Above-ground pools let you lounge, laugh, and splash to your heart’s delight. They’re easier to install than inground swimming pools, and many can be taken down once the weather changes. The best above-ground pool is one of the right size, depth, and shape for your yard, budget, and family size.
These fun backyard additions aren’t set-it-and-forget-it entertainment, though. There’s prep work and maintenance involved, but for many families, it’s well worth it. We rounded up the following picks to help you find the best above-ground pool for the kids or the entire family.
- BEST OVERALL: Bestway Steel Pro MAX 14-Foot by 33-Inch Pool
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Intex 15-Foot by 48-Inch Easy Set Inflatable Pool
- BEST STEEL-FRAME: Intex 26743EH Greywood 18-Foot by 48-Inch Pool
- BEST KIDDIE: Intex Rainbow Ring Inflatable Play Center With Slide
- BEST INFLATABLE: Intex Swim Center Round Inflatable Family Lounge Pool
- BEST FOR FAMILIES: Intex Rectangular Frame Above-Ground Pool Set
- BEST DEEP: Blue Wave Belize Round 52-Inch Deep Metal Wall
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: Summer Waves 10-Foot by 30-Inch Round Pool
- BEST HARD-SIDED: Intex 26363EH Rectangular Ultra XTR Pool Set
How We Chose the Best Above-Ground Pools
With so many designs, sizes, and features included in the above-ground pools available today, it can be hard to know which is best for your intended use. Selections for the best above-ground pools on the market depended upon their type, size, durability, accessories included, and other special features included by select brands.
Type plays a major role in the right pool for you, which is why this list prioritizes steel-frame, inflatable, and hybrid options. Though the steel and hybrid pools are durable and some can be kept in your yard permanently, the inflatable options are also convenient since they are usually made with strong PVC and can be collapsed and stored in the colder months.
These pools also come in varying sizes for large and small yards, which means that the depths also vary to accommodate young children or grown adults. Some of the above models also come with ladders, filter pumps, ground cloths or covers, top covers, returns, pool lights, and skimmers for added convenience and durability.
Our Top Picks
Some manufacturers specialize in above-ground pools of various sizes, while others are more specialized. This list includes recommended products that offer a mix of durable frames, depth variations, and maintenance options, so you can find a model that fits your yard and lifestyle.
The Bestway Steel Pro pool stands out because of its high-quality materials, frame design, and reasonable price. This model comes in several sizes and heights, but each size has the same joint design and reinforcements, creating a stable above-ground pool. The Pro MAX’s ease of assembly has to be one of its top features. Assembly requires no tools, and the joints lock securely into place.
The Pro MAX does not come with a ladder, but is only 33 inches high. The price includes the frame, pool liner, and a 530-gallon filter pump. The pool’s frame is covered in a UV- and rust-resistant coating, adding durability and resistance to scuffs, scratches, and dings.
When the fun is over, a flow-control drain valve provides a managed release of water. A PVC material makes up the walls and floor, and it has a three-ply PVC band around the base to provide extra support and prevent bulging.
- Type: Steel frame
- Material: 3-ply DuraPlus PVC
- Size: 14 feet in diameter by 33 inches high
- Sturdy PVC and reinforced joint design; easy to assemble
- UV- and rust-resistant coating; suitable for heavy-duty use in sunny environments
- Built-in low control drain valve; keeps the water from gushing out all at once while emptying
- Affordable pool comes in multiple sizes to match backyard space
- No ladder included; may need to be purchased separately
Get the Bestway above-ground pool at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The Intex 15-foot by 48-inch Easy Set pool lives up to its name with a three-step process for setting up this round above-ground pool. Once the pool is laid out flat, inflate the top ring, and it’s ready for water in less than 15 minutes. Intex supplies everything swimmers need to get started, including a ladder, filter pump, ground cover, and top pool cover.
Laminated PVC gives the walls of this round pool their strength and durability. This model also features dual suction outlet fittings to keep the water moving and clear. The Easy Set pool isn’t as durable as a framed model, but the ease of assembly and completeness of the set combine for an attractive, affordable option for many people. It also folds down for storage, which is a bonus for those who don’t want to leave a pool up year-round.
