Last Updated: May 4, 2021
Vacuums for above ground pools used to be considered luxury maintenance items. Above grounds are small and considered budget pools, so manufacturers put little effort into developing those kinds of products. As technology advanced, however, prices dropped and performance ramped up, so that if you own an above ground pool, it’s economical to buy one.
Pools, in general, are big investments that require that you keep putting money into them to keep them in top condition. If you’re buying a pool vacuum, you definitely want to get the right one. We wrote these reviews of some above ground pool vacuums you’ll probably find while shopping for them. We also included a buyers’ guide to help you understand what to look for when you buy one.
Our Favorites of 2021 Compared:
The 8 Best Above Ground Pool Vacuums
1. Dolphin Escape Robotic Above Ground Pool Cleaner – Top Pick
Robotic pool cleaners for above ground pools are a relatively new thing. For a long time, above ground pools were regarded as budget pools and too small for something designed to be the king of pool cleaners. That’s just what the Dolphin Escape is: the king of above ground pool cleaners.
It cleans small particles like dust and pollen, and big particles like sand and leaves. It scours the sides of your pool and dumps it all into a bagless holding chamber that’s a snap to empty. It’s got tracks rather than wheels for peerless wall climbing.
Size has always limited the utility of robotic pool cleaners in above ground pools. Not for the Dolphin Escape. Dolphin slimmed this down to just 14 pounds. But it’s expensive. Really expensive.
2. Aquabot S2 40 Pool Rover Cleaner
If the Dolphin Escape’s price terrifies you, Aquabot’s Pool Rover S2 40 ought to calm your nerves a bit. It’s a much more affordable robotic pool cleaner, which also means it’s still pretty expensive compared to other types of cleaners.
There’s plenty to like here, however. It filters lots of water and does it fast. It’s easy to maintain. When it comes to performance, it can handle large spaces. That also makes it suitable for in-ground pools. Plus, it’s programmable, so it can clean while you sit poolside enjoying your time.
It’s a bit heavier than our top pick, so it’ll be a bit trickier getting it in and out of the water. It also doesn’t do a very good job cleaning at the waterline.
3. Hayward ‘Wanda the Whale’ Above-Ground Pool Cleaner – Best Value
The Hayward 900 Wanda the Whale suction-side above ground pool cleaner used to be what people meant when they talked about cleaners for above ground pools. It’s a pretty simple design that you attach to your pool’s suction pump and let go.
It offers great value. In fact, we gave it our best for the money rank because it delivers a lot of performance at a low price. It does a good job of cleaning up basic sand and dust from the pool bottom, which will save you an hour or two each week. We also like its whimsical appearance.
But you need to keep your eye on it for a couple of reasons. It has a habit of dropping its programming and going around in circles. It also doesn’t do a great job picking up larger debris like leaves and twigs. In fact, you might want to augment your pool’s pump with a booster to improve its performance.
4. Zodiac Ranger Above-Ground Pool Cleaner
We think of the Zodiac Ranger as a good first pool cleaner model. It’s easy to set up and easy to use. It’s also got a deflector wheel to address one of the most frustrating things about pool cleaners: the tendency to get caught in corners and tight spaces.
Something else you’ll like is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. It’s a great starter cleaner where, for a little money, you can learn a lot about pool cleaners so you can make an even better choice the next time.
One of the things we think you’ll learn to dislike is that it requires a lot of attention. Either it’ll just start roving in the same circle, or it’ll get hung up on something on the pool bottom. It only does an okay job cleaning pools and isn’t recommended for use on soft-sided pools.
5. Pentair Kreepy Krauly Suction-Side Above Ground Pool Cleaner
Once, Pentair’s K50600 Kreepy Krauly E-Z Vac probably would have topped our reviews. It’s a time-tested and sound design. The problem is that other pool cleaner makers have come along and improved things, while this remains what it’s always been.
One of the things we like best about it is the value that allows you to control water flow. This gives you the ability to regulate suction power in ways you can’t with other pool cleaners. It also works well on contoured floors and pools with coves, and sweeps in random patterns so it hits more of your pool bottom.
It will miss spots, however, and is easily caught in tight spaces and corners. It’s also only a vacuum. More modern pool cleaners come with scrubbing brushes that permit you to scrape up things like algae.
6. Intex Auto Pool Cleaner – Decent for Intex Pools
Intex’s Auto Pool Cleaner is a pressure-side cleaner, which means it takes its power from the outflow of your pool’s suction system rather than the intake. These pool cleaners are usually more affordable than suction-side pool cleaners, but they also tend to require booster pumps to build sufficient flow to work.
That’s the case here. Intex’s Auto Pool Cleaner is the most affordable pool cleaner we reviewed, and quite a bit so. You’ll probably also need a booster pump to get it to work its best. As one of the simpler designs, it’s also easy to assemble and use.
The biggest issue, beyond the weaknesses of pressure-side pool cleaners in general, is that it’s only designed for Intex pools. If you don’t have an Intex pool, you’re out of luck. It’s also got a short connection hose, compared to other cleaners.
7. Polaris Turbo Turtle Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
We admit that we like the idea of looking into a pool and seeing a turtle zipping along the bottom, cleaning. That’s the biggest selling point of the Zodiac 6-130-00T Polaris Turbo Turtle. It’s cute and fast. The question, however, is how it performs.
