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Best Above Ground Pools 2020 Reviews with Buying Guide

Peter Peter Date 1.5.2020 Comment No comments yet

Purchasing an above ground pool isn’t something you should just jump into based on impulse. There are many things to consider so please kick back, relax, and read our take on the best above ground pools available.

Real deal
Intex Ultra XTR Frame Pool
BEST OF BEST

Most rugged, heavy-duty option

Best value
Intex Prism Frame Pool
EDITOR'S PICK

Inspired by Ultra Frame but more affordable

Entry-level
Intex Easy Set Pool
BUDGET OPTION

Cheap and small entry level pool

Exercise tool
Swim Tether Resistance Belt
SPORTSY OPTION

Swim trainer for exercising even in a small pool

    Your above ground pool will be a large and prominent feature in your yard and will serve as the site of many pool parties, get-togethers, and memorable sunny days. Plus, it’s not exactly a nominal expense, with most models costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, so you don’t want to commit to an ill-informed buying decision that you’ll later regret.

    Above ground pools come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes with a diverse range of features and accessories. With so many kinds to choose from you could quickly find yourself overwhelmed with options. Fortunately, we’ve drastically simplified the comparison process by creating this guide to cover everything you need to know and provide a categorized list of the best above-ground pools out there.

    Best Round Above Ground Pools

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    Splash Pools Round Deluxe Pool Package, 24-Feet by 52-Inch Splash Pools Round Deluxe Dollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin icon Pricier option equipped with a removable outside ladder for safety. CHECK PRICE NOW
    Intex 24ft X 52in Prism Frame Pool Set with Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth & Pool Cover Intex Prism Frame Dollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin icon Neat-looking large pool from renowned manufacturer. CHECK PRICE NOW
    Intex 16Ft X 48In Ultra Frame Pool Set with Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth & Pool Cover Intex Ultra Frame Dollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin icon Good option with a tile design printed on the liner. CHECK PRICE NOW
    Intex 12' x 30" Metal Frame Pool with Filter Pump Intex Metal Frame Dollar coin iconDollar coin icon Another good option including an instructional DVD. CHECK PRICE NOW

    When you’re done choosing your next above ground pool, why not check out our selections of the best kiddie pools and best dog pools as well!

    Splash Pools Round Deluxe

    Splash Pools Round Deluxe Pool Package, 24-Feet by 52-Inch

    Splash Pools Round Deluxe Pool Package, 24-Feet by 52-Inch

    The Round Deluxe Pool Package from Splash Pools is available in two sizes: 18-ft x 52-inch and 24-ft x 52-inch. One interesting perk that this package offers is the included step-by-step installation video, making it an appealing choice for people who don’t like dealing with written instructions. It includes a 1-HP pump, thru-the-wall skimmer, sand filter, a resin-based ladder with a swim-thru barrier and a removable exterior staircase.

    The liner is made of 20-gauge all-weather vinyl, while the steel frame is hot-dipped, galvanized, and equipped with multiple layers of protection. The pool itself is backed by a 15-year manufacturer’s warranty and unlimited customer support.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    Although there aren’t a ton of reviews for this pool, most existing feedback has been positive, with about 88% giving it 4 or 5 stars. However, it should be noted that even some of the positive reviews warned about the difficulty of delivery given the weight of the package, as well as the need for additional rust protection for some of the parts. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Intex Prism Frame

    Intex 24ft X 52in Prism Frame Pool Set with Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth & Pool Cover

    Intex 24ft X 52in Prism Frame Pool Set with Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth & Pool Cover

    The Intex prism frame (separate review) pool has all of the benefits you could ask for in a metal frame pool. With a durable structure and easy DVD-guided setup, the pool is enhanced with a firm powder-coated steel tubing while sporting a stylish upscale liner color. To prevent accidental holes, the walls are made of puncture-resistant 3-ply material.

