Best Hard-Sided Pools

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

20 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
184 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best hard-sided pools

Last Updated November 2019

When the sun's beating down and you can't even remember what being cold feels like, there's nothing like slipping into the water. If you're miles from the nearest community pool and live nowhere near the ocean, it can be harder than it sounds. But with your own hard-sided pool, you can be just a few feet away from cooling bliss.

Picking out a hard-sided pool can be a bit baffling. There's a load of associated jargon, and you probably have many questions you need answered before you buy.

That's where we at BestReviews spring into action. Not only have we selected our top hard-sided pools but we've also written a detailed guide to buying them. Read on and you'll soon be lounging in your own hard-sided pool.

A quality hard-sided pool can last a decade or two if you take care of it correctly.

Key considerations

Why buy a hard-sided pool?

You might already know that you want an aboveground pool because one is much cheaper to install than an in-ground pool, but why a hard-sided pool? It ultimately comes down to the fact that a hard-sided pool lasts a very long time. With proper care, yours could last a couple of decades. A soft-sided aboveground pool with a steel frame will rarely last more than five years, no matter how careful you are with it.

The bottom line is, while a hard-sided pool may be more expensive to buy and take longer to put up, it can't be surpassed in quality. While you'll find a handful of exceptions, you can generally find larger hard-sided pools than you can soft-sided pools because the strong metal sides can hold a greater volume of water.

As you shop for a hard-sided pool, look at four main factors: material, size, shape, and liner.

Material

The first factor to consider when selecting a hard-sided pool is the material it’s made of. Most are made entirely of aluminum or steel, but you can find some hybrid options that include resin parts. Here, we examine the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Aluminum: Aluminum has a decent strength-to-weight ratio, so an aluminum pool will be lighter than a steel pool of the same strength. Because aluminum is more flexible, it can withstand the movement of the water better, so the pool may last slightly longer. Aluminum oxidizes when outside, creating a corrosion-resistant layer. However, this layer can sometimes be pitted, which can make little holes in the pool liner.

Steel: Heavy and extremely strong, steel is an excellent choice for a hard-sided pool. It also tends to be more affordable than aluminum options. The vast majority of modern steel aboveground pools are hot-dipped galvanized, which greatly increases the rust resistance. The main drawback is that the steel parts are heavier than aluminum, so steel pools are more of a challenge to assemble.

Resin: Although you might notice resin pools on the market, it's worth noting that no large hard-sided pools are made entirely of resin because it simply isn’t strong enough to withstand the pressure from the huge volume of water inside. So, if you find a resin pool, it's likely to be a resin hybrid with side panels made of either steel or aluminum and some components – such as top rails, frame rails, base plates, and upright posts – made of resin. The main benefit of resin is that (assuming it's properly UV treated) it doesn't corrode, dent, or warp the way that metal can. Resin hard-sided pools are more expensive, but you can expect one to last a long time.

Size

Length: You might think that you'll only have room for paddling or splashing about in your hard-sided pool, but you'd be wrong. While you can find hard-sided pools that are just 10 or 15 feet long, you can also find models that exceed 30 feet long, which is larger than some in-ground pools.

Depth: It's also worth considering the depth of your chosen pool. The largest options are usually around 48 to 52 inches deep, whereas smaller models have a depth of around 30 inches. Families with young children might prefer a shallower pool, but you'll need to sacrifice overall size. Kids grow quickly, so it might be worth buying a deeper pool and having your kids wear water wings or use other inflatables for a few years.

Shape

Most hard-sided pools are either circular or oval. If you have room, you generally receive more bang for your buck with a circular pool because the volume is much greater than in an oval pool of the same length as the diameter of the circular pool. (For instance, a 30-foot circular pool has a volume of 20,000 gallons, whereas a 30 by 15-foot oval pool has a volume of 13,500 gallons.) Oval pools also tend to cost more and take longer to assemble than circular pools because they require buttresses to support the longer sides.

Liner

All hard-sided pools have a liner that sits inside the structure. It keeps the water from making contact with the metal, which would cause rust and corrosion over time.

