If you're thinking about purchasing a hot tub or spa, there's a good chance one of the first questions you have is: "How much does a spa cost?"
You may even be asking: "Why is there such a huge range in spa pool pricing?”.
After all, you can spend $2,999 on one spa or $29,999 another and – on the surface, they look pretty similar. But are they?
For example, we compared three different spas from Spa World with (on the face of it) similar specifications.
The following spas are all 2 meters by 2 meters, seat 4-5 adults, have a circulation pump (filtration pump) and a single jet pump, and have 35-40 jets – but look at the difference in price:
Why are spa prices so different?
As you can imagine, when building a spa, manufacturers have many options to choose from.
Here are some factors that can have an impact on the final sale price:
- What parts are going to be used to make it?
- What to put in and what to leave out?
- What kind of warranty and after-sales service is offered?
Does it matter where a spa is made?
Spa pools are very labour intensive to make.
Most of the process is not automated and therefore the cost of the labour in the country of manufacture, ultimately influences the price (but not necessarily quality) of the spa.
Many of the best quality spas in the world (and certainly the best value spas) are made in China, Mexico and Eastern Europe where labour costs are lower than in developed countries. Learn more about spas and swim spas made in China.
It is important to note that where a spa is made is not a guide to quality.
Some of the best spas on the market for quality and value are made in developing countries; Jacuzzi® Spas and HotSpring® Spas have plants in Mexico. Oasis Spas™, Lifestyle Spas™ and Vortex Spas™ are made in China.
Equally, we have seen some very poor quality spas that are made in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and Western Europe.
Why? Because the higher the labour cost, the fewer hours invested in the production; otherwise, the higher labour costs would have to be passed on to the customer.
This does not mean that there are not some great spas made in developed countries (Sapphire Spas™, Signature Spas™, BullFrog Spas™ and Artesian Spas™ are all made in Australia and the US respectively).
Ultimately, where a spa is made should not be the final judge of the quality.
How can you tell a quality spa?
The options for how a spa is made are too many to mention, but there are two things to look for which are good indicators of quality:
- What are the warranties on the product?
- How long has the brand been operating for?
Firstly, warranties. Generally speaking, the longer the warranty, the longer the spa will last.
The shell of the spa should be warranted for at least 10 years and the pumps and electronics should be warranted for two to five years.
But beware. We have seen newcomers offering long warranties to grab sales before they have been around for the duration of their warranty.
Which leads to the next point; how long has the brand been around?
As you would expect, longevity leads to experience. Newcomers to the market will generally know less about making a spa than a company that has been around for decades.
Two really good questions to ask when buying a spa are:
- How long has the product been made for?
- How long has the retailer been selling spas for?
There are many great spa makers and spa sellers who could answer 20 years+ to both questions. Jacuzzi®, for example, has been manufacturing spas for over 64 years!
As an influencer of price; superior manufacturing techniques will certainly lead to higher prices.
Cutting corners in the manufacturing process will certainly allow for a cheaper spa, but will just as certainly mean the spa will not last as long and, as important, will cost more to maintain and operate.
The six key things that set spas apart
The average spa has hundreds of components and manufacturers have options for every one of them.
Put simply, cheap parts lead to a cheaper spa. They also lead to breakages, failures and buyer remorse!
Here are six really important things to look for when choosing a spa:
- A moulded base with an upturn. This stops water getting into the inside of the spa’s cabinet when it rains.
- A treated timber, or plastic frame. Ask to see absolute proof of the timber treatment as many suppliers claim their frames are treated when in fact they are just painted. Also, don’t be fooled by ‘stainless steel’ frames. It is usually very low-quality stainless steel and we have seen many rusted steel frames.
- US-made acrylic shell. If it doesn’t state US-made, it isn’t. No one outside of the US makes decent quality acrylic sheet yet.
- A recognised brand of control system. The big ones are Balboa, Gecko and SpaNet. HotSpring® Spas make their own and these are also very good. Once again, if the supplier is not claiming they use one of the above brands – steer clear!
- A decent warranty on the jets and plumbing. This should be 2-5 years.
- The quality of the cabinet. Ask the retailer to remove it for you so you can assess the weight and integrity. The cabinet is going to get hit with years of UV rays and poor quality cabinets will quickly fade and warp turned your new spa into an eyesore
Using quality components can easily double the manufacturing cost of a spa pool, which in turn leads to a retail price that is twice as high. As an example, look back at the difference in price between the three spas mentioned earlier in this article.
Just be aware, it is almost impossible to build a quality spa and bring it to market for less than $5000 and even then, it would have very low functionality (see below).
Six top features to look for in a spa
The more features a spa has, the more it will generally cost, but the more enjoyable it is likely to be to own it.