- Type: Inflatable
- Material: 3-ply polyvinyl chloride (laminated PVC)
- Size: 15 feet in diameter by 48 inches high
- Laminated PVC construction provides long-lasting durability; ideal for use by children and adults
- Built-in dual suction outlet for ease of emptying
- Comes with ladder, filter pump, ground cover, and top pool cover
- Easy 3-step setup takes 15 minutes
- Heavyweight design might be hard to fold and store
- Ultraviolet (UV) exposure and wear and tear shortens the life of this model
Get the Intex 15-foot above-ground pool at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Target.
The Intex 26743EH 18-foot by 48-inch pool’s greywood steel frame has a large profile that adds strength and durability when filled to its hefty 6,423-gallon capacity. Considering the size, this hard-frame pool is relatively easy to set up. With Intex’s interlocking joint system, most people can complete the setup within 60 minutes. The durable three-ply material has a band around the lower half, reinforcing the structure to prevent bulges.
At nearly 4 feet deep and 18 feet around, the large hard-frame pool requires some maintenance but no constant emptying and refilling. This Intex metal-frame pool comes with a full set of accessories to get started and to keep the water clean, including a filter, ground cover, ladder, and top pool cover. This model comes in greywood for those who aren’t fans of the typical blue above-ground pool.
- Type: Steel frame
- Material: 3-ply plastic
- Size: 18 feet in diameter by 48 inches high
- Holds up to 6,423 gallons of water; suitable for multiple adults and children
- Jointed 3-ply design; easy to set up and deconstruct (if needed)
- Comes with a ladder, filter, ground cover, and top cover for added user-friendliness
- Some maintenance may be required with time and regular usage
Get the Intex Greywood above-ground pool at The Home Depot.
The Intex Rainbow Ring Play Center is more than a pool; it’s an inflatable play station with a waterslide, sprinkler, rings, and balls. Two small pools provide room for more than one child, and this model gives them some options in how they play. Once inflated, it measures nearly 16 feet around and 5.5 inches high for easy entry. It is large for a kiddie pool, so be sure to consider where to place it.
This kids’ pool has lots of fun accessories with kids in mind, including games, a water sprayer that hooks to the garden hose, and a landing mat at the bottom of the inflatable slide. The setup, like other inflatables, doesn’t take long: simply attach to a standard garden hose and air pump. When the kids are done, let out the water and deflate it.
- Type: Inflatable
- Material: 12-gauge vinyl
- Size: 16 feet in diameter by 5.5 inches high
- Suitable for young children of 2+ years of age; comes with waterslide, sprinkler, rings, 6 balls
- Hooks up to a standard garden hose for user-friendliness and ease of setup
- Easy to decompress and empty; simply let out the water and allow to deflate
- Some users report limited UV resistance; should not be put away when not in use
- No pump included with purchase; may need to purchase a pump separately
Get the Intex play center above-ground pool at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Target.
Suitable for adults and kids, the Intex Swim Center Lounge pool, which can fit three or four swimmers, holds 156 gallons of water. Users can blow up the dual individual air chambers with an electric air pump; it should inflate quickly to a sizable blowup pool. Best of all, this pool comes with drink holders and a built-in bench and backrest—nice features for parents who want to cool off while watching the kids play or just lounge and admire the landscaping.
After use, this inflatable pool empties easily through the drain plug. It also includes a repair patch. However, this pool isn’t suitable for kids under 3 years old, and it does not come with an air pump.
- Type: Inflatable
- Material: 13-gauge vinyl
- Size: 90 inches long by 86 inches wide by 31 inches high
- Built-in bench with backrest for lounging
- Dual individual air chambers with combo valves to keep full inflation and shape
- Drain plug integrated into the design for easy emptying after use
- Repair patch included in case of rips and tears
- Not suitable for children under age 3
- No included air pump; may need to be purchased separately
Get the Intex Swim Center above-ground pool at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The Intex rectangular-frame pool strikes a good balance between size, assembly ease, and price. A heavy-duty PVC frame supports the vinyl pool, which comes in four sizes, the largest of which holds 1,883 gallons of water, likely enough to support swimming laps. The frame locks together and can be set up by two adults. With its 14.75-foot diameter and 33-inch height, this pool can hold a few adults and kids ages 6 and older.
Families can still enjoy the maximum amount of space in the backyard because this model doesn’t take a lot of prep or setup, so it can pack down for storage during cooler months. This Intex metal frame pool doesn’t come with a ground cover, though the manufacturer recommends using one.
