Many homeowners dream of having an in-ground pool as the centerpiece of their backyard. But some don’t have the money or the space to install one. For many, an above ground pool makes more sense. In this article, we’ll present our top picks for the best above ground pools you can buy right now.
While they won’t increase the value of your home, above ground swimming pools are cheaper and easier to maintain than in ground swimming pools. Pool owners can take their above ground model along when they move. They’re also safer when small children are around.
Why above ground?
An above ground swimming pool provides most of the same benefits as their more expensive in-ground cousins; they’re ideal for kids to splash around in, they provide a cool respite from a hot summer day, and they’re an easy and enjoyable way to get in some quick exercise. Unless you’re training for the Olympics and need to do hundreds of regulation laps every day, an above ground model will do the job just fine at a price that’s tens of thousands of dollars lower.
There are hundreds of choices on the market, in a dizzying array of sizes and shapes. Of course, price and available space will be major factors when you choose an above ground pool, but there are many other considerations you should include in making a decision. We’re here to help you filter the key information you need to find the best pool for you. No need to be envious of in-ground swimming pools any longer, you can build your perfect set up on a budget.
Choosing the best above ground pool for you
In this article, we’re going to give you a comprehensive guide for choosing the perfect above ground pool. We are going to start with a buyer’s guide, to tell you all the features you should consider when purchasing this pool. Then, we will present our top 10 choices for current pool models. We recommend you first consider what you want out of a pool, and then match your ideal specifications to one of the choices on our list.
Top 10 Above Ground Pool Reviews
Now that you have a good idea of what you should be looking for, it’s time to check out the best pools we’ve found on the market. For all of them, be sure the ground is level before starting an installation.
Intex Metal Frame Pool Set Review
This Intex 12ft x 30in metal frame above ground pool is perfect for those who want a pool that’s easy to transport, set up – and easy on the wallet. The downside is that the walls are made from laminated, puncture-proof 3-ply PVC material. The corrosion resistant steel siding does help with support, though.
The included filter pump certainly isn’t heavy-duty (530 gph, or gallons per hour) and you may want to replace it with a more robust model that you can run for extended periods, as well as a better ladder. It’s a sturdy and functional unit for the money, though, particularly if it’s mainly being used for children to splash around in. The standard model is a 12×30, but the manufacturer also offers larger models if your family calls for something bigger.
|Easy to set up and transport.||Walls are made of PVC.|
|Sturdy unit for the money.||Filter pump isn't heavy-duty.|
|Convenient drain plug|
Intex Rectangular Ultra Review
The Intex 18ft Ultra frame rectangular pool is one of those bigger models from Intex, also made with laminated PVC walls and a steel frame. The entire family (unless yours is the size of the Duggars) will easily fit into this above ground swimming pool, with plenty of room for splashing and playing.
Naturally, setup is more complicated and will likely require several people, but the Krystal clear sand filter (1200 gph) does a much better job than the one that comes with the 12-inch round model. You’ll pay more for the extra capacity, though, as opposed to the 12-foot circular model.
|Can fit the whole family.||PVC walls|
|Filter performs well||Setup is complicated|
|Dual suction outlet.|
Intex Oval Review
The Intex 16.5ft. Prism frame oval swimming pool has everything you need to get the backyard pool parties going this summer. Comes with 2 pools total. The upscale seafoam blue above ground pool comes with a cartridge filter pump, a ladder, ground cloth, and a debris cover.
All the party is missing is your friends and family! Prism frame pools are enhanced with strong, powder-coated steel tubing. They’re durable and still easy to assemble. The liner is stylish and constructed with puncture-resistant, 3-ply material for many years of backyard fun. The 16.5 x 4-foot coverage can fit a ton of people, to boot. Start your summer off with a complete above ground pool set with the Intex Prism Frame Oval Swimming Pool Pump Set.
|Reasonable price for the size.||PVC walls|
|constructed of strong powder-coated steel.||Less powerful motor|
|Comes with 2 pools total.|
Intex Easy Pool Review
This Intex 15ft easy inflatable pool is great primarily because it is so easy to set up. Many people find it only takes 15-30 minutes to set up this 15-foot pool, a major advantage over the more complicated oval and rectangular models.
