Hot Tub Time Machine
February 20, 2017 9:33 PM   Subscribe

We are getting a hot tub! But what kind? Should we buy a new Softub or should we get a used hard shell tub (which one?) We have never done this before and we want your advice on the kind of hot tub to get to suit our lives. Many more details below the fold.

About us: we are renting a place in Santa Cruz, CA, and may not be staying in the city for many years (we don't know), but we don't want to wait until we are sure of where we are living before getting a hot tub, because years are passing and a hot tub is the only thing that keeps us from pure happiness all the time. Our landlord is fine with whatever.

Here's our dilemma: We think it would be dumb to spend $4000 on a hard shell tub we will just have for a year or so, hence the idea of getting a (portable) Softub. But maybe a Softub isn't comfortable (no benches) and it is silly to spend $4000 on something not comfortable. Do you have experience with this?

- We could get a used hot tub: but is that just asking for trouble? Our house is a big hike down a hill, so moving it in is a huge ordeal. and we love the idea of a Softub being about $10 per month on electricity; are there hard shell hot tubs that cost about that much?

- We are a couple with a toddler; we are thinking of getting a 4 person hot tub, since it will be mostly just us in there. is that a mistake?

- We are in general handy people and not that fancy; we live in the woods. We don't need the world's most fantastic hot tub but we also don't want a POS that we spend all our time trying to maintain or fix. How can we not screw this up?

- What else are we not thinking about? It seems like i have done 100% of the online research to be done and every hot tub has a handful of people who love the thing and who hate it. it gets confusing.

I realize this is a lot of confusion. We have many strengths; making expensive purchases about things we don't understand is not one of them. Thank you for your help.
posted by andreapandrea to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What about some kind of less expensive "plug and play" hot tub?

I don't have one of these, but I have been eyeing them for when I move into a new place. Has typically pretty good reviews around the interwebs.
posted by jeoc at 9:45 PM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

A four-person tub is plenty big, if that's what you're asking on that point.

I might personally avoid a used one, but I don't have a lot of basis for that beyond a general feeling that any given hot tub has a definite half-life.

If you do get a used one, I think there is a pretty good chance that you'll want to immediately get a new cover for it.

I know absolutely nothing about Softubs, but I do know that benches are nice.
posted by brennen at 10:04 PM on February 20, 2017

Friends of mine spent ages doing research and settled on RotoSpa. It has been a few years and they still swear by it. They found it cheap to run, even through Canadian winters.
posted by saucysault at 10:18 PM on February 20, 2017

I have the six-person version of the spa jeoc linked to. I sit in it every night in spring, fall, and winter, and I love it.

It holds its temperature really well (I live in Texas but it does get chilly here). Maintenance has been minimal in the year-plus I've had it--add a little chlorine every use, keep the filter clean, drain and refill it every few months, and you're good to go. It even has cupholders and a hilarious LED waterfall. The jets are a little wimpy, but they work. Two adults moved it into our hilly backyard with a dolly.

A four-person should be fine if it's just going to be the three of you, but if you think you'll want to have friends over to hang out in it I'd spring for the six-person version. Mine holds four adults comfortably, but any more gets a little cramped.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 11:03 PM on February 20, 2017

If you want the low cost, high value solution go with a Rubbermaid Stock Tank. The 150 gallon is good for two, the 300 gallon is good for four. Add a heater/filter and you're good to go. It's pretty transportable, the big one only weights 83 pound empty.
posted by Marky at 11:21 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

At least in colder areas, one of the costs involved with a hot tub is keeping it at temperature. Some of the cheaper hot tubs are not particularly well insulated, but it isn't clear that the cost differential between an "excellent" hot tub and a cheaper one would be a big savings if you aren't buying it for a long period.

I would think that a Rubbermaid Stock Tank would leak heat like crazy, and finding an insulated cover for it might prove challenging.
posted by jgreco at 7:08 AM on February 21, 2017

There's also this Coleman inflatable hot tub for $350.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:58 AM on February 21, 2017

I've never used a soft one and so can't offer opinions on them but what I do know is that with hot tubs good hard ones might be two times that cost, but completely worth it (IMO). We had a Dimension 1 that was amazing, good pumps, great insulation, awesome UV/ozonation/sterilization with minimal chemicals (once a week shock). Electricity cost was about $1/day ('twas 3 phase which required its own breaker - something to look at in houses with older boxes and electricity). Perhaps the landlord would be willing to help on cost if a nice one stayed with. A friend bought a Marquis spa and loves it, but it was quite pricey new.

Back in my poor days we attempted to refurbish/move two used ones and let's just say that didn't work well at all. Hot tubs get bought, properly footed, and then they should (usually) never move again - at least in my experience. One *very* handy friend did find a used Dim 1 type spa and successfully moved, footed, and got it working well.

I have friends with a 6' Tarter tank and they built a little pumping system for heating from a fire/propane rig. It was quite nice but obviously it had no insulation, took an hour to warm up, and required covering and chemicals frequently.

Best of luck!
posted by mrzz at 1:09 PM on February 21, 2017

We have a Softub 220. It's pretty cheap to run on normal house power, no special wiring, significantly less than fifty cents a day. It is just barely big enough for two parents and a toddler, and not quite big enough for two parents and a toddler and a 9-year-old.

If I were buying, and I were in your shoes, I would hope to find a used Softub 300 locally. Benches! Potential for sharing with non-family-members! Still pretty easy to move next year, but not quite as easy. (The 220 was easy to put on the roof of a Subaru and secure in place with a ratchet strap. The 300 would require more effort, but not that much more effort.)
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 3:27 PM on February 21, 2017

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