Thickness: Pool liners are either made of vinyl or PVC, but not all are created equal. Some are heavy-duty while others are quite thin. Obviously, the former is a better choice because a thin liner is more likely to get torn or punctured.

Type: You should also check whether your liner is an overlap, beaded, J-hook, or unibead model.

  • Overlap liners are simple and inexpensive, but you’re left with a few inches of liner hanging on the outside of the pool, which bothers some users for aesthetic reasons.

  • Beaded liners don't have an overlap, but they can be tricky to fit and there's more chance that water will leak between the liner and the pool wall.  

  • J-hook and unibead liners are the latest technology. They're simple to fit and appear neat because there's minimal overhang.
DID YOU KNOW?

Your hard-sided pool can stay in place all winter as long as you use a winterizing chemical additive and cover the pool securely.

DID YOU KNOW?

You only need to fill your hard-sided pool once, then simply top it up as the water evaporates. The pool holds way too much water to drain it between uses!

Hard-sided pool prices

Hard-sided pools aren't cheap, but when you consider the cost of installing and maintaining an in-ground pool, they start to look more affordable.

Inexpensive: Basic models start at around $600 and go up to $1,000, but these don't tend to include the liner and other essential accessories, so you'll end up spending much more overall.

Mid-range: Decent mid-range models with everything included cost roughly $1,500 to $3,000, but the quality of the liner and accessories are inferior to more expensive model.

Expensive: Large, high-end hard-sided pools cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000.

Tips

  • Check the accessories included with your hard-sided pool. You'll want a liner, filter, skimmer, and ladder. If your chosen pool doesn't come with these accessories, you'll need to buy them separately, which may end up costing more than buying a package that includes everything.

  • Consider how many people will use the pool at once. A 20-foot hard-sided pool might sound spacious, but once you've invited your whole family, your neighbours, and all your kids' friends, it might feel cramped!

  • Think about how often you'll use your hard-sided pool. If you'll realistically only use it a few days over the summer, splashing out five grand on a top-of-the-line model would be excessive. If you'll use the pool to swim daily laps and your kids will play in it on warm days, then it seems like much better value.

  • Always supervise children swimming in your pool. Kids in your pool should be properly supervised at all times, especially if the pool is too deep for them to touch the bottom.
EXPERT TIP

You'll need to properly level and prepare the ground in the area where you want to assemble your pool.


Staff  | BestReviews

Other products we considered

In addition to our five favorite hard-sided pools, we came across a couple more that truly impressed us and were extremely close to reaching one of the top spots. With its sturdy steel construction, the Splash Pools Above Ground Round Pool Package is a durable choice that could last a couple of decades. What's more, almost everything you need to get started is included: an all-weather 20-gauge vinyl liner, ladder, powerful sand filter, and wide-mouth thru-the-wall skimmer. The Cornelius Pools Phoenix Round Above Ground Pool is a solid and affordable choice, but you’ll need to buy the skimmer and liner separately.

Large, oval hard-sided pools are perhaps the best option for swimming laps, but you can do other types of exercise, such as resistance training, in a smaller pool.

FAQ

Q. Are hard-sided pools difficult to assemble?
A.
Yes, hard-sided pools are difficult to assemble. If you're exceptionally handy, you may be able to assemble it yourself, but you'll need a couple helpers and a few days. Plus, you first need to check that the pool is properly sited where the ground isn't in danger of collapse and there are no objects that could damage your pool. We recommend hiring an expert to assemble your hard-sided pool.

Q. How do I fill my hard-sided pool?
A.
A large hard-sided pool holds around 15,000 to 20,000 gallons. The obvious choice is to fill it yourself with a hose from your standard municipal water supply, but note that this will cost a fair amount of money. If you have your own well water supply or similar, you'll save a bundle. In some areas, there are also water delivery services that will deliver a truckload of water and fill your pool for you. This can sometimes work out to be cheaper than filling it yourself, but you'll need to do the math.

Q. Do I need to put any chemicals in my hard-sided pool?
A.
Yes, just like an in-ground pool, you'll need to add chlorine to help keep the water clean and possibly other chemicals to adjust the pH.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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