Ping-pong is one of those rare games that people can enjoy thoroughly when they're 6, 16, well over 60, and everything in between.
Part of the game's charm is that it can be as serious or silly as you'd like. At the competitive level, it's a sport — an Olympic sport at that, not a merely fun "game" — that's referred to properly as "table tennis" rather than the whimsical "ping-pong." (The official organization overseeing the sport is called the International Table Tennis Federation, or ITTF.)
At the other end of the spectrum are kids goofing around playing ping-pong in the basement as a distraction in between video games. Or a family breaking off into mixed-age teams for game night, because everyone is sick of Monopoly and Pictionary. Or college-age kids discarding paddles entirely and playing a different kind of pong with red Solo cups and large quantities of cheap alcoholic beverages.
No matter how you approach the game (or sport!), you'll need one major piece of equipment: a ping-pong table. (Well, OK, actually, for beer pong, you probably don't need a real table — a slab of plywood will do the trick just fine.) But what ping-pong table best suits your needs, and your budget?
Ping-pong table buying guide
Indoor or outdoor ping-pong table?
Ping-pong tables take up a lot of space, and many people would like the option of setting their tables up outside. But it's not a good idea to put any old table out in the elements, even if it's inside a garage or under a deck.
A typical indoor ping-pong table is made of plywood or particle board that will warp and suffer other damage if it's left outside for extended periods of time. On the other hand, tables designed for outdoor use are built with weather-resistant materials like fiberboard or aluminum (for the playing surface) and galvanized steel (for the legs, frame, and bolts underneath). An outdoor table should feature special paint or a protective coating to handle a hot sun, wet weather, and a wide range of temperatures. Be warned, though, that some aficionados say that the ball might bounce oddly on outdoor tables, which tend to have thinner and slicker surfaces.
Ping-pong table dimensions
The official dimensions for a regulation table-tennis table is 5' x 9', and it should stand 2.5' off the ground. Competitive tournaments require a huge amount of extra space around tables too — a total of roughly 23' x 46' per table.
Few homeowners have that kind of space to spare in the basement or a rec room, and even if they did they may not want to reserve it for the occasional game of ping-pong. Most amateurs are happy with tables that are a little smaller than regulation; mid-size tables (usually 3' x 6') are usually adequate for one-on-one kids' games.
Even so, to play a decent game of ping-pong comfortably, it's important to have a few feet of free space on all sides of the table. For a typical table, you'll want an area that's at least 9' x 15', and more space is better.
Simple fun vs. serious competition
As with so many other hobbies and sports, ping-pong can be very affordable at the beginner level — and become super expensive at the more serious end of the spectrum.
Ping-pong table prices range from under $200 to well over $2,000. At the lower end, tables are generally smaller, lighter, less sturdy and durable, with fewer features like wheels and adjustable legs to make the playing surface level. All of our recommended tables include a net and posts, but, as you'd expect, the quality of these components is superior in pricier models.
Table thickness is a key factor as well, with thicker (and more expensive) models providing a more consistent bounce that holds up over time. Pricey regulation tables measure at least 25mm thick (about 1"), while cheaper options might measure 12mm or 15mm. If you're fairly serious about ping-pong and want a table that holds up for the long haul, with good consistent bounce, go for one that's at least 19mm (0.75") thick.
Portability and storage
Chances are there will be periods when your home's ping-pong table gets little action and will mostly just collect dust, all while taking up lots of space. So it's nice to have the option of folding it up and storing it out of the way.
If you anticipate the need for storage, factor in that some tables are much easier to fold and maneuver than others. Smaller tables are usually lighter and fold up more compactly, but this is not always the case.
As for where to store your ping-pong table when it's not in use, be aware that indoor tables shouldn't be kept in uninsulated attics or garages, where they can be damaged from dramatic temperature swings.
Best ping-pong tables
1. Best overall: Butterfly Centrefold 25
The Butterfly Centrefold 25 is not just a top-notch professional-grade table approved by the ITTF for tournament play; it's also incredibly easy to set up, fold up, and store.
Here's a table tennis table that is regulation size (5' x 9') and weighs a hefty 280 pounds for a solid feel and long-term durability, with 25mm (1") thickness for a reliably consistent bounce. A tournament-quality net is included, along with adjustable feet for leveling on uneven surfaces and wheels that lock into place. Complete with scratch-proof paint (choice of blue or green) and steel rails and legs, it's a table that's built to last — and comes with a five-year warranty to boot.
Perhaps best of all, this Butterfly model requires no assembly whatsoever and features a fold-up-and-roll design. When it's delivered, pretty much all you have to do is take it out of the box and fold down the two ends before your first serve.
Folded up, the table measures a little over 5' high and 19" in depth, and it's relatively easy to roll out of the way given how much it weighs.
As you might imagine, a ping-pong table with such a fantastic mix of quality and convenience doesn't come cheap: The list price as of early 2023 is around $2,300.
2. Editor's pick: Joola Inside 25 Professional MDF Table Tennis Table
For around $700, the Joola Inside 25 model offers many tournament-quality features on par with the Butterfly, only with a much smaller hit to your wallet.
The table's thickness is 25mm (1"), and it weighs nearly 300 pounds, providing a solid, consistent playing surface. It comes with an easy-to-attach net, leg height adjusters, and wheels, and it can be quickly folded up for storage — or for one-person "playback" mode, with just one side made vertical.
What differentiates the Butterfly from the Joola are the little things. The Joola 25 arrives 95% assembled, and setup is estimated to take 10 to 20 minutes, compared to no assembly with the Butterfly. The wheels on the Butterfly are 5", versus 4" for the Joola, which also weighs slightly more so it may be a little harder to maneuver.
