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Looking for an automatic pool cleaner?
You’ve come to the right place.
In this buying guide, we review the top automatic pool cleaners from Dolphin, Zodiac, Polaris, and other brands.
Questions We Answer In This Guide
Automatic Pool Cleaners We Review In This Guide
Best Automatic Pool Cleaners (Comparison Table)
- Best robotic cleaner
Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900
- Best pressure cleaner
- Best suction cleaner
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus
- Best value robotic cleaner
Polaris Vac-Sweep 280
- Best value pressure cleaner
Pentair 360042 Kreepy Krauly
- Best value suction cleaner
Aquabot Pool Rover S2-40
- Best for above ground pools
Dolphin Triton PS
- Best for in-ground pools
- Best for extra-large pools
- Best new robotic cleaner
Polaris F9550 Sport
- Best wall climber
Zodiac Baracuda G3 W03000
- Proven performer
Best Automatic Pool Cleaners (Reviews)
Many pool owners generally prefer robotic pool cleaners to other types of automatic pool cleaners – namely suction side and pressure side cleaners.
They are easier to use, require no setup, and they clean better.
Our favorite robotic pool cleaner is the Dolphin Premier. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s worth it for pool owners who want a high-performance, reliable, and durable pool cleaner.
The Dolphin Premier has impressive cleaning performance. It scrubs and vacuums almost every inch of the pool, including the walls and waterline.
It has a few features that boost its cleaning capability.
The most notable is the Smart Nav software that scans the pool and guides the robot along the most optimal cleaning path. This allows the cleaner to cover all areas without going over the same sections repeatedly.
Two HyperGrip tracks provide traction with the pool surface, allowing the robot to scale walls and drive over obstacles without slipping or getting stuck.
For the actual cleaning, the Dolphin Premier relies on dual scrubbing brushes that remove dirt and grime on the pool surface and powerful suction that vacuums debris.
The robot comes with multiple filtration media that you can interchange depending on your cleaning needs.
The over-sized bag is handy or the first cleaning of the season when the pool is full of leaves while the micro-filter is perfect for everyday cleaning to pick up sand, algae, and pollen.
Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport
The main advantage of a pressure side pool cleaner is that it comes with its own debris bag, which reduces the wear on your pool filter.
Our top recommendation for in-ground pools is the Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport.
Like other pressure-side cleaners, it relies on your pool pump for mobility and suction.
With a 3-jet venturi and a high-torque stainless steel drive chain, the Vac-Sweep 3900 easily covers most of the pool, including the walls.
The TailSweep Pro attachment does a great job agitating debris and algae stuck in corners and on the pool surface.
The new dual-chamber filter bag captures finer bits of dirt compared to previous Polaris models. You do need to clean it more often, but it leaves your pool cleaner.
A twist release connection makes it easy to detach the bag from the cleaner. Once it’s off, just unzip it to let out the collected debris.
The Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport comes ready to set up. It includes a 31-feet feed hose that connects to a 1.5” dedicated pressure cleaner line.
An in-line back-up valve allows reversing if it gets stuck automatically.
The only thing you’ll need is a booster pump unless you already have one.
Overall, the Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport is a great choice for all the pool owners looking for a reliable pressure-side automatic pool cleaner.
It’s also a good upgrade for those looking for a replacement for their older Polaris, such as the 380.
Suction side pool cleaners are the cheapest of the three types of automatic pool cleaners. Their main downside is that they rely on your pool pump and filter.
But cleaning performance is comparable to that of pressure-side cleaners.
Out top pick is the popular Hayward Poolvergnuegen 2-wheel suction-side pool cleaner. It’s designed to clean pools up to 16’ x 32’. This covers most residential swimming pools.
The Hayward Poolvergnuegen moves on two wheels that are powered by the suction of water flowing out of the pool.
The wheels have treads to increase traction with the pool surface. The cleaner rarely gets stuck on drains or any other obstacle.
The Hayward Poolvergnuegen pool cleaner doesn’t have any navigation system per se. Rather, it moves in pre-programmed patterns.
