Should I get an above ground pool or an inground pool? It’s a question every would-be pool owner has to answer if they want to get anywhere in their quest for backyard bliss.
According to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, there are about 5 million inground pools in the United States, compared to about 3.5 million above ground pools. However, the market for above ground pools (aka onground pools) has grown faster in recent years. In short, people are pretty divided on what type of pool to get.
Of course, for many people, there is no choice because an inground pool doesn’t fit their budget. But for others, the decision is tough – and it involves a lot more than just dollar figures. Here are some of the factors to consider when deciding on the right pool for you and your family.
We like to harp on the fact that inground pool prices vary a lot. The same is true of above ground pools, which can range from a hundred dollars or less, to tens of thousands. However, one thing we can state with certainty is that an inground swimming pool is far more expensive than a comparable above ground pool. In fact, for the cost of an inground pool on the low end of the scale, you can probably get a top-of-the-line above ground pool – and still have money left over to throw your first pool party.
With pool walls extending above ground, a stationary above ground pool has a built-in safety feature that’s lacking in inground pools. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, well over half of fatal drownings happen in inground pools (another 10% happen in portable above ground pools, which include inflatable and plastic kiddie pools). That said, details do matter. While above ground pools might be statistically safer, an inground pool with thoughtful safety features (including a fence) is less likely to be the scene of an accident than an unsecured onground pool.
Above ground pools come in a large-but-limited number of models. While you can find them in lots of different styles, the sizes and shapes available pale in comparison to what you can get for an inground pool. In fact, an inground swimming pool can take any form you wish (provided it’s made from concrete rather than a pre-constructed fiberglass shell). There are also more add-on features available for inground pools, including diving boards and attached spas.
To most people’s eyes, inground swimming pools are more attractive than above ground pools. That’s not to say you can’t make an above ground pool look nice, especially if you get creative with landscaping or an attached deck. However, for an above ground pool, the highest compliment is often when someone says it “looks like an inground pool.” That should tell you something.
Above ground and inground pools require a lot of the same maintenance tasks, including cleaning, filtering, and maintaining chemical balance. As far as durability goes, inground pools – particularly concrete and fiberglass ones – generally hold up much better than above ground pools. On the other hand, when an inground pool does need renovations or repairs, you’re pretty much stuck with an expensive project on your hands – it is, after all, a permanent fixture on your property. In contrast, an old above ground pool can simply be torn down and replaced at your leisure.
An inground swimming pool generally adds value to your home, but probably not nearly as much as you put into it. Still, that’s better than an above ground pool, which can actually reduce property value. To be clear, neither type of pool makes much sense as an investment because there are almost always more effective ways to spend your money on home improvement. Still, if you’re set on buying a pool, it’s worth considering what sort of asset you’re getting for your money.
Still unsure whether an above ground or inground pool is right for you? Some pool experts suggest starting off with an above ground pool. Then, if you choose, you can “upgrade” to an inground pool after a season or two, when you have a better idea of what it’s like to have your own backyard pool. After all, getting an inground swimming pool is one commitment you don’t want to dive into.