The Ultimate Inground Swimming Pool Guide: The Pros and Cons of Fiberglass vs Vinyl vs Concrete (Gunite)

When choosing an inground pool, you have three choices: vinyl liner, fiberglass, and concrete (also referred to as shotcrete or gunite). There are pros and cons for each type of inground swimming pool. We identify the fiberglass vs. vinyl pool and the fiberglass vs. concrete pool in our overview below.

As you can see from the chart below, fiberglass pools are the most favorable choice, coming out on top in most categories. Keep reading to see why.

What You Will Learn In This Guide:

Advantages of Inground Fiberglass Pools
Disadvantages of Fiberglass Inground Pools

Advantages of Vinyl Liner Pools

Disadvantages of Vinyl Liner Pools

Advantages of Concrete (Gunite) Pools

Disadvantages of Concrete (Gunite) Pools

Fiberglass Pools vs Vinyl Liner Pools Comparison

Fiberglass Pools vs Concrete (Gunite) Pools Comparison

fiberglass vs vinyl vs concrete pools comparison

Advantages of Fiberglass Inground Pools

  • Durability
  • Low Cost of Ownership
  • Speed of Installation
  • Compatibility with Salt Systems
  • Low Maintenance
  • Low Lifetime Cost of Ownership
  • Warranty

Durability

Not all fiberglass pools are created equal. The most advanced fiberglass pools are made from Composite ArmourTM, a patented blend of fibers that are extremely tough and durable; DupontTM Kevlar, Carbon Fiber, and Basalt Fiber. These fibers provide extreme strength and longevity through the most extreme conditions. A fiberglass pool made with these components will provide decades of service with little to no maintenance.

A swimming pool is an investment that should provide years of enjoyment with minimal maintenance. Fiberglass swimming pools are the top choice for families looking to enhance their lifestyle and spend more time with family and friends.

Fiberglass Pools Deliver Lasting Years of Durability

Low Cost of Ownership

Because an inground swimming pool is a lifetime investment, evaluating the cost of ownership is essential to helping you decide which pool will provide the most value. As you will see from our 10-year pool ownership comparison chart, fiberglass vs. vinyl pool, and the fiberglass vs. concrete pool, the fiberglass swimming pools are the lowest cost of ownership, especially over time.

Depending on the region you reside in, the initial cost of an average fiberglass pool is approximately $30,000 – $45,000. If you factor in the yearly maintenance cost over ten years, fiberglass pools are significantly less expensive than vinyl liner pools and concrete pools overall.

The initial cost of a vinyl liner pool is approximately $27,500 – $42,000. Vinyl liner pools are less expensive than fiberglass pools at the initial purchase; however, the difference in cost is quickly recovered over a 10-year period, due to the strong durability of fiberglass, and lower maintenance costs.

Vinyl liner pools need a replacement liner every 8-10 years, depending on how the pool was maintained. The replacement cost for a vinyl liner depends on the size of your pool, averaging between $4,500 and $6,500. This average includes the cost of the pool water as well. It does not cover the cost of the replacement of pool salt if you have a salt-water pool.

The most expensive swimming pool to purchase and maintain is a concrete pool, also known as a gunite pool or shotcrete pool. The initial cost of a concrete pool and be anywhere from $52,000 to over one hundred thousand, depending on the size and design. The cost of maintenance of a concrete pool is exceptionally higher than a fiberglass pool or a vinyl liner pool. Concrete pools need to be acid washed every 3-5 years to maintain their finish and limit the staining that appears on the surface of most concrete pools.

The price range for vinyl pools, fiberglass pools, and concrete pools does not include any water features, fire features, hardscaping, spas, or decking.

10 Year Cost Comparison on Swimming Pools

Speed of Installation

Purchasing a swimming pool is an exciting event for any family or individual. The first step is searching for inground pool ideas to see what types of pools are best suited for your lifestyle. The next step is to search for a swimming pool builder in your area. Once you have located a pool builder that you are confident will provide you with the best overall experience, you sign a contract to start the process of building your new pool. The excitement and anticipation of having your first swimming pool party are now embedded in your mind.

This excitement can be diminished by a long drawn out construction process that can go weeks or even months depending on the weather. The installation speed is essential, and a fiberglass pool will provide the quickest time to install and swim! Fiberglass pools can have you swimming in as few as 2-3 weeks, unlike vinyl liner pools, which can take anywhere from 5-8 weeks and concrete pools as long as 2-4 months.

Fiberglass pools are clearly the easiest to install and quickest way to a fantastic pool party in your yard.

