Portable Hot Tubs vs. Inground Hot Tubs: Pros/Cons

portable hot tubs vs. inground hot tubs

One question we get asked a lot at Southern Leisure is, “Which is better, a portable hot tub or an inground gunite spa?” This can be a difficult question to answer because of the vast differences between the two. While they are both classified as hot tubs and ser the same general purpose, there are so many characteristics and features that differentiate these two products. Below, I am going to outline some of the major pros, cons, and differences between above ground portable hot tubs and inground gunite hot tubs.

Portable Hot Tubs (Above Ground)

portable hot tubsAbove ground portable hot tubs have been around for over 50 years. While the concept and basic design has remained relatively consistent since inception, the features and function of these units has improved by leaps and bounds thanks to modern day technology. From integrated bluetooth music systems to removable jetpak therapy systems, industry leaders in the portable spa market make annual improvements and updates to ensure products are always on the cutting edge.

Portable Hot Tub Pros

  • Lower upfront cost ($3000 – $15,000)
  • Strategically placed jets
  • More jet options
  • Lower repair costs
  • Always hot and ready
  • Extremely energy efficient
  • Various entertainment options (lights/music)

Portable Hot Tub Cons

  • Less integrated into backyard
  • Vinyl cover needs replaced every 3-5 years
  • Can be difficult to repair/service if recessed into ground/deck

Inground Hot Tubs (Gunite/Fiberglass Spa)

Inground hot tubs are integrated into more than half of all inground swimming pools currently built in the United States. Most inground spas are circular in shape with level bench seating all the way around the interior. Typically between 7 and 12 water jets are placed at mid back height throughout the spa. These jets are powered by one single speed pump and occasionally accompanied by a blower to provide air bubbles and additional water movement.

natural boulder hot tub

Inground hot tubs are often designed and sold by pool builders for the aesthetic element that it brings to the outdoor environment. Inground spas are often used to heat the adjacent swimming pool by diverting the flow of the spa to circulate the heating water through the pool by a “spillover” effect. This is an excellent way to prolong the swimming season in regions with a warm climate. Below we will look at a few of the pros and cons of inground hot tubs.

Inground Hot Tub Pros

  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Open seating design
  • Does not require a cover
  • Can be used to heat pool

Inground Hot Tub Cons

  • High initial cost ($8,000 – $30,000)
  • Limited jet therapy
  • Limited seat options
  • Costs over $30/month to operate
  • Expensive to repair/maintain