    Thanks to the hydro aeration technology integrated with the included 110-120V cartridge filter pump (which has a flow rate of 2,500 gallons per hour), circulation and filtration are improved which provides better water clarity and increased negative ions on the water’s surface. Additionally, the pool also comes with a ladder, ground cloth, and debris cover for your convenience.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    While there aren’t too many reviews on it, the pool received a decent amount of positive reviews with 59% giving it 4 or 5 stars due to fairly easy setup, durability, and perfect size for the whole family. On the other hand, the negative reviews pointed out that the ladder is narrow and flimsy for adults, the bottom is a bit slippery, and the filter isn’t the best for this type of pool. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Intex Ultra Frame

    Intex 16Ft X 48In Ultra Frame Pool Set with Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth & Pool Cover

    Intex 16Ft X 48In Ultra Frame Pool Set with Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth & Pool Cover

    The Intex Ultra Frame (separate review) combines durability, aesthetic appeal, and easy setup to deliver a well-rounded package that provides enough space for the whole family to have fun. The kit includes a cartridge filter and pump system with a 1,200 GPH flow rate, as well as an exterior ladder that can support up to 300 pounds.

    It has a water holding capacity of 5,061 gallons and can be setup from scratch and filled in only 45 minutes. The puncture-resistant liner features a tile print interior that matches well with pool water for a seamless appearance and long-lasting durability.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    This product is mostly well-received, with about 77% of reviewers giving it 4 or 5 stars. Only about 23% have rated it 1-3 stars, with the most common complaint being the strength of the included pump. Positive comments tend to focus on the appealing aesthetics, quick setup time, and sturdy steps. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Intex Metal Frame

    Intex 12' x 30" Metal Frame Pool with Filter Pump

    Intex 12′ x 30″ Metal Frame Pool with Filter Pump

    The Intex metal frame (separate review) pool comes in 3 sizes: 12-feet x 30-inches, 15-feet x 48-inches, and 18-feet x 48 inches. You can expect great durability with the pool’s triple-strong laminated sidewalls that are reinforced with an all-surrounding band to lock the frame legs in place. As a nifty bonus, the instructional DVD can help you set up and enjoy your pool within 45 minutes.

    Being able to hold up to 4,440 gallons of water, this pool includes a 110-120V Krystal Clear cartridge filter pump, ladder, ground cloth, and debris cover. For better water quality, the new dual suction outlet fittings provide an improved water circulation. When the fun is over and you need to drain the water, the convenient drain plug connects to your garden hose so the water can be drained away from the pool and your house.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    This pool has a whopping amount of reviews, most of which are positive with 78% of reviewers giving it 4 or 5 stars. Many have expressed their appreciation for the easy set up and tough structural integrity, although the negative reviews commonly pointed out that the ladder isn’t very stable and the included filter is not the best quality for such a large pool. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Best Rectangular Above Ground Pools

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    Intex 32ft X 16ft X 52in Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth and Pool Cover Intex Rectangular Ultra Frame Dollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin iconDollar coin icon Top-of-the-line Intex pool. CHECK PRICE NOW
    Intex 16ft X 8ft X 42in Rectangular Prism Frame Pool Set Intex Rectangular Prism Frame Dollar coin iconDollar coin icon Ideal rectangular pool for specifically shaped backyards. CHECK PRICE NOW
    Bestway 118 x 79 x 26 Inches 871 Gallon Deluxe Splash Frame Kids Swimming Pool Bestway 871-Gallon Deluxe Splash Frame Dollar coin icon Budget-friendly kids rectangular pool. CHECK PRICE NOW

    Intex Rectangular Ultra Frame

    Intex 32ft X 16ft X 52in Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth and Pool Cover

    Intex 32ft X 16ft X 52in Ultra Frame Rectangular Pool Set with Sand Filter Pump, Ladder, Ground Cloth and Pool Cover

     

    Ideal for lap swimmers and pool parties, the Intex 32′ x 16′ x 52″ Ultra Frame rectangular pool (separate review) combines strength and value with a sleek grey design that adds beauty to any backyard. Assembly is pretty straightforward for all you do is lay out the pool liner on flat, level ground, put together the frame, and then fill the pool up with water. All of the rust-resistant metal beams and joints snap into place for a less stressful construction.

