With portable spas receiving more and more attention in recent years, it’s no surprise that people are starting to ask the question, is an inflatable hot tub worth it?
Whilst we may be a little biased here, it’s for a good reason! Over the last 10 years, we’ve lived and breathed inflatable hot tubs.
We’ve seen how modern technology has allowed today’s durable, energy-efficient and affordable inflatable hot tub options to be a worthy alternative to the more permanent hot tub installations many people are used to!
Of course, there are a few downsides that you’ll have to consider, and inflatable hot tubs might not be for everyone. Still, in this guide, we’ll take a detailed look at what you can expect from a modern portable spa, and by the end, you’ll be able to decide whether picking up an inflatable hot tub is worth it in 2023!
Are Inflatable Hot Tubs Worth It? – Pros and Cons
Value for money – the price
For starters, inflatable hot tubs cost far less than a traditional hot tubs both in terms of their up-front cost-price and installation fees.
The set up of these inflatable Jacuzzis is easy peasy and requires none of the complicated plumbing or electrical work that most traditional hot tubs are associated with, so you won’t need to fork out on any professional contractors and they’re generally around 10x less expensive to buy in the first place!
Provided that you’ve purchased a new inflatable hot tub, so there’s no previous wear to worry about, there’s no reason a well-looked-after inflatable tub shouldn’t last as long as 5-10 years!
So, if you’re already looking into purchasing a standard hot tub, you could save a fair bit by going inflatable!
Do they work as expected?
In a straight-up comparison to a fixed hot tub, blow-up hot tubs operate a little differently, so if you’re expecting the same heating speeds and pressure from the air jets, you may be a little disappointed!
The solid insulation provided by a hard-shell hot tub will always be better at preventing heat loss than the thin vinyl walls of a blow-up spa, mainly as the air temperature inside the walls will eventually drop to match that of the air outside.
Having said this, most inflatables nowadays can reach a water temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius within 24 hours, so it’s not all bad!
If you’re clever with when you engage the water heater, make good use of a secure cover during heating, and are okay with slightly less powerful bubble jets than a permanent jacuzzi, we think inflatable tubs still do a pretty great job for the price.
Do inflatable hot tubs have jets?
Most permanent hot tubs feature at least 20 hydro jets designed to produce a massage experience by firing pressurised jets of water out into the spa water through tiny holes in the hot tub’s shell. This system generally requires the tub to be connected to your home’s plumbing system.
Whilst some portable hot tubs are fitted with a pump unit that makes hydro jet massages possible, they’ll only generally carry up to 10 water jets. Meaning it’s much more common to find inflatable hot tubs using air-jet massage systems. This design is a little less powerful.
Bubble jets use circulating air to produce millions of tiny bubbles inside your portable hot tub. Whilst they don’t quite match up to a 20+ hydro jet massage system, many inflatable hot tubs feature over 100 air jets, so even a cheap model will still provide a decent massage! Still unsure about hot tub jets, read this beginners guide.
How long do inflatable hot tubs last?
It should come as no surprise that inflatable hot tubs are less durable than their hard-shelled hot tub counterparts. The average lifespan for a well-maintained inflatable spa is about five years compared to the 15-year average life of a permanent hot tub.
People also ask us what is the difference between a hot tub and a jacuzzi as many people think these are the same but there are key differences which you should check out before purchasing.
Being primarily made from vinyl, blow-up hot tubs can be prone to tears and punctures, as well as the degradation caused by UV exposure. Having said this, most modern portable hot tubs use layered PVC linings with UV resistance, so provided that you approach them with care and keep them away from sharp objects, inflatable spas can easily last over five years!
The other good thing about inflatable hot tubs is that their components are generally pretty easy to repair, with most brands selling replacement parts for the jets, filters and covers reasonably cheaply.
If your inflatable model is still under warranty, repairs can be even easier, only requiring a quick call or email placed to the manufacturer’s customer support service to get things sorted!
Inflatable hot tub vs regular hot tub
When asking yourself, “is it worth getting an inflatable spa?” You should consider that inflatable hot tubs are often shallower than moulded and traditional hard-shell tubs.
Whilst some permanent hot tubs can be as deep as 34-42 inches, most inflatable hot tubs only reach a depth of 22-24 inches. This can be reduced even further if you need to install additional seating to compensate for the lack of floor cushioning, which isn’t an uncommon issue!
