This article compares and reviews automatic swimming pool cleaners. My goal is to help you choose the best cleaner for your type of pool (above ground / inground). I will also share my experience of 30 years while examining the pros and cons of the top rated models available today.
I have read many other pool cleaner reviews on the internet and none of them discuss pool design. If you have a cement / Gunite pool, you may not use the same pool cleaner as you would in a pool with a vinyl liner. Also, the best above ground pool cleaner, is not suitable for inground pools.
Many others that discuss the pros and cons are either just looking at one model, or have a clear marketing agenda. I am looking at all vacuums and automatic robot cleaners, and simply telling you what I would do in your position, based on what I know and your pool type.
I must confess before we get into this article, that I am a sucker for shiny cool gadgets. If these guys wanted to get me to buy something, all they would have to do is chrome it out, and make it look modern. Well… If I didn’t know better 😉
Review of Pool Cleaner Types
There are currently three types of automatic pool cleaner. Keep in mind that all of these are designed for maintenance, not for pools “loaded” with leaves and algae.
- Suction Side Cleaners
- Independent Robotic & Automatic Pool Cleaners
- Pressure Side Cleaners
Suction Side Pool Cleaners
I am not a huge fan of these robotic pool cleaner types. Mainly because for most people they have to disable their skimmer to use one. The surface of the pool is where the most dirt is. So disabling the surface skimmer to clean the pool makes little sense to me.
Used in moderation they have an upside and one special feature none of the other pool cleaners have. Suction side cleaners will get small particles of dirt that robotic and pressure side cleaners can’t. Unlike other cleaners they don’t collect debris in a basket or bag. They use suction and vacuum dirt into the filter where it stays. Filters catch dirt as small as 4 microns, you can’t even see that with your eyes.
Robotic Cleaners & Independently Powered Cleaners
I just don’t see the value in these cleaners. If your handy and mechanically inclined, they could be a good fit for you, but they break down a lot. It is a rare unit that gets you a third pool season, so I say stay clear of the high priced units. The more expensive robotic cleaners don’t clean any better than cheaper units, so there is no value to be had.
I am talking about the high end TigerSharks and Dolphin Dx Models etc… All these units have a power box that you plug in. If you are going robotic, consider the cheaper Aquabots. They have tons of parts available, and youtube videos, and user support. They are going to break down in a year or two also, but they cost half what the others do, and are easily repaired, if your handy.
Pressure Side Pool Cleaners
Here we have my favorite type of cleaner. Polaris has dominated the market in pressure side cleaners as far back as I can remember. But there is a new sheriff in town and it goes by the name Trivac 700. Hayward has finally upped their game and came out with, dare I say it… Bad-ass new pool cleaner.
In truth I have only seen it work in videos, but I love the concept. It may be over priced for a year or two, and parts not readily available, or inexpensive, but wow. This unit actually cleans the surface of the pool too. I will discuss the model later in the article.
Upfront cost and set up cost can be a little higher than other models as all the inground units I recommend actually require a booster pump. That is a pump different that the one you use to filter water. But if you have a dedicated pump and pressure line, there is no better pool cleaner! Bar none!
Luckily there is an inexpensive above ground unit that works amazing and does not require a separate pump. I am of course talking about the Polaris 65 the whole system is available on amazon with free shipping for you prime members for just $180.- Amazon Link
I will discuss this unit a bit more further on too.
These units range from $450.00 to $1500.00. And without getting into every detail as to why I chose one model over another. I will just list the pros and cons of all of them, and tell you which one I would buy.
Negatives First, the cons!
Some of these expensive robots don’t do any better job cleaning a pool than the less expensive units. Many are also heavy and difficult to get out of the water for many folks.
Units like this Tiger Shark wear out faster in cement / gunite pools, and because of there weight, are more likely to damage a vinyl liner while removing it from your pool.
They run on electricity and so require an another power source. Instead of using the suction or pressure already being created by your pool pump, they use more energy.
The Positives, The Pros
You don’t have to disable your skimmer to use this cleaner. This is extra important if you have a large pool with a small skimmer, or only one skimmer like most pools. If you disable the skimmer to clean the bottom of the pool like you would with a suction side cleaner, debris that land on the surface will collect and sink to the bottom.
Being independent from other systems, you can run this even when the pool pump is not in operation. Also, it will not interfere with other cleaning systems, so it will do its job more efficiently.
