Top 12 Above Ground Pools Buying Guide and Reviews For 2020
Whether you want a way for your kids to get out of the summer heat or are looking for an exciting way to entertain guests, a backyard pool is a worthy investment. However, in many cases, an in-ground pool isn’t the right choice. Maybe you’re renting a home and your lease prohibits creating an in-ground structure. Or perhaps you simply want to avoid the expense and hassle of having an in-ground pool installed.
At any rate, an above-ground pool gives you all the fun of an in-ground option, but with considerably less expense. And while you will need to perform some pool maintenance, it’s easy to find all the maintenance information you need online or in the owner’s manual of your new pool.
Of course, there’s a lot to consider when selecting your above-ground pool. You’ll need to decide whether a steel, aluminum, or resin pool is the right material, and you’ll also need to select a size and shape. The good news is that there’s an above-ground pool for just about every budget–whether you need a small option to let your toddlers splash around or a large, deep pool for half the neighborhood, you’ll be able to find a pool that’s right for you.
The Best Above Ground Pool on the Market
If you’re looking for the best above-ground pool on the market, you’ve come to the right place.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we can recommend a single model of pool that’s the best choice for everyone–the best above-ground pool for you is likely to be very different than the best pool for the family down the street.
In order to find the best pool for you, you first need to decide what you value–do you want a pool with a beautiful and eye-catching design? A unique shape? Or do you want a more traditional model at an affordable price?
Even if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, that’s perfectly fine. In a moment, we’ll get to the information on what you need to know in order to choose the right pool for you.
One last thing to keep in mind is that, just like in any industry, above-ground pool technology evolves each year. If you’ve been unimpressed with older pool models (or if you fear that any pool with interesting features will be out of your price range), be sure to check out our list. As new innovations are developed, older pools generally stay on the market, but they become more affordable over time.
Without further ado, let’s jump into what’s arguably the most important part of our overview–how to choose the right above-ground pool for you.
How to Choose the Right Above-Ground Pool
Some people prefer to learn about above-ground pools simply by reading sales listings. And while that’s certainly one way to do it, there’s a lot to know about this category of pool. If you want to expedite your search, it’s wise to first learn about what’s out there.
By building a base of knowledge about above-ground pools, you can efficiently narrow down what you need in a pool.
Take Your Budget Into Account
One of the most common reasons that people choose above-ground pools is because of the price difference when compared to an in-ground pool. An in-ground pool will typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, and your typical homeowner doesn’t have that kind of cash (or doesn’t want to go into debt just to have a pool).
In comparison, even the most expensive, cutting-edge above-ground pools usually won’t cost you more than $5,000, and basic, smaller models are often less than $1,000. The size of an above-ground pool is often the most significant factor when it comes to price. Shape may be a factor, as pools with interesting and unique shapes tend to be more expensive. And lastly, construction material impacts price. Construction materials that are more durable and more attractive also tend to drive up the cost of a pool.
If you set your budget before starting to shop for your above-ground pool, you can easily narrow down your options. And because there are so many offerings on the market, you’re likely to have several pools to choose from, even with a smaller budget.
Choose a Location
While you can technically move your above-ground pool even after you’ve assembled and filled it, this can be a considerable hassle. Consequently, it’s best to choose your location ahead of time. Once you’ve chosen a location, it will also help you settle on a size of pool. After all, you don’t want to purchase your pool, have it arrive, and only then realize it’s too big for the space you’ve picked.
When choosing your location, make sure that you’re assembling the pool on a flat piece of land. Avoid uneven surfaces or those covered in tree roots, as these can cause issues with both assembly and everyday use of the pool.
Measure the Area
In order to make sure the pool you choose is a perfect fit for the space, be sure to measure the space where you plan to have the pool. In general, it’s wise to add a few feet to the total size of the pool when considering whether or not it will fit. This is because some above-ground pools have support legs or ladders that extend beyond the walls. You need to have plenty of space for these, and you also want to make sure there’s enough space for you and others to walk around the pool without having to squeeze between it and trees or other objects.
