Once you’ve decided to build a pool, the next big choice you have to make is whether to install an above or in-ground model. This guide will help you choose which pool type is best for you, comparing key factors such as pool cost, lifetime value, and ease of customization.
We’ll review these and other points to consider before selecting a pool model, weighing the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision. If you’ve been wondering whether to install an inground or above ground pool, read on for expert advice.
Above Ground Pools
Let’s begin with a quick overview of the differences between inground and above ground swimming pools. An above-ground pool is a semi-permanent structure between four and six feet deep, with a diameter of between 12 and 30 feet. These pools are known for being relatively cheap, fairly easy to assemble and providing seasonal enjoyment for families.
The most obvious characteristic of an inground pool is that it doesn’t stick up out of the lawn; instead, the installers have probably excavated an opening for your pool to be poured so that it opens flush with the rest of your landscaping. Inground pools are viewed as an attainable luxury and are known for providing years of reliable service to families across the nation.
Both styles have drawbacks and advantages, as we’ll discuss in this guide. First, let’s compare the potential costs of each type of swimming pool.
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Inground vs Above Ground Pool: Cost
For most people who are buying a pool, cost is one of the top considerations. In addition to the cost of installation and construction materials, it’s also important to remember factors like permits, insurance, and repairs — all of which can impact your budget significantly.
Above ground pools can offer substantial upfront savings, making them a popular choice for cost-conscious pool owners — especially those who don’t want to commit to building a permanent structure or using it frequently. On the other hand, an inground pool may provide you with better value and a superior return on your investment, as we’ll explain in more detail later on. Keep reading to learn more about the cost of an inground versus above ground pool once factors like plumbing, maintenance, and insurance are factored in.
Above Ground Pool Cost
The cost savings from the installation and lifetime maintenance are the biggest advantage of above-ground pools. Though the cost of an inground pool varies widely depending on your specific project and location, once you factor in the excavation, specialty plumbing and permits your project will likely start around $35,000. On the other hand, a quality above-ground pool can be installed for significantly less, depending on your requirements units can be found for under $2,000 at many box stores like Walmart. Additional benefits include ease of installation and removal.
Inground Pool Cost
Are above ground pools cheaper than inground pools? Based on sticker price alone, it may seem as though inground pools deliver less value than above ground pools, which cost less upfront. However, as we will continue to explore throughout this guide, the higher initial cost comes with an array of advantages, including:
- Longer pool lifespan compared to the life of an above ground pool
- Superior durability against wear-and-tear
- Greater ease and variety of customization
An inground pool also helps you to create an overall aesthetic in your backyard where the pool is the focal point. You can use your imagination and create the perfect backyard setting for you and your family. Additionally, if you have multiple members in your family and want everyone to be able to swim at once, an inground pool is likely the more cost-effective choice. And with flexible options like financing and monthly payments, an inground pool may be more attainable than you think!
To provide a ballpark figure, most inground pools typically start in the range of $35,000 for a baseline package which consists of only a fiberglass or vinyl-liner pool. This does not include things like lights, heat, salt or a safety cover.. However, the cost of each project varies depending on factors like:
- The size of the pool
- Whether custom features are being added or installed
- Whether special equipment is needed due to factors such as poor soil quality or narrow construction access areas
Inground vs Above Ground Pool: Longevity
When choosing an inground or above ground pool, it’s important to think about the longevity or lifespan of the pool — along with the factors that can lengthen or shorten it, such as regular wear-and-tear. You may also want to consider warranty coverage, which can help you save money on repairs and enjoy a better return on your investment. In this section, we’ll discuss the average lifespan of an inground vs. above ground pool — and why a higher price tag may offer better value in the long run.
Above Ground Pool Durability
It’s one of the most frequently asked questions from homeowners: “How long do above ground pools last?” While less costly than inground pools, they also have shorter lifespans, typically lasting anywhere from 7 to 15 years depending on factors like maintenance and construction quality. This lifespan can be influenced by additional factors like overall wear and tear, animals or wildlife in the area and snow and ice that can potentially damage an above ground pool.
Why are above ground pools typically less durable than inground pools? The structure of an above-ground pool is fully exposed, making it more vulnerable to damage and wear and tear, as well as accidental impact damage during storms or when children are playing near it.
Inground Pool Durability
If durability is a high priority for you, you should strongly consider an inground pool. Because of the infrastructure that an inground pool requires, it has a longer lifespan, typically accompanied by a substantial warranty. With proper care and maintenance, inground pools may last a lifetime of ownership, depending on construction materials, quality, weather, and other factors. However, you may need to replace the liner during that time.
Inground vs Above Ground Pool: Aesthetics
The enjoyment — and value — you get from your pool depends on more than its cost or specs. It’s equally important to think about the appearance and aesthetics of your swimming pool, especially if you plan to make it the focal point of your yard.
While beauty is always subjective, most homeowners prefer the look of an inground pool — but why? In this section of our guide to inground vs. above ground swimming pools, we’ll discuss some of the visual or style factors that might impact your decision.