After some distance (8-10 feet), the left wheels reverses, causing the pool cleaner to turn. It can make five different turns between 90 and 450 degrees.
This ensures there are no missed areas.
Another feature we love is the adjustable skirt. When the cleaner encounters an obstacle, the skirt lifts up to ensure the cleaner maintains maximum suction. This is especially handy on uneven surfaces.
The Hayward Poolvergnuegen comes with a 33” hose that hooks up to a dedicated suction line. You don’t need a booster pump.
Since the pool cleaner doesn’t come with its own filter bag, make sure you backwash the pool filter often to keep it in good condition.
Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus
If you are looking for an affordable but high-performance automatic pool cleaner, we recommend the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus robotic pool cleaner.
Compared to other automatic pool cleaners, the Nautilus CC Plus gives you the best value for your money.
It’s cheaper than most in-ground robotic pool cleaners and has the reliability and cleaning performance of $1,000+ models.
To increase efficiency and ensure maximum coverage, the Dolphin Nautilus CC Plus is equipped with the CleverClean navigation system.
It scans the pool and automatically directs the pool cleaner on the best cleaning path. The cleaner knows where it has cleaned and which areas it has yet to cover. That’s why it’s able to clean a standard pool in a quick 2 hours.
As the cleaner moves around on the pool, dual scrubbing brushes attack stubborn dirt, algae, and grime on the pool walls and floor.
The powerful suction then vacuums the debris into two large cartridge filters – one for fine debris and another for large debris such as leaves.
The cartridges are easily accessible from the top and, unlike filter bags, are easy to clean.
The Nautilus CC Plus comes with a convenient weekly scheduler. You can set the pool cleaner to automatically clean daily, every other day or every two days.
This is handy if you spend most of your time away from home. You can just leave the robot in the pool, and it’ll keep your pool clean.
You’ll only need to remove it when emptying the filter cartridges, when adding chemicals and when you close down the pool in winter.
Polaris Vac-Sweep 280
If the Polaris Vac-Sweep 3900 Sport is out of your budget, the Vac-Sweep 280 is a cheaper alternative with comparable cleaning performance.
The Vac-Sweep 280 sweeps, scrubs, and vacuums the floor and walls of your pool.
The sweeper hose at the back of the cleaner does the sweeping and scrubbing. It’s especially handy for agitating dirt and algae stuck on the pool surface.
The pressure from the return line powers the cleaner’s suction, allowing it to pick up large and small debris.
The debris is captured in the attached filter bag. The bag easily catches leaves, pebbles, acorns, and another medium to large debris. But it struggles with fine debris.
For everyday cleaning to remove sand, silt, and other fine debris, we recommend buying the Polaris Fine Mesh Bag.
The Vac-Sweep 280 has no problem scrubbing the floor and cleaning the pool walls. But it struggles with steps, often getting stuck at the bottom step. You may need to clean the steps yourself.
You’ll need a booster pump to operate the Polaris Vac-Sweep 280. If you don’t already have one, you’ll have to buy it separately since it’s not included with the cleaner.
But the feed hose is included. It’s a 31-feet hose that attaches to a 1.5” dedicated pressure line.
Pentair 360042 Kreepy Krauly Universal
The Kreepy Krauly Universal in-ground pool cleaner by Pentair is our top recommendation for those looking for an affordable suction-side pool cleaner that cleans well and is reliable.
It’s a newer Kreepy Krauly model with the improved build quality and a few additional features for better cleaning performance.
For instance, the wings are more robust and durable. The plastic tube also feels harder.
With Kreep Krauly’s famous one-moving-piece design, you can expect it to last for years with minimal maintenance.
The biggest improvement to the new model is in cleaning capability. The 360042 Kreepy Krauly has greater coverage, easily cleaning the floor and the walls up to the waterline.
It even handles steps better than most automatic pool cleaners and rarely gets stuck on the ladder.
The powerful suction picks up both large and small pieces of debris. Of course, it doesn’t come with a filter bag, so all the dirt is directed towards the pool filter.
