Getting in and out of a standard bathtub can be dangerous if not impossible for those with mobility issues. Walk-in tubs, which have doors that swing open and low thresholds, are a safe and comfortable solution, allowing the bather to enter the tub without climbing over a 2-foot wall. Walk-ins feature depths of nearly 3 feet and an ergonomic bench, so the occupant can sit and soak up to the neck, rather than lie down as in a traditional tub. Some walk-in tubs also include spa functions, such as air jet and whirlpool jet massage functions.
Though all walk-in tubs serve the same basic purpose, design details make some better suited to different situations—for example, those requiring wheelchair accessibility. There are also style, size, and budget factors to keep in mind when adding a walk-in tub to an existing bathroom or planning a room around one. This guide will examine the features to consider when shopping for the best walk-in tub while reviewing some of the top models on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Universal Tubs
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: ANZZI
- UPGRADE PICK: Total Care in Bathing
- BEST WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Ella
- BEST ACCESSIBILITY: Empava
- BEST SPA FEATURES: American Standard
- BEST RANGE OF SIZES: Endurance
- ALSO CONSIDER: Ariel
Before You Buy a Walk-In Tub
Before investing in a walk-in tub, it’s essential to understand how they differ from standard models. Walk-in tubs are designed to meet the needs of individuals with limited mobility. Not only do they have doors that eliminate the need to climb over the tub wall, but they also have benches that put the occupant in an upright position while bathing. The tub door seals the water in, so the bather must enter the tub before it fills and remain in it until it drains completely. This extended time means exposing the bather to potentially cool air for 4 to 8 minutes while the unit fills and empties. A walk-in bathtub also uses significantly more water than a traditional tub, so the home’s water heater must be large enough to support it.
Types of Walk-In Tubs
Walk-in tubs come in various types, ranging from soaker tubs to wheelchair-accessible models to those with spa features such as water jets and air jets.
This type of walk-in tub is the most similar to a standard bathtub. The tub walls are high enough to provide ample depth for soaking the whole body while seated on a bench.
A wheelchair-accessible tub is designed to allow the user to transfer from a wheelchair to a tub bench more easily, reducing the risk of a fall. To facilitate this, there’s a wider door that opens closer to the base of the tub.
Bariatric Walk-In Tubs
This type of walk-in tub consists of a door and a seat designed to hold occupants that weigh more than 300 pounds. These tubs feature a larger overall size and wider doors and seats.
Aerotherapy (Air Jet) Tubs
An aerotherapy tub has numerous jets integrated into the tub floor and walls that blow heated air into the water, creating a sensation that massages the entire body. The jets have convenient controls that allow the bather to adjust the intensity.
Hydrotherapy (Water Jet) Tubs
A hydrotherapy tub is equipped with the type of massaging water jets typically found in a hot tub or jacuzzi-style bathtub. A walk-in hydrotherapy tub is equipped with jets designed to massage the occupant’s back, legs, and feet to relieve sore muscles and joints. These jets are typically located in the backrest of the bench and the area behind and in front of the legs and feet.
What to Consider When Buying the Best Walk-In Tub
Understanding the safety components and spa functions of a walk-in tub is key when shopping for the ideal model for your needs. Read on to learn more about these and other features.
Walk-in bathtubs come in various sizes, so it’s essential to choose one that fits the space. Some are the same standard size as a regular bathtub (60 inches long by 30 inches wide), which is convenient when selecting a walk-in tub to replace a traditional one. Walk-in bathtubs are also available in smaller lengths, including 45.5 inches, 48 inches, and 52 inches. Of course, walk-in bathtubs are significantly taller than standard models to provide the depth required: about 42 inches high, compared to most standard tubs measuring around 20 inches high.
The step threshold is the portion of the tub wall between the bottom of the door and the bottom of the tub. Thresholds vary in height from as little as 3 inches to as much as 7 inches. The lower the threshold, the easier the tub is to enter for those with mobility issues.
Fast Draining and Filling
Since the occupant must be inside a walk-in tub while it is filling and draining, the amount of time it takes to do both is important; otherwise the bather may become uncomfortably cold while they wait. How quickly a tub fills depends mainly on the amount of water pressure from the home’s water heater, but this typically ranges from 60 to 70 psi. Quick-drain tubs will empty in as little as 4 minutes, shorter than the roughly 6 to 10 minutes it can take a conventional tub to drain.
