover lifter is one of those optional accessories that is not needed but highly recommended.
Those covers can get pretty heavy. And their size makes them very awkward to maneuver. Who wants to be wrestling with a cover after you just got out of a nice relaxing soak?
Additionally, a cover lifter will extend the life of your cover, allowing it to dry off a bit during your soak, as well as being handled properly.
Again, some hot tubs come with a cover lifter, so ask your dealer. If you have to purchase it, you can get a decent one for $150.
Filling your new hot tub
Most spas are around 350–500 gallons. The average cost of water in the US is less than 1 penny per gallon. If you live in an area where you have public water supply, the cost will probably not be noticeable.
However, if you have a well, your water quality may be low and you may not want to use that water in your tub, or you may not have a good supply. Then you will have to get it delivered. This will likely cost a few hundred dollars. This will also be a reoccurring cost as hot tubs need to be drained every 3–4 months and re-filled.
It is also recommended to purchase a garden hose pre filter for filling your hot tub. This will remove many minerals and particles from your water making your water management simpler.
Upon setup, you’ll need to get the water in your hot tub balanced. It’s a good idea to have a standard set of chemicals on hand when your tub is delivered to prepare for this.
You’ll need to balance the PH, then the calcium, then add the sanitizer. Basic chemicals are spa sanitizer, PH increaser and reducer, calcium hardness increaser, spa shock. The starter pack of Spa Essentials chemicals has everything you need to get started. Some dealers include startup chemicals with the purchase. Ours did.
You’re also going to need test strips, or a test kit, which run around $15–20.
That should be everything you need to setup your new hot tub and get soaking!
What are the ongoing costs of a hot tub?
Once your hot tub is setup and running, there are some costs associated with maintaining it.
To properly care for your hot tub and maintain safe water chemistry, you should test and adjust your hot tub water 2–4 times per week.
There are several options when it comes to chemicals in your hot tub.
Traditional hot tubs use chlorine and bromine as sanitizing agents. They must be manually added once a week.
Salt water systems don’t require the addition of chlorine or bromine, the salt water system generates the sanitizer needed. You will still need to balance the PH and alkalinity as well as calcium in the water.
If you’re considering a hot tub with Frog Ease Inline system, you’re looking at a much simpler maintenance routine. The replacement cartridgescome in a 4-month supply. This includes one mineral cartridge and 4 chlorine cartridges. You’ll use 75% less chlorine with this system. Once it’s balanced, you’ll only have to shock the hot tub once a month when you change the chlorine cartridge.
Chemical costs will vary depending on your water source as well. If you’re on a well, you may have very different water composition than if you are on public water. We have well water, and the PH of our water is very high. When we fill our tub, it takes around 20 oz. of PH decrease to bring the PH down to acceptable levels. At around $10 per pound, that costs us about $12.50 per fill. Most people will use much less than that if any.
Hot tub filters should be cleaned ever 4–8 weeks. They last about 12–15 cleanings before the fibers break down and they’re no longer doing their job, so they need to be replaced every 1–2 years. Some hot tubs use just one filter, others use 3 or more. These can range from $20 to $50 each.
Electricity is by far the biggest reoccurring cost associated with hot tub ownership. If you’ve never owned one before, it might be a little scary to think about how much it will actually cost you to heat it. I know we did.
We live in upstate NY, where winters can be quite cold and the average annual snowfall total is around 60–70 inches. How much it would cost to heat our hot tub was a big concern for us.
The dealer told us to expect our bill to go up about $1/day on average. More in the winter, and less in the summer.
It turns out he’s about right. Some months in the summer it isn’t even noticeable, and some months in the winter it’s $60 more. It just depends on the weather. Months when we have to empty and re-fill the tub definitely cost a little bit more.
Overall though, the electricity costs are reasonable for the enjoyment we get out of it.
Salt Water Hot Tubs
Salt water hot tubs use fewer chemicals than plain water hot tubs, but they will cost more to purchase, and may cost more to heat as they must maintain a temperature above 60 degrees at all times.
They also require ongoing maintenance that can get costly with the risk of corrosion. However, when properly maintained, some systems will keep your water clean and clear for a full year without draining and refilling.
Hot tub cost per month
So far we’ve looked at all the factors that go into the true cost of a hot tub. Now let’s look at what a hot tub costs per month. Here’s a summary of the hot tub cost per month (this excludes any finance payments relating to the purchase of the hot tub purchase and setup).
Chemicals $8 ($100 per yr/12 mos)
Frog Inline $23 ($90/4 mos)
Filters $5 (based on $50/year)
Total monthly cost = $66
That’s just a little over $2 per day. Less than your fancy cup of coffee!
Making the decision easier
As you can see, there are several varying cost that go into calculating the true cost of a hot tub. This should give you an idea what to expect, and maybe point out a few options you weren’t aware of. I hope it has helped make your decision to own a hot tub easier.
Hot tubs are a luxury item. Chances are, if you can afford the hot tub, these extra costs each month are not going to be a problem. However, it’s always nice to know what you’re getting into. My co-worker once told me I’m afraid of change. No, I told her, I don’t have a problem with change. What makes me uncomfortable is the unknown.