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As you get ready for summer fun, adding an above-ground pool–easier to keep clean and less expensive than their in-ground counterparts–can be a great way to maximize your time outside during the hot months. We researched dozens of options, evaluating them for ease of assembly, durability, and value.
Our top pick, the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set, is available in multiple sizes, is easy to set up, and comes with an effective filter.
Here are the best above-ground pools to get your yard ready for celebrating all summer.
Best Overall: Intex Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool Set
Easy to set up
Requires site preparation
Best on firm ground
No pump outlet hose
Who else recommends it? Good Housekeeping and Forbes both picked the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set.
What do buyers say? 87% of 4,000+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
A best-seller of all above-ground pools on the market, the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set comes with everything that you need to set it up and start splashing. It comes in three size options that allow swimmers to find a pool that will work for their backyard space. It is rectangular and quite large, big enough to let multiple kids splash and play while their parents lounge in the pool as well. After setting it up in their own yard, our tester used it with four adults comfortably and six kids playing Marco Polo.
Installing the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set doesn’t take professional skill or equipment but requires site preparation: a level space, clear of vegetation, protruding sticks, and rocks, with compacted soil that can support 8,403 gallons of water when the pool is filled. It takes two or three people one to two hours to set up.
Our tester also liked the easy-locking powder-coated steel frame, which held up to an entire summer of use without much wear, and could be quickly stored at the end of pool season. An effective pool filter and included ladder added to our tester’s thumb’s up for Best Overall pick.
Price at time of publish: $2,500
Best Budget: Bestway Steel Pro Above Ground Round Frame Pool Set
Easy set up
Lacks pump and filter
The Bestway Steel Pro above-ground pool comes in multiple sizes, offering something for every backyard and budget. One of the easier options to set up, you simply unfold it, set up the PVC frame, and three-ply. tear-resistant liner, and fill the pool.
This pool includes no pump or filter, so expect to do a bit more cleaning to keep the water clear. (Purchasing a pool cover can be another great way to keep debris out of the pool.) Given its affordable price, it is still cheaper to purchase additional accessories separately than splurge on a pricier pool.
Price at time of publish: $250
Best with Steel Frame: Intex Ultra XTR Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump
Powder-coated steel frame
Frame blends into pool look
Easy to connect and take down
Requires several people to set up
Similar to our top pick, this round pool from Intex has a durable steel frame and puncture-resistant three-ply pool wall. The powder-coated steel support beams, which connect via sturdy, durable T-joints, resist rust and blend into the pool’s contemporary gray outer color. When it’s time to disconnect the pool at season’s end (best done by at least two people), simply press a button at the joint to remove the frame pieces.
The pool includes extras you would expect at this price point; sand filter pump, ground cloth, removable ladder, and pool cover. The ladder is particularly important, helping keep kids from accessing the pool without supervision.
Price at time of publish: $1,480
Best for Kids: H2OGO! Underwater Oasis Spray Pool
Easy to set up
Fun interactive features
Repair patch included
Requires an air pump and hose
Not very durable
No exterior frame
This fun pool, designed for children but too small for adults, keeps your kids laughing and splashing all summer!. It is easy to set up using an air pump (not included). We recommend setting up a small tarp or ground cover under the pool to keep sharp items from puncturing it or bothering your swimmers. Other than that, setup is as simple as filling the pool.
The H2OGO! Pool has a delightful kid-appropriate spray dolphin (connect a garden hose). The kid-friendly illustrations, colors, features, and size all make the H2OGO! perfect for younger swimmers.
This pool may not last for more than one season. Fortunately, it comes with one repair patch, increasing its longevity.
Price at time of publish: $51
Best Inflatable: Summer Waves Quick Set Inflatable Above Ground Pool with Filter Pump
Good size for an inflatable pool
Easy to set up
Air pump needed
Lacks ground tarp and cover
For something easy to set up that is big enough for adults to use, try the Summer Waves Inflatable Above Ground Pool with Filter Pump. It has a 10-foot diameter and is big enough for the entire family to enjoy. One of the best parts of this pool other than its affordable price is how easy and quickly you can start swimming. Just inflate the pool with an air pump, sold separately. Within just a few minutes, you can start filling the pool.
It does include some great extras that will make maintaining the pool easier.: a filter pump, chlorinator, and filter cartridge are all included. Consider purchasing a ground tarp to go under the pool and a cover to go over the pool. This helps keep the pool in great shape and reduces the overall time you spend getting rid of debris. At the end of pool season, simply drain the pool, clean it, and fold it (dry) for storage.
