Which is Better a Hot Tub or a Swimming Pool? The Great Debate

Hot Tub Vs. Swimming Pool Which is better

Every homeowner at some point considers improving their backyard space. Many of us daydream about pool parties in the sun or dipping into a hot tub on the patio during a cool fall evening. If you can’t do both, which is better a hot tub or a swimming pool?

Pools and Hot Tubs are incredibly popular choices for relaxation and recreation in the backyard. Both options have pros and cons, hot tubs have unique health benefits that make them a popular choice for many. For example, warm water can increase blood circulation, relax sore muscles and provide joint pain relief. They also provide an interesting and intimate social setting for enjoying time with friends and family. On the other hand, pools are often much bigger and provide more space to enjoy physical activities and water games. This might make them the better choice for individuals looking for low-impact exercise or those with a house full of children looking to find ways to enjoy the summer at home.

In this article, I’ll do my best to lay out the differences between each option for those of us wondering which one is the right choice for your home. For the purposes of this comparison, the pros and cons will be comparing pre-built plastic/acrylic hot tubs and inground vinyl liner pools. I’ll discuss social aspects, cost, installation, and spacing.

What Type of Hot Tub Are We Discussing exactly?

There are a few different types of Hot Tubs and Jacuzzis like Swim Spas or custom gunite hot tubs built into your pool build. Hot Tubs for the purposes of this article are factory-built models that consist of a shell and a cabinet that contains the electrical wiring and plumbing for the hot tub.

Above-ground stand-alone hot tubs are built by companies who then supply them to retailers around the world to sell. These hot tubs do not have the requirement to be inground and they can “stand on their own” without any other build that needs to be done around the outside or underneath the hot tub unless the homeowner wants additional construction for aesthetic purposes.

Hot Tubs come in square or circular shapes with various shell designs to give the appearance of marble, granite, or certain tones like dessert sands or earthy tones. The cabinets which are typically designed to look like wood can sometimes be chosen to color coordinate with the pre-existing features of your home’s deck or siding. If you are interested in how to choose colors for your pool or hot tub check out the article here where I provide some insights on how to choose the best colors to match your pool with your home’s existing color palette. 

Jets and comfortable seating are the main features of every hot tub. The design, quality of the jets, and additional features built into the shell are going to make a real difference in the cost of these manufactured hot tubs. 

What’s an Inground Vinyl Liner Pool?

Vinyl-Liner Inground Pools are the cheapest pool inground pool option available which I think makes them the best comparison to a hot tub or jacuzzi. I have chosen not to do above ground pool comparison because I believe the in-ground pools to be a better investment in general. Most of the comparison points will be similar for any type of pool you choose but the installation and initial cost to purchase would be different between a Vinyl-Liner, Custom Shotcrete, or above-ground pool. 

The in-ground vinyl liner pool is a pool kit that is manufactured and then sent to retailers around the world. Homeowners can also buy them directly online. These kits come in various shapes like freestyle, Kidney, Square, and many more. Each shape will have options for the size as well allowing you to choose a shape that fits your backyard and hopefully your budget. Vinyl Liner pool kits are shipped with walls made of aluminum or polymer and of course, a vinyl liner that goes over these walls.

The homeowner will need to hire a pool company to dig out the pool, install the kit, run the plumbing and install the electricity for the pool. I do not recommend taking on an inground vinyl liner pool as a DIY project, you can find out why in this article, What I wish I knew before building a pool, where I interview my mother about her DIY Vinyl Liner Pool installation nightmare.

While choosing your pool kit, you’ll have the chance to choose the color for the liner. If you need a little bit of help in deciding which color is best for you, check out my article, Light Vs. Dark Liner. You can also work with your pool builder to discuss custom features and decking to add a personal touch to your pool even though it’s a manufactured pool kit. The customization ability that you are still able to have with a vinyl liner pool is one of the reasons it’s a great choice!

Installation and Price. Which One is Cheaper the Hot Tub or the Pool?

Of course, we know obviously that the Hot Tub is cheaper! Giving my best-educated guess, I think an average quality decent pre-built hot tub would cost you 1/10th the price of installation for an inground vinyl liner pool.

Let’s look at some of the prices for Hot Tubs:

We are going to list the pricing in the table with size and the price is ranging from the lowest quality to the highest quality for the size specified. This means the lower price range is going to be the cheapest option on the market which means low quality but that is alright if it fits in your budget.

SizeAverage CostLengthWidthHeight
2 – 4 Person$2,000 – $8,0005’4” – 7’5’4” – 6’8”29” – 35”
5 – 6 Person$3,000 – $15,0006’6” – 7’9”6’4” – 7’9”33” – 38.5”
7+ Person$4,000 – $20,0007’ – 9’7’ – 9’2”36” – 38”
Courtesy of Homeguide.com

The price for Viny Liner Pool Kits is as follows in size, depth, and shape:

18’x36’x6”8’Mountain Lake$11,090.00
Prices for Vinyl Liner Inground Pool Kits 2020 Source.

As we can see in the pricing, a pool kit is competitively priced with the hot tubs. The real cost difference is going to come from the installation and monthly maintenance.

Hot Tub vs. Inground Pool Installation Prices

Let’s get into the installation of the pool because this is a rather high dollar compared to the hot tub. For the inground pool, you’ll need to hire a pool builder who will also most likely need to build decking and fencing for your new pool. As you can imagine, the price for both of these items alone is more expensive than an average-priced hot tub.

There is not a one size fits all installation pricing for inground pools, a huge part of the cost is going to be where you live. For example, installation in the northeast of the U.S. is about 30% more expensive on average than in the southern parts of the U.S. like Texas and Florida.