You should also remember that inflatable hot tubs can only be filled to 70%-80% of their capacity before the water risks spilling over the sides when you hop in. Their flexible design can make this spillage worse, as the walls move when you lean into them. A portable hot tub with 26-inch walls won’t actually be filled with 26 inches worth of hot tub water!
Can they be placed anywhere?
Whilst it’s true that an inflatable jacuzzi can be packed down and moved to a new location pretty easily, that’s not to say you can just choose any spot to install the thing with no issue!
The spot you choose must be able to hold the sizable weight of a filled inflatable hot tub, which can be as much as 2000kg, so 2nd-floor rooms, basic outdoor decks, and other raised surfaces should not be considered when installing any inflatable hot tub.
Inflatable hot tub durability is also far less than that of a hard-shelled model, so you’ll need to find a smooth surface free from sharp objects or rough areas that might cause punctures.
An ideal inflatable hot tub setup would be on level ground, close enough to a power source that you won’t need to use an extension cord. Preferably in a sheltered area with a ground mat or other proper insulation, as even hot tubs designed for year-round use will struggle with the freezing conditions during the winter!
What maintenance is involved?
You can expect to be spending about 10-15 minutes a day skimming and testing the water in a hot tub, with more time-consuming drains and deep cleans required once every 3-6 months.
Though this might seem like a hassle, just like cleaning and looking after your car or house, the key to a good spa maintenance routine is little and often. This way, you can avoid any excessive messes that might damage the important components inside your portable jacuzzi or take forever to clean up!
Some permanent hot tubs can include their own built-in hoovers and other fancy cleaning features that make proper maintenance a little less time-consuming. Generally speaking, you won’t spend any more time maintaining than you would with a hard-shell hot tub. For beginners, this hot tub care for dummies guide is a good place to start.
How hot will an inflatable spa get?
The hottest that the water inside any hot tub style should ever get is 40 degrees Celsius, as bathing in water any warmer than this can quickly increase the risk of heart problems, dehydration, dangerous increases in your core temperature and skin burns.
Most modern inflatable hot tubs have a built-in thermal regulator that automatically switches off the heater when the hot tub water reaches 38-40 degrees. These values are generally the ceiling for most inflatable brands.
Though inflatable hot tubs can reach the same safe maximum temperature as a hard-body hot tub, it will take longer to heat up. The better insulated and perhaps even plumbed in permanent spas can reach 40 degrees Celsius in around 4-8 hours. Even the best inflatable model will take 12-24 hours to achieve the same maximum water temperature!
Some Brands Are Worth Getting
Are Lazy Spas worth it?
If you’re looking into picking up a portable hot tub or jacuzzi, you could do much worse than settling on the Lay Z Spa hot tubs we recommend buying this year.
Considered by many to produce some of the best hot tubs around, this industry-leading inflatable tub brand is well-known for its durable construction methods and premium features, including LED lights, hydro jets and even the odd Wi-Fi-enabled Lazy Spas!
All Lay-Z-Spas manufactured after 2021 come with built-in frost protection to prevent frozen water damage during cold winters, rapid heating systems and energy-saving timers to cut down on running costs, and hard-wearing triple-layered PVC linings with excellent puncture resistance.
The only problem is that Lay-Z-Spas are some of the most expensive inflatable models out there but they are excellent for fun in the Summer with family and friends.
Is an MSpa worth buying?
MSPA are another well-respected portable hot tub manufacturer, with their models generally falling towards the more affordable end of the hot tub market. All of the Mspa inflatable hot tub reviews are known for their excellent hygiene features, including built-in UVC sanitisers and smart filtration systems.
Most MSPA models come equipped with an anti-icing unit that allows the hot tub to be used during freezing temperatures, anti-bacterial linings that eliminate most common germs by touch, and wired controllers for easy adjustments over the jets and the heater. The size, seats and shape of MSPA’s are also popular features, as well as how easy they are to set up.
If you’re looking for good value, we reckon MSPA is a brand worth looking out for.
Is an Intex a good buy?
Intex may not be quite as popular of a hot tub brand as Lay-Z-Spa or MSPA in the UK. Still, the recommended Intex hot tubs to buy this year are fairly affordable and known for being well constructed, durable and great for water supplies that suffer from hard water issues.