But you can install an in-line filter canister to reduce the load on your pool filter.
Setting up the Kreepy Krauly is easy and quick. Just connect the included hose to a dedicated suction line. No booster pump required.
Aquabot Pool Rover S2-40
If you own an above ground pool, you don’t need an expensive automatic pool cleaner. Because the pool is smaller and easier to clean, a cheaper pool cleaner will do.
Our top recommendation is the Aquabot Pool Rover S2-40 robotic pool cleaner.
It actually costs less than most suction and pressure side in-ground pool cleaners but does a great job cleaning above ground vinyl pools. It can also clean small in-ground pools.
It covers the pool floor, cove, and part of the wall.
For cleaning, the Pool Rover S2-40 relies on its powerful suction (over 80 gallons a minute). It doesn’t have scrubbing brushes.
But the suction is enough to pick up all the debris, even the slimy grime, and algae that coats the pool after spending winter covered up.
It also picks up leaves, acorns, and sand.
All the debris is captured in a top-access filter bag. Filter cartridges would have been easier to clean, but it’s a small sacrifice.
For navigation, the Rover S2-40 relies on Hydro-Robotic Technology instead of gears and motors. It uses the force of water to navigate through the pool.
The lack of many moving parts makes maintenance easier (and cheaper) and increases durability.
Dolphin Triton PS
If you have an in-ground pool, you need a capable pool cleaner that can provide full coverage – including the walls – and scrub all the gunk that accumulates at the bottom and in corners.
A robotic pool cleaner is the best choice for the job, and our top pick is the Dolphin Triton PS.
There are several reasons we think it’s the best for in-ground pools.
For one, it comes with scanning technology, what Maytronics calls CleverClean. This allows the robot to clean a standard size residential pool in just two hours.
We also love its coverage. It has no problem hugging the walls and scrubbing up to the waterline. It does this using a feature called PowerStream.
It produces water jets that give it a better grip on the wall.
When at the bottom of the pool, it relies on its high-grip tracks to go over obstacles and avoid energy-wasting slippage.
The robot’s cleaning performance also makes it a great choice for in-ground pools, especially those that see more use and are thus dirtier.
It’s equipped with active brushing. Instead of the brush spinning with the robot’s movements, it is powered separately, which makes it spin twice as fast as normal brushes.
This gives it better scrubbing power to attack algae, calcification, and grime on the pool floor and walls.
Coupled with the powerful suction, no debris is spared.
As the water is sucked through the robot cleaner, a large filter basket traps the debris. Two filter cartridges capture fine and ultra-fine dirt.
The filters are loaded from the top, so they are easy to access. The convenient snap-apart design makes the cartridges easy to empty and clean.
Similar to other robotic pool cleaners, the Dolphin Triton PS requires no setup, not even a booster pump.
It’s super easy to use. One of the most convenient features is the set-it-and-forget weekly scheduler.
Simply set which days you want the robot to clean and then leave it in the pool. This way, you don’t have to be home to switch it on every time you want the pool cleaned
The standard size for most in-ground pools nowadays is 16 by 32 feet. If you have the older 20 by 40 feet pool size (or bigger), we recommend the Dolphin Sigma robotic pool cleaner.
It’s designed for pools up to 50 feet in length and comes with a long enough swivel cable to ensure full coverage without any tangling.
It’s not just the long cable that makes the Dolphin Sigma ideal for larger pools; smart navigation, large filter cartridges, and powerful motors also give it an edge over other robotic pool cleaners.
Let’s start with the navigation.
The Dolphin Sigma uses Smart Nav Software to scan the pool and calculate the best cleaning path. This not only allows it to clean faster (2.5 hours), it also ensures it doesn’t miss any areas.
The smart navigation system is supported by a 3-axis gyroscope that monitors the robot’s orientation and tilt. This is handy when the robot is climbing the walls and cleaning the steps.
Triple 24V DC motors power the Sigma’s cleaning and mobility.