Price at time of publish: $122
Best Splurge: Palisades Above-Ground Hard-Sided Pool Package
Durable hard sides
Numerous Extras included
Requires site preparation
Difficult to set up
A bit more expensive than our other selections, the Palisades Above Ground Hard-Sided Pool nevertheless is one of the largest, fitting up to 12 adults. We found it’s also one of the sturdiest, with sides made of hard resin, with weather-resistant steel top rails, uprights, and bottom rails. Palisades took some extra design steps with this pool. The sides have a stylish design to help transport you to a swimming oasis.
Setup is more complicated than other options. You need an ample level space, and you or a professional may need to compact the soil. Setup requires at least two people; even experienced DIYers recommended hiring a professional. However, the kit includes plenty of extras: a blue pool liner, wide mouth skimmer and return, pool light, sand filter, and 1 HP pump, sturdy ladder, and maintenance kit.
Price at time of publish: $2,852
Best with Pump and Filter: Summer Waves Elite Above Ground Swimming Pool with Filter Pump
A lot of extra maintenance accessories
Pump works with a variety of filter types
Great size for price
Only one pattern available
This pool is quite large and is great for neighborhood summer get-togethers. The pump and filter on the Summer Waves Elite above-ground pool works efficiently and is compatible with a lot of upgrades. The pump works with an included standard filter, a sand filter, or a saltwater system filter. The pool also comes with a skimmer, pool vacuum attachment, and cover, which help keep out debris and dirt.
The kit includes a sturdy ladder, as well as a ground cover that reduces the potential for punctures. The exterior has a basket-weave print, but it’s unavailable in any other color or pattern.
Price at time of publish: $1,099
Our top pick is the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set. It is one of the more expensive models but should last for years with proper use and storage. It is also big enough to host epic summer pool parties without requiring permanent installation. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the round Bestway Steel Pro Above Ground Backyard Frame Pool. It is also sizable, and has a durable steel frame.
Types of Above-Ground Pools
There are several varieties of above-ground pool, which differ in their durability, ease of installation, and price.
- Inflatable: Affordable, easy to set up, and straightforward to maintain, inflatable pools are the quickest, easiest way to take a dip in your backyard. Inflatable pools typically require an air pump (sometimes included, sometimes sold separately) to inflate. At the end of the summer they can be deflated, folded, and stored. Because there's such a wide range of inflatable pools available, chances are you'll be able to find one that has the exact dimensions to best fit your space. But while they are highly convenient, inflatable pools lack in durability, and often don't include filters or other methods for keeping your water clean, requiring frequent water refreshes.
- Steel: Our favorite above-ground pool—the Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set—is a steel frame pool, which combines durability and multiple size configurations for a backyard swimming hole that's designed to be a more permanent fixture than inflatable models. Steel frame above-ground pools typically use rust-resistant steel supports, including vertical struts and side rails, to create a rigid frame for PVC or vinyl side walls. Steel frame pools often use snap-together connectors and other convenient design elements to make assembly relatively straightforward, but it's still going to be a hassle if you plan on disassembling and storing the pool in the off-season. The rigid construction also often requires a more rigorously prepared ground, since the frame will need to sit level in order to assemble properly.
- Resin: This is the material used in the most upscale above-ground pools. Instead of steel, which risks rust and heating up in the sun, resin-frame pools use ultra-durable plastics. Pools with resin frames are typical lighter than their steel equivalents. Resin pools are often more expensive, but may well be worth it if you plan on moving your pool parts around. It's also a great option if you plan on setting up your pool in direct sunlight.
- Hybrid: These models try to combine the durability and non-heating qualities of resin with steel components.
- Semi-Inground: Semi-inground pools are much closer to a traditional pool installation. These typically require professional assistance, since they are partially buried. Semi-inground pools are easy to climb in and out of, and can fit more harmoniously in your yard. They can also be incorporated into other construction, such as a deck. Beyond the aesthetic and design advantages, a semi-inground pool can have a long lifespan, often lasting for decades before needing replaced.
- Saltwater: This type of above-ground pool comes with a saltwater system (also known as a salt chlorinator) for achieving the correct salinity, though you need to add your own salt. Rather than adding chemicals to the pool yourself, saltwater systems convert salt to chlorine to keep your water sterilized. Saltwater pools do not feel like swimming in the ocean. Instead, the salt chlorinator system creates a less aggressive chlorine smell and a soft, silky water feel.
What to Look for in an Above-Ground Pool
Installing an above-ground pool depends on the type. However, you can follow a general process when setting up standard pools, with PVC walls and steel frames. After clearing an area and making sure the ground is level (and compacted, if installing a large pool), start by laying down the ground cloth and placing the bottom plate on top.
Next, connect the metal rails to the bottom plate and around the perimeter. Then, connect the vertical side rails to the bottom portion of the frame. Be sure to read the directions carefully, as different metal rods can appear similar but don't line up or connect properly if you use the wrong ones. After that, install the lining onto the bottom plate and up the walls. When finished, your pool should have a balanced shape, and the walls should be the same height.