    What comes with the pool is the Krystal Clear sand filter pump, a ladder, debris cover, ground cloth, and installation DVD. The powerful Intex 2800 GPH sand filter pump comes with the pool and only needs routine backwashing and replacement sand every 5 years.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    From a good handful of reviews, this pool has an overall positive rating with 81% giving it a 4 or 5. The assembly isn’t complicated where most took an average of 90 minutes to set up the whole thing, and the large size is great for the price. Some were wary of the pool walls bowing outward, but that’s normal when filling a pool. The 19% of negative reviewers mostly had issues with the pump being a bit too small for a pool this size, and the poles are very hard to push in all the way without some sort of lubrication. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Intex Rectangular Prism Frame Pool

    Intex 16ft X 8ft X 42in Rectangular Prism Frame Pool Set

    Intex 16ft X 8ft X 42in Rectangular Prism Frame Pool Set

    The Intex Rectangular Prism frame (separate review) pool is fun for the whole family and is ideal for smaller backyards. With its unique cool blue/gray color and white trim, strong powder-coated steel tubing, puncture-resistant 3-ply material, and mosaic-tiled inside liner, this pool provides hours of fun with less stress about leaks and holes.

    The Hydro Aeration Technology pump improves circulation and filtration in the water for better water clarity and increased negative ions at the water’s surface. Along with the pump and filter, a ladder, ground cloth, debris cover, and the drain plug allows for convenient draining when it’s time to empty the pool.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    The pool has a pretty good standing even though it doesn’t have that many reviews. 86% of users have given it a 4 or 5 because of the pool’s easy assembly and moderate size. Negative reviews have mentioned the filter being insufficient and that the sides of the pool were prone to leaks. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Bestway 608-Gallon Deluxe Splash Frame

    Bestway Steel Pro 8.5' x 5.6' x 2' Rectangular Above Ground Swimming Pool

    Bestway Steel Pro 8.5′ x 5.6′ x 2′ Rectangular Above Ground Swimming Pool

    As an almost endless source of outdoor fun for families with kids, the Bestway Deluxe Splash frame pool is effortless to assemble, taking up to 10 minutes with 2-3 people helping. For a sturdy structure while kids are at play, the reinforced rope wraps around the bottom of the pool liner to keep the legs locked in position. The pool is made of a rust-resistant galvanized metal frame with a 3-ply polyester mesh inner lining to prevent any mishaps and accidental holes.

    For easy draining, the 33-pound pool has a flow control valve making it so you don’t have to drain the water near the pool. It’s able to hold up to 608 gallons at 90% capacity, and due to its smaller size, it’s able to fit in more modest backyards.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    While there aren’t a ton of reviews for this pool, it’s well-received by its users for 87% gave it 5 stars for its simple assembly, convenient size, and sturdy build. The 11% of negative reviewers mostly complained about getting small holes and leaks. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Best Oval Above Ground Pools

    Intex Oval Prism Frame Pool Set

    Intex - 20 Foot Prism Frame Oval Pool Set

    Intex – 20 Foot Prism Frame Oval Pool Set

    Features:

    • 3,531-gallon capacity
    • 20’ x 10’ oval x 48” deep
    • Cartridge filter and pump
    • Quick assembly
    • Durable steel frame

    An excellent middle ground between more expensive models and cheaply made seasonal pools. The package includes everything needed to have a safe and fun backyard pool quickly, for a price that really isn’t too bad considering everything included.

    The pump operates at 1,500 gallons per hour, which is plenty to keep a good circulation going in a pool of this size. The cartridge needs regular maintenance, as is the case with all filters of this type, but works well even with heavy use as long as it’s hosed off once in a while.