Here the six top features to look for in any spa you buy:
- A circulation pump. Circulation pumps lead to cheaper running costs, better water quality and a quieter spa than a two-speed pump. A spa with a circulation pump would be at least $1000 more than the same spa fitted with a 2-speed pump.
- An automated sanitising system. Ozone (which clarifies the water) is a must. UV (which sanitisers the water) is preferable, and any spa with multi-stage filtration is going to be easier to maintain than one without. A very good automatic sanitising system can easily add $2000 to the price of a spa when compared to the same spa without.
- Good levels of insulation. The bare minimum should be insulation of both the shell of the spa and the inside of the cabinet, but ideally, choose a spa with ‘full-foam’ insulation as these have the lowest running costs - see this article on how much a spa costs to run. Full foam insulation can add $2000 to the retail price of a spa but the savings over time on running cost could be considerably more, making good insulation a great investment.
- A heavy cover. A thicker, higher density cover is better for reducing heat loss and therefore running costs. Choose a cover lifter to make removing the cover easier.
- A treated timber or plastic frame. Once again, ask the retailer to remove the side of the spa and show you.
- Big water jets. Manufacturers will often inflate the jet count of a spa by using lots of little water jets or air jets. The bigger the jet, the better the massage. Some of the best hydrotherapy spas on the market including Jacuzzi®, Hot Spring® and Bullfrog® have relatively low quantities of jets. More jets is not necessarily better. What is important is the way the jets are designing into the spa. Spa companies with great design and engineering teams will generally produce a spa with superior hydrotherapy, but this does come at a cost. It is one of the many hidden costs that is not recognised, but certainly contributes, to a better spa ownership experience.
Spa warranties and after-sales service
A warranty is a written guarantee issued to you by the retailer or manufacturer, promising to repair or replace your swim spa if anything goes wrong within a set period.
Be aware that warranties can vary in the spa industry.
There are too many retailers and manufacturers coming into the market and offering warranties that are longer than they have been in existence.
Many shut down before the end of the warranty period, leaving customers with no support and potentially no access to replacement spare parts. This can render the spa unusable.
The best way to avoid this happening to you is to buy from a retailer with a solid track record. As mentioned above, many (like Jacuzzi®) have been around for decades.
Another important thing to consider when buying a spa is the level of after-sales service offered by the retailer.
All spas will require consumables and after-sales support over their lifetime. Many retail groups nowadays have integrated parts and consumables divisions. The best retailers offer 7-day support via a centralised call centre.
Other things to consider with spa costs...
The above points are reasonably easy to look for but there are some other aspects of a spa that are harder to spot.
We have already mentioned things like the acrylic, the framing, the controller type and the insulation; but there a couple more to pay attention to.
The first is the amount of resin that is applied to the acrylic shell. This is probably the single biggest determiner of spa life span. Discuss this with the retailer, but if you are brave enough, try to pick the spa up under the lip. If you can lift it, even an inch, don’t buy it!
Lastly, check the type of piping that is used in the plumbing. Clear plastic tubing is not good. You should be seeing a ribbed flexible PVC plumbing. This type of plumbing has been specifically designed for hot, chemically treated water.
Selecting the right spa retailer
Choosing a spa can be a complex and complicated process – but it shouldn't be.
A reputable retailer can guide you through the process and help make it a stress-free experience.
The retailers we recommend in Australia are Just Spas®, SpaChoice®, HotSprings® and Spa World.
The most important thing is to ask the retailer how long they have been operating for. If the retailer or manufacturer has warranties that are longer than how long they have been around, it may be a good idea to keep searching.
Hopefully, after reading this article you now have a better understanding of why spas that look the same on the surface, can vary so much in price.
For more information, visit the Spa World product pages where you can see all of our spas, swim spas and prices.
Our Ultimate Spa Buyers Guide is also a fantastic resource for anyone interested in purchasing a spa or swim spa.
Download The Buyers Guide
In this article, we’ve used brand names not affiliated with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd, the parent company of Spa World™.
All information, including pricing and product details, was accurate at the time of writing (8 July 2020) and may change without notice.
The following registered trademarks are owned by companies not affiliated in any way with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd:
Oasis Spas® trademark is owned by Oasis Leisure Products Pty Ltd.
Artesian Spas™ trademark is owned by Artesian Spas
Bullfrog Spas® trademark is owned by Bullfrog International, LC
Signature® Spas trademark is owned by Spa Industries Pty Ltd (SCS).
HotSpring® Spas trademark is owned by Watkins Manufacturing Corporation (Watkins).
Lifestyle Spas® trademark is owned by Lifestyle Spas and Leisure
Just Spas® trademark is owned by Just Spas
SpaChoice® trademark is owned by SpaChoice
Vortex® Spas, Fisher™ Spas and Spa World® are trademarks owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd.
The Jacuuzzi® brand is owned by Jacuzzi Inc. and exclusively licensed for use to Spa World™ in Australia and New Zealand.