The 8 Best Above-Ground Pools for Your Backyard

Beat the summer heat with the Intex Ultra XTR Frame Above-Ground Pool.

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above ground pool
Courtesy of Amazon

An above-ground pool is a great way to cool off during the summer for a fraction of the price of an in-ground pool. Plus, above-ground pools can be installed in a matter of hours, their filtration equipment takes less energy, and they come in a wide range of sizes to fit any yard.

To help you choose the best above-ground pool for your outdoor space, we researched a variety of picks, keeping in mind each model's size, material, and water capacity. We also consulted Malina Breaux, president of Blackthorne Pools and Spas.

Our overall pick for the best above-ground pool is the soft-sided Intex Ultra XTR Frame Above Ground Pool. The pool is made for the long haul, with the strongest vinyl the company offers and a two-year warranty. It comes together quickly without the need for tools, and it's saltwater compatible.

Here are the best above-ground pools.

Best Overall: Intex Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool Set

4.6
Ultra XTR Rectangular Above Ground Frame Swimming Pool Set

Courtesy of Walmart

Why You Should Get It: It includes a sand filter pump with pre-set cycles, so you won't have to remember to run it. Plus, the assembly doesn't require any tools.

Keep in Mind: It's more expensive than some other similar options.

For a durable option that's easy to install, consider the Intex Rectangular Ultra XTR Frame Above Ground Pool. No tools are required for assembly since the frame and filtration system all snap and lock into place. Plus, it should only take two people to put the unit together.

In addition to a ladder, pool cover, and sand filter, the pool also has 52-inch walls, so you'll get 4 feet of water to splash around in, making it our overall choice for best above-ground pool. The liner has a blue tile print with white coping around the top to give it some of the aesthetic appeal of an in-ground pool.

The frame is made of galvanized steel with a powder coating on both the inside and outside of the hollow frame tubes, which will help protect against rust. The three-ply liner is made of polyester mesh and PVC, a combination that Intex claims is 50% stronger than its other liners. Plus, the included sand filter has an above-average flow rate of 2,100 gallons per hour.

Although this pool has a higher price tag than others on this list, we believe the quality and included accessories make the price worth it. The frame, liner, and filter pump are also covered by the manufacturer's two-year warranty, so it's a pool that should go the distance.

Price at time of publish: $1,255

Product Details:

  • Size: 24 feet x 12 feet x 52 inches
  • Water Capacity: 8,403 gallons
  • Material: Steel, polyester, and PVC

Best Accessories: Bestway Power Steel Frame Above Ground Rectangular Swimming Pool

Bestway Power Steel Frame Above Ground Rectangular Swimming Pool

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It comes with a pool cover, which will help keep it clean between uses.

Keep in Mind: There isn't a compatible canopy available.

The Bestway Power Steel Frame Above Ground Rectangular Swimming Pool is built with steel frame tubes treated to resist corrosion that lock together, making for an easier assembly that doesn't require any tools. The best above-ground pool with accessories comes with a chemical dispenser, sand filter pump, filter cartridge, ladder, and a ground cloth, so you'll have everything you need once it's assembled.

The above-ground pool has a three-ply liner with a stone print to give it an in-ground pool look. It's 52 inches tall, but keep in mind that it holds a little less water than some other similar options. It comes with a sand filter pump with a flow rate of 1,500 gallons per hour.

The ladder and pool cover are also included, and it comes with a chemical dispenser for the chlorine that attaches to the side of the pool. It's worth noting, however, that Bestway doesn't make a canopy compatible with its rectangular pools, so you'll have to forgo shade.

Price at time of publish: $2,000

Product Details:

  • Size: 24 feet x 12 feet x 52 inches
  • Water Capacity: 7,937 gallons
  • Material: Steel, vinyl, and plastic

Best Inflatable: Intex Easy Set Pool Set with Filter Pump

Intex Easy Set Pool Set with Filter Pump

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It's less expensive than other options and is offered in a variety of sizes, so you can find one that fits your yard best.

Keep in Mind: Inflatable material is more prone to punctures and may need regular reinflation.

