Lap Pool Vs Swim Spa - Which is better? (Cost, installation, maintenance, more)

Deciding between a lap pool and a swim spa? In this detailed article we compare the two pool options including cost, installation, pros, cons, and more.

Whether you decide on a lap pool or swim spa, both options have benefits and disadvantages – depending on your needs and lifestyle. After reading this article, you should have a good understanding of the differences, and pros, and cons of each option to help you decide which one is right for you.

In this article:

What is a Lap Pool?

What is a Lap Pool?

A lap pool is a long, narrow pool designed specifically for swimming laps. It is typically rectangular in shape and can range in size from 10 to 15 meters in length, 2 to 3 meters wide and about 1.2 meters deep. Lap pools are usually installed in-ground, but can also be installed above ground.

Lap pools are great for those who want to swim laps for exercise, but don’t have the space for a full-sized pool. They are also a great option for those who want to swim laps in the privacy of their own backyard. Lap pools are typically more affordable than a full-sized inground-pool, and the installation process is considerably quicker as well.

What is a Swim Spa?

A swim spa is a type of compact pool that combines the features of a swimming pool and a spa pool. It is designed for swimming, fun, hydrotherapy, and relaxation. Swim spas typically have powerful jets that create a current, allowing you to swim in place without having to turn around.

Swim spas have benches or seats for relaxation and massage jets for hydrotherapy.They are popular for their compact size and versatility, generally ranging from 4m–8m in length and 1.3m-1.5m in depth, which makes them suitable for small backyards or indoor spaces.

One of the great things about swim spas is that they are portable. This means you can easily resell them or take them with you when you move to a new house.

Click the button below to learn more about swim spas and benefits they offer.

Which is best for swimming or swim training?

Whether you’re a serious or recreational swimmer - swim spas and lap pools are both great choices to keep up your swim training and fitness from the convenience of home.

That said, there are some differences between the two that could be a deal breaker either way.

Because of their space and length, lap pools are especially good for long-distance swimming or for specific swimming techniques such as the butterfly stroke.

A key downside of lap pools is that they are not typically designed for year-round use so you may not get full use of your investment.

Swim spas are a popular option with both recreational swimmers and serious athletes alike. As mentioned above, swim spas are equipped with swim jets that allow swimmers to swim continuously in place, without having to turn around.

Training in a swim spa

Due to their smaller size, swim spas may not be ideal for long-distance swimming. You can adjust the resistance on the swim jets to suit your fitness level or training needs, making them a versatile option for multiple users of varying abilities. This makes them a great option for families who may have beginner through to experienced swimmers using it.

A key benefit of swim spas is they are designed to be heated all year, in fact they’re commonly referred to as an ‘all-season pool’. This means you can keep up your swim training and fitness all year.

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Which is better for fun and play?

While lap pools are primarily designed for fitness swimming, they may not offer as many options for fun and play compared to swim spas. Their long and narrow shape limits activities such as water games, diving, or floating around comfortably.

Swim spa good for kids

Swim spas are designed for both play and fitness. With their adjustable swim jet systems that create a powerful current, you can enjoy various activities from diving underwater for toys to ‘surfing’ on a bodyboard.

You can also attach a swim slide to them for the kids to enjoy. Swim spas can be a great option for families or individuals who want to enjoy both exercise and play in the water.

Click the button below to learn more about water games you can play in a spa pool or swim spa.

Which is best for fitness?

Both lap pools and swim spas can be effective for fitness, but it ultimately depends on your goals.

As their name suggests, lap pools are specifically designed for swimming laps and are ideal if your main focus is swimming for cardiovascular exercise and improving stroke techniques.

Swim spa workout

On the other hand, swim spas are more versatile and can be suitable for a greater variety of fitness activities such as swimming, water aerobics, and even resistance training.

With adjustable current speeds, users can tailor their exercise routines according to their fitness level and goals. You can also purchase specially-designed exercise equipment, such as resistance bands and water weights for walking or jogging.

Click the button below to learn more about aquatic fitness.

Which is better for relaxation?

The answer to this question depends on personal preferences and the specific features of each. Lap pools are primarily designed for swimming and exercise, rather than relaxation. However, some lap pools do come with additional features such as built-in benches or hydrotherapy jets that can enhance relaxation.

On the other hand, swim spas are specifically designed to offer a combination of relaxation and exercise benefits. They often come with adjustable jets that provide massage therapy, creating a spa-like experience.

above ground hydrozone swim spa

This image shows the Vortex™ Hydrozone™ Swim Spa

Ultimately, the level of relaxation offered by lap pools or swim spas depends on your needs. It’s always a good idea to try out different models and types of pools to see what works for you. It’s also wise to talk with industry experts such as the knowledgeable Spa World™ staff, before making a decision.

To find the nearest Spa World™ showroom and experience swim spas firsthand, please click the button below.

Which is easier to look after and maintain?

It doesn’t matter what kind of pool you have, all of them will require regular upkeep to ensure water quality and cleanliness.

Let's compare the maintenance factors for lap pools and swim spas in the table below.