- Type: PVC frame
- Material: PVC and 3-ply polyester
- Size: 14.75 feet in diameter by 33 inches high
- PVC frame with vinyl pool provides long-lasting durability; suitable for those with children
- Holds up to 1,883 gallons of water; suitable for large backyards
- Easy to assemble and store; frame collapses for storing
- Not suitable for children under 6 years old
- May require 2 adults to assemble
- Ground cover sold separately; may cause browning if grass is not protected
Get the Intex rectangular-frame above-ground pool at Amazon orÂ Target.
Blue Wave’s Belize 24-foot by 52-inch-deep metal wall model holds 13,600 gallons of water for swimming laps and enough space for 8 to 12 kids and adults. The steel frame is coated with a mixture of zinc and aluminum, using the Star Galvin process, which protects the frame from corrosion, rust, chips, and nicks. The Belize is also made with durable resin components that resist damage and breakdown from UV exposure.
This package includes the tools and accessories needed to set up and enjoy this deep pool, including a filter, ladder, return, and a skimmer. This isn’t a model that can go up in an hour. The manufacturer’s instructions suggest setting aside at least 6 hours for full assembly. The Belize is a fairly permanent structure once it’s put together. It’s not designed to be stored in the garage during off months.
- Type: Steel frame
- Material: Standard-gauge vinyl
- Size: 24 feet in diameter by 52 inches high
- Zinc and aluminum-coated frame provides long-lasting durability
- Resin coating for UV- and wear-and-tear resistance; suitable for frequent use
- Filter, ladder, return, and skimmer included for getting started easily
- Takes a long time to assemble; may require more than 1 set of hands
- Not designed for storing over winter months; can wear over the winter if not covered
Get the Blue Wave above-ground pool at The Home Depot.
The Summer Waves swimming pool’s round shape fits well in small yards and leaves some space for family and guests to walk around the outside. This model’s 10-foot diameter and 30-inch height allows several kids to play at once. Setup is as easy as inflating the ring and filling the swimming pool. The PVC material resists sunlight and damage from chemicals.
The Summer Waves pool also comes with a filter, so it doesn’t need to be emptied and refilled after each use. It’s also easy on storage space when not in use, deflating quickly and folding up for off-season storage.
- Type: Inflatable
- Material: 3-ply polylaminate PVC
- Size: 10 feet in diameter by 30 inches high
- Durable PVC construction can withstand everyday wear and tear
- Easy to inflate and deflate; suitable for those who want quick assembly
- Filter included to keep water clean with frequent use
- Collapsible and easy to store in a garage or shed
- Some users have reported holes and leaking in the construction
Get the Summer Waves above-ground pool at Target.
Those who need durability as well as functionality in their above-ground pool might want to rely on the Intex Ultra XTR pool set. This hard-sided swimming pool comes with a ladder, a cloth ground cover, a pool cover, and a sand filter pump with a 1,600-gallon per minute (GPM) emission rate for keeping debris out and ensuring the grass underneath the pool is protected. Coming in multiple sizes, this rectangular pool is easy locking and has a rust-resistant steel frame and three-ply pool liner that can withstand the elements if left outside throughout the summer months.
This swimming pool is also large enough to hold children as well as adults with its 8,000-gallon capacity. Finally, this rectangular pool and saltwater system is made to be somewhat easy to install, but it will take two to three people to assemble it in the chosen backyard.
- Type: Steel frame
- Material: 3-ply plastic
- Size: 24 feet long by 12 feet wide by 52 inches high
- Extremely durable construction; rust-resistant steel frame and 3-ply liner
- Comes with ladder, cloth ground cover, pool cover, and 1,600-GPM sand filter pump
- Comes in multiple sizes to match the size of the backyard
- 8,000-gallon capacity can hold multiple adults and children at a time; works as a saltwater system
- Large heavyweight construction; may take multiple people to put together
Get the Intex Ultra XTR above-ground pool at Amazon orÂ The Home Depot.
What to Consider When Choosing an Above-Ground Pool
The size and shape, depth, and liner type and thickness of the pool plus existing landscaping all come into play when choosing the best above-ground pool. Also consider how much maintenance you want to put into a backyard swimming pool.
