The brands I like and dislike and why

The brands I like and dislike and why

There are 3 kinds of hot tub companies.

  • Ones that are great marketing companies building midgrade spas at stupidly high prices
  • Ones that build mid-grade mid-priced spas. 
  • And ones that make great hot tubs in the middle price area. This last group is always where you want to be because its the best value and the best tubs. 

The great marketing ones are often owned by big corporate equity investment firms that apply a very simple business model that is very profitable for the shareholders but not a good thing for the guy buying the hot tub for a few very solid reasons.


The hot tub brands I consider to be in this messy group that IMHO is your worst options are: HotSprings, Caldera, Limelight, Endless pools, Arctic spas, Jacuzzi, Dimension One, Sundance, Hydropool.
Their business model is this:

  • Create very expensive Branding, marketing, and advertising campaigns that are seamless and harmonious and make the products appear to be a cut above the rest. They are super good at this even knowing what I know when I get immersed in their marketing I’m even impressed.
  • Go to a cheap to build places like Mexico, or china and get parts made that only fit your hot tub so you can control both the cost fo the parts and the availability… basically, ensure you get money from the customer forever at what every high price you dictate because they have zero options.
  • Build to a mid-grade standard but have lots of magic, like goofy flippy floppy jets, miracle chemical reduction systems, wifi automatic systems etc.
  • sell the spas only through high-end retail stores.

When you buy these overpriced spas you are really paying two things… You are paying half for the hot tub and half for the massive marketing and high-end retail costs… you literally are spending half your money on smoke and mirrors. and these tubs are nowhere near as well built as the really well-made spas.


The hot tub brands I consider to be in the middle group are: American Whirlpool, Vita, Maxx, Viking, Dynasty, Premium Leisure, Pinnacle, Strong etc 
Their business model is simple:

  • Build a mid-grade mid-priced spa
  • Usually, they do one or two of the expensive things (shell, plumbing, insulation, parts) really well and cut corners on usually the shell construction and insulation.
  • Some of these are reasonable buys some are absolute shit shows, its a risky group not only between brands but we see some real quality control issues with this middle group and there are a lot of lemons that get through into the market.

The hot tub brands I consider to be in Top Group: Artesian, Twilight, Garden spas, getaway spas, elite, Master, Healthy Living, Clarity, PDC, Coast (pending factory inspection), and then a bunch of fringe guys like Bullfrog, Beachcomber, Nordic, Marquis (undergoing factory revamp and having issues right now)

These guys are in the sweet spot of building to a high standard with good quality control and not blowing their brains out on the shitty 90’s style marketing and branding bullshit.

  • These guys spend the money on the build:
    • They use good nonhardening full-foam insulation- expensive but the highest R-value
    • They hand roll shells with Vinyl ester resin cores and build them strong enough to support their own weight.
    • They use efficient plumbing systems that greatly increase flow rates and they glue and clamp the plumbing lines.
    • They Use good reliable expensive OEM parts that are easy to source and competitively priced.
  • They often sell through lower overhead operations 
  • Their marketing and branding is hit and miss and scattered, it does not have the polish (or the cost) of the high-end marketing guys.

Due to increased demand we are running 5-10 days for comment responses, it sucks but its only me… I’m working to find a suitable co-writer but I’m currently running 5-10 days for responses 🙁 and 12-24 hrs for paid responses. It’s not a cash grab I just can not keep up with the numbers despite spending my entire life here 🙂 I am determined to keep this honest and true to its tenants and therefore it takes time to ramp up to the massively increased traffic over the past 3 years.

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Stan Brein

Hi Chris,
What a find you are! Went to an Expo today in Grapevine, Texas organized by Master Spas. Very impressed, but never heard of them. SO I was skeptical. Then I come home and find you.
We are considering the Balance 7. The dealer is Atlas Swim and Spa out of Tyler and Plano Texas. $7,595.00.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Chad Kemmet

Chris you have been super helpful! Was wondering your thoughts on the Bullfrog X7. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of good options from your list here in upstate NY.

