2017-2018 Caldera Hot Tub Buyer’s Guide:
Questions for First-Time Shoppers
At long last, you’ve finally decided to buy a hot tub. Even just thinking about it, you can feel your muscles relaxing in the soothing water as your frets and cares melt from your mind.
But before that happens, you’ll want to be an informed shopper throughout the hot tub buying process. If you haven’t done it before, it’s natural to have plenty of questions, both about the process and about the ongoing relationship you’ll have with your spa.
Don’t worry, though—we’re here to help. Since 1976, we’ve been listening to our buyers’ questions and concerns. We’ve discovered what most first-time buyers wonder—and we’re here with answers.
- How much does a hot tub cost?
- How do I begin the shopping process?
- What are the costs to install a hot tub?
- How much will my utility bill increase?
- Is it difficult to maintain?
- Is it hard to keep the water safe and clean?
- Do I really need a hot tub?
- How do I prep my yard for a hot tub?
- What features should I look for?
- Who will fix my hot tub if it breaks?
1. How much does a hot tub cost?
The first question many people ask is, “How much does it cost to buy a hot tub?” Of course, the short answer is, “It depends on the hot tub.” There are roughly four tiers of hot tub quality: entry level, value-priced, premium, and luxury.
- Entry-level hot tubs cost around $2,500-5,000
- Value-priced hot tubs cost around $4,000-8,000
- Premium hot tubs cost around $6,000-10,000
- Luxury hot tubs cost around $9,000-16,000+
So what’s the difference between these levels of quality? Well, the price of a hot tub varies based on size, features, materials, components, and engineering. The better hot tubs will generally offer more varied sizes and configurations, have more entertainment options and more powerful jets, be built of more durable materials, and offer greater energy efficiency. To get the full details, read more in our hot tub pricing guide.
Additional hot tub pricing factors
Based on your local area and your unique backyard or deck, a few other factors will affect the total price of your hot tub:
- Landed costs, such as freight costs to your location and the dealer’s overhead, will influence the final price of your spa.
- Installation costs can vary based on any unique location-based challenges such as narrow access, deck remodeling, and backyard setup. These costs can also fluctuate based on payments from dealers to their service team, plus fleet maintenance and associated vehicle costs.
Of course the upfront costs should be compared with the long-term value of spa ownership. It’s important to consider how you’ll benefit from your hot tub, and how many years of enjoyment it will bring you. Many hot tub owners have made their spa time part of their daily ritual, perhaps taking a quick soak before or after work. When used in this manner, the benefits of owning a spa can enrich every other aspect of your life. Hot tubs made of durable, high-end materials tend to easily last for over a decade. And while some components may wear out over time, these can be repaired or replaced. All told, a well-loved, quality hot tub can deliver daily benefits for many, many years.
Other Price Concerns for Hot Tub Buyers
The factors above account for most of the price variation in hot tubs. Still, there’s more that first-time buyers frequently ask. Here are some other questions you may seek answers to:
- How do I know if I’m getting a good deal? It’s important to do a little research. Know what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend, and consider a variety of local options before making your purchase.
- Where’s the best place to buy a hot tub? The best place to buy a hot tub is almost always a local dealer with a national support network, who will be able to provide service for the life of your hot tub. These dealers carry spas from world-renowned manufacturers, and they have the institutional standards and level of expertise necessary to do a quality, professional job of supporting you and your spa.
- What accessories should I buy? This depends on your preference. Generally speaking, functional accessories are the most important. Investing in a cover lifter for your hot tub greatly increases your ease of use, and therefore the likelihood you’ll frequently visit your spa. A skimmer is a useful tool to clean out any unwanted detritus. To easily get in and out of your spa, consider a staircase or even a railing. An umbrella is also a useful accessory. It’s great when it rains, and it also keeps the sun off of you when using the spa during the day. Finally, depending on the level of your spa’s filtration and water purification systems, water care chemical kits can be important as well. Your dealer will help you determine which care kit will be best for your spa.
2. How do I begin the research process to be a confident shopper?
It’s always a little tricky to do something like buying a hot tub for the first time. Where do you start? It’s a good idea to do a little research to help you know what you’re looking for. Check out different resources, and ask people with experience. That way you can shop for your first hot tub equipped with second-time buyer knowledge.
