Above ground pools are a good choice for several reasons. For one thing, they’re a lot less costly than inground pools. And for another thing, they take up less space.
Of course, if you’re checking out this blog, you’re probably already leaning toward that decision and are just looking for the facts.
Well, good news...we’ve done all the research for you!
There are plenty of brands and types of above ground pools, but we’ve weighed the pros and cons and compiled our top picks right here.
10 Best Above Ground Pools
#1. INTEX 15X48 METAL
- Triple strong, SUPER-TOUGH laminated sidewalls are reinforced with an all-around band to keep frame legs firmly in Place
This Intex metal frame pool set comes complete with a filter pump, ladder, ground cloth, and pool cover. Its triple-strength walls are reinforced with a band that keeps the frame stable and comes with everything you need to start swimming within the hour.
And you don’t need to worry about a confusing set-up. It includes a detailed DVD that teaches you how to assemble it and maintain it.
The 15ft x 48in size is perfect for almost any size yard and shallow enough for safety.
#2. INTEX 15X48 EASY SET
- Equipped with the ground fault interrupter, which is an added safety feature that shuts off the pump if electrical Current is exposed to water
This Intex above ground pool is the same size as the metal frame version, but it’s much easier to set up and take down. All you do is lay it out on the ground cloth, inflate the top ring, and start filling with water.
The pool set comes complete with everything you need, including the filter pump, ladder, ground cloth, and pool cover. The pool itself is constructed with laminated PVC sidewalls, so it’s super tough and resistant to damage.
#3. INTEX 12X30 METAL
The Intex 12x30 metal pool is a smaller sized pool perfect for backyards where space is a concern. It’s also a more durable option to inflatable pools, but more affordable than some of the steel-sided pools on the market.
As with the other Intex pools, this one has a drain plug that conveniently connects to a regular garden hose. This feature makes it very easy to drain for storage or a midsummer cleaning.
#4. BESTWAY POWER STEEL
This Bestway Power Steel pool set comes complete with a pump, ladder, cover, and ground cloth. It also includes a ChemConnect dispenser to release perfectly measured amounts of chlorine into the water, keeping it effortlessly clean and sanitized.
The pool is constructed with a metal frame and Tritech sidewalls, which is a 3-layered reinforced material. This model measures 18 x 9 x 4, making it a perfect size for larger families or pool parties.
#5. INTEX 10X30 METAL
One more Intex pool to make the list. This one is a bit smaller and perfect for younger children or small groups.
The metal frame on these Intex pools make them extremely sturdy, yet easy to assemble. They’re also constructed with heavy-duty vinyl walls so that they’re puncture resistant and long-lasting.
#6. BESTWAY 12X30 STEEL PRO
- ENDLESS SUMMER FUN: Kids and adults of all ages can enjoy swimming and splashing in Bestway's Steel Pro Above Ground Pool. It's the affordable alternative to a more complicated steel-walled pool, yet it provides durability and stability greater than inflatable pool options.
Bestway is one of our preferred brands for pools and accessories, and this one is a good size for most yards. It’s also made to last with durable PVC materials and a steel support frame.
When you purchase this kit, you’ll get the pool, a 330 gallon filter pump and cartridge, PVC repair kit, and an instructional DVD. Bestway also includes ChemConnect chemical dispensers with their pools that you can use instead of floaters.
#7. INTEX 8X30 EASY SET
We like these Intex easy set pools because they’re so easy to set up. This one is the perfect size for small gatherings or for the kids to splash around in every day.
This pool is ready for water in 10 minutes. Just lay it on the ground and inflate the top ring.
But don’t let its easy assembly fool you. It’s made with “super-tough laminated PVC sidewalls” that aren’t easily damaged.
#8. BESTWAY DELUXE SPLASH
This pool makes the list as one of the best for families with small children. Its large rectangular size gives them plenty of room to move around, but its shallow depth keeps them safe.
This one is another steel frame pool that is easy to assemble, yet sturdier than inflatables. And just like all their other pools, it’s made with durable materials and built to last for years.
#9. BESTWAY RECTANGULAR
- Extra strong side walls are made with 3 separate layers of material. The inner layer of polyester mesh is laminated to the 2 outer heavy gauge PVC layers for added comfort and safety
This pool is just a little bit smaller than the previous one, making it ideal for small kids just learning to swim. It gives them plenty of length to practice their skills, but is shallow enough for safety.