Chad Kemmet

There is also a Viking Royale, not sure if it’s just cheaper because it has way less bells and whistles.

Helen Mangold

Thanks for the useful information. We just moved from Chicago to Carson City, NV for retirement. Looking for a really good swim spa dealer and (hopefully) someone with the service to back up the product. Looking at Endless Pools, Master Spas, and PDC.

Barry

Hi! Thanks for all your great info! Really looking at Artesian now. Was looking at Bullfrog and Sundance too. I am in Central NJ (07726). Enough space for a family of 4 (2 teenage kids). Island Series Grand Bahama available at Staten Island Pool & Spa for $8600. Any thoughts/suggestions? Is upgrade to Island Elite or Elite worth it? Thanks for your time!!!

Blake Price

Thanks for all your articles, they were just what I was looking for instead of all these dealer posts and videos that just lead you astray. That said I cannot find any of your top tier brands at any dealers in Houston Texas, do you have any recommendations? We specifically live in the 77095 zip code but can travel to the other side of Houston to try some tubs out!

Thanks!

Why don’t I see CalSpas reviewed anywhere? Is this a quality brand?

Michaela Wheatley

Hey Jessica, Great question. I actually just realized we haven’t done an official review of them yet, so ill give you the rundown here! Chris was actually invited to tour the factory a little over a year ago, and to be honest with you it was kind of hit and miss. their ‘super-strong steel shell’ is basically just strips of really thin metal that provided virtually no additional support to the shell, in fact, it still needed to be cradle supported. Their quality control was also a little questionable, they seem to use normal parts on some of their lines… Read more »

Marcie

Have you reviewed Nordic spas out of Michigan ? No stock left of major brands. It’s between Nordic and PDC. Help!

Marc

Hi Chris,
We live in Ottawa, Ontario and are first time hot tub buyers. Would you have a list of reputable dealers/best tubs in our area for 5-6 people? What would be a price range for “better to best” spa? Thank you in advance.

Michaela Wheatley

Hey Marc! happy to help guide you through this process. the dealer I’m going to recommend that’s near to you is Above & Beyond pools & spas over in Carleton place, they’re really lovely people & you can find them here http://www.abpoolsandspas.com. as far as ‘the best tub’ you can get, that’s definitely more of a personal preference kinda thing. I can assure you Coast spas are a great brand they’re reliable, made well, everything we look for in a trusted brand, it just really depends. If you’re looking for something more suited to socializing we might recommend one tub,… Read more »

Fran

Hi Chris. thanks for all your information. I am considering buying a Master Spas Clarity Precision 7 hot tub. I have a family of 4 and live in the Toronto area. I know you endorse Master Spas. Is the Clarity Spas line OK?

Chad

Hello.. looking at 6 person with lounger and massaging jets.. was thinking salt until I saw your review… live in south western Ontario.. which brand and company would be best to deal with? Thanks for info

Anna

Hi Chris we live in DC area and because of the cold weather for at least 8 months of the year instead of pool we are planning on buying a big swim spa/hot tub to be able to use it all year round. The one that we’re really interested in is the Catalina 21′ pool https://catalinaswimspas.com/PoolSeries/New21Pool.html . However, the reviews, especially for the customer service is not good at all and that kind of scares us; on the other hand, I understand, there are always some unhappy customers. I was wondering what are your thoughts on this specific brand and… Read more »

Anna

Hi Chris, I greatly appreciate your great resource and information. Could you help me with the above question? Thanks in advance

Hi Anna, Sorry for the delay, things have been crazy here, The cost on the Catalina tubs is on the lower end which can be a plus, there are some issues but they aren’t in my run away or nightmare categories, like most stuff out there there are some good parts and some ugly ones, the gecko heating and control system is better than a no name but not as good as Balboa. If we want to go to higher build quality and better parts and insulation I would suggest the PDC or Master, I’m not sure how many people… Read more »

Mark

Hey Chris awesome site thank you for all the helpful info. I was wondering if you have ever heard of Wind River Spas, they are out of Colorado where I live and I am thinking of buying my first hot tub and was thinking of looking into this company. Any help is appreciated thank you.

