Inflatable Vs Hard Shell Hot Tubs

Tuesday, 30th May 2023 in Buying guides, Tips, Uncategorised
Inflatable Vs Hard Shell Hot Tubs | A6 Hot Tubs

Hot tubs are no longer seen as the wealthy person’s accessory, these days you may have a couple of friends who have a hot tub, or you know someone on your street who owns one. With an increase in demand and therefore changes in production hot tubs have now become something that everyone can enjoy. If you’re looking at hot tubs you see two different types. Inflatable vs hard shell hot tubs.

So, in this short read, we’ll be talking about these two types of hot tubs that people enjoy. Many people are using inflatable hot tubs due to their ease of use and low cost. You also have a growing number of people taking the plunge into buying a hard shell hot tub. There are many reasons people are trading in their inflatable hot tubs for permanent and solid models. We’ll be going through some of the pros and cons of each type of hot tub below.

Inflatable Hot Tub Pros and Cons

  • Smaller initial cost as cheaper to purchase
  • Higher running cost due to lack of insulation
  • Easy to install
  • Easily moveable and able to be packed away
  • Not feasible to use in colder weather
  • Limited hydrotherapy benefits
  • Limited additional features

Solid Hot Tub Pros and Cons

  • Larger Initial Cost
  • Cheaper to heat and run thanks to solid body
  • Heavy and requires access to be available
  • Permanent fixture (mostly), not easily mobile
  • Can easily be used year-round
  • Great hydrotherapy benefits
  • Choice of jets, fountains, LED, music
Relax in Hot Tub | A6 Hot Tubs

The Initial Spend

The biggest point when comparing both types of hot tubs is the price. The obvious advantage to getting an inflatable is the price, you can pick one up for around £300, take it home, fill it, heat and voila you have a hot tub. A hard shell or solid hot tub can be anywhere in the range of £5k to £15k. These prices are dependent on what features and insulation you wanted. You’d also see a higher price depending on where the hot tub was produced and the parts used to make them.

Running Costs

While inflatable hot tubs offer a cheaper initial spend the running costs of using an inflatable hot tub are much greater than running a hard shell model. This is mainly due to the insulation and repair costs.

An inflatable hot tub will be made from a strong PVC, vinyl or plastic. This means there is hardly anything in the way of insulation. Heat will escape from the hot tub putting more stress on the heater to keep the water up to temperature. You’ll also find that the heater and pump for these models are produced cheaply. Not only offering a slower heating process and running inefficiently, but they’ll also be more prone to breaking down and needing a repair or replacement. You will also experience the joys of the occasional tear and a slowly deflating hot tub with water loss. They are easy to fix but it is still frustrating when you have to refill and reheat and possibly lose out on a relaxing evening.

A hard shelled hot tub would alternatively be made of acrylic and framed with wood or steel, and will then be enclosed within an insulated cabinet. This means that you’ll be gaining all these extra layers to keep the heat escaping from your spa. A good example of hot tubs with great insulation are the Oasis Spas models available from us. The R18 full foam insulation was the winner of the whatspa eco award for 2022.

Oasis award winning R18 full foam Insulation | A6 Hot Tubs

Installing & Preparation

When you purchase an inflatable hot tub, you can usually be using your hot tub within a few days. A simple set-up and low electrical requirements you’ll only be waiting for water to initially heat up. This can be anywhere from 24-48 hours.

When purchasing a hard shell hot tub you have a few more things to consider. The first thing is access and placement of the hot tub. Your new solid hot tub can be quite large and heavy. Here at A6 hot tubs, we offer a local site survey as included in the deposit of the hot tub. This means one of our trained professionals will come and see where the hot tub is going. We’d then access what the access was like and if the hot tub has the space to maneuvered by hand or if a crane was needed. We also be able to advise what electrical work would need to be done. When purchasing a solid hard shell hot tub you have a choice of amp models. A 13 amp is commonly known as a plug-and-play due to there not being much electrical demand for the hot tub. You will also find models in 20 and 32 amp builds offering more functions and features but requiring a greater electrical demand.

Needless to say, the process from buying to enjoying your hard shell hot tub will be longer. However, if you find a good retailer to buy your hot tub through this process can be a breeze. We offer a starter chemical pack with all hot tubs. Our engineer will show you how to dose and test the water after installation is complete.

