8 Tested Above-Ground Pools to Cool Off In This Summer (2024)

An above-ground pool is a fast and economical way to transform your backyard into a relaxing summer oasis. We tested above-ground pools from all the top manufacturers to help you find the right one for your outdoor space, evaluating each for ease of setup, materials, size and shape, maintenance considerations, budget, and other factors.

Kim Tokarski, Category Director of Pool and Spa Lifestyle Products at Leslie’s, recommends measuring the dimensions of your available space to see which type of pool will fit best before you make a choice. Rectangular pools make the best use of space, but circular pools are good for pool games and relaxing, and they’re often easier to install.

When selecting above-ground pools to test, we included a variety of rectangular and circular pools. We focused on durable materials like steel and PVC and tested both rigid pools and inflatable pools from top manufacturers like Intex, Bestway, and others. Above-ground range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so we made sure to test options across the whole range to identify all the best options.

Editor's Note: This story was updated in July 2024 to include insights from testing three new above-ground pools.

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What We Like

  • Easy unboxing and clear instructions

  • Includes all the needed accessories

  • Plenty of room for the whole family to enjoy

  • Good depth for kids and adults

What We Don't Like

  • Pool cover was too small

  • Ladder isn't steady enough

The Intex 26333EH Ultra XTR Deluxe Rectangular Above-Ground Swimming Pool Set is our favorite above-ground pool because it is spacious for several adults and children to swim and play at the same time and is relatively easy to install. We tested the 20 x 48-foot model (it's available in several sizes), and found it's deep enough for adults to fully submerge and swim but shallow enough for taller kids to stand in.

We really liked how easy it was to install the pool once we had the site prepared. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, so we didn’t have any issues putting the pool together. It comes with everything you need to get started, including a ladder, pump, filter, and cover, so we didn’t have to go out and buy anything. With that said, we found the included cover too small (we recommend buying a bigger pool cover). However, we were able to keep maintenance to a minimum and clean up all the pollen from nearby trees with the use of a robotic pool cleaner.

Remember, when setting up a larger pool, you will need more water.This pool takes about 8,000 gallons of water (we had a water truck deliver to fill the pool), so it’s important to set it up on heavily compacted soil, concrete, or another base capable of supporting that weight. We used a dump trailer to haul in sand to create an even surface. If you have limited space or concerns about the weight of the pool, you might consider one of the other size options from Intex or the Bestway Steel Pro Max (our best under $500 pick), which only holds about half as much water.

The other accessories worked well, with the same high-quality construction of the pool. The pool lining also feels very thick and durable, so we think it will last for many summers with some care and maintenance.

Dimensions: 20 feet x 48 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 7,947 gallons | Frame: Steel | Set-Up Time: 60-90 minutes

What We Like

  • Easy to set up

  • Filter pump included

  • Includes a ground fault circuit interrupter

What We Don't Like

  • Need to be close to a power source for the pump

  • Doesn't include cover or ladder

Our favorite budget-friendly pool is the Intex Metal Frame Pool with Filter Pump. We tested it for several summer months and chose it for this list because it was easy to set up and has the same high-quality construction as the Intex 26333EH Ultra XTR Deluxe (our best overall recommendation) but at a much lower price.

Although it's not as big as the Ultra XTR, it's perfect for smaller yards and can still fit a few kids and adults. Plus, we think it's a great choice if you like the simplicity of an inflatable pool but want a more durable option. You won't get extra accessories with this pool set, but it does come with a filter pump with a water capacity of 530 gallons per hour, so it should keep this small pool nice and clean.

We found the pump easy to use with just a simple on/off switch. Plus, the pump includes a ground fault circuit interrupter, a handy safety feature that will shut off the pool's pump if water gets into the electrical current.

