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Is a Hard Shell Hot Tub better than an Inflatable?

If you are considering buying a hot tub (and why wouldn’t you be), you may be a little bamboozled by the range of hot tubs available and the different features they have. But the first choice you are probably going to have to make is: do you opt for a hard shell hot tub or a soft inflatable? Read on to find out the benefits and disadvantages of each so you can make the best decision for you and your family.


We totally understand the allure of an inflatable hot tub. I mean, it seems luxurious if you are upgrading from a paddling pool. If you are just looking for a quick dip and splash around in the summer months with the added bonus of a few bubbles then an inflatable tub seems like the perfect option.

First, there’s the price. They are considerably cheaper than a hard shell hot tub when it comes to upfront costs. They start from as little as £300. But you do need to consider the hidden costs of running an inflatable, but more of that in a minute.

One of the strengths of an inflatable hot tub is its portability. You can easily deflate the tub to move it to a different location and when you want to store it away for the winter.


The price of an inflatable tub may be really tempting, but you need to factor in the running costs to get the full picture. In a hard shell tub, the water is heated before the pump pushes it through the jets, so you get a steady stream of warm water into your tub. With an inflatable, the heater only heats the water and the blowers only push bubbles of cold air into your tub so you need more power to keep the water warm. Typically, an inflatable tub can cost up to £3 a day to run.

When people are buying a hot tub, they are often sold on the features that come with it. The jets, lights, waterfall, sound system, Bluetooth, and wireless capability – the list goes on. These features just aren’t available on an inflatable hot tub so you seriously need to consider what you want the hot tub for before deciding which to buy.

An inflatable hot tub is far less durable than a hard shell. Even though they are made of much tougher PVC and vinyl, they are still prone to tears and punctures, which can be repaired, but may affect how available they are when you need them. Regarding the lifespan of an inflatable tub, you can expect to get 2 or 3 years out of one whereas a hard shell will last you for up to 10 years.

Soaking in a hot tub is very relaxing and your comfort is vitally important in achieving that state of relaxation. With an inflatable hot tub, you are essentially sitting on the floor – there are no seats. So if it’s just a splash and play you are looking for, it’s fine, but if you want a more relaxing and therapeutic experience, you should look at a hard shell.

Hard Shell

A hard shell hot tub is very durable. Made from tough fibreglass and surrounded by a strong wooden or steel frame, they are built to last. This also means the essential components and features of your hot tub are hidden away within the framework. Having a solid frame also means that there is room to insulate the tub, which keeps your water warm, even when you are using it in Winter and has a massive impact on running costs.

Initially, buying a hard shell hot tub is much more of a financial commitment. The upfront cost is at least 10 times more than an inflatable. However, once you take into account the lifespan of a hard shell (up to 10 years), and the running costs (from as little as 50p a day, depending on the cost of electricity and how often you use it) it pays for itself after a couple of years, long after an inflatable has expired.

There is no comparison when it comes to the features in a hard shell compared to an inflatable. More jets, with more power, lights, a sound system, a waterfall and Bluetooth connectivity all add to the luxurious hot tub experience. For a truly relaxing experience, using hydrotherapy to relieve those aching bones, a hard shell really is the only way to go.

If you are looking for comfort and relaxation, hard shell hot tubs have powerful heaters which keep your water toasty, even when there’s snow on the ground. They also come with a range of seating options, including the indulgent lounger which allows you to lie back and let the jets blast away your stresses and strains.


Because of the size and weight of a hard shell, they are more difficult to move around than an inflatable. But it can be done with the right equipment. We can relocate your hot tub if you want to move it to a different position or even if you are moving house. Check out our relocation service here.

The only other disadvantage of a hard shell, when compared to an inflatable, is the initial cost. But when you factor in the lifespan of a hard shell, the features, the comfort, and the running costs, a hard shell compares favourably with an inflatable. Plus, if you finance your hard shell hot tub, you can spread the cost and enjoy it for years to come.

So if you are thinking about buying a hot tub, think carefully about what you want to use it for. Do you just want a splash and play with a few bubbles over the Summer months? Or do you want a slice of the hot tub life, where you can use your tub all year round and enjoy the therapeutic hydrotherapy it provides?

If you are still unsure, why not hire one of our hot tubs and road test the lifestyle for a few days. That way you can make the right choice for you and your family.

Check out our range of hard shell hot tubs and feel free to pop into the showroom to ask any questions.