Choose Pool Depth and Shape
Choosing a pool shape is a matter of preference. Many above-ground pools are circular, but some people prefer the look of an oval pool. You can also find above-ground pools in square, rectangular, or irregular shapes. Particularly if you choose a pool with an unusual shape, make sure that it will still fit in the space you’ve chosen. Most listings will include detailed measurements of the widest and narrowest portions of a pool, so be sure to pay attention to these.
The height of the pool is another thing to consider. Usually, an above-ground pool will be at least three feet deep. You might want a deeper pool, especially if you want to be able to safely dive or do cannonballs. Since they aren’t dug into the ground, above-ground pools have a uniform depth as opposed to a gradient, so keep this in mind as you choose the right pool depth.
Decide on the Type
In your search, you may be able to find above-ground pools made of different materials. However, the three most common types are steel, aluminum, and resin. Here’s what to know about each.
Steel pools are common, and they’re fairly affordable. However, they do have a major drawback–they may be prone to rust. And since rust spreads once it starts, a rusted pool can become seriously damaged over time.
However, in order to combat the issue of rust, most steel pools are coated to protect the walls from the elements. If you want your pool to last, be sure to look for coated or galvanized steel walls–they’re well worth the additional expense.
Of the three main materials, aluminum is the most resilient. It’s lighter than steel while still being strong, and it stands up to rust. However, over time (and especially if the pool is regularly exposed to inclement weather), aluminum pools may develop surface pitting due to oxidation. This isn’t generally a safety issue, but it can be unsightly.
Resin is a hard, durable plastic. Resin pools are generally the most affordable of the three. And while they do usually have steel reinforcements, the plastic can begin to fade and crack with sun exposure. If you live in a very sunny area, a resin pool may be more likely to wear out sooner. This is a great choice if you’re on a budget, but a resin pool may not last as long as a steel or aluminum one.
Best Places to Buy Above-Ground Pools
You’ve probably seen brick and mortar pool shops. While these shops usually specialize in in-ground pools, they also often sell above-ground models. However, we recommend Amazon when it comes to pool shopping. Amazon offers you the largest range of pool types and prices. Plus, in many cases, shipping of the pool is free or considerably discounted. You also can assess user reviews to see if there are any known issues with a particular pool model you’re interested in buying.
The Top 12 Above Ground Pools Reviewed for 2020
Choosing a pool is a very personal experience, and it’s possible that you’ll choose a pool that isn’t on this list. However, to help you start your search and learn about some of the best above-ground pools offered in 2020, we’ve assembled a collection of 12 pools to check out.
1. Intex Metal Frame Pool
This inexpensive, basic pool model comes ina variety of sizes. You can choose anywhere from the smallest size (10 foot diameter and 30 inches high) to the largest (30 foot diameter by 48 inches high). It comes in an attractive blue finish, and the walls are made of sturdy and affordable laminated PVC.
This pool also comes with a filter pump, which saves you the cost of having to purchase a separate pump. This pool’s pump also has a one-year warranty to ensure that your pool will have fresh, clean water. And with improved outlet fittings, this pool circulates water more powerfully than most budget pools. An included drain pipe outlet lets you connect a standard garden hose for when the pool needs to be drained.
- Very affordable, even in the largest size
- Comes with its own pump
- Attractive and lightweight design
- Improved water circulation for better hygiene
- Lightweight design isn’t as durable as some above-ground pools
- The included pump may not be as high-quality as some options you can buy separately
2. Intex XTR Pool
This pool is a step up from the listing above, and it’s a great choice if you’re willing to invest a little more in order to get a more durable pool. Its walls are made of galvanized steel, so it stays protected from the elements. It also comes in a sleek black finish. In fact, with its advanced dual coating, the manufacturer guarantees it for two years.
