The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
The Insider Pick:
There’s an above-ground pool for almost every space. Whether you’re going for a permanent structure or a seasonal one, we’ve got a pool in our guide that will work for your specific needs.
Overall, we like the Intex Ultra Frame swimming pool best because it has a steel frame and heavy-duty triple-ply laminate walls.
Above-ground swimming pools are expensive and a ceaseless chore. Between balancing chemical pH, cleaning, repairing, replacing filtration systems, and winterizing, other people’s pools are surely the best pools. Still, it’s an invaluable luxury to have a place to cool off within the confines of your own backyard, and there are reasonable ways to accommodate a swimming pool without committing to a nightmarish list of maintenance tasks.
We’ve looked through everything from easy-setup and inflatable all-vinyl pools to metal-framed, vinyl-sided, and all-metal pools to come up with a handful of great swimming pools that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
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, so the daunting proposition of packing up and storing a heavy, confusing mess of plastic and metal goes out the window.
Whether you want to deck out your backyard with a permanent all-metal pool that you can winterize rather than throw away or just give your kids a small pool for splashing around, we’ve got you covered.
Here are our picks for the best swimming pools:
Read more about our picks in the slides below.
The best swimming pool overall
Why you’ll love it: The Intex 16′ x 48″ Round Ultra Frame pool fits up to 8 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″ 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 tears, 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.
Safety and The Spruce both rated the Intex Ultra Frame highly, and Sears shoppers give the round Intex Ultra Frame a solid 4.5/5 stars. More than 150 Amazon reviewers give the rectangular version an average of 4/5 stars.
Pros: Durable, reasonably-priced, built-in filtration pump, easy to set up, 48″ 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 kid’s pool
Why you’ll love it: The Step2 Play and Shade Pool requires almost no assembly, comes ready with toys, and shades your little tyke from the sun’s vicious rays.
Step2’s Play and Shade Pool has about everything you’d need to keep a pair of toddlers busy while you soak up sun and drift into a novel on the chaise lounge. Very little assembly is required, and a single adult can pop this puppy together in a few minutes flat. Filling it won’t take much longer.
Ribbed floors keep slipping and sliding at a minimum, and a set of spinning funnel cups and a water wheel have a good chance of distracting young children for hours (at least, it did me).
Our favorite thing about this little pool has to be the umbrella, and the incorporation of toys into the stand is brilliant. More than 300 Amazon reviewers agree, highly recommending Step2’s Play and Shade, which has an average rating of 4.6/5 stars.
The only other kid’s pool we love is the Yaheetech Pet Swimming Pool, which, admittedly, is designed for bathing dogs and cats, but most certainly doubles for small children, too. We like it particularly because it’s foldable and portable, and not made of plastic that will eventually degrade and crack under the sun.
Compared with the Play and Shade, you will have to get a little more creative with an entertainment source for your beloved child, but we have faith in you and your parenting ingenuity!
And, if you don’t have a creative bone in your body or you just want to spoil the heck out of your little rugrat, the Little Tyke’s Slam and Curve — complete with not one but two slides and a basketball hoop — might be the coolest innovation in inflatable pools yet, save for maybe the Pirate Bay Blast Zone Bouncy Castle, which comes with an even heftier price tag.
Pros: Entertaining, shading, and easy to assemble
Cons: Made of cheap plastic that will not likely last long, especially if kept in direct sun
The best budget swimming pool
Why you’ll love it: 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.
The Intex Metal Frame earned praise from most of Amazon’s nearly 1,200 reviewers, and a respectable 3.9-star average rating. 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
Why you’ll love it: The Intex Easy Set pool kit comes with everything you’ll need including a cover and six extra filter cartridges.
The 15′ 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 3-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.
Some 80 Amazon reviewers gave the pool an average rating of 3.9/5 stars. Most reviewers complained about the pump, and, generally speaking, little else, though one reviewer had a hard time leveling the pool only to find out that the stitching was defective. However, that may have had something to do with the fact that the buyer had placed it on sand, which Intex instructs you NOT to do.
Pros: Easy to set up, comes with everything you need
Cons: Not as strong as some others, the included pump isn’t great
Check out our guides to the best pool toys and pool floats
There’s nothing like a nice dip in the pool to refresh you during those long summer months. To liven up the time you spend poolside, we’ve rounded up the best pool toys and games you can buy.
These are our favorite pool toys of all kinds:
Ah, summer and the living is easy. And what better way to celebrate those bright and balmy days than lazily drifting in your swimming pool or on the lake, drink in hand and sunscreen slathered on your nose? With the Kelsyus Chaise Lounger, you’ll be weightless on the water without a care in the world.
Here are our top choices: