There is a lot to understand about above ground pools so we decided to create the ULTIMATE article for anyone looking to learn about them. We'll go into details about various aspects of these types of pools and how they can be a good buy instead of alternatives like portable spas and inground pools.
We'll also include some great advice such as why you don't want to buy steel pools and other gems of information like the list of above ground pool cleaners reviews for some great options and our recommended, best automatic pool skimmers.
Before moving on, be sure to check out the table of contents for an overview of topics!
Above Ground Pool Prices
The most attractive thing about above ground pools over inground pools is pricing. They’re great investments because they are thousands of dollars cheaper. They may not last quite as long, but at anywhere from 1/5 to 1/3 the cost they are great options and should always be taken into consideration.
So How Much Does an Above Ground Pool Cost?
Naturally, the price of an above ground pool can vary a lot. It depends on a variety of factors such as size, material, brand, and many other factors – not to mention maintenance. However, typical above ground pools cost is about $1,000- $5,000 while typical inground pool costs are easily $10,000-$20,000.
You can easily save $10,000 by buying an above ground pool instead of an inground pool.
However, there are still a lot of other factors to consider. For example, installation is typically included in inground pools so there is no extra cost for them to be installed. However, above ground pool manufacturers often do not do installation which is typically an extra $500.
Another important factor that people tend to forget to consider is determining price is the pool maintenance cost. The pool maintenance costs are also quite similar for both pools, but is cheaper for inground pools because inground pools require larger filter systems to run its electricity and pressure pumps. You’ll also need to learn get rid of any potential problems on both types of pools like algae by using some great algaecide. If you learn to maintain your pool yourself, it’ll save you a chunk of money.
Either way, it’s not a huge difference with above the ground pools maintenance typically around $200/year. and inground pool maintenace about $100/year.
It’s nearly impossible to guess repair costs since it depends on the type of pool. However, above ground pool repair costs tend to be a lot more expensive because they are larger. According to improvenet generally fiberglass, vinyl, and concrete pools require an extra $5,000 for repairs every 10 years but for inground pools it is probably closer to $1,000-2,000.
Overall, cheap above ground swimming pools are a LOT more affordable than inground pools. We talked about the the primary points such as initial cost, typical maintenance, and pool repair costs and resurfacing. If you include pool accessories then it swings even more in the favor of inground swimming pools, but we will just take into account the necessities.
Above Ground Pool Cost
- $1,000-$5,000 purchase cost
- $500 installation cost
- $100/year for maintenance
- $1000-$2,000 every TEN years, or about $100-$200/year for pool resurfacing and repair
- $1,500-5,500 initial cost
Inground Pool Cost
- $10,000-$20,000 initial cost
- $0 installation cost
- $200/year for maintenance
- $5000 every TEN years, or about $500/year for pool resurfacing and repair
- $10,000-20,000 initial cost
All in all, we can see how much more affordable above ground pools are. Not only do you need a lot less money to begin with, but also it's a lot cheaper to maintain. If you're looking for a cheap swimming pool then you know you have to go with above the ground pools.
Above Ground Pool Manufacterers
Not all above ground pools are made equals. They all differ in quality, price, look, feel, etc. so understanding the different pool brands and their reputations is important to purchasing the right above ground pool for you and your family.
We’ll go over the most popular above pool brands and tell you which ones provide quality products and which ones you avoid.
Intex swimming pools are different from many other above ground pools because they are portable swimming pools. They don’t have a hard foundation and they are not a permanent or semi-permanent solution.
They tend to be on the smaller side and are primarily just for relaxing in the water. You won’t be able to swim around, play games or splash with these pools because there isn’t enough room.
They do have larger offerings, but Intex specializes in small, portable pools so if you want to be able to swim and play games then you’ll want to go with another company’s products.
However, one advantage for them is that their pools are really cheap. Almost all of them are under $1000 and don’t require an installation cost so these are a little different from the ones we talked about in our price comparison guide. However, they are just temporary solutions compared to other above ground pools and usually last around 10 years.
