Getting a hot tub (spa) has been the absolute best splurge I’ve ever made. Once the global pandemic hit, I went from going to my hot tub once or twice a week to three or four times a week. Having a hot tub has been a life-saver!
Having an outdoor hot tub to go to really helped with my mental health. It allowed me to relax, record some podcasts, and think of new post ideas for Financial Samurai. Further, having a hot tub was something fun and new to do with my three and a half year old son.
At least once a week, I would walk with my boy to my rental property where my hot tub was, and spend some quality time. Kids love water and my son is no different.
Thoughts On Getting A Hot Tub
I don’t have very many wants in life, namely:
- A lovely wife
- A healthy family
- Sexy good looks
- Financial independence
- A feeling of purpose
- Admiration and respect from everyone
- A happy default predisposition
- A cozy home with an ocean view
After these eight things, what more does a guy really want or need? I’m not greedy. But lately, I’ve been wanting one more thing to fill up the large empty space underneath my deck: a hot tub!
I don’t know whether you guys realize how much I sacrifice to give you the most insightful financial advice possible. After all, I can’t write about the cost to own and maintain a hot tub without buying one. That would be like me writing about early retirement while still working for The Borg.
In this post, I’ll give you some insights into my nine month journey of finally procuring a hot tub. I’ve learned a ton along the way that will enable you to save money and make the best hot tub decision for you and your family.
Is A Hot Tub Right For You?
Before you buy one, the first thing you should do is list the reasons why you want one. Ask yourself the following:
* Do you live in a temperate climate? Hot tubs are wonderful between 0 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Sitting in 101+ degree water when the outside temperature is higher than 75 degrees gets a little uncomfortable.
* Do you do a lot of physical activity? Physical activity can include manual labor for your job, rigorous exercise, or sports. Spas provide wonderful therapy for achy muscles.
* Do you have a well ventilated space? Hot tubs generally range from 5′ X 6′ up to 8′ X 8′. You’ll want to have at least a couple feet of space to walk around all four sides for cleaning and maintenance. Therefore, you need at least 70 – 100 sqft worth of space. You’ll also want a space that’s sheltered from prying neighbors as well.
* Do you have the time and patience to maintain one? Depending on usage, you’ll have to change the water every 3-4 months, the filters every 6-18 months, check the PH balance at least once a week, clean the inevitable ring that forms around the hot tub, and once a year change the UV bulb that kills bacteria. You can pay a maintenance company $30 – $250/month to do the work.
The Cost Of Owning A Hot Tub
There are an endless number of hot tubs to choose from. If you buy one, you might as well get the best one possible because of the fixed costs required to install one. Here are some things you will probably need to spend money on.
Platform: $200 – $1,000
Unless you already have available a perfectly flat cement platform, it’s likely you will need to create one from scratch with reinforced rebar. To withstand the thousands of pounds of pressure, the cement platform should be around 4″ high.
Originally, I had planned to put the hot tub on my deck. However, a structural engineer said my deck would not hold 7,000 pounds (heavier than my Honda Fit) without reinforcement. Even then, he said he still wouldn’t recommend putting one on the deck.
I got my landscaper to build me an 8′ X 8′ X 4″ cement platform for about $800 – $1,000, including materials. The cost was blended into my overall backyard landscaping job.
He had to build a box, pick up bags of concrete, pour, and smooth. Or you can do all this work yourself and just pay about ~$200 for the materials. But I had no desire to injure my back.
Delivery: $0 – $1,500
Hot tubs are large, heavy, and cumbersome. The dry weight is anywhere between 500 – 1,000 lbs. Further, they do not fit through standard, three foot wide doors either. Therefore, if it’s feasible, you’ll need a bunch of guys to create a movable trolley / ramp system to get your hot tub onto your platform.
Otherwise, your hot tub may need to be craned over your house and into your back yard. This is where you might have to pay the delivery company $1,000 or more. The farther away the placement is from the street, the more you’ll have to pay.
I paid $325 to have five guys build a ramp over my fence, and trolley my hot tub down the side of my house.
Electrician: $1,000 – $3,000
The first thing you should choose is a 220 volt powered hot tub versus a 110 volt powered hot tub. The 210v heats up the water quicker, recycles the water faster, and has more jet power. Higher voltage hot tubs have more options such as lights, music, and bubbles. Plug and play 110v hot tubs are fine. They just don’t have the best therapeutic power.
Unfortunately, with a 220v powered spa, you’ll need an electrician to run a hardwire from your sub-panel or main panel into your hot tub. You’ll need to create a GFCI switch box as well. This costs money! Depending on the distance your spa is from your electrical panel, and how much cutting and drilling is involved, your electrician may cost between $1,000 – $3,000.
I paid my licensed electrician $1,500.
Hot tub: $2,000 – $20,000
Given I was already in for $2,825 to install my hot tub, I decided to get a larger hot tub of higher quality even though most of the time there would only be one or two of us using it. I chose the Sundance Altamar hot tub that seats five for $13,000.
The Altamar is part of Sundance’s top of the line 8800 series with the most amount of jets and options. It’s the same hot tub that’s in the San Francisco Giants’ locker room. If it’s good enough for Giants players, it’s good enough for me.
If you’re going to go through the hassle of getting one, you might as well get the best one you can afford. I’d stick to mid tier: $5,000 – $8,000, high tier: $9,000 – $12,000, or luxury tier: $13,000 – $20,000. The last thing you want to do is return your hot tub because it didn’t perform to your expectations.
