Types of Pool Covers & Major Differences Between Them

Written by Michael Dean
June 7, 2023

list of pool cover types

Pool covers stretch over the surface of your swimming pool to cover and protect it. They are essential for maintaining and extending the life of your pool and pool equipment. Pool covers can come in various builds, and it can be overwhelming to decide what cover is the best fit for your needs and budget.

In this article, I will review the different types of pool covers and their pros, cons, and prices, then help you decide which is best for your swimming pool. Let’s get started.

Main Takeaways

  • Types of pool covers include the standard tarp, mesh, solid vinyl, automatic, and solar covers.
  • The difference between regular and safety covers is that the latter attaches to your pool deck.
  • Automatic covers are the most expensive option, while solar and tarp covers are the more economical.
  • The pool cover you get depends on the region you live in, the size of your pool, your budget, and your surroundings.

Standard Tarp Covers

tarp swimming pool cover

A relatively common and readily available option, tarp covers are easily one of the most affordable pool cover options. They serve the basic functions of keeping debris, leaves, and sunlight off your pool and preserving your water’s health and chemical balance. It’s best suited for pool owners with large outdoor pools looking to spend as little as possible on a pool cover. Tarp covers have a lifespan of 4 – 7 years if properly maintained. Prices can range from $70 – $500 depending on the size and quality of the tarp.


  • It covers every inch of the pool, so you have assured protection.
  • It’s an affordable option for pool owners on a budget.
  • It’s easy to install.


  • Water collects on top of the tarp occasionally, so maintenance can be a chore, especially for those living in wet or snowy regions.
  • Not as durable compared to other pool cover options.
  • If the cover is damaged, you must replace it entirely, as tarp covers cannot easily be repaired.

Mesh Security Covers

mesh swimming pool cover

Mesh covers are the second most common type of pool covering for pool owners to consider when protecting their water and pool equipment. The mesh safety cover differs from traditional tarp types because it acts as a giant strainer, allowing rain and snow to pass through the cover while holding back other debris like leaves, branches, or insects. 

Mesh security covers are durable and lightweight and especially great for indoor pools. They’re also long-lasting and can last up to 10 – 15 years.


  • Pool owners in wet or snowy regions can save on water costs each year because the mesh-like fabric will filter any debris but will still let the water gradually fill the pool.
  • Mesh covers require less maintenance as they can hold a lot of weight, even preventing potential pool-related falls.
  • They are simpler to repair.


  • The mesh does not protect against UV rays which is not good news for your pool liner and water chemical balance. This can also encourage algae infestations.
  • They are a bit more complicated to install and require additional hardware.
  • Mesh covers are pricey and can range anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000, depending on how light or heavy the mesh is.

Solid Security Covers

solid security swimming pool cover

Solid security pool covers are similar to the traditional basic tarp pool cover, but more durable and secure. These pool covers are also securely fastened to the concrete or decking around your pool, so they can take a lot of weight before tearing, in most cases, over 400 pounds! Safety covers are great for people with small children or pets as you take away the risk of having a massive pool of water in your yard by covering it up.

Made of solid vinyl, it ensures nothing enters the pool, including debris, sunlight, water, and even pets or small children! Most solid covers also have a pump attached to help drain the excess water collecting on top of the pool. Solid security covers last 6 – 10 years and cost around $1,000 to $3,000, much like mesh covers. These covers suit pool owners who want something as durable as a mesh covering but as solid as a traditional tarp. They are typically used as winter pool covers.


  • They are just as secure as the mesh counterpart and more durable than the standard tarp.
  • They provide superior UV protection, protecting the pool liner.
  • The covers are easy to maintain and repair if damaged.
  • They are the best type of winter cover.


  • While they last as long as mesh covers, they don’t age as well due to the heavy loads they might have to bear over time.
  • The pump that drains water away might need replacing every 3-4 years.

Automatic Pool Covers

automatic swimming pool cover

If you are willing to throw down the money for the best option possible, automatic pool covers are a popular choice. This type of cover could be either a solid tarp, vinyl, mesh, or a hybrid of all three. The cover is rolled and unrolled over the pool’s surface with a push of a button. 

Automatic pool covers are great options for those who use their pool a lot and want the easiest option. Although they are convenient and aesthetically pleasing, these covers are expensive. The cost of purchase and installation can range from $9,000 – $25,000, depending on the size and shape of your pool.


  • Safe, simple, and easy to use once installed – ideal for rectangular pools.
  • An excellent security option for owners concerned about potential intruders; these covers come with a code for access, giving you complete control over who gets in and out of the pool.
  • It is an easy and effective way to retain any heat generated by your pump heater, which helps you save money in the long run.


