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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Chris; based on our research and your great advice, we are narrowing our search to Master Spa, Artesian and PDC. We are not looking for too many bells and whistles (lights, sound, waterfalls aren’t that important to us). We would like to fit 5-6 people and looking for approx 50-ish jets. Question: is a South Sea spa the similar quality as Artesian? —- Any other thoughts or suggestions are welcome. Thank you


Also, I just found out that Tropic Seas is a Artesian brand. Same question as above …


Hi Chris, we are in the process of shopping/researching for a hot tub. We backed out of a certain brand you speak of that that has high marketing and low chem systems after reading your posts and watching your videos. Can you please point us in the right direction for good quality spas here in our area? Seems like we have hot them all but haven’t seen any of the brands in your best category. We are in Ventura, Ca…thank you

Vanessa P

Hello from Houston, Chris! My husband and I are doing the happy dance after finding your site and videos! We caught one of your comments about Houston being a shit show for purchasing a new hot tub- bummer, and to your point the only lead you had was in Dickinson and it apparently closed- FACEPALM! There *may* be a place out of nearby Conroe, TX that services Master brand and perhaps they have a connection for sales, too? But anything you can offer us is truly appreciated! Also, we were about to pull the trigger on an expensive and fancy… Read more »


Hey Chris,

You seem extremely biased towards master spas in a lot of these answers. I am looking for a hot tub in Canada and have also been doing my research. I am no professional but all the hot tubs i have been looking at Beachcomber, dynasty, arctic and Hydropool all seem very very different. I like the self clean on hydropool but after reading a lot of thee comments i really do know what to do. I am truly leaning towards Dynasty or Hydropool. Please help


Hi Chris. Loved the videos and everything you have contributed to this space. Really quick question, as I seem to be stuck between two models with big price differences in the Hamilton area of Ontario. A Marquis EPIC vs a Beachcomber 655. Both have the hand-rolled self-supported shell, glued and clamped lines, full-foam insulation, and good jets/controls. (Don’t want someone to get me by the short and curlies 😉 The Maqruis EPIC, however, comes at a $4500 premium. Sure the tub itself has a nicer design, the constellation LED lighting as opposed to the single light in the beachcomber, and… Read more »

Hi Chris. Glad I found your site. I was looking at Arctic Spas, and am now no longer thinking they would be a good choice for me. I am looking for a small hot tub in the Traverse City, MI area. I’m price conscious. Do you have thoughts about getting a tub with an ozonator? The Arctic Spa people talked about the Spa Boy, which seems like it would be idiot proof. Thoughts? Also, I saw an amazing automated hot tub top by Covana. Is that just a stupid gimmick?

Ed Stewart

Greenville, SC here first time spa owners we are looking at Bullfrog, Masters, and Artesian. Bullfrog JetPaks seem like a gimmick so we would probably go with X Series. Leaning toward Island Spas double lounger or Twilight TS 7.2, my wife loves the magnetic therapy they offer. All seem solid in their own way but the Bullfrog and Artesian dealers are much closer than Masters dealer. Can you please comment on these three choices and the importance of having a reasonably close dealer to install and service the spa?

Jamie Suter

Hi Chris,
Great sight for the first time buyer. We have many options in the VA Beach area to choose from including Master. But a brand one of our dealers have is MIRA. do you have any thoughts on this brand. they seem to be hitting some of your must haves according to there advertising.. Do you think they stack up to Master..
thanks for what your doing for us noobs…

Colin Uken


Hoping you can provide some guidance; I live in Arizona and only know of One Master Spa dealer (in Tempe). I’ve gone to every spa dealer I can find on yelp / maps and sat through the pitches and tested many spas. Is there anything you would recommend for my climate? The Arizona sun is pretty brutal.

My budget is around 12k.

Thanks in advance!

Mike Craig

Hi, I live about 75 miles north of Toronto in ski country. I am looking to place a 4/6 man hot tub on an uncovered outside deck. Previously, I lived in British Columbia and enjoyed a used Coast Spa tub for about 5 years. During this time I replace a 1 speed motor, 1 valve, and 1 top mounted control pad. Electricity cost to operate was about $35 per month plus chemicals of maybe $20 per month. What would you recomend as a replacement for a much colder climate?


Thank you for providing comprehensive insight. I am based in Indianapolis, IN. What is the best spa for the money?


We are about to buy a small spa and we wanted to have good strong jets. We want it to be well-built and have a good warranty. We really like the spirit Marquis and we are also looking at the master twilight 67.25 or a Clearwater Is S76R.. We really like the dealer for the marquee, They have very excellent reputation for follow up and care. The master is at a show through tomorrow and of course they will be gone and warranty work will be left to someone else. The Clearwater is a local brand and seems to have… Read more »

Chris Krupar

Didn’t see anything on your site about Cal Spa (Maybe I’m missing it) Just wondered if you have an opinion

Chris Krupar

Actually just saw one of your responses here on Cal Spas.


I just need a one or two person hot tub for therapeutic reasons. Where I live it regularly gets down to between 0 and 10 degrees F in the winter. I don’t own the property so I can’t install anything but someone suggested I look into the inflatable hot tubs. Can you please offer some advice, or help direct my research? Thank you for your help.


I am looking into a 4 person sized hot tub. My main focus is therapy especially in the neck and back area, my other focus is energy efficiency and quality build. I had bought a used 2008 hotsprings jetsetter for $500 its served its purpose but I would like a lower utility bill if it’s possible. I have seen the american whirlpool spas they look like they have a solid shell but the perimeter insulation with the reflective lining recycled jean jean insulation then thinsulate layer does not seem like it would be that efficient. What is your thought on… Read more »


Going to be purchasing our first hot tub in the next couple days. We have looked at everything from Hot Springs and Caldera since they are our closest dealers. Then I found (through my research) many of your videos and website… What a game changer that has been! We were set to spend lots of $$ on a Hot Springs or Caldera for what ultimately seems to be a sub par product for a lot more. I especially appreciated seeing the videos where you showed the internal parts. It seems every place totes how great their product is yet it… Read more »

Clove Berger

We just bought a Twilight Master Spa on the fly and were a bit nervous not having done any research. We got sucked into a wear house sales show. Immediately I could see the quality of the Twilight and felt good about it so I executed. My husband wasn’t happy about my impulse purchase with zero upfront research. Of course researching now I found some negative stuff on the internet but then came across your site with a honest review and video. Thank you for solidifying my gut feeling and all your information. Gives us both piece of mind and… Read more »

Samantha Gurvin

First time hot tub owner looking for a great quality spa but I don’t need all the bells and whistle’s. In your opinion, for a basic spa that I’ll use a few times a week what would be your favourite choice, being budget conscious… Thanks, Sam


Hello, this is an awesome site. What are your thoughts on Thermospa? From what I can tell they seem to fit the model of your top group but let me know. I was surprised there was no mention of them in either the article or comments as they seem to be a big name. I’m also looking at South Seas based on your article. You (and other online reviews) have steered me away from Hot Spring. Also, as far as energy efficiency, is that going to be determined by insulation (which I would get)? Or are there other factors? The… Read more »

Don DenBleyker

Hey What’s your opinion on dimension one lotus bay. @ around $10,000 delivered set up.

Mark Vanderhelm

In Canada, we can get Beachcomber hot Tubs from Costco. They seem to be about 3k cheaper than in a beachcomber dealer, but the models are Costco specific. Would these be the same quality as a normal beachcomber spa? Or do they cut corners on the Costco versions? Thanks!


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


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.


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 ?


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?


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.


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?


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


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


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?


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 »


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!!