Types of Above-Ground Pools
Above-ground pools are made of different materials and come in various shapes and sizes that affect their installation, maintenance, and durability. The amount of space you have in your backyard, the climate, and how permanent you want the pool to be should all factor into preventing the potential issues that selecting the wrong above-ground pool can cause.
Inflatable swimming pools are the least expensive, easy to maintain, and simple to set up. They require an air pump for inflation, but there’s not much to it after that. Depending on the pool’s size, setup can be completed in less than 1 hour. Some inflatable pools don’t need a filter or chemicals for maintenance. However, those without a filter might need to be emptied, cleaned, and refilled between uses.
Inflatable pools come in many sizes, including kiddie pools that are only 24 inches wide by 3 or 4 inches deep to models that are 92 inches wide by 22 inches deep. Many inflatable pools are intended for families with young children. Some have inflatable slides, sprinklers, or water curtains as part of their design. They’re a good choice for those on a budget because they’re much less expensive than the other pool types. Inflatables are also easy to store when not in use.
Steel-frame above-ground pools are strong and durable. The frame includes vertical supports and side rails while the sidewalls and bottom of the pool are made of a durable plastic, vinyl, PVC, or, in some cases, resin. The added strength of the steel supports a larger, deeper pool. Pools of this size require a filter or chemicals to maintain a healthy swimming environment. These models also require more ground preparation than an inflatable model.
Steel comes with some drawbacks. It’s heavy, gets hot in the sun, and it can rust. Powder-coated or galvanized steel resists rust better than steel alone. However, as part of ongoing pool maintenance, the frame should be inspected regularly for nicks and other wear and tear that could contribute to rust.
Many steel-frame pools are semipermanent in that they’re laborious to take down and difficult to store. Consequently, steel-frame models work for those who plan to leave the pool in place year-round, or at least for the duration of the swimming season.
Resin is hard, durable plastic that many find easier to maintain than steel. It weighs less and resists rust and oxidation better than either steel or aluminum. It’s strong and resists dents and warping, plus resin doesn’t get hot in the sun like steel.
A pool with a resin frame will be large enough to require a filter or chemicals, so maintenance compares to that of a steel or aluminum-frame model. Resin pools generally cost more than a steel or aluminum frame pool. However, their durability and rust resistance make them a good investment for those who swim for a good portion of the year.
Aluminum brings the strength of steel poolside but weighs less and resists rust better. In most respects, aluminum is comparable to steel. However, aluminum is prone to oxidation. To prevent potential problems, its protective coating must be regularly maintained.
Hybrid pools have steel and resin components. They’re made from various combinations of steel vertical uprights and resin joints and side rails. Resin components typically make up the part of the frame that’s exposed to sun and water, while the steel provides stronger support through the vertical portion of the frame.
These models combine the best of both a resin and steel frame while reducing some of the drawbacks of each. Theyâre more expensive than a steel-frame pool and less expensive than an all-resin model.
Semi-inground pools, also known as radiant pools, walk the line between inground swimming pools and above-ground models. They’re less expensive than inground swimming pools and provide more customization options than a typical above-ground pool. These models are easier to install on slopes and uneven ground and work in yards where a traditional inground pool isn’t infeasible.
However, radiant pools are more permanent than above-ground pools because they canât be taken down at the end of the season. Many look like inground models.
Ground Type/Intended Location
Pools require strategic yard placement. Some cities have regulations that determine how close to a property line or power pole a pool may be placed. In general, avoid placing the pool near trees, power lines, on concrete, and near other landscaping or structures that could damage the pool’s material or shed debris in the pool. The ground also needs to be flat and even. Uneven ground causes the water to put more pressure on certain areas of the pool, which can weaken the overall structure.
Pool Size and Shape
Above-ground pools are either rectangular, square, oval, or circular. When deciding which you want, measure the available space. Leave enough room, usually 2 or 3 feet, around the pool for foot traffic. The measurements should also indicate the shape that works best. Rectangular and square pools provide more usable pool space. However, round pools have fewer seams. Oval pools require extra structural support on the straight sides to prevent bulges.
The appropriate pool depth depends on who uses the pool. Young children can drown in water as shallow as 1 or 2 inches. Some kiddie pools have walls that are only 5 or 6 inches high to hold 3 or 4 inches of water.
