In-ground hot tubs are a major investment. They're considerably more expensive than above-ground tubs, can take weeks to build, and may also have fewer features and lower energy efficiency. Yet once construction is done, the tub should last as long as you own your home, though it can't come with you if you move.
Most expensive type. In-ground hot tubs are the priciest kind, not so much because of the cost of the equipment as the installation requirements. A permanent spa requires excavation of the site, plumbing, electrical work and sometimes gas hookups, all of which must be done professionally. Better Homes and Gardens editors estimate the total cost of an in-ground spa at between $15,000 and $20,000. However, you get the option of heating the water with gas rather than electricity, which will save on energy costs in the long run, and an in-ground hot tub could raise the value of your property.
Built to last. Online buying guide What's the Best describes an in-ground hot tub as the most durable type. They're typically made of either poured concrete or air-blown concrete known as gunite that's applied over a web of steel reinforcing rods, which can be molded to virtually any shape. Concrete and gunite spas generally have a line of ceramic tile around the rim to make cleaning easier, and some are completely lined with tile. Construction of an in-ground hot tub will probably require a permit, and may be subject to local building and zoning restrictions.
Fully customized. An in-ground spa can be custom-made to any size and shape you like. You can also choose the exact configuration of water jets: their number and position, adjustable or non-adjustable, even their color. In-ground spas may come with a full array of options such as colored lighting, sound systems or waterfall features, but more extras generally equal a higher cost. Construction is time-consuming, too, taking anywhere from two to 12 weeks or longer if it's part of a pool installation. On the plus side, an in-ground spa can be used year-round in a mild climate.
Built to fit your landscape. Better Homes and Gardens editors note that an in-ground hot tub "can add a dramatic effect to your yard." Because it's built to your exact specifications, you can choose whatever style will fit best into your landscape. An in-ground spa can be built right into a deck or patio for easy access from the house, and you can choose the shape you prefer, as well as the type and color of tile. Editors at What's the Best recommend considering "the view throughout the seasons" when choosing a site, since an in-ground tub can't be moved once it's built.
1. Better Homes & Gardens
This article discusses several factors to consider when choosing a hot tub. It compares indoor and outdoor installation, as well as above-ground units that it describes as "portable" and in-ground models. Editors list pros and cons for each type, along with estimated costs.
Review: Planning for a Spa, Editors of Better Homes and Gardens, Not dated
This site is run by What's the Best, a series of online guides for consumers contemplating major purchases. In this section, a buying guide compares different types of hot tubs, including "portable" above-ground, soft-sided inflatable and "permanent" in-ground models.
Review: Hot Tub Buying Guide: Types of Hot Tubs, Editors of What's the Best, As of August 2013
This retailer sells parts, chemicals and accessories for hot tubs, but not the tubs themselves. A handy buying guide covers such topics as the pros and cons of above-ground versus in-ground spas, energy costs and features. It also includes a checklist to use while shopping.
Review: Planning to Buy a Hot Tub Spa?, Editors of PoolAndSpa.com, Not dated
4. Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau of eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont offers a detailed buying guide to hot tubs. The article includes information about hot tub construction, different types of wood and pricing, as well as how permanent hot tubs can add to the value of a home.
Review: Buying a Hot Tub or Spa, Editors of Better Business Bureau, Not dated