However, there are a number of other installation considerations outside of the build process itself.
Installation can cost hundreds of dollars, and may add over a thousand to the total price of your new above-ground pool. But price isn't the only consideration. If you belong to a Homeowner Association, there may be neighborhood guidance or regulations regarding above-ground pools. The same may also be true of local zoning regulations. Check with your community before making an above-ground pool purchase, since that might well inform what size or type of pool you are able to accommodate in your yard. For example, local regulations often stipulate how far a pool must be located from sewers, utility towers, and even your house. Fencing may also be required before you can fill and use your pool.
Beyond local regulations, above-ground pools often have physical limitations. If your ground slopes too much, or if tree roots make the ground uneven, an above-ground pool may be impossible to install where you'd prefer.
It's worth considering the insurance ramifications before buying or installing an above-ground pool. Your homeowners insurance may require supplemental coverage or increased rates in order to protect you from liability. Above-ground pools won't be unfamiliar to your insurer, and they should be able to quickly outline any additional coverage that might be needed or recommended.
When buying an above-ground pool, one of the most important considerations is size. You need to make sure it not only fits in your yard but also encompasses a few feet of space on all sides. We recommend accurately and carefully measuring your outdoor area a couple of times before buying. The two measures that are likely to be most important is the square footage of your new pool's footprint and the capacity in gallons.
Square footage calculations depend largely on whether you are considering a rectangular or circular pool. Our "Best Overall" winner, the Intex Ultra Frame Pool, comes in a variety of configurations. The square footage occupied by a rectangular pool can be easily found by multiplying the width by the length. The area of a circular pool requires a little more math, and is determined by multiplying the number pi by the circle's radius squared, or A=π r2.
A little more math and you can also determine the volume of your pool in square feet or inches. For a rectangular pool, simply multiply the height, width, and length. To calculate the volume of a circular pool, you'll need to use the formula V=π r2h, multiplying the radius squared, the height, and pi together. Make sure to keep your units consistent. For example, plugging only inches into the formula. This will output the capacity of your pool in square inches.
Though models vary, rectangular and oval pools tend to be the largest, with water capacities of up to 20,000 gallons. If you're short on square footage, a smaller, round pool might be your best bet.
Many above-ground pools come in kits, which include all the necessary components for setting up, using, and maintaining your pool. Often, kits include a filter pump, a pool liner, a ground cloth, and a debris cover. Some larger pools also come with slip-resistant ladders. Additionally, you can find above-ground pools with dual-suction outlets, for easier cleaning. Others contain built-in chemical dispensers, eliminating the need for free-floating cleaners.
How do you clean an above-ground pool?
Generally, you clean above-ground pools using the same tools and methods as in-ground pools. You can use a pool skimmer, which draws water from the pool's surface and sucks it through the filter. Another option is a pool hose, which attaches to your filter or pool vacuum and sucks out debris. You also can employ a pool net to manually fish out leaves, bugs, dirt, and other debris.
How do you drain an above-ground pool?
Start by unrolling the pump's intake hose, reaching it as close as possible to the center of your pool. Then, point the female end toward an area that drains the water away from the pool without flooding your property. Next, plug the pump into a nearby electrical outlet and turn it on. Allow the pump to run until your pool is completely empty (might take several hours). Turn off the pump and you should be all set.
How long does an above-ground pool last?
The longevity of an above-ground pool can vary widely, but most above-ground pool manufacturer's and dealers consistently cite a 7-15 year lifespan. However, there is a major caveat, which is the lifespan of the liner. PVC, plastic, and vinyl liners can become brittle within five years and may need replaced during the lifetime of your above-ground pool. A well-maintained, semi-inground pool is more durable and may last up to 20 years, in large part because their components are partially protected from sun damage and are subjected to less structural stress. Of course, these numbers are widely variable and depend on a range of circumstances. For example, a steel frame above-ground pool will last a lot longer if it is carefully monitored and treated for rust.
Can I leave my above-ground pool up year-round?
Excessively cold temperatures can damage pool linings, including in models like our favorite overall pick, the Intex Ultra Frame. Inflatable pools should also be deflated and stowed for cold weather. However, many resin or steel-framed pools are designed to withstand year-round weather, so it's best to check with your pool's manufacturer. Even winter-capable above-ground pools will likely require a "winterizing" process, such as draining all pumps and hoses.
Why Trust The Spruce
This article was researched and written by Katie Begley, a freelance writer specializing in home and family products. Katie has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. An avid swimmer, Katie has spent every summer swimming laps as part of her swim team growing up and now splashes in the pool with her own children. For this article, she looked for pools that were easy for homeowners to set up and maintain that also provided enough space to enjoy pool games.