They are often budget-friendly and have lots of choices for you to pick from.
Most Intex models come with a hard water treatment system that filters out the minerals present in poor-quality water supplies, helping to prevent these contaminants from building up and damaging the pipes and internal components of your hot tub.
These inflatable hot tubs are also constructed from a double-layered Fiber-Tech PVC material that promises to help prevent punctures and tears from damaging the hot tub’s shell! They are popular among adults and kids and provide excellent relaxation.
Inflatable Hot Tub Problems
Increased electricity costs
Though inflatable hot tubs are far cheaper than a permanent hot tub upfront, these hot tub models are known to be quite expensive to run, generally costing around £50-£60 per month in terms of energy usage, which is another reason why people ask are inflatable hot tubs worth the cost and time in the long run.
Inflatable hot tubs take far longer than permanent models to heat up, which is where the bulk of your average hot tub running cost will be spent, but there are ways to mitigate this such as leaving the heater running permanently at a low temp or installing some extra insulation!
Slow heating times
Again, probably the biggest issue when asking, “are inflatable hot tubs worth getting?” is that they’re pretty slow (and expensive!) to heat up.
Because these models are made from thin layers of PVC with air pockets inside, no amount of added insulation is going to entirely prevent the air temperature within the walls from eventually meeting the outside air temperature!
This means that to keep the water hot, you’re going to need to run the heater on a permanent basis, and even then, it can take between 12-24 hours for to heat the water to the same degree as a permanent spa tub can!
Some models are rubbish in winter
Winter can, quite literally, spell the end for some inflatable hot tubs. In fact, many manufacturers recommend that you avoid setting their hot tubs up in temperatures any lower than 4 degrees Celsius.
If the warm water inside your portable spa is allowed to freeze, it can cause permanent and irreparable damage to the pipes and the pump. If your model does not have a reliable anti-icing system, it’s probably best to pack the thing down when the air temperature drops below freezing!
Even with a good frost protection system, you’ll be spending a fair bit of money running the hot constantly throughout the winter, so it’s definitely something to consider if you’re asking yourself, “are portable hot tubs any good?”. Here we have a guide about inflatable hot tubs being used in winter.
Shorter life span than hard-shelled spas
Thanks to their flexible PVC shells and cheaper construction materials, inflatable hot tubs are great for people who can’t afford the real thing, but this big benefit does mean that the average lifespan for one of these hot tub models is far shorter than that of their hard-shelled relatives.
The average life expectancy for a hard-shelled hot tub is around 10-15 years minimum. In contrast, the more vulnerable PVC linings and malleable plastics of an inflatable hot tub contribute to a lower expected useful life of about five years.
That’s not to say that a well-looked-after inflatable spa can’t last as long as ten years. It’s just that a portable hot tub that sees regular use is bound to suffer the odd puncture or tear at some point within that time frame! This is why some ask are inflatable hot tubs worth the money, but we definitely think they are!
Should You Buy An Inflatable Hot Tub?
So, is it worth getting an inflatable hot tub? We think that if you’re already dead set on enjoying the relaxing bubbles and wondering which inflatable hot tub to buy, then just take the plunge and opt for an inflatable model that is worth the investment.
Sure, the tub will take a little longer to heat than a permanent spa and they may not last as long, but they’re a much smaller commitment and can be packed down and moved if you find that you need the space for something else at any point!
Even when you factor in the monthly costs and maintenance considerations, an inflatable hot tub will always be much cheaper than a hard-shelled spa, and with today’s advanced heaters, jets and construction materials, they’re not far off the competition in terms of their operation!
With all that we’ve covered at the forefront of your mind, we’ll pose the question again, “are inflatable hot tubs worth it in 2023?”.
We believe the answer to be a resounding yes! These fantastic models can easily last over five years.
You are providing a comparably luxurious bathing experience to a hard-shelled hot tub for a fraction of the price!
Remember to install some insulation (and try running the heater permanently) to help cut down on those heating times. Look for a model with an anti-icing system if you’re expecting to enjoy your dips year-round.
Still, with everything we’ve covered, we hope you’ve learned that by going inflatable, just about anyone can afford a tremendous hot tubbing experience!