Is Buying a Factory Direct Hot Tub a Good Idea?


We’ve all seen the advertisements. A commercial shows forklifts moving hot tub shells and large crates around a warehouse while a voiceover promises huge savings on spas. Eye-catching prices and large percentages flash across the screen too quickly for questions to arise, and viewers are left with the idea that a new hot tub can be theirs for a great price by cutting out the middleman. However, buyers may be giving up more than they realize for that low upfront price. They may be giving up critical quality and support and compromising on an otherwise worthwhile investment.

Hot tubs are a major investment and a potential value-add for your home. If someone offered you a price that was too low to believe on home construction or a luxury vehicle, you would rightfully be suspicious. You would be unlikely to make the purchase without first inspecting the services or taking the car out for a test drive. The same should be true for your hot tub, and you should be aware of what you’re giving up before you consider purchasing a factory direct hot tub.


You Don’t Know the Quality of a Hot Tub Until You Try It Out


Going to a local dealer and having a test soak is helpful before buying a hot tub. It’s the single best way to choose the right hot tub for your needs and your wellness goals. You’ll immerse yourself in a test soak in order to sample the massage jets, the water quality, and the feel of the seats. You can witness firsthand the quality of the cabinet, shell, and hardware.

Hot tub shells must be able to support a lot of weight—both the weight of the water and the weight of people soaking. As you test the hot tub, you’ll be able to feel if the shell is adequately supported. If the structure is robust enough, it won’t flex when you have a seat. If it does flex, then you’ll want to avoid purchasing that spa as it is likely to have problems with the shell not far down the road.

During your visit to the dealer, you’ll also want to check and see if:

  • The spa’s seats are comfortable and fit your body. Since not all people are the same size, and a seat that fits one may not fit another. Be sure to also try out hot tubs with a lounger or even double lounger seats.
  • The hot tub’s jets and pumps are powerful enough for hydrotherapy. If you suffer from aches or soreness, a hot tub may help, provided the jets have enough force to massage the tissue.
  • There is a range of jets designed for different massage actions. Look closely at the actual diameter of the jet opening; a variety of jet sizes ensure targeted massage options.
  • The jets can be easily adjusted. Forceful water jets that don’t hit the right spots can be frustrating. Choose a hot tub that can hit your whole body with adjustable jets or one that can massage your whole body through hot tub circuit therapy.
  • The controls are easy to reach and intuitive to use. When you’re ready to relax in your hot tub, you don’t want to have to do any programming first. Look for a spa with a control panel that makes it easy to adjust your spa and easy to preset your favorite functions.

When you cut the dealer out of the purchasing picture, you also cut out the opportunity to make the most careful choices in this big investment. You cut out the chance to take your options for a test drive. If you buy from a dealer, you’ll be confident that you’re investing in a reliable spa for the long term. Plus, unlike when ordering through a factory direct website or even a traveling blowout expo, you’ll know where to go when you need assistance, water care products, or accessories.


A Factory Direct Hot Tub May Be Lacking in Equipment


One of the compulsory hot tub accessories is a tight-fitting insulated cover. It is an important feature of an energy-efficient hot tub as it keeps the water warm and clean when the spa isn’t in use. Because it must seal tightly in order to really work, generic spa covers aren’t really an option.

Even if a factory direct hot tub comes with a cover, there is no guarantee of a proper fit or sufficient insulation. And you may be out of luck when it’s time to replace the cover down the road. Since, the majority of hot tubs are placed outdoors, over time, the sun and elements can fade and damage the cover. After a few years, even a quality well-built hot tub cover will need to be replaced. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to find a well-fitting quality cover for a factory direct hot tub.

When prices are too good to be true from the start, you have to wonder where all the cost savings are coming from—and where the manufacturers may be sacrificing quality. The absence of equipment such as a quality cover can significantly raise the price of owning your hot tub in the long run—and seriously get in the way of your enjoying it. Poor insulation can mean that it takes more electricity to heat up the water. It may leave your spa vulnerable to debris and contaminants, so you may need to purchase more spa chemicals and drain and refill the water more frequently. Most significantly, the times when your hot tub is not clean and warm are the times when you’re not using it. And the greatest hit to your investment is that you don’t use your hot tub often enough to get the most benefit out of it.

A lack of other spa side options such as cover lifter, handrail, and steps may not directly affect your hot tub, but their absence can further hamper your ability to enjoy the spa. The best source for long-term support of your spa’s mechanical and electrical systems is a local dealer that can physically assist with your spa if you need help installing or troubleshooting. Without this assistance, you may have trouble keeping your hot tub in operation. You may even have trouble installing your spa in the first place.


Factory Direct Spas Don’t Offer Expert Installation, Service, or Support


There are two ways that a spa is powered. Either the spa is plugged into a wall outlet, or it is directly wired into a home’s power supply. Most factory direct hot tubs are likely to run at a lower voltage. While this may make installation simpler, it also means that, with less overall power, the heater takes longer to heat the water. Alternatively, if a factory direct hot tub is a model that can be directly wired to your home, you’re left to figure the installation out on your own.

A dealer, on the other hand, will help to guide you in installing your hot tub. With a depth of experience in your area, they can recommend a reliable professional electrician who has experience with hot tubs. And not just any hot tubs—they will have direct experience with the dealer’s hot tub models. This can make the installation of a wired hot tub efficient and hassle free. The same may not be the case when using an electrician you find online to install a hot tub model they’ve never seen before.

Unlike reputable hot tub brands that make their manuals and installation directions available, a factory direct spa’s documentation may be incomplete or not easily accessible. The same may be said of the equipment needed to keep the spa in good repair.

Hot tubs require periodic servicing, including cleaning or replacing filters, water treatments, and occasional replacement of parts. A factory direct hot tub that came from thousands of miles away may not have the needed water treatments or parts available in your area. You’re left to try and make do with off-the-shelf chemicals from your local pool supply store or to match part numbers off of an online list without guidance. You can only hope that you’ve selected the right one and that it matches your spa when it arrives.

These are parts and services that a local dealer can easily assist you with or manage for you. At the very least, they can provide answers to any questions you might have.

While a quality experience may be possible from a factory direct hot tub, it is far more likely that you’ll enjoy a hot tub made by a known and reputable brand purchased from a local dealer much more. Buying a factory direct hot tub is a gamble, and your money is better spent on a sure thing.


Our spas and accessories are backed by a global network of dealers and customer service professionals. To experience the quality of a Caldera® spa for yourself, locate a dealer near you.