A bathtub slip-and-fall accident may be even more serious to a user with limited mobility, so the tub’s nonslip bottom is an essential factor. As a rule of thumb, a rougher texture is a better option than a smoother one. It’s also possible to add nonslip bathtub rugs and mats or stickers to the bottom to improve traction.
Handrails and Grab Bars
Most walk-in tubs have handrails and grab bars that help occupants steady themselves as they enter and exit the tub. Grab bars are the smaller rounded metal bars that allow bathers to pull themselves up from or lower themselves down into the tub. Handrails are long and typically extend along the tub’s deck, providing something sturdy for the bather to grasp while entering and exiting the tub. It’s important to note the height and positioning of both to make sure they suit the occupant’s height and range of motion.
Inward vs. Outward Door
Walk-in tubs have doors that open either inward or outward. Outward doors free up space inside the tub, making it easier to move around inside, but they require considerable room around the tub to allow clearance for the door. Inward doors don’t require clearance outside the tub, but they offer less space inside. Inward doors also do a better job of preventing leaks, as the water pressure in the tub helps keep the door secure when closed.
Walk-in tubs generally hold between 40 to 80 gallons—a lot of hot water for each use. This demand can overwhelm a standard tank water heater, so installing an in-line water heater (a heating element that goes into the plumbing around the tub to heat it continuously) may be necessary. Some walk-in tubs include in-line water heaters as part of their design. Homes with a tankless water heater, which heats water as it flows through a heating element, are better suited for walk-in tubs, as they can provide a steady stream of hot water. Keep the water heater’s flow rate in mind as well, as it will affect how quickly the tub fills.
Keeping a walk-in tub clean, which can be a challenge given its size, is essential to ensure it remains free from harmful bacteria and mold. Cleaning such a large tub can be difficult for a caregiver and impossible for someone with mobility issues. Fortunately, many models include jets that automatically spray the tub with cleaner after use. Some also include ultraviolet lights that kill viruses and bacteria between uses.
Walk-in tubs may have additional features that improve accessibility and ease of use. Most models have extendable sprayers that make it easier for occupants to bathe themselves. Other features include LED lighting for setting a relaxing ambiance and cushioned headrests for comfort.
Our Top Picks
The products below include some of the best walk-in bathtubs available. They range from basic soaker tubs to models with various spa features.
Universal Tubs is the featured brand of home improvement retailer Home Depot, which makes finding their tubs easier than other boutique brands. With 18 sizes available, all of which offer either a left-drain or right-drain option and ADA compliant seating, Universal Tubs boasts one of the more comprehensive collections of walk-in tubs.
They also are renowned for their leak-free performance, which is due to the bolt-action locks and beefy water-tight seals the company uses with its tubs. Universal tubs also include features that improve accessibility, including low entry thresholds, multiple grab-bars that make it easier to enter and exit, and slip-resistant flooring for safety. Customers will even find some nice additional features not typically found on walk-in tubs, including aromatherapy and chromotherapy.
Universal Tubs HD Series Walk-in Whirlpool Bath Tub: A low-step threshold and a door that opens inward make this walk-in tub easier to enter for those with difficulty lifting their feet, while a textured floor helps prevent slips. The bather has the option to engage 13 massage air jets located on the backrest, behind the lower legs, and on the sidewalls via controls conveniently positioned on the top of the front wall. This tub also fills and empties quickly, thanks to a Quick Fill faucet and a power-assisted drain that empties the water in about a minute.
Get the Universal Tubs HD Series Walk-in Whirlpool Bath Tub at Home Depot for $2996.25
- Low entry thresholds
- Numerous safety features including grab bars and slip-resistant flooring
- Useful features such as chromatherapy aromatherapy
Walk-in bathtubs typically cost four or five times as much as a standard bathtub. Given that Medicaid and private insurance rarely cover the cost of a walk-in bathtub, this can make adding one very difficult for anyone on a budget. Anzzi’s walk-in tubs include many of the features and other bells and whistles of more expensive models at a much more affordable price.
Anzzi’s tubs have low threshold, large grab bars and non-slip coatings, making them just as safe as more expensive brands. The company’s tubs also include useful additional features, including quick-fill faucets and fast drains that won’t leave bathers sitting in the cold for many minutes and low thresholds for those with mobility issues.
ANZZI Soaking Walk-In Bathtub: It features excellent accessibility with a broad door, a low threshold, and a wide bench. A large grab bar on the opposite wall helps with entrances and exits, while a nonslip floor prevents falls. Once the bather is seated, a quick-fill faucet ensures the bather won’t have to wait long to enjoy a bath, and there’s an extendable sprayer for easier bathing.