Frank

Hi Chris

What are your thoughts on aqua master tubs. We are from Ontario, Canada. My understanding that they are sold in Quebec, NB,NS, and Ontario.
Thanks

Joe Rumsey

Could you help decide what tub I should get I currently have a Hotspring envoy and I am always having trouble with it and have for years now it is older being a 2006 model. Things were always a problem though. I was told they are the Cadillacs of hot tubs and yes was told that from a Hotsprings dealer. I will not be buying a hot spring this time. As far as the shell of the envoy that is the size I would like to get with a lounge seat and a deep seat that part of the envoy… Read more »

Nathalie Maass-Walker

Hi
We are thinking about buying a Jacuzzi hot tub. J-245 model. What are your thoughts on it. We live in London ont Canada. We can purchase for 13,000 including cover, steps and electrical.

Hi Nathalie, That is a upper end price for a tub that should not cost that much. Jacuzzi is a leader in marketing but the actual tubs don’t get as much spent on making them, a bunch of cheap proprietary parts that are subject to their supply chain/factory and you can’t get anywhere else. I have heard of people waiting forever to get even basic parts shipped from Mexico. The hot tub parts game and how it affects your long term satisfaction I’d take a look at Premium Spa and Leisure, it’s a bit further but you should be able… Read more »

Connie

How come Arctic Spas is in the first category? They are all Canadian made, high quality, custom. Please advise on the issues they have , thanks for the info, new to this.

Hi Connie, The performance on Arctic is fairly good and the shell is hand rolled and sturdy but they use a lot of cheap Chinese made parts including the jets, don’t clamp their plumbing lines which is so key to preventing leaks and use a proprietary heating and control system. You can read what I have to say about those here The hot tub parts game and how it affects your long term satisfaction Every company spends money on marketing but Arctic is high up there on the costs that then get added to your tub. The Insulation is also… Read more »

Laura Allen

have you ever looked at aqualiving.com? They sell Dr. Wellness, hudson bay, and catalina. Dr. Wellness says they use Balboa. They have a store very close to me… Thanks!

Hi Laura, not an fan of any of those, the quality and price are basically around what you would get from Home Depot.

Dr. Wellness using Balboa is a good thing but the rest of it looks gimmicky with no real substance, the parts are goofy and the radiant barrier insulation… this stuff was basically banned in the housing industry back in the 80’s it costs basically nothing and doesn’t do much more than that. The friction heaters are a joke too, the tech is so inefficient and all just to create a unique selling point.

David Wilhelm

Hi Chris
We are building a house with a 40’x10’ screen patio would it be ok to put the spa on the patio or would it be better to place the spa outside on a concrete pad? Thanks in advance for your help and the great resource You provide it really helps .

Ben Flanders

Hi Chris, I came across your site and have learned a great deal. Thank you. We are first time hot tub buyers and really have the cart ahead of the horse. We poured a cement pad before we even had a hot tub figured out. We are looking at a hot tub from Home Depot American Spas Model # AM756BS and an Artesian Spas 748B. The Artesian is $1300 more. We live in the Central Valley of California and realize that our requirements are not that of Canada. I don’t see anything on your site about American Spas so I… Read more »

Frank Acquarulo

Hey Chris, What you are doing here is really awesome. Who knew researching a hot tub would be so complicated. I live in Branford, CT and I am looking to purchase either a swim spa or traditional spa. I would want seating for 6-8 people and a quality-built well insulated and efficient product. I have done some research and I believe I have dealers in the area that sell Jacuzzi, Hydropool, Bullfrog, Artesian, and some others. I am not looking to break the bank, however, I do understand you get what you pay for. So, I don’t mind spending extra… Read more »

Frank Acquarulo

Chris, as I conduct more research, I have found that I can also purchase PDC, Master, Marquis, and Garden within my area.