They send power to the tracks that, by the way, can be operated independently from each other. This allows the robot to turn easily, even in tight areas.
Some of the power also goes to the dual active scrubbing brushes. As the robot cleans, the brushes rotate to clean off grime and debris off the pool floor and walls.
With the powerful motors and high-traction tracks, the Dolphin Sigma makes easy work of pool walls, effortlessly scrubbing up to the waterline.
To contain all the debris collected from a large pool, the Dolphin Sigma is equipped with oversized filter cartridges. There are two of them: one for large, and small debris like bugs, pebbles and leaves and another for ultra-fine debris like sediment and sand.
The top-load cartridges are easy to remove and clean.
Similar to other top Dolphin models, the Sigma comes with a weekly scheduler. You can set the robot to clean automatically daily, twice a week, or three times a week.
One feature I’ve not mentioned is Bluetooth, which lets you control the robot from your smartphone.
It’s a nice feature to have, but it doesn’t always work. You need to be within range anyway to use it. Most customers say they don’t even bother using it.
It’s designed for above ground pools up to 30 feet in length. It’s essentially a smaller, lighter, and cheaper version of top Dolphin models like Sigma and Premier.
It even comes with most of its features.
For example, it has CleverClean, the pool scanning technology that’s available in most Dolphin in-ground pool cleaners. This allows us to quickly and thoroughly clean an above ground pool in just 1.5 hours.
It also moves on tracks instead of wheels like most above ground pool cleaners. This gives it better traction on different types of pool surfaces.
It sometimes climbs halfway up the wall, even though Maytronics says it’s not a wall-scaling robotic pool cleaner.
Another feature that it borrows from expensive Dolphin cleaners is active brushing. A fast-rotating brush scrubs dirt, grime, and algae off the pool surface.
The filter is surprisingly big, easily holding all the debris from one cleaning. You don’t have to stop the robot midway from emptying it.
We love that the filter is accessible from the top, making it easy to remove and that it’s a filter cartridge, not a bag. It takes seconds to hose it clean.
The biggest limitation with the E10 is the lack of a fine filter. The included basket will catch leaves, bugs, and pebbles. But silt and sand pass right through.
For best cleaning results, we highly recommend buying the Dolphin ultra-fine filter basket.
Polaris F9550 Sport
One of the important things to look for when shopping for an automatic pool cleaner is whether it can climb walls.
Most pool cleaners will do a great job on the floor but struggle with the walls. Either they climb only halfway up or don’t climb at all.
The Polaris F9550 Sport has a 4-wheel drive for improved wall climbing. The Aqua-Trax tires also help by providing better traction on different types of pool surfaces.
An ActivMotion Sensor helps with navigation, allowing the F9550 Sport to clean quickly and efficiently even in extra-large (up to 60ft) and free form pools.
In hard-to-reach places like corners and under the stairs, the robot deploys its water propulsion system for better mobility and cleaning.
For cleaning, the Polaris F9550 Sport uses two oscillating brushes to scrub dirt and grime off the pool surface.
Using Vortex Vacuum Technology, the robot picks up both large and small debris without losing suction power.
The extra-large filter canister traps the debris. The canister is easy to access from the top and much easier to clean compared to a filter bag.
The filter is only for large and small bits of debris. We recommend buying the ultra-fine sand and silt filter for everyday cleaning.
The Polaris F9550 Sport comes with remote control, on which you can set a weekly automatic cleaning schedule and a caddy for transporting and storing the robot cleaner.
Zodiac Baracuda G3 W03000
If you just want an automatic cleaner that you are sure will clean well with minimal problems, try the Zodiac Baracuda G3.
It’s a highly rated (currently around 80% 4 and 5-star ratings)suction-side pool cleaner that’s also quite affordable.
Setting it up is easy and quick. You don’t need a booster pump, even if you have a low-powered pool pump. It works just fine even with low horsepower pumps.
FlowKeeper Valve adjusts the water flow to maintain good suction depending on the pump flowrate.
