Inflatable Spas vs Arctic Spas: The Tale of the Tape

by Oct 4, 2016


If you’re in the market for a hot tub, you’ve probably noticed the “benefits” of the inflatable varieties. The sales pitch used for vinyl hot tubs and spas goes something like this:

  • You’ll save tons of money.
  • It’s easy to set up.
  • It’s also much less expensive to maintain over the long haul.
  • You’ll save tons of money – wait, didn’t they already mention that?

Obviously, cost is the biggest single difference in the fiberglass spa vs inflatable spa debate. However, there are many other factors every buyer should consider before purchasing a vinyl hot tub. Just like any investment, quality matters. Think of your hot tub as part entertainment center, part relaxation retreat, part family gathering place, and 100% integral to your home, vacation home or other residence. Then ask yourself, “Is my hot tub something I should go as cheap as possible on?”

This blog post will dispel some of the myths surrounding inflatable spas. By contrasting a vinyl hot tub against the gold standard in permanent fiberglass shell hot tubs – Arctic Spas – you’ll gain a better understanding of why an Arctic Spas hot tub is simply a better option, cost aside.

So why are inflatable spas so affordable, and what are some problems that might make it a bad idea to purchase one?


The Illusion of “Cheaper is Better”

The low, low price point of an Inflatable Spa may seem enticing, and may seem like a great way to try out hot tubbing.  And the advertising suggests a carefree, fun lifestyle with inflatable hot tubs and spas; images of people happily enjoying these products might look like any other hot tub party.

However, there are some serious inadequacies to these devices, and the most glaring deficiency with inflatable hot tubs and spas is the material they are constructed of. In nearly all cases, this material is vinyl.  Think about that for a second: the vast majority of inflatable hot tubs are constructed of the same material that inflatable pool lounges, raincoats, umbrellas and beach balls are made from.  This material is really good at holding in water, or keeping water out, for a relatively short period of time. Remember that beach ball you purchased a few years ago for vacation, or the inflatable toy you loved as a child? Chances are, you no longer have those vinyl items!

Contrast the flimsy properties of vinyl with fiberglass. This material is much more robust, has superior weather-proof characteristics and lasts a long time. That’s why RV campers use fiberglass roofs, and why porch screens and shades are made of fiberglass. Arctic Spas hot tubs feature a contoured, long-lasting fiberglass interior. And a stronger material = a stronger investment, not to mention years of dependable use. With some truly minor care, your Arctic Spas fiberglass hot tub or spa can last a lifetime!


The Weather Forecast for Inflatable Spas: Leaky, with a Chance of Collapsing

Let’s talk about the weather. For any inflatable spa or hot tub in the Great Outdoors, its lifespan will be greatly diminished. Thus, a very important consideration is your local climate. A rugged fiberglass spa with a durable wood exterior and sturdy cover – all Arctic Spas hot tubs are built this way – is able to withstand harsh winter conditions, scorching summer heat, heavy rain and more; basically, it’s a year-round performer. Now imagine your inflatable spa outdoors in two feet of snow. How well does a beach ball fare in outdoor area for a long time? You can almost hear the faint hiss of deflation just thinking about it!

Plus, there’s the issue of water temperature. Your spa, be it an Inflatable or one constructed of other materials, will attempt to maintain the temperature set point.  The spa’s ability to retain heat is really a couple of issues. Number one is the insulation factor for the spa walls (and perhaps most importantly) the cover – after all, heat rises – and number two is the heating system that is a part of the spa equipment.  All Inflatable spas are 110v units, (sometimes known as “plug and play”) and, in warm weather are capable of maintaining the temperature set point by running fairly frequent heater cycles.  And, as you may perhaps know, heating elements are among some of the most inefficient devices out there.  So, even a small inflatable spa can cause some significant heating costs in cool weather.  More robust spas can be equipped with 240v power systems, which provide significantly more power on demand, and are therefore capable of running much larger heaters, but for much shorter periods of time, resulting in lower heating costs.

