What's the Best Hot Tub

Author Topic: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan  (Read 960 times)

econoir

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Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« on: October 27, 2019, 11:29:27 am »
1st, thanks to all the great people who post here. I have learned a good deal.

This is our second time buying a hot tub. We bought our 1st Clearwater, entry-level hot tub in 2005 on a whim. Literally right off the lot, no wet testing, and pretty much driven only by price. It met our needs for many years, after a series of annual repairs, the pump died two years ago. Didn't want to sink $700 into it then, so it sat dry for two years. When we decided to pull the trigger on the repair, the service tech said it had been dry too long and there was a good chance it would leak. He advised us to get a new spa.

We actually started out looking at  Marquis spas, but the dealer had mixed reviews. Talked to some people who been in the community a long time, who said the dealer didn't stand behind their product, so we nixed them. The quality of the dealer is often mentioned  here and we would not have considered that aspect as strongly without that advice, so thanks for that.

After looking at several options, we narrowed it down to Bullfrog and Artisan. The Bullfrog dealer had the advantage because they have serviced our hot tub for years.

Will say right out of the gate that neither my wife or my young daughter liked the loungers. They came right up out of them and the jet were in the wrong places. This was a continual theme in our experience: hot tubs do not seem to be created for smaller people.

 We wanted a 4 person tub without loungers and were surprised how few options there were.  Neither dealer had the exact size of  hot tub we were interested in available to wet test,  so we went with what they had.

Wet testing a Bullfrog spa was an intensive experience we were not prepared for. After about the 4th jet pack (we tested about 11), you kind of lose track of which ones you like and which one's you don't. Fortunately, the sales person wrote them down for us. For those considering doing this, I would advise looking at the configurations of the jet packs beforehand so you have something cognitively to refer to. Otherwise, it can be challenging to sort out all the different sensation patterns you will experience.

The Artisan wet test was more laid back - pretty much gave us time to ourselves. My wife, was less happy with the fixed jets/seats on the Artisan because, again,  the jets hit her in the wrong places. The "spa brick" accessory helped, but who wants to continually manage that? The Artisan salesman poo-pooed the jet packs, saying there could be some stagnant water issues behind them. He also said that once you set them, it is unlikely you would ever move them. While that may be true, it is exactly the ability to set them in the seat that works for you  and to have jets hit your body in the right places that is the draw. Also, we live on a lake, so putting a  jet pack in a "view seat" for a guest is attractive. Or you may have a temporary medical condition, etc.  We did think that the Artisan jets/pumps combo was more powerful and seemed to have more options for controlling the air and water. They also did a better job with the feet and calf massage, which was important to my wife.

Afterward, we were a bit baffled. We expected a much bigger difference between the experience of our cheap, entry level tub and these new options that were almost 3x more expensive, but there wasn't. When we built our house, we spent hours on geeking out on color, material, and structural choices. But we found little here that we wanted to spend hours researching, which surprised us because a hot tub is a big purchase. So now we better understand people who just want to get a tub and be done with it.

The two options we are considering are the Island Spa Captiva and the Bullfrog R6. Both are about $10K with tax. If we wanted the Captiva Elite, it's $12,500 but can't see why we would do that.  Both come with a cover, steps, initial chemical kit, ozone/circ pump, free shipping of the tub to our house, choice of surround material and color.

Here's our breakdown:

CAPTIVA
Pros:
    The dealer will take our old tub for free and try to recycle parts - big plus for us since we hate the thought of just dumping it
    The dealer was a service tech for many years, so very knowledgeable
    We liked the dealer better
    More options to divert water/pump configuration on the fly
    Slightly better quality (e.g. icyene foam, Balboa heating)
    3 pumps (1 circ, 2 four hp pumps)
    Ozone free option
    Better feet and calf jets
    Water feature
    Will throw in an extended warranty
   
Cons
    Fixed jets
    Not very customizable
    Frog @ease $150 addition
    Lighting package $500 option
    Better quality "Smart top" cover $1500
   
BULLFROG R6
Pros:
    Customizable jet packs
    $400 rebate offer
    We have experience with their service quality
    Lighting package included
    Frog @ease included
   
Cons:
    $300 to haul our old tub and they just dump it
    Somewhat less quality based on what we could get out of the less experienced salesperson
    Not as customizable on the fly
    Feet/calf jets not as good
    2 pumps (1 circ and 4 hp pump) - 2 pump config is optional
   
So what are your thoughts or what are we missing that we should consider?

Thanks in advance!

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Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« on: October 27, 2019, 11:29:27 am »

Tman122

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2019, 09:08:19 am »
Anything else in your area?

Sounds like your not crazy about either one?
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econoir

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2019, 10:25:13 am »
Well, there is a Hot Spring dealer in town that I don't know much about. And, of course, there is Costco. ;-)

It's not that we don't like either of the options. It's more that the pros and cons are pretty equal, so we need some help navigating them.

Tman122

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2019, 12:27:05 pm »
Of the 2 you have narrowed it down to I would let the wet test decide. Which felt better? HS makes a great tub and it will be more energy efficient than either of your other options. But there's a price for their record of energy efficiency and longevity.

Marquis also makes a great tub. I would choose them over any of your other options. But dealer is also important.

A good dealer can make an OK tub great. A bad dealer can make a great tub OK.
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econoir

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2019, 07:39:11 pm »
@Tman122,
Thanks for your reply. We could certainly look at the HS hot tub - any suggestions for a spa for 4-5 people?

