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9 Options for Affordable Pools

There are plenty of ways to cool off this summer without spending a lot

spinner image stock tank pool installed by m tim blake of oklahoma city
M. Tim Blake of Oklahoma City installed this stock tank pool alongside his deck.
Photo by M. Tim Blake

With summer temps climbing to record levels in some parts of the country and little relief in sight, this may be the perfect time to get a pool.

But you don’t need a big budget or a big backyard to swim laps or lounge in cool water. Take a pass on an in-ground pool, which can cost more than $65,000 and take months to install, and go for a more affordable option that can be available almost immediately.

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Interest in all kinds of pools “really boomed [in the] last two years as more people were spending more time at home and wanting to improve their living space indoor and outdoor,” says Sabeena Hickman, CEO of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.

As the average cost of installing an in-ground pool has risen, there’s been increased curiosity about alternative options ranging from the most basic splash pad to do-it-yourself projects like pools made from livestock tanks or wooden pallets, says Jen Stark, a home improvement expert and founder of the website Happy DIY Home.

Here are nine cost-effective pool options:

1. Kiddie pool

A plastic kiddie pool is a cheap and easy answer to the summer heat. Simply fill it using a garden hose and then cool off, maybe even sharing the space with your grandchildren. You can find one for less than $20 at Home Depot, Target and Walmart. DIYers can make a sitting pool with PVC pipe, a tarp and pipe connectors by following this 30-minute Instructables tutorial.

2. Pallet pool

To start, you’ll need a lot of wood pallets and a waterproof tarp or roofing membrane and a pool pump. The website Easy Pallet Ideas has a tutorial with a complete list of materials and step-by-step instructions. The pool costs around $100 but requires quite a bit of work to construct and secure, Stark says.

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3. Hay bale pool

You need more space for this hay bale option, but it’s easy to build, Stark says. It costs roughly $100 and is made by stacking bales of hay in a rectangle lined with a waterproof tarp. Make sure the bales and tarp are secure. Most of these lounging pools are meant to be shallow and temporary, but Kyra Christmas, a member of Canada’s national women’s water polo team, built a hay bale pool measuring 16 feet by 8 feet (and 6 feet deep) for training during the pandemic, when regular pools were closed.

4. Stock tank pool

At 6 feet in diameter and 2.5 feet deep, these rustic tanks used to hydrate livestock make great lounging pools to keep you cool. The galvanized metal tanks are sturdy and easy to clean and store, but you need a level spot on which to place one. They also look nice.

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M. Tim Blake, 67, and a friend installed a stock tank pool in his Oklahoma City backyard. It cost less than $600, including the $327 he paid for the tank at a farm supply store, a pump and a pool cover. He began by researching the idea and posting questions to a stock tank pool group on Facebook. Blake also cut pool noodles to cover the edges of the pool to make it easier and safer to climb in and out. Before cold weather sets in, Blake plans to drain the tank and lean it against the side of the house until spring.

“There’s no way I could afford something like an in-ground pool,” Blake says. “I’m retired. I’m on a budget.”

5. Truck bed pool

If you own a pickup truck, you can buy an inflatable pool to fit in the bed. Once it’s positioned, inflate the pool and fill it with water. Some cost as little as $35 at big chain stores. Just make sure your truck can hold the weight. DIYers can cover their truck bed with a large waterproof tarp, duct tape it down over the edges of the truck and add water. 

6. Inflatable pool

spinner image woman relaxing in kiddie pool
Steve Prezant/Getty Images

People like inflatable pools because they’re easy to set up, fill and store. They also work well in smaller yards. Prices range from less than $20 to $150 at retailers including Amazon, Target and Walmart.

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7. Aboveground pool

An aboveground pool with an aluminum, resin or steel frame or walls is more permanent and durable than an inflatable pool, but it also requires more yard space and upkeep. Most aboveground pools are 4 to 4.5 feet deep and 12 to 27 feet in diameter. Common brands include Bestway, Doughboy and Intex.

Most aboveground pools are sold as DIY kits, which may include a filter, ladder and pool cover. According to Moyo LaBode, chief merchandising officer for Leslie’s, a large retailer of aboveground pools and pool supplies, aboveground pools made of plastic with steel top rails or frames start at $100 (for a small version) and go up to $6,000. Costs for those made from metal range from $1,700 to $10,500. 

8. Spa pool

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A swimmer does laps in an above-ground pool.
Courtesy of Endless Pools

The typical 7-by-14-foot low-maintenance, energy-efficient spa pool — also called a lap pool — is a good option for smaller yards. Brendan Connell, sales manager for Endless Pools in Aston, Pennsylvania, says people like that they’re multiuse: You can swim with or without current, add a treadmill or aqua bike feature, or just relax (hydromassage, anyone?). Prices start around $12,000, or $17,999 with swim resistance.

9. Pool sharing

The latest trend is to rent blocks of time through a pool-sharing app — kind of like Airbnb for pools in people’s backyards. Prices can be as low as $20 per person for a half day on apps like Swimmy or Swimply, depending on the location, pool type, size and other factors. Another option is to look for hotels that charge a fee to use their pool.

And remember, for cheaper and faster relief from summer’s heat, check out portable misters, sprinklers, splash pads or water slides for as little as $20.​​

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