You buy a hot tub to enjoy, not to maintain it. Maintenance levels can vary greatly, depending on the type of water management system, the quality of the skirting (exterior sides) and cover, and the quality of the electrical components and pumps.
A high quality water management system will run 24 hours a day on a circulation pump. This ensures continuous filtration, especially when you are in the spa. It will also utilize an ozonator. This creates ozone, an unstable molecule that destroys bacteria and lowers the need for chemicals in your spa. The best systems will mix this ozone with the water within the plumbing system, returning clear, clean water to your spa. If the ozone is injected directly into the spa, it does not mix well with the water, lowering the effectiveness-plus these systems shut off when you enter the spa, just when you want them to be on! Having a high quality water management system will save the most time in spa maintenance.
The skirting and cover quality will affect how much time you spend keeping your spa looking good in your backyard. Most reputable spas will come with a vinyl coated cover that will withstand UV, rain, and dirt. They need to be cleaned every few months and can be treated with cleaners and protectants just like the vinyl in your car. The skirting of spas was traditionally made of wood. The trouble with wood is that it looks great when it is new, but it is horrible to maintain. It is fragile and needs to be re-stained every 4-6 months. New synthetic materials make this job easy as most can be cleaned with a hose and require little or no other maintenance. New advances in materials are allowing spa manufacturers to offer several solutions to match your backyard.
Quality electrical components are important in spas, just as they are in any other household product. If it breaks right away, you are spending time trying to schedule service instead of enjoying the spa experience. Check the track record of the company you are doing business with and request referrals from your local dealer. Make sure that the customers that have had the product for a long time are still satisfied. Don’t be fooled by stories about Horsepower, number of jets or pumps, etc. What is important is that the product satisfies your needs for years to come.