Yes, I was very disappointed about the Marquis dealer issue. Unfortunately, we have been down that road too many times and, for us, it just isn't worth it to go into a big purchase like this with a potentially compromised partner.

Tman122

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2019, 11:23:31 pm »
@Tman122,
Thanks for your reply. We could certainly look at the HS hot tub - any suggestions for a spa for 4-5 people?

Yes, I was very disappointed about the Marquis dealer issue. Unfortunately, we have been down that road too many times and, for us, it just isn't worth it to go into a big purchase like this with a potentially compromised partner.

I'm not really up on the current molds from any of the manufacturers. I've been around plumbing and hot tubs for over 30 years. Besides, the mold that is right for me may not be right for you and yours. I say make her happy. HS is worth a look.
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Shrugs

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2019, 08:07:45 am »
I wet tested HS lately and Sundance and the wife and I both agreed the Sundance was much nicer.
Might wanna check them out while you're at it.

The Wizard of Spas

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2019, 11:00:07 am »
1st, thanks to all the great people who post here. I have learned a good deal.
CAPTIVA
Pros:
    The dealer will take our old tub for free and try to recycle parts - big plus for us since we hate the thought of just dumping it
    The dealer was a service tech for many years, so very knowledgeable
    We liked the dealer better
    More options to divert water/pump configuration on the fly
    Slightly better quality (e.g. icyene foam, Balboa heating)
    3 pumps (1 circ, 2 four hp pumps)
    Ozone free option
    Better feet and calf jets
    Water feature
    Will throw in an extended warranty
   
Cons
    Fixed jets
    Not very customizable
    Frog @ease $150 addition
    Lighting package $500 option
    Better quality "Smart top" cover $1500
   
BULLFROG R6
Pros:
    Customizable jet packs
    $400 rebate offer
    We have experience with their service quality
    Lighting package included
    Frog @ease included
   
Cons:
    $300 to haul our old tub and they just dump it
    Somewhat less quality based on what we could get out of the less experienced salesperson
    Not as customizable on the fly
    Feet/calf jets not as good
    2 pumps (1 circ and 4 hp pump) - 2 pump config is optional
   
So what are your thoughts or what are we missing that we should consider?

Thanks in advance!

I applaud your thorough research.  Well done. 

I agree with Tman - it seems you're not thrilled with either option.  You're on your second hot tub - trust your instincts.  You're unlikely to use this tub any differently than the last tub so don't overthink it.  Maybe expand your search to other brands?

A few things: 

-What is ozone free?
-The @ease on Artesian is in-line and the Bullfrog is not, though it is in the filter area I believe.  Hence the price difference. I personally love @ease so either way you go that is terrific.
-I'm always leery when someone says they'll "throw in" something, as its never free.  When someone notes they'll throw in steps and cover lift, I'll wager its built into the price and used as a closing method.
-I don't want to trigger the Bullfrog people out there as I mean no malice but I too don't know of anyone who really dives into jetpacks outside of the sales process.  And if they all feel the same / similar and you get lost during that process, what does that tell you?  Like any tub - you either like or dislike the fell, pressure, etc. so lead with that.
-Rebates always have catches.  If not, they'd just simply take it off the price.  Never understood a rebate - why not just deduct $400???
-Smart top cover is expensive anywhere.  I initially stayed away from them as there were issues from the onset, but others on this forum have noted that they quality has increased recently.
-I'd consider a pan base on the Artesian if you can - that keeps the wood under the bottom of the cabinet from rotting.  A nice addition for sure.

I hope this helps.  Logs of knowledgeable people on this forum so I am sure others will chime in with other notes and details.  Good luck moving forward.

econoir

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2019, 11:07:57 am »
@Tman122: got it. Thank you!

@Shrugs: thanks for the tip!

@Wizard of Spas: yes, we are considering expanding our search. In terms of the ozone, the Artisan dealer said he could add or take away the ozone generating module or at least that was my understanding. Good to hear about @ease that seems like a feature we will be getting. I think the jet packs were more attractive to my wife due to customization. She recently got a new iPhone 11 and hates it because it is too big for her hands. Having a tub customized for her body specifically is very attractive for someone who often feels products are never made for her. Thanks for the tip on the pan base and for your useful insights.

econoir

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Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2019, 11:45:48 pm »
In the end, we went with the Artesian Island Captiva. Should be delivered in a couple of weeks.

It was an interesting process. I thought my wife would have prioritized the jet packs on the Bullfrog that fit her body better, but in the end she was more appreciative of the foot jets and diverter options on the Captiva.

Another difference over buying our 1st hot tub was how much we prioritized the dealer. The first time, it was all about the cost and the features of the tub. Now, being small business owners ourselves, we thought seriously about which dealer we wanted to support and have a relationship with.

Also surprising was how we budgeted our time. Having had and enjoyed an entry-level tub for over a decade, we realized that once we understood what the quality options were in our area, we really couldn't go wrong with whatever we chose. In the end, we just weren't willing to significantly cut into our family time to do a bunch of research for this purchase. I only mention this because others reading this might also not have unlimited time and worry about getting an excellent tub. You can, particularly if you are already on this forum, reading all the great input other members are providing.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our adventure!


Hot Tub Forum

Re: Hot Tub Buying Adventure: Bullfrog, Marquis, Artisan
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2019, 11:45:48 pm »

 

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