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Above-ground vs in-ground spa pools | HotSpring Spas

Above-ground vs in-ground spa pools

Spa pools come in all shapes, sizes and types, and the seemingly endless options can become overwhelming for those looking to invest in a machine. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to invest in an above-ground or in-ground spa pool.

Above-ground spa pools are quicker and easier to install, and can be more cost-effective while also offering more functionality. In-ground spas, meanwhile, tend to be more aesthetically pleasing as they are bespoke, designed to fit organically into your outdoor space. A third-option, built-in, sits somewhere in between.

Which of these options is right for you? In this article we take a look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide exactly that.

Above-ground spa pools

More commonly referred to as portable spa pools in New Zealand, above ground spa pools are the self-contained units that define the Hot Spring range. These come from a factory pre-built and are delivered to your door ready to install wherever you desire.


  • Installation: installation is as simple as placing the unit in your preferred spot – even if that spot is a balcony (provided it can take the weight) – filling it with water, connecting it to power and turning it on. No excavation, far less red tape, and depending on the model you might not even need the help of a tradie!
  • Portability: If you choose to move you can take your above-ground spa with you! This means that even renters can invest in this type of machine, safe in the knowledge that it can be easily packed up and transported.
  • Innovation: Unlike bespoke in-ground spas, above-ground machines are mass-produced, which means that brands like Hot Spring can invest in developing innovative technologies that improve the soaking and ownership experiences.
  • Features: Within the cabinetry of these self-contained units you’ll find features that in-ground spas simply can’t match. Hot Spring’s Highlife collection, for example, features automated water care, underwater lighting, illuminated waterfalls, moving jets, touchscreen controls and ultra-efficient insulation.
  • affordability: Mass-produced above-ground spa pools use economies of scale to offer more luxury, functionality and fun for less. Compared to a bespoke in-ground spa they can be incredibly cost-effective, while offering more features and a better soak.
  • Maintenance: If the spa breaks down or deep maintenance is required – and every once in a while it will be – the machinery is usually quite easy to access in an above-ground spa.


  • Limited aesthetic options: While Hot Spring offers dozens of spa pool models in dozens of colour combinations, your options are nevertheless limited, as portable spa pools aren’t bespoke pieces of equipment.
  • Accessibility: An above-ground spa pool asks that a user step up and over the side. This can be made easier with investments in a set of steps and a handrail, however. And once inside, spa pools can be great for the elderly, sufferers of chronic pain, and those with limited mobility, as the warm, healing waters grant freer movement.

In-ground spa pools

Rather than placing your spa above the earth, you might consider digging it into the earth. In-ground spa pools can be installed as standalone machines or as a luxurious addition to a swimming pool or lap pool.


  • Customisation: In-ground spa pools aren’t factory produced – they’re entirely bespoke, so are designed and built to meet your exact needs. You can choose whatever size, shape and features you want (within reason.)
  • Aesthetics: Because they’re built to order, there’s perhaps no more beautiful addition to your outdoor space than an in-ground spa pool. You can create a spa that perfectly pairs with or stands out in your backyard.
  • Accessibility: In terms of accessibility, in-ground pools are far better for people with limited mobility, chronic pain and the elderly. No need to step up and over – you can just sink in.


  • Installation: You’ll be waiting a lot longer for your spa pool and you’ll be asked a lot more questions by your local council if you choose to go in-ground. Between excavation, installation and making the surrounding area safe and secure, an in-ground build can be a long and complex process.
  • Affordability: Because they are bespoke machines that take far longer to install, in-ground machines tend to be the most expensive form of spa pool.
  • Functionality: Custom built in-ground spas tend to be light on features, at least compared to portable above-ground options. Standard features are generally limited to a few jets, a water heater and not much more.
  • Reliability: Because they are bespoke machines, in-ground spa pools are only ever as reliable as the company that builds them. Reliability may not be an issue if you’ve chosen your builder wisely, but if you go for the cheapest option you might pay for it in the long run.
  • Maintenance: In-ground spas can also be difficult to maintain. Important parts like heaters and pumps can be hidden away a little too well, while draining, cleaning and refilling the spa can be a hassle if it’s below ground level.

Built-in spa pools

There is a third option at your disposal: a built-in spa pool. This is where you take a factory-built above-ground spa pool, then build a structure around it, like a raised deck or a gazebo.

A built-in spa pool offers all the perks of portable spas, while also adding a couple from in-ground spas, namely improved accessibility and aesthetics.

Why choose Hot Spring?

Since 1980, when Dale Paretovich manufactured the first portable and fully-insulated spas in his Hillcrest garage, the Hot Spring brand has been committed to enhancing the lives and backyards of Kiwis up and down the country.

We build portable spa pools and swim spas that deliver the finest soaking and ownership experiences, which we offer through a dedicated and committed network of dealers. Over the course of our history we’ve built a reputation for delivering high-end luxury and leading-edge innovation at a more affordable price.

We take the hassle out of spa installation and delivery, with our free personal on-site inspection and measurement. We also offer a complete white glove delivery service; there are no curbside, depot or third-party spa deliveries here, just an experienced team who use specialised delivery equipment to get you soaking sooner.

In-ground, above-ground or built-in? Now that you’re aware of the major pros and cons, the choice is entirely yours. Think a Hot Spring spa pool might be right for you? There’s an easy way to check: get in touch with your local dealer to book a test soak!

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