For a less permanent structure in your backyard, an inflatable pool like the Intex Easy Set is a great option. The above-ground pool inflates in 30 minutes and can hold eight or more people.

To set up the pool, you'll need an air pump as well as a screwdriver to install the filtration system. The drain plug is on the outer side so you can let water out to adjust the depth as needed. It comes with a cartridge filter pump with a flow rate of 1,500 gallons per hour.

The liner is three-ply vinyl, which shouldn't puncture, but since the top ring is inflatable, you'll still want to keep any pets away from it. You may also need to regularly add additional air to keep the pool fully inflated.

The above-ground pool comes with a pool cover as well as ground cover and ladder, so you can leave it inflated for longer periods of time without it gathering debris. But if you want to take it down, you can attach your garden hose to the drain plug and put the other end of the hose near a storm drain or area of your yard that can handle the amount of water.

Price at time of publish: $345

Product Details:

  • Size: 18 x 18 x 4 feet
  • Water Capacity: 5,455 gallons
  • Material: Vinyl

Best Hard-Sided: Wilbar Weekender Round Above Ground Pool Package

Wilbar Weekender Round Above Ground Pool Package

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: The resin top keeps it cool to the touch, and the overlap liner is ideal for adding a deck around the pool.

Keep in Mind: The drain is sold separately, and a pool cover is not included.

The Wilbar Weekender II Round Above Ground Pool is a hard-sided pool with a galvanized steel wall. You can put this pool semi in-ground (helpful for sloped backyards), and the vinyl liner attaches in an overlap style that's ideal if you want to put a deck around it.

It's worth noting that the above-ground pool doesn't come with a drain or pool cover; however, you can install a drain on the bottom instead of the side. The Weekender II comes with a sand filtration pump, which has a flow rate of 45 gallons per minute, as well as an A-frame ladder and a wall skimmer, so you'll have fewer extra accessories to purchase separately. Plus, for extra peace of mind, the full warranty lasts for two years, and the limited warranty lasts for 20 years.

Price at time of publish: $1,900

Product Details:

  • Size: 18 feet x 4 feet
  • Water Capacity: Not listed
  • Material: Steel and vinyl

Related: The 7 Best Pool Cleaners for Crystal Clear Water All Summer Long

Best Saltwater: Intex Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool Set

4.6
Ultra XTR Rectangular Above Ground Frame Swimming Pool Set

Courtesy of Walmart

Why You Should Get It: In addition to a saltwater system, the pool also includes a cover, ladder, ground cloth, sand filter, maintenance kit, and a volleyball set.

Keep in Mind: The filter and saltwater system can't be used with a bigger pool if you decide to upgrade the size in the future.

If you prefer a saltwater pool over chlorine models, consider the Intex Ultra XTR Frame with Saltwater System, our choice for the best above-ground pool for saltwater. Saltwater systems create a more gentle swimming experience for both your eyes and hair.

The Intex pool has a sand filter pump with a flow rate of 1,600 gallons per hour, and you only need to replace the sand every five years, saving you time and effort. Keep in mind that this filter system can't be used on larger pools, however.

The above-ground pool, which has a higher water capacity than some other units, is made of sturdy steel with a PVC liner and can fit up to 12 swimmers at a time. Plus, the manufacturer promises the pool can be set up and ready for water in just 60 minutes. The pool comes with everything needed to keep your pool in good order, including a cover, ladder, filter, maintenance kit, ground cloth, and even a volleyball set for fun.

Worried about the salt? The amount of salt saltwater pools contain is one-tenth the amount of seawater, so you shouldn't taste, smell, or feel like you're at the beach.

Price at time of publish: $1,255

Product Details:

  • Size: 24 feet x 12 feet x 52 inches
  • Water Capacity: 8,403 gallons
  • Material: Steel and PVC

Best Budget Soft-Side: Bestway Steel Pro Max Frame Pool Set

Bestway Steel Pro Max Frame Pool Set

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: It's less expensive than other similar models and has a high water capacity.

Keep in Mind: You'll have to clean and replace the cartridge regularly.