Once you hook it up to a dedicated suction line, it wobbles around the pool picking up small and medium debris.
We highly recommend getting the Zodiac Cyclonic Leaf Canister to capture the large bits of debris and keep them from overloading your pool filter.
The Baracuda G3 has pretty good coverage. It cleans the floor, walls, and even the steps, using a large fin disc to maintain suction as it moves.
As for reliability, the Baracuda G3 has only one moving part. You are going to be using it for years to come with minimal maintenance.
What is an Automatic Pool Cleaner?
An automatic pool cleaner takes most of the work out of cleaning a pool. Instead of manually scrubbing and vacuuming the pool, an automatic pool cleaner does it with little human intervention.
In fact, all you need to do is set up the cleaner, and it does the rest on its own.
An automatic pool cleaner makes pool maintenance easy, less time consuming, and cheaper since you don’t have to hire someone to clean the pool.
How to Choose the Right Automatic Pool Cleaner
Here are the most important factors to consider when shopping for an automatic pool cleaner.
1. Type of Pool
For in-ground pools, a robotic pool cleaner is generally the best option. It provides better coverage and cleans better compared to other types of automatic pool cleaners.
A robotic cleaner also works faster. While a pressure or suction side pool cleaner might take the whole day to clean a dirty pool, most robotic pool cleaners only need 2-3 hours.
If you have an above ground pool, you can use an automatic pool cleaner designed specifically for above ground pools.
2. The Type of Debris You Struggle With
If, like most pool owners, you struggle with the debris of all sizes from leaves and acorns to sand, dust, and algae, we recommend a robotic pool cleaner.
It picks up all kinds of debris. But make sure you are using the right filter. With some robotic cleaners, you have to buy an ultra-fine filter separately.
If your main problem is large debris like acorns, leaves, and twigs, a pressure-side pool cleaner is the best. It easily picks up large and medium-size debris without getting stuck or wearing down.
It especially works great with a leaf canister installed along with the hose.
If your pool usually fills with smaller debris like pebbles, insects, and small leaves, get a suction-side pool cleaner. It does a great job picking up finer debris.
3. Your Budget
Because of its simple, bare-bones design, a suction-side pool cleaner is the cheapest of the three types of automatic cleaners. It’s a good choice if you are on a budget.
Robotic pool cleaners are the most expensive, with top models costing close to $1,500. But above ground robotic pool cleaners are much cheaper, usually under $500.
Pressure-side pool cleaners fall somewhere in between suction and robotic cleaners. They start at around $300 and can cost as much as $900.
4. Your Existing Pool Pump
Your pool pump’s power rating is important if you are buying a pressure side pool cleaner. Most have a minimum pool horsepower requirement.
If you have a low-powered pool pump –½ to ¾ hp –and you don’t want to buy a booster pump, get a suction side pool cleaner.
Suction cleaners work with any pump.
Alternatively, buy a robotic pool cleaner. It doesn’t rely on your pool pump.
5. How Busy You Are
Most automatic pool pumps are only automatic as far as the cleaning is concerned. You still have to set it up and put it in the water.
Robotic pool cleaners are the best for busy pool owners who have little time to set up and operate the cleaner.
A robotic cleaner requires no hose connections. You just plug it into a GFCI outlet and dunk it into the pool. Press a button, and it starts cleaning.
With most models, you can set an automatic cleaning schedule.
Robotic Vs. Suction Vs. Pressure Pool Cleaners
You probably already know the three types of automatic pool cleaners: robotic, suction, and pressure. Here’s the low down on each of them.
Robotic Pool Cleaners
These are self-contained pool cleaners, with an integrated brush and vacuum. They don’t rely on the pool pump or filter.
This makes them easier to set up since you don’t have to connect any hoses.
To move about in the pool, the robotic pool cleaner rely on motors that drive wheels or tracks.
On the downside, they are more expensive, and replacement parts tend to be pricey as well.
Suction-side Pool Cleaners
Suction-side pool cleaners rely on your pool pump for mobility and suction power and pool filter to remove debris from the water.
