What Is the Best Above Ground Pool for the Money?

woman on float in above ground pool on grass
  • 8-60 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 300-30,000

When it comes to evaluating the best value for your dollars, it’s a subjective answer. What’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. So when asking “What’s the best above ground pool for the money?” there are countless aspects to consider.

Before you make your decision about which above ground pool is best, you’ll need to think about durability, cost, location preparation, maintenance, and many other associated expenses.

Let’s search for answers through some commonly asked questions on the topic.

What Is the Most Durable Above Ground Pool?

The longest lasting above ground pool is one poured from concrete. A concrete pool will last decades, if not much longer. However, it’s also the most expensive option since the labor and materials add up to anywhere between $7,000 and $80,000.

A concrete above ground pool can solve many site issues, such as those related to excessively rocky soil, sloped land, and issues with high groundwater. However, a concrete pool isn’t what people typically think of when they imagine a backyard swimming area.

It’s worth consideration if your primary goal is longevity, since a properly poured concrete pool will almost certainly outlast every other type of swimming pool.

What Brand Is Best Above Ground Pool?

Searching for an above ground pool can quickly become overwhelming. Every online site has its opinion about the best brands and pool models. Then you’ll find pool sellers who swear the brands they carry are the best. When it comes down to it, there’s not a lot of difference between many of the primary brands.

However, you will want to read customer reviews from a variety of sources--not just the website you choose to order from. Also check with industry publications, as well as product review organizations like Consumer Reports.

When doing your research, also compare warranty information across brands and models. The longer and more extensive the warranty coverage is, the more confident the manufacturer is that its product is going to last.

Having said all of that, the most widely accepted above ground swimming pool brand in the United States is probably Intex. You’ll find pool models on every major review site and in each category, such as value and quality.

The second most recommended brand is Bestway, which is slightly less expensive than Intex and very popular.

What Type of Pool Is Most Cost Effective?

When considering options based solely on price, inflatable pools will win every time. These pools are easy to set up, cost less than a few hundred dollars, and will likely last one to three seasons.

With the price break, you can expect these pools to only come in smaller sizes. Since they don’t have a frame for support, they are limited in size. If too large, they become misshapen from the movement of the water. It’s common for the sides to cave in, allowing water to spill over the sides.

Inflatable pools are also the least durable option since they puncture easily. A cat walking the edge while trying for a drink, a curious dog who puts paws on the edge, or even a sharp plastic edge from a child’s toy can be enough to deflate the edges and allow the pool to drain.

Although the most cost-effective in the short term, these pools rarely last more than one season. With care and a good patch kit, you may get a few summers out of them.

large above ground pool from the side

What Is the Best Pricing for Above Ground Pools?

Now that you can visualize the vast range of options, from an inexpensive inflatable to a nearly permanent concrete pool, you’ll likely fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

Most above-ground pools meant for more than a single season are supported by a PVC or steel frame. The liner is made from varying qualities of vinyl. The cost for these pools ranges from around $1,500 to $6,000.

Naturally, there are options that can spike that price up to $12,000 or more. However, the overall average price for a relatively durable, above ground vinyl pool is just under $3,000.

What Above Ground Pools Are Easiest to Maintain?

The small size, depth, and composition of inflatable pools make them the easiest type of above-ground pool to care for.

All pools require frequent skimming and chemical balancing, especially during high-use times. Any inflatable pool, however, doesn’t take a lot of time for these maintenance rituals.

When we talk about materials, concrete is probably the highest maintenance option, simply because it’s more challenging to repair when cracks occur.

Vinyl is easy to repair with patch kits that even work underwater, so you don’t have to drain the pool.

Fiberglass is the easiest pool material to maintain, but it’s rarely used for above-ground pools except through custom design.

What Is the Disadvantage of an Above Ground Pool?

The primary disadvantage of an above ground pool is that it is rarely as long-lasting as an in-ground option.

A high-quality above-ground pool can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance and frequent repairs, while in-ground pools can last a lifetime and beyond.

Another disadvantage of above-ground pools is that they don’t add to the value of the home. It’s worth noting, though, that an in-ground pool doesn’t always increase the value of the home either.

While some climates almost demand a backyard pool, in other areas, potential buyers may see additional dollar signs in the form of maintenance or removal of a pool they don’t want. In short, the wrong pool or the wrong location can actually deter buyers.

Accessibility may also be a disadvantage of an above-ground pool. It’s simply easier to get in and out of an in-ground pool, especially if it has steps. In contrast, an above-ground pool often requires climbing up and over the side of the pool through the use of a ladder.

Finally, many homeowners just don’t like the look of above ground pools. The plastic can look cheap and less appealing than an in-ground pool.

What Time of Year Are Pools Cheapest?

Like most products, you’ll find the best deals on swimming pools during the off season. Start looking near the end of summer when stores begin clearing out inventory to make room for fall and winter goods.