Its frame is constructed from corrosion-resistant steel, and the walls are a durable PVC/polyester blend. It’s also easy to drain with its built-in drain valve that attaches to a regular garden hose.
#10. INTEX 12X30 PRISM FRAME
- Prism frame pools feature strong powder coated metal frames combined with the strong 3-ply material liner and a beautiful design, offering a Premium pool experience at an affordable price
What’s unique about this Intex pool is the shimmery silver color of the liner, which stands out among the usual ocean blues.
But looks aren’t the only benefit to this model. It also comes with a unique filter system that uses Hydro Aeration Technology to improve water clarity and filtration.
Additionally, it’s constructed with the same durable materials as the other Intex pools and held together with a steel frame that stands up to most weather conditions.
Above Ground Pool vs. In-Ground Pool: Which is Right for You?
Deciding on whether to install an in-ground or above ground pool is usually a pretty personal decision. It will depend on a lot of factors like budget and yard size.
Here’s the skinny on the things you might want to consider:
Obviously, in-ground pools are going to require complicated installation. You’ll basically be at the mercy of the contractor you hire and the process they use.
Also, depending on the weather and type of pool you choose, you may be in for a good 6-8 weeks of construction.
Above ground pools, on the other hand, can usually be set up in a matter of minutes. And these types of pools almost never require professional help to be installed.
Some people, however, like to build decking or fencing around them, which could take some time. But this doesn’t necessarily require you to wait to use the pool.
Price is a big factor and probably the main one most people have to think about. According to HomeGuide, the average cost for an in-ground pool is between $28,000 and $55,000!
On top of that, you have to consider the decking or pool surroundings that are necessary. And this can cost several thousand as well.
But an above ground pool is much cheaper. Most models will cost no more than $3,000 and you won’t need to pay a pro.
Not to mention the fact that there won’t be any construction surprises like busted water lines or other damage to worry about.
Another consideration when making this decision is the amount of maintenance you wish to do. Taking care of either type of pool is a chore, but each one comes with its own challenges.
Above ground pools are a little easier to maintain, mainly because they hold less water and are easier to drain. If you experience a problem with algae in one of these, you can usually drain it entirely and refill it without much problem.
In-ground pools can be a little harder to drain and clean, however. They usually have a lot more water and a more complicated drainage system.
Also, if an in-ground pool needs repair, it will often require the help of a professional. But with an above ground pool, you can easily patch it up yourself or replace it if necessary.
Pros of Using an Above Ground Pool
As you can see from the comparison, there are a lot of pros to using an above ground pool. The ease of installation, lower price, and easier maintenance are at the top of the list. But in addition, here are a few you might not have thought of:
Portability. This is an especially helpful feature if you’re renting a home or planning to move within the next few years. You can simply take the pool with you when you go.
Variety of shapes and sizes. If you install an in-ground pool, you’re pretty much stuck with the size and shape you choose forever. But with an above ground pool, you can choose whatever you like and have the option to change it down the road. This is helpful if your pool needs change as your children grow.
Increased safety. All pools should be surrounded with some type of enclosure. But with an above ground pool, you have one more barrier of entry. Simply remove the ladder after swimming, making it more difficult for little ones to climb over the side.
Less damage. For an in-ground pool, you’ll obviously have to dig up some of your yard. This may be a non-issue if a pool is your dream. But if you ever change your mind, it’s a lot harder to rebuild your yard than it would be if you just had to move an above ground pool and plant some sod.
Types of Above Ground Pools
There are several different types of above ground pools. Some are made sturdier and intended to be a little more permanent than others.
Steel Frame Pools
We put several steel frame pools on our top ten list. The liners on these pools are typically made from durable PVC vinyl and held together with easy-to-assemble steel frames.
The beauty of these pools is that they are easy to maintain and sturdy, but just as easy to take down and remove if necessary.
Inflatable pools are usually made with the same type of vinyl as the liners of steel frame pools. The difference is there is no frame holding these up.
They’re constructed sort of like bowls with inflatable top rings. The water inside the pool is what holds its shape.
Inflatable pools can be extremely temporary, meaning they can be used on rental properties or summer spots where you don’t plan on leaving them up past swimming season.
These are different from steel frame pools in that the sides and bottom are constructed out of metal, rather than just the frame.