It’s large enough to fit a number of kids plus more than one adult, as long as no one is planning to swim laps in it. The motor is a 1500 gph unit which is more than sufficient for most families, particularly when you realize it is in the low price range. Just be sure to remember to put your debris cover on this one. This inflatable fixture is the perfect pool to catch some summer waves.
|Easy & fast to set up.||Not good for swimming laps.|
|Large enough for several kids.||PVC wall|
|Super tough PVC Wall|
Intex Metal Frame Pool Set
Very similar to the pool just reviewed, this Intex metal frame pool model features an upper laminated band and reinforced polyethylene rope wraps around the bottom of the pool liner, to keep the frame and legs firmly in place without being pushed out by the bulges created by water pushing against the liner. It also has a metal frame to keep the pool sturdy and in place.
It does come with a lower-power motor, though (1000 gph) so you might either want to opt for the Easy Pool Set or purchase a more powerful motor and pump if you plan on running them 24/7. This Intex metal frame pool is a durable and reliable choice for your backyard.
|Sturdy and durable||Less powerful motor & pump|
|East to assemble||Pump is small|
|Filter pump included|
Intex Rectangular Ultra
Now we’re getting into a higher class of pools, as 32 feet by 16 feet is the same footprint that some smaller homes have, and this baby is big enough to fit the whole family and all of their friends. This Intex Rectangular Ultra 32×16 rectangular frame is a great rectangular pool with many awesome features.
It doesn’t have all of the features we might wish for, since the frame is steel but the sidewalls are PVC; however, it’s a sturdy unit once you’ve gone through the somewhat difficult setup process that most pools of this size require.
The package comes with a more-than-sufficient 2600 gph pump, although you may want to add a separate chlorine generator to handle the nearly 15,000 gallons of water the pool holds. It’s substantially more expensive than smaller pools, but it’s a lot of pool for the money. This one is so large it starts to rival in-ground chlorine pools.
|Big enough to fit family & friends.||Expensive
|Extremely sturdy & durable.||Hard to set up|
Intex 15-Feet x 48-Inches
This Intex 15ft easy swimming pool set is almost identical to the Easy Pool Set we’ve already looked at except that it’s six-inches deeper, which could be a real plus for families with older children.
The surprising negative is that it comes with a less-powerful pump, just 1000 gph, which makes the extra depth (meaning there’s extra water in the pool) a bit problematic. We’d strongly suggest a more powerful pump if you’re opting for this one. So if you are considering this pool for its economical value, consider that you will probably need to upgrade the pump for adequate water circulation and pool water quality.
|Six inches deeper than similar models.||Will need to upgrade the pump.|
|Super-tough laminated PVC sidewalls.||Need a level surface.|
|Convenient drain plug.|
Intex Prism Frame Pool Set
This Intex 18ft Ultra Frame pool is a great choice for its sturdiness and durability. The metal frame is strong, and it is quite large. It includes a ground cloth so that you do not damage your lawn.
This pool is big with plenty of depth, and the clean filter is quite powerful and efficient (1500 gph). Basically, this is a solid all around pool. The enhanced floor thickness allows for more durability, and easier set up. This is actually ready for water in 60 minutes.
So if your primary concern is finding a pool that is efficient, durable, and easy to set up, then this is a great choice for you. It is a great tool for adding a little piece of summer to your backyard.
|Durable & sturdy||Not the cheapest|
|Easy to set up||Pool ladder is flimsy|
|Super-Tough laminated sidewalls.|
Galveston Above Ground Pool Package
This Galveston Above Ground Pool Package is a bit smaller than the large Intex model we’ve discussed but it will easily accommodate more than a dozen people, and it’s solid and built to last with a hot-dipped galvanized steel frame and walls and a strong vinyl liner. This metal frame above ground pool kit is built to stand up to any harsh conditions.
