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.

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David

I just discovered this site, and I’m enjoying it very much. What are your thoughts on mass market hot tubs from Home Dept or Costco? They seem to have generally good reviews, but I’m not sure what their point of comparison is. I’m also assuming these models are probably made by more well known brands, but I don’t see the store brands on your site.
e.g. Lifesmart, American Spas, AquaRest Spas, USA Spas, Aquaterra, Evolution, OC

C.Proce

Any thoughts on BeWell tubs. I understand that they are step down from Coast, but with a 30% price difference we were having hard time choosing.

Paul Henke

What is your opinion on Sunrise Spas or La-z-boy spas (by Hydropool). We are new to the spa world and have narrowed our search down to the Sunrise freestyle 204LX, Sunrise 880SR or the La-z-boy renew by hydropool? Any advice would be appreciated.

Myrna

Hello, we are looking at hot tubs and in our area we have access to Coast Spas and Beachcomber, which do you feel is the better tub ? Also do either one of there brands compare to the Bullfrog ?

Stewart

Hi Hunter. Did you ever do a review of the Coast hot tubs and given the choice would you go Master or Coast? Are there any dealers that you would recommend in the Kelowna, BC area?

Hunter Grolsh

Columbus OH. Based on local dealers, considering Sundance, Jacuzzi, Bullfrog, Hot Springs, Hydropool, and Island. Wet tested the 1st four: Sundance – nice controls, to short for my torso – out of contention. Jacuzzi – fit better, air on/off was not as nice as a dial valve, otherwise ok. J-375 Floor demo offered at $9700 with deliver, steps & cover Bullfrog – fit good, controls a little weird, shoulder jets great. Seemed like it needed more pressure. R8L floor demo offered at $10,300 Hot Springs – fit good. controls good. Loved the Moto-Massage + neck quartet. Looks like about $12,000… Read more »

Mark Schatz

What are your thoughts about the Rotospa brand of hot tubs?

Drew Campbell

No mention of FreeFlow. Is there a reason?

Ant

Hi what are your thoughts on the Arctic Spa Summit? we like the fact that you have easy accessibility if there are leaks or issues and we liked that they offered a salt water system. we are also looking at hydro pool tubs as well but they look like they are lacking when I compare to the summit.

Gui

Hi, I’m a first time Spa buyer living in QC, Canada. I’m looking for a big spa that can allow my wife and I to have well molded seats for therapy and relaxation, but a large enough space for my young kids to splash around without jumping over us. I’m concerned about the energy efficiency as we want to run it year-round, and it gets very cold of course. My local dealers seem to carry Bullfrog, Jacuzzi, Sundance or Arctic Spas, but it seems like they may not be the best choice insulation-wise. I’m concerned about dealer support otherwise. Thoughts?

Hi! I am considering buying a used Wellis Palermo Basic from 2015.

Do you have any insight on this model? Looks pretty good, but i know the heater have already failed 2 times in 4 years.

I live in Norway where we can have down to -32 ‘C in the winter. Normal days are – 15-24 ‘C.

Alex Marsh

How do you like the Cal Spa’s? Specifically the F-1681 Swim Spa?

Derek

Looking for information or reviews on the Catalina brand, thanks in advance.

Mile

I live in the Seattle area, and need to replace a sundance that measures 96 x 96 and utilizes a sunken installation. It’s an indoor spa, any suggestions on what brand to buy?

Elizabeth Rose

What is your opinion of Shoreline Spas, specifically the SL863L. Looking at this brand and the Artesian brand. TIA

Catherine

I am a previous tiger river spa owner that we really liked and thought we would stay with a hot springs brand until we got sticker shock 10 years after purchasing our tiger river. We are now leaning towards either an Island Spa Santa Cruz or a Bullfrog R5L or A5L. My instincts want to go towards Bullfrog since that warranty on components is 5 years vs 3. What are your thoughts between the 2?

Kyle

Chris, thank you for your no-nonsense (aka no bullshit), witty and super useful information on this site. We, as consumers, appreciate the honesty and transparency. It really puts power in our hands as we are making an investment in our lives. Seriously, thank you. Quick question…we have been doing a lot of research online and in person by visiting various local dealers. At this point (in our $7,500-$9,000) price range for a hydrotherapy heavy, 4-5 person tub, we are leaning toward a Sundance Hamilton 780. I see that you have them in your “messy” group and do not recommend them… Read more »

Greg

So if Costco is selling the Evolution Spas Stockbridge model (from Strong Spas) at a decent price (under 6k for 6-7 person, 95 jet) and they have a 100% satisfaction return policy (with NO time frame, which means lifetime warranty) then wouldn’t that be considered a great deal? One of your videos blast the Evolution spa but you have Strong Spas listed as middle of the road and it’s made by them, so have they changed?

michael spiccioli

hi chris. very interesting reads. i really enjoy the reviews. i currently have a 11 yr old hawkey spa which in 11 years only had to recently replace the cover. i am looking to upgrade and like what i see on the artesian antigua spa. any opinion on that spa? i know you really like artesian and i like what i see from them and your reviews. just curious on your thoughts on that particular tub or any other recommendations. thanks!!