Many owners of cheap pools assert that upgrading to more powerful pumps, bigger filters, and sturdier skimmers is the only way to keep the water fresh and free of debris and algae, and is definitely worth the extra expense. So, it seems, is upgrading to Intex's saltwater filter system. According to above-ground pool reviews on Sears, pool owners who have made the switch are thrilled with their decision, noting that the water stays clear and fresh and salt is far cheaper and less abrasive than chlorine.
The lining for cheap swimming pools with metal walls is typically a heavy-duty vinyl. The shell on the Intex metal frame and Ultra Frame models does double-duty as the liner. Many pool owners report problems such as pinhole leaks that often show up in the liner (or shell) during the summer or after winter storage. Among the few reviews we found for the Summer Escapes 18' x 48" pool were complaints about tiny holes in the triple-layer PVC liner even when brand new. Patch kits for liners are sometimes included with cheap swimming pools (Intex, for example), but you can buy them separately for less than $10.
Our search for the best cheap backyard pools hit a few waves due to the limited number of reviews, minimal differences among models, and different brand names splashed onto what otherwise appear to be the same pool. Still, we identified several cheap pools that should give your family warm-weather fun for several years. At the top of our list we put the pool (starting at $240) for its price, mid-range size, durability, and user-friendly setup, and the Intex 18' x 9' x 52" Ultra Frame Rectangular (starting at $751), also for its durability and easy assembly. The (starting at $399) and pool (starting at $650) qualify for second place. They're both decent swimming pools but require more setup time and are subject to relatively more grousing about leaks and overall build quality than the Intex pools. Little praise but lots of criticism (parts that break, water that leaks, poor customer service) about the (starting at $450) suggests your money would be better spent elsewhere.
Intex, Heritage, Seaview Club, and Summer Escapes are the big fish in the cheap swimming pools sea. Most framed backyard pools are round, with widths ranging between 8 feet and 30 feet and depths ranging from 30 inches to 52 inches. Framed rectangular pools start at about 12' x 24' x 52" and swell to 16' x 32' x 52". Most cheap pools are sold as kits that contain a liner, pump and filter, and skimmer, and some include bonus items such as a ground cloth, ladder, top cover, maintenance kit, and vacuum.