Once you get it built (and it’s a bear to build, you may want to hire installers), it’s not going anywhere. In fact, it’s so strong it doesn’t even need buttresses or legs which extend out from the footprint of the pool. They could have included a more powerful pump than 1000 gph but upgrading the motor is a small investment for a solid pool like this one.
If you are looking for a heavy-duty option to rival even an in-ground pool, then this is the one you want. Just be sure that you are ready to take on the investment.
|Will last for many years.||Extremely expensive.|
|Comparable to an in-ground pool.||Not easy to set up.|
Bestway 12752 Steel Pro
The Bestway Steel Pro pool costs more than comparable Intex models, and doesn’t come with either the pump or ladder which are normally included with any pool package.
It has PVC-and-polyester walls and steel frames, so it’s stable and strong, and will hold up for at least several years. But we wouldn’t count on this pool being in usable condition for 5-10 years, and for the price you can do better. So while this is a decent option on our list, you could certainly receive more value for your money elsewhere.
|Sturdy construction.||Doesn't include a pump or ladder.|
|Comparable to an in-ground pool.||Not the highest quality.|
|Rust and corrosion resistant.|
How to choose the best permanent above ground pool for you
When you’re shopping for a pool for your back yard, you’ll want to take the following things into consideration.
It’s easy to focus on the cost savings of choosing a pool that’s above ground instead of one permanently installed in the ground; you can get a very good above ground model for several hundred, while you’re going to spend at least $30,000 to $50,000 for an in-ground one. However, the convenience and flexibility gained by buying an above ground swimming pool shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you’re not sure you’ll in your home for a decade or more, you may not come close to recovering the huge cost of installing an in-ground pool when you sell the house – but you can pack up an above ground swimming pool and take it with you to your next home. If you discover that you’ve put up the pool in an area that gets way too much sun for your lunch-hour swims, you can move it to a shadier location. And if you need the backyard for other reasons, like a large party, you can temporarily take down an above-ground pool and reinstall it after everyone’s gone home.
Above ground swimming pools have come a long way
Today’s above ground swimming pools bear no resemblance to the cheap models you may remember your parents putting into the backyard when you were a kid. Most come with strong and durable frames and a reliable filter which helps with water circulation and can keep the water fresh and safe. Many are also beautiful structures that you’d be proud to put into your backyard; the message to visitors won’t be “we couldn’t afford an in-ground pool,” it will be “we chose this attractive above ground swimming pool because we love it.”
Shape and Size
The footprint you have available will determine how large a unit you can consider. It’s important to realize, though, that looks can be deceiving. Let’s look at two sizes of pool which would fit in approximately the same space in your backyard, a 12 x 24 oval pool and a 21-foot round pool.
The oval one may appear bigger and more useful; in reality, it’s not, unless you want to swim those laps we discussed earlier. The total area of the round pool is actually quite a bit larger than the rectangular one, allowing more people to be able to be in the water at the same time.
Why round is a great choice
The round above-ground swimming pool will also be easier to clean. A round shape provides no corner areas where algae can accumulate. And the round pool will normally last much longer than the oval one, because there are no auxiliary side supports which can settle or buckle to eventually damage the pool or its liner. One more thing: the round and oval above ground swimming pools are considerably less expensive, both for the pool itself and professional installation if you’re going that route.
After selecting the optimal size for your pool, the next factor you should look at is the pool walls. You want to ensure they’re strong and well-constructed for longevity. Most of today’s higher-quality above ground swimming pool walls are made from aluminum or galvanized steel, which are subject to corrosion over time. (Even higher-end resin pools still have steel or aluminum walls.) The way to prolong their life is with strong coating. Most walls come pre-treated with an enamel paint designed to fight the effects of the elements.
Aluminum is usually more expensive than steel, whether it comes on a roll or in separate panels. Individual extruded aluminum panels are the most desirable. They should last much longer than steel as long as you maintain the pool properly. Aluminum pools normally have resin (a form of plastic, which won’t rust or rot) uprights, rails and connectors. There are also “resin pools” which use the material for everything but the walls. Most steel pools will be all-steel, from the walls to the uprights and connector plates (which connect the panels together).