It does a pretty good job, all things considered, picking up big debris like leaves and pine needles. If your pool is under a canopy of trees, that should stand out.
It does a less good job cleaning up dust and sand, which causes concern. You should get a booster pump, which helps with this, but it’s probably never going to do as good a job as the other pool cleaners we looked at. Its depth is also limited to five feet. That’s within the range of most above ground pools, but if yours goes a bit deeper, look elsewhere. The good news is that you’ll probably find better for less money, because this turtle is expensive.
8. Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
You can buy the Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 6-130-00 pool cleaner, but the question is why. It comes with all the deficiencies of a pressure-side pool cleaner, with added problems and a high price.
It’s easy to set up. Some pool cleaners require a lot of extra work getting ready to deploy, but this one is pretty simple. Hook it into the pressure hose and booster pump, put it into the water, and turn it on.
The problem is that it has a depth of operation limited to five feet and needs that booster pump to build up sufficient power to clean, which it does a poor job at. The hose also has a nasty habit of knotting up so that you have to pull it out of the water, sort it out, and put it back in.
For a long time, the way to clean above ground pools was by hand. They’re small enough that most pool cleaners makers didn’t invest considerable resources in developing standalone pool cleaners. Technology has changed that, overcoming both price point and size challenges and opening the market. It’s important to have an idea of what to look for in getting the right one.
Type of cleaner
One of your first questions will be what kind of pool cleaner to buy. There are robotic ones, which are generally the biggest, heaviest, and most buffed out with extras, and also the most expensive. Suction-side pool cleaners operate right off your filter pump. They have a lot to offer, but can also fill up a filter basket, which can cause them to burn out. Pressure-side cleaners use water pushed by the filter. They don’t put wear and tear on your pool filter, but they usually need a booster pump to work.
Suction-side pool cleaners tend to be most numerous for above ground pools. They also tend to be a bit more inexpensive because of that. Pressure-side cleaners come with the added disadvantage of needing a booster pump, which pushes up their cost. Robotic pool cleaners are good choices if you’re absent a lot. You just program them and they run themselves.
One important issue is making sure your pool is compatible with your cleaner. Hose length probably won’t be much of a factor, because above ground pools tend to be limited in size. Be sure your pool materials are compatible with the cleaner you’re looking at. This is especially an issue with soft-side pools.
Materials to be cleaned
Important to your choice is making sure the cleaner you buy does a good job of cleaning up what tends to collect in your pool. If you don’t have a lot of trees near your pool, getting one that’s great at picking up leaves probably isn’t a priority, for instance. If you get acorns dropped into your pool all fall, on the other hand, make sure you get a cleaner that can swallow them.
Cleaners for above ground pools tend to be a little more inexpensive than do ones for in-ground pools. You can maximize the value by having a sound idea of what you’re buying. If you don’t need a lot of gadgets or you’re not gone a lot, you might not need to spend the money on a robotic pool cleaner. If your pool produces limited pressure, however, you might need to look at the expense of a pressure-side cleaner and added booster pump.
Robotic pool cleaners are at the top of the above ground pool cleaner food web, and it definitely shows based on our reviews. The Dolphin Escape delivers everything you’d expect out of a great robotic pool cleaner, but costs an awful lot of money. Aquabot’s Pool Rover S2 40 goes softer on your wallet while still delivering excellent performance, but is heavier and doesn’t clean well at the waterline. The Hayward 900 Wanda the Whale suction-side pool cleaner is our pick for best for-dollar return on investment and is simple to use. It doesn’t work as well for large debris, and you might want to attach a booster pump for better performance. We like the Zodiac Ranger as a great learner’s pool cleaner, which means you might buy it looking to step up in quality.
Pentair’s K50600 Kreepy Krauly E-Z Vac was once a great design, but advances in pool cleaner technology have made its strengths fairly mundane. The Intex Auto Pool Cleaner starts our look at pressure-side pool cleaners, generally the most affordable but least effective available. Its primary drawback is that it’s designed to work only in Intex pools. If you have a pool from another manufacturer, you’ll need to keep looking.
You’ll like watching the Zodiac 6-130-00T Polaris Turbo Turtle move around the bottom of your pool, but you probably won’t like how it cleans, and definitely not how much it costs. The Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 6-130-00 costs a lot of money, has a terrible hose, and does a subpar job cleaning. Other than that, it’s a fine pool cleaner.
Table of Contents
- Our Favorites of 2021 Compared:
- The 8 Best Above Ground Pool Vacuums
- 1. Dolphin Escape Robotic Above Ground Pool Cleaner – Top Pick
- 2. Aquabot S2 40 Pool Rover Cleaner
- 3. Hayward ‘Wanda the Whale’ Above-Ground Pool Cleaner – Best Value
- 4. Zodiac Ranger Above-Ground Pool Cleaner
- 5. Pentair Kreepy Krauly Suction-Side Above Ground Pool Cleaner
- 6. Intex Auto Pool Cleaner – Decent for Intex Pools
- 7. Polaris Turbo Turtle Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
- 8. Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 Pressure Side Pool Cleaner
- Buyer’s Guide