Frank Acquarulo

Chris, last questions for you, I hope. What are your thoughts on Calspa and Viking? There is a reputable dealer in the area which sells both of these manufacturers as well as Wellis.

Trevor

Hey Chris, Thanks for your help, your website has helped me a lot in understanding hottubs. I am now considering the following tubs: 850L – South Sea Spas (made by Artesian Spas) Apex L – Coast Spas I was considering numerous different brands but after reading your website, I have discovered these 2 tubs that interest me. Do you have any advise to offer in regards to the 2 tubs mentioned above? This is my first hottub and I do not want to buy one again. I live in a very cold climate so the insulation is very important to… Read more »

Al Pard

Hi Chris,
We are in Calgary, AB and want to know if you would rate a Master spa, Healthy Living or Beachcomber Hybrid? What would you choose?

Hi Al,
I’d go for the Health Living,
Beachcomber has good parts but the non removable skirt is a big issue if you need service or have leaks. https://hottubuniversity.com/beachcomber/
I also am not a fan of the hyrbid system, it’s old tech straight from the 80’s that no one else does anymore for a reason, it also leaves you at risk of a quick freeze if you lose power.

Jim

Hi Chris – the information you provide is invaluable. So much marketing fluff and hard to discern where the real value is with the competitive units out there. What are your thoughts of the Canadien Spa Company offerings? I am considering the Toronto SE (2 pump) model.

Laura Allen

Hi Chris- We just moved to the Dallas Ft Worth area (75071) and are looking for a new hot tub. Looking for something with low chemical reactivity due to some pretty sensitive skin with our kiddos. Any tips? 6-7 person, no lounge needed, shoulder/neck is a relative priority. It’ll be installed under a shingled/roofed patio. Thanks!

Hi Laura,
low chemical is more on how you treat the water than on the specific hot tub, I’d suggest an enzyme system if you are worried about sensitivity, it lets you get lower chemical levels while keeping the water in great condition

I would suggest heading to Atlas Pool and Spas, the TS 8.25 if you are wanting good shoulder and neck therapy massage.

4801 W Park Blvd Unit 448, Plano, TX 75093
http://www.atlasspas.com
+1 469-209-6989

Thomas

Hi Chris
Thank you for this website, it has been very informative. Am wondering what brand you’d pick for someone who is 6.5 and has a soar back from farming. Also holds 6-7 people. I live in southern Ontario.

Hi Thomas, shoot me your postal code and I can point you to something nearby.

Thomas

N0m1g0, thanks

George Patramanis

Chris, I live in Bettendorf, IA and am interested in buying our first hot tub. We are looking for a 6-7 person tub. We have a couple local dealers – Gannon, Pleasure pools and spa, QCA, and Great escape, along with the suspect ones like Sam’s and Costco. None of them seem to carry any of the brands on your “good” list. Any suggestions?

Tom

Chris,

Ended up getting a Clarity precision 8 for 8k out the door. Did we do good?

Thanks for all the advice.

Hi Tom,
you did great, enjoy your new hot tub!

Tom

Thank you!!! You are the reason we went with that tub!! Glad to know we did good!

claire b wray

Hi, I am looking to replace an existing in ground hot tub with a partially in ground spa in St Petersburg FL. there are lots of direct from manufacturer hot tub businesses here including Spa Manufacturers and Aqua Living Factory outlets. I will need help removing the old tub and installing the new into a deck. Any thoughts on the best way to proceed and where to look/ what brands would be best to consider?

Kathy Berry

First time buyer in extreme north climate (Fargo, ND) with 3 dealers in town. Hot Springs, Jacuzzi and Maax. Found one I like at each store all competitively priced when looking at features and options seating 5-6. The Hot Springs is the smallest unit. Jacuzzi is the largest. Maax has the best warranty and most features (discontinued 2019 model with largest discount) and size is in between the others. The layouts/seating/jet placements are comparable enough, etc. etc. etc. But looking for input on the 3 options we have in this climate on durability and efficiency. Thanks.

