If you want the whole family to stay cool during the hot summer months, you’ll need a backyard pool. An in-ground pool is one option, but be prepared to dig deep into your wallet (they run about $30,000 or more) and consider the many potential drawbacks of a backyard pool. Above-ground pools are far less expensive and many are easy to assemble.
We identified several cheap pools that should offer at least a couple of seasons, if not several years, of warm-weather family fun. Even better, you don’t need to go to a specialty retailer; you can find many decent above-ground pools at Walmart, Target, Amazon, or other big-box retailers.
Our full buying guide and FAQ includes expert tips on what to consider when buying a backyard pool, regardless of retailer or price.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
- Best Value Above-Ground Pool: Intex Ultra XTR 24' x 52" Frame Pool Set
- Best Cheap Round Above-Ground Pool: Summer Waves Dark Wicker 14' x 48" Round Metal-Frame Pool
- Best Rectangular Above-Ground Pool: Intex 32' x 16' x 52" Ultra XTR Frame Rectangular Pool
- Best Cheap Rectangular Above-Ground Pool: Bestway Steel Pro 157" x 83" x 32" Rectangular Frame Pool
- Best Small Above-Ground Pool: Bestway Steel Pro Max 10' x 30" Frame Pool
- Best Inflatable Above-Ground Pool: Intex 8' x 30" Easy Set Pool Set With Filter Pump
- Best Kiddie Pool: Intex 88" x 85" x 30" Swim Center Family Lounge Inflatable Pool
Intex Ultra XTR 24' x 52" Frame Pool Set
Best Value Above-Ground Pool
$1,189 and up, depending on retailer
- 24 feet by 52 inches
- 373 pounds
- 12,481-gallon water capacity
- Round galvanized steel-frame
- Sand filter pump included
- Heavy-duty 3-ply pool liner
- Ladder, ground cloth, and cover included
- Snap-together assembly
What We Like
- Comfortably accommodates multiple adults and kids, with room left for floats and toys.
- Comparatively sturdy, with quality components.
- With the included sand filter pump, there’s no need to pay for frequent filter cartridge changes.
- Assembly requires no tools and is relatively quick (the manufacturer claims it’s ready for water in 60 minutes, and many users say that’s about right — as long as you have multiple hands to help with installation).
What We Don't Like
- While a majority of reviewers suggest this pool should stand the test of time, there is some grumbling here and there about pools that arrived damaged or soon developed leaks.
- No skimmer is included in the kit.
When it comes to cheap swimming pools, Intex is the brand to beat. This pool is one of the most popular models and gets better user feedback than most others in its class. Online complaints aside, with a best-in-class two-year warranty on the frame, liner, and filter pump, there’s more than enough to recommend taking the plunge with an Intex Ultra XTR.
Summer Waves Dark Wicker 14' x 48" Round Metal-Frame Pool
Best Cheap Round Above-Ground Pool
$589 and up, depending on retailer
- 14-foot diameter, 48-inch height
- 130 pounds
- 3,512-gallon water capacity
- SFX1000 filter pump and ladder included
- Steel frame pool construction
- 3-ply polyester mesh and PVC pool walls
What We Like
- Kit includes an A-frame ladder.
- Unique cartridge filtration system with integrated surface skimmer helps keep the pool clean and debris-free.
What We Don't Like
- Some owners complain of flimsy construction and underpowered filtration.
- There are a few reports of faulty pumps and failing liners.
- A 90-day warranty doesn’t provide much coverage.
If you're just looking for a little summer fun for your family and don't want to invest a lot of money in a lot of pool, this smaller metal-frame Summer Waves pool is a more-than-decent choice. It's smaller and less well-made than our top pick, but the Summer Waves brand (manufactured by Polygroup) is the most popular name in cheap pools next to Intex. And overall user feedback indicates that those who opt for the Summer Waves NB2030 are generally pleased.
Intex 32' x 16' x 52" Ultra XTR Frame Rectangular Pool
Best Rectangular Above-Ground Pool
$1,980 and up, depending on retailer
- 32 feet by 16 feet by 52 inches
- 548 pounds
- 14,364-gallon water capacity
- Steel frame
- 110-120V Krystal Clear sand filter pump
- Graphite 3-ply liner with high puncture and tear resistance
- Ladder and cover included
What We Like
- Kits come with just about everything needed for setup.
- Assembly is relatively easy, according to reviews, thanks to the simple snap-together system (with some caveats — see below).
- Lends itself nicely to deck structures, which certainly ups the aesthetic appeal.
- 2-year warranty on the pool liner, frame, and filter pump.
What We Don't Like
- Reviews suggest the 90-minute assembly estimate is probably a bit optimistic. Most owners say the most difficult part is ensuring there’s a firm surface large enough to accommodate the pool and leveling that area.