- Start with an internet search. Seeing as that’s where you’ve found this buyer’s guide, it seems like you’ve figured this one out already! The internet is a fantastic tool for finding dealers in your area, reviews of the best hot tub brands, and general information about hot tub ownership. When looking for reviews, it’s a good idea to compare information from multiple sources and to find reviews from neutral sites like Spasearch.
- Once you’ve got a good idea of what you’re looking for in a hot tub, the next step is to visit your local dealer. Here you can learn which models they carry in stock, how they handle delivery and installation, and what their service plans look like. Getting an in-person introduction to some models of interest can also help inform your decision.
- Nothing beats a personal touch. If you know any true spa enthusiasts — ideally someone who uses their spa daily and has owned it for a decade or longer—they’ll be able to offer you a wealth of knowledge to guide you through buying and owning a hot tub. Their personal experiences will help you figure out what’s most important for you, both today and ten years from now.
3. What are the costs to install a hot tub?
There are expenses in addition to the actual purchase price of your spa. Knowing the costs of installation ahead of time can help you budget and plan, making installation as seamless as possible. When it’s all said and done, your new hot tub will start paying you back in rest and relaxation.
Installing a hot tub will take a few steps, and the overall cost varies depending on size, location, and complexity, but can range from around $85 to $800+. On average, the national cost for above ground installation costs a little more than $300. Prior to installing a hot tub, you should consider and price out these elements:
- New patio slab. A cement slab or other load-bearing surface will be required to support the weight of the hot tub. Cement slabs are the most durable option; as a DIY project, it will take a few hours and around $100 in materials, depending on size. Hiring contractors or paying the dealership to lay the slab can cost between $1,400 and $3,500.
- Electrical wiring/running conduit. Your hot tub will require an electrical connection to run the heater, pumps, filtration system, and any entertainment options. The electrical materials, which include a bond wire, service panel, ground and GCFI break, a DC converter for the pump, and PVC pipe, will cost around $250. They require approximately three hours of service from an electrician to install, which will cost around another $250. Trenching work to bury electrical components can cost about $70.
- Gazebo or other custom installation options. Custom installation options such as building a gazebo, a wraparound deck, or a stone or tile surround will add to your overall price. The cost of each of these options will depend on your location, the materials used, and the contractor you employ. These additions can be built before your hot tub purchase, or can be added as the years go by to improve your spa experience. Overall, the costs associated with installing a portable spa are considerably less than those associated with installing an in-ground hot tub.
4. How much will my utility bill increase?
Running a hot tub requires energy, so it should be no surprise that your electric bill will go up. However, certain hot tub features improve your energy efficiency and can minimize this additional cost.
- Your heater, pump, insulation, and custom-fit cover are all part of the same system working to keep your water hot. High-end systems are very good at efficiently maintaining your spa’s temperature, requiring a low continuous expenditure of energy. While it may be less expensive up front to purchase a hot tub with a low-quality heater, pump, or insulation, your electrical bills will be consistently lower with a better system. Owners of CalderaⓇ spas, for example, report that when their spa was used six days a week, their electric bills only increased by around $20 per month.
- During wintertime, especially in cold climates, your hot tub will have to work harder to maintain its temperature. Your electric bill will rise correspondingly. The degree of this rise will be exaggerated in low-end hot tubs with poor components and insulation. Higher-quality hot tub owners will notice less of a difference.
5. I want a hot tub, but I worry it might be difficult to maintain.
While some of us are master handypersons always in search of the next project, the rest of us may be a little hesitant to take on the long-term maintenance of a hot tub without knowing how difficult or time-consuming it might be. Hot tub manufacturers and dealers understand this hesitation and have worked hard to design hot tubs that are simple and quick to maintain. They’ve also established service practices to help hot tub owners who lack the time, expertise, or interest to maintain a spa on their own.
- For added convenience, many high-end hot tubs have built-in water care systems. These feature filters of various sizes, types, and performance ratings. The higher the quality of your filter, the less often you’ll need to purify or change your water.
- Water in hot tubs with dedicated circulation pumps and continuous circulation stays fresher longer than in hot tubs without these components.
With today’s spas, it doesn’t take a huge time commitment to keep your hot tub running. A small upfront investment in preventative maintenance pays great dividends over the life of your hot tub. A little care ensures your hot tub never adds any stress, only reduces it.
- Investing five to ten minutes a week to assess and adjust your water levels prevents the need for more lengthy and costly adjustments later. Compared to the hours of enjoyment you can gain from your hot tub each week, this time investment is minimal.