Hot Tub in Snow Banner | A6 Hot Tubs

All Year Round

A hard shell hot tub can be used year-round. In fact, the colder winter months are when you’ll feel the benefits the most. Many hard shell owners keep their hot tubs running all year and enjoy soaking in the colder weather. You also have the option of closing down your model if wanted.

An inflatable hot tub however can’t cope well in the cold weather. While some models and brands are getting better at this, the cost to run an inflatable through the winter weather can be astronomical. Your best option is to pack up the inflatable hot tub through the colder months.

The colder months can bring aches and pains, and the best way to combat these is with some hot tub hydrotherapy.

Health Benefits

A hot tub brings many health benefits with it. The hot water and true hydrotherapy offered by a hard shell hot tub can’t be beaten. While models with more water jets offer greater relaxation all hot tubs offer physical and mental health benefits. We’ve compiled some of those here with some interesting facts you might not have known about hot tubs.

  1. Sleep. Hydrotherapy is proven to help improve sleep patterns. Soaking in a hot tub could be the perfect ingredient for getting a good night’s sleep.
  2. Stress. Studies have shown that 15 minutes in a hot tub per day, for 6 days straight can result in an 11% drop in the stress hormone cortisone.
  3. Weight Loss. A 2017 study by Dr Faulkner found that a one-hour hot tub session can burn the same number of calories as a 30-minute walk.
  4. Circulation. Just 20 minutes immersed in hot water dilates your blood vessels and improves circulation, which helps move inflammatory substances away from the joints and muscles.
  5. Stretching. According to SportsMD, a hot water soak can promote flexibility in muscles, allowing for better stretching
  6. Pain Relief. Soaking in a bubbly hot tub promotes the body’s release of endorphins giving you natural pain relief. This is great for tight and sore muscles.
  7. History. As early as 552 AD, people in Japan used hot springs to bathe. The water was heated by the magma found in a nearby volcano. Locals believed that bathing in the warm water could purify the body and bring good luck.
  8. Celebration. At any given time, over 17,000 people are currently sitting in a hot tub & over 43,000 champagne bottles are opened in hot tubs each year.
Champagne in Hot Tub | A6 Hot Tubs

Some of these benefits can be great for improving your wellbeing. A solid hot tub will proved amazing improvement for all these factors. An inflatable however doesn’t offer a great hydrotherapy experience. The best way to enjoy these benefits is in a hard shell hot tub.


One of the biggest buying points of a hard shell hot tub is that you can choose between various models and makes. From smaller hot tubs which offer a great experience for a small party of people to larger party tubs for bigger families and friend groups, the choice is yours.

You also have a wealth of choices to make regarding insulation, ozonators and self-cleaning systems. These will help you keep the running costs down along with the chemical cost. An ozone system or in.clear (available in BeWell hot tubs) system can help you save on dosing with needed chemicals.

Lastly you have added cosmetic and atmospheric options. With hard shell hot tubs offering LED lights within the hot tub. Allowing you to set the mood for your evening while soaking and relaxing in the hot tub. Fountain and pop-up jets along with curtain waterfalls can also be a great way to enjoy the water.

With all these options to truly get what you want a hard shell hot tub will ensure you can make the most out of your relaxation time.

Hot tub on Rural Decking | A6 Hot Tubs


An inflatable hot tub can be a good option for summer’s week if the family are all at home. Much like an inflatable pool, these are great to use for a weekend and pack away for the hot weather. However, if you were looking for true hydrotherapy and a permanent place to relax and unwind, a hard shell hot tub is what you need. With an endless amount of models and brands to choose from we’re here to help. Our family-run team of professionals can help you get the model that’s right for you and within your budget. Why not contact us today to see how we can help.

Common Hot Tub Error Codes FAQs

Do you need planning permission to install a hot tub?

Usually, there is no need for planning permission for a domestic temporary/moveable hot tub or swim spa. However, if you live in a conservation area or a listed property, we would advise seeking confirmation from your local authority.

What do you need to prepare before installing a hot tub?

Access: Hot tubs are relatively easy to install, firstly you should consider access, will you require a hiab or a crane? Can the delivery drivers carry it to your back garden?

Location prep: You will need a solid base for your hot tub, we do not recommend placing it on grass due to ground movement which is bad for the shell structure. You will also need a power and water supply. If you are planning on sinking your spa then maintenance access needs to be considered. Ultimately hot tubs are easy to plan for.