- Having a swimming pool at home is a fun way to relax and stay cool during hotter months.
- Whether you're looking for a permanent structure or a seasonal one that can be stored away, an above-ground swimming pool is a cost-effective alternative to in-ground pools.
- Above-ground pools come in all shapes and sizes, but whichever you choose, remember to practice pool safety.
- Overall, we like the Intex Ultra Frame swimming pool best because it has a steel frame and heavy-duty triple-ply laminate walls.
- Due to unusually high demand and supply shortage, many swimming pools are out of stock at major retailers. We continue to monitor inventory and update this guide accordingly.
When the temperature soars to roasting, a swimming pool in your backyard is an invaluable luxury for cooling off. But if you don't want to deal with the construction hassle of building an in-ground pool or you simply don't have space to do so, an above-ground pool could be a suitable alternative — not to mention, it's more affordable and quicker to install.
Above-ground pools come in different sizes and build types. For our guide, we researched everything from easy-setup and inflatable all-vinyl pools to metal-framed, vinyl-sided, and all-metal pools. We also considered set-up and use, quality, and value. Before you invest in one, however, be aware that all above-ground pools have their strengths and shortcomings.
Inflatable and easy-setup pools are the most affordable, but they also carry the shortest lifespan, and generally don't fare well in the elements over time. In contrast, vinyl pools reinforced with metal and all-metal pools stand a much better chance against wear and tear, weather, and time. All-metal pools can also be left-up and winterized, avoiding the daunting proposition of packing up and storing a heavy, confusing mess of plastic and metal. Just as with any swimming pool, above-ground options require cleaning and maintenance.
As you probably guessed, these pools are meant for the outdoors. But whichever type of pool you choose to install, remember that safety is crucial: never allow children to swim unsupervised, install safety barriers, know basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and ensure all pool users know how to swim.
If you're ready to take the plunge, check out these great swimming pools for your home.
Here are our picks for the best swimming pools:
- Best overall: Intex 16' x 48" Round Ultra Frame Pool
- Best kiddie pool: Intex Jungle Play Center
- Best on a budget: 12' x 30" Intex Metal Frame Pool
- Best frameless pool: Intex Easy Set Pool
- Best all-metal pool: Heritage Georgian Above-Ground Pool Set
Updated on 7/27/2020: All of our recommended products and swimming pools, in general, are out of stock at many retailers, due to an issue with supply and demand. Some retailers are offering buy-now-ship-later or will notify you when it's back in stock. We will update this guide as inventory returns.
The best overall
The Intex 16' x 48" Round Ultra Frame pool fits up to eight people and is sturdily built with steel and three-ply laminate walls.
A steel-reinforced vinyl pool is probably the best intersection between affordability and quality for most people looking for an above-ground pool, and we like the Intex 16' x 48" Round Ultra Frame Pool best. We also find that pools around 48 inches in height should be deep enough to keep you cool, though we don't recommend setting up a diving board beside them.
Although it's not the easy-to-set-up inflatable pool that's prone to tearing, nor is it the all-metal year-round option that you can winterize and cover, this pool is functional and reliable. Plus, you won't have to worry about it bursting and flooding your backyard while you're away for a week or two on summer vacation.
The pool even has a built-in aerating filtration pump to help keep water clean and clear. Stagnancy is among the primary enemies of all pools, and without a filter, all sorts of lovely bacteria are prone to collect and proliferate. Some reviewers complained that the pool does not include a skimmer, but you can pick one up on Amazon for a low price.
Intex makes other, larger sizes, but if you're going to be storing the pool for the winter, it takes up too much space and requires too much work to disassemble for most people.
If you're after a rectangular pool, which is much better suited for swimming laps, then the 24-foot model is the best deal — just make sure you have the room to store it!
Reviews are largely mixed around the web, but the more critical ones seem to be those who'd be better off with a framed pool. Still, frameless pools can be tricky to maintain and set up, and probably aren't for everyone.
Pros: Durable, reasonably-priced, built-in filtration pump, easy to set up, 48-inches deep
Cons: Skimmer not included, flimsy ladder, has to be taken down for winter, ring may deflate quickly, might want to switch pump for a sand-filtered one
The best kiddie pool
The Intex Jungle Play Center has a fun design that offers something for little and big kids alike.
The Jungle Play Center from Intex has a shallow pool area that is safe enough for toddlers to use, but for older kids, the slide and sprayer add additional fun. As if that isn't enough, the set also comes with an inflatable giraffe and monkey as well as five floating balls.