Deeper pools are meant for older swimmers. Wall heights for above-ground pools range from 3 inches to 52 inches. Most manufacturers recommend filling the pool to 90 percent capacity. Taller walls mean the pool holds more water, which adds to depth, and also requires more maintenance like frequent filter changes and extra debris removal.
Pool Liner Type and Thickness
A liner protects the pool, retains water, and helps maintain the pool’s overall structure. Liners are made in four types: overlap, beaded, J-hook (unibead), and expandable. Liners attach to pools in different ways, and some, like expandable models, work better for larger pools than others.
The liner needs to be flexible to fit within the pool’s shape and strong enough to hold water but not so thick and heavy that it’s unmanageable. A thickness of around 20 millimeters strikes a good balance between strength, flexibility, thickness, and weight.
Ease of Installation
Above-ground pool buyers will need to decide how much time they are willing to spend installing the pool. Inflatable pools are by far one of the easiest to install and take down. With a pump, some can inflate in less than 5 minutes. Other designs, like resin or semi-inground pools, require installation similar to an inground model. The ground must be leveled and sand laid down so the pool doesn’t get punctured. Installation can take several hours, requiring three or four adults.
Safety and Permit Requirements
Some cities require a permit to install a pool while others have safety requirements that are the same as for inground models. You may also have to keep the pool a certain distance from the property line. Check with the appropriate authorities so you’re on the up-and-up with your pool installation.
Small inflatable pools, the kind that get emptied after each use, require almost no maintenance. Simply empty and dry them after each use. Any pool that takes hundreds of gallons of water is another matter. The pool might need a pump and filters to circulate water and remove debris, as well as chlorine tabs or salt for saltwater systems. You may also have to do occasional shock treatments to keep algae from growing. Chlorine and pH levels should also be tested regularly.
Above-ground pool owners often need additional accessories for general pool maintenance that they should factor into the price of the pool. A net skimmer or vacuum is needed to clean out leaves, twigs, and anything else that ends up in the pool. If the pool is up for an extended period of time, you’ll need a ground cloth or cover to put over it when it’s not in use. A few extra accessories you might also need include:
- Ladders can help you get into pools that are high off the ground.
- Pool alarms alert you when an item, pet, or child enters the pool unexpectedly.
- A chlorine generator is typically used in saltwater pools to regulate the enzyme levels and produce chlorine, keeping your water clear and sanitized.
- Pool lights can help illuminate your pool at night for visibility.
If you havenât used or maintained an above-ground pool before, weâve got the answers to some commonly asked questions.
Q. What type of above-ground pool is best?
For lasting durability, the best above-ground pools are steel-framed varieties. These pools have sturdy, weather-resistant constructions, plus they typically are larger than their resin, aluminum, or inflatable counterparts. These pools are also made to be left outside during the offseason because of steel’s rust-resistant quality.
Q. What is the longest-lasting above-ground pool material?
The longest-lasting material for above-ground pools is resin. This material provides excellent durability and weather resistance for years. Plus, resin holds less heat than its steel or aluminum counterparts, so the material is ideal for use in hot and sunny climates without warping.
Q. Can you install an above-ground pool yourself?
The complexity of installation depends on the pool’s size and design. One person can put together most inflatable pools, but large models with a frame and hard walls require two or more people. For example, large steel-framed above-ground pools may need two to three people for installation in a backyard.
Q. Which is better: round or oval above-ground pools?
Neither is better. However, oval above-ground pools require a more complex frame and structure to maintain the poolâs straight sides. If you want an easier setup, then a round model might be better.
Q. How do you maintain an above-ground pool?
Proper maintenance requires consistency and vigilance. You will want to test chlorine levels once a week and perform regular shock treatments. The pool’s pump should run 6 to 8 hours a day. Filters must be cleaned and replaced on a regular schedule, too. Any debris needs to be removed with a skimmer after each use. Smaller, inflatable pools require less maintenance except for refilling and emptying for each use.
Q. How long do above-ground pools last?
A pool’s longevity depends on the materials and how well it’s been maintained. On average, above-ground pools last anywhere from 7 to 15 years. Liners typically need to be replaced after 5 to 9 years. However, some hard-sided resin or hybrid pools include 20- to 25-year warranties, so expect them to last longer than average.
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