Online you can often find discounted pools throughout the winter. Some local retailers may also keep some in inventory, but it’s more likely you’ll find a better deal on the internet.

What Shape of Pool Is Cheapest?

Round pools are the least expensive shape. Start there in your search and then compare your finds to oval or rectangular pools.

round above ground pool on grassy lawn

What Is the Most Affordable Pool to Install?

Not only are inflatable pools the cheapest to buy upfront, but they are also the cheapest to install. As long as you have a soft, completely level space, you can set it up and fill it in a matter of hours.

Larger vinyl pools with frames require a bit more ground preparation, both because they are typically larger and because they are less likely to be taken down at the end of the season.

Many vinyl pools are installed over a concrete pad, which can add thousands to the budget.

What to Look for When Buying an Above Ground Pool?

Primarily, you will want to decide on a size and shape. Make sure you have room to move around the outside of the pool, especially if you plan to add a deck. If you’ll be adding a fence around the pool, take that into consideration as well.

Make sure the location isn’t shaded by buildings or large trees nearby. Also avoid placing the pool beneath trees that drop leaves or needles.

From there, research materials. Steel framing is the best material. It will last longer than PVC materials. Aluminum is another good choice. While it’s not quite as strong as steel, it’s less susceptible to rusting.

You’ll also want to review the installation requirements when researching your above-ground pool. In addition to choosing a location, you’ll need to understand how the pool goes together.

Setting up most boxed pools is a relatively easy DIY project. Just make sure to know whether it’s a multi-person process and if you’ll need additional supplies.

How Long Does a Quality Above Ground Pool Last?

Expect your above-ground pool to reliably last between seven and fifteen years.

What Is the Most Popular Above Ground Pool Size?

It’s difficult to visualize the size of a pool in your yard when perusing options online. Although you can get pools as small as eight-feet across or larger than 30 feet, the most popular sizes range from 15-24 feet.

You’ll notice each pool has a maximum depth limit. Small, inflatable pools may only be 24 inches, while a 24-foot pool can be five-feet deep. You’ll find 36-48 inches commonly listed as the depth, even though the sides are higher. Make sure you’re aware of which measurement you’re looking at.

How Do You Make an Above Ground Pool Look Good on a Budget?

One way to dress up an above ground pool is to create a wood skirt around the outside. This will cover the outside of the pool and hide the supports. Also create a box for the pump that you can access to change the filter, but that hides the pump and creates a sound buffer.

Wood is one of the least expensive materials to use to improve the look of your above-ground pool, and it’s easy to work with at a DIY level.

How Can I Save Money on My Above Ground Pool?

To save money on your above-ground pool, prep the ground surface yourself. Bringing in heavy equipment and paid operators is expensive. Instead, choose an area where you can remove the sod and backfill sand to create a soft, well-draining surface for your pool.

Heavier pools may need more support. Instead of pouring a concrete pad, consider a foundation of leveled paver stones instead.

As for the cost of the pool itself, shop in the off season. Planning ahead by buying on clearance can save you hundreds of dollars. Just make sure you have a place to store your pool until summer arrives.

Are Cheap Above Ground Pools Worth It?

Yes and no. If you have young children, the amount of entertainment a pool can provide is worth the investment, even if it only lasts a season.

However, if you choose to go with an inexpensive inflatable pool, keep it to a smaller size. A larger pool is more expensive, more hassle to set up and maintain, and more troublesome to dispose of.

Why Do Above Ground Pools Fail?

Underground pools are more expensive to install because it requires extensive ground preparation. The advantage of that extra labor and expense, is that it provides a supportive atmosphere for the pool.

Water is heavy and is a commanding force. It can put a strain on the integrity of the pool frame and liner materials. Therefore, underground pools are often better equipped to resist the elements, shifting ground, and normal deterioration that can cause above-ground pools to fail.

One solution that may extend the life of your above-ground pool without the added expense of installing an underground pool, is to partially bury your pool. This offers some of the benefits of both types with minimal effort and cost.

Are Above Ground Pools High Maintenance?

They can be. If you have a cheap pool, you might find yourself frequently patching holes, dealing with evaporation, and balancing the chemicals. Cheap pools often come with inefficient pumps too. Making an upgrade to the pool pump can save you a lot of work.

Is It Expensive to Run an Above Ground Pool?

An above-ground pool costs significantly less than an in-ground pool in nearly every way. So comparatively, it won’t be as expensive. However, it will cost more than not having a pool at all. Run the pump as needed rather than all the time. Many above-ground pools are not heated. If this is the case for you, you’ll avoid those additional expenses.

What Is the Best Size Above Ground Pool for a Family of 5?

A 24-foot or larger pool should meet the needs of a family of five. This will allow for three-foot wide floaties side by side with plenty of room to spare. It also allows room for short laps back and forth as well as adequate space for some water sports.

Bring the bigger picture of pool ownership into focus with our related articles Swimming Pool Maintenance and Seasonal Care and How to Raise Swimming Pool pH.