You'll have to purchase an above-ground pool ladder and cover to help keep out debris, as well as a tarp or ground cover underneath the pool. Also, keep in mind that you will need to have a clear, level space for the pool, plus proximity to an outlet for the pump and a hose for filling it up (it took us about six to eight hours to fill it up). But overall, we think for the price and ease of use, this pool is a great way to add summer fun to your backyard. In fact, we had a lot of fun testing it and found that the pool held up over a summer of frequent use.

Dimensions: 12 feet x 30 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 1,718 gallons | Frame: Steel | Set-Up Time: 30 minutes

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What We Like

  • Uses less harsh chemicals

  • Sturdy and secure frame

  • Comes with necessary starter accessories

What We Don't Like

  • Need to purchase salt separately

If you're looking for an alternative to chlorinated pools, consider the Intex 26367EH Ultra XTR Deluxe Rectangular Above-Ground Swimming Pool Set, which has the added benefits of a saltwater system. During testing, we loved the size and depth of this pool and the effectiveness of the filter, which kept floating bugs off the top of the pool. There's enough room for about 10 to 12 adults (or five people with inflatable floats), allowing for enough room to swim, lounge, and even play; it comes with a volleyball net.

One thing we really liked about this pool was the clear instructions and the uncomplicated design. There are a lot of boxes and a lot of components, and we ended up laying everything out in an unfinished basem*nt to plan the setup due to inclement weather. The actual setup process (not counting unboxing or planning) took over two hours with two people, not due to a complicated process but just because there was so much to do.

We recommend setting aside plenty of time on a nice day and also picking up some baby or talcum powder to lubricate the pipes when pushing them through the thick vinyl (we don’t think it would have been possible without that). We also recommend taking into account how long it will take to fill the pool. The average garden hose has a flow rate of about 12 gallons per minute, which would fill this pool in about 11 hours, but our flow rate from a private well took several days to fill.

Once we had the pool built and filled, we were impressed with the quality of the accessories. The filter worked great (although we did have to go out and buy salt), and maintenance was almost entirely hands-off. We didn’t have to do manual cleaning and just added salt when needed.

We were also impressed with the strength of the vinyl liner and the durability of the frame. We had several very severe thunderstorms while testing this pool, and it didn’t have any issues from all the wind and the rain. Aside from a hose cap that cracked during installation (we fixed it with electrical tape and a hose clamp), everything was very sturdy and gave us no problems.

Dimensions: 24 feet x 12 feet x 52 inches | Shape: Rectangle | Water Capacity: 8,403 gallons | Frame: Steel | Set-Up Time: 1-2 hours (after site preparation)

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What We Like

  • Durable steel frame

  • Thick liner material

  • Easy maintenance

  • Filter pump and cartridge included

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't include ladder or any other accessories

  • Difficult to get in and out without ladder

We like the Bestway Steel Pro Round Above Ground Pool Set because it's a great value at under $500. We set one up in our yard between some trees, with sand to level out the ground, and found it to be perfect for floating and relaxation. With a circular layout, a diameter of 14 feet, and a height of 33 inches, this medium-sized pool is larger than the Intex Metal Frame Pool with Filter Pump (our best budget pick), so it's a great choice if you want something a little more roomy, yet still relatively affordable.

This pool isn’t big or deep enough for adults to really swim or for activities like pool basketball, but it’s the perfect size for relaxing. There’s plenty of room for children to splash around and play, and the depth is ideal if you have younger children (supervision still required, of course).

This round pool has a durable steel frame designed for easy setup. We found that the ClickConnect System allowed us to put the pieces together with no tools. The company recommends having two people available during assembly, and that is aligned with our experience. The setup wasn’t difficult, but it did take two of us to smooth out the liner and snap the pieces together. The only issue we ran into was the lack of a ladder because it made getting out of the pool (after smoothing out the liner) very difficult.

The set includes a 560-gallon filter pump and a filter cartridge but does not come with a ladder or any other accessories. We did have to skim it manually, but that wasn’t too much work (just some leaves from the nearby trees). We recommend picking up a ladder or pool stairs at the bare minimum and a pool cover if you have a lot of trees nearby.