This pool comes in two distinct shapes, too–you can choose a round pool that comes in several sizes, or you can select a rectangular shape. And if you prefer a pool with less chlorine, you also can choose an option that comes with a saltwater system. Plus, it comes with a specialized sand-filter pump. It also comes with a removable ladder–this safety feature means you can avoid injuries resulting from bumping into the ladder as you swim.
- Extra-sturdy galvanized steel frame has extra locking features for stability
- Double-coated frame is extra resistant to rust and corrosion
- Included ladder and pump means you have everything you need to get started
- Extra features mean this pool is more expensive than most of similar size
- Installation is more involved than it is for many above-ground pools
3. Intex Metal Frame Pool
This metal frame pool is an improvement overthe first metal-frame Intex pool on the list. This obe has what’s known as a prism frame–its attractive design features white pool walls that go beautifully with its blue liner. Its liner is also more durable than most–its three-ply design means it’s likely to outlast most cheaper pool liners.
This pool, like most Intex designs, also comes with its own pump. This pump has an impressive efficiency, as it filters 330 gallons per hour. At this speed, it’s more effective at ridding your pool water of impurities, and it keeps water looking clean and clear for longer periods of time. While it’s more expensive than many budget models, its durability and more upscale-looking design makes the proce increase worthwhile.
- Stronger, well-designed liner lasts longer and looks like those used by commercial pools
- Powder-coated steel frame will withstand exposure to the elements
- Included powerful pump means you likely won’t need to buy a replacement in the near future
- While this pool is fairly durable, pools with steel walls (and not just steel frames) will have better long-term durability
4. Summer Waves Wicker Print
This pool has one of the prettiest designs on the list. Its outer walls are made to look like a deep grey wicker weave, and the liner has an attractive blue water-like pattern. And as round pools go, this one is fairly large–it has a 16-foot diameter and is four feet high. This means that it can comfortably hold several adults, and it’s deep enough that you can cannonball in without worrying about hitting the bottom too hard.
Plus, this pool comes with more accessories than many above-ground pools. When you buy one, you get a pool cover, a ground cover, a ladder, a pump, and a maintenance kit. This saves you from having to buy additional maintenance supplies after your initial pool purchase.
- Very fast and easy to set up
- Beautiful design makes it look nicer than many above-ground pools
- Durable steel frame withstands weather, but lightweight walls are still easy to assemble, disassemble, and store
- Comes with plenty of accessories and maintenance items
- While the included kit is useful, the pool cover isn’t as secure as some more expensive options
5. Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set
This pool comes in an impressive range of sizes and shapes. You can choose a round pool or a rectangular pool, and it goes up to a depth of 54 inches. Plus, while many buyers may opt for a traditional chlorine pool, you can choose a saltwater system to go with any model.
And regardless of the size you choose, this is a pool that comes with a very durable frame. While it has a rust-resistant steel frame like most of the previously-discussed options, the build quality is tougher, making it a wise investment if you want a pool that will last. And while this pool includes a pump, the pump is more powerful than most–the most powerful version can filter 1,000 gallons per hour. Plus, this pool comes with a new, safer ladder design, along with a ground cover and a debris cover for the top.
- Very durable design will likely outlast most cheaper designs
- Includes a more powerful pump than many above-ground pools
- Comes in several shapes and sizes
- Can be turned into a saltwater pool
- Warranty is very limited compared to many on this list
6. Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set With Sand Filter, Ladder, Ground Cloth and Pool Cover
This pool includes just about everything you need in order to get started. And if there’s any concern about setup, this is a very beginner-friendly pool–it comes with a DVD that covers setup as well as necessary maintenance.
And like many Intex offerings, this pool comes in several sizes. You also can choose between a round and rectangular shape. The steel frame is coated to resist rust, and its attractive black finish makes it look especially nice.
This pool comes with a pump that has a 100 gallon per hour filtering ability, which is fairly low compared to many on this list. If you choose this pool, you might want to upgrade the pump to preserve water clarity. But because it comes with Intex’s signature outlet fittings, it does have improved circulation.