They connect to a dedicated suction line and then move about the pool vacuuming up debris and directing it towards the pool filter.
Suction-side cleaners are easy to maintain and often last for years since they have very few moving parts (usually just one). They are also affordable.
Pressure-side Pool Cleaners
Pressure-side pool cleaner relies on the pool pump but not the filter. They come with a filter bag that catches medium and large debris.
A pressure pool cleaner connects to a dedicated return line and uses the force of the water coming back into the pool to move and vacuum up debris.
How to Install an Automatic Pool Cleaner
Robotic Pool Cleaner
Suction and Pressure Pool Cleaners
Your suction or pressure pool cleaner comes with a hose.
For suction cleaners, connect the hose to a dedicated suction line. You’ll need to remove the skimmer basket to install the valve cuffs and flow keeper valve.
For pressure cleaners, connect the hose to a dedicated return line using a universal wall fitting that allows quick connect and disconnect.
You’ll need to make sure the returning water has enough pressure. If it doesn’t, get a booster pump.
Pressure cleaners also need some assembling, mainly to attach the filter bag to the cleaner.
Check your manual for more detailed setup instructions for your particular automatic pool cleaner.
Pool Cleaning Accessories: What Else Do I Need To Buy?
Leaf canister: This one is necessary for suction-side pool cleaners. The canister catches large debris like leaves before they reach the pool filter.
Fine filter: Some robotic pool cleaners only come with a filter for medium and large debris. To get rid of silt and sand, you’ll need a fine or ultra-fine filter basket or bag.
Caddy: Useful for heavy robotic pool cleaners. The caddy makes it easy to move the cleaner to and from storage and provides a safe place to put the power unit during cleaning.
The Benefits of Using an Automatic Pool Cleaner
Frequently Asked Questions About Automatic Pool Cleaners
Which is the best type of automatic pool cleaner?
A robotic pool cleaner is the best automatic pool cleaner for most pool owners. It has excellent cleaning performance, more energy savings, and better pool coverage.
If you are on a budget, a suction pool cleaner is the best. If you are looking for something in between – more features than a suction cleaner but not too expensive – we recommend a pressure side pool cleaner.
How long does an automatic pool cleaner last?
With proper maintenance, a suction side pool cleaner can last well over 10 years though you’ll need to replace some parts.
A pressure-side pool cleaner has more moving parts and lasts about 8 years.
Robotic pool cleaners have an intricate design and a larger number of moving parts. Depending on quality and maintenance, they last between 3 and 5 years.
Do I still need to clean the pool if I have an automatic pool cleaner?
Depending on which automatic pool cleaner you have, you may still need to do an occasional deep cleaning.
If you have a robotic cleaner, this is not necessary since the cleaner does a pretty good job scrubbing and vacuuming the pool.
But even then, you may still need to manually clean the steps and other areas the cleaner might miss.
Why is my automatic pool cleaner, not working?
The first thing to check for when your automatic pool cleaner is not working is a blockage. Debris may have gotten somewhere in the cleaner, preventing proper suction.
Stones can also get into the wheels, preventing the cleaner from moving properly.
For suction and pressure cleaners, also check the pump and filter. The pump may not be working properly, or the filter might be clogged.
Refer to the manual’s troubleshooting section for other possible problems or contact customer support.
Can I leave a robotic pool cleaner in the pool?
Yes, you can (but check the manual to be sure). In fact, you’ll have to if you’ve set a weekly auto-cleaning schedule.
But don’t leave it in the water for too long. Some parts will deteriorate quicker if submerged for long periods.
Take the robot out weekly to clean the filters and to let it dry. Also, remove the cleaner when you are adding chemicals and when you close the pool for winter.
Automatic pool cleaners have become essential for pool owners. They make pool maintenance less of a headache and save you money too.
There’s an automatic pool cleaner for everyone, whether you have an above ground or in-ground pool and whether you are looking for a budget cleaner or a premium high-performance cleaner.