Walk-in bathtubs usually have a watertight door on one side that allows someone with limited mobility to step into the tub without having to climb over the side of a standard tub. But this extra accessibility comes at a price: walk-in tub generally cost between $1,000 and $10,000. Most of these tubs are marketed under specialty brands such as Safety Bath, Independent Living and Soaking Solutions, but there are also walk-in tubs sold under American Standard and even Best Buy labels.
If you do an Internet search on "walk-in bathtubs" or "walk-in tubs," most of the links will be to vendors, manufacturers or installers who want to sell you a tub. Mainstream publications, such as Consumer Reports have not provided much coverage and AARP has minimal coverage on its website. We found the most credible information from WalkInTubGuide.com, which doesn't appear to have a commercial interest in pushing a specific brand. While it's impossible to verify whether the website's claim that it lists "every walk-in bathtub," there is a wide array of brands with photos and specifications, although there doesn't appear to be hands-on testing.
When the door to the walk-in tub is open, the user needs to step over a barrier that's usually only about 4 inches high, about 10 to 12 inches lower than a standard bathtub. Because there's a side door, the user must get into the tub before filling it and can't exit until the water drains, although some tubs have enhanced drain systems that will empty the tub faster than a standard tub.
Like standard tubs, walk-in bathtubs are available in a wide range of sizes, styles and materials (a good one will have a steel frame covered by acrylic or fiberglass). Most will have handrails in compliance with the American Disabilities Act and a slip-resistant bottom, and many also will have a seat. Some have spa features with water or air jets that will provide a whirlpool. Some have controls that will prevent the water from being too hot. Because walk-in tubs are generally taller than standard bathtubs, there is more tub to clean.