- Assembly is at least a two-person job, especially given the pool’s large size.
This rectangular pool is a little more expensive than similar pools available at big-box stores, but users say Intex Ultra XTR metal-frame pools, including the Intex 26373EH, are worth the extra outlay. While the pool assembly might end up being more than some buyers bargained for (and watching a few YouTube videos to supplement included instructions might help), once it’s up and running, this Intex pool earns plenty of raves and can host a full party’s worth of swimmers along with floats. Intex also sells 18- and 24-foot versions of this rectangular pool, as well as frame pools that come outfitted with saltwater systems.
Bestway Steel Pro 157" x 83" x 32" Rectangular Frame Pool
Best Cheap Rectangular Above-Ground Pool
$184 and up, depending on retailer
- 13 feet by 7 feet by 32 inches
- 1,506-gallon water capacity
- Rust- and corrosion-resistant coated frame
- 3-ply PVC and polyester mesh pool walls
- Seal-and-lock frame system
What We Like
- Fast and easy to set up — no tools required.
- Great beginner pool for families with younger kids.
- 6-month warranty.
What We Don't Like
- On the smaller side.
- Not as durable as pricier models.
- Lacks accessories such as a filter and ladder.
Although this Bestway pool may not be as sturdy as pricier models, reviewers say it's adequate for little swimmers just getting their feet wet and grown-up shoppers who understand what they’re buying. In fact, overall ratings for this Bestway model are much better than typical for pools of this type.
Bestway Steel Pro Max 10' x 30" Frame Pool
Best Small Above-Ground Pool
$176 and up, depending on retailer
- 10-foot diameter, 30-inch height
- 40 pounds
- 1,236-gallon water capacity
- 330-gallon filter pump
- Rust-resistant metal frame
What We Like
- Kit includes a filtration system, plus an instructional DVD.
- Easy to set up.
- A drain valve with garden-hose attachment makes breakdown and storage through the winter months simple and less messy.
What We Don't Like
- Unlikely to last more than a couple of years.
- No ladder or pool cover included.
- Some buyers say the filter isn't up to the job and that replacement filter cartridges for this model can be hard to find.
If your budget is tight, and you’re fine with a smaller pool for just the kids and/or an adult or two, this 10-foot-by-30-inch round pool from Bestway is very much worth considering. Don’t expect years of service from this small metal-frame pool, but the construction quality is good enough to last through a couple of summers, according to reviews. While the size is a minus for some, others say it’s perfect for their backyards and needs.
Intex 8' x 30" Easy Set Inflatable Pool With Filter Pump
Best Inflatable Above-Ground Pool
$65 and up, depending on retailer
- 8-foot diameter, 30-inch height
- 15 pounds
- 639-gallon water capacity
- Puncture-resistant 3-ply laminated PVC liner
What We Like
- Fast setup — water-ready in about 10 minutes.
- Cartridge filter pump included.
What We Don't Like
- Some reviews complain of split seams and leaks.
- Can collapse if not on perfectly level ground.
- Small size (although larger versions are available).
Don't expect more than a season or two of service from this Intex Easy Set pool, but for buyers who consider that an acceptable lifespan, this inflatable pool is the best value among pools of its type. If you're looking for something that can serve as a small pool for kids 6 years and up or a splash pool for adults, the Intex Easy Set 28111EH can serve the purpose — and sometimes that's all you’re looking for on a hot summer day.
Intex 90" x 86" x 31" Swim Center Family Lounge Inflatable Pool
Best Kiddie Pool
$49 and up, depending on retailer
- 90 inches by 86 inches
- 31-inch height
- 17 pounds
- 156-gallon water capacity
- 2 air chambers, each with a combo valve
What We Like
- Built-in bench seat with a backrest, along with cup holders.
- 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
What We Don't Like
- Like all blow-up pools, this one doesn’t promise more than a season or two of usage at best.
- Some reports of pools that were defective right out of the box.
A neat take on the traditional blow-up kiddie pool, this Intex Swim Center Family Lounge is a standout option. The Intex Swim Center Inflatable Family Lounge Pool is larger than some pools suitable for kids as young as 3, so children of many ages should have sufficient room to frolic.
How We Chose Our Picks
To determine our top picks for best above-ground pool, we leaned heavily on pool reviews from owners posted on the websites of retailers such as Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Amazon, and elsewhere. Cheap pools don’t attract a great deal of commentary from consumer product experts, but we did find credible feedback on sites like Best Reviews. We also consulted Steve Goodale, a well-regarded technical specialist and educator in the swimming pool and spa industry. The founder of the website Swimming Pool Steve, he provided a wealth of information regarding price, materials, and maintenance that any prospective pool owner will find helpful. In the following buying guide, you’ll find excerpts from our interview with Goodale, along with answers to frequently asked questions and tips on what you need to know before buying an above-ground pool.