We haven’t needed to drain the pool yet, but it does have a very useful feature that we’re looking forward to using—a built-in flow control valve that makes it easier to drain when you want to take the pool down and store it over the winter.

Dimensions: 14 x 33 | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 2,700 gallons | Frame: Steel | Set-Up Time: Not listed

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What We Like

  • Simple setup procedure

  • Lots of accessories

  • Big enough for the whole family

What We Don't Like

  • Only includes one filter

  • Needs an air pump

If you're looking for an easy-to-setup pool that's still big enough for adults to use, we recommend the Summer Waves Inflatable Above Ground Pool. This pool sets up fast and comes with almost everything you need to keep it going all summer—including a filter pump, ground cloth, ladder, and cover.

You will need to supply an air pump to inflate the top ring, which gives the pool structure and helps hold the water in. You’ll also need to buy a few extra filters since the pool comes with only one.

We love that setup, which is so easy that one person can accomplish it alone, although you’ll find it even easier if you have a helper or two to spread the pool out and hold the sides to make sure it fills evenly. Finding a flat space to set up is also important since this is an inflatable ring pool without a lot of supporting structure. At the end of pool season, drain the pool, clean it, and fold it (dry) for storage in your outdoor storage shed.

Specs: Dimensions: 15 feet x 42 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 3,240 gallons | Frame: Inflatable | Set-Up Time: Not listed

What We Like

  • Durable hard sides

  • Stylish design

  • Large size and included accessories

  • 25-year warranty

What We Don't Like

  • Requires site preparation

  • Difficult to set up

If you have the space and budget, we think the Palisades Above Ground Hard-Sided Pool makes a great addition to any backyard space. It fits up to 12 adults and is one of the sturdiest options on this list, with sides made of hard resin and weather-resistant steel top rails, uprights, and bottom rails. Plus, this pool is backed by a 25-year warranty, ensuring many years of summer fun.

The setup is more complicated than many other options: You need ample level space, and you or a professional may need to compact the soil. The setup requires at least two people; even experienced DIYers recommend hiring a professional.

However, the kit includes plenty of extras to help make it worth the effort: a blue pool liner, wide-mouth skimmer and return, pool light, sand filter, and 1 HP pump. We also appreciate that it comes with a sturdy A-frame ladder and a maintenance kit.

Dimensions: 24 feet x 52 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 13,595 gallons | Frame: Steel | Set-Up Time: 2-3 hours (after site preparation)

What We Like

  • Sets up fast

  • Comprehensive accessory package

  • Good for swimming

What We Don't Like

  • Requires very level ground

  • Ground cloth is weak

This Easy Set pool from Intex features an extremely quick and easy setup process that only takes about 30 minutes if you already have a flat space ready. You will need to provide your own air pump to inflate the upper ring, and we recommend a strong air compressor due to the large volume of the ring. It comes with everything else you’ll need, though, including a ground cloth, cover, ladder, and a filter pump with enough filters to last the whole summer.

We love the huge size of this pool, especially when weighed against the price and the easy setup process. It’s very deep for an above-ground pool, so keep that in mind if you have young children who won’t be able to stand up in four feet of water. The upside is that there’s plenty of room for everyone to stretch out and swim, play games, and relax, including both adults and kids.

This pool does come with a ground cloth to protect it from cuts and abrasions, but that doesn’t help if the ground isn’t level. The cloth is also too weak to protect against vigorous grass, so you’ll need to provide additional protection if you have St. Augustine, Bermuda, Nut Sedge, or any other similar grass.

Specs: Dimensions: 18 feet x 48 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 5455 gallons | Frame: Inflatable | Set-Up Time: 30 minutes

What We Like

  • Stylish pattern

  • Great size for the price

  • Accessories included

  • Easy to set up

What We Don't Like

  • Requires severalpeople to set up

The Summer Waves Elite Above-Ground Pool is our best round option because it's an excellent value for the size. At 20 feet in diameter, this pool has a water capacity of 8,241 gallons and 48-inch walls, so there is plenty of room to cool off and splash around.