- Cleaning, maintaining, and replacing your filters, cover, and outside paneling when they show signs of wear helps keep your hot tub functioning at peak efficiency, lowering your ongoing costs.
- Many dealers offer “valet service.” When you’re signed up for a valet program, professional technicians will come by your spa on a regular basis to ensure it stays clean and ready to use.
6. I’ve heard hot tubs can be unsanitary. Is it hard to keep the water clean and safe?
Without proper treatment, filtration, and maintenance, a hot tub can become unsanitary. However, it only takes a small investment of time and energy to keep your water crystal clear and safe to use. In addition to changing your water and filters regularly, there are several different options of chemical additives to keep your water pure.
- The traditional and most common method is chlorinating your water. When using a chlorine system, keep an eye on your levels to make sure your water stays pure. To make adjustments easy, stores sell pre-measured chlorine packets. The only downside to chlorine is that it can irritate the skin and eyes of some people.
- Bromine has a lower pH than chlorine, making it easier on the skin and eyes while still doing a great job of killing algae, viruses, and other contaminants. Bromine also comes in pre-measured packages. Be sure to completely drain and clean your tub when switching from chlorine to bromine to prevent an unwanted chemical reaction.
- Ozone systems neutralize contaminants by injecting ozone into the water, while a non-chlorine oxidizer combined with other minerals cleans the water and slows bacterial growth. This option is very mild on the skin and eyes.
7. Do I really need a hot tub? What if I get it and don’t use it enough?
Owning a hot tub can have a profound, long-lasting positive impact on your life. A hot tub can help you grow closer to your family, enhance your sense of well-being and physical health, and reduce muscle soreness. Using your hot tub regularly will help you renew yourself, rejuvenate your body and mind, and reconnect with what’s important in your life.
- Renew. Taking a little time each day to relax and center yourself in the warm, welcoming bubbles of your spa will improve your sense of general well-being. It helps you forget the stresses of work or your commute and relaxes your worried mind. Your spa can improve your general physical health as well by relieving tension and unknotting tense muscles.
- Rejuvenate. To rejuvenate is to reclaim your youth, in body and spirit. Simply sitting in your hot tub helps you burn calories, as well as reduce stiffness and muscle fatigue. Even better, the combination of hot water and massage jets will improve your muscle tone. After each soak in your hot tub, you’ll step out feeling a little younger than before.
- Reconnect. As a social space, free from the distractions of television or the internet, a hot tub is a wonderful place to grow and nurture your connections with your friends and family. When you’re in the hot tub with your partner or your children, you’re able to spend quality time together away from the pressures of the world outside. This promotes conversation and togetherness in a relaxing, pleasant atmosphere.
What a way to start the day!
One of my favorite times of the day is when I first get up and have a cup of coffee while sitting in my Caldera Spa. It a great way to reflect while getting a massage. I have done this daily since getting the spa over 2 years ago. I even do some yoga stretches in it. My backyard is my sanctuary and the spa is mainly why this is so.
Darc, Caldera owner since 2012
Stress Relief in my Caldera waters
My husband & I use our hot tub daily, sometimes twice a day. We are mountain bikers,and i am a member at a gym so after a long ride or workout we wind down in the tub to relax our muscles. It is simply heaven.
Mare, Caldera owner since 2014
How to ensure you use your hot tub regularly
Some prospective hot tub owners worry that their hot tub won’t see much use, and they won’t experience its renewing effects. And of course, a hot tub that sees little use isn’t going to help its owner much. The best way to make sure you get a good amount of use from your hot tub is to make it part of your routine. Here are a few ways to make using your hot tub on a regular basis as easy as possible:
- Locate your hot tub in a place that is easily accessible from your back door—don’t place it too far out in your yard! Particularly on cold, snowy, or cloudy days, the proximity makes your spa a warm, close, appealing escape.
- Investing in a cover lifter makes taking off the cover a one-person job, allowing anyone to hop in the spa at any time without needing outside help.
- Purchasing water care chemicals on a monthly basis can easily slip far down on the to-do list. To keep your stock fresh—and your hot tub pristine—many dealers let you set up an automatic reorder. You can even have these chemicals delivered!
- Many hot tub dealers offer white glove or valet hot tub service, which means they take care of every aspect of maintenance for you before you even have to ask. With valet service, your hot tub is always ready to be used at a moment’s notice.
Common reasons owners underuse their hot tubs
When we ask people why their hot tub doesn’t get used, their answers usually fit one of a few patterns. Each reason can be inhibitive, but is also easily preventable.
