The 6 Best Above-Ground Pools of 2021

Cool off with these top backyard picks

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Best Above-Ground Pools

The Spruce

Our Top Picks
This 18-foot round pool comes with a ladder, a ground cloth, a cover, and a sand filter pump with a 1,200-per-hour flow rate.
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This rectangular pool set comes in three sizes and includes a pump, ladder, debris cover, and ground cloth.
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The included saltwater system helps you reach the ideal salinity ratio for your above-ground pool.
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A corrosion-resistant steel frame provides reinforcement and holds this sturdy pool together.
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Designed for rapid installation, this 608-gallon inflatable pool is ready to go in minutes.
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With inflatable dolphins that can spray water out of their mouths, this pool will keep kiddos entertained for hours.
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If you live in a warm climate or anywhere that gets remotely hot during the summer, having somewhere to swim can make the weather more bearable—and enjoyable. As you're probably aware, in-ground swimming pools are expensive to install and maintain. Above-ground pools, however, are an affordable alternative. They're also much easier to set up and can be just as fun as their in-ground counterparts.

Whether you're looking for a budget-friendly cool-down solution or want to try out a pool before committing to digging a permanent hole in your yard, we've got you covered. We rounded up the best above-ground pools currently on the market, including saltwater-ready, rectangular, round, oval, steel-supported, and inflatable picks. Let's dive in.

Here, the best above ground pools on the market.

Best Overall: Intex Ultra XTR Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump

Intex Ultra XTR Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump

Dimensions: 18 feet x 52 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 6,981 gallons | Frame: Galvanized steel | Set-Up Time: 45 minutes

What We Like
  • Rust-resistant

  • Comes with helpful accessories

  • Sturdy and durable

What We Don't Like
  • Long setup time

For an above-ground option that shines above the rest, we recommend the Intex Ultra XTR Pool Set. Aside from the actual pool, it comes with a sand filter pump, a ladder with slip-resistant steps, a ground cloth, and a cover with a convenient rope tie. The efficient filter pump has a flow rate of 2,100 gallons per hour, plus a built-in timer with preset cycles.

The reliable frame is made of galvanized steel and connects with a precision-engineered locking system, adding to the overall stability and durability of the product. Thanks to a protective powder coating on the interior and exterior walls, this pool also resists rust. The round Intex Ultra XTR is 52 inches tall and 18 feet in diameter. It holds over 6,900 gallons of water and is ready to fill within 45 minutes.

Best Rectangular: Intex Ultra XTR Rectangular Pool Set

Ultra XTR Rectangular Above Ground Frame Swimming Pool Set

Dimensions: 24 feet x 12 feet x 52 inches | Shape: Rectangular | Water Capacity: 8,403 gallons | Frame: Powder-coated steel | Set-Up Time: 45 minutes

What We Like
  • Comes in various sizes

  • Sturdy and durable

  • Comes with a pump filter

  • Circulates water well

What We Don't Like
  • Pump filter doesn't include a hose

The Intex Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool is 52 inches deep and comes in various sizes. You can get 216 x 108 inches (18 x 9 feet), 288 x 144 inches (24 x 12 feet), or 384 x 192 inches (32 x 16 feet). The set includes a filter pump, a slip-resistant ladder, a ground cloth, and a debris cover.

Like all Intex above-ground pools, you can count on high-quality engineering, durability, and weather resistance. A puncture-resistant, triple-ply liner ensures water stays in, and powder-coated steel frames reinforce the walls. Thanks to dual-suction outlets, this pool efficiently circulates water while keeping it clean and clear for as long as possible.

What Testers Say

"The puncture-resistant three-ply pool liner feels rugged. We had zero leaks throughout the summer. The kids regularly bumped into and kicked the sides when they were playing with no effect. We even accidentally hit the side of the pool with a shovel, and there wasn't even a scuff."—Kelly Hodgkins, Product Tester

Best Saltwater: Intex Ultra XTR Rectangular Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump & Saltwater System

Ultra XTR Rectangular Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump & Saltwater System

Dimensions: 32 feet x 16 feet x 52 inches | Shape: Rectangular | Water Capacity: 14,364 gallons | Frame: Powder-coated steel | Set-Up Time: 90 minutes

What We Like
  • Large size perfect for multiple activities

  • Includes a filter pump and other accessories

  • Has a warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Have to buy your own salt

Saltwater pools are having a moment, and they aren't reserved only for in-ground models. The best above-ground option is this Intex Ultra XTR Rectangular Set with Saltwater System. You'll need to buy your own salt, which you'll add to the saltwater system to achieve an ideal level of salinity.

This sizable pool is 52 inches deep and measures 384 inches (32 feet) x 192 inches (16 feet). It's perfect for swimming laps, splashing, floating, or playing games. Aside from the saltwater system, you'll get a sand filter pump, ladder, ground cloth, and a pool cover. Intex also backs this pool with a two-year warranty.

