In the past, swimming pools were a luxury restricted to the rich. But these days, almost anyone can afford a pool. And with so much variety, you can easily find one in your price range. Your decisions will depend on size, shape, position, and construction materials.
If you time your purchase right, you can even get it half-off as people ‘winterise’ their swimming pools. So how can you be sure you got the best deal? Let’s start with a Top 10 list. We’ll note which features are essential and which ones are worth shelling out that extra quid.
Quick Pick: Best Garden Swimming Pool
Cheap swimming pools for the garden 2021
1. Bestway Steel Pro Max – Round
Garden pools are almost always inflatable. Especially in urban areas with small back yards. But you may prefer something a bit more … solid. Something like this steel swimming pool. When you first see it, you may assume it’s plastic. And yes, the sides are 3-ply PVC. These sheets are supported by a dozen steel tubes and a PVC band to help the pool retain its shape.
The steel tubes are held in place using seal-and-lock technology. Meanwhile, the inner surface of the swimming pool is adorned with mosaic-patterned PVC is various shades of poolside blue. You can order this pool in two sizes (12ft or 15ft) and three depths (30, 39.5, or 48 inches). The pool stands 76cm off the ground and holds about 6,500 litres when full.
And though it may look flimsy and low-end, even the shallowest 30-inch model is unsafe for toddlers. So never let children under 3 years swim unsupervised, this is no kiddie pool. The pool comes with a pump and a filter but they’re entry-level giveaways so don’t expect much If you have a genuine need for pool accessories, spend a bit extra to get a premium pump.
This Bestway swimming pool is a happy compromise between permanent pools and inflatable ones. The steel frames ensure stability and longevity. The mosaic inlay is nice too.
- The pool is 12 feet in diameter and 30 inches deep.
- It comes bundled with a filter and a pump.
- Its steel frame resists rust, corrosion, and chlorine.
- The pump is a bonus feature so it’s often the first thing to stop working …
2. Intex Easy-Set Inflatable – Round (Our Top Pick)
We assume inflatable pools are a cop-out. Something you buy when you don’t have the cash or space for a ‘proper pool’. But as more and more ordinary people develop a taste for luxury, the market responds. So now we have mass-produced deluxe goods at budget prices. Intex easy-Set falls in that category. You wouldn’t be wrong to call it a premium inflatable pool.
This pool has a conveniently located drain plug so you can fill it directly from the mains and empty the pool at your convenience. Ideally, unplug the garden hose from the tap and reposition it to drain into your kitchen garden or flower bed. Grass only needs an inch of water per week, so don’t drain it onto the lawn – you may end up drowning the yard.
While the pool may seem child-like, it can hold up to 4 adults at a time – assuming their weight is roughly 60kg a piece. And it’s 3 feet deep so don’t leave kids alone if they’re 6 years or younger. The pool is made of 3-ply PVC and different parts of the pool have different thicknesses. The rim is 0.26mm, the middle is 0.25mm, and the sides are 0.5mm.
This inflatable garden swimming pool is a firm favourite. You can set it up in minutes. And if you don’t want to dismantle it, you can buy a pool cover and leave it out for a few more days.
- It measures 305cm by 76cm and holds nearly 4,000 litres when full.
- The drain plug lets you fill (and empty) the pool with a garden hose.
- The triple-play ‘skin’ of the pool is quite durable.
- It doesn’t have a filter so you’ll need to pre-clean your pool water and scrub the pool surface to stop it from going green.
3. Cool Guy Doggie Pool – Round
Most of us buy garden swimming pools for our kids, not for ourselves. But what if your children have four legs? In many British homes, Fluffy and Fido are fully acknowledged members of the family, complete with microchips and passports. So if your dog is high on your priority list, it’s worth getting their own pool. And yes, human kids can use it too.
This pool is made of tough plastic that can withstand pet paws, cat claws, and rowdy toddlers. That said, you may still want to trim before they swim! The pool fortified against leaks and can hold both water and coloured balls (should you decide to use it as a ball-pit). The pool is 80cm in diameter and stands 20cm tall. It folds flat when empty, but dry it first.
This paddling pool can double as a bathtub, playpen, or toy-box in a crunch. You can order it in red or blue. The pull-tab lets you fill and drain the tub at your convenience. The inner surface of the pool is textured to prevent slips and falls, but you should still keep a close eye on the kid as they paddle. The inner sides of the pool are scratch-resistant. It weighs 1.3kg.