Because they are cheap swimming pools they are a great to buy if you are looking to escape the summer heat with a very affordable solution. However, if you have kids or want to swim around you’ll want to go with a higher quality brand/company because their larger pools don’t last very long and are bad quality.
Intex pools are best for short term, smaller pools. They are affordable above ground pools that don’t break the bank but they also don’t last long as other products. You’ll be limited in the enjoyment of the water, so if it’s an issue look at other options. Read our Intex Pool reviews here.
Doughboy Pools is one of the oldest above ground brands that makes above ground and portable pools and has been in business for an unparalleled 60 years. They are similar to Intex Pools in that they are portable, but tend to be higher quality so if you want a large portable pool then we recommend choosing Doughboy over Intex.
Doughboy offers a couple of resin pool options which is why we recommend Doughboy pools instead if you want a pool that is portable. The problem with steel pools is that they rust so they don’t normally last long. By getting a resin pool you will increase the lifetime of it instead of buying a steel one.
Admittedly, they are more expensive than Intex, but they are built to last longer. Intex is fine for a cheaper portable swimming pool, but you can count on Doughboy products to last longer.
They are definitely worth the price over Intex because in the long run you will save a couple thousand over the years.
Crestwood pools is one a premium pool company that offer the most attractive type of above ground pools. If you’re looking for a higher end solution that you’ll be able to swim in and enjoy the atmosphere of owning a pool then look no further.
Their products are all designed to be beautiful, and typically come with a swimming pool steps upon purchase. This means you don’t need to take a ladder up, and can instead just walk up the stairs to your pool area. Most of the packages also come with a fantastic looking deck!
Unlike some of the other brands that we mentioned, Crestwood’s higher quality products allow you to lounge and enjoy the pool whether it is through swimming, throwing a bbq, or just looking at the water from your deck.
Overall, a great company that offers quality products, but is also a little more pricey. Their above ground pool packages are well worth the price.
Last on our list is Sharkline Pools that offer quality pools anywhere from $500 – $2000. This package doesn’t include any pool decks or ladders, but what they do come with is a 1 foot bottom rail for safety. Other brands tend to offer about 6 inches so that’s a lot more stability you are able to get with Sharkline.
Another quality manufacturer, these pools like Crestwood and Swim’n Play require some installation. They have a variety of oval above ground pools as well as circular ones so you have a lot of design options as well as a couple of shapes to choose from.
They also give financing which makes your next pool purchase a lot easier. They create a lot of other products such as pool fencing so if you go with a Sharkline pool then you might as well get their other accessories as well for a complete set. Although, none if their products made our list of the top pool safety fence reviews.
They’re a good brand that is affordable and offers quality products. If you want a lot of variety then Sharkline is your brand!
Swim’n Play is a company that has been around for over 40 years and has some pretty good pools like Crestwood. They’re not as easy on the eye, but they are also high quality pools above ground. Since they don’t come with their own pool steps and decks they are a little cheaper than Crestwood. They have two best selling products
- Paragon Above Ground Pool Their best selling product, it’s a high quality steel pool. In fact, it comes with a 40 year warranty and at less than $2700. This is one of the best deals you can get if you want steel, but you are still responsible for maintenance and making sure it doesn’t rust. Fortunately, their stainless steel makes this job a lot easier.
- Luxor Rexin Pool Another above ground pool, the entire frame is made out of resin and wrap that will help keep your pool protected. They Swim’n Play really aim for quality and offer a 50 year warranty which makes this one of the best pool investments if you don’t want an inground pool.
You can’t go wrong with either of them, but like we mentioned before we like Resin Pools because they tend to last longer and are typically easier to maintain since you don’t have to worry about rust.
Quality pools for a reasonable price best describes Swim’n Play. Backed up with 30 years or more guarantees you can’t go wrong with this company’s products.
There are some products that are absolutely necessary to have and beware of if you own an above ground swimming pool. While your above ground pool may come with the package, these accessories still need to be bought for a majority of purchases.
Swimming Pool Heaters
Swimming pool heaters do exactly what they suggest – heat up your pool. These are great for even above ground pools and if you have younger children they’ll truly appreciate not having to dive into the icy depths of your above ground pool! If you have an above ground pool or are even thinking about getting one then do your family a favor and check out our list of best swimming pool heaters compared.