Compatibility with Salt Systems

Saltwater pools are becoming more popular among pool owners. They leave your skin feeling soft and smooth while manufacturing safe levels of chlorine.

Fiberglass pools are the best option for saltwater pools because they are impervious to the corrosion that saltwater can do overtime.

Vinyl liner pools are built with steel walls. When saltwater finds its way behind the liner, the salt will start to corrode and rust the steel panels. The damage will go unnoticed until you replace the vinyl liner. At that time, you will see the extent of the damage the salt has caused behind the liner. Sometimes the damage is so severe that the steel wall panels may need to be replaced, adding additional cost to the liner replacement.

As for concrete or gunite, saltwater can raise the pool water’s alkalinity, which will damage the plaster and shorten its lifespan. High alkalinity causes staining and erosion resulting in the need to resurface or re-plaster your pool much sooner than expected. This can add high costs to your pool ownership.

Low Maintenance

Maintenance is a crucial component to pool ownership regardless of where you live. Time is valuable, and no one wants to spend time maintaining a pool on their day off or after a long day at work. You want to come home, relax, and enjoy your swimming pool.

Fiberglass pools are low maintenance because of the finished gel coat surface that is extraordinarily smooth and non-porous. This type of surface eliminates dirt and algae’s ability to gather as it does in concrete pools and vinyl liner pools. With algae growth, you will need to scrub the walls and bottom vigorously to remove the growth that can ultimately cause stains.

Pool builders who install concrete pools instruct the owners on how to brush the walls and bottom frequently to prevent algae buildup. The majority of pool cleaning and maintenance companies across the United States have concrete and vinyl pool owners as clients. There are very few fiberglass pools that require weekly assistance from a pool cleaning professional.

Low Lifetime Cost of Ownership

The cost of ownership is essential in determining which pool is right for you and your budget. Fiberglass pools are by far the best value and the lowest cost of ownership over a 10-year period. Take a look at the 10-year comparison chart above.

Fiberglass Pool Warranty

Fiberglass pools have the best warranty’s in the industry today. Some fiberglass pool manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty, which is exceptional. The reason the warranty is so good is that the pool is manufactured in a controlled environment with cutting edge quality, and craftsmanship. Vinyl and concrete pool warranty’s only cover specific components of the pool for a minimal time, unlike the fiberglass warranty which is complete and comprehensive.

10 Year Cost Comparison on Swimming Pools

Disadvantages of Fiberglass Pools

Limited, Pool Shapes and Sizes

The most significant disadvantage of a fiberglass pool is the limitation on pool shapes and sizes. If you are looking for a large pool with multiple bodies of water or want a swim-up bar with bar stools built into the structure, then the fiberglass pool may not be the right choice for you. Eighty percent of potential pool owners who do their due diligence when searching for a pool find a fiberglass shape and size to accommodate their lifestyle.

Initial Cost Higher than Vinyl Liner Pools

The other disadvantage is the initial cost of a fiberglass pool compared to a vinyl liner pool. While a fiberglass pool is approximately $3-$5K more upon initial purchase, you can see from the fiberglass vs. vinyl pool 10-year comparison chart, the overall cost of the fiberglass pool is much less over that time. It is significantly less over a 20-year period.

Advantages of Vinyl Liner Pools

Initial Lower Cost

Traditionally, vinyl liner pools are the lowest cost of entry into owning an inground pool. They provide an economical budget solution to families looking to enter the inground pool market.

Ability to Customize

Even though you are limited to shapes and sizes, there is more ability for customization than with a fiberglass pool. Most vinyl liner pools are rectangular; however, they have developed a broader range of shapes and sizes than fiberglass can currently offer.

Disadvantages of Vinyl Liner Pools

Vinyl Liner Replacement

The most significant disadvantage of owning a vinyl liner pool is the frequency in which you need to replace your liner. Under normal circumstances, the average liner replacement is approximately 8-10 years, depending on how the pool is maintained and the area of the country you live in.

If water chemistry is not maintained at an ideal level, the liner will become hard, brittle, and wrinkles will form. When the chlorine level is high, the liner will become bleached, resulting in a loss of color.

If you live in the Sun Belt and the liner is in direct sunlight all day, the corners above the waterline can dry out and also fade out from the intense sun.

Warranty on Vinyl Liner and Structure

Most vinyl liner pools have very ambiguous warranty clauses. Some manufacturers state that the liner has a 20-year limited warranty, a three-year full warranty, and a seventeen-year prorated warranty. You have to read the fine print. There is hidden legal ease protecting the manufacturer, which is not in your favor. There is also a limited warranty on the pool structure, which includes the sidewalls and floor, which is usually not extensive.