Buying Guide / FAQ
What type of above-ground pool is best?
Your choice of pool will depend largely on how much money, time, and effort you’re willing to invest in the purchase, installation, and upkeep — and whether you want to keep the pool around for just one summer or more.
Above-ground pools can cost less than $100 or more than $10,000. A variety of factors go into explaining that price difference, but essentially it comes down to the manufacturing materials. According to Goodale, price is a pretty good indicator of quality and longevity. “The expected service life from an above-ground pool will vary dramatically based on the quality of the pool kit and the quality of the installation,” the pool pro said. “Some of the cheapest above-ground pool kits are really only suitable to last a season or two at the most, where on the other end of the spectrum, you can easily have a high-quality above-ground pool last for multiple decades.”
Inflatable pools are the least expensive type of above-ground pool and, of course, have the shortest lifespans. These pools are the easiest to set up, however, and can work with almost any surface — just make sure the ground is generally level and devoid of rocks, twigs, and branches. A majority are on the small side and are often thought of as kiddie pools, although inflatables up to 18 feet in diameter are available. While they run the gamut of shapes, round and rectangular are the most common varieties. The cheapest are made of simple vinyl and are filled with air throughout, while “ring pools,” named for the inflatable ring at the top that rises as water is poured in, frequently boast PVC-coated walls. Some are even equipped with features like built-in filters to keep the water clean. As suggested, durability is the main drawback with these types of pools, however, and reviews indicate that anything more than one summer of use is a bonus, although with a ring pool you may get a slighter longer lifespan than with the typical inflatable pool.
Soft-side pools or metal-frame pools consist of a heavy-duty vinyl or PVC pool liner, which serves as the floor and walls that are suspended on a frame, usually made of steel. They can be set up and taken down without special tools or required skills and frequently come with filter pumps and other accessories like ladders and covers. Frame pools are medium-term investments; the best last for a few seasons (with proper care). Less expensive pools of this type tend to carry fairly limited warranties — 90 days is common — but better quality frame pools with higher price tags, like the Intex Ultra XTR series we recommend (which comes in both rectangular and round models), offer coverage for up to two years. We even saw owner reports of these Intex pools lasting eight years or more. Better steel frame pools can be left up year-round, especially in milder climates, while budget models should be taken down and stored away between seasons.
Hard-sided pools, made of steel, aluminum, or resin, are the sturdiest of above-ground pools, and also the most expensive, although prices range widely. According to our expert Steve Goodale, whereas lower-end models may be “hastily manufactured,” consumers can expect that with more expensive hard-sided pools “materials like the wall panels will be thicker and more durable, and the fasteners and hardware will be higher-quality metals with better machining.” These types of pools can be winterized and are intended for permanent (or semi-permanent) installation. For setup, they require that the ground be leveled and all grass and sod dug out, and sand may need to be imported, as well. There must be an electrical source close by. Despite a fairly involved set of requirements, however, depending on the purchaser’s skill level and access to willing helpers, they can often be a DIY project. If professional installation is required, expect to add a few hundred dollars, potentially even thousands, to the cost. And several reviews warn that trained installers may balk at setting up pools bought online.
What are the best swimming pool brands?
Brands like Intex, Bestway, Summer Waves, and Blue Wave are among the most common names in store-bought backyard swimming pools. Intex is by far the biggest fish on the cheaper end of the market and the largest manufacturer of soft-side models. The brand dominates every list of best above-ground pools. Slightly higher-end Blue Wave makes saunas, spas, and many accessories in addition to pools and is more of a crossover brand, likely to be found in professional pool suppliers’ stocks as well as at retailers like Walmart and Home Depot or for sale on Amazon. Consumers’ overall ratings for the brands discussed here cluster in the 3- to 4-star range, although Intex gets the nod more consistently from a significantly greater number of reviews.
For homeowners set on a hard-sided pool and willing to pay a bit more, brands like Cornelius and Embassy (owned by Doughboy, a well-regarded manufacturer known for its pricey steel and resin models) are well-recommended and still relatively affordable. But you’ll have to be willing to shop around with independent dealers; sites like Amazon and other general retailers have only a very small assortment available for order. (Note: For delivery, hard-sided pools are packed on a pallet and come by truck, which must be met by the buyer. The driver will not bring the pallet to the door, let alone to the backyard. Shipping costs can also be quite hefty.
What size swimming pool should you buy?
When it comes to pools, bigger is often considered better. And it goes without saying that, among pools of the same type, the larger the pool, the larger the price tag. The extra outlay might be worth it, though, especially if the pool is going to be used by multiple adults. If you’ve got more serious swimming in mind, a rectangular or oval pool is obviously better suited for laps than a round one. (Note that oval pools tend to be more expensive than comparably sized round pools because the structure requires more parts to keep it properly supported.) But the size and shape of your backyard will be a determining factor: A larger pool not only takes up more real estate but requires that the entire area where it’s installed be both level and firm. And there may also be local ordinances that regulate how close the pool can be to surrounding structures or property lines.
