By reading our above ground pool reviews, you should be able to make a more informed choice when it comes time for you to pick the best pool for your family. All pools are not created equal! There are huge differences in materials, design, and overall quality from one manufacturer to another.
In an effort to be competitive and compete on price, pool stores may package together a decent pool kit with a sub-par pump, filter, vinyl pool liner, or ladder. Everyone of these elements determine your future maintenance costs, and how long your pool will last.
Consider this: I am frequently called on to replace pool liners for pools that are only 1 to 3 years old. With the average pool liner installation costing between $800.00 and $1200.00, you can easily see where it may be beneficial to spend an extra $100 or $200 upfront for a quality liner. Premium pool liners last 8 -15 years.
Aside from considering construction and design of the pool kit, it is important to get a heavy / thick mil pool liner (20 mil), a solid pool ladder with an extra wide base (distributes weight better on liner), and a quality pool motor and filter. If you go for a package, make sure you are getting all quality accessories. You know the weakest link in the chain story, well it really applies with above ground pool components.
Package pricing is the way to go, and each of the above components will never cost less then when you first by your pool package. If you have to buy these components separately, like if your pump dies, your filter stops working, or your liner is leaking, you will wish you opted for premium parts.
Most people wouldn’t know a bad deal if it bit them in the face. That is no doubt why your on this page, to learn the difference.
If you are in the market for a great pool but don’t want to spend all the money, and don’t want headaches, this article will be invaluable, or if you want the best above ground pool there is, you will find all you need here as I review some of the top brands and ultimately choose the best pool for small and large budgets.
15′ x 30′ Oval Pool Compared To A 24′ Round Pool
First thing you should know is the 24 is bigger by 100 square feet. It actually holds about three thousand gallons more water than the 15 x 30. 100 square feet will accommodate more people in the pool if that is important. (100 square feet is a 10 foot x 10 foot area).
The 24 is also easier to maintain, round pools naturally have better circulation. This leaves less dead spots for algae to form, and allows the skimmer to catch more debris. If you put your deck on the end of a 15 x 30, like so many do, you will not be able to skim or vacuum the entire pool without getting in the pool, or trying to work over the side, service poles are not long enough.
By design, the 24 is much stronger and will last longer. Oval pools require buried straps or buttresses to support the side walls. Often you find these side walls leaning out as the straps or buttress supports begin to settle. Often as the side supports settle just a little, the strap that runs from one side to the other begins to raise up, causing the somewhat sharp metal to contact your pool liner.
A 15 x 30 cost about $800.00 more to install, and $1000.00 more for the pool package. This is $1800.00 more for a smaller, weaker pool. When you compare the differences, you begin to understand why the 24 round is the most popular of all the above ground pool choices.
I actually prefer the 21 round for a lot of reasons, but mainly for its value. Unless you have eight kids and they will all be bringing friends over, the 21 round above ground pool is plenty of pool, is easier to maintain, doesn’t take up as much yard space, cost less, etc…
History Of The Best Above Ground Swimming Pools
#1 Johnny Weissmuller / Esther Williams Best Above Ground Pools On The Planet!
My opinion and that of every installer I have ever talked with agrees that the best above ground pool on the planet, were the old Johnny Weissmuller (JW) or Esther Williams (EW) pools (Aluminum Slat walled pools). These two are actually the same pool but were branded with different aquatic celebrities. The pool is no longer made under the JW or EW brands. It is now called The Bermuda, The Oasis, or Intrepid. When the Wilbar Group bought this company, they did not purchase licensing for the JW or EW names, So they had to call the pool something different.
I have personally worked on, repaired, assembled, and disassembled thousands of above ground pools over my career. There was never a better pool kit for the money.
Above Ground Pool Brands Versus Pool Models
There are several great above ground pool brand names to choose from. Most of these brands, or manufacturers have been around for 30- 70 years with good track records. All of these brands each sell 6-10 different models or types of above ground pool.
The reason each of these brands sell different models, are so that they can fit the budget of anyone. If you bought the top of the line model from any of the brands I’m going to list shortly, you would get a decent pool. But that cant be said, for their lesser offerings.
Some of these great pool brands sell some real garbage when you get down to their less expensive packages.
I will individually review each of the following brands, and pool companies. Then list which of them sell the best pool, and the best pool for small budgets. The brands and pool companies, I have selected to review in no particular order are: Wilbar, Swim & Play, Wilkes, Hoffinger Industies, and Namco Industries.
All of these companies offer a good pool, and most are manufacturers of well-known, trusted brands of above-ground swimming pools. While one company on the list is not so great, they do sell my favorite pool.
Best Pool On The Planet
The best above ground pool you can buy goes by many names, but is best known as the Oasis. It was previously called the Esther Williams or Johnny Weissmuller. It is Owned and manufactured by Wilbar, and is tough as nails.
Almost all pools today are made from aluminum or steel coil stock. The wall is one piece, and the two ends are mechanically fastened with hardware. Without water in most of today’s pools, the wall is extremely vulnerable. Most builders will not build your pool on a windy day for this reason.
Not so with the Oasis. The Oasis is made of extruded aluminum panels with ribs, that lock in together. These panels are twice as thick and four times stronger than coil stock walls. This pool does not depend on water to hold up the walls. You could take a bat to this pool wall when its empty, try that with a coil stock wall and you will be scrapping it for its metal value (not much value if its tin / “steel”).
I prefer this pool over ones that cost $10,000.00 more, like the Gibraltar or Kayak pools. The Gibraltar has a wall made out of slats, but theirs are made of steel, and frequently rot out.
Best Value Above Ground Pools
I have settled on the Deluxe 8000 for the most bang for your buck.