Kathy Berry

Models considering: Maax 461; Jacuzzi J-235 and HotSprings Pace

Of those I would have to say the Maax 461, the bigger high flow jets are better for massage and therapy, and there isn’t good neck/shoulder jets on the others. You mentioned it being discontinued though, ask and make sure they will still be able to get parts for service in the future and how the warranty handles cost on that. It’s not in my top group but looking around your area I don’t see anything else I would suggest over it unless you went factory direct. As for efficiency I’d put the Jacuzzi lower than the other two, longevity… Read more »

Tessa Hentges

Have you ever heard of Aqua Master Spas out of Cornwall Canada? https://www.maitrepiscinier.com/en
I couldn’t find the brand on your website. They claim to have been in business since the mid 1980s.

We live near the Canadian border, 12953, and would like a 5 or 6 person tub that would keep up with the cold Temps.

Thanks

Tessa

Hi Chris. This site has been tremendously helpful. I had a hot springs that only lasted 9 years and now I have to get a new one. I’m looking at Artesian Antiqua Elite and a Catalina Luxury Carlton. I know you think highly of Artesian but what about Catalina? They have one of the better warranties. https://aqualivingstores.com/product/carlton/ It seems to have the right components and I’ve been quoted $6500. The Artisian I was quoted $8500. Would love your thougths on Catalina.

Tammy C

Hi Chris
I live in Bend, OR and we are preparing to buy a hot tub. We had a quote last year for a Coastal Apex L for about $9k. I know nothing about spas, other than what I have learned on your site. Here are my questions. Do you still think coastal makes good tubs? Is there other options in my area you’d suggest?
And on a side note…we will have propane close to where the tub will be. Do you have an opinion on using propane to heat a tub?
Thank you so much

Charlie

Hey Chris, thanks for all of the information you’ve shared on the site! We’ve been doing a load of research, and I continue to refer back to your reviews for guidance so it’s been a huge help! We’re looking to purchase our first hot tub, and I see some of your recommended brands at various dealers around us in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m going to assume you don’t have much direct experience with anyone around us, but if you have any immediate reactions to dealers in our area we’d greatly appreciate it! Thanks again for all you do!

Michael Vittum

Hi Chris my wife and I love the wealth of knowledge we are getting from your site. We live in a cold area in Maine. we are looking for a 6 or 7 person tub. One that caught our eye online is Essential Hot Tub Calypso. Any opinion on these?

Frank Rizzo

Hi Chris,
I loved your video on insulation, you really put it in a laymen terms..
We are in Newburgh NY and looking for a 6 person spa. A local store is recommending the Wellis Mont Blanc. Seems to be limited reviews and we have some inconsistencies between 2 stores as per the monthly energy costs.. Any opinion on Wellis?

Bernie Chapman

First I want to say thank you for the information. We are first time buyers. How do you feel about Costco hot tubs? Do they fall in that big corporation category? Finding the right hot tub is so frustrating. I’m glad you have these videos and answering.
Again THANK YOU!!

Bernie Chapman

Hot tubs we are considering:
South Sea Spa 860 – Creative Spas
Evolution Spas Hilton – Costco
ARTESIAN ELITE Piper Glen

Greg Taber

Looking at Plug N Play Tubs. Would you buy the Getaway Bar Harbor SE (87x87x35 with 25 Jets powered by 1HPR-2 speed pump) or Dreammaker Crossover 730L (80x80x36 with 30 Jets powered by a 3HPR-2 speed pump)

I am leaning towards the Getaway Bar Harbor SE because of the size of the tub (Nice and Roomy), although not sure if that 1HPR pump is as good as the Dreammaker 3HPR pump? Both are similar in price at $6000.

Greg

Hi Chris – Looking for a new 6 person hot tub and I think I have narrowed down between Marquis or Master. What are your thoughts between these two brands?

David Wilhelm

Best 2 to 3 person plug and play spa for central Florida 34433 will have about $3500 to $4500 to spend .

Lee

I am looking at 2 hot tubs right now the Sundance Chelse 780 series and a company called MyLife (Canada) My-G74s. Looks like I’m getting more bang for my buck with the My Life but I can’t find any reviews. Sundance has 40 jets the My Life has 74 jets. My life is 9999.00. The Sundance is 8365.00.