These pools are considered some of the strongest on the market and can be made a little more permanent than other above ground models.
Resin pools are a little less common, but a good choice in above ground pools. The bottoms and walls of these models are made out of a resin material that won’t dent or warp like metal often can.
These pools are usually used with saltwater pools since they resist corrosion. They also stay cool to the touch rather than absorbing heat from the sun like metal does.
5 Things to Look For in an Above Ground Pool
Once you’ve made the decision to actually purchase an above ground pool, there are a few important things you should look for.
Warranty. One of the first things I would ask before making a purchase this big is what type of warranty it comes with. Most companies offer them, but the terms can vary quite a bit. Bestway and Intex, for example, offers a 90-day warranty on its pools and parts.
Accessories. The next thing I would look for is what comes with it. You’ll need a filtration system for any pool, so it’s ideal if the one you buy comes with it. It’s also best if it comes with the ground cover that goes underneath it and a ladder for entering and exiting. These are purchases you don’t want to have to make separately when most pools come with them.
Good reviews. You can find reviews for any product you want to buy. If it’s available on Amazon, just check the reviews there. These people are usually verified buyers so there are less paid reviewers. Seeing what real people say about the pool will help you decide if it’s the one for you or not.
Size and shape. The size and shape is important, but based entirely on your own particular needs. Take accurate measurements of your yard, but be sure to account for how much space you need outside the pool area.
Quality materials. The pools we listed are all made out of durable materials made to withstand the elements. But if you venture outside the list, make sure you check the quality of the liners, as well as the frames.
Best Above Ground Pool Brands: Intex vs. Bestway
You’ve probably noticed we’re somewhat partial to Intex and Bestway when it comes to above ground pools. But there are a few differences that make each one stand out in its own way.
First of all, let’s cover what they both have in common. For one thing, they’re both easy to set up, and that goes for all of their models.
The differences between Intex and Bestway are a little more subtle, but here’s the comparison:
The setup method for both pools is fairly similar for similar models. For example, both inflatable models use an inflatable ring on top and are made of the same material.
However, one reviewer noted that the setup for the Bestway steel frame pool was just a little more difficult than it was for the similar Intex model. She stated that it was slightly difficult “lining up the holes to get the plastic pins in.”
The pool liner is another point of difference in the two brands. Both are made with extremely durable and long-lasting PVC material, but Bestway’s is a little different.
Bestway uses something called Tritech for its liner, which is a “3-layer reinforced material with a polyester mesh core encased between two layers of high gauge PVC material.”
Aside from that, both pool brands are fairly equal as far as we’re concerned. You’re probably safe to just choose the best deal between them once you’ve chosen your pool type.
How to Install an Above Ground Pool
Installing an above ground pool is fairly simple, but certain types can definitely require some manpower. If you’ve purchased anything besides an inflatable pool, you may need to recruit some help.
Prepare The Foundation
The first step is to prepare the foundation. If you plan to leave the pool there for more than just a couple of months, you’ll need to remove any grass or weeds currently growing where it will be placed.
This is not as important if you’re installing a pool with a metal or resin bottom, but if vinyl is at the base, some of that stuff can grow right through it. Also, check your local code to see if you’re required to remove sod in a specified area surrounding the pool.
Level The Foundation
Once this is done, your foundation might need to be leveled. Because of the weight of the pool when it contains water, an unlevel surface can damage the lining or walls by causing them to shift. It can also cause water to accumulate where it shouldn’t, causing corrosion or tearing.
Depending on the type of pool you install, you’ll either need to lay sand or padding underneath it. This way, you’ll have some cushion for your floor as well as protection from tearing.
Sturdy The Foundation
Next, you’ll need to sturdy up the foundation for your frame if you’re using anything other than an inflatable pool. The posts will need stones or other solid material to support them.
These also have to be level to reduce shifting or instability.
Assemble The Frame
Assembling the actual pool is probably the easiest part of the process. Once you’ve got your foundation taken care of, you’ll just need to follow the manufacturer’s directions for putting the pool together.
Basically, you’ll assemble the frame and then create a sand cove. This is a wedge of sand that you build up on the inside of the pool walls to keep the liner in place.
Assemble The Walls & Liner
Inside the frame, you’ll either assemble the walls and liner, or just the liner, depending on the type of pool you have. It’s easiest to lay this liner out completely in a warm spot in the yard to rest. This step makes it a little more pliable.
