Best Cheap Pools
When hot summer days arrive, kids love playing in water. A cheap pool is one surefire way to cool the crowds. Keeping toddlers entertained is easy with plastic or inflatable waders sold at major superstores for $10 to $30 or so. But older children -- not to mention adults -- need a pool that's at least three feet deep. Although some backyard pools cost $5,000 and more and require professional installation, there's a decent selection of cheap pools bearing price tags that max out at about $900. Granted, you'll need to level the ground properly, but setting up a cheap pool is otherwise a do-it-yourself (maybe with a few extra hands) project.
Intex Rectangular Pools
For a big crowd, Intex offers the 18' x 9' x 52" rectangular Ultra Frame pool. It wins fans for easy setup (look, no tools!) and durability, even through winters when left standing. Some carp about a flimsy filter, skimmer, and ladder. For more information, see our review of Intex Metal and Ultra Frame Pools.
Cheap Pools Buying Guide
Many frugal consumers opt for inflatable backyard pools with depths up to four feet and diameters ranging from 8 to 18 feet. We researched a few cheap pools that garner decent user reviews, but safety issues convinced us to limit our list of best cheap above-ground pools to models with structural frames that can be disassembled and put away for winter storage.
Cheap backyard pools are readily available at big-box stores and from ecommerce vendors. But be forewarned: Do-it-yourself backyard pools, including those on our list, tend to have shorter life spans than high-end models or in-ground pools. Overall build quality isn't as sturdy, installation jobs may not be perfect, and weak pumps and filters are major factors that limit a cheap pool's longevity and users' enjoyment. Then again, you may be happy to reclaim your backyard when the kids have moved on to other summertime adventures.
Intex, Heritage, Seaview Club, and Summer Escapes are the big fish in the cheap swimming pools sea. Most framed backyard pools are round, with widths ranging between 8 feet and 30 feet and depths ranging from 30 inches to 52 inches. Framed rectangular pools start at about 12' x 24' x 52" and swell to 16' x 32' x 52". Most cheap pools are sold as kits that contain a liner, pump and filter, and skimmer, and some include bonus items such as a ground cloth, ladder, top cover, maintenance kit, and vacuum.
Our search for the best cheap backyard pools hit a few waves due to the limited number of reviews, minimal differences among models, and different brand names splashed onto what otherwise appear to be the same pool. Still, we identified several cheap pools that should give your family warm-weather fun for several years. At the top of our list we put the Intex 15' x 48" Metal Frame Circular pool (starting at $240) for its price, mid-range size, durability, and user-friendly setup, and the Intex 18' x 9' x 52" Ultra Frame Rectangular (starting at $751), also for its durability and easy assembly. The Heritage 12' x 42" Circular pool (starting at $399) and Seaview Club 18' x 42" Galvanized Steel Above Ground pool (starting at $650) qualify for second place. They're both decent swimming pools but require more setup time and are subject to relatively more grousing about leaks and overall build quality than the Intex pools. Little praise but lots of criticism (parts that break, water that leaks, poor customer service) about the Summer Escapes 18' x 48" (starting at $450) suggests your money would be better spent elsewhere.
Know what you're getting into before rushing out to buy a cheap pool. Maintenance requirements are ongoing and the cost of accessories adds up quickly. But if you follow the installation instructions and take proper care, the rewards on a hot summer day more than compensate for the time and cash you've sunk into your backyard pool.