The Best Above-Ground Swimming Pools
Cheap Swimming Pools
Keeping young children entertained is easy with a plastic or inflatable kiddie pool that sells for as little as $15. But if you want to help the whole family stay cool — while avoiding crowds — during the hot summer months, you’ll want a backyard pool that’s a bit more spacious. An inground pool is one option for all ages, 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 (starting under $100) and less permanent than inground pools, and many are easy to assemble yourself. 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-quality pools at Walmart, Target, or Amazon. Our full buying guide includes expert tips on what to consider when buying a backyard pool, regardless of retailer or price.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
Our Top Pick
When it comes to cheap swimming pools, Intex is the brand to beat. And among above-ground pools for around $1,000 or less, its line of Ultra XTR pools is widely regarded as a top value. This 24-foot-by-52-inch round steel-frame pool is one of the most popular models and gets better user feedback than most others in its class. With a generous 12,481-gallon water capacity, it’s spacious enough to comfortably accommodate multiple adults as well as kids, with room left for floats and toys. It’s also comparatively sturdy, with quality components like an extra-strong galvanized steel frame as well as a heavy-duty three-ply pool liner. The included sand filter pump can help save money on maintenance, as there’s no need to pay for frequent filter cartridge changes, and the kit is pretty close to complete with a ladder, ground cloth, and cover. The only missing accessory is a skimmer — easy enough to order online. Another plus: The snap-together 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).
While a majority of reviewers suggest this pool should stand the test of time, there is some grumbling here and there that the pump should be upgraded and newer models might not measure up to previous Intex pools, many of which owners say have lasted as long as eight or nine years. Still, 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.
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 metal-frame Summer Waves pool is a more-than-decent choice. It’s smaller and a little less well-made than our top pick for an above-ground pool, but the Summer Waves brand (manufactured by Polygroup) is the most popular name in cheap pools next to Intex. For a decidedly low price, buyers get a backyard pool that should easily accommodate a typical family plus a few guests, as well as a package that includes an A-frame ladder with safety barrier, pool cover, and maintenance kit complete with vacuum hose and head. The unique cartridge filtration system with integrated surface skimmer also helps keep the pool clean and debris-free.
Although some owners complain of flimsy construction and underpowered filtration, and there are reports of faulty pumps and failing liners, overall user feedback indicates that those who opt for the Summer Waves NB2030 are generally pleased. The short 90-day warranty doesn’t provide much coverage, but reviewers say if you follow the instructions and make sure the pool is set up on level, firm ground, things should go swimmingly. We even saw at least one report of a pool left up year-round that survived a full three seasons. If 15 feet is too small, there’s also an 18-foot version (est. price: $786), as well as upgraded options with wicker-patterned walls for shoppers who want to add a splash of style.
If your budget is tight, and you’re fine with a smaller pool for just the kids and/or an adult or two, this inexpensive 12-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. It’s easy to set up, and includes a filter, but some other important accessories — most notably a ladder and pool cover — are not included. While the pool’s size is a minus for some, others say it’s perfect for their backyards and their needs. A drain valve with garden hose attachment also makes breakdown and storage through the winter months simple and a bit less messy. There’s some suggestion that this cheap, little swimming pool may be on its way to being discontinued, so shoppers who manage to find it this season should consider themselves lucky to have snagged a steal. It might make sense, though, to stock up on filter cartridges, which some owners say can be hard to find. There’s a one-year warranty on the filter pump and 90 days on the liner and accessories.
This spacious, 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. Kits come with just about everything needed for setup, including a comparatively powerful, high-quality sand filter pump, ladder, pool cover, and ground cloth. Putting the pool together is relatively easy, according to reviews, thanks to the simple snap-together system, but the 90-minute estimate to getting it water-ready is probably a bit optimistic. Assembly is at least a two-person job, especially given the pool’s large size, and watching a few YouTube videos to supplement included instructions might help. Still, most owners say the most difficult part of the installation process is ensuring there’s a firm surface large enough to accommodate the pool and getting that area leveled.