    A steel frame supports the thick vinyl that makes up the pool. This gives it a sturdier feel and allows for a decent amount of vigorous activities without the walls moving around too much. However, punctures are still catastrophic in a pool of this type so be wary of any sharp objects.

    It’s one of the most well thought out pools of this category, but it can suffer from structural issues over time. If stored correctly, maintained, and cared for then it will last a few good seasons.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    This is one of the best sellers for framed swimming pools on Amazon as of right now, with 4.3 stars and 687 ratings. People seem very happy with how durable the vinyl is on this product and the ease of assembly. The negative reviews encompass a wide range of issues such as punctures and pump issues cropping up from time to time. Overall the sentiment for this product seems pretty positive, with few caveats. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Pros
    • Very quick set up
    • Good middle-ground quality
    Cons
    • Keeping the liner intact requires caution
    • The filter needs frequent cleaning

    Bottom Line

    A fun little pool that sits somewhere between a long-lasting and seasonal purchase.

    Best Quick/Easy Set Above Ground Pools

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    Intex Easy Set Intex Easy Set Dollar coin icon Simple, affordable pool from an extremely popular line. CHECK PRICE NOW

    Intex Easy Set

    Intex Easy Set

    Intex Easy Set

    The Intex Easy Set pool (separate review) can be ready to go in 30 minutes after simply spreading it out on level ground, inflating the top ring, and finally filling the pool with water. It’s readily equipped with the Ground Fault Interrupter, a nifty safety feature that stops the pump if an electrical current makes contact with water. The pool’s super-tough laminated PVC sidewalls prevent leakage and the new dual suction outlet fitting make for improved water circulation resulting in cleaner and more hygienic water.

    This large family pool can hold up to 5,455 gallons at 80% and includes a 1,500 gph Krystal Clear cartridge filter pump, ladder, ground cloth, and debris cover for your convenience. The setup and maintenance DVD will guide you in setting up the pool and the drain plug connects to a garden hose so you can drain your water away from the pool.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    The Intex Easy Set Pool has a generous amount of reviews with 58% of users giving it 4 or 5 stars. They favored how sturdy the pool is, how effortless setup was, and how the size perfectly accommodates up to 5-7 people. The 42% of negative reviewers complained that the included filter wasn’t strong enough for such a large-sized pool and the inflatable ring would often need re-inflating. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Best Above Ground Exercise Pools

    Swim Tether Swim Training Resistance Belt

    Swim Tether – Swim Training Resistance Belt

    Swim Tether – Swim Training Resistance Belt

    Features:

    • Sturdy and chemical resistant
    • Waist adjusts from 24” to 60”
    • Quick disassembly
    • Elevated cord

    Not a pool, but a great accessory to get the most out of a smaller backyard pool. This is a resistance trainer that anchors outside of the pool, generally on a deck but any secure plate will work, and mimics the resistance of an infinity pool without the use of loud and costly jets.

    Once installed it acts as a raised tether that you can swim against for exercise and enjoyment. The metals are stainless steel and aluminum while the bands are chemical resistant and meant to last. This is a one-time purchase situation that can be used with a wide range of different pool types.

    The rod is quite satisfying to swim against. As it flexes downwards the resistance increases and pulls you backward depending on how much effort is put into it. The way the cord is elevated is well-thought-out for multiple swimming styles as long as its set up and worn properly.

    The included installation guide goes over the important steps to properly secure this product fairly clearly, at least for pools with decks. Making sure this pole is sturdy is important for exercises so if you’re not using a deck you may have to think a bit outside of the box and tailor the instructions a bit for your own situation.