Ringing in at under $800, the Bestway Steel Pro Max Frame Pool Set offers plenty of space for up to eight swimmers—and at a great price. The 18-foot pool comes with a ladder, cartridge filtration pump, and a pool cover, so you won't have to spend extra money outfitting your pool with those items. Plus, it's less expensive than other options out there.

No tools are needed to put together this above-ground pool. The steel tubes lock together to form the frame with the help of included pins, and the side supports connect to the frame without anything at all. The frame tubes are threaded around the liner first and then connected, which saves space. Plus, the liner is made of three-ply vinyl for extra durability against potential tears and punctures.

The cartridge filtration pump has a 1,500 gallon per hour flow rate, and the cartridge can be reused after spraying it down with your hose. However, it's worth noting that the manufacturer still recommends changing the cartridge every two to three weeks, so you'll have to regularly purchase new cartridges at an additional cost.

Price at time of publish: $124

Product Details:

  • Size: 18 x 4 feet
  • Water Capacity: 6,092 gallons
  • Material: Steel and PVC

Related: The 8 Best Robotic Pool Cleaners for Your Backyard Oasis

Best for Families: Intex Round Above-Ground Pool

Intex Metal Frame Pool

Lowe's

Why You Should Get It: The shallow depth and strong walls make it a safer choice for families with young kids.

Keep in Mind: There's no ladder included, so you'll have to purchase one separately if you need it.

With 30-inch-high walls, the Intex Metal Frame Pool provides a comfortable depth for kids still learning to swim independently. The average 3-year-old is 37 inches tall per the CDC, so with just under 30 inches of water, your child should be able to touch the bottom without straining to keep their head above water. Kids should always be supervised by an adult while using the pool, however.

The 12-foot diameter is also wide enough for kids to get in several strokes without the distance being too intimidating. Plus, the strong walls are good for pushing off without shaking the pool, helping kids feel secure.

The metal frame is powder-coated to prevent rusting, and the liner is made from three-ply vinyl for added sturdiness. The frame pieces slide together and connect with provided pins for easy assembly, and the legs are tucked into a belt to stay completely vertical, rather than sticking out at an angle, which could be a tripping hazard.

The pool includes a cartridge filtration pump that has a flow rate of 530 gallons per hour, and it's also compatible with the Intex saltwater system. Keep in mind that it doesn't come with a ladder, though, so you'll have to purchase one separately.

Price at time of publish: $128

Product Details:

  • Size: 12 feet x 30 inches
  • Water Capacity: 1,718 gallons
  • Material: Steel and vinyl

Best Inflatable Water Slide: Bestway H2OGO! Splash Course Kids Inflatable Water Park

Bestway H2OGO! Splash Course Kids Inflatable Water Park

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This inflatable water park includes slides, an obstacle course, and a relay race game to entertain several children at once.

Keep in Mind: It's more of a splash pad than a true pool.

If you want to keep your children both entertained and cooled off, the Bestway H2OGO! Splash Course is the way to go. It has a climbing wall, two side-by-side slides, and an obstacle course with a water wall, sprinkler ball, and punching bags to dodge, so kids will be able to enjoy it all day without getting bored.

The pool at the front of the slides is large enough for kids to sit down and cool off in, but keep in mind that this model doesn't offer the depth of a traditional above-ground pool.

The included blower inflates the splash course in less than two minutes for quick fun, and a bag is also provided for storing the water park when it's not in use. The inflatable course's liner is made of PVC-coated polyester and is double stitched for reinforcement as well, so it's one less thing to worry about as your little ones play.

Price at time of publish: $454

Product Details:

  • Size: 280 x 122 x 104 inches
  • Water Capacity: 631 gallons
  • Material: PVC-coated polyester

Related: 8 Best Inflatable Pools to Turn Your Backyard Into a Cool Escape

The Bottom Line

Overall, we recommend the Intex Rectangular Ultra XTR Frame Above Ground Pool with Sand Filter Pump as the best above-ground pool. The pool is easy to assemble, has a high water capacity, and can comfortably fit multiple adults at once, so it's great to use for entertaining as well.