Yet, it can still fit in a smaller yard. We also like the durable, rust-resistant steel and PVC frame, as well as the triple-layer polyester walls. It's also very easy to put together—just make sure you have a level space for it and someone to help.

The pool kit comes with plenty of useful accessories, including a skimmer, pool vacuum attachment, and cover to keep out debris and dirt. It also includes a sturdy ladder and a ground cover that reduces the potential for punctures. As a bonus, this pool is available in two designs: Dark Herringbone and Gray Rattan.

Dimensions: 20 feet x 48 inches | Shape: Round | Water Capacity: 8,241 gallons | Frame: Steel | Set-Up Time: 1 hour

Final Verdict

The best above-ground pool we tested is the Intex 26333EH Ultra XTR Deluxe. It's big enough for swimming, lounging, and pool games, and comes with everything you need to get started. For a more affordable option, consider our best budget pick, the Intex Metal Frame Pool with Filter Pump is smaller, but it features the same durable construction and easy setup. It doesn't come with a ladder, but that isn't a huge expense.

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How We Tested the Above-Ground Pools

We tested the best above-ground pools in our own backyards, evaluating each for ease of setup, design and features, maintenance considerations, overall quality, and value compared to other above-ground pool options.

  • Ease of setup: We started by making note of how each pool arrived and then assembled the pools according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If we had to purchase any additional tools, we recorded what tools were necessary. We also noted any difficulties in assembly, anything that went more easily than expected, and any techniques we came across that made assembly easier. When the pools were assembled, we filled them according to the manufacturer’s instructions, including setting up any filtration and adding any necessary chemicals. If we had to drain or take the pool down during the testing period, we made note of how that process worked and any associated difficulties.
  • Design: We used each pool for swimming and other water activities, noting how well the pools worked (or didn’t work). We recorded how many people used each pool at one time and determined whether the weight limits and maximum occupancy numbers provided by the manufacturers seemed right (e.g., how many could comfortably fit in each pool). We also paid attention to factors such as how easy it was to get into and out of each pool and other aspects of design.
  • Maintenance: We followed the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance, making note of everything we had to do for the upkeep of each pool. We recorded how long we spent on maintenance and if we felt like that amount of time was worth it compared to how much use we got out of the pool or if it felt excessive.
  • Quality: We looked at the quality of the materials used for all of the components, including the frame, liner, and accessories like covers, filters, and ladders. We paid special attention to the pool frames, where applicable, noting whether or not they felt sturdy. We also made note of any damage incurred and whether we were able to fix it, including any issues that arose due to severe weather conditions.

What to Look for in an Above-Ground Pool

Types of Above-Ground Pools

There are several types of above-ground pools to choose from, and they differ primarily in terms of the materials they’re made of and how they're assembled.

