Types of Pool Covers & Major Differences Between Them

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, their pros, cons, and prices.

Main Takeaways

  • Pool covers can lengthen the lifespan of your pool and pool equipment.
  • 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

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 $150 – $500.


  • 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 from time to time, so maintenance can be a chore, especially for those that live 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 covers are the second most common type of pool covering for pool owners to consider when it comes to 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 pool covers share some similarities with the traditional basic tarp pool cover, but they are more durable and secure. Made of solid vinyl, it ensures that nothing enters the pool, including sunlight and water. 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 can 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.


  • 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

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 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 types of covers are pretty 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 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 also 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. If you have animals or children, solar covers are not the best option as someone might injure themselves while running across.

What to Look For and How to Decide Which Type is For You

The type of pool cover you get depends on your wallet, surroundings, pool, and needs.

A mesh or solid vinyl cover is a good option if you’ve got a large outdoor pool and want something durable and easy. Or, if you’re looking for something fancy that requires as little manual labor as possible and you have a high budget, an automatic pool cover may be the best choice.

Solar pool covers are for those looking for something more eco-friendly and economical while also helping to extend your pool season by retaining the heat in your pool water. And if you’re looking for the most basic coverage and live in a primarily dry region, a standard tarp would be a good budget-friendly option.

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.

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