Of course if you are environmentally conscious and you live in a warmer area, it is great to use very affordable and efficient, top solar pool heaters. They will allow you to heat up your pool throughout the day very cheaply compared to electric pool heaters. However, they aren’t great options if you live in a relatively cool area, but are great if you live in warmer states, such as Florida and California.
Above Ground Pool Steps
Above ground pool steps absolutely necessary for one simple reason: to be able to get to the pool. Unless you’re getting an inflatable pool, then it will not be necessary. However, every other type of swimming pool above ground will need swimming pools steps or stairs because they can often be high off the ground.
The type of steps you want should ideally not be metal because they can rust. In fact, even the stainless steel ones after years of non-stop exposure to water will rust.
Instead, you’ll want plastic steps that have texture on them (you don’t want the steps to be smooth) such as bumps, grooves, or slits.
If they have texture then they are better designed for pools because these grooves allow you to have a better footing. This way you are a lot less likely to slip and fall when you are wet which can happen with steps that are too smooth.
Another option that people like is wooden steps with a thick waterproof finish. Although they aren’t as safe as the ones we mentioned previously, they are a lot more attractive. However, they are usually smooth and therefore are dangerous because they can cause someone to slip and fall if you are wet and going down.
If you go down this route you’ll want to be get a matt at the top of the steps to dry your feet. However, you’ll still want to be extra careful because you can drip more water on the steps so if possible avoid this.
With either type you go, make sure to get steps that have really solid handrails. A lot of people have hurt themselves going down from the pool so ensuring that you get and use handrails can save you and your family a few broken bones.
Choosing swimming pool steps and stairs can be difficult, but now that you know what to look out for make sure you make a smart purchase. Making a good choice can save you a trip the to ER room.
Above Ground Pool Ladders
Note: If you decided you want steps then you can ignore this section. You don’t need both ladders and steps. Just choose one.
Choosing pool ladders is very similar to steps. There aren’t wooden ones for pools, but the most popular ones are metal or plastic. Like with the steps, you’ll want grooves in each step so you can have a better footing.
The second most important thing to look out for in a swimming pool ladder is to look for one with a wide base. This means they are usually a lot more stable and will put less pressure at the top of where the ladder and the above ground pool connect. Not only will you be safer, but a ladder with a wide base will last longer as well.
Above ground pool pumps and filters are vital to a pool’s health and cleanliness. They are typically sold together, and you’ll really want to focus more on the quality and power of the pump since most filters are very similar.
Pool pumps are great because they will be able to clean sediment and debris from your pool so you don’t have to. They won’t get everything, but they will drastically reduce the amount of work for you. It’s also really difficult to remove sediment, dirt or sand from your pool but for pools with quality pumps and filters it is a lot easier.
Because above ground filters and pumps help clean your pool it will also increase the lifetime and long term aesthetic of your pool. With constant cleaning, it will help remove stains and prevent abrasive water from wearing down your pool.
When purchasing a set do not just get the most powerful pump available. This will cause water to go through the filter too fast and will not clean it.
Instead, if your pool is 24 feet in diameter (circular), or less than 30 feet long (rectangular) then you will want to get a pump with 1 horsepower. If it is larger than that then 1.5 horsepower be enough.
If you live in an area that snows then these are 100% necessary. This is to prevent long term damage because if the pool freezes too much then it damage the structure and foundation. Additionally, it will cause your pool to get really dirty and potentially stain so these are a best in some areas.
For many other areas they aren’t necessary, but they will help in 2 ways.
1) They will reduce the amount of cleaning you have to do by at least 75%. This is because they protect your pool from debris and sediment when you are not using it which is when most of the junk in your pool come in.
With a cover, the only factor causing a dirty pool is you! When you use it you may bring things in it with you accidentally, and the pool will be exposed. This means you only have to clean the pool when you actually use it since it is the only time it is getting dirty.
It’ll save you so much effort not having to clean it during the fall and winter when you aren’t using it. Combine this with an efficient pool pump and filter and you may just have to clean your pool 2-3 times a year!
