Hot tubs are different from a regular bath tub, or even a tub with jets. Hot tubs are designed to maintain your water at a constant temperature, although you can generally adjust the temperature to some degree. They are also generally much larger than a regular bath tub, so you can relax in the tub with family and friends in a social atmosphere.
The two major categories of hot tubs are custom (which are also referred to as in-ground hot tubs) or portable hot tubs. There are some key differences between the two, which may help you determine which one is right for you.
Portable Hot Tubs
Portable hot tubs come in a wide range of sizes, and many are not really portable at all. Consider this -- some "portable" hot tubs are big enough to allow 10 people to relax comfortably within it. The real defining feature of a portable hot tub is that it is a spa unit that is self-contained. Everything that you need to operate the hot tub is contained within the unit itself.
Portable hot tubs can be made inflatable and are able to be packed up whenever you're done with them. They come in a variety of sizes and can be built from materials such as fiberglass and vinyl. Portable hot tubs tend to be less expensive than custom hot tubs, and they are generally much easier to install. Most portable hot tubs are also molded into shapes with well-defined seats that are comfortable to relax in. They also usually come with an assortment of massaging jets that can add wonders to your hydrotherapy sessions.
Custom Hot Tubs
Custom hot tubs are generally referred to as such because they are designed to suit your specific needs and tastes. They are made from a hard material, such as tile, concrete, or fiberglass, and they are often set into the ground. These so-called in-ground hot tubs have the top near the level of the ground, often making them easier to get in and out of. Some in-ground hot tubs are actually portable hot tubs set into the ground, which is an important distinction to make.
Your custom hot tub can be designed to meld attractively into your backyard landscape. These hot tubs also tend to be quieter, as you can have the mechanical equipment installed in a different area of the yard than the actual bathing area. These hot tubs, however, tend to be much more expensive than portable hot tubs and they can be very time-consuming to install. In the event that they become outdated, it's hard to modify them, so you may be stuck with a hot tub that you can't ever change.
Regardless of the type of hot tub you choose, there are pros and cons to custom and portable hot tubs. Make the decision based upon your available space, as well as factors such as what you can afford and maintenance needs.