- Sleek, attractive design will look nice in your backyard
- Outlet suction improves aeration and circulation of water
- You can choose from several shapes and sizes
- Instructional DVD guides you through setup
- The sand-filter pump may need to be replaced
- Setup is somewhat complicated, especially for larger pools
7. Intex Prism Frame
Intex’s line of Prism-frame pools is great for those who are on a budget but who still value the beautiful look of more expensive above-ground pools. This rectagular frame is a standout. Its soft blue exterior adds a touch of class to your backyard, and its elegantly curved surface is different from many pools, especially at this reasonable price point.
This pool’s durable liner also has another desirable feature–it’s made to look like mosaic tiling, which is often found on in-ground pools. It also comes equipped with a 1,000 gallon per hour filter pump, which is a higher-capacity pump than is usually found on less expensive pools. However, its frame is supported by steel legs, which may be easy to trip over if you aren’t careful.
- Unique and beautiful design is a great find in an affordable pool
- Large capacity and innovative design
- Attractive liner lokks like those found in in-ground pools
- Some users have noted that the liner degrades quickly
- In some cases, the pump dies prematurely, so you may want to buy another
8. Bestway Power Steel Oval Frame
Oval pools have a pleasing deisgn, and this one is no exception. Its side walls are lightweight but built to last–they’re made of a polyester mesh encased with durable PVC. This pool also has a convenient way to make sure your pool water stays clean. Its ChemConnect dispenser gradually releases chlorine and other necessary chemicals to keep chemical levels steady.
Like some pools on the list, this one also comes with its own custom-sized ladder and ground cover to protect your lawn. Plus, its attractive liner comes in a unique blue pattern. In terms of size, it’s large enough for most small families–it’s 18 feet long, nine feet wide, and four feet high.
- Somewhat uncommon oval shape looks nice and may be able to fit more easily onto your lawn than a circle-shaped pool
- Comes with pump, ladder, and ground cover
- Extra-sturdy walls are built to last
- 330 gallon per hour pump isn’t as powerful as some on the list
- Compared to many pools, this one doesn’t come with particularly clear instructions
9. Intex Easy Pool Set
This inexpensive pool is, as the name suggests, very easy to set up. It’s also the first inflatable pool on the list. Inflatable pools do have the advantage of being easy to set up, but they can be torn is you aren’t careful.
The Easy Pool comes with a fairly powerful 1,000 gallon per hour pump. And like some of the more expensive Intex option, this one also has dual outlet fittings to improve water cuirculation. It also comes with most of what you need to start–you get both the pump and debris cover. You also can easily purchase any replacement parts as you need them.
Best of all, this is one of the most affordable pools on the list. If you’re looking for something easy to set up that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and is easy to store, this is a good choice.
- Very affordable
- Very easy to set up
- Comes with pump and debris cover
- Not as durable as some of the pools on this list
- Doesn’t have the sleek look of steel-frame pools
10. Summer Waves Metal Frame
If you want something on the affordable side but don’t want an inflatable pool, this eight-foot-diameter pool from Summer Waves is a nice-looking and economical choice. Its walls are made of PVC-coated polyester mesh, and it comes in an attractive bright blue color. It’s only slightly more difficult to set up than an inflatable pool, but it’s much more resistant to wear.
This pool also has a durable galvanized steel frame, and its snap-together design is very easy to put together. It’s also 30 inches high, making it more accessible for smaller children. If you choose this pool, you’ll also get a 330 gallon per hour pump, which is well-suited to this pool’s smaller size.
- Very affordable pool that’s also suitable for children
- Snap-together steel design is durable while still being easy to put together
- Small size fits easily in most yards
- Pool design isn’t as high-end as some on the list
- Doesn’t come with many accessories
11. iPool D Set
This pool is a little different than many on this list–it’s designed specifically as an exercise pool. It has a tether to keep you in place as you swim, and you can adjust water resistance with the turn of a knob.
