Portable Hot Tub Guide

Guide to Portable Hot Tubs

We'll Help You Find The Best Portable Hot tub


What Is A Plug & Play Hot Tub?

Plug & play hot tubs usually come in the form of small hot tubs that can be easily moved and installed. Plug & play hot tubs differ from traditional 240 volt hot tubs in that they can plug directly into any standard 110 volt outlet without requiring a professional electrician. 

Plug & play hot tubs are perfect for renters, homeowners, or for vacation homes. Plug & play hot tubs are entry level hot tubs that are usually limited to seating four people. These small, easy to install hot tubs will also cost less that traditional 240 volt hot tubs and will save you money on delivery as well due to their lighter weight and smaller size.

There’s a lot more to consider when choosing between a plug & play hot tub and a 240 volt hot tub, so let’s jump into the details.

The Top Plug & Play Brands

Freeflow Spas

Freeflow Spas are usually a slight bit more expensive than other portable spa brands, but they feature modern styling, host the best heaters, filters, insulation, and tend to resemble classic above ground hot tubs more than other brands. Freeflow Spas can usually be found through a large nationwide dealer network so you will always have someone to service your hot tub throughout its life.


Lifesmart is a popular budget brand found at stores such as The Home Depot. The model above has a price of $2,199 at the time this article was written. These hot tubs are fine for the money, but we would recommend spending a bit more for a Fantasy of Freeflow Spa.

Chinese Knock-offs

Buying Chinese no-name brands online has become another popular method of buying plug & play spas. Sites like wayfair sell models similar to the one shown above for $2,200+ with shipping included. We have seen issues with these hot tubs in the past, and wouldn’t recommend them unless they have lots of positive reviews, and you are confident in your own ability to fix problems that arise.

The Cons of Plug & Play Hot Tubs

Before you go out & pick up your portable hot tub, there are a few downsides to be aware of. All hot tubs that plug into a standard outlet will be limited by their low power supply. This means the filter and heater will oftentimes need to take turns. It also means the amount of jets are limited, as well as the size of the tub. The heat-up times will be quite slow, and despite their small size, they will be less energy efficient than their larger hard-wired counterparts.

Blow-up Hot Tubs



Plug & Play Hot Tub



Jets & Comfort

One of the biggest differences between blow-up hot tubs and plug & play hot tubs is the seating position. In blow-up hot tubs, there is no bench to sit on and therefore you sit bent at nearly a 90-degree angle with your legs straight in front of you resting on the bottom of the tub. To make things worse, this seating position means everyone’s legs clash in the middle and ultimately have to rest on top of or below everyone else’s legs. Some blow-up hot tub brands will offer plastic seats that rest on the bottom of the tub as seen below. 

As you can see below, plug & play portable hot tubs have another advantage when it comes to jets. A typical plug & play hot tub will have 3-5 jets per seat, whereas blow-up hot tubs are usually limited to 0-1 jets per seat.

Plug & play portable Hot tubs are typically taller and larger than the average blow-up hot tub and feature bench or lounge seating with ample legroom. This makes for a much more sustainable and comfortable seating position while avoiding the need to rest your legs on someone else’s. On top of this, Portable hot tubs feature a multitude of back, neck, leg, foot, & hand massage jets and massage settings while blow-up hot tubs usually only feature 0-4 jets.

Another important feature to consider is water capacity, as you can see below, the blow-up hot tub has markers for the optimal waterline, this is usually quite shallow and may not even reach your chest. Plug & play hot tubs are much taller, and feature much deeper water so you can comfortably submerge your entire body.*

Blow-up Hot Tub

Plug & Play Hot Tub

Plug & Play vs. Portable Hot Tub Lifespan

While leading portable hot tub brands such as Freeflow Spas and leading blow-up hot tub brands such as Intex share a 5-year shell warranty, blow-up hot tub warranties usually do not cover punctures, and repairing them is left to the consumer. When considering the lifespan of your new hot tub, you can expect to receive around 5 -7 years of use out of a blow-up hot tub compared to 20+ years of use from a Plug & Play hot tub.

Heating & Filtration

Heating and filtration is another area where blow-up hot tubs fall short. With a lack of insulation, blow-up hot tubs leak out their heat energy and will wreak havoc on your energy bill if kept heated. The alternative is to heat up your blow-up hot tub every time you want to use this. Even with its small water capacity, your water will only heat up at a rate of around 2-3 degrees per hour.

One of our biggest gripes with blow-up hot tubs beside the seating position and leg overlap issue is the water quality. Water in your blow-up hot tub can become unsanitary fairly quickly with such a weak filter. Chemicals can only go so far to clean such a small amount of water that is used again and again.

Plug & play hot tubs however have a higher water capacity, professional and powerful filters, integrated heating, and full foam insulation. This means it will cost you less to keep your hot tub hot, and your water will always be clean and clear.

Best Plug & Play & Blow-Up Hot Tubs

If you are looking to buy the perfect small-sized affordable hot tub for your home, here are our top picks for the best blow-up and plug & play hot tub of the year.

Best Blow-Up Hot Tub

Intex Purespa
6 Person Hot Tub

We chose the Intex Purespa 6 person spa for our best blow-up spa of the year due to its 5-year shell warranty, trusted name, available add ons, and low initial price. If you want to comfortably fit 4 people we would recommend opting for the 6 person model.


Best Plug & Play Hot Tub

Freeflow Monterey™ Premier
7 Person Hot Tub

The Monterey Premier hot tub is the largest in the Freeflow line, comfortably seating up to 7 people. The waterfall and multi-color LED lights will set the mood for social gatherings, where you and your guests can enjoy the Monterey Premier’s 22 hydrotherapy jets and ice-cold beverages from the molded-in ice bucket. The full foam insulation makes the Monterey Premier energy-efficient, keeping the heat in and the electric bill low. Plug-N-Play capability, setup is a breeze—no electrical hard-wiring required, just plug it in and enjoy!


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