    Buyer ratingBuyer rating

    This product is at 3.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 22 reviews. The vast majority of people seem to rate the product as 4 or 5 stars, but a couple of 1-star reviews have thrown the balance. Those that enjoy the product like the feel of the pole when swimming against it and that the install didn’t take a lot of time. Two of the three negative reviews had manufacturing defects and were looking for a replacement, and one of the reviews seemed to be from someone who didn’t use the device properly. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself

    Pros
    • Long-lasting materials
    • Satisfying to swim against
    Cons
    • A bit expensive
    • Needs a secure base to install

    Bottom Line

    A well-produced swim strength trainer for those looking to get a lot out of a small pool.

    Guide: Types of Above Ground Pools

    Before we get into the size, shape, configuration, and other notable components of above ground pools, let’s start with the most fundamental feature – materials. Each type of material presents its own unique advantages and disadvantages, so it helps to become familiar with these before making your selection.

    Resin

    Resin-based above ground pools are made of plastic-like materials that allow for a sleek appearance and superior flexibility. The durability and resistance of resin provides a number of benefits but it also comes with a couple of caveats. Some resin pools are comprised primarily of resin-based materials, but most are actually a type of hybrid that uses a combination of resins, metals, and woods.

    Pros
    • Doesn’t rust, oxidize, or corrode like metal
    • Advanced technology ensures longer material lifespan
    • Resists denting and warping
    • Can be molded into different styles for better interior aesthetics
    Cons
    • Can be more expensive depending on the type of resin used
    • A proper coating must be applied or it will eventually crack and flake when exposed to cold weather and UV rays.

    Steel

    Steel is one of the cheapest heavy-duty materials used in the construction of above ground pools. It is often used in conjunction with epoxies and resins behind the pool liner to safeguard from erosion.

    Pros
    • Takes longer to rust than other metals
    • Strongest solid material in pool construction
    • Affordable
    • Resists deformation better than aluminum and other metals
    Cons
    • Susceptible to oxidization and corrosion. Newer pools use steel beams that are dipped in hot zinc and given vinyl coatings to prevent this.
    • Heavier than aluminum

    Aluminum

    Aluminum is commonly used in above ground pools because it’s cheap, lightweight, and resistant to the elements.

    Pros
    • Lightweight
    • Rust resistant
    • Easy to disassemble and handle
    • Flexible
    Cons
    • Can eventually begin to oxidize, which leads to pitting on the surface and potentially holes in the liner
    • Feels flimsier than steel

    Hybrid

    Hybrid above ground pools utilize a combination of steel, resin, aluminum, and other materials. These are the most common kinds found on the market today.

    Pros
    • Combines the strengths of all materials to deliver a more well-rounded product
    • Becoming more popular as manufacturers develop increasingly advanced above ground pools
    • Flagship pools and deluxe models usually have a hybrid design
    Cons
    • Typically the most expensive kind of pool
    • Combines not only the advantages of all pool materials, but also the disadvantages

    Other than the materials used to make the pool, here are some important factors you might want to consider:

    Guide: Shape, Depth, and Size

    Above ground pools come in a variety of shapes, depths, and sizes, so the first thing you’ll want to do is decide how much space you’re planning on using and which shape would best accommodate the given area. Use your discretion to determine whether a circle, oval, rectangle, or square would be the best fit.

    In terms of water depth, 54 inches is the deepest you’ll find, but many of these models will also have a shallow end thanks to the pool’s interior molding. As you’d expected, there’s a huge range of sizes to choose from, spanning from small personal exercise pools to massive Olympic size above grounds. Regardless of your yard size, you should be able to find a pool that fits snugly into the designated space.

    In this video, one of the manufacturers (Intex Corp.) presents their line of above-ground pools:

    Guide: Pump and Filter Systems

    We have actually also written an article dedicated to Pool Filters incl. reviews!