  • By far the most expensive option; upkeep and repair costs are just as pricey.
  • Repairs are not DIY-friendly
  • This type of cover will not work if you have an unconventional pool shape.
  • The lifespan of an automatic pool cover is around 7 years, which is relatively shorter compared to other options.

Solar Pool Covers

solar swimming pool cover

Solar pool covers are economical and excellent for pool owners interested in heat retention. They do everything a tarp cover is supposed to do (protect the water from debris and rain) but also work to retain heat while letting in additional external heat. They’re simple to install and can last up to 5 – 6 years. Prices for this type of cover can range from $100 – $500 (depending on the thickness), making them an attractive option for those on a budget.


  • They retain existing heat and are designed to absorb more heat, keeping the water warm – the temperature of your water can rise an additional 15 degrees Fahrenheit! 
  • They are very affordable, inexpensive, and easy to install.
  • They are environmentally friendly.


  • Not as durable as a mesh or solid vinyl cover – the lifespan of a solar cover is shorter.
  • They are dangerous for individuals to walk across or stand on. Solar covers are not the best option if you have animals or children, as someone might injure themselves while running across.

What to Look For and How to Decide What Type Of Pool Cover is For You

The type of pool cover you get depends on your wallet, surroundings, climate, type of pool, and needs. Here are some key factors to consider when purchasing a pool cover.

Inground Pools

Inground pools are larger than above ground pools and tend to come in a wider variety of shapes and sizes. The best types of pool covers for inground pools are solid security covers, mesh covers, and solar pool covers. A solid security cover is a good idea if you have small children or pets. Mesh covers can protect those who may accidentally fall in a pool, but they won’t keep out smaller debris, while solid covers can do both.

Above Ground Pool

You won’t typically need a safety cover for an above ground pool because the pool is usually elevated. Most above ground pool owners use a standard tarp or solar cover. Tarp covers are more effective at keeping debris out, but they aren’t as effective at warming the water, and they can easily tear or get weighed down by debris and rainwater. Solar covers will insulate your pool water and prevent evaporation.

If you want a durable pool cover for your above ground pool, you can also invest in a thicker vinyl cover. Just make sure to use swimming pool cover clips or a pool cover winch to secure the pool cover.

Budget-Conscious Pool Owners

If you are on a tighter budget, your best bet is to go for a tarp or solar pool cover. Solar pool covers are relatively cheap for both inground and above ground pools, running as low as $100 (sometimes even less). Tarp covers are another good option for budget-conscious pool owners, these are very affordable, but they are not very durable, so I don’t recommend using them in areas with lots of rain, snow, or debris that may collect on the pool cover, weigh it down, and tear it.

Hot Climates

If you live in a region with warm weather and a lot of sun, you should invest in a pool cover resistant to UV rays. Hot weather and strong sun can speed up the process in which UV rays break down your pool cover. Solar pool covers are the best option for warm and sunny climates as they are designed to be left out in the sun. A good quality solar pool cover will last more than five pool seasons. Solar pool covers also prevent evaporation, which is very helpful in regions with a lot of sunlight.

Cold Winters

In regions with especially cold and snowy temperatures, you should go for a mesh pool cover or a solid safety cover. Mesh pool covers allow the snow to fall through the holes in the material, so the snow will not build up and weigh down the cover. Solid safety covers don’t allow snow to pass through but are durable enough to hold snow. However, you may have to remove some snow from the cover if you get an excessive amount.

Solar pool covers are a good option if you live in a region with short summers and want to extend your pool season by a few months, as they help trap heat in the water and may even warm your pool by a couple of degrees!

Rainy Regions

If you live in a region that gets a lot of rain throughout the year, you should consider using a mesh pool cover. While it’s not ideal to have your pool water diluted with rain water, you also don’t want your solid or tarp pool cover to rip due to the weight of the rainwater. 

Easy To Put On And Take Off

If it is convenience you are after, an automatic pool cover is your best option. These are by far the most expensive option, but they will cover and uncover your pool with the touch of a button. 

Solar pool covers are also relatively easy to put on and take off, as they simply sit on top of the surface of the water. Tarp, mesh, and safety covers require the most work and are pretty difficult to put on and remove.

Bottom Line

Whatever type of swimming pool cover you decide on, you are improving the lifespan of your pool and its equipment by protecting it from debris and other elements. A pool cover is a very necessary investment, and I hope you have now figured out which one to go for.

Need Some Maintenance Help?

Send me a message! I can answer any of your pool maintenance, equipment, or other questions.

While you’re researching pool covers, check out some of my other articles on this important piece of pool equipment.

If you have any further questions, drop me a line. I’m happy to help!

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