Best Robotic Pool Cleaner for an Above Ground Pool: Top Picks & Reviews

best above ground pool vacuum

Shopping for a pool vacuum for your above-ground pool?

You’ve come to the right place.

Above Ground vs. In-ground Robotic Pool Vacuums: What’s the Difference?

You may be wondering why you need to get a pool vacuum specifically for an above-ground pool.

Can’t just any standard pool vac work in an above-ground pool?

Yes, most pool vacuums and cleaners, even those meant for in-ground pools, will work fine in an above-ground pool.

However, one of the primary reasons to get a pool vacuum specifically for an above-ground pool is its price point.

In-ground pool vacuums are typically much larger in size, more powerful and more aggressive in their cleaning. Thus, they are comparatively a lot more expensive too.

You can save money by getting a smaller and less powerful pool vacuum designed for above-ground pools.

For pool vacuums that rely on your pool pump, it’s also important to get a vac that can work with the smaller pumps used in most above-ground pools. Your above-ground pool pump may not be powerful enough to run an in-ground pool vacuum.

With that said, many pool vacuums are designed for all types of pools, both above ground and in-ground. 

What’s In This Buying Guide?

In this buying guide, we recommend the best and highest-rated pool vacuums for above-ground pools.

We also explain the different types of pool vacuums and how to choose the right one for your above-ground pool.

If you are shopping specifically for a robotic pool vacuum, see our reviews of the best above-ground robotic pool cleaners. If you have an in-ground pool, check out our reviews on thetop-rated robotic pool cleaners (for all pools).

Best Above Ground Pool Vacuums

above ground pool vacuum
  • Hayward W3900

  • Best suction
  • Max pool size:
    32’

  • Brushes:
    No

  • 1yr warranty

above ground pool vacuum
  • Polaris Vac-Sweep 65

  • Best pressure
  • Max pool size:
    24’

  • Brushes:
    No

  • 2yr warranty

above ground pool vacuum
  • Dolphin Escape

  • Best robotic
  • Max pool size:
    30’

  • Brushes:
    Yes

  • 2yr warranty

above ground pool vacuum
  • PAXCESS Cordless

  • Best robotic cordless
  • Max pool size:
    1076sq.ft.

  • Brushes:
    Yes

  • 2yr warranty

above ground pool vacuum
  • PoolSupplyTown

  • Best budget handheld
  • Max pool size:
    Any size

  • Brushes:
    Yes

  • No warranty

above ground pool vacuum
  • Pool Blaster

  • Best cordless handheld
  • Max pool size:
    Any size

  • Brushes:
    Yes

  • 1Yr warranty

#1

Best Suction Pool Vacuum

A suction pool vacuum is a great option if you are looking for an affordable automatic pool cleaner. The best one for above-ground pools is the Hayward W3900, also called Wanda the Whale.

It’s a cute but capable pool vac that cleans above-ground pools up to 32’ long. So, it’s perfect for one of those big Intex or Bestway above-ground pools.

Pros

Cons

Our Review

The Hayward W3900 uses your pool’s suction power to move around the pool floor and suck up debris.

It doesn’t have its own filter bag, so it relies on the pool filter to handle all debris. While you don’t have to deal with a messy debris bag, you have to backwash the pool filter more regularly.

Though it’s hard to tell by looking at it moving around the pool, Hayward says the Hayward W3900 has a smart navigation system. The SmartDrive system maneuvers the vacuum efficiently around the pool, ensuring it doesn’t miss a spot.

However, the Hayward W3900 still cleans slower than a robotic pool cleaner. If you want speed, check the pricier Dolphin Escape reviewed further below.

As for setup, it’s fairly easy. Wanda the Whale comes with several hose sections totalling to a length of 32’. Connect only the sections you need (depending on the length of your pool), and attach the connected hose to the suction port of your pool.

The Hayward W3900 is designed to work well with most above-ground pool pumps. For the best cleaning performance, you’ll want to use a minimum of 1 HP pump.

Issues & Limitations

The Hayward W3900 doesn’t come with scrubbing brushes, so it doesn’t clean stubborn stains or algae stuck to the pool floor. You’ll need to brush the pool yourself.

The Hayward W3900 also struggles with leaves, and they clog the cleaner quickly.

You can either skim out the leaves before putting Wanda the Whale into the pool or buy and install an inline leaf canister.

Bottom Line

The Hayward W3900 is best for: Above ground pool owners looking for an affordable automatic pool vacuum.

Avoid if: You prefer a pool vac with scrubbing brushes.