    Most pumps have built-in filters, so the two are sold together as one unit. This key component plays the crucial role of keeping the water clean and sanitary. Here are some of the main considerations you should make when choosing a pump and filter system for your above ground pool:

    • Pump Power: The first thing you’ll want to consider when choosing a a pump and filter system is the horsepower of the pump. If your pool is going to be less than 24 feet in diameter, then a 1 HP pump should get the job done. If your pool is larger than 24 feet in diameter then you’ll need a 1.5 HP pump. Don’t opt for the stronger pump if you have a small pool because a pump that is too powerful for the pool size can cause the water to flow too quickly to be properly filtered while also wasting electricity unnecessarily.
    • Ensure Compatibility: It’s important to make sure you’re getting a pump that is designed specifically for above ground pools and for the size of your pool. Pumps made for in-ground pools function differently and are therefore not suitable replacements or alternatives for above ground pool pumps.
    • Dual Speed vs Single Speed: Conventionally, most pumps ran at one constant speed. However, recently many manufacturers have been offering dual speed models that have a high and low setting. Having a lower speed setting can be useful for conserving energy, and as such dual speed pumps are now required by law in many state including California. An added perk is that the lower speed setting in a dual speed pump is much quieter during operation than the typical high setting found in single speed pumps.
    • Filter Types: There are three main types of filters to choose from – cartridge, sand, and diatomaceous earth (D.E.). Here’s a quick comparison to help you better understand how each kind works:
      • Sand-based filters are the oldest and most popular filtration method used in above ground pools. These filters utilize pool-grade silica sand that is about .45-.55 mm in diameter, which is typically sold at home improvement and hardware stores. Sand filters are the cheapest option, hence their longstanding popularity, but they can’t filter particles smaller than 20 microns, so they’re not the most effective choice in terms of sanitation.
      • Cartridge filters look a lot like large coffee filters, with a similar folded paper appearance. These filters use polyester fibers to capture particles as small as 10 to 20 microns. They can also be removed and cleaned by pressure washing for repeated use. However, each cartridge is typically more expensive than the other two types of filters.
      • DE filters are the most advanced and most expensive pool filters. They can trap particles as little as 3 microns and use extremely fine diatomaceous earth powder made of fossilized plankton to do so.

    Here’s a video showing you how to select an above ground pool pump and filter system:

    Guide: Above Ground Pool Liners

    The next step in choosing an above ground pool is to decide which kind of liner you’ll be using. The main types of pool liners used in above ground pools are beaded, overlap, expandable, and Uni-Bead (or J-hook) liners.

    We also have a separate article on swimming pool liners.

    Beaded liners connect to a bead rack the runs along the interior perimeter of the pool. Overlap liners, as their name suggests, overlap the exterior wall of the pool and are held in position by plastic clips. Uni-bead liners can be used as either a beaded or overlap liner, as the J-hook can be removed to convert it into a beaded liner. Expandable liners come with adjustable portions that can accommodate above ground pools with deep ends.

    Generally the liner will come included with your pool, but it’s good to become familiar with the different types in case you ever want or need to replace the liner in the future.

    Guide: Sanitation Systems

    Some above ground pools will include a pump/filter system as well as a small supply of sanitation products to get you started. However, as the pool owner you have the option of using either chlorine or one of the many alternatives that are now available.

    Some methods you may want to consider include salt chlorine generators, ozonators, and ionizers. It’s important to spend a bit of time researching a variety of sanitation system to ensure you’re choosing one that will suit your preferences and pool maintenance needs.

    Guide: Pool Ladders or Steps

    We have actually also written an article dedicated to Pool Ladders and Steps incl. reviews!

    Of course, the way you enter and leave your pool will affect the comfort and enjoyability of using your pool, so it’s imperative to ensure you have steps or a ladder on both the interior and exterior for maximum convenience. An A-frame ladder is a popular choice because it gives you an exit and entrance in one piece.

    A pool ladder is a good exit option if you already have a set of steps or a ladder on the outside. Many pool owners opt to have a ladder on the outside and steps on the inside, or steps o both the inside and outside. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference and budget, but it’s good to be aware of all your options in this department as well.

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    Peter
    Peter

    Author and editor with LeisureRate.com since 2017.

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