Get the ANZZI Soaking Walk-In Bathtub at Amazon for $1995.00
- Affordably priced options
- Tubs feature multiple grab bars and slip-resistant surfaces
- Useful features such as chromatherapy aromatherapy
Total Care in Bathing’s tubs come fully loaded with aero therapy and hydrotherapy jets, built-in heat exchanges that ensure the tub won’t go cold and even luxury add-ons like LED lighting. The company’s walk-in tubs are highly accessible as they offer some of the lowest threshold of any walk-in tub brand and designs with multiple grab bars for safety. The company also offers optional upgrades, including aromatherapy and chromatherapy and a UV sterilizer. All those extra features do come at a price as Total Care in Bathing’s tubs are among the most expensive on the market.
Total Care in Bathing Walk-In Tub: This model showcases much of what Total Care’s walk-in tubs are all about. It boasts a full set of spa functions including 20 air jets, 10 whirlpool jets, and one bidet jet, and a built-in heat exchange ensures that the water temperature stays constant throughout the entire bath. This tub also includes an LED faucet light kit, allowing the user to bathe in darkness while still being able to see the faucet for controls.
Get the Total Care in Bathing Walk-In Tub at Lowes for $5,500.99
- Affordably priced options
- Tubs feature multiple grab bars and slip-resistant surfaces
- Useful features such as chromatherapy aromatherapy
Ella has been making luxury walk-in bathtubs since 2005. Its line of 25 walk-in tubs are loaded with luxury features and come at a premium price with some costing more than $7,000. Ella’s walk-in tubs, which include wheelchair transfer models, also come loaded with impressive features you won’t find on other walk-in tubs, including ozone sterilization, a water temperature control valve, chromatherapy and a foot massager.
Ella tubs also come with both air massage as well as hydrotherapy jets. Ella’s tubs are widely available via both online retailers such as Amazon as well as brick and mortar stores, including Lowes.
Ella Wheelchair Transfer 30: This wheelchair-accessible bathtub features a wide door that opens outward, an ergonomic seat, and massaging whirlpool jets. Grab bars on the top of the outer wall and interior of the inner wall give the bather something to hold on to when sliding in and out of the tub. The tub features 17 massage jets that provide massaging relief to the back, legs, and feet, and two drains that empty the tub in about 80 seconds.
Get the Ella Wheelchair Transfer 30 at The Home Depot for $7131.00
- Makes line of wheelchair transfer tubs
- Includes unique features such as ozone sterilization and chromatherapy
- Tubs feature durable acrylic and stainless steel construction
Empava makes a broad line of bathtubs and kitchen appliances, all of which are well-regarded for their quality. The company uses high quality acrylic in its tub construction. With thresholds that are as low as 4 inches, Empava’s tubs are also among the most accessible on the market.
Empava’s products are also versatile, with many of its models coming in multiple sizes to suit different needs and spaces. With its tubs available through both brick and mortar retailers such as Lowe’s and online retailers such as Wayfair, the company’s walk-in tubs are also among the easier brands to find along with being more affordable than other brands.
Empava Acrylic Walk-in Bathtub: A broad curved door with a low threshold height of 4 inches makes it one of the most accessible tubs for those who struggle to raise their feet. Adding to that accessibility are deck-mounted grab bars on the right side and left side of the doorway and a third on the other side of the faucet. It’s also versatile with three length options—48 inches, 52.5 inches, and 67 inches.
Get the Empava Acrylic Walk-in Bathtub at Amazon for $2638.42
- Tubs are available at various offline and online retailers
- Empava’s walk-in tubs are more affordable than other brands
- Empava tubs feature numerous grab bars and low threshold heights
American Standard is one of the best known names in tubs thanks to its 140-year history of making plumbing products. Among its line of bathtubs are some 50 models of walk-in tubs that vary from basic soaker models to feature-loaded hydrotherapy and aromatherapy tubs.
With such a broad range of tubs, buyers can expect to find a wide selection of door styles and installation sizes. American Standard’s line of walk-in tubs cover the gamut of available features on walk-in tubs, including quick drain and quick-fill systems, massage therapy and LED lighting.
American Standard Premium Series Air Bathtub: With its 26 air jets that create a full-body massage, plus a variable-speed blower that delivers heated bubbles to improve circulation, this tub offers a full space experience. And, when the bath is over, a quick drain system rapidly pumps water out of the tub.