The Deluxe 8000 is also branded under the name Serenity, though both are made by Swim ‘N Play. There are minor differences, but they are essentially the same pool. This is a steel pool, with a good wall, massive uprights, and strong steel rails for added strength.
Swim N’ Play pools are made here in america. They last as long as any other coil walled pool, but cost much less. If I wasn’t going to by an Oasis, I would not settle on any other pool. You just cant do better for the money.
Low Cost Asian Metal Pools
I find the metal of the imported pools to thin, and prone to rotting out. I suspect it is because they use cheap recycled metals, though I can’t say for sure. But, cheap Asian pools sure are more prone to rotting for some reason.
It pisses me off when I find people have been sold a tin can for a swimming pool, with a trash bag for a liner, for the same money they could have bought something decent. Swim’N Play have an inexpensive model called the Galveston, that is far and away the best pool you can buy at its price point. Or you can upgrade from the Galveston to the Deluxe 8000 for only a hundred bucks more. The Deluxe 8000 is one of the most popular models I sell and install.
This company has been buying up a lot of pool companies / brands, but has itself only been around since 1986. They carry many different brands now: Sharkline, Fantasy, Navigator, and Atlantis to name a few. There are a lot of different models for each brand. I have no use for the Atlantic, or the Sharkline models, but I do love the Fantasy and the Navigator. Of course, I have picked their Oasis as the best of the best as previously mentioned.
Fantasy Aluminum Pools – Reviews
The Fantasy and Navigator pools come in all popular dimensions, but are a step down in grade from the Oasis, or formerly best built JW/EW pools. Fantasy pools are still a great value. They have an aluminum bead channel that never bends, gets stretched out, gets damaged by the sun or pool chemicals. These kits also have all aluminum walls (coil stock), and all aluminum upper and lower support tracks.
Namco Above-Ground Pool Reviews
Keep in mind that the pool industry is not regulated. What one company calls a 25 gauge pool liner may not even be 15 mil in reality. My personal experience with Namco pools is that the majority of their pool kits and liners are garbage.
I can not explain how cheap and thin their pool liners are. Often customers go buy their own liner at Namco and ask me to install it (I install them). I know a heavy gauge pool liner when I have one in my hands, when I have it heating up in the sun, getting ready to install it. I can tell you right now, I’ve been afraid that one of my fingernails might cut through a Namco liner. Although it says 25 gauge on the box, I often felt like I was working with a garbage bag not a pool liner!
My experience with Namco above ground pool kits is limited to installing liners. In order to replace a pool liner you have to disassemble the upper rails and support bars. All I can say is that the pool walls are much thinner than the ones I usually deal with, and where most other pool manufacturer use metal upper support rails, NAMCO often has a cheap plastic piece, and the walls flop around like a piece of bologna.
It may be that I have only worked on their cheaper models, but I am not familiar enough with their products to say which I have had the displeasure of working with. All I can tell you is I am not a fan of their pools or their liners. But people here in Massachusetts keep buying this stuff. They have a new pool in 2013 that looks like a spaceship, really ultra modern, I have actually heard that it is a sturdy pool. I believe it is made by Swim N’ Play.
I have been told by someone who used to work for Namco, they buy their pools from Asia, and they are not sized well. There 24 round is in fact only 23 feet 7 inches. So if you try to install a thick USA liner, it will not fit as well as it should.
Namco actually sells the Esther William pool, They must have bought the licencing for the name. It is the same pool I listed above as the best of the best Oasis.
Hoffinger Industries Reviews
Hoffinger Industries manufactures and markets two brands. One is the well known Doughboy line, and the other is called Embassy Pool Co.
Doughboy pools are extremely strong pools. Their premium line of pools have superior walls, they weight up to 500 lbs more than their nearest competitors. While a fan of their round pools, their ovals take a lot of extra work to install.
Doughboy pool accessories are above average in strength and made of quality materials. While their pools are really good, their order fulfillment and accuracy leave something to be desired. As a Doughboy dealer, I would steer you away based on price and order fulfillment.
Embassy Pool Co Review
As a dealer, I really got behind one of their promotions this year. They put out a package called the Centennial pool package. I sold probably 25 of these packages before complaints started rolling in from customers. Missing components, wrong top-rails, dead on arrival pool motors.
This package was suppose to be based on the Century pool. But what they failed to mention, was the top-rail support skirts were not included. If you bought the Century pool they were, but not with the Centennial package. I have no love for deceptive advertising and have sold my last pool for the Embassy Pool Co.
Wilkes / Gibraltar Pool Reviews
If you own a Gibraltar pool, you probably already know it is actually a Wilkes pool that has been re-branded. Wilkes gave Gibraltar the whole New England territory. It is rumored that the Gibraltar family bailed out Wilkes when they were going under.
Anyway, what that means for people in Massachusetts is that the Gibraltar family has a monopoly on the pool, as the Wilkes company protects the Gibraltar brand, by not selling parts to anyone in New England.
There pool is really good and last a really long time, especially now that they have gotten away from their wood decks. The new Aluminum decks are a real improvement on the pool. Also, the slat walls make it a billion times stronger than other above ground pools. The only knock on the pool, is that the slats rot out and need to be replaced, especially the slats around the skimmer and the return.
I install Wilkes liners and have heard from so many customers of Gibraltar that their customer service is super bad, and they hold you hostage for parts. I have liners custom made, and do not need to buy them direct. I do occasionally need parts, like their slat wall pieces, and it is always inconvenient to deal with the jerks in the parts department. Hope they don’t read my blog
If you know anyone in the market for an above ground pool I hope you share this information with them. Also please check out the pools we have begun selling. I think you will be impressed with our pool packages . Please ask any technical questions in the comments section below, and or visit our contact page for service inquiries.
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