You’ll then install the liner in the frame, following the instructions that came with the pool.
This may include punching out the perforated holes for the skimmer and pins. Or it may include overlapping the liner for certain types. But it will always include smoothing out the material at the bottom of the pool to get it as wrinkle-free as possible.
Fill The Pool With Water
Now you can fill your pool with water. This can be done in a couple of ways. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a garden hose, but depending on the size of the pool, that could take some time.
Also, when using your hose, it’s best to use a hose filter so that it’s easier to balance the chemistry later. These just keep out excess chlorine and minerals that might be lurking in your municipal supply.
Another option is to hire a water truck service. This is a lot faster than using your hose and may actually end up costing less.
Install The Filter
Finally, you’ll install the filtration system your pool came with. It should be a fairly simple setup if you follow your instructions.
Maintenance for Above Ground Pools
The main thing that makes above ground pool maintenance different than that for in-ground pools is the water capacity. Above ground pools usually hold a lot less water, therefore they’re a little easier to care for.
That doesn’t mean you can skip the maintenance, though. Neglect your above ground pool and you could soon have an overgrowth of algae you don’t wanna mess with!
If you’re brand new to pool care, we put together a really cool guide here that tells you everything you need to know. But here are a few of the basics to get you started.
Get Into a Routine
Maintaining your pool should be a routine that you schedule weekly, but there are also a few tasks you need to take care of every day.
It’s ideal to check this 2-3 times a week, but if you’re having problems balancing it, you might have to do it daily. And shocking your pool with an extra dose of chlorine is recommended weekly, but at a minimum, once a month.
There are also some situations where you’ll need to keep an extra close eye on your levels. Storms, pool parties, or pool spills are all good examples.
In these cases, it’s best to shock your pool, then test the levels every day until they’re back in balance.
The other thing you’ll need to do is brush and vacuum your pool weekly. This keeps debris and algae spores from developing and wreaking havoc on your water.
During your weekly routine, it’s also important to check for small tears or leaks that could worsen over time. If you catch them early, they’re easier to patch.
Above Ground Pool FAQs
When is the best time to buy an above ground pool?
If you’re looking for the best deal, the best time to buy a pool is right after swim season. That’s when you’ll get the best prices because stores need to move these products.
However, that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid buying them in the spring. Sometimes, you can get special promotions to kick off swim season.
Round vs. Rectangular: Which is Better?
This choice primarily depends on the size and shape of your yard. But there are some other things to consider as well.
For one thing, rectangular and oval pools require more support on the sides, making their assembly a little more difficult.
On the other hand, round pools don’t offer quite as much swim space if you like swimming laps or having extra people in the pool.
How deep should above ground pools be?
Most above ground pools are between 48 and 54 inches deep. However, you can find them a little shallower than that.
Additionally, some of them will accommodate a lower floor on one end for a deep end. Just keep in mind that your water will always be a little below the actual wall height of the pool.
Should I cover my above ground pool?
Absolutely! Covering your above ground pool for the winter is essential, but keeping it covered all year is also advisable.
Using your pool cover as often as possible will keep leaves and debris out, making your maintenance much much easier.
If you find the cover too heavy to remove every day, try a mesh cover that doesn’t accumulate moisture.
Are above ground pools safe for children?
Proper safety precautions should be used with any pool. Some type of fencing or enclosure is recommended, and sometimes required, but there are other measures of protection you can take.
First, never leave the ladder in the pool where a child can climb in. Also, consider a pool alarm for monitoring any activity when you’re not close by.
But as far as swimming in above ground pools, there is no danger that you wouldn’t face with an in ground pool. Just make sure an adult is always present and alert.
How many years does an above ground pool last?
On average, an above ground pool will last somewhere between 7 and 15 years, depending on the type you have. An inflatable pool, for instance, will probably be on the low end of that.
This lifespan also depends on how well the pool is maintained. If you take care of it well, you can expect a lot of years out of it.
You will probably have to replace the liner a couple of times either way, though.
We hope we’ve answered every question you could possibly have about above ground pools and that you’re well-equipped to make your purchase. Wherever you shop, remember that you can’t go wrong with most Intex or Bestway pools.
Other than that, be sure to measure well, follow the instructions, and ask for help if you need it!