2) The second benefit is reducing the need to fill up the pool. The pool cover will drastically reduce the amount of evaporation so your pool loses less water. Not only is this environmentally friendly, but it saves you money from less water refills and time! When you’re not using it you probably only need to check it once the pool level about once every 6-8 weeks.
Solar pool covers are jus as effective but also heat up your pool! However, they are NOT for winterization.
Swimming Pool Decks & Patio
These aren’t 100% necessary if you just want to enjoy the water. However, if you really want to enjoy your pool and have a nice pool area then building/purchasing a swimming pool deck is a great idea. They may be a little pricey, but they are definitely worth the experience of being able to BBQ next to your pool and sit on some nice lawn chairs on the deck.
What’s nice about pool patios for above the ground pools is that they are cheaper than ones for inground pools so you are saving money all across the board. Additionally, they are temporary and can easily be moved or removed compared to traditional inground pool areas.
Make sure you are working with a licensed contractor and get proper permits or you may end up wasting your money. Be smart, and make sure you do plenty of research before just saying yes to any design a pool contractor or builder may give you.
I briefly mentioned the cost of maintaining an inground pool (other than just filling it up with the best garden hose). In this section we’ll provide a more detailed breakdown about the cost of maintenance and where you can expect your money to go. We’ll also talk about how to clean your pool, things you’ll want to do to improve the pool life, and things to watch out for.
Cleaning Your Above The Ground Pool
Cleaning your above the ground pool is a lot easier than cleaning your typical inground swimming pool. You don’t really have to worry about a deep end, inpool steps, etc so it is a lot easier for you. Here are the 3 best ways to clean your pool:
- Hire a Pool Man
Hiring a pool man is an easy way to just get your pool cleaned and forget about it. However, you’ll waste money by having your pool cleaned in the seasons you’re not using it and they can be a little pricey month after month.
Personally, I had a pool man for a long time and sometimes he just wouldn’t show up without telling me. He was inconsistent and did a mediocre job. Instead, I just went with an automatic pool cleaner.
- Use an Automatic Pool Cleaner or Vacuum
After hiring a pool man for years I started looking into pool cleaners such as the iconic Kreepy Krauly. However, I realized that this wasn’t great for above ground pools. None of the suction or pressure cleaners are.Eventually, I stumbled upon the newest type of swimming pool cleaners known as robotic pool cleaners and realized how great they really are.
You just plug it in, throw it in your pool, and it’ll get rid of sediment, leaves, twigs, anything that it can. Even if you have a pool pump and filter you’ll want to get a swimming pool cleaner because pool pumps and filters don’t take care of everything.
Cleaners don’t take care of everything. You’ll still have to skim the surface for any other debris but it’s hands off and makes your life a lot easier. Additionally, you will also have to maintain the chemical balance of your pool yourself, but it’s easy to do and doesn’t take longer than 5 minutes.
This is my favorite method of the 3. At a few hundred dollars, it requires a higher up front cost but over time saves a lot more money than hiring a pool man. Pool cleaners are also more dependable.
- Do It Yourself
#2 is actually a DIY pool cleaning method as well, but this is a lot more labor intensive. In addition to skimming the top of your pool and maintaining the chemical balance yourself, you’ll also have to get a good pool net and large pool stick (unless you don’t mind going in yourself while cleaning!).
I initially did this myself and while it is the cheapest method it took too much time and I hated doing it so I opted to try a pool cleaner and loved it. If you’re tight on a budget or enjoy doing it yourself then this is the best option.
Keeping your pool clean isn’t hard. All of these methods work – it’s just whether you want to spend more/less time or less/more money. While using pool cleaners is my favorite method, doing it yourself is also a good idea to save some money.
If you want the best combination of saving time then you’ll probably want to check out:
There's a lot to understand about above ground pools. Not only are they more affordable than in the ground pools, but they are also easier to manage. However, this comes at a quality trade off.
There are other important things to understand such as how to buy one, and understanding that steel above ground pools really are not the best!
While this comprehensive guide touches upon everything you need to know make sure you read our other articles to get a complete, thorough understanding.
If you have any questions let us know in the comments below!