Maintenance Factors

Lap Pool

Swim Spa

Filtration SystemsNot commonYes
Protective CoversOptionalIncluded
Water Care & Self-Cleaning OptionsNot commonMost models have
Weekly Routine MaintenanceSkimming, Filtering, Vacuuming, Sanitising TreatmentsSanitising Treatments
Maintenance Time (per week)Approximately 1 hour or moreApproximately 10-20 minutes
Additional Routine MaintenanceDraining and refilling every 3 to 5 years depending on maintenance practices.Monthly filter cleaning, Draining and refilling every 12-18 months.

Overall, swim spas tend to have smaller water volumes compared to lap pools, making it easier to maintain water balance and perform routine maintenance tasks.

Important note: The table above provides a general overview, and specific maintenance requirements may vary depending on the specific lap pool or swim spa model, usage patterns, and other factors. We recommend consulting the manufacturer's guidelines and seek professional advice for maintaining and caring for your specific lap pool or swim spa.

Which is easier to install?

The short answer is – swim spas are typically far easier and quicker to install than lap pools. Why? Well, for a start they are portable, self-contained units that come fully constructed and ready to go. Unlike most lap pools, which are typically nstalled inground and usually custom-built.

Generally, lap pool installations take longer to install than swim spas due to the larger size and excavation required. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to build a standard sized lap pool depending on factors such as the size of the pool or spa, site conditions, and any additional customisation desired.

Swim spa installations, on the other hand, tend to be quicker and more straightforward. Typically, the installation process for a swim spa can range from a few days to a couple of weeks.

This includes preparing the site, setting up the swim spa, ensuring proper electrical and plumbing connections, and any necessary landscaping or finishing touches.

However, the actual delivery is fairly straightforward. It’s not uncommon to have a swim spa delivered, installed and up and running in a day, provided the electrical connection and foundations are already in place.

Click the button below to learn more about swim spa installation.

How much does a lap pool cost in New Zealand?

The cost of a lap pool in New Zealand can vary depending on the size, materials used, location, and additional features. On average, a basic lap pool can cost anywhere between $20,000 to $50,000.

However, larger and more complex designs or customisations can increase the cost significantly, ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 or more. It’s always worth consulting with pool builders or suppliers to get a more accurate quote based on your individual requirements.

How much does a swim spa cost in New Zealand?

The cost of a swim spa can vary significantly from $18,000 to over $80,000.

The wide price range is largely because of the variation in the quality of swim spas, spanning from low-end and entry-level to high-end options. The brand, size, features, and installation requirements can also impact the overall price.

Be aware, this is an estimate and the actual cost can be higher or lower depending on your specific preferences.

It's best to consult with swim spa suppliers and manufacturers like Spa World™, for up-to-date pricing on specific products.

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How much does a swim spa cost to run compared to a standard lap pool?

If you live in areas with a cold climate that persists for the majority of the year, the running costs for lap pools without heating systems may still be affected by the need to prevent freezing temperatures. In such cases, additional measures may be necessary to protect the pool from freezing, which could add to the running costs.

For example, some lap pool owners in colder climates may invest in pool covers or thermal blankets to help retain heat and reduce the risk of freezing. These covers can help to some extent, but they may not be as effective as a dedicated heating system.

If the lap pool does have a heating system, the cost can be significant, especially in cooler months. The expenses will depend on the type of heating system used (gas, electric, solar, or heat pump) and the pool's size. On average, monthly heating costs can range from $100 to $500, depending on the heating method and pool size.

In contrast, swim spas are designed to be used year-round and often come with built-in heating systems. With proper insulation and smaller volume, swim spas can be more energy-efficient and cost-effective to heat even in colder climates.

If we had to say, a well-insulated 5m to 6m swim spa, installed in a temperate climate like Sydney, fitted with a heat pump and used around 2-3 times per week over winter months can add approximately $100 to $200 per month.

You can also connect them to solar heating to reduce your running costs further.

Click the button below to learn what a heat pump is and how it can help save money on spa running costs.

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Summary: The pros and cons of a swim spa and a lap pool

Here is a quick review of the pros and cons of a swim spa and a lap pool.

Swim Spa


  • They take up less space than a pool.
  • They are slightly cheaper and easier to buy and install.
  • You can actually swim-train in them.
  • They offer greater variety of fitness activities.
  • They can be used year-round if you don't mind a bump in the power bill.
  • They are easy to maintain.
  • They are a spa and pool in one.


  • They have a smaller swimming area compared to lap pools.
  • The experience may feel slightly different from swimming in a traditional lap pool.

Lap Pool


  • They are good for swimming laps and a traditional swimming experience.
  • They can be customized to specific dimensions in length, width, and depth based on personal preferences.
  • They are suitable for long-distance swimming and specific swimming techniques.


  • They typically require larger outdoor spaces.
  • They can be expensive to construct and maintain, including costs for excavation, landscaping, and ongoing maintenance.
  • They are typically designed for swimming and do not offer the added relaxation and therapy features found in swim spas.
  • The heating cost during the colder months for lap pools can be significant.
  • Without automatic water care systems, they can be more challenging to maintain.

We hope this information can help you to decide if a swim spa or lap pool is best for you.

Whatever choice you make, both lap pools and swim spas can offer enjoyable swimming experiences and contribute to your overall well-being.

If you have questions about swim spas, we’re here to help!

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