When buying an above-ground pool for your backyard, two popular options include inflatable pools and frame pools. But how do you choose between an inflatable pool and frame pool?

This comprehensive guide will compare the key differences, pros and cons, and costs between inflatable and frame pools. Read on for a breakdown of the critical factors to determine which type of pool fits your needs and budget.

Inflatable Pool vs Frame Pool

Inflatable Pool Overview

As the name suggests, an inflatable pool is constructed from heavy-duty vinyl or PVC materials that can be inflated and set up anywhere. Let’s look at the main features:

How They Work

  • Made of durable layered vinyl, PVC or other puncture-resistant fabric
  • Inflated using an electric pump, taking 15-30 minutes
  • Deflates easily for winter storage or relocation
  • Sizes range from small wading pools to large 24’ diameter options


  • Very quick and easy set up – just inflate and fill
  • Convenient mobility and storage when deflated
  • Affordable prices ranging from $50 to $1,000+
  • Safe soft sides instead of hard materials
  • Available in many sizes to suit any space


  • Susceptible to punctures and leaks over time
  • Require regular inflation maintenance
  • Can be flimsy and deform if not inflated fully
  • Limited strength and shape retention

Overall, inflatable pools provide portable and inexpensive options perfect for temporary use. Next, let’s examine metal frame pools.

Metal Frame Pool Overview

Frame pools use interlocking metal bars assembled into a ring to provide support. Here are the main characteristics:

How They Work

  • Durable powder-coated steel or aluminum frame pieces
  • Assembled ring gives structure to hold round pool shape
  • Polyester or vinyl liner attaches to inner frame
  • Sizes from 10’ to 33’ diameters available
  • Some include integrated filtration systems


  • Very durable steel frame built to last for years
  • Maintains shape and integrity over time
  • Available in larger sizes not possible with inflatables
  • Often compatible with pool accessories like filters
  • Provides more structured above-ground pool experience


  • Time consuming assembly and disassembly
  • Typically cannot be easily relocated
  • Expensive, with costs ranging from $1,500 to $5,000+
  • Steel frames can eventually rust and corrode

The metal structure makes frame pools a permanent backyard fixture built to stay solid and long-term stable.

Key Differences and Similarities

Now that we’ve examined the basics of each type, let’s directly compare some of the main differences and similarities:


Inflatable pools are far more portable and quick to set up temporarily wherever needed. Frame pools require intensive assembly and are not meant for mobility.


Frame pools have much greater structural integrity from their steel frame compared to inflatables relying only on air pressure.

Shape Retention

Similarly, frame pools maintain their shape regardless of use, whereas inflatable sides can compress and sag over time without full inflation.


Large pools over 18’ in diameter are generally only available as frame pools, while smaller to medium options can be either type.


Inflatable pools range from affordable at under $100 to premium models around $1,000. Frame pools start at around $1,500, and high-end versions can cost $5,000+.


Inflatable pools offer softer sides versus frame pools’ hard metal edges and corners. However, both provide non-slip bottoms.

So in considering an inflatable pool vs frame pool, portability and cost favor inflatables while durability and customizability advantage frame pools.

Inflatable Pool vs Frame Pool How to Decide

Inflatable Pool vs Frame Pool: How to Decide

Choosing between an inflatable pool and a metal frame pool mainly depends on a few key factors:

Temporary vs Permanent

Inflatable pools are ideal for temporary, seasonal use that you take down yearly, while frame pools create a permanent backyard water feature.

Space Constraints

Inflatable pools can fit in smaller areas and require minimal clearance since sides collapse when empty. Massive frame pools demand substantial open space.


Inflatable pools generally cost hundreds, while framed versions run thousands. Weigh the ongoing expense.

Family Size and Usage

Big active families and frequent use may warrant a large, durable frame pool, while smaller households may find an inflatable sufficient.

Evaluating these considerations will dictate which style best suits your particular needs and home setup.

Based on the comparison, here are our top recommended pool picks in both categories:

Best Inflatable Pool – Intex 32ft Ultra XTR Pool Set – This extra large 24’ pool provides durability and longevity with laminated PVC walls. Includes extensive accessories. Under $1,000.

Best Frame Pool – iPool Deluxe Round Pool Package – Durable powder coated oval steel frame and premium liner make this a long-lasting backyard pool for under $4,000.

While the Intex Ultra XTR inflatable pool provides outstanding quality and size for most families at a reasonable price, the iPool Deluxe frame pool is ideal for those wanting a highly customized permanent pool built to last for decades.

Carefully weigh whether an inflatable or frame pool better fits your backyard and lifestyle when choosing the perfect option to enjoy all summer.

Start Making Memories with Your New Pool

Both inflatable and frame pools allow you to enjoy refreshing swimming at home. Inflatable pools offer convenience and affordability, while frame pools provide strength and permanency. Assessing your planned usage, space, budget, and needs helps determine the right model. With our top recommendations selected, you can dive into summer fun with a pool tailored exactly for your family. Beat the heat this year by investing in portable water fun with an inflatable pool or installing your own backyard resort with a custom frame pool!