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Soft-Sided Hot Tubs: What to Look for When Shopping
Soft-Sided Hot Tubs: What to Look for When Shopping
Written by Kimberly Giraldo
Updated over a week ago

The decision to buy a hot tub takes a lot of consideration. You will have many choices to make in the journey to finding the best hot tub for you, even down to the type of hot tub you select. One type of hot tub you may be considering is a soft-sided hot tub.

This article will cover exactly what a soft-sided hot tub is as well as what to look for when shopping for one. It will also explain some of the other hot tub options and features that make hot tub ownership so pleasurable and attainable for a range of budgets.

What is a soft-sided hot tub?

A soft-sided hot tub is a portable hot tub that is convenient and easy to install and transport. Soft-side hot tubs are typically made of high-density foam walls that are covered with heavy-duty, often marine-grade vinyl material, latex, or layers of PVC. Some companies have their own specialty materials with which their hot tubs are made. Though designed to be sturdy, they are not entirely puncture-proof.

Generally, a soft-sided hot tub is a “plug and play” spa, meaning it plugs into a standard 110v outlet and draws less than 15 amps. One of the benefits of a soft-sided hot is there is very little setup involved. Once you plug it in and fill it with water, it will soon be ready to enjoy.

Another pro of a soft-sided hot tub is that it is a less expensive alternative to a traditional hot tub. The initial buy-in of a portable or hard-sided hot tub from a premium brand could potentially deter first-time hot tub buyers. However, the initial cost of a soft-sided hot tub is more attainable for many. However, it should be noted that a soft-sided hot tub does not offer the same level of features, amenities, and hydrotherapy as a traditional hot tub from a quality brand.

Soft-sided hot tubs are also referred to as inflatable hot tubs. Within this category, it’s important to consider brand and model, as some may be made with higher-quality materials and offer additional features and amenities.

Soft-sided hot tubs have padded surfaces rather than the ergonomic seating, or seating options of a traditional hot tub. Some brands and models may feature bubblers that create a jet-style effect while others may have jets for hydrotherapy. However, based on the fact they are 110v, soft-sided hot tubs typically do not have the same level of power that traditional hot tubs can provide for next-level hydromassage.

Soft-sided hot tubs should not be confused with portable hot tubs. These are two very different types of hot tubs. While a soft-sided hot tub is easily portable, the term “portable” in this case actually refers to what most people think of as a traditional hot tub. Jacuzzi® hot tubs are examples of portable hot tubs. While not soft-sided, nor easily transferable from place to place without professional assistance, portable hot tubs are considered as such because they are not built into the ground or a permanent structure. Another positive aspect of soft-sided hot tubs is that they generally do not require any special electrical wiring or adding plumbing that would necessitate hiring a professional. Most of these 110v models can simply be plugged into a standard outdoor outlet and then filled with water.

As a buyer, you must understand the differences among your many options so you can make the most informed decision. Ultimately, your decision should result in the purchase of the perfect hot tub for you that can bring you many years of comfort and pleasure. Discover some of the main features and amenities of a soft-sided hot tub so you can maximize your shopping experience.

What to look for when shopping for a soft-sided hot tub.

-Reliability and durability. Just as with any investment, you want to make the most of your dollars. When shopping for a soft-sided hot tub, be sure to look for a brand that is reliable and credible. You’ll also want to make sure the product is durable and designed to stand the test of time. You may want to research the lifespan of the particular soft-sided hot tub you are considering.

-Materials. Durability, in large part, will be dependent upon the materials with which the product was made and how it was designed. Since a hot tub is a long-term investment, purchasing one with the highest-quality materials can ensure it has a longer lifespan.

-Jet features. Another important aspect to consider is the jet features of a soft-sided hot tub. As mentioned previously, some brands only have a bubbling feature that simulates jets and promotes water movement but does not provide any actual hydrotherapy. Other brands may have strategically placed jets that offer hydrotherapy. However, simply due to the power limitations of a 110v spa, these types may not be able to offer the deep level of hydromassage that a traditional hard-sided hot tub can provide.

-Seats. Some inflatable hot tubs do not come with seats, though additional seat cushions can be added for comfort. Typically, you will sit on the cushioned bottom of this style of hot tub. This is in vast contrast to a premium portable hot tub model which offers ergonomic seating with strategically placed jets within the seat to provide true hydromassage from top to bottom.

-Weight and size. One of the benefits of a soft-sided hot tub is its convenient portability and easy setup. If you’re considering a soft-sided hot tub for ease of transportation, determining its weight and size is vital before you make your final purchase. Dry weight refers to the weight of the spa prior to it being filled with water and bathers. Size is also important to determine how many bathers can enjoy the spa at one time. Soft-sided hot tubs are generally more limited in size than traditional portable hot tubs. Consider how many people will be enjoying the hot tub at one time when shopping for a soft-sided hot tub.

-Colors. Many soft-sided hot tub manufacturers offer a variety of choices when it comes to color selection. This allows you to easily choose a hue that complements your backyard oasis.

Another important factor to note about soft-sided hot tubs is that they are generally purchased online or at home shows, outdoor expos, or retail stores. They are not typically sold at premium hot tub dealerships. The reason this is important is once you make the initial purchase, you may not have access to in-person customer service or solid warranties that the purchase of a traditional hot tub can offer. Yes, initial buy-in can be lower with a soft-sided hot tub. However, when you purchase a premium hot tub company from a local authorized dealer, you’ll receive the peace of mind of a partnership with your local hot tub dealer should any issues arise or when you need service, maintenance, or repairs down the road.

What are some other alternatives to soft-sided hot tubs?

As noted previously, there are many options when it comes to choosing a hot tub. Along with soft-sided hot tubs, which have their pros and cons, there are traditional portable hot tubs as well as in-ground hot tubs.

Traditional hot tubs from premium brands are built with hydrotherapy and premium features in mind. The seating, jets, water management systems, and controls are all designed to make unparalleled hydromassage easy and convenient. These hot tubs are not as portable as inflatable hot tubs because they require the assistance of a professional to move and place. However, they are built for longevity.

In-ground hot tubs are typically built into the ground, often in conjunction with a swimming pool, or into a permanent structure. Once built, they are there to stay. They are similar to swimming pools in their construction. Therefore seating is often bench-style and can become uncomfortable after sitting for a period of time.

Overall, when purchasing a hot tub, you’ll want to determine your personal list of needs and wants. Once you’ve prioritized the items that are most important to you, you will be successful in your hot tub shopping endeavor. It’s always a good idea to do plenty of your own research and also visit a few hot tub showrooms and spa dealers. Ask questions of the professionals and even do a wet test to get a feel for the way you “fit” into the potential spa of your dreams. Doing your due diligence can help you avoid the pitfalls of making a hot tub purchase that does not meet your needs.

Before you make your final hot tub decision, consider the following questions:

-What is my budget?

-How much space do I have to accommodate my spa?

-How many people will be using the hot tub?

-Do I want a hot tub for relaxation, entertainment, socialization, or hydrotherapy?

-Where will I place my hot tub?

-If I move, will I take my hot tub with me?

-How long do I want my hot tub to last?

Disclaimer: All information, including pricing and product details, was accurate at the time of writing and may change without notice.

Medical disclaimer: This information is not intended to prescribe a particular diagnosis or course of action. We are not medical professionals. Please contact your GP or other medical professional for advice if you have any concerns about your current health or well-being.

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