Best Above Ground Pool for 2017: Top 10 Picks Reviewed

above ground poolsThe dream of many homeowners is a beautiful, in-ground pool as the centerpiece of their backyard. Many, however, don’t have either the money or the space to install one, so they decide that an above ground pool makes more sense for their budget or their property.

Others research the subject and discover that above ground pools are cheaper and easier to maintain, can be taken down and put back up in another location, and are safer when small children are around – and decide that an above-ground installation simply makes more sense.

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 above ground pool.

Top 10 Best Above Ground Pools Comparison

Product Name

Depth

Water Capacity

With Pump?

Our Rating

Price

Intex Metal Frame Pool SetIntex Metal Frame Pool Set

30 inches

1,718 gallons

Yes

4.5

$

Intex Rectangular Ultra Frame Pool SetIntex Rectangular Ultra

52 inches

4,545 gallons

Yes

4

$$$$$

Intex Oval Frame Pool SetIntex Oval

42 inches

2,885 gallons

Yes

4

$$

Intex Easy Pool SetIntex 15ft X 42in Easy Set

42 inches

3,284 gallons

Yes

4

$

Intex Family Size Round Metal Frame Pool SetIntex Family Size Round

42 inches

3,861 gallons

Yes

4.5

$$$

Intex 28375EH Ultra Frame Pool SetIntex 28375EH Ultra

52 inches

14,364 gallons

Yes

4

$$$$$

Intex 15-Feet x 48-Inches Easy Pool SetIntex Easy Set Pool Set

48 inches

3,736 gallons

Yes

4

$$

Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set With Saltwater SystemIntex Ultra Frame Pool Set w/ Saltwater System

52 inches

6981 gallons

Yes

4.5

$$$$$

Splash Pools Slim Style Oval Pool PackageSplash Pools Slim Style Oval Pool Package

52 inches

14,000 gallons

Yes

4

$$$$$

Bestway 12752 Steel Pro Frame PoolBestway 12752 Steel Pro

48 inches

4,231 gal

No

4

$$$

Important Considerations

Cost

It’s easy to focus on the cost savings of choosing an above ground pool instead of one permanently installed in the ground; you can get a very good above ground model for a couple of hundreds, 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 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.

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 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 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. The round above-ground swimming pool will also be easier to clean, providing ready skimmer access anywhere around its circumference and having 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 rounds are considerably less expensive, both for the pool itself and professional installation if you’re going that route.

Exterior Support

After selecting the optimal size for your pool, the next factor you should look at is the construction and strength of the pool wall. Most of today’s higher-quality above ground pool walls are made from either aluminum or galvanized steel (resin pools still have steel or aluminum walls), which are subject to corrosion or rust over time. 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 and priciest, and 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 that 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, which are quite functional but won’t last as long as steel or aluminum.

You don’t need to put quite as much care into selecting other pool accessories like liners and pumps, but they do still have an important role to play. The thicker the liner, the better; cheap, thin liners may save you a few hundred bucks in the short term, but 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, since many el-cheapo units will skimp on that detail. The most cost-effective way to buy an above ground pool is to purchase everything in one package (including items such as a cover), because you’ll realize significant savings that way.

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.

1. Intex Metal Frame Pool Set Review

Intex Metal Frame Pool SetThis budget round pool is perfect for those 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. The steel frame 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 x 30, but the manufacturer also offers larger models if your family calls for something bigger. Read on.

2. Intex Rectangular Ultra Review

Intex Rectangular Ultra Frame Pool SetThis 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.

3. Intex Oval Review

Intex Oval Frame Pool SetThis pool uses the same PVC/steel construction we’ve already discussed. While it’s a bit wider due to its oval shape, it is not quite as deep as the rectangular model we’ve just looked at and comes with a slightly less-powerful motor (1000 gph). A pump upgrade (and a better ladder) would probably be good investments. The trade-off for those issues is the reasonable price of the 18 x 10, as its price is mid-range. One other issue to think about with this or most other oval or rectangular models: the supports require an extra foot of clearance all the way around the pool, so don’t plan to put an 18 x 10 pool in a tight 18 x10 space.

4. Intex Easy Pool Review

Intex Easy Pool SetMany people find it only takes 15-30 minutes to set up this 15-foot above ground 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..

 

5. Intex Family Size Round

Intex Family Size Round Metal Frame Pool SetVery similar to the pool just reviewed, this 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 does come with a lower-power motor, though (800 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.

6. Intex 28375EH

Intex 28375EH Ultra Frame Pool SetNow 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. 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.

7. Intex 15-Feet x 48-Inches

Intex 15-Feet x 48-Inches Easy Pool SetThis swimming pool 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.

 

8. Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set With Saltwater System

Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set With Saltwater SystemSome people hate dealing with chlorine and other chemicals when they buy a pool, and don’t like the chlorine taste and effects when they’re swimming – and this round model is for them. It’s big with plenty of depth, and the bonus is that in addition to its clean filter (1600 gph) it has a salt water cleaning system. You add salt and the mechanism naturally creates chlorine that’s barely discernable in the water; the salt is also barely discernable as you swim. The benefit is that you don’t have to tinker with chlorine levels continually, but the disadvantage is that the salt can corrode the pool more quickly. This pool is more expensive because of the saltwater system.

9. Splash Pools Slim Style Oval Pool Package

Splash Pools Slim Style Oval Pool PackageWelcome to the big leagues. This above ground swimming pool from Splash Pools 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 hot-dipped galvanized steel walls and frame and a strong vinyl liner. 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.

10. Bestway 12752 Steel Pro

Bestway 12752 Steel Pro Frame PoolThis 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.

Time To Shop

Now that you’ve got all the information you need at your fingertips and read our above ground pool reviews, you’re ready to go shopping for a quality swimming pool. Remember, careful measurement of the area you have available for your swimming pool must be the first step you take, and 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 aren’t going to hold up for the long run you won’t be buying a new motor, you’ll be buying a new pool. To help keep the pool clean and in good condition through the winter months be sure to invest in a good cover if one isn’t included.

You should also be sure that the pool will be installed on level ground; if you have hilly or bumpy spots, it’s well worth the extra time it will take to level off that part of the yard before putting up a pool and seeing leaks develop – or even worse, be staring at a collapsed pool.

We hope you now feel confident in selecting the best above ground pool – happy swimming!

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