Best with Steel Frame: Coleman Power Steel Swim Vista Series II Swimming Pool

coleman-pool

Dimensions: 18 feet x 48 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 6,100 gallons | Frame: Corrosion-resistant steel | Set-Up Time: Easy set-up, no tools required

What We Like
  • No tools needed for assembly

  • Rust-resistant

  • Puncture-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • One print to choose from

The best above-ground pool with a steel frame is the Coleman Power Steel Vista Series II. It's 216 inches (18 feet) in diameter and 48 inches deep with an impressive 6,100-gallon capacity. This pool is very easy to set up and take down—no tools are needed. The exterior has a rattan print, and the interior walls have a tile design, making it an attractive addition to your yard.

As for the frame, reinforced portholes are built into the walls, and corrosion-resistant steel secures the whole thing together. Made of puncture-resistant Tritech, the outer liner is notably tough too.

Best Inflatable: Summer Waves Quick Set Inflatable Above Ground Pool with Filter Pump

Summer Waves Quick Set Above Ground Swimming Pool

Dimensions: 10 feet x 30 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 608 gallons | Frame: Inflatable | Set-Up Time: 5-10 minutes

What We Like
  • Quick installation

  • Comes with a filter pump

  • Holds over 600 gallons of water

  • Great for kids

What We Don't Like
  • Shallow for adults

If you're interested in a blow-up option that's a bit larger and more sturdy than your typical kiddie pool, we recommend the Summer Waves Quick Set. This circular pool measures 120 inches (10 feet) in diameter. It's 30 inches deep and can hold over 600 gallons of water. Designed specifically for super-fast installation, you can set it up in minutes. And unlike most inflatable pools, it comes with a filter pump.

Best for Kids: H2OGO! Underwater Oasis Spray Pool

Underwater Oasis Spray Pool

Dimensions: 8 feet x 48 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 555 gallons | Frame: Inflatable | Set-Up Time: 10 minutes

What We Like
  • Large and spacious

  • Easy assembly and disassembly

  • Puncture-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • No warranty

If you're looking for a safe, affordable solution for entertaining kids outside in warm weather, the H2OGO! Underwater Oasis Spray Pool. They'll love the included inflatable dolphins, which can be connected to your garden hose to spray water (or used for other games, like a ring toss). The pool as a whole can hold up to 555 gallons of water—and at more than 8 feet wide, there's plenty of room for multiple kiddos to splash around.

Parents will also be happy to know that this pool is super easy to set up: it takes just under 10 minutes to inflate, deflate, and store, so you can easily schedule playtime, anytime. What's more, the 3-ply Tritech liner is puncture-resistant (and it also comes with a repair patch, just in case), making this a pool that will last you for seasons to come.

Final Verdict

Our number-one pick for above-ground pools is the Intex Ultra XTR Pool Set (view at Walmart). Intex is a reliable brand, and this reasonably priced round pool is the perfect medium size. Plus, it comes with a sand filter pump, ladder, ground cloth, and debris cover. If you are looking for a rectangular-sized option, we recommend the Ultra XTR Rectangular Pool Set. The pool is 52 inches deep, comes in various sizes, and has a puncture-resistant, triple-ply liner, and a powder-coated steel frame.

Intex 12ft x 30in Metal Frame Set Swimming Pool
The Spruce / Angelica Leicht

What to Look for in an Above-Ground Pool

Size

When buying an above-ground pool, one of the most important considerations is size. While this should go without saying, you'll need to make sure it not only fits in your yard but that you'll have at least a few feet of space on all sides. We recommend measuring your outdoor area a couple of times before buying an above-ground pool. Though it depends on the model, rectangular and oval pools tend to be the largest, with water capacities of up to 20,000. If you're short on square footage, a smaller round pool might be your best bet.

Type

There are also a few different types of above-ground pools. You've got standard pools, which typically have either steel walls or tear-resistant PVC walls supported by steel frames. There are also inflatable options, which are usually made of the same PVC material but without a steel frame. Inflatable pools tend to be the most portable and affordable. You can also get a saltwater-ready pool. This type of above-ground pool comes with a saltwater system (also known as a salt chlorinator) for achieving the right salinity, though you'll need to add your own salt.

Features

A lot of above-ground pools come in sets, meaning they have all the necessary components for setting up, using and maintaining your pool. This often includes 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 have built-in chemical dispensers, eliminating the need for free-floating cleaners.

Intex Ultra Frame Pool Set

The Spruce / Kelly Hodgkins

FAQs

How do you install an above-ground pool?

The proper way to install an above-ground pool depends on the type. However, there's a general process to follow when setting up standard pools with PVC walls and steel frames. After clearing an area and making sure the ground is level, 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 the different metal rods can look similar but won'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 all be the same height.

How do you clean an above-ground pool?

Generally speaking, above-ground pools can be cleaned 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 can also use 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 above-ground pool. Then point the hose outlet toward an area that will drain the water away from the pool without flooding your property. Next, plug the pump into a nearby outlet and turn it on. Allow the pump to run until your pool is completely empty. This might take several hours or more, depending on the size of your pool. Turn off the pump, and you should be all set.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This roundup was researched and written by Theresa Holland, a professional writer, and a homeowner who is always on the lookout for products that enhance the at-home experience. In addition to The Spruce, she regularly contributes to MyDomaine and Byrdie.

To make this list, Theresa considered each pool's size, type, and if it includes additional features, like filter pumps, pool liners, ground cloths, and debris covers.

Continue to 5 of 6 below.