Above Ground Pool Aesthetics
From an aesthetic standpoint, the major drawback to an above ground pool is that it literally sticks out from the rest of your landscaping, which becomes even more noticeable during the winter months. Not only can above ground pools be unsightly (and lead to complaints from your neighbors) — your HOA may even have an ordinance against them. By comparison, inground pools blend seamlessly into your yard, offering sleek elegance that’s more likely to earn compliments than complaints.
Inground Pool Aesthetics
For those who want a luxury look and feel, inground pools provide unbeatable style and visual quality. Compared to above ground pools, inground pools are available in a wider range of shapes, sizes and colors, with the option to add on premium custom features such as waterfalls, spas and even swim-up bars for a truly bespoke and indulgent experience. Keep reading to learn more about the customization options for an inground or underground pool vs. an above ground pool, along with some additional factors to weigh when choosing a model.
With an above ground pool, you have very limited decking options; wood is really the only material you can use and this will require regular maintenance. With an inground pool, you can build custom decking around your pool and choose from a much wider range of materials.
Inground vs Above Ground Pool: Customization
By mixing and matching design elements, it’s possible to create a unique, dazzling pool that reflects your sense of style. But shape, color and liner pattern aren’t the only details that impact the look — or functionality — of your pool. For those who want to go beyond these basic features, an inground pool provides maximum freedom to create a custom design. Read on to learn about some popular custom features that are available for inground and above ground swimming pools.
Above Ground Pool Customization
Above ground pools offer limited customization options, delivering no-frills fun but minimal flexibility. Other than its liner, few elements of an above ground pool can be custom-designed, eliminating the possibility of waterfalls, fire features, swim-up bars or most other add-ons. With that in mind, you may be able to customize your above ground pool with simple features such as heaters or lighting.
Inground Pool Customization
Inground swimming pools have a virtually limitless variety of sizes, styles, finishes and accessories are available to help you customize your inground pool to suit the landscape that surrounds your home as well as your personal style. Compared to an above ground model, choosing an inground model gives you more control over the pool’s finished look — and overall value. Working with independent pool builders, it’s easy to increase the beauty and functionality of your inground pool by adding, updating or replacing features like:
Inground vs Above Ground Pool: Safety
Safety should be the top priority when planning your new swimming pool. Regardless of whether you choose an above ground or inground model, here are some important pointers for safe and responsible pool ownership.
Above Ground Pool Safety
Above ground pools require ladders or other footholds in order to be entered safely. However, access ladders can be tricky for the young, senior or disabled visitors who come to use your pool. While these issues aren’t necessarily deal-breakers for all homeowners, your circumstances may make an above ground pool less than desirable from a safety standpoint. If you have any concerns, it’s better to err on the side of caution and choose an inground pool with advanced safety features. Ladders may also need to be locked or removed to prevent accidental entry. Removeable ladders aren’t as user-friendly and can be cumbersome to the overall look of the pool.
Inground Pool Safety
There are also safety implications for inground pools that merit careful consideration since it’s possible to fall into pools from ground level. However, while accidents can occur with any type of pool, inground models are customizable with an array of safety-enhancing features that help protect your loved ones. For example, inground pools can be designed with automatic safety covers that keep out curious children or pets — with the added benefit of blocking leaves, debris and liner-damaging UV rays.
Whether you choose an inground or above ground pool, it’s wise to construct a fence or barrier around the opening to help prevent accidents. For more tips on accident and injury prevention, we recommend exploring our guide to pool safety.
Inground vs Above Ground Pool: Value
Some homeowners hesitate to consider an inground pool because of the higher upfront costs. However, while the costs might be larger at the outset, an inground pool may also boost your property value, which makes it a worthwhile investment in your home. Additionally, inground models have longer lifespans than above ground models, which means you can get more use and enjoyment out of an inground pool. Read on to learn why an inground pool is a better investment for your future, no matter what style or design you choose.
Above Ground Pool Value
There’s no arguing that above ground pools offer great entertainment value. However, when it comes to financial value, inground pools are without a doubt the superior option.
Inground Pool Value
If you want the best possible return on your investment, an inground pool is the ideal option for you. The options for customization paired with the longevity of an inground pool also give you as a homeowner the opportunity to adapt your pool for a variety of uses from standard fitness or entertainment to rehabilitation and therapy or serious athletic training. And if you choose a vinyl liner, there’s an added perk: the ability to reset the pool’s footprint.
The bottom line is that an inground pool will give you the best lifetime value, the widest range of style options and the greatest flexibility when it comes to customization. It may also be the safer option, especially for people with limited mobility or swimming experience. To learn more about the differences between inground and above ground pools — and which option is right for you — contact an independent builder today.
Which Is Better: An Inground Or Above Ground Pool?
Choosing the right pool for your family comes down considering the budget, landscape, and regulations for your project. When making your determination, the experts here at Latham are always happy to discuss ways your pool project can be tailored to meet your family’s needs. Feel free to contact an independent builder for a consultation today.