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. It also lends itself nicely to deck structures, which certainly ups the aesthetic appeal. While premature failures are not unheard of, and some who have converted this pool to a saltwater system suggest the salt can corrode the frame, reports of plentiful years of service are much more common. The pool comes with a two-year warranty on the liner, frame, and filter pump. Intex also sells 18- and 24-foot versions of this rectangular pool, as well as frame pools that come pre-outfitted with saltwater systems.
There’s not much to this Bestway Steel Pro metal-frame pool. It’s on the small side for a rectangular pool, at just 13 feet by 7 feet by 32 inches; the construction quality is iffy; and this model lacks some key accessories, such as a filter and ladder. For the most part, however, owners don’t care: The low price tag — usually around $200 when pools aren’t in high season — is a big selling point for parents who just want a cheap pool for a little summertime fun with the kids. The fact that it’s incredibly fast and easy to set up and take down for storage between seasons is another plus. We saw reviews that claimed the pool was ready to go in as little as 30 minutes. True, this Bestway pool may not last much longer than a summer, but for little swimmers just getting their feet wet and grown-up shoppers who understand what they’re buying, that seems to be just fine. In fact, overall ratings for this Bestway model are much better than typical for pools of this type. The Steel Pro 56512E-BW comes with a six-month warranty.
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. As the name suggests, setup is fast: Simply inflate the top ring and it’s ready to go. The manufacturer estimates around 10 minutes to get it water-ready, and owner feedback suggests that’s about right. Just be sure that the ground below the pool is absolutely level, or you may be in for a collapse. Also be on the lookout for split seams and leaks, a relatively frequent problem according to the reviews we read.
While this pool set does come with a cartridge filter pump to keep the water clean — pretty impressive given this pool’s rock-bottom price — you don’t get a lot of swim space for this kind of money. The Intex Easy Set 28111EH can serve as a small pool for kids (6 years and up) or a splash pool for adults, and sometimes that’s all you’re looking for on a hot summer day. Larger versions are also available, all the way up to the 18-foot-by-48-inch Intex 26175EH (est. price: $340). Given that the durability concerns are the same, however, the smaller option seems a better value.
While metal-frame and inflatable above-ground pools are cheaper, a well-made hard-sided swimming pool will provide many more years of service. The Blue Wave Martinique NB3116 isn’t a premium pool, but it’s still a solid value and solidly built, with a 7-inch top rail and galvanized-steel supports. It can be installed by mechanically inclined homeowners, and instructions for assembly are provided, but many user reviews insist that those instructions are terrible — the major source of negative feedback on this pool. Having a helper or three is certainly advisable. Still, once it’s up, most owners are thrilled with this swimming pool, and we spotted remarkably few complaints of premature failure or spotty durability.
The Blue Wave Martinique comes with a sand filter pump, skimmer system, and ladder with flip-up stairs, and is available in a variety of sizes, including 15-, 21-, and 24-foot diameters. There’s also an oval version of the pool sold at many major retailers, and fans of the brand can contact the manufacturer for other authorized Blue Wave dealers. Intended for permanent installation, these pools are backed by a 20-year warranty.
A neat take on the traditional blow-up kiddie pool, this Intex Swim Center Family Lounge is a standout option that should deliver cheap summer thrills for toddlers and the rest of the family, too. It’s larger than some pools suitable for kids as young as 3, so children of many ages should have sufficient room to frolic. Even better, for adult supervision — or just lounging around without the kids — there’s a built-in bench seat with backrest, along with cup holders to cradle beverages of choice. Like all blow-up pools, this one doesn’t promise more than a season or two of usage at best, and we did see some reports of pools that were defective right out of the box. Still, most owners are pleased, so much so that this uniquely styled pool has spawned a host of look-alikes. We can’t, however, readily vouch for the quality or durability of any of those copycats. Intex backs its 57190EP with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.