You keep seeing the ads, and your friends keep raving about how great they are, so you’ve decided to take the plunge (literally). You’re going to get a pool. Or a spa. Really, you’re not sure. You have friends who have a spa and love it, as well as friends with a pool who say it’s great for the whole family. But which one is right for your household? Before you sign a contract and commit to one or the other, you should know a few things.

Cost

It won’t surprise you to know that pools are pretty much always more expensive than spas. Above-ground pools are cheaper than in-ground pools, but both types require a pretty sizable initial investment, and they cost more to maintain.

However, pools can be a great option depending on your family’s composition. If you have kids, they’ll probably get a lot of enjoyment out of it for years to come. They can host pool parties and be the coolest kid on the block, for one. If you’re looking for a low-impact form of exercise, swimming laps is about as good as it gets. The water is also cooler than the heated water you’ll find it hot tubs, so swimming pools are generally more refreshing during warm weather months.

You’ll also want to consider how long the “pool season” is in your area. People in Texas may be able to use their pool from April to October, whereas someone in Michigan may only be able to use it from June to early September. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a pool if you live in a northern climate. Plenty of people in places like New Jersey love having a pool, and they may even use it more because they know their window is narrower.

If you don’t have kids, or if they’re adults who no longer live at home, a spa is probably a better option for you and your partner. Spas are a more cozy, intimate option for couples. Adults often find that parking themselves in front of a spa’s jets for a minute or two is a great way to soothe tired muscles. Many people find floating in a pool relaxing as well, but pools don’t offer the hydrotherapy options that are available with spas.

Safety

Unfortunately, pools are also more likely to cause injury than hot tubs. The amount of space is takes up is bigger, which means there are just more places for something to go wrong. The water is also deeper, so you want to supervise things very carefully if kids are using it. The younger the child, the more caution you should use. Pools may also open you up to more liability if someone gets injured swimming in your pool. Check with your insurance company to see how much your rates could increase if you decide to add a pool to your backyard.

Injuries can still happen in hot tubs, of course. Someone could get scalded from the hot water, for instance. Drowning isn’t nearly as common in a spa, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Really, the decision is a lot like buying a new car. For some families, a high-powered SUV offers the perfect amount of space and durability. For others, a small sedan that gets great gas mileage is ideal. You have to examine your options and talk to experts. Don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics; take as much time as you need to decide. It’s much better to delay making a decision than to make the wrong one and be stuck paying thousands of dollars for something that doesn’t feel right. You’ll have to live with your choice for years to come, so think of it as a hefty but worthwhile investment in your family’s health and happiness.