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Above-ground Pools Versus In-ground Pools

Once upon a time, owning a private swimming pool might have been considered a status symbol. But as the benefits of aquatic exercise and heated-water hydrotherapy have become more widely understood, it is now less about status and more about overall health and wellness. Solo exercise, couples fitness, weight loss, pain relief and good old-fashioned family fun have never been more accessible.

What about you? Are you looking to install a pool in your existing home, or have you been looking at houses for sale with pools? Either way, it is wise to weigh your options before diving in. With this in mind, the following questions may help you evaluate the best pool to buy for your personal wants and needs.

Where will your pool be located?

Designing your outdoor living space is an enjoyable process, especially with so many backyard pool ideas available for inspiration. With careful planning and expert advice, your pool area can become the centerpiece of many happy memories. If that idea appeals to you, here is some food for thought:

  • Above-ground pools: As long as you have a suitable foundation and sufficient site access, an above-ground pool can be located almost anywhere: in a backyard or garden, on a deck, in a sunroom or garage, or under an outdoor enclosure. Portable designs lend toward flexibility and ease of use, especially self-contained swim spas which can be installed on a prepared site within a few hours. If you want a more seamless design, the internet is full of above-ground pool deck ideas to integrate your pool into the surrounding landscape.
  • In-ground pools: In-ground pools date back to antiquity and remain as popular as ever, especially in warmer climates. Compared to above-ground pools, in-ground placement options are somewhat more limited due to excavation needs. This includes site access for heavy equipment such as track loaders, skid steers and cement trucks. But with the guidance of a skilled pool architect or a licensed pool contractor, the final results can be quite impressive. Provided, of course, you are comfortable with the construction timeline and cost.

What is your total budget?

When setting a budget for the project ask yourself: “How much am I comfortable spending up front?” And, “What is my threshold for monthly expenses?” Up-front costs may include building permits, site preparation, construction, and installation services. Recurring monthly expenses will include electricity and pool supplies, as well as periodic maintenance throughout the year. Here are some cost comparisons to think about:

  • Above-ground pools: A quick search online reveals the average cost of an above-ground pool to be anywhere from $20,000 up to $62,000 or more.* Within this price range swim spas offer a compelling option because of their special features. For example, swim-in-place training, heated-water aerobics, and jetted therapy seats similar to a hot tub, plus optional features like multicolor lighting, water fountains and audio systems. To illustrate: Aquatic Training Vessels™ are available in five models, the largest of which has an MSRP below $50,000,* and smaller models costs even less. In addition, local ATV Dealers usually offer promotional discounts throughout the year. Even if you need a new cement pad, electrical improvements or crane services (due to limited site access), the cost may be less than a comparably-sized in-ground swimming pool.
  • In-ground pools: One advantage with in-ground pools is the opportunity to increase your home’s resale value. As long as the pool is well maintained, it has the potential to recoup some of the installation costs. Even so, the obstacle for some homeowners is the up-front expense. For example, according to the online home improvement resource HomeAdvisor.com, the average cost to install an in-ground pool in the United States is just shy of $60,000. Some in-ground pool projects cost upwards of $100,000, including custom features like waterfalls which can add up to $8,000 or more to the project total. Maintenance costs for concrete pools are estimated to be about $28,000 over a 10-year period.* This leads some people to ask: “Is the extra cost worth it?” Ultimately, the answer depends on your personal needs and expectations and how often you plan to use your pool each week.

What about size, shape, weight and power?

When it comes to the best pool size, ask yourself: “How many swimmers will use my pool at any one time? Do I anticipate throwing large pool parties with dozens of guests? If so, for how many years?” Try to be as realistic as possible to avoid disappointment later. Of course, having a small backyard makes your decision easier. Pools for small backyards are often more cost effective and may be less complicated projects. Once again, here are some basic distinctions:

  • Above-ground pools: Above ground pools commonly range in width from 12 to 18 feet (3.66 to 5.49 m), and may be as long as 30 to 40 feet (9.14 to 12.19 m). But is bigger always better? Larger pools weigh more, need to circulate and filter more water, and consume more energy and pool chemicals than smaller pools. In contrast, the relatively compact size of swim spas offers a compelling alternative. For example, ATV swim spas are only 7.5 feet wide (2.29 m) and range in length from 12.5 to 17 feet (3.81 to 5.19 m). The highly-efficient ConstantClean filtration system is completely self-contained and ensures lower energy costs than competing brands. Plus, the high-quality DuraCover® with linear heat seal helps to save energy. Less water volume also means ATV swim spas consume less sanitizer than larger above-ground pools.
  • In-ground pools: Popular in-ground pool dimensions are 10x10 feet (3.05x3.05 m), 15x30 feet (4.6x9.14 m), and 20x40 feet (6.07x12.19 m). In addition to round, square or rectangular pools, more elaborate shapes are possible, from kidney-shaped to guitar-shaped and beyond. The sky is the limit as long as you have the time and money. But the same considerations apply: larger pools weigh more, need to circulate and filter more water, and consume more energy and pool chemicals than smaller designs. If you are mindful of your energy footprint, you might want to consider a more modest solution.

What are your fitness, therapy and social needs?

Owning a private swimming pool definitely adds beauty and amenity to your home, but the real value comes from using it regularly. Swim training, low-impact water aerobics, physical rehabilitation and quality family time are all benefits. So what activities matter to you? Are you a professional athlete? Or simply someone who loves the water and cares about physical fitness? Is your goal to lose weight, maintain your flexibility, or recover from an injury? Are you coping with chronic stress, pain, inflammation or specific conditions like insomnia and fibromyalgia? Whatever your personal needs or goals, here are some subtle distinctions to consider:

  • Above-ground pools: When it comes to fitness, therapy and social needs, above-ground pools have much in common with in-ground pools. They both offer hydrostatic pressurefitness and range-of-motion benefits. They are equally fun for the whole family. But once again, there are some advantages to owning a swim spa. For example, heated water offers many benefits that cold water does not, including extended use during fall, winter and spring. The addition of swim jets makes for more challenging aquatic workouts. And jetted therapy seats are spectacular for pain relief and relaxation. In terms of social benefits, all ATV swim spas allow you to sit side-by-side with a partner, and the V150 and V150W also let you sit across from one another.
  • In-ground pools: In terms of fitness, therapy and social needs, in-ground pools are on par with above-ground pools. But they typically lack the added hydromassage benefits of a swim spa, unless they have an integrated hot tub. Most in-ground pools are not heated, which limits their usefulness in colder weather. And if they are heated, they are not as easy to insulate as swim spas, although it depends on where your pool is located. Some designs offer swim-in-place features or swim lanes similar to a full-size lap pool.

Can you try it before you buy it?

It might sound old fashioned, but there is something to be said for seeing, touching and experiencing a product before buying it. Even if you like to shop online, the quality of a product reveals itself when you hold it in your hand and use it. In many ways, the same principle applies to buying a swimming pool. Consider the following:

  • Above-ground pools: In many cases you know someone who owns an above ground pool. Or your local pool store has a floor model on display. In the case of ATV swim spas, most dealers offer a “test model” in their showroom. You can schedule a test soak and experience everything from swim jets to therapy seats and all the other bells and whistles. It is wise to work with a local pool expert instead of ordering something online without trying it out in person. In fact, many people like to get their feet wet before they sign on the dotted line.
  • In-ground pools: Your local pool architect or pool construction company likely has a portfolio of recently-completed projects. They may even let you experience one of their pools in person. If so, this is a great way to evaluate the overall craftsmanship. Of course, testing your own pool will have to wait until the work is done and the money is paid. But as long as you work with reputable professionals you can expect a pleasing result. In fact, many ATV Dealers are licensed pool contractors who install in-ground pools as part of their business. This makes them a great resource for you. Feel free to use our Dealer Locator to find an ATV Dealer near you.

What is the next step?

Regardless of which type of pool you select, it is vital that you feel comfortable and confident about your decision. We appreciate the opportunity to be a resource for you in your search. We invite you to check out our five amazing swim spas and watch the video demonstrations. If you like what you see, use our Dealer Locator to contact a swim spa dealer near you. Their local expertise is worth its weight in gold and is a great place to start. Thank you for considering Aquatic Training Vessels and we look forward to meeting your needs in the near future.

*Figures are for illustration purposes only and based on 2022 estimates in the United States. Comparisons exclude do-it-yourself pool kits and “soft-sided” or “soft-walled” pools. For more information, contact your local ATV Dealer.

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