Can you give me any input on My Life and your opinion on both?

Alaa

Hi there, I was quoted 12k+tax all in in Ottawa Ontario for a j385 at my local jacuzzi dealer and was fairly sold on the perceived ease of the smart tub concept (I’m a millennial, can’t help loving tech haha) foot and neck jets. I checked to see if Master Twilight is sold in Ottawa but it seems like they’re only in Kitchener and Waterloo. Any alternative recommendations with Ottawa dealers?
First time buyer feeling a bit overwhelmed!!
Thanks!!

David Goldsmith

Thanks for the reviews. We live in southern NH and are looking for a small (3-4 people) hot tub. We don’t seem to have many options in retailers around us. We are considering the Marquis Spirit. Any thoughts?

Hi David, Not sure exactly where you are in NH but Croker in Merrimack is a good dealer to check out. For Tubs similar in size to the Spirit there are the HL 628L San Miguel or for more power and massage the TS 240 672 Daniel Webster Hwy, Merrimack, NH 03054 http://www.crockersales.com +1 603-423-9777 I haven’t looked at the Spirit myself but I’m still worried about quality control on Marquis, had someone with a lemon reach out a while ago https://hottubuniversity.com/marquis-brand-review/#comment-11756 and I just updated my brand review video for the Vector 21 series. https://hottubuniversity.com/marquis-brand-review/ I’ll try to get… Read more »

Chris

Hi there.
I really am enjoying your site. Very informative.
Have you heard of Be Well hot tubs? I’m told they are Canadian made. My local pool and spa guy has these in their showroom.
I’m having a hard time finding any reviews and information on them.
We live just south of Barrie Ontario. So having a quality tub with good insulation I’m guessing is important.

Dawn Carruthers

Hi! I’m wondering if you know anything about Sunrise spas (made in Grimsby, Ontario)? They sell them on DirectBuy, but I can’t seem to find much about the brand. I’m looking at the Medallion as well as the TruSwim swim spa (dual zone). Any information you have on this brand would be very helpful! Bonus question – if you were going to get a bigger hot tub (around 10 x 8), what would you recommend?

Shefali Somani

Hi Chris,
My friend is moving to BC and has offered to sell me his hot tub in Calgary. It’s the peyton hot tub 680 series from 2017, which he will sell to me for $5000. What are your thoughts?

Brian

What do you think about salt water hot tubs? Are they lower maintenance like they say? Any Pros and Cans you know if?

Steve Bornstein

Hi, Chris! I love the site and your analysis! I have never owned a hot tub, but my in-laws are treating us to a new hot tub of our choice. This has been a tough process with very little information out there! We live in Northern Virginia (22033) and would be looking in the $4-$6k range for a 5-6 person spa. Most of the time it’ll just be my wife and me in the tub unless we are entertaining which likely won’t be for quite a while (you know, pandemic). I am rebuilding our deck to accommodate the new hot… Read more »

Kim Frederick

Hi Chris,
We live in portland Oregon and are looking for our first personal hot tub. If the sky was the limit
for a really good quality tub that will last for 15-20 years what brand would you choose?

Jeff

Looking at purchasing a Coast Spa or Arctic Spa, I live by Calgary, Alberta so insulation is a major factor. I am hesitant on a full foam tub in case of future maintenance or repair. But how well does 2″ of spray foam on the Arctic spa actually insulate? Any advice on what the better of the 2 would be?

Robyn Dosouto

Hi Chris, what a fantastic site. We are first time purchasers. We live in Victoria British Columbia and they are really pushing the Artic spa here with all the advertising like you said. Because of your site we have moved on from them. Another dealer that does seem to be more reputable and have been in business for 30 years and has dealt with the same brand the whole time. The are called Twilight and sell Coast Spas, do you have any opinions or experience with these ? They are Aprox $16000.00😱. Or is there another one you might recommend… Read more »