As swim spas continue to rise in popularity, more and more people are finding themselves deciding whether to buy a hot tub or a swim spa. In this article we will explore the main differences between hot tubs and swim spas to help you choose which one is best for you.


The average hot tub is considerably smaller (most are around 7′ x 7′ or smaller) than the average swim spa (most are around 8′ wide and anywhere from 15′ – 19′ long). Depending on your backyard and your desired activities this can be good or it can be bad.

For those with very limited space in their backyard, a hot tub might simply be the only answer. For those looking to entertain regularly, or for those who are looking to perform aqua fitness exercises, the extra space that a swim spa provides will almost always be welcome.

Along with having a larger footprint, swim spas are also much taller (around 53″) than hot tubs (typically 36″-39″). This makes swim spas a much better choice for aqua fitness and allows you to comfortably fit many more people in them than the number of seats they contain as people can stand up and move around in the swim portion of the swim spa.


Swim spas are much more flexible than a hot tub. Both contain massage therapy seats and the ability to heat the water up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but swim spas also offer:

  • Swim currents that allow you to swim in place at your desired speed.
  • Aqua fitness add-ons and packages.
  • Enough space to play games and use it more like an above-ground pool.

For those more interested in fitness and entertainment, a swim spa will offer much more that a hot tub can.

Massage Therapy

Both hot tubs and swim spas come equipped with hydrotherapy seats. Hot tubs, however, are more purpose built for massage therapy. This focus on hydrotherapy means that hot tubs will typically have more jets in their seats, more emphasis on the design and variety of their seats, and more hydrotherapy options available. For example, the average hot tub will have:

  • An average of 4-6 massage therapy seats.
  • A variety of different jet and seat layouts to accommodate different massage needs (one designed more for your lower back, another designed to focus on your upper back and shoulders).
  • The option of lounge seats that can provide a full body massage.
  • Additional features and add-ons designed to further improve your massage experience like waterfall pillows and pre-defined massage programs.

The average swim spa, by comparison, will typically have anywhere from 2-4 seats and a smaller variety of jet and seat layouts. Few also include the option of a lounge seat and their additional add-ons and packages are often more focused on aqua fitness and improving the energy efficiency and convenience of the swim spa. Those looking specifically for massage therapy, therefore, are likely better off with a hot tub.


Your exercise options in a hot tub are very limited. This is partially due to their small size but mainly due to the shallow depth of the water in a hot tub. It’s simply very hard to do lower body exercises in water that is 3′ deep or less.

Swim spas, on the other hand, are purpose built for aqua fitness. Not only are they deep enough to stand in while exercising, they also have enough space to swing your arms and legs without punching or kicking anything in the process. They also offer variable speed swimming currents that allow you to swim in-place indefinitely and most offer fitness add-ons and packages like rowing kits and swim tethers. For this reason if you’re looking for aqua fitness, swim spas are by far the better choice.


Due to their size and extra features, the purchase price of swim spas is typically quite a bit more than hot tubs. Swim spas also have anywhere from 5-8 times the amount of water that hot tubs do. This means more power consumption to keep the water heated and more chemicals to maintain a proper water balance. The cost to maintain a swim spa, therefore, can also be quite a bit higher; especially in the colder months when the costs of heating the water increases.

If you don’t think you will take full advantage of the swim spa’s extra size and features, therefore, it probably makes sense to go with a hot tub and save on both short term and long term costs.

So Which Is Better; Hot Tubs Or Swim Spas?

As you can probably see, the choice between a hot tub and a swim spa comes down to many factors; mainly how much room you have, your budget and how you would like to use them. For those with limited space or those that are simply looking for massage therapy, a hot tub will likely be the better option. For those also looking for a fitness tool, or a flexible and easier to operate alternative to traditional pools, a swim spa is the better option.

For those that still can’t decide, however, there is another option. Dual temp swim spas separate the massage therapy seats from the swim area of the swim spa; creating two separate tanks. This allows you to set the swim side to a comfortable swimming temperature and the hot tub side to a higher temperature that is better for hydrotherapy. You can also shut down one end while keeping the other going so you could, for example, drain and winterize the swimming end for the coldest months of the year while keeping the hot tub side going 12 months of the year.

This added flexibility makes dual temp swim spas ideal for people who are looking for the best of both worlds; one side that is designed to deliver the best hydrotherapy experience and the other designed to be a fun, flexible fitness pool.

If you’re still not sure which is right for you, give us a call! Our dedicated hot tub and swim spa experts can review your needs and budgets in more detail to help you make the right decision for you and your family.

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