The answer to this question is one that doesn’t really have a definitive answer, and there is nobody out there that can answer it (genuinely) authoritatively with a simple “brand x” is the best. Everyone is biased to what they own and know, therefore everybody’s experience will be different.
One thing about this industry, is that it really suffers during difficult economic times. After all, the money spent in this business is fun money. The more extra money you have in your budget, the more fun money you have to spend. Some people have a lot more of this than others, but that doesn’t always mean that they’ll spend it. Still – this is an important thing to understand.
As far as I know in this area, there are very few factory stores left, except for the couple of Recreational Factory Warehouse outlets in the Atlanta metro area… plus a Hot Springs, Sundance, and Dimension One outlet or two. There are still a few other local franchise type dealers, (ie dealers that sign flooring agreements with manufacturers in order to get/maintain this business), but so many have come and gone in the past 20 years it’ll make your head spin.
What’s the best hot tub?
Lets consider one aspect of this question. National brands. First there’s the name that started it all, Jacuzzi. After this, starting in the late 70’s and 80’s gave birth to popular brand names such as CalSpas, Hot Springs, Morgan, Regency, Sundance, Dimension One, Haughs and many others (Mr Spa – oh boy what a design-, Jericho! -thin acrylic shell no fiberglass- this list could go on forever) .
In those days demand was growing among the elite, and these manufacturers were bringing elite type pleasures to everyday homeowners all over the USA. At the same time, pool builders were getting into the act, finding a nice niche business to help fill their empty fall/winter seasons.
Local / Regional builders (mom & pops) also got into the act. To go into the hot tub manufacturing business, you really need just a few things:
- A little start up money
- A place to build them
- A source for decent hot tub shells (many would design their own molds and create their own shells).
- A source for jets, plumbing parts, control systems, and pumps.
- A local carpenter to build the frames and skirts.
- Perhaps a spray foam jig to insulate and secure hoses and things.
- A market that wants to buy your hot tub.
Nationwide, there were probably over a thousand of these types of operations that would try to fill the local niche back then and compete with the national brands; many succeeded – but over time, most did not.
Again, What’s the best hot tub?
Seriously, you may as well ask your next door neighbor what’s the best car to buy; (somebody please tell me when that question has a definitive answer! Lol!) After being in this business for 17 years, I can answer this with an easy assessment:
- The best hot tub is one that you like to use.
- The best hot tub is one that you have had positive & pleasant experiences in.
- The best hot tub is one that you would go out and buy again, after using it for 10 years.
- The best hot tub is one that after the warranty expires, it’s easy to fix.
- The best hot tub is one that after the manufacturer goes out of business, you can still get parts for it in the after market.
This list is the most important imo when considering which hot tub or spa to buy. As a service person, the last two are the most important to me, especially when considering which direction to go when I have to explain the options (and expense) when repairing your hot tub.
Let’s try this again with the above in mind… What’s the best hot tub?
Now I’m here on your patio troubleshooting your hot tub problem. Heater doesn’t work. Pump is making noise, or the pump is dead. Recurring air-lock. Pressure Switch won’t activate, or flow error. Topside display shows nothing, buttons stopped working. Some unknown error code showing up on the topside control panel of your spa, or it turns to a Chinese looking display every new years eve. The ground fault trips off every time you try to turn it on. You called me because you lost your paperwork and you don’t know the manufacturer’s phone number, or you bought this thing off the internet, and it turns out it was made in China and has Chinese made controls, Euro pumps, or – you have your paperwork and the number no longer works for warranty service, the manufacturer has changed to a new corporate identity and doesn’t cover your warranty expense, either that or you just don’t know what to do because nobody answer’s their phones.
Ok… Given the above, you’re hoping that it’s going to be a quick and cheap fix right? Well – now you will find out for sure, what’s the best hot tub.
You’ve used this tub for years, it’s worked fine and it meets the qualifications 1-3 in the assessment above, and now you’re praying for 4 and 5 to be yes!
If you’re the lucky owner of what many in forum-speak online call a sub-standard spa/hot tub brand, then congratulations. You don’t own a dead BMW. You own a spa that meets 4 & 5 above; which means cheap parts, easy access… and everything’s available everywhere. But what if you own one of these so-called ‘premium brands’? With (oh and patented features are good right?) custom manufactured controls, sole source jet replacements, circuit boards, air controls… ie you ain’t getting that part from the local supplier. This is the nightmare that many will face.
So… from my perspective, to answer the “What’s the best Spa/Hot Tub?” question, it’s the one that’ll keep you up and running with the least cost in repairs 5-10 years after you bought it, so that you’ll think kindly of the repair costs and be happy that you did business with me, instead of one that left you a massive debit in your checking account stinging because you also have a house payment due.
Yes I’m in this business to make a living, but I really love it when everything between you and I (logic of repair costs + emotions of your hot tub experiences) can meet in the middle and it all makes sense when it comes to fixing your hot tub. Honestly, I really hate having to give you a bill that says you need a new control panel for $380.. plus installation, all because it’s ahem… special, ie sole source.
I have been asked so many times.. when I go out to repair a tub, what’s the best hot tub, and my answer is always a qualified one that encompasses the items 1-5 above.
Hope this helps. Coming soon: ‘The Least Expensive Hot Tubs/Spas to Repair’.