Above-ground pools let you lounge, laugh, and splash to your heart’s delight. They’re easier to install than in-ground 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. There’s prep work and maintenance involved, but for many families, it’s well worth it. The following picks can help you find the best above-ground pool for the kids or the entire family.
- BEST OVERALL: Intex Easy Set Inflatable Above Ground Swimming Pool
- BEST BUDGET: Googo Inflatable Above Ground Swimming Pool
- BEST MID-RANGE: Bestway Steel Pro MAX Ground Frame Pool
- BEST STEEL FRAME: Intex 18 ft. 48 in. Deep Greywood Steel Frame Pool
- BEST KIDDIE: Intex Rainbow Ring Inflatable Play Center
- BEST FOR FAMILIES: Intex 14.75 ft x 33 in. Rectangular Above Ground Pool
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: Summer Waves 10 ft. x 30 in. Round Above Ground 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 an 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 and 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 also are 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.
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. They’re 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 in-ground swimming pools and above-ground models. They’re less expensive than in-ground 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 in-ground pool isn’t infeasible.
However, radiant pools are more permanent than above-ground pools because they can’t be taken down at the end of the season. Many look like in-ground models.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best 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.
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.
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.
Liner Type & 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 20mm strikes a good balance between strength, flexibility, thickness, and weight.
Ease of Installation
Above-ground pool buyers 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 five minutes. Other designs, like resin or semi-inground pools, require installation similar to an in-ground 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 & Permit Requirements
Some cities require a permit to install a pool while others have safety requirements that are the same as for in-ground 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 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 when getting 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.
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 Intex Easy Set lives up to its name with a 3-step setup 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 30 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 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 for those who don’t want to leave a pool up year-round.
- Type: Inflatable pool
- Material: Laminated PVC
- Diameter: 15 feet
- Depth: 3.5 or 4 feet
- Comes with ladder, filter pump, ground cover, and top cover
- Simple 3-step setup takes 30 minutes
- Easy to store during the off season
- UV exposure and wear and tear shortens the life of this model
This Googo model is a good option for families who want the easy setup of an inflatable pool at an economical price. A thick, BPA-free PVC material makes up the sidewalls and bottom, providing extra strength. With an electric pump, the three independent air chambers fill within minutes. It doesn’t take much time to deflate or drain either, especially with the two built-in drains.
The budget-friendly pool comes in two sizes, the larger of which can fit two adults and three to five kids ages 3+. Swimming isn’t the only use for the Googo inflatable pool, either. The smaller version can be used indoors as a ball pit for kids, as well. Once dry, the Googo folds down for easy storage. As a bonus, the pool comes with two inflatable beach balls and two repair patches.
- Type: Inflatable pool
- Material: PVC
- Size: 9.8 by 6 feet or 7.6 by 4.3 feet
- Depth: 1.8 feet
- Inexpensive inflatable option
- Smaller version doubles as a ball pit
- Includes a set of beach balls and repair patches
- Easy setup and storage
The Bestway Pro MAX 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 ease of assembly has to be one of its top features. Assembly requires no tools, and all of the joints lock securely into place.
The Pro MAX does not come with a ladder or pump. The price includes the frame and pool only, so you will need to buy a filter, pump, ladder, and a few other items to get it up and running. But 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 controlled release of water. A PVC material makes up the walls and floor, and it has a 3-ply PVC band around the base to provide extra support and prevent bulging.
- Type: Frame pool
- Materials: Alloy steel and PVC
- Diameter: 10, 14, 15, 16, or 18 feet
- Depth: Between 2.5 feet and 4 feet (varies by model)
- Affordable for a non-inflatable model
- Sturdy reinforced joint design and 3-ply liner
- UV and rust-resistant frame coating
- Available in multiple sizes and depths
- No ladder or pump included
The Intex Greywood’s steel frame has a large profile that adds strength and durability when filled to its 6,423-gallon capacity. Considering the size, this pool is relatively easy to set up. With Intex’s interlocking joint system, most people can complete the setup within 60 minutes. The durable 3-ply material has a band around the lower half, reinforcing the structure to prevent bulges.
At nearly 4 feet of depth and 18 feet around, the large 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 ladder, filter, ground cover, and top pool cover.
- Type: Frame pool
- Material: Powder-coated steel
- Diameter: 18 feet
- Depth: Just under 4 feet
- Comes with a ladder, filter, ground cover, and top cover
- Sturdy jointed, 3-ply design
- Easy to set up for its size
- More attractive than the typical blue exterior
- Pricey compared to inflatable models
The Intex Rainbow Ring Inflatable Play Center is more than a pool. It’s an inflatable play station with a water slide, sprinkler, rings, and balls. Two small pools provide room for more than one child, and this model gives them more 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. When the kids are done, let out the water and deflate it.
- Type: Inflatable pool
- Material: Plastic
- Size: 9.75 by 6.4 feet
- Depth: 0.44 feet
- Budget-friendly model
- Suitable for young children 3+ years
- Includes water slide, sprinkler, rings, and 6 balls
- Hooks up to a standard garden hose
The Intex 14.75 ft x 33 in. Rectangular Above Ground Pool strikes a good balance between size, assembly ease, and price. A heavy-duty PVC frame supports the vinyl pool, which can be long enough for swimming laps. The frame locks together and can be set up by two adults. With its length 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 pool doesn’t come with a ground cover, though the manufacturer recommends using one.
- Type: Frame pool
- Materials: PVC and vinyl
- Size: 14.75 by 7.3 feet
- Depth: 2.75 feet
- Very affordable for its size and build
- Large capacity; holds a few adults and kids 6+
- Easy to assemble and store
- Ground cover sold separately
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 pool. The PVC material resists sunlight and damage from chemicals.
The Summer Waves 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, easily deflating and folding up for off-season storage.
- Type: Inflatable pool
- Material: PVC
- Diameter: 10 feet
- Depth: 2.5 feet
- Comes with pool filter
- Simple setup process
- Collapsable and easy to store
The right outdoor pool can help make summers more fun for play and cooling off. One of the best options overall is the Intex Easy Set inflatable pool with its simple 3-step inflation process and convenient portability. Plus, this inflatable pick comes with a ladder, filter pump, a ground cloth, and top cover. If you’re looking for something heavy-duty that will stay in place year-round, the Bestway steel frame pool is a better bet. With this model, you can choose between several sizes and depths to suit your outdoor space.
How We Chose the Best Above-Ground Pools
With so many designs 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 yard sizes, 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.
If you haven’t used or maintained an above-ground pool before, we’ve got the answers to some commonly asked questions.
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.
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 pool’s straight sides. If you want easier setup, then a round model might be better.
Q: How do you maintain an above-ground pool?
Proper maintenance requires consistency and vigilance. Users should 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 20-25-year warranties, so expect them to last longer than average.