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Portable Spas vs. In-Ground Spas: Which is Right for You?

It's the most common comparison people make when looking at buying a spa — should you go for the in-expensive portable spa? Or invest in an in-ground permanent spa?

The answer to this question isn't going to be the same for everyone, both options definitely have their pros and cons and really, they're both very different choices. The point of this article is to try and break down the pros and cons of portable and in-ground spas — and to provide some useful advice along the way. 

Portable Spas

If your main priorities are finding a spa that's easy to install, flexible in placement, and won't break the bank, then a portable spa might be the right choice for you.

A portable spa (also called an above-ground spa) is typically made of lightweight materials, such as acrylic or vinyl, and can be moved from one location to another. They come in a range of sizes and shapes, from small, two-person models to larger, family-sized spas that can accommodate up to eight people.

One of the biggest advantages of a portable spa is its easy installation. Unlike in-ground spas, which require excavation and plumbing, a portable spa can be set up in just a few hours with minimal preparation (an addition of a base layer, plus the use of an electrician is recommended). This makes them a great option for renters or homeowners who may want to move their spa to a different location in the future.

Another advantage of portable spas is their flexibility in placement. They can be installed indoors or outdoors, on a patio or deck, or even on a flat surface in your backyard. This gives you more options for finding the perfect spot for your spa, depending on your preferences and available space.

In addition to being easy to install and flexible in placement, portable spas are also generally less expensive than in-ground spas. This makes them a more accessible option for those on a tighter budget. Like anything, the sky really is the limit with home spas, but you can easily find a four-person portable spa for sale in the region of $5,000-$7,000 AUD. 

However, in the interest of a fair comparison, we have to mention some of the disadvantages of portable spas as well. One is that they tend to have fewer customisation options than in-ground spas, where choice is part of the appeal. Options like shell colour, cabin colour, jets and other accessories can still be chosen, depending on the manufacturer.

They are also typically made of less durable materials, which may require more frequent maintenance or repairs. Though this will vary depending on the quality of your portable spa. One last disadvantage of portable spas is that these are not value additions to your home. As these are temporary fixtures, if the time comes to sell your house, don't expect the portable spa to pay for itself!

In-Ground Spas

If you're looking for a more permanent, customisable spa that adds value to your property, then an in-ground spa might be the right choice for you.

An in-ground spa is, as the name suggests, typically built into the ground. They're often made of more durable materials, such as concrete or tile. Like portable spas, they come in a range of sizes and shapes. But unlike portable spas, in-ground models can be customised to fit your specific preferences. This includes features such as lighting, shape, waterfalls, built-in seating, and more.

One of the biggest advantages of an in-ground spa is its customisability. Because it is built into the ground, it can be designed to fit seamlessly into your backyard and complement your existing landscaping and architecture. This makes it a great option for homeowners who want a spa that blends in with the rest of their outdoor living space. It also means that you can find in-ground spas for small backyards.

Another advantage of in-ground spas is their durability. They are typically made of more robust materials than portable spas, and are designed to last for many years with proper maintenance and upkeep. They can also add value to your property, making them a good investment in the long run.

However, there are some disadvantages to in-ground spas as well. One is that they require more extensive installation than portable spas, including excavation and plumbing. This can make them more costly and time-consuming to install. Naturally, this makes in-ground spas a more expensive choice. You can expect to pay around $15,000-$20,000 AUD for an in-ground spa. But again, this can vary greatly depending on size and features.

In addition, because they are built into the ground, they are less flexible in placement than portable spas. This means that you need to carefully consider the location and design of your in-ground spa before installation.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Portable and In-Ground Spas

If you're giving some thought to this comparison and want to make sure you make the best choice, we'd recommend thinking about the following factors:

  1. Budget: The cost of installation, maintenance, and upkeep should be taken into consideration when deciding on a spa. Portable spas are generally less expensive than in-ground spas, but they may require more frequent maintenance or repairs.

  2. Space and location: The size of your yard and available space for a spa will play a crucial role in your decision. Portable spas are more flexible in placement, while in-ground spas are less flexible. That said, in-ground spas can be as small as you like, and can sometimes be a more space efficient option as a result.

  3. Desired features and design: Consider the features and design elements that are important to you, such as lighting, water features, seating, and overall aesthetics. In-ground spas can be more customisable in terms of design and features, while portable spas are limited to their original design — although there are some incredible designs out there!

  4. Maintenance and upkeep: Consider the amount of time and effort you're willing to put into maintaining your spa. In-ground spas may require more complex maintenance and upkeep than portable spas, which can be easier to maintain.

  5. Long-term goals: Consider your long-term plans for your property and how a spa fits into those plans. In-ground spas can add value to your property and may be a better long-term investment, while portable spas can be more easily moved or stored if you plan to move in the future.

Whether you choose a portable or in-ground spa, you're sure to enjoy the relaxation and health benefits that come with having a spa in your home. For more information about spa ownership such as maintenance or setup, check out the rest of the Pool Spa Life website. You can find a licensed pool and spa professional, or even the dates for the annual Pool & Spa Lifestyle Expo.

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