  • Inflatable: Affordable, easy to set up, and straightforward to maintain, inflatable pools are the quickest, easiest way to take a dip in your backyard. Excessively cold weather can damage inflatable pools, so they should be deflated, folded, and stored at the end of the summer. We chose the Summer Waves Quick Set Inflatable Pool as our best inflatable pick because it is easy to set up and comes with a filter pump and other accessories at an affordable price.
  • Steel: These robust above-ground pools typically use rust-resistant steel supports, including vertical struts and side rails, to create a rigid frame for PVC or vinyl side walls. Snap-together connectors and other convenient design elements make assembly relatively straightforward, but these frames can be a hassle if you plan on disassembling and storing the pool in the off-season. Some steel frame pools like the Intex 26333EH Ultra XTR Deluxe (our best overall recommendation) can be left up all year, but only if you follow a winterizing procedure.
  • Resin: Instead of steel, which risks rust and heating up in the sun, resin-frame pools are made of ultra-durable plastics. Pools with resin frames are also typically lighter than their steel equivalents, so the components are easier to move around when setting up or taking down the pool. We don't currently recommend any above-ground resin pools because they're typically more expensive than steel and more prone to cracking and fading.
  • Hybrid: These models combine the durability and non-heating qualities of resin with steel components. Our best splurge option, the Palisades Above-Ground Hard-Sided Pool Package is made of resin and steel, and although it takes longer to put together, it comes with a 25-year warranty so it should last for many summers to come.
  • Saltwater: This type of above-ground pool comes with a saltwater system (also known as a salt chlorinator) to achieve the correct salinity, though you need to add your own salt. Rather than adding chemicals to the pool yourself, saltwater systems convert salt to chlorine to keep your water sterilized. Our best saltwater option, the Intex Ultra XTR Pool Set with Saltwater System comes with everything you need, including a volleyball set!
  • Semi-Inground: Semi-inground pools are much closer to a traditional pool installation. These typically require professional assistance since they are partially buried. They can also be incorporated into other construction, such as a deck. Well-maintained, semi-inground pools are more durable than other options and may last up to 20 years.

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The Right Size for Your Space and Swimmers

When buying an above-ground pool, one of the most important considerations is size. You need to make sure it not only fits in your yard but also leaves a few feet of space on all sides. We recommend accurately and carefully measuring your outdoor area a couple of times before buying. The two measurements that are likely to be most important are the square footage of your new pool's footprint and the capacity in gallons.

Square footage calculations depend largely on whether you are considering a rectangular or circular pool. Our best overall pick, the Intex 26333EH Ultra XTR Deluxe, is circular, but the Ultra XTR Deluxe line comes in a variety of both circular and rectangular configurations.

The square footage occupied by a rectangular pool can be easily found by multiplying the width by the length. The area of a circular pool requires a little more math and is determined by multiplying the value of pi (about 3.14) by the circle's radius squared, or A=π r2.

With a little more math, you can also determine the volume of your pool in square feet or inches. For a rectangular pool, multiply the height, width, and length. To calculate the volume of a circular pool, you'll need to use the formula V=π r2h, multiplying the radius squared, the height, and pi together. Make sure to keep your units consistent (for example, plugging only inches into the formula). That will tell you the capacity of your pool in square inches.

Though models vary, rectangular and oval pools tend to be the largest, with water capacities of up to 20,000 gallons. If you're short on square footage, a smaller, round pool might be your best bet. For example, our best round option, the Summer Waves Elite Above Ground Swimming Pool with Filter Pump, is 20 feet in diameter and has a water capacity of 8,241 gallons.

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Included Accessories

Many above-ground pools come in kits with the necessary components for setting up, using, and maintaining your pool. Often, kits include a filter pump, a pool liner, a ground cloth, and a debris cover (including several options on this list).

Some larger pools also come with slip-resistant above-ground pool ladders. You can find above-ground pools with dual-suction outlets for easier cleaning. Others contain built-in chemical dispensers, like our best under $500 option, the Bestway Steel Pro Round Above Ground Pool Set, eliminating the need for free-floating cleaners.

Why Trust The Spruce?

Jeremy Laukkonen is an updates writer for The Spruce who has over a decade of experience writing about pools and pool equipment, such as pool alarms and outdoor showers, along with tools, appliances, and other home goods. His current pool is in-ground, but he grew up with above-ground pools and was often tasked with site preparation and ongoing maintenance throughout the summer months.

For this article, Laukkonen researched the best above-ground pools and considered testing insights obtained from testing in our own backyards across the country.

Our Experts:

  • Kim Tokarski, Category Director of Pool and Spa Lifestyle Products at Leslie’s
  • Daniela Galvez, senior editor at The Spruce
  • Julia Fields, associate editor for The Spruce

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8 Tested Above-Ground Pools to Cool Off In This Summer (2024)


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