Get the American Standard Premium Series Air Bathtub at The Home Depot for $5688.15
- One of the best known names in bathtubs
- Features the most comprehensive number of walk-in bathtub models on the market.
- Offers a wide selection of features
Endurance is one of Lowe’s featured brands with all of its tubs manufactured specifically for the home improvement big box store. The Endurance line includes a good variety of walk-in tubs of varying depth and size to suit different installs and preferences. And, since Lowes carries this line in their stores, this brand also appeals to those who want to see the walk-in tub in person before they commit.
Similar to other tub brands, Endurance tubs come with massage and air jet options along with numerous safety features including grab bars and anti-slip surfaces. Endurance tubs also come in a broad range of sizes with some as small as 45 inches long.
Endurance Walk-In Whirlpool and Air Bath Tub: Those lacking the square footage for most walk-in bathtubs may be able to fit in this Endurance model, which measures a compact 45.5 inches long and 26 inches wide. Despite its small size, it comes fully equipped with 13 adjustable whirlpool massage jets and 25 air jets for total body massage.
Get the Endurance Walk-In Whirlpool and Air Bath Tub at Lowes.com for $4175.15
- Endurance makes tubs exclusively for Lowe’s
- The brand offers a wide range of sizes and styles
- One of a few brands one can see in person before buying
Ariel Bath has been making affordable bathroom products since 2005, produces a line of 20 walk-in bathtubs, many of which are available at major retailers such as Home Depot. Whereas other company’s tubs may hover around the $5,000 price point, Ariel’s tubs are among the most affordable with walk-in tubs starting at $2,000. This makes them a great option for those looking for a well-made accessible bathtub who don’t mind sacrificing such features as hydrotherapy and aero therapy. Ariel focuses on accessibility over flash with low thresholds, ample grab bars and ADA compliant seating.
Ariel 5 ft. Walk-in Bathtub: This affordably priced walk-in tub features a low threshold and an ample bar and non-skid floor for accessibility, making it an ideal choice for those on a budget.
Get the Ariel 5 ft. Walk-in Bathtub at Quality Bath for $2599.00
- Some of the most affordably priced walk-in bathtubs
- Available at several major retailers
- Tubs offer ADA compliant seating
Excellent accessibility features, including a wide door and low threshold, plus such spa features as massage jets, make the Universal Tubs HD Series Walk-in Whirlpool Bath Tub a top choice. Those looking for a more affordable option should consider the nicely priced ANZZI Soaking Walk-In Bathtub.
How We Chose the Best Walk-In Tubs
We used several criteria when selecting models for our list of the best walk-in bathtubs. Considering that the most important feature of a walk-in tub is accessibility, we chose models designed for easier entering and exiting, including low door thresholds, wide doorways, and multiple grab bars. Sitting for many minutes while waiting for the tub to fill and empty can be tedious and uncomfortable, so we opted for models with fast-fill faucets and power drains. We also favored units with spa features such as whirlpool and air jets for massage. While cost was not a major factor, we looked for models with reasonable prices for the features provided and sought to include a range that includes affordable basic models as well as walk-in tubs loaded with high-end accoutrements.
If you’re wondering how long it takes to fill a walk-in tub or if Medicare will cover its cost, read on for answers to these and other questions about walk-in tubs.
Q. Does Medicare pay for walk-in tubs?
No, Medicare does not cover walk-in bathtubs.
Q. Are all walk-in tubs ADA compliant?
Most walk-in bathtubs are designed to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines with ADA-compliant seating. Most manufacturers list whether their walk-in tubs are ADA compliant.
Q. How long does it take to fill a walk-in tub?
Even with a rapid-fill faucet, most walk-in tubs take about 8 minutes to fill.
Q. How much water does a walk-in tub hold?
Depending on its size, a walk-in tub can hold anywhere from 40 to 80 gallons of water, significantly more than the 25 to 45 gallons a standard bathtub holds.
Q. What is the best walk-in tub shower combination?
Most walk-in baths can be converted to also include a shower by adding a separate shower faucet. The best design will have a glass half-wall to prevent shower water from leaking onto the bathroom floor.
Q. How long does it take for a walk-in tub to drain?
Most standard bathtubs take between 6 and 15 minutes to drain, which is a long time to sit exposed to the air. Luckily, walk-in tubs have power drains that drain the entire tub in 4 minutes or less.
Q. What size water tank do you need for a walk-in tub?
A typical walk-in bathtub requires a 50-gallon or larger water heater to adequately fill the bathtub with warm water.