A pressure pool vacuum is a good choice if you want to reduce the debris burden on your pool filter. Unlike suction cleaners, the Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 comes with its own filter bag to collect debris.

The Vac-Sweep 65 cleans above-ground pools up to 24’ long.

Pros

Cons

Our Review

The Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 connects to your pool’s return line, using the pressure of water to create jets that propel the vacuum around the pool and collect debris.

The Vac-Sweep 65 has two main parts. There’s the main vacuum head that picks up debris and holds it in an internal debris bag.

There’s also a sweeper hose that trails behind the vacuum. The sweeper hose produces jets that sweep and loosen dirt and algae off the pool floor.

Setting up the Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 is fairly easy. The most important thing is to use the right length of hoses (the main hose and the sweep hose).

You’ll also need to play around with the pressure relief valve until the cleaner is moving at the right speed (not too slow and not too fast).

Issues & Limitations

While the Vac-Sweep 65 reduces wear on your pool filter, it still relies on your pool pump. You have to turn on the pump whenever the Vac-Sweep 65 is working, and this can increase your pool’s power consumption.

If you want a pool vacuum that doesn’t rely on either the pool pump or the pool filter, get a robotic vacuum or a handheld rechargeable vacuum.  

Bottom Line

The Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 is best for: Above ground pool owners looking for a reliable and easy-to-use pressure-side pool vacuum.

Avoid if: You want a fully self-contained vacuum that doesn’t connect to your pool system.

A robotic pool cleaner is a great option for pool owners that don’t want to deal with hoses. The Dolphin Escape is self-contained with its own filter and propulsion.

Because it doesn’t rely on your pool system, the Dolphin Escape reduces your pool’s power use and prolongs filter life.

Pros

Cons

Our Review

The Dolphin Escape has two powerful electric motors, meaning it doesn’t need the pool pump to move and pick up debris.

The motors drive the Hypergrip continuous tracks that move the cleaner easily over the pool floor and even up the walls.

The Dolphin escape is equipped with the SmartNav 2.0 navigation, which automatically maneuvers the cleaner around the pool without missing a spot.

As for cleaning performance, the Dolphin Escape does a better job than most pressure and suction cleaners.

That’s because it combines scrubbing and vacuuming. Dual scrubbing brushes get at the most stubborn algae and dirt, while powerful suction picks up most of the debris from the pool.

The oversize filter cartridge holds plenty of debris and, unlike debris bags, it’s easy to clean.

Issues & Limitations

The main downside of getting a robotic pool vacuum is the price. The Dolphin Escape is a pricey investment compared to pressure and suction vacs. But it’s worth it.

One specific issue with the Dolphin Escape is that it doesn’t come with an ultra-fine filter. The included fine filter cartridge picks up most of the debris but leaves sand, silt and other fine particles in the pool.

For the best cleaning performance, you’ll need to buy the ultra-fine filter basket.

Bottom Line

The Dolphin Escape is best for: Above ground pool owners shopping for a robotic pool vacuum that’s reliable, easy to use and cleans well.

Avoid if: You are shopping for a budget pool vacuum.

#4

Best Robotic Cordless Pool Vacuum

If you’d like a robotic pool vacuum but don’t want to deal with any power cables, we recommend the Paxcess cordless robotic pool cleaner.

It has an internal lithium-ion battery that powers the vacuum and provides 60 to 90 minutes of cleaning time.

Pros

Cons

Our Review

If you don’t have a nearby GFCI outlet or simply don’t want to deal with tangle-prone cables, the Paxcess cordless vacuum is a great choice.

It comes as one convenient unit with an internal battery, propulsion and suction system, brush and filter tray.   

That means you don’t need to bother plugging in a power cord or connecting a hose to your pool.

Just put the Paxcess cleaner into the water, and it’ll get to work scrubbing and vacuuming the pool.

A single bottom brush loosens light algae and dirt on the pool floor while powerful suction vacuums up debris into the filter tray.

The filter tray is fine enough to capture everything from leaves and acorns to algae and sand.

The 5000mAh battery runs the vacuum for 60 to 90 minutes, enough time to clean an above-ground pool, even a big one.

When the cleaning session is complete, or the battery is almost out, the Paxcess cordless cleaner automatically stops at the side of the pool. You can then use the included floating handle to pull it up.

The cleaner weighs just 12.1lbs, so it should be easy for most people to lift and carry.

Issues & Limitations

It’s nice that the Paxcess pool robot comes with a brush, and it helps get some of the dirt and algae on the pool floor.