- Owners have a poor water experience. Poor water quality in your hot tub easily makes for a poor experience. This can be prevented by assessing and adjusting your levels and replacing filters as necessary.
- Owners have high energy bills. Some customers dislike the impact their hot tub has on their energy bill. While hot tubs will always require energy, higher-end hot tubs are more efficient than low-cost spas, resulting in a much less dramatic increase to the electric bill.
- Owners don’t feel like hot tub ownership has positively impacted their lives. Infrequent users sometimes feel as though the experience of owning a hot tub hasn’t made a profound difference in their lives, or isn’t ‘worth it.’ But those who consistently and intentionally use their hot tub will begin to experience the physical, mental, emotional, and relational benefits of spa ownership day after day, week after week.
- Owners have difficulty getting in and out of their hot tub. People with limited mobility can experience problems entering and leaving their spas. For these customers, designing the deck or surrounding area to facilitate movement can greatly improve the hot tub experience. In addition, matching steps and hand rails are available with many spas.
- Owners have trouble removing the hot tub cover by themselves. As hot tub covers can be heavy, removing them often requires more than one person. If you have difficulty lifting the cover by yourself, it may be tempting to forgo a soak. Hot tub cover lifters eliminate this obstacle by turning cover removal into a simple one-person job.
Also, generally speaking, investing in a low-quality hot tub may not deliver ideal results. The more you like your hot tub, the more you’ll want to use it. When choosing the model to take home, think about what you’ll want most from your spa down the road, and find the model that best supplies that.
8. I heard it’s a hassle to install. What do I have to do to prepare my space for a hot tub?
An experienced hot tub dealer can connect you with the help you need to ensure a smooth and easy spa installation. They’ll be there for consultation, to help you design a custom backyard solution, or to point you to a dependable local contractor. In fact, this underscores the importance of working with a good, local dealer who has national support. These professionals will make each step of the hot tub purchase, installation, and maintenance a breeze.
Free site visits and consultations are generally available to take the worry and guesswork out of the process. Your dealer will help you plan for:
- Location and space requirements. They’ll measure clearance for delivery, find the ideal place to locate the spa, and offer alternatives for difficult installations, such as using a crane.
- Surface base requirements. Your dealer will be able to help you connect with a contractor who can create a concrete slab or deck to place your spa on.
- Electrical supply. It’s entirely understandable if you don’t want to take electrical matters into your own hands. Your dealer will be able to find a qualified electrician to handle your wiring and connection issues.
- Your dealer will also be able to inform you about your delivery options, how long delivery will take, and whether you’ll need to obtain a planning permit. Once your spa is delivered and properly installed, it should be ready to use as soon as it heats up.
9. I don’t know the first thing about hot tubs. What features should I look for?
The most important feature to look for in a hot tub is functionality. After that, shop for performance, comfort, and style. Your hot tub will be part of your life for years to come, so it’s a good idea to choose features you’ll be happy with down the road. Here are some of the basic questions on features you should ask your dealer:
- Is it large enough to fit my family?
- How well does it keep the water clean?
- Who is the manufacturer, and how reliable are they?
- How easy is it to operate this model?
- What are this model’s typical operating costs?
- Will I use it for backyard entertainment, or just for quiet time alone?
- Will I use it alone or with other people?
- What accessories come with this model? What other accessories do you recommend?
A good dealer will be happy to answer your questions and help you find the hot tub that suits you best. They can even arrange a time for you to stop by and test how it feels to sit in the spa, dry or wet. They’ll be your partner down the road as well, providing you the service you need year after year.
10. Who will fix my hot tub if it breaks?
This depends on your preference. If something goes wrong with your hot tub due to a defect, you’ll probably be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. When something wears down after years of use, if you have the time and enjoy the challenge, you might be able to conduct most repairs yourself. If you’d rather use a professional, your dealer should be able to handle any repairs and maintenance onsite. If they can’t, they should be able to point you to a trusty technician or contractor.
Now that you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the process entails, you can comfortably begin your hot tub search. It’s okay to take your time and be patient. Remember that any time you put into searching out the best spa for you will be paid back with years of enjoyment. Think ahead to your next decade of bliss—and relax.
Our Caldera spas are engineered with precision, built with top-of-the-line components, and designed to delight the eye and soothe the muscles. Take a look through our models to find the spa that has the features you need.