In other words, 110v power may seem cheap and easy, but it will cost you a great deal over time.  In colder weather, this difference becomes significantly more pronounced – the inflatable spa will struggle to maintain the temperature set point, and will run near constant heater cycles to do so.  And it likely will not be enough, causing the water temperature to fall and make using the spa an uncomfortable proposition. (And speaking of uncomfortable, the inherent nature of vinyl makes for unstable spa seating.) Fiberglass spas, and amongst these there are even cold weather specialty spas, can maintain the temperature set point in a wide range of conditions all the way up to the most extreme winter weather.  And for many, the juxtaposition of the warm relaxing water, and the cool weather further enhances the pleasure of a hot tub soak.


Fiberglass Hot Tubs: No Worries about Disappointing, Deflating Comfort Levels

Lastly, inflatable spas are unable to deliver the comfort that even the most affordable fiberglass shell spas can offer.  In nearly all cases, you’re forced to sit at floor height and rest against an upright degree wall.  Fiberglass spas have moulded, ergonomic and comfortable seating areas, some even with loungers.  If the goal of your hot tub experience is to truly relax, to socialize comfortably, or for quality hydrotherapy, fiberglass spas simply offer a superior, more supportive seating experience.

Here’s another way to look at the inflatable vs fiberglass hot tub issue: just think of the features you won’t find on inflatable spas and hot tubs:

  • Efficient heat retention. Arctic Spas uses a durable, long-lasting fiberglass shell, shown to maintain water temperature at optimal levels.
  • Indestructible, install-anywhere floors. Unlike inflatable spas, our hot tubs come with the Forever Floor™, a rugged, element and pest-resistant base that goes practically anywhere.
  • Weather-ready covers. With Mylovac™ cover, your Arctic Spas hot tub won’t wither during winter. In fact, the cover can hold thousands of pounds of snow and ice, so there are no worries about the weather.
  • Beautiful, durable wood exterior and cabinets. In our opinion, Western Red cedar beats boring vinyl every time. Not only is our wood incredibly durable, it’s also a stylish addition to any indoor or outdoor entertainment space.


At the end of the day, a hot tub purchase is similar to a car purchase. You’ll spend a lot of time in both (although ask any hot tub owner, and they certainly wish they spend more time in their hot tub and not the car!). Each product is functional – and even fun – yet also a major investment. Each requires maintenance, although Arctic Spas needs much less maintenance than other brands. But you get the idea. Buying a car is important. And your decision to go the cheap route will probably backfire in the end. Most everybody reading this blog has experience purchasing that old beater back in the day, simply because it was the most affordable means of transportation.

But soon, problems surfaced. The transmission slipped. The water pump failed. And because you spent as little as money possible, you also needed four new tires. In other words, a cheap car starts to nickel-and-dime the unlucky owner.

Similarly, an inflatable hot tub or spa offers the lure of inexpensive entertainment and relaxation. But as we’ve shown, that’s not the case. Seals come undone. Inefficient heat retention means more money is spent heating it than you imagined. It’s not as comfortable as a regular hot tub, like one from Arctic Spas. Maintenance costs start to soar. And just like that cheap car, a vinyl or inflatable hot tub starts to nickel-and-dime you…with no end in sight!


Case Closed: For Lasting Value, Solid Return on Investment and Years of  Enjoyment, Go with Arctic Spas!

With a surprisingly small additional investment, you can enter the realm of hot-tubbing, and enjoy a much superior product as well! Not only will the spa last longer, cost you less and provide the comfort and relaxation you are looking for, but the investment in a quality fiberglass spa from Arctic Spas designed for cold weather will ensure that how, when and where you use your spa is ultimately up to you, and not restricted by the product, weather and other factors.

If you already have an inflatable spa and want to discover the superior quality and comfort of an Arctic Spas hot tub, click here to find the closest dealer to you. Or, do some more research on your own and download our latest spa and hot tub brochure. Remember, all Arctic Spas hot tubs are fully compatible with our complete line of hot tub accessories, including decks, handrails, filters and other essential components.

Thanks for reading our blog, and we hope it gives you the information you need to make an informed purchase. We’re always here to help! Stop by one of our stores, or drop us a line and we’ll get back to you.