The bottom and sides of this pet pool are filled with fibreboard for added stability. This reduces the risk of leaks and punctures while maintaining the pool shape. It’s worth buying.
- It’s foldable for convenient use in transit.
- You get 24-hour customer care in case of any challenges.
- The pool has a non-slip bottom and reinforced seams.
- If you have children AND dogs, you may need more than one pool to avoid waterborne custody wars…
4. Bestway Framed Pool – Rectangular
Product design is always a delicate balance. For example, this is one of the best garden swimming pools in terms of convenience. The inlet/outlet is positioned on the side of the pool, making it easier to attach a garden hose. And that’s perfect when you’re filling the pool. But when it’s time to drain, that lateral placement makes it hard to catch the last few drops.
But let’s talk about the features we like. The pool comes in three sizes that are roughly 7 feet, 9 feet, and 13 feet. We’re looking at the 13ft model here, and its dimensions are 3m by 2m. The pool is 75cm tall and it’s supported by 10 steel tubes. The side tubes are diagonal with floor bands to maintain the form and shape of this rectangular garden swimming pool.
These tubes have round end caps for enhanced weight distribution. They keep the pool stable and prevent the metal from digging into the ground. The sides of the pool are 0.56mm 3-ply PVC TriTech. The bottom is 0.5mm thick and this TriTech reduces the likelihood of leaks while keeping the pool rigid. The pool weighs 21kg when it’s empty and can hold 693kg/m2.
This rectangular pool is easy to assemble and a pleasure to use. Six average adults (60kg each) can splash together. You can attach a pool pump but you’d have to order it separately.
- It has a built-in drain valve.
- The pool holds about 3,800 litres when full.
- Its still frames can effectively resist corrosion.
- The drain hole is on the side corner rather than the bottom, so it’s hard to completely dry the pool.
5. Intex Ultra – Rectangular
Now we’re getting into sturdier territory. This garden swimming pool can be connected to a filter and a pump. It’s as close as you can get to sinking a pool without digging one up. The pool is 18 feet wide, 9 feet deep, and 52 inches long. The pool works best with a sand pump and a glass filter filler. The pump comes in the shipping box. The sand and ceramics do not.
This pool is slate grey on the outside with a blue mosaic print on the inside. The pool is supported by u-shaped tubes and support bands that slide under the pool. At 132cm, it’s almost twice as tall as competing pools so it comes with a removable safety ladder for easy access. The main body of the pool is waterproof PVC which is 0.73mm thick on all sides.
The pool filter has Hyrdo Aeration features. You can fill it with sand or you can buy compatible glass/ceramic media to load the filter. When it’s full, this pool holds 17,203 litres of water. To assemble this pool, lock the steel bits together – no tools needed. This pool offers superior service in almost every area. The filter has five functions and over 4,000l/h.
Let’s talk %. This pool resists tears 49% better, the sides are 21% more flexible, resists rust and salt 96 hours longer, and offers 61% more water clarity. Those are some serious figures!
- The pool works with filters and pumps.
- It holds over 17,000 litres when full.
- The pool is resistant to sun, sand, and chlorine.
- You’ll need to buy sand a compatible pump separately.
6. Dookey Sprinkle and Splash Mat
The best garden swimming pool is one that makes the children happy. (After all, grown-ups can always go to the gym or the beach for liquid pleasure.) And kids are a lot easier to impress than we give them credit for. Case in point – why shell out for a fancy garden pool when they’re happy frolicking with the sprinkler? Yes, that’s an argument for a splash mat.
It’s like a sprinkler … but less messy. This model by Dookey has a diameter of 69 inches (170cm) so it’s big enough for your kids to share. Maybe. Probably. Possibly. Buy more than one, just to be safe. The mat holds enough water to get their feet wet and shoots off fountains of fun through its nozzles. And because the plastic is 0.22mm thick, grass can’t poke through.
The water does need a ‘live hose’ though so the tap has to stay on and needs enough pressure to power the fountains. Not too much though, or the mat will literally burst at the seams. You may also need to check the direction of the nozzles though it’s easy to adjust. You can direct them to spray within the mat’s circumference or to point outside by pinching the mat’s edge.