This Is My Top Pick For “Independent” Robot Cleaners Of Inground Pools Without A Dedicated Polaris Line
- Aquabot basically invented the industry
- Low Cost / Price Lowest on Amazon ($403.28)
- Works as good as any other robotic independent cleaner
- Wheels over tracks – Good for all pool surface types
- Parts are cheaper and more available
Top Pick For Above Ground Pools
If you want an “independent robotic” cleaner for an above ground pool, I would go with the Aquabot Pool Rover Junior. Also least expensive right now on Amazon ($259.98).
This is an excellent choice for large above ground pools, and small ingrounds.
Suction Side Pool Cleaners
The first four names in the list below are the exact same cleaner with a different shell on it.
Suction type models:
- Diver Dave
- Lil Shark
- Lady Bug
- Wanda the Whale
- Pool Cleaner (seen above)
- Kreepy Krawly
These are vacuum style pool cleaners. They travel across the bottom of the pool like a mobile main drain.
Because they use the skimmer to operate, pool surface cleaning is disabled while it is being used. Also they can only handle very small amount of debris without an extra debris canister. They tend not to cover the entire pool surface, and are prone to breaking.
- Catches smaller debris than other cleaners
- Runs off the suction created by existing pump so it requires no extra energy cost
- Least expensive
- Light weight
Top Choice for Suction Side Cleaner for Inground Pools
For pools up to size 16 x 32 we recommend the Hayward Aquanaut 200. For Larger Pools we Recommend the Aquanaut 400.
This cleaner was originally called the Poolvergnuegen. Hayward bought the company and kept a legacy model, while also rebranding it as “The Pool Cleaners”. This year they have given it a new look and the model is called Aquanaut. They still have the 2 wheel and 4 wheel models, choose your model based on pool size.
Top Pick For Suction Side Above Ground Cleaners
These units are available on Amazon for about $130.00
including the cost of shipping (Click Here). They come complete with a hose and everything you need to use it right away.
My mom abuses her Lady Bug all the time and she can’t kill it! I tell her its not for cleaning lots of leaves, but she uses it for that anyway, and never has a problem. I do recommend using a leaf canister. Also available on Amazon for short money, Click Here These units are more susceptible to small parts breaking (especially Wanda), but they are so cheap a second unit for parts will guarantee many years of use.
Pressure Side Pool Cleaners
There is no point in discussing anyone other than Polaris. They are the end all, be all of pressure side pool cleaners.
They have models that require a booster pump and others that will run off a regular circulation pump like model Polaris Vac-Sweep 280.
Negatives – Cons
- Set up and equipment cost can be high
- Requires a dedicated pressure line
Like most cleaners, when properly set up they work really well. Climbs walls great, has a whip that helps to clean the pool. They are not overly heavy. They catch a large amount of debris.
Top Pick Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
If I had a booster pump and a dedicated pressure line there is no doubt I would buy the new Kreepy Krauly Racer model (seen here on right). It is better than the original Polaris pool cleaner models, which were really good too.
It is also the coolest looking thing I’ve seen in a while. Like I said at the beginning, I am a sucker for cool and shiny.
This unit actually works well too, so with no other contenders in the booster pump pool cleaning arena, this is my top choice. At the time of the writing of this article, this unit is available on Amazon.com for $615.00.
Top Pick For Above Ground Pressure Side Cleaners
Of all the above ground automatic pool cleaners, my top pick is the Polaris 65. Seen here below (looks like a kite). I like it better than the Diver Dave Suction cleaners, and even the pool rover junior. It does not get jammed up because it swims around catching debris with a bag, instead of trying to suck it through a small orifice, it runs of the blower side of the system, so the skimmer is still free to catch debris on the surface, and it does not require an additional power source like the Pool Rover Jr.
This thing is mesmerizing to watch too. Its like watching a fish tank, as it glides through the water catching even the biggest leaves. It is usually on Amazon for like 169.00 It comes with everything you need.
If I were buying a new pool cleaner for an above ground pool, I would buy the Polaris 65.
If I were buying one for an inground pool that did not have a dedicated pressure line I would buy the Aquanaut 200 for small pools, and the Aquanaut 400 (4 wheeler) for larger pools.
If I had the dedicated pressure without a booster pump, I would buy the Polaris Vac Sweep 280, or more likely the Polaris 165. If I had a booster pump assisted pressure line, I would definitely buy the new Kreepy Krauly Racer.