Larger, heavier swimming pools require more extensive ground preparation, as well, including some type of support (ranging from treated lumber to a concrete pad) capable of carrying the pool’s weight. Neglecting to follow manufacturer guidelines regarding the pool’s site and ground preparation will likely void any warranty, at the minimum, and could be a recipe for disaster should the pool fail because of improper support.
What accessories do you need for an above-ground pool?
The cost of the swimming pool itself isn’t the only factor to consider when determining your budget for a backyard pool. There are several basic accessories that you’ll most likely need to complete the setup.
A pump and filter system are imperative for all but the simplest of blow-up kiddie pools (and experts still recommend some sort of chlorination setup to keep water clean in those). Many cheap backyard pools come with a replaceable cartridge filter system that should be changed as often as weekly; make sure to read the instructions. In reviews of most of these pools, however, there are owners who gripe about the undersized pumps and filters included in kits, citing pumps that fail within days of purchase or filters that clog quickly and don’t circulate water sufficiently. Several consumers say hosing down the filter every few hours or even daily helps ensure clean water and can extend the filter's useful life.
Many pool owners insist that buying a heftier pump and better filter is a worthwhile investment, although it can represent a significant chunk of the original purchase price. But you can also step up to a different type of filter system. Sand filter pumps, starting in the neighborhood of $150, are costlier than the standard filtration systems on cheap pools, but a sand filter will not require as much maintenance as regular cartridge filters — Intex says the sand in its pumps needs to be replaced every five years. (Note: This is a schedule that could outlast your cheap backyard pool.)
Pricier equipment doesn't release you from the need to add all the chemicals required to get and keep things right. One alternative to the chemical-based routine is a low-maintenance, eco-friendly saltwater system that relies on salt, rather than chlorine, to keep swimming pool water sparkling. While Intex offers some pool models already outfitted with saltwater systems, it also sells a saltwater system separately. Intex says the system can be used on any make of above-ground pool and doesn't leave the water feeling or tasting like the sea. Based on the user reviews that we read, saltwater systems have won numerous converts.
Aside from a pump and filter system, a pool ladder, a pool cover, and a skimmer are some of the other main accessories you’ll probably want to have. A vacuum might also be in order, particularly if there are a lot of leafy trees in the area. Many, but not all, pool kits include some or all of these items for free (or at least as part of the price of the pool). However, we saw lots of feedback in user reviews for pools in all price ranges that said that the included accessories often feel flimsy and leave a little — or a lot — to be desired. A ground cover to protect the pool's underside from stones and pebbles and other debris that could puncture the pool liner is critical, and often provided in kits. Some risk-averse pool owners suggest putting down a heavy-duty tarp, foam pad, or even old carpet as an extra barrier.
Essential accessories aside, many prospective pool owners jump right ahead to thinking of the many toys and floats they’ll “need” to make a splash with summer pool fun, but it’s imperative that you don’t forget the gear that may be required to keep your pool safe. Many communities require fencing with a latched gate for swimming pools, so be sure to check local regulations. Regardless what the laws say — or don’t — there are safeguards that always should be taken. Remove ladders and secure covers tightly when the pool is not in use, and always have adults present when it is.
How do you maintain an above-ground pool?
In our research, we saw lots of split opinions regarding the longevity of even the best liked pools. Some reviews complain of premature failures with a specific model, while other purchasers claim to be extremely pleased with the same pool’s durability and performance. In many cases, unhappy experiences may be the result of user error. While we noted the importance of proper site preparation above, proper ongoing maintenance is also critical to getting the longest life out of any swimming pool, cheap or otherwise.
“The single greatest factor that will impact the service life of an above-ground pool is how well the chemistry is balanced in the water,” expert Steve Goodale says. “Poorly balanced pool water is the No. 1 cause for early component failure in pools. Just because the water looks clear does not mean the water is safe. Poorly balanced sanitizer levels, pH, alkalinity, and calcium hardness levels can all cause advanced deterioration of integral pool components.” Dirty water can pose health hazards, as well.
Goodale’s advice: “If you want your above-ground pool to last as long as possible, then pick a high quality kit, have it installed professionally, and then work very hard to monitor and maintain your water chemistry. This will result in the longest possible service life for an above-ground pool.” Maintaining proper water chemistry will also cut the cost of multiple pool refills, which can significantly increase your water bill: A modest-size swimming pool measuring 15 feet in diameter and 48 inches deep can hold more than 4,400 gallons. That’s a lot of water wasted if it has to be replaced due to improper care.