Swim Spa Vs Hot Tub: What’s the Difference?

  • Written By: Rachel
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Most people understand what a hot tub is and that it’s there for recreation and relaxation above all else. You can get in to relieve stress and to help with tired, achy muscles.  A swim spa, on the other hand, combines the perks of being able to swim and exercise in a small space with the heated water of a hot tub.

Though swim spas and hot tubs seem similar and are used for recreation and relaxation in your outdoor living space, they aren’t the same size and their costs vary. Not to mention, because they have divergent purposes – their features and seating arrangements are going to be very different.   

And even though a swim spa can be used in a similar manner to a hot tub, it has a completely different purpose. So what else is different about these two water recreations? Let’s find out! 

Swim Spa vs Hot Tub
What is the Difference Between a Swim Spa and a Hot Tub?

Swim Spas Are Larger Than Hot Tubs

Swim spas are geared toward swimming or water exercise. To accommodate that, there has to be enough room for a full-grown person to maneuver around in the thing. And in some cases, the swim spa also has side seating, allowing it to somewhat doubles as a hot tub for relaxation and socialization. 

3 Best Hot Tubs For Seniors
3 Best Hot Tubs For Seniors

Because of their depth and large size, they often don’t fit as easily into your outdoor living space as your hot tub would. Some of these bad boys are anywhere from 12 – 19 feet (3.6 – 5.8 meters) long. Like a hot tub, they require a level surface that can withstand the weight of not only the machinery but the water it will be holding. 

Most installers will recommend a reinforced concrete pad that is at least 4 inches thick for a swim spa. Hot tubs do need similar standards, but you do have some wiggle room. So long as the structural integrity can handle it, a wooden deck can hold a decently sized hot tub. This becomes less likely for swim spas. 

Swim spas are also deeper and have those powerful jets, so it may be best to install the spa and then enclose it properly, leaving easy access for repairs along the bottom. My advice is to have professionals handle installation prep, and enclosure finishing along with permitting. 

Swim Spas Cost More on Average Than Hot Tubs 

Because of the size difference, sometimes the installation and permitting for that installation of the swim spa will cost a bit more than the standard hot tub installation. However, you’d be surprised to find out that despite the stronger jet system in a swim spa, they usually don’t cost much more than the larger, deluxe model hot tubs.

When it comes to mechanical maintenance, chemicals, and accessories, the hot tub and the swim spa pretty much come out even. 

Both hot tubs and swim spas can be used 365 days a year and so can end up costing on average a similar amount per year on your energy bill. The difference really just depends on how often you use them, and that’s a household-to-household difference.

Larger Hot Tubs Usually Offer More Seating Than a Swim Spa

Even though swim spas are larger, they usually don’t have that many seats. It’s all a matter of why these two things are used. Some swim spas can have up to 5 seats, but they usually only have 2 or 3. The idea is to use it for swimming, not sitting.

Hot tubs on the other hand can vary depending on size and can seat from 2 to 8 people. Though you better be willing to get close if you’ve got that many people in your hot tub! Also, if you get a hot tub large enough for that many people, it will be larger and probably cost more than the standard hot tub.

Swim Spas and Hot Tubs Have Different Features

A swim spa has a larger tank area center, obviously for swimming and exercise. Hot tubs do not. This is the same reason it has a powerful jet at one end of the tank. That jet pushes water against the user to allow them to swim in the limited space or to exercise by walking or jogging in the water against that jet. 

Now from that point onward, hot tubs and swim spas pretty much come with very similar features. It depends on what you want – Bluetooth with a sound system? Extra jets for certain seats? These are all things that can come in either package.   

In Conclusion

I really wish I had done more research on the swim spas before buying our hot tub. I would definitely have gotten more use out of the swim spa. I love our hot tub and I’m glad it holds a lot of people. Living close to the coast, we have visitors all the time that use it. However, the exercise aspect really is exciting to consider. 

I hope my article will help you keep in mind all of the differences and make the best choice for yourself and your family when it comes to the choice between a hot tub and a swim spa.