If you're wading into unfamiliar waters in your quest for a hot tub for your home, you want to make sure you don't end up over your head. Knowing how to ask the right questions is a key factor in finding the perfect hot tub for your needs, uses and budget. Here are three questions you should ask yourself before venturing forward.
1. "Why Do I Want/Need a Hot Tub?"
There are as many reasons for purchasing a hot tub as there are hot tubs to choose from. For many people, hot tubs are a status symbol, a reward for many years of hard work and careful savings, or the perfect centerpiece for outdoor parties and neighborhood get-togethers. If any of that describes your motivations, then you may find it worth your while to invest in the largest and most deluxe hot tub you can find. On the other hand, maybe you're primarily interested in the potential health benefits because you suffer from chronic pain, circulatory problems or muscle tension. If this is the case, then you might decide that you're perfectly happy with a more modest, bare-bones hot tub that nevertheless provides major relief from your condition. Once you're clear in your mind as to why you want a hot tub, you'll have a better idea of what kind of hot tub makes the most sense for you.
Understanding your priorities also helps you understand which features you absolutely must have and which you can live without. If you won't be using the hot tub primarily to entertain, for example, you can probably forego the disco lighting, multi-channel audio system and mini waterfalls. If you plan on using the hot tub every day, you'd be better served worrying about whether the model you select boasts the most effective insulation and the most energy-efficient performance possible.
2. "How Much Am I Willing to Spend?"
Hot tubs are like cars or houses in the sense that there's a huge spectrum of models and styles to suit as many budgets. Size, capacity, and permanent versus portable are the main factors in setting a starting price. If you want to install a permanent wooden hot tub to enhance your outdoor deck, for instance, you can expect to pay at least $4,000 for a basic two-person hot tub, and at least $8,000 for a no-frills six-seater. But if you're not interested in impressing the neighbors or increasing your property value, and you'd rather just enjoy a comfortable hot tub for two, you can purchase a portable spa (or even an inflatable one) for a fraction of those amounts.
Bear in mind, of course, that to some extent you'll get what you pay for, and make sure that whatever you purchase features strong, durable materials. For example, a cedar hot tub will probably cost less than a teak one, but it may not last as long. Another point to consider is whether your existing deck will need reinforcement to support the weight of a filled hot tub or spa. If your contractor indicates otherwise, then you may have to pay more for the necessary strengthening work before the hot tub goes in.
3. "Where Should I Purchase My Hot Tub?"
You have many options when it comes to purchasing a hot tub. Even if you live in a town without hot tub dealer, you may be able to find one at a "big box" outlet store, and of course you also have the wide-open spaces of the Internet at your disposal. Keep in mind, however, that ordering a a large product like a hot tub online can present some extra risks and challenges. If you're ordering a hot tub you've never actually seen in person -- much less tried out, to test the water temperature and bench comfort -- then you're faced with the prospect of returning this massive purchase somehow. It may also be much harder to get all your questions answered by an online source.
Even if you can visit a local hot tub dealer and conduct your own close-up evaluations, you'll want to tread carefully when making this kind of investment. Start by doing your homework on the dealership itself. In addition to consulting the usual resources such as the Better business Bureau, try to determine whether your hot tub dealership holds "TradeCertified" status with Spasearch magazine, a respected authority on the subject.
Pursuing any new home accessory on this scale can make you feel like you're navigating some choppy waters -- but the right knowledge will help you steer a safe course toward your desired destination. Ask intelligent questions, and you'll make intelligent choices when selecting your new hot tub or spa. Good luck!