With this being said, a good ballpark figure for Vinyl Liner Installation, with basic decking, and a fence will be $45,000 – $65,000 USD. This price assumes that you will buy your own pool kit and have it delivered. This price also doesn’t include any extra features like deck jets, diving boards, tanning shelves, etc.

Hot Tub installation is a much easier process. Especially on the cheaper lower quality end of the hot tub spectrum. Many of these hot tubs are considered plug-and-play with 110-volt connections that can connect right into most wall sockets.

It’s important to check with your retail seller to see if installation is included in the price. If not, we can look at these price ranges to see what an installation might cost. A basic install would be home delivery into the spot desired and then plugging your hot tub into the socket.

Higher-end hot tubs with more features will need something a bit more complicated like an electrician to set up the electrical wiring for the 220-volt requirement or a concrete pad poured for the hot tub to sit on. If you don’t have easy access to the location where your hot tub is going to sit, the use of a crane could be necessary which of course will be an additional cost as well.

Type of InstallPrice
Basic Install $150 -$500
220 Volt Electrical Wiring, Concrete Pad, and Delivery$1500-$4000
Crane Rental (if needed)$300-$1500

Installation timing is another thing to consider, a pool could take weeks or months to install depending on the time of the year, issues during the installation, and how much time your pool builder dedicates to your project once they start. The installation for most hot tubs can literally be a day if you are able to get the electrician to arrive a couple of hours after delivery and you already have the location for your hot tub sorted.

Inground pool installation is also messy and damaging to your backyard while adding a simple stand-alone hot tub is going to be much tidier and in most cases have no effect on your lawn.

Hot Tub and Pool Monthly Maintenace and Energy Cost Comparisons

The maintenance for the hot tub is going to be much cheaper annually and will cost you less in electricity even though the hot tub is heated. A hot tub has to circulate far less water than a swimming pool which is where those saving come in. 

I’ve compiled some averages for those interested in the monthly and annual expense differences between a Hot Tub and a Pool. It should be noted that on average most people never open or close their hot tub and they typically maintain the water chemicals themselves. If you are looking for the highest recommended easiest way to maintain your hot tub is Frogease and Marvel Spa.

Type of CostHot Tub (Month)Hot Tub (Annual)Pool (Month)Pool (Annual)Annual Difference
Water and Electricity$60.62$727.44$90$1,080$352.66
Pool Heater(Gas)N/AN/A$760.41$9,125$9,125
Opening and Closing CostsN/AN/A$750$750
These are average prices complied from Facebook and Reddit Users on the internet. Price differences can be extreme due to the cost of electricity, Natural Gas, and Labor.

Total Price Difference for Pool Maintenace Annually (Cleaning Service w/Chemicals included and no heater) :$2,435.98

Total Price Difference for Pool Maintenace Annually (No Cleaning, No Heater, DIY Opening and Closing): $559.66

I didn’t list other random things you may need like a robot cleaner, wall brush, net, etc. These are really one-off purchases so I don’t believe it is necessary to look at them when calculating reoccurring expenses.

Potential Health Benefits Comparison

There are actual benefits to a hot tub that include taking pressure off of painful joints because of the buoyancy, relaxing tense muscles, and relief from pain caused by arthritis and back pain. The warm water widens blood vessels which allow nutrient-filled blood to circulate through your body easier and quicker. The warmth also bring soothes and loosens tight overworked muscles and brings down body swelling.

There are dangers posed by hot tubs for women who are pregnant and individuals with heart-related diseases because of the widening of the blood vessels. 

Last but not least, poorly cared for hot tubs can be a breeding ground for bacteria so the health benefits you are receiving go right out the window because of reoccurring infections. 

With the large space of a pool, you are able to get into activities from simply swimming laps to family volleyball or basketball. Even just treading water is a more active experience than sitting in a hot tub. 

The buoyancy provided by pool water will also provide low-impact exercise for your joints which is beneficial if you are heavier, have joint pain, or are getting a bit older. 

Social Benefits

Are the social benefits of a hot tub better than a swimming pool? This again is subjective but I believe we all have that part of our brain that gets excited about the thought of kicking back in a hot tub and shooting the breeze with friends and family. The close proximity of a hot tub also makes for an intimate experience for couples and an easy way to have deep meaningful conversations with friends. 

The downside to this is also the close proximity. There isn’t a ton of room to move around in a hot tub and it could be a bit too cozy in certain social situations.

We all grew up knowing which family had a pool in our neighborhood. While that might bring some people anxiety others enjoy being the neighborhood spot or the meet-up place for friends and family. Me, I always believe social interactions are made a bit better when it’s centered around an activity. With a pool, the water activities are numerous but even just sitting around or treading water while conversing feels like a better experience.

The number of people that would be able to share in the activity would be much greater than a hot tub. Depending on the size of your pool, you could easily have 20 people playing and having fun in a pool, and not everyone at a party or hanging out is going to be in the water at the same time. So a party for 40 people or more can easily be accommodated by a decent-sized home pool in your backyard, the real limiting factor here would be the size of your deck.

My Personal Opinion

Again, this entire topic is subjective, for some a hot tub might be a perfect option for their backyard and home. While others, a hot tub might not fit all of our needs. I think this would be especially true for families with kids.
In my opinion, I believe if it is possible to afford it, the benefits provided by a pool outweigh those of a hot tub. This is the ultimate social gathering place during the summertime. Everyone wants to come to a pool party with a bbq! Comparing the intimate relaxing experience of a hot tub to all of the fun times I have had in a pool, I would have to tip my hat to a pool every time. There are just more activities to be had and space in a pool that leaves me thinking the hot tub comes up a bit short.


The founder of Coolpoolhelp.com. I wanted a place to share all of the great information from my family to other pool lovers, builders, and those looking to buy a pool.

Recent Posts