But many pool owners say it’s too thin to remove thicker algae and stubborn dirt. So, you still need to brush the pool regularly.

Bottom Line

The Paxcess cordless pool cleaner is best for: Above ground pool owners looking for a cordless robotic pool cleaner.

Avoid if: You want an automatic pool vacuum that scrubs off algae, dirt, stains and scale build-up from the pool surface. We recommend the Dolphin Escape.

If you want a pool vacuum that does not connect to your pool system but are not ready to buy a pricey robotic cleaner, the PoolSupplyTown Pool Spa Jet handheld vacuum is a cheaper alternative.

Instead of connecting to the pool pump, it runs off an ordinary garden hose and stores debris in an attached mesh bag.

Pros

Cons

Our Review

The PoolSupplyTown Jet vacuum cleaner is one of the cheapest pool vacs in the market. But it’s just as good as many automatic vacuums at picking up debris.

The main reason it’s cheap is that it’s manual. You have to attach a telescopic pole to it and then push it around the pool to vacuum.

Setting up the PoolSupplyTown Jet vacuum is easy since you don’t need to attach any hoses to your pool or plug in a power cord. Simply connect it to a garden hose, and attach a telescopic pole (or use the included 4’ pole if your pool is small).

Water from the garden hose acts like the water from the return port of a pool when using a pressure-side vacuum.

It creates a venturi jet inside the vacuum, which sucks debris into the attached mesh bag. The bag is pretty big and can hold lots of leaves, bugs and other debris before you need to empty it.

When using the PoolSupplyTown Jet vacuum cleaner, the most important thing is to make sure your garden hose has plenty of water pressure. Too little pressure will not create adequate suction, and the vacuum will not pick up debris.

Issues & Limitations

If you don’t fancy spending half an hour to an hour vacuuming your pool by hand, the PoolSupplyTown handheld cleaner is not for you. Get an automatic vacuum instead.

We love the garden hose idea the PoolSupplyTown vacuum uses to clean the pool. The only downside is that it adds water to the pool, which might overflow a small pool or affect chemical balance.

The other issue is that the mesh bag that comes with the PoolSupplyTown Jet vacuum is not fine enough to hold fine sand and algae, and it only captures leaves and other larger debris. If you want to get everything, upgrade to a fine mesh bag like this one from ATIE.

Bottom Line

The PoolSupplyTown Jet vacuum cleaner is best for: Above ground pool owners shopping for a cheap handheld vacuum.

Avoid if: You prefer an automatic pool vacuum.

If you like the idea of a handheld pool vacuum but don’t want to use a garden hose, get a cordless rechargeable model. One of the best ones for above-ground pools is the Pool Blaster Water Tech Catfish.

It uses an internal battery to generate suction, so you don’t need to connect it to a garden hose or the pool pump.

Pros

Cons

Our Review

The most favourable advantage of upgrading from a non-electric handheld vacuum to an electric one like the Pool Blaster Catfish is the added suction.

The battery-powered Pool Blaster Catfish generates more suction than a hose-connected pool vacuum. This allows it to easily and quickly pick up all kinds of debris, from leaves to fine sand.

It comes with two types of filter bags, one for large debris and another for fine debris.

The vacuum head has some bristles, but they are only good for light scrubbing. You’ll still need to use a pool brush regularly.

The Pool Blaster Catfish runs for about 45 minutes before the battery dies. Because of the powerful suction, you’ll find that you don’t even need all that time to vacuum your pool. You can vacuum 2-3 times before you need to recharge the unit.

Issues & Limitations

If you are looking for a hands-free automatic pool vacuum, the Pool Blaster Catfish is not for you, and you still need to steer it manually by attaching a standard pool pole.

The Pool Blaster Catfish is also not a good choice if you want a pool vacuum that’s guaranteed to last a long time, and most pool owners say theirs lasted just 1 to 3 seasons.

Bottom Line

The Pool Blaster Water Tech Catfish is best for: Above ground pool owners looking for an electric cordless handheld vacuum that’s affordable and easy to use.

Avoid if: You are shopping for an automatic pool vacuum.

Above Ground Pool Vacuum Buying Guide

Types of Above Ground Pool Vacuums

handheld pool vacuum

Suction Side Pool Vacuums

These connect to your pool’s suction port and use the pool pump to move around the pool and suck the debris.

Suction vacuums are the most affordable automatic vacuums, but on the downside, they rely on your pool pump and filter to clean the pool. This increases pool energy use and reduces the lifespan of the pool filter

Pressure Side Pool Vacuums

These connect to your pool’s return port and use the pool pump to move and pick debris.