For a quick solution to summertime boredom, invest in a few of these splash mats. They’ll keep the kids busy for hours at a time and are less anxiety-inducing than kiddie pools.
- It has lots of ‘legroom’ at 69 inches across.
- The circular shape and strengthened seams can withstand fast-flowing water.
- The PVC is thick enough to avoid getting pierced by grass blades.
- It too shallow for a soothing soak.
7. Intex Swim Centre Family Pool
We’re floating from inflatables for kids to inflatables for adults. This one is loosely cross-shaped, but with rounded edges. Each of the four cross tips has a seat and a headrest. And two of these corner seats have drink-holders for mummy and daddy … so you know this isn’t just for the kids. This lightweight inflatable pool weighs a slight 14 pounds when empty.
It folds flat for portability and unlike other models, the drain plug is on the bottom of the pool. This makes draining and drying far more efficient. Fully loaded, the pool holds 990 litres of water. The vinyl on this pool is hardy but not impenetrable so the box includes a repair kit. Once filled, the ‘walls’ of the swimming pool expand to roughly 15cm.
The pool does need to be inflated before you fill it, so consider buying an air pump. Otherwise, you’ll be blowing hot air all afternoon while your kids nag in the background. And while your drinks should never be left unsupervised – can-holders notwithstanding – you should always keep an eye on the kids. Avoid letting toddlers under three years in the pool.
As inflatable pools guy, this Intex is premium. With a good air pump, you can fill it in 5 to 7 minutes. Add half an hour for the water to fill the pool. It weighs about 12kg when empty.
- The pool measures 229cm by 229cm and stands 66cm tall.
- It has a moulded seat at each end for easy sharing.
- The pool also has cup-holders and headrests.
- It comes with a repair patch … meaning it’s susceptible to leakage so look out!
8. Bestway Rattan Pool – Round
If you’ve ever shopped for or with a woman, you know a simple colour change makes all the difference. And that’s definitely the case with this garden swimming. It has all the features we know and love in Bestway … and it’s reedy! The outer surface is printed with realistic rattan patterns that make you feel you’re soaking in wicker. And it comes with a filter too!
Plus a pool pump, so that’s two more treats! It’s a sizeable garden pool measuring over three-and-a-half metres across. The rims and support tubes are strong steel poles encased in a PVC band. The sides of the pool are 3-Ply PVC as well. And while these support poles are rust-proof, they can sometimes corrode at the joints. The pool uses T-connectors to reduce this.
These T-connectors snap, lock, and seal into place without tools. And the pool comes with a safety ladder and a repair kit in case of snags or tears. Its filter filaments are fine enough to trap bacteria and other microbes. It slows the growth of mould and algae. The pool can hold up to 9,150 litres of water. The built-in drain valve makes it easier to fill and drain the pool.
Wicker-work is the go-to for weatherproof outdoor furniture, so why not a pool? Probably because rattan isn’t waterproof. So this pool uses wicker-print plastic instead. Neat trick!
- The pool ships with an anti-microbial filter.
- It has a 366cm diameter and is 100cm tall.
- The TriTech material can resist pressure and tearing.
- It’s not actual rattan – it’s reed-patterned plastic.
9. Summer Waves Ring Pool – Round
What’s the best part of using a shared pool? A lot of us delight in looking through the clear water. And playing waving our limbs as they’re ‘magically deformed’ by refraction. For this aspect, a see-through pool is a perfect vehicle. So this Summer Waves ring pool with its transparent sides is a hit. The pool measures 3m across and is about half a metre high.
Given its depth, the pool is unsafe for swimmers under six years. And yes, it’s an inflatable garden swimming pool. But it’s a premium one that comes packed with its own water pump and filter. It even has spare cartridges! The inflated rim of the pool offers a comfy armrest as you soak in the pool. This top ring also helps the swimming pool retain its rounded shape.
Interestingly, you don’t need to blow up the whole pool before using it. Once you inflate the rim, it will raise the sides of the pool and you can turn on the tap. The water then fills the pool and makes the sides sufficiently rigid. This package is comprehensive – you get a pool, a pump, a D-filter, two spare filter cartridges, a pool cover, and a drainage plug. You’re all set!
You may be veering towards inflatable pools but would prefer a grown-up model. This ring pool is the ideal midpoint. And it ships with all the pool accessories you need.