Plus, this pool only takes up about as much space as a minivan, making it easy to set up in your garage or outdoors. And when you keep it indoors, you can swim in winter, too–it even has a heater. It comes with a pump with an 2500 gallon per hour capacity, and it’s very easy to set up and tear down. Since many people enjoy swimming for exercise but can’t get a good workout in in a backyard pool, this economical setup is good solution. Of course, you don’t have to use the tether system–you also can use this pool to simply relax.
- Tether system lets you get in a workout in a small space
- Adjustable resistance provides a challenge
- Pool is easy to set up and has a small footprint
- Includes a heater for indoor or winter use
- Because of its extra features, this pool is somewhat expensive for its size
12. Meadows Round Above
If you love having a backyard pool but hate having to disassemble it at the end of the season, this pool is a great choice. Its corrosion-resistant frame has exact-locking components that stop water from building up and causing rust and other issues.
This pool also has a unique and eye-catching “blue boulder” design. The outside has the appearance of a grey-white rock formation, and the liner has the look of blue rocks. The frame is made of resin-coated steel, which gives you the benefits of both resin and steel pools.
This pool also comes equipped with more features than most outdoor pools–you get a custom ladder as well as a skimmer, which makes debris collection fast and easy. It also comes with a one-horsepower pump for keeping water clean.
- Beautiful design is eye-catching and is designed to withstand even harsh weather
- Pool doesn’t have to be taken down at the end of the season
- Comes with ladder and skimmer, as well as other necessary accessories
- Very unique liner goes with the outer design of the pool
- As above-ground pools go, it’s very expensive
- The pump isn’t as powerful as some, and you may wish to upgrade it later
Paying Attention to Specifications – Above Ground Pool
We’ve already established that paying attention to pool specifications is important in order to make sure the pool fits in its intended spot, as well as to make sure that it’s the right depth for you and others who may want to use it.
However, you’ll need to pay attention to specifications for another reason: choosing a pool pump. A pump is vital if you want to make sure your pool stays clean and sanitary.
Thankfully, the guidelines for choosing a pump are relatively simple. If the pool capacity is under 15,300 gallons, you just need a 1 hp (horsepower) pump. If the pool capacity is above 15,300 gallons, you’ll need a 1.5 hp pump. Of course, you can purchase a pump with more horsepower than you need, but never less–this will overstress the pump and is likely to make it break.
When can I start using my large above ground pool? When should I shut it down?
In order to avoid the formation of algae, wait to open your pool until the weather is consistently above 60 degrees. Similarly, once the temperature is consistently below 60 degrees, it’s a good idea to drain and shut down the pool for the season.
When is the best time to shock (add chlorine to) my pool?
Don’t ever shock the pool while people are using it–chlorine is a harsh chemical that can burn your skin when it’s not diluted. Generally, shocking overnight or on days the pool isn’t being used is wise. Try to avoid shocking during very sunny days, as the sun can destroy the chlorine before it’s distributed through the water.
Should I cover my pool?
Generally, this is a good idea when the pool is not in use. It can prevent animals and children from finding the pool and accidentally drowning, and it also stops bugs and debris from getting in.
When do I need to replace the liner?
Pool liners start to wear out after about five years. However, if you notice a leak, you may want to replace it sooner. Much like with a car tire, you can patch a liner temporarily, but this isn’t as good a fix as replacing the entire thing is.
How do I drain an above-ground pool?
Unlike with a kiddie pool, you can’t just dump out an above-ground pool. You’ll need to use a pump or a drain hose. Make sure the drainage flows away from where the pool is sitting, or you’ll cause it to partially sink into the ground.
As you’ve seen, there’s no single above-ground pool that stands out as the clear choice for everyone. And while we think any of the 12 pools on the list can be an excellent addition to your backyard, we especially recommend the brand Intex. This established pool manufacturer makes a wide range of above-ground pools, and the best part is that there’s one for just about every budget.
Ultimately, the one to decide which pool is best is you–you know how you want the pool to be used, and you also know your space and budget constraints. By carefully researching your options, you’ll be able to choose the best above-ground pool for you.