In-ground vs. Portable Hot Tubs: What is the Difference?

When buying a hot tub, one of the first considerations is whether it will be in-ground or portable. There are many factors to consider when comparing the two styles. This article will go over some of the major differences between in-ground and portable hot tubs so that you can make the decision that is right for you.


Because of the landscaping needs associated with them, in-ground hot tubs are generally more expensive than portable hot tubs. However, if you plan to enclose a portable hot tub, the extra materials and labor needed to create the enclosure may well cost more than the in-ground option. Be sure to discuss your options with your hot tub dealer to see what situation would work best for you.

Cleaning and Maintenance

How much routine maintenance you want to spend on your hot tub can be another key factor in helping you decide between an in-ground or portable model. Above ground, portable hot tubs typically require less maintenance and cost slightly less for chemicals and cleaning supplies.

Many portable hot tubs these days come with a quick draining feature which enables a quicker cleaning regimen than with in-ground hot tubs. Similarly, most portable models have acrylic shells that are easier cleaned, once drained, than the typical in-ground hot tub concrete. As for maintaining the water pump and heater, they might be more easily accessible on an in-ground model as the machinery is typically kept separate from the actual tub as opposed to portable models where the plumbing and heater are built in.

Water Jet Options

Portable hot tubs typically offer a wider range of water jet configurations than in-ground models. With the advent of the portable hot tub’s ergonomic, acrylic seats, water jets can be configured in a wide variety of positions when compared with the bench-like seating arrangements typical of in-ground hot tubs. In-ground hot tubs usually feature uniformly placed water jets along one or two levels of the tub, whereas portable tubs have become known for placing water jets at multiple angles in a wider range of areas.

Installation Considerations

In-ground hot tubs typically fit into the surrounding environment better than a portable hot tub. As its name suggests, the typical in-ground tub is level with the ground and as such, doesn’t have the need for a cabinet which allows for seamlessly blending into your yard. That said, portable hot tubs can also be built above ground into patios or decks with attractive, custom-made finishes. Plus, the portable model can be moved to various locations throughout the yard or to another house, if need be.


Heating is one area where a portable hot tub typically outperforms the in-ground version. As portable hot tubs usually come with custom fit covers, the heat is retained between uses. Although you can get covers for in-ground hot tubs, they may not be as efficient, especially when they have a unique shape. Therefore, in-ground hot tubs usually take longer to get up to a proper temperature than the portable tubs.

Now that you are aware of the major differences between in-ground and portable hot tubs, download a buyer’s guide to learn more about their features and benefits.

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