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 a minimum of $800.00 you can see where it may be beneficial to spend an extra $100 or $200 upfront for a quality liner.
Aside from considering construction and design of the pool kit, it is important to get a heavy / thick mil pool liner, a solid pool ladder with an extra wide base, 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, and it really applies with above ground pool components.
Round Pool Vs. Oval Pools
Lets compare a 24′ round to a 15′ x 30′ oval 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.
The 24 is also easier to maintain, round pools naturally have better circulation. This leaves less dead spots for algae to form. 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. The weaker 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.
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.
Above Ground Pool Brands Versus Pool Models
There are several great above ground pool brand names to choose from here in Massachusetts. 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 sturdy pool.
However, Some of these great pool brands sell some real garbage when you get down to there less expensive offerings. If you are in the market for a decent pool with a small budget, I will mention a model or two that will serve you well.
I will list which of them sell the best pool, then the second best, then the best value, then I will select the best model for tighter budgets. The brands I have selected in no particular order are: Wilbar Group, Swim & Play, Wilkes, and Doughboy.
Doughboy is a great brand and a great company. They have been around forever, and are makers of some of the finest pools. Their top of the line model is called the Saratoga. This pool is the best of the best! One of the coolest features available on the Saratoga is their bolt in the wall stairs. These are permanent, just like an inground pool.
You can step down one level and still get one heck of a pool. The Dessert Spring and the Sapphire are extremely sturdy pools. Doughboy has their own line of premium liners, decks, filters, pumps and skimmers. These accessories are not just rebranded, they are all original and of the highest quality.
Second Best Above Ground Pools – Gibraltar Review
There is no doubt that Wilkes sells a good pool. If you have a budget of 15-20 thousand and are looking for a sturdy above ground pool. There top of the line model is really good. Pros and cons are as follows.
Pros: The pool comes with a very sturdy aluminum deck. The pool itself is very strong and handles our New England winters well. They are built to last, and with the introduction of their new aluminum decks. They will no doubt give you thirty years.
Cons: liners are thin and they still utilize drop in stairs or most often a ladder, which frequently damage the liner. It comes with a ridiculous price tag for an above ground pool. But if your yard can not accommodate an inground, this is a very strong pool.
Another negative If you want a Wilkes pool here in Massachusetts, you have buy it from the only dealer here in Massachusetts. Wilkes gave the Massachusetts territory to only one dealer, and they sell it under the brand Gibraltar.
Gibraltar has a monopoly on the Wilkes pool here in Massachusetts. I would have loved to sold and install their pool, but alas it was not to be. Gibraltar is down in Topsfield, MA (800) 872-7946. We do however sell and install replacement aftermarket liners for their pools.
I have been told over and over again by customers, that the father who founded the company was great, and the company was great then too. But now the son run’s it, and they would never buy a pool from them again. Buyer beware!
Best Value Above Ground Pools
I have settled on the Paragon for the most bang for your buck. I have priced it out with installation and premium accessories. You can learn more about it in our post on above ground pool packages.
The Paragon is also branded under the name Serenity. There are minor differences, but they are essentially the same pool. This is a steel pool with a thick wall and massive top rails.
Great Pool For Smaller Budgets
Swim’N Play, Inc.
Swim’N Play have been around for almost 40 years and I have chosen one of their models for best value. They are a trusted brand with great reviews around the web and have 8 models to choose from. They offer Steel, Aluminum and Resin Pool Models.
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 XL7000, that is far and away the best pool you can buy at its price point. Also, it 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 like: Sharkline, Fantasy, Navigator, and Atlantis. There are a lot of different models for each brand. I have no use for the Atlantic line, or the Sharkline, but I do love the Fantasy and the Navigator. I would urge you to read the mostly 1 and 2 star reviews around the web (Manta & Merchant Circle) before purchasing an Atlantic or Sharkline pool.
Like I said, I love the Fantasy and the Navigator pools. However, If this company keeps buying and riding good brands into the ground. I may have to revise my opinion.
History Of The Best Above Ground 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 (no longer made). 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 Fantasy or Navigator. When the Wilbar Group bought this company out, they did not purchase licensing for the JW or EW names, So they had to call the pool something different. The Navigator is the same as the Fantasy but with a 54″ wall.
I have personally worked on, repaired, assembled, and disassembled thousands of above ground pools over my career. There was no better pool kit for the money.
The new Fantasy and Navigator pools come in all popular dimensions, but are a step down in grade from the formally built JW/EW pools. Fantasy pools are still a great value but, not the superior pool they once were. 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, all aluminum support tracks (upper and lower).
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 gauge 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 every other pool manufacturer uses metal upper support rails, NAMCO often has a cheap plastic piece . 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. I know they filed for chapter 11 in 2013.
I have been told by someone who used to work there, 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 does not fit as well as it should.
If you know anyone in the market for an above ground pool I hope you share this information with them. Please ask any technical questions in the comments section below, and call (978) 710-8667 or visit our contact page for service inquiries.
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