When Insider contributor Jackie Brown tested it with her two children, it was their favorite of the kiddie pools she reviewed for our guide on best kiddie pools. She found the slide to be sturdy and steep enough to allow a child to actually slip down, while a landing mat in the pool helps them land on their feet; the rest of the pool can be a bit slippery. Set-up takes about 20 minutes due to the various parts you need to inflate, but once it's up, it can accommodate about three kids.
Pros: Good for both toddlers and big kids, slide and fun accessories, adjustable water sprayer, fits three kids at a time
Cons: Many compartments to inflate, pool bottom is a little slippery, not recommended for kids under 2 years old
For more recommendations, check out our guide on the best kiddie pools.
The best on a budget
Affordable but much more reliable than inflatable pools, the Intex Metal Frame pool comes with a filter and a puncture-resistant 3-ply lining.
The Intex Metal Frame is the more budget-friendly option from Intex that's slightly less robust than our top pick. It's probably not suited for winterizing in most places, but it's fairly easy to take down at the end of the season.
At any rate, if you're careful enough with this pool, it should last several summers, which is about all you'll get out of any pool made from plastic or vinyl. Be gentle, don't demand too much of it, and, as with any pool, keep it clean. If you follow those basic rules, you'll most likely be a happy customer.
The only main issue that seems to be mentioned a lot in buyer reviews is that the pump is too small, so you may want to consider upgrading the 550 gallon-per-hour pump that comes in the box.
Just keep in mind that this pool is considerably more fragile and vulnerable than our top pick, and be especially careful climbing in and out of it. Also be sure to store it somewhere protected for the winter, and insider if possible.
Pros: Affordable, reasonably sturdy, pump included
Cons: Thin frames and feet, filtration pump may be too small
The best easy set swimming pool
The Intex Easy Set pool kit comes with everything you'll need including a cover and six extra filter cartridges.
The 18' x 48" Easy Set pool kit by Intex is probably the easiest pool to set up out of all of our picks. There's no hassle with arranging metal frames and the edge is soft and inflatable so getting out is a little easier.
It takes only about 15 minutes to set this pool up, as opposed to several hours. You can even make this kit into a saltwater pool if you prefer, though you'll need a special saltwater pump for that.
The liner is the same three-ply, chemically-stable liner found in our other picks from Intex, and should stand up to everything from sun, salt, and even gasoline. A ladder, a ground cloth, a cover, and a 1,500-gallon-per-hour pump are included. Although the pump may be somewhat underpowered for the size of the pool, you can always upgrade it.
Pros: Easy to set up, comes with everything you need
Cons: Not as strong as some others, the included pump isn't great
The best all-metal swimming pool
The Heritage Georgian Above-Ground Pool Set is large and sturdy, comes with a powerful filtration pump and a 30-year warranty, and it's still affordable.
Heritage has been making pools for three decades, so it would seem that the company knows what it's doing. The Heritage Georgian Above-Ground Pool Set will take you a while to put together and you have to be extra sure to level the ground beneath where you plan to set it up, but you'll never have to take it down once you get it set up.
If you're planning on staying somewhere for more than a few years and don't want to have to deal with flimsy liners and temperamental frames, you won't do much better than the Heritige Georgian Pool Set without digging up your yard. Still, it will likely take several days to set up, so be ready for a project or consider hiring someone to help.
Pros: Permanent structure, powerful filtration pump, built-in skimmer, good customer service, sturdy all-metal lining, 30-year warranty
Cons: Many owners find instruction to be lacking, takes several days to install
Check out our other great swim guides
The best pool toys and games
Whether you're trying to keep your kids busy or you feel like doing something more fun than swimming laps, a toy or game specifically designed for the pool is the answer. These are our favorites, from volleyball sets and mermaid tails to inflatable beer pong tables and diving toys.
The best pool floats
It's pool season, and if you're not swimming in the water, you're probably lounging on top of it. A pool float is the ultimate accessory you need to relax and enjoy a day in the sun.
The best swimsuits for kids
A kids' swimsuit should protect your child against the sun while offering an easy range of motion for swimming, treading, wading, and playing out of the water. From full-coverage toddler suits to rash guards and board shorts, these are the best children's bathing suits.
The best swim trunks
We're living in a golden age of open-mindedness when it comes to swim trunks. Whether you're hitting the beach, lake, or pool this summer, you can have your own sense of style while enjoying the water.
The best women's bathing suits
When it comes to picking a swimsuit, it really is all about you. Be sure that the suit that you've chosen is one that makes you feel confident and comfortable. These are our top picks for the best swimsuits in a variety of styles.
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