Really think things through regarding placement as well. You have to make a best guesstimate of which will be your favorite seat and where you want the cover to fold out to for privacy. Once you’ve decided, it’s very hard to switch things around!
Total Cost: $15,825
Ongoing Hot Tub Maintenance Costs
Chemicals: $150 – $250 / year
My hot tub came with a box of five different bottles of chemicals. Each chemical is used to clean and maintain the quality of the water. My box of chemicals will run out in about four months. Therefore, I’ll have to buy two more boxes for $50 each to cover the remaining eight months. Therefore, the total cost is roughly $150 / year.
Filters: $100 / year
My hot tub has an outer and inner filter. I’m required to change the outer filter every 18 months ($60) and the inner filter every six months ($40). Some might say I don’t have to change the filters as often, just like how you don’t have to change your car’s oil every 3,000 miles. But I want to change my filters often because it’s easy to do and I care about the quality of the water.
The reality is, after five years of owning a hot tub, I change my filter much less often than recommended. I take it out and hose the filter down, but that’s it. When it’s only you, your wife, and your son using the hot tub, it doesn’t get very dirty.
UV bulb: $75 / year
The ClearRay UV bulb helps kill bacteria that cross its path. Replacing the bulb looks a little complicated as I’ve got to remove a lot of parts to get in there. If I don’t have to pay someone, the cost is just $75.
Increased Electricity: $60 – 250 / month
Depending on the water heater savings mode you use and how high you want your water to be heated (99 – 104F usually), you will see a $60 – $25 monthly increase in your electricity bill.
I highly recommend you learn how to turn on the economy mode or day mode function. This way, the hot tub isn’t heating at your set temperature for 24 hours a day. Instead, it’s heating for 11 to 12 hours a day.
The higher ongoing electricity bill has been my main surprise for owning a hot tub. I’m not sure whether my hot tub wiring is fault, or I simply got a beast of a hot tub that consumes a lot of energy. But I keep my hot tub on economy mode and set the temperature at 99 degrees. Even still, my hot tub bill is regularly $200/month.
Also note that if you drain your hot tub and refill it with cold water, the electrical cost to reheat the tub to your desire temperature will increase a lot. I recommend changing the water every 3-6 months.
Total annual operating costs: $1,000 – $2,500
The Benefits Of Owning A Hot Tub
Here are ten potential benefits I can think of.
1. More Family Time. The traditional get together is around the dining table. Why not extend the quality time to the hot tub after?
2. Better Sleep. It’s easier to fall asleep after a nice soak or massage.
3. Massages. Get a free massage when you want, as long as you want, with powerful hot tub therapy jets.
4. Lower Stress. Live longer.
5. Increase Romance. Rekindle the romance with your partner, or impress a date.
6. More Time Outdoors. Ever wonder why hiking is so therapeutic?
7. Lower Blood Pressure. You may see lower blood pressure, according to “The New England Journal of Medicine” while combating Vitamin D deficiency.
8. Hot Tub Parties. Have a hot tub party in the middle of winter. Hot tubs are a great way to stay connected with friends.
9. Staycation. Save money and traveling headaches. No longer do you need to spend a fortune at an expensive resort to enjoy a hot tub.
10. Increase Home Value. There’s a debate whether a pool adds value given the dangers of a pool. But a operational hot tub should absolutely increase the value of your property when it comes time to sell. Any amenity that makes your home more vacation-like is a win.
I Love My Hot Tub
In another life I must have been a sea creature because I can soak in my hot tub for a couple hours at a time no problem. After five years of ownership, I’ve averaged eight hours a week in my hot tub.
It’s been wonderful utilizing my unused space in the back as well. I sleep incredibly well after a good soak and have had fantastic conversations with friends and family in the hot tub so far.
The biggest stress you will have as a first-time hot tub owner is making sure the water is within the parameters of the test strip. It takes trial and error to get things right.
But sooner or later you’ll get the hang of maintaining clear, clean smelling water that will provide you and your family hours of enjoyment. If you mess up the chemical balance, you can always drain the tub and start over!
One of the reasons why real estate is my favorite asset class is due to little things like enjoying a hot tub. You would never make such an investment in a rental unless you had money to burn.
To be able to enjoy a better lifestyle, add value to your property, potentially make a profit down the road and essentially live for free as a result is just a wonderful value proposition.
This isn’t something you can do investing in stocks, bonds, REITs, or real estate crowdfunding, where I’m currently putting new money to work. So I encourage you to not only own your primary residence, but also continuously invest in passive income generating assets. Then you can spend even more time in your hot tub since you won’t have to work as much!
Wealth Building Recommendations
1) Shop around for a better mortgage rate.
Check out Credible, my favorite mortgage marketplace where prequalified lenders compete for your business. You can get competitive, real quotes in under three minutes for free. Mortgage rates are still near all-time lows. Take advantage!
2) Invest in real estate across the country
If you’re looking to buy property as an investment or reinvest your house sale proceeds, take a look at Fundrise, one of the largest real estate crowdfunding platforms today with over $2.5 billion under management. Fundrise enables investors to easily invest in private multifamily and single family rental properties across the country.
I also highly recommend searching for properties on the CrowdStreet platform. CrowdStreet focuses on individual real estate deals in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities have lower valuations, higher growth, and higher yields.
I’ve personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding to diversify and earn income passively. It’s great to be able to diversify away from my expensive San Francisco real estate portfolio.