Whether you choose steel or aluminum, though, look for the thickest and strongest walls you can find and afford. Even if they add to the price, you’ll find it’s worth it in terms of the pool’s longevity. Two more cautions: aluminum and steel don’t play well together so you shouldn’t buy a pool that mixes the two metals, and don’t use limestone or stone dust for an aluminum pool because they are “antagonists” and can accelerate rotting. Finally, you’ll find some less-expensive pools with PVC walls. They are quite functional but won’t last as long as steel or aluminum.
What about accessories?
You don’t need to put quite as much care into selecting other pool accessories like liners and pumps. They do still have an important role to play, however. The thicker the liner, the better. Cheap, thin liners may save you a few hundred bucks in the short term. However, they will wear out in a few years and need to be replaced. Also make sure the power of the pump is enough to actually clean your pool. Some cheap units will skimp on that detail. The most cost-effective way to buy an above ground swimming pool is to purchase everything in one package. You’ll realize significant savings that way.
Intex pool sizes & shapes
As you’ve probably noticed from this article, Intex is one of the most popular pool brands out there. If you’re looking to simplify your pool shopping process, consider using the Intex brand as a jumping-off point. It’s a reputable brand with a wide array of different sizes and shapes of pools.
Intex’s Easy Set pools are the most budget-friendly line, while the Intex Ultra XTR pools are the biggest, higher-end models that rival in-ground pools.
Balance your needs
As our top tip in our buyer’s guide, you really want to balance all of your needs. You should have an idea of what you are looking for before you start the buying process. Without knowing what you want, your decision will be very overwhelming. There are numerous types of pools, so you should really know what type is best for you first.
If you are struggling, try to think of it as price vs. quality. Just focus on only the features you actually need. Think about how you will be using the pool, not just about how it looks. This way, you will be sure you can get maximum value for your money.
Time to shop
Now that you’ve got all the information you need, you’re ready to go shopping for a quality swimming pool.
Remember, carefully measuring the area where your pool will go is vital. After that you should think “walls, walls, walls” before moving onto other considerations.
You can always replace the pool filter and motor at a relatively small cost. But if the walls don’t hold up for the long run, you’ll be buying a whole new pool. Also be sure to invest in a good cover if your pool doesn’t come with one. Pool covers keep the pool clean and in good condition when it’s not being used.
|Above Ground Pools||Title||Price||Prime||Review|
|Intex 12ft x 30in Metal Frame Pool with Filter Pump||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Intex 18ft X 9ft X 52in Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool Set||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Intex 16.5ft x 9ft 48in Prism Frame Above Ground Swimming Pool Pump Set (2 Pack)||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Intex 15ft X 42in Easy Set Pool Set||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Intex Metal Frame Pool Set, 10-Feet x 30-Inch||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Intex 26373EH 32ft x 16ft x 52in Ultra XTR Frame Outdoor Above Ground Rectangular Swimming Pool Set||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Intex 15ft X 48in Easy Set Pool Set||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Intex 18ft X 52in Ultra Frame Pool Set||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Galveston GA241552 Above Ground Pool||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
|Bestway 15ft x 48in Steel Pro Frame Above Ground Pool||Prime||See Reviews On Amazon|
Now you’ve seen our picks for the best above ground swimming pools on the market. Be sure to pick the pool that best matches your own specifications. Taking the time up front to evaluate your needs will make your decision much easier. We hope our guide helps you choose the perfect pool for sprucing up your backyard space.
Learn more about above ground pools
Before investing in an above ground swimming pool, make sure you do your research! Find out if above ground swimming pools can have different depths, or if an above ground swimming pool can be converted to a saltwater system? Or maybe you’re curious if above ground swimming pools can be buried or how to empty an above ground swimming pool. You may also be wondering if you can use a garden hose to fill your new pool, or how to install pool liners.
Once the ground has been leveled and your new above ground swimming pool is installed, you may want to invest in some accessories. Check out our picks for the best pool lights and solar-powered pool heaters to heat your above ground swimming pool. You’ll also want to learn how to winterize your pool so it’s ready to go when the swimming season comes back around.
We hope you feel confident in the pool buying process. Happy swimming!