Still, deciding on fiberglass vs. vinyl pool? Let us proceed so you can learn more about the fiberglass vs. concrete pool.

Advantages of Concrete Pools (Gunite Pools)

Complete Customization of Size and Shape

The ability to customize any size and shape inground pool is the number one advantage of concrete pools. Because the pool is formed from steel and then the concrete (gunite or shotcrete) is blown in, your ability to customize is endless. Of course, this comes with a significant price tag, but someone who is looking for complete customization may not be concerned with cost. If you are looking for a unique shape, or multiple bodies of water that flow into one another, or maybe a lazy river pool, then concrete can provide a solution for you.

Durability

Similar to fiberglass, concrete pools are also very durable. You do not have to worry about tearing a liner or causing a leak when Fido, your loving pet, decides to scrape the pool steps. Yes, the fiberglass vs. concrete pool question regarding pets is that both are animal friendly. You can take Fido for a swim and not worry about damaging the pool.

If you live in a rural area where there is an abundance of bears, a vinyl liner pool is not a great choice. Bears and their cubs have been found on occasion, taking a dip. Fiberglass or concrete is the recommended choice for these areas.

Although concrete is sturdy and durable, it will not last as long as the gel coat on fiberglass before it needs reconditioning.

Disadvantages of Concrete Pools (Gunite Pools)

Most Expensive Pool to Own

After viewing the fiberglass vs. concrete pool 10-year comparison chart, you will see that concrete pools are by far the most expensive pools to build and own. They cost significantly more to construct and maintain. Concrete pools require the most maintenance vs. vinyl liner or fiberglass pools. They are prone to staining on the bottom and sides if you do not maintain and balance the water chemistry. The cost of acid washing and resurfacing are exceptionally high priced, thus costing significantly more over time.

High Maintenance Costs

Whether you hire an outside pool professional or do the maintenance yourself, concrete pools require the most maintenance of all inground pools. Right from the time, you take possession, and after the pool is installed, the pool builder will go over the strict maintenance plan required as the interior surface cures.

It doesn’t stop there. Once the project is completed, a regular maintenance plan must be put in place to maintain the integrity of the pool surface. Concrete is very porous, and if not managed properly, it will stain and deteriorate rapidly.

Draining the pool and acid washing is the only way to remove these stains and over time, will become permanent stains. The only way to remove them is to re-plaster the pool’s surface. Acid washing can also wear down and damage the surface as well, causing you to re-plaster sooner or more often

Use More Chemicals

Water chemistry is an integral component of the ongoing maintenance of concrete pools. Using chemicals and balancing them properly is vital; otherwise, damaging the interior pool surface, resulting in a costly repair is inevitable.

Due to the porosity of concrete, it requires more chemicals for maintenance than either vinyl liner or fiberglass pools. Concrete naturally increases alkalinity (pH), which requires continually adding acid to keep a stable pH balance.

Abrasive Interior Surface

Have you ever been swimming in a concrete pool and have found it to be very rough on your feet? Concrete pools have abrasive bottom and sides which are not as smooth as fiberglass or vinyl liner pools. When it comes to comfort, fiberglass vs. concrete pool, nothing is smoother than a fiberglass pool with vinyl coming in second.

The coarse surface is also tough on automatic and robotic pool cleaners, wearing out pool cleaner parts much sooner.

Longest Installation Time

Compared to fiberglass, installing a concrete pool could be as much as three times longer. This process is very wearing and can exhaust a family who is excited and waiting to swim in their new pool.

Let’s Sum It Up!

Fiberglass vs. Vinyl Pool

Fiberglass Pool

      • Durable
      • Low Cost of Ownership
      • Installation is Quick
      • Compatible with Salt Systems
      • Low Maintenance
      • Low Lifetime Cost of Ownership
      • Long Warranty

Vinyl Pool

      • Initial Low Cost to Purchase
      • Some Customization Available
      • Liner Replacement Needed Approximately every 8 to 10 years
      • Ongoing Pool Chemical Balance is Vital
      • Maintenance is Essential
      • Ambiguous Warranty Clauses

Fiberglass vs. Concrete Pool

Concrete Pool

      • Durable
      • Complete Customization Available
      • Abrasive Surface
      • Installation Can take 8 Weeks to 4 or 5 Months
      • Ongoing Pool Chemical Balance is Vital
      • High Maintenance
      • Re-Plastering Needed Over Time
      • Extremely High Cost of Ownership

Do you still have a question regarding fiberglass vs. concrete pool or fiberglass vs. vinyl pool? If so, get in touch with Leisure Pools today. One of our professional pool representatives will be happy to speak with you and address any of your questions or concerns.