What to Know About Above-Ground Pools Before Shopping

Material

Above-ground pools usually have two main components, a frame and a liner. The frame can be made of aluminum, steel, or resin, which is a type of plastic. Resin is more rust-resistant than steel, and it won't get hot to the touch in summer sun. If you opt for a steel frame, which is considered the most durable frame material, make sure it's powder-coated to prevent rusting.

Hard-sided pools have walls made of steel or resin with a separate vinyl liner. A liner that attaches by overlapping the frame is the easiest to remove and replace, making it ideal for hard-sided pools with decks around them.

Soft-sided pools have a vinyl bladder that serves as both the walls and liner. When the pool is filled, the water reinforces the structure of the pool, so the bladder doesn't shift around while you're swimming.

According to Breaux, the warranty is a direct indication of the strength of the liner.

Depth

Above-ground pools can be as shallow as 20 inches or as deep as 4.5 feet. Regardless, there will always be a few inches between the waterline and the top of the pool, so keep this in mind when selecting a pool depth.

When choosing the best above-ground pool for your yard, keep in mind that this pool style doesn't feature any built-in steps or benches like an in-ground pool. Instead, above-ground pools typically include a ladder for entering and exiting the pool. You can also buy ladders with tiered steps on one side to make it easier to get in and out.

Filter Type

Above-ground pools use filtration systems like in-ground pools, except that at half the power, they're made to plug into your existing GFCI-protected outlet. The two main filter types are sand filter systems and cartridge filter systems. Breaux says there's no one right filter type, but cartridge filter systems are typically sold with smaller pools.

Cartridge filter systems catch debris in a removable and reusable cartridge. Sand filter systems catch debris in swirling sand. Sand filters are easy to clean but must be backwashed. Cartridge filters aren't as easy to clean, but they also don't need to be cleaned as often, Breaux says. All filters need to run long enough to filter the entire pool's capacity each day.

Your Questions, Answered

How much does an above ground pool cost?

The price of an above ground pool depends on the style, size, material, and accessories. On average, they'll cost $1,000, more or less. You'll be able to save, however, if you go with a smaller pool or inflatable options. Building a deck around your above-ground pool costs from $15 to $30 per square foot. The final price tag is still a lot less than an in-ground pool, which costs $35,000 on average.

How do you close an above ground pool for winter?

If you're in a colder climate that regularly gets snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures, disassembling your above-ground pool and storing it for the winter is your best way to avoid damage to the pool structure.

If you live in a warmer climate, such as some parts of California, Breaux says to place a pool cover over the pool. She prefers to keep the pool up and filled rather than draining it and taking it down to conserve water. During the winter, she also advises running your filter for two to four hours a day depending on pool size to clean debris and circulate the water.

How do you install an above-ground pool?

For a soft sided pool, pick a flat, level area in your yard and remove any debris that could puncture the pool. Make sure you can easily walk around the entire circumference of the pool, Breaux advises, to make cleaning and maintenance easier. You'll also want to ensure the soil is compact and that you're not placing the pool on mud or loose dirt.

Unroll the pool bladder, making sure the side with the pump and filtration connections is oriented in a safe but still accessible spot and close enough to your outlet that you won't need an extension cord. Assemble the frame and beams.

Cover the bottom of the pool with water and watch how the water spreads to make sure the ground is level—the water should spread evenly. Install the pump and filtration equipment, and then fill the rest of the pool with water, leaving several inches at the top free of water per the pool's instructions.

For a hard-sided pool, any sod will have to be dug up, and sand added on top of the dirt. Ground stone or patio stones will also need to be placed under the track. For most pools, you assemble the track and then unroll the wall and slide it onto the track. You'll then secure the seam, install side supports, create a cove around the pool floor with sand (or install a prefabricated cove), and then install the liner and frame.

Who We Are

This article was written by Veronica Graham, a freelance writer in Austin, Texas, who has been writing about home, automotive, and lawn and garden products for the last two years. She's also a former American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor and spent her childhood in the water more than on land.

To create this list of the best above-ground pools, Veronica talked to Malina Breaux, president of Blackthorne Pools and Spas in Salinas, California, and researched a variety of models, keeping in mind each pick's size, material, and water capacity. She also pored over owner manuals, how-to videos, and talked to pool owners about their experiences, needs, likes, and complaints.

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