- The pool comes with a filter cartridge plus two spares.
- It’s 3.05m in diameter and the water level is roughly waist-high.
- It takes roughly 15 minutes to fill the pool (with water).
- It can only ship to places with physical mailboxes, not post office boxes. (Sorry Channel Islands!)
10. Intex Mini – Square
Let’s close with something specifically for the kids. The full-sized Inyex pool is a top UK seller. But if you want to separate ‘adult swim’ from ‘kiddie time’, consider getting your kids a dedicated Intex. It has all the features of the grown version, it’s just shorter. With four pillars and a lower height can be a good fit for swimmers that have a differently-abled stature.
It’s about half the size of the larger Intex so it only stands a foot tall. The pool has four poles with end caps for safety. It can support 279kg/m2. The main body of the pool is a square that measures 122cm by 122cm. The built-in valve lets you fill and empty the pool effortlessly. The pool is a bit over 3.5g when empty. It’s a bright blue pool and holds 340 litres when full.
While two or three children (or under-four-footers) can happily play in this pool, you can still use it as an average-sized adult. You’d just have to stretch out diagonally or sit on a stool and dangle your feet in the water – it’ll only come up to your knees. The foam padding lets you (or your kids) comfortably hang your arms over the rim without straining or injury.
Need to keep the kids busy this weekend? Set aside 10 minutes to assemble this mini-pool. It comes with instructions and a repair kit s check for leaks when you take it out of storage.
- The pool has steel support tubes and foam padding.
- With basic DIY skills, you can assemble this pool in a few minutes.
- The drain sometimes sticks. And the plastic is soft so avoid using the pool on concrete. It works fine on grass or wood, though you may need a blanket beneath.
The simplest way to get a garden swimming pool is to buy an inflatable one. It’s cheap and it doesn’t take up long-term space in the garden. But if you’re looking for something more permanent, here are some shopping tips to help you spot the best garden swimming pool.
A swimming pool can be above-ground, partially sunken, or fully sunken. Above-ground pools are often more affordable. They can cost half as much as sunken pools. Depending on the material, they can slash your pool installation bill up to 80%. They’re quicker to install – you can do it in a day! And they need less maintenance than sunken swimming pools.
But not everyone wants to see a swimming pool rising above the surface of the ground. And if your soil is soggy or soft, it may not be rigid enough to support an above-ground swimming pool. Consider your garden visuals before you decide. You can also check in with your local council or your home-owners association. They may have height rules for swimming pools.
Size and Shape
Round pools are pretty and stylish. But if your backyard is on the small side, your pool could leave your garden feeling squashed and crowded. For small yards, a triangular or trapezoidal corner pool is better. It gives your garden a more open, airy ambience. The size and shape of your pool may also be driven by the natural landmarks and features or utilities in your yard.
The swimming pool needs to avoid power lines, sewer pipes, or internet cables. You may also need to dance around deep roots, surface shrubs, water tanks, and fault lines. Curved pools might help you dodge some of these barriers. Or moulded pools with unusual angles that can sneak around any interruption to the garden terrain. You also want easy access to your taps.
How do you plan to use the pool? Do the kids swim competitively or is it just for splashing about on sunny days? If this a paddling pool for arthritic seniors, a birthing pool for a mum-to-be, or a prop for your fitness resolution? Lap pools are long and narrow, so a repurposed container pool as a convenient go-to. Birthing pools and elder pools may need heaters.
If you have kids or pets around, you may want to pay extra for an automated cover, so you need a pool that’s compatible with electronic hardcovers. And if your family is more internet-oriented, it may be snazzy to get a smart pool you can manage on your phone. Other features might include (coloured) pool lights, ledges and steps, infinity edges, or poolside ladders.
Splash and Puddle
Based on our research, we think you should buy the Intex Easy Set. Here’s why:
- It’s 3m in diameter and 76cm tall.
- When full, it holds 3,854 litres of water.
- This pool is large enough for kids and adults to share.
- It can support 441kg/m2 so roughly 4 adults of 60kg each.
- The drain plug makes it easy to set up and deflate.
- The sides are made of 3-ply plastic.
- This 3-ply comes in three different widths ranging from 0.25mm to 0.5mm.
Do you currently have a garden swimming pool? Show us a photo in the comments!