They are pricier than suction vacuums. On the upside, they come with a filter or debris bag, so they do not rely on the pool filter.

Robotic Pool Vacuums

Robotic vacuums do not rely on either the pool filter or pump. They also tend to be more advanced and clean better than suction and pressure cleaners, thanks to features such as active brushes, powerful suction, and smart navigation.

The main downside of robotic pool vacuums is the price, and they cost more than other types of automatic vacuums (suction & pressure).

Robotic pool vacuums are available in two varieties: the traditional corded types like Dolphin and newer cordless types like Paxcess.

Handheld Pool Vacuums

These are the most basic and usually the cheapest pool vacuums for above-ground pools.

A handheld pool vacuum attaches to a standard pool pole, and then you manually navigate it around the pool.

As for suction power, non-electric handheld vacuums use a garden hose or a pool-connected hose, while electric cordless handheld vacuums use a motor to generate suction.

Cordless handheld pool vacuums have the best value of any pool vacuum. They are very affordable but produce a lot of suction that cleans up the pool in no time, and you only need 15-30 minutes to vacuum the pool.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

What to Look For In An Above Ground Pool Vacuum

best above ground pool vacuum

Type of Vacuum

The first thing to decide is the kind of pool vacuum you are looking for. We’ve explained all the different types above, and here’s a quick summary.

If you want the best, most convenient and easiest to use pool vacuum, get a robotic pool cleaner. You can get a corded one or a cordless one if you don’t want to deal with a cable.

If you don’t want to wash a messy debris bag, get a suction pool vacuum.

If you don’t want to overburden your pool filter, get a pressure pool vacuum.

Note that with suction and pressure vacuums, you may need to buy a leaf canister separately to deal with large debris and keep it from clogging the vacuum.

If you want great vacuuming performance (lots of suction power) on a budget, we’d suggest you get a handheld cordless pool vacuum.

And if you want a cheap pool vacuum, go with a non-electric handheld vacuum.   

Pool Size

Check the maximum pool size or length a particular vacuum can handle. It usually depends on the length of the hose (for suction and pressure vacuums) or the length of the cable (for robotic vacuums).

Scrubbing Brushes

A pool vacuum that also scrubs the pool saves you the trouble of frequently brushing the pool yourself. Instead of brushing once a week, you can do it every two weeks.

Robotic pool vacuums typically have the most aggressive scrubbing brushes. Some, like the Dolphin Escape, have a fast-spinning brush that dislodges stubborn algae and dirt.

But most above-ground pool vacuums use gentler brushes that only remove light algae and buildup. And some don’t even come with any brushes at all. 

Suction Power

How powerful is the pool vacuum?

A vacuum with a lot of suction will pick up more debris and vacuums the pool faster. A less powerful vacuum can still work, but it’ll clean slowly.

Electric pool vacuums, including robotic and handheld, typically have the best suction power.

For suction and pressure vacuums, suction power depends on the size of the pool pump and how clean the pool filter is.

Filter

Finally, check the kind of filter the pool vacuum comes with. Some pool vacuums have great filters that capture all types of debris, from sand and algae to leaves and dead bugs.

Others have filters that only hold large debris, and you have to buy a finer filter separately to clean fine debris.

Frequently Asked Questions

best above ground pool vacuum

How do you vacuum an above-ground pool?

The easiest way to vacuum an above-ground pool is using an automatic vacuum. You can use a suction-side vacuum, a pressure-side vacuum, or a robotic vacuum.

How often should I vacuum my above-ground pool?

It depends on how dirty it gets and how often you swim in it. But generally, you should vacuum an above-ground pool at least once a week.

If leaves or fine debris fall into your pool often, you can vacuum it more often. You can even vacuum it daily if you have an automatic pool vacuum since you don’t have to lift a finger.

Will an above-ground pool vacuum also brush the pool?

Many above-ground pool vacuums come with scrubber brushes, but they are often just for light scrubbing.

You’ll still need to manually brush the pool every 1-2 weeks.

Final Verdict: What is the Best Above-Ground Pool Vacuum Sold Today?

After thoroughly and carefully reviewing numerous options in this guide, we have concluded that the  Hayward W3900 is the best above-ground suction pool vacuum.

The Polaris Vac-Sweep 65 is the best above ground pressure pool vacuum, the Dolphin Escape is the best above ground robotic pool vacuum, and the Paxcess cordless cleaner is the best handheld pool vacuum for above ground pools.

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