How Deep Is a Hot Tub? What to Consider Before You Buy

Jennifer Rhodes

By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated

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So, you've already decided that you want to buy a hot tub. But your research has done nothing but show you that you don't know much about them—including how deep they are on average. Well, there are a couple of different ways to answer this question, depending on what problem you're trying to solve.

Before you hit "order" on a new hot tub, it's important to pick a model that is the right size for your needs. In this article, we will help you understand all the depth measurements you should be thinking about when it comes to hot tubs so you can choose the best one for you and your family.

What is the standard depth of a hot tub?

First things first, there are two different 'depth' measurements you need to consider: internal and external. Another way to think about this important distinction is 'height vs depth'.

Hot tub height refers to the height of the walls of the hot tub, from the ground level to the top of the rim. Depth refers to the distance from the top of the hot tub to the deepest point internally.

Most hot tubs fall within the range of 31" to 38" high. Depth is usually around 5 inches less than this, to account for space underneath the deepest part of the hot tub shell (most do not sit directly on the ground to allow space for insulation).

The height of the water when a hot tub is filled will be about 6-8 inches less than the internal depth measurement, as you need to leave space for people to get in without overflow.

Why does the height of a hot tub matter?

Hot tub height is an important factor to consider in the installation process, especially planning the delivery route. Hot tubs are usually maneuvered into place on a dolly on their side. This means that the height of the tub determines how wide the access path needs to be.

For example, if the height of the tub is 36", you will need a clear path free from any obstructions that is more than 36" wide if you plan to move the spa into place this way.

Another consideration is access once the spa is in place. A hot tub that is very high can make it difficult to enter and exit, especially for people with mobility issues. If your spa of interest is deeper than 40-42", bear in mind you will probably need to add stairs to make it easier for people to get in and out.

Why does the depth of a hot tub matter?

The biggest reason why depth matters when it comes to hot tubs is safety. A hot tub higher than 42" could be considered unsafe for children or people with mobility issues.

On the other hand, there are valid reasons to choose a deeper spa, like if you are taller or want a spa for exercise.

This is one reason why it's important to go and sit in the hot tub you're interested in (known as wet testing) before buying if possible, so you can see how easy it is to access and whether the depth feels right for you.

What are the benefits of a shallower hot tub?

Shallow hot tubs are a popular choice because it's easy for the most people to use. Here are some of our favorite benefits:


Although kids shouldn't spend a ton of time in hot tubs, you can let older ones enjoy some hot tub time as long as they are monitored. Shallow hot tubs come in handy for kids with shorter statures so that they can comfortably sit in the seats without the water going over their heads.

Good for injured and elderly

If you, or someone in your life, is either dealing with a nagging injury or is perhaps elderly, you definitely want a shallow hot tub. With a lower side and less distance to lower themselves into the seats, shallow hot tubs make it easier to access for people who may move more slowly or have less range of motion.

Smaller footprint to install

Shallower hot tubs are usually (though there are exceptions of course) also smaller hot tubs. So if you're limited on space, or indeed access, a shallower tub might be your only option.

What's more, if you're going to be installing your hot tub as an in-ground or recessed spa, a shallow tub means that you will need to dig a smaller hole. You won't need to dig as deep to accommodate a 31" hot tub as you would a 40" one, which can make a difference in both logistics and labor costs.

What are the benefits of a deeper hot tub?

Many people find themselves drawn to deeper hot tubs too of course, and for plenty of reasons. Here are some things to consider:

Comfortable for taller people

If you are on the taller side, you might find that when you get in a standard-size hot tub, your neck and shoulders are well out of the water.

This can be uncomfortable or frustrating if you want to relax and rejuvenate those muscles in particular. Deeper hot tubs are great for tall people for this reason: so that they can be as submerged as their shorter friends are in a standard-size tub.

Depth isn't the only thing to consider however; I cover a few different things to look for in my other article about the best hot tubs for tall people.

Immerse yourself easily

Even if you're just average height, you will still find you can immerse yourself more deeply in the water of a deeper hot tub.

This is important if you are wanting to stretch or even do some yoga in your hot tub. If you want to be able to dunk underwater occasionally or just make sure you can be submerged in as much water as possible, a deeper tub can be a great choice.

How deep can a hot tub be?

In general, hot tubs from major manufacturers don't exceed around 42" in depth. This is primarily for safety reasons, but also practicality, as they get difficult to use comfortably for most people beyond this.

In some cases, custom hot tubs can be built to deeper specifications—but this is rare and usually only if the tub is going to be used for exercise. This is especially true with wooden tubs where most can be ordered in custom sizes due to their modular construction. One example that springs to mind is Great Northern who offer their Rubadub Tub in depths of up to 6 feet!

What factors should you consider when deciding how deep you want your hot tub to be?

Because there is such variation in how deep hot tubs can be, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the many different depth options available. Choosing the right depth can feel a bit daunting, but it doesn't have to be.

Here are the most important factors to consider when deciding how deep you want your hot tub to be:

  • Delivery route: If you are planning a 'ground delivery', a clear access path is non-negotiable. This is the first limiting factor you should consider when picking a hot tub.
  • Your height: If you are short or average-height, a standard-size hot tub that is on the shorter side (31-34" or so) will most likely work great for you. On the flip side, if you are tall you may want to look into one of the deeper options to maximize your own comfort and legroom.
  • Accessing the tub: It's important that you will be able to safely and comfortably get in and out of your hot tub. So take into account any current or potential future mobility issues.
  • Primary uses: Are you just planning to sit and soak in your hot tub, or do you need some extra space for stretching, water aerobics, or hot tub yoga? If you're going to be more active in your hot tub, you might want a deeper hot tub than normal.
  • Your soak buddies: Think about who will be joining you in your hot tub. Your children? Your elderly parents? Your spouse or friend is very tall? For children, elderly people, or anyone with chronic pain or injuries, shallower hot tubs are usually better. But if none of this is a concern, you are free to go as deep as you like!

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