Big-Box vs. Specialty Store – Hot Tub Buying Guide

Hot tub service provided by Flint Hill Spas

These days you can get just about everything from the “big box” stores. But what might appear like a good deal at the big-boxes usually is not. Below we attempt to give readers a bit of a hot tub buying guide – explaining some of the differences between buying a hot tub from big-boxes vs. buying from a specialty dealer, why it’s important to understand these differences, and the long-term value/costs. The bottom line is to get to the big-box (and online seller) price point, corners often have to be cut.


Let’s make it simple. There’s a reason those hot tubs are so cheap. A couple examples:

  • Insulation is usually minimal to zero. This can result in heat loss, higher electric bills, and heat trap inside the frame (which may damage the equipment inside). Suppose it adds $15/mo to your electric bill. That’s $1800 over 10 years!!
  • Failure to clamp AND seal pressure lines.   A good quality hot tub from a specialty dealer like Flint Hills Spas will have the pressure lines clamped AND sealed to prevent leaks. The big-box pressure lines typically have only been glued. This creates higher risk of leaks over time.
  • Use of Styrofoam to support the shell inside instead of using 2 x 4 wood. Yes, you read that right. Styrofoam vs. Wood. Scary…


One way the big boxes attract hot tub buyers is by the lure of lots of pumps and lots of jets. But this is sometimes tricky. On the pumps, an example of tricky advertising is saying the unit is a 3 pump system” when in fact one of the “pumps” is actually an inexpensive air blower that simply pushes air out (sometimes cold air). So it’s an air blower/pump, not a water pump. Regarding the jets, just remember not all jets are the same. Often to get to the unbelievable amount of jets advertised on a big-box tub, they add lots of tiny “pea-shooters” that have zero therapeutic value; or better yet they may include jets with large faces but small plumbing behind them so they just aren’t pushing much water out. All bark, no bite!


When you arrive at a specialty spa dealer like Flint Hills Spas, you get to touch, feel, sit in, even “wet test” various models. And, you’re helped by staff with years of hot tub experience. This process helps find the right unit for you. When you arrive at the big-box, not only do you not see the hot tubs in person, you won’t find anyone who’s got any experience. You can’t ask questions and get the education/information to make an informed decision. (I guess you could ask the guy stocking 25 gallons jars of mayo.)

What’s the cost to you if you make the wrong decision, both in terms of dollars and cents but also happiness with your product???


Did you know that when you buy big-box (or online) you’re going to get a hot tub dumped on your driveway and then it’s up to you to safely move it where you want it, get it wired, get the cover lift installed, handle the drain plugs, fill it, start it up, balance the chemicals,… What a pain, not to mention the cost! Hot tubs are heavy and can easily weigh a thousand pounds.  Dealers like Flint Hills Spas have specialty equipment and years of experience moving spas, and have insurance in case something goes wrong. We send a crew to put the hot tub exactly where you want it, handle the fill/start-up/balance process, give you a full orientation, and leave you with a healthy supply of chemicals. All included in the price you paid up front. Turn key!


Once you have the spa, you will have questions.  Who’s going to help you? The guy stocking mayo jugs?? What happens if you have a problem with your water? And what happens if there’s a mechanical issue with your hot tub – you think the big box has a hot tub service department?

Do it right. Buy from an expert.

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