These differences may seem trivial, especially considering that you'd save over $1,000 by purchasing the Joola, which is a storied brand name in table tennis. The company launched in 1952 (in Germany), and its tables have been used in the Olympics on more than one occasion.
What's more, buyers certainly seem happy with Joola: 90% of the nearly 6,000 user reviews at Amazon for this model are four-star or better, and 78% give it a full five stars.
3. Best for low prices: Joola Liberty Americana 15mm Ping-Pong Table
There's no need to drop several hundred bucks let alone $1,000 if all you want is a basic fun ping-pong table. In addition to its tournament-quality tables, Joola makes this red-white-and-blue Liberty Americana model that usually sells for around $200.
The Liberty Americana is a full-size table (5' x 9') with decent 15mm thickness and a weight of 115 pounds. It's not as solid or smooth-playing as heavier, pricier models, but that's to be expected. Like other Joolas, one side of this table can be folded up for single-person playback mode.
This product comes in four pieces, which is good and bad. On the good side, because the table comes in four pieces, it can be stored in relatively small spaces. But the negatives may outweigh the positives: Each side of the table consists of two separate flaps, and some people complain that the ball bounces unpredictably when it hits the seam in the middle. Assembly can be a hassle with this model too: The table's legs, rails, and more need to be put together, and some reviewers say the instructions are confusing.
All that said, this is arguably a very good value, especially because the table comes from a reputable brand like Joola. If you want an even less expensive option, consider ping-pong tables from MD Sports. The MD 15mm 4-Piece table has specifications, design, and features (and potential headaches) that are very similar to the Joola Liberty Americana, includes two paddles and two balls, and costs a bit less.
4. Best outdoor table: Stiga XTR Series Indoor/Outdoor Table Tennis Table
We have two strong competitors to consider if you're in the market for a quality ping-pong table that'll mainly be used outside.
Our top choice for quality and value is the Stiga XTR Series, a full-size table with an aluminum composite playing surface, sun- and weather-resistant net, posts, legs, and undercarriage, adjustable leg levelers, and extremely easy storage and maneuverability. Stiga has been around in the game building table tennis tables since 1944, so it's even older and more established than Joola,
Speaking of which, Joola makes equally good outdoor tables, with similar features, storage options, and all-weather materials aluminum, plus heavy-duty 6" wheels (the Stiga's wheels are only 3"). We are giving the Stiga the slight edge in this category because it is usually costs $50 less, but both are great outdoor options.
Before you buy an outdoor table, though, take note of the table thickness, which will likely pale in comparison to a top indoor model. Our two favorite outdoor tables measure only 6mm thick (compared to 25mm and up for some others), so serious players may be occasionally frustrated by how the ball bounces. Windy locations may play havoc with your game too, but that's not the table manufacturer's fault.
Also, even if a table is rated for outdoor use, it's a good idea to fold it up and store it in a garage, under a deck, or at least beneath a tarp in extreme weather conditions. Even the best tables can warp or get chipped under mounds of snow and ice, or if left out for years under a blazing sun.
5. Best conversion table: Martin Kilpatrick Ping-Pong Table Conversion Top
If you already own a pool table, and you'd like to play ping-pong as well, you could just buy a regular table tennis table, of course. But then you'd have to pay the bill for a full-fledged ping-pong table (which is costly if you want a quality model), and also find a good spot to fit it in your home.
The solution is buying a conversion top that can change your pool table into a ping-pong table in a jiffy. Ping-pong conversion tops cost significantly less than their regular table counterparts of similar quality. Most models come with padding, to protect the surface underneath from scratches, and they can be attached to dining tables and picnic tables in addition to pool tables. (Just make sure that the conversion model you buy is designed to fit on top of the table in your home; in general the table needs to be smaller than ping-pong conversion surface.)
Our choice for best conversion table is the Martin Kilpatrick, a full-size (5' x 9') topper that fits pool tables (and some other tables) that are 8' in length. This model is an ample 19mm thick, which is unusually high for conversion tops, and it's very solid, weighing in at 130 pounds. It comes with metal rails and foam protection pads to help avoid damaging the table underneath, plus an easy-to-attach net.
The Martin Kilpatrick splits in half for storage, and because it's so heavy, putting it in place and removing it is probably a two-person job. The other consideration is cost: We've usually seen this model in the neighborhood of $400.
If that sounds too pricey, and you're OK with a conversion ping-pong topper that is thinner and may offer less consistent play, check out the options from Joola. It has the Joola 4-Piece Ping Pong Table Top (around $300), which is 12mm thick, weighs 85 pounds, and (as the name indicates) consists of four different pieces — which is great for storage in smaller spots, but could affect play when the ball bounces on the seams.
6. Best small ping-pong table: Butterfly Junior Ping Pong Table
What if you don't have the space for a full-size ping-pong table, or you simply prefer a smaller, lighter model that can be set up and stashed away at a moment's notice?
Then it's time to look at smaller tables. Tables marketed as "mid-size" or "compact" are usually 30" to 36" wide and 70" to 72" long, or around 3' x 6', which is roughly two-thirds of a regulation-size table. Slightly larger, three-quarter-size tables tend to measure 45" wide (nearly 4') by 81" long (nearly 7').
Smaller tables are generally very light (often under 50 pounds), with thin playing surfaces that table tennis snobs may sneer at. But their light weights and features like carrying handles make them perfect if you want to play the occasional game — and then quickly stash the table back in the closet when the party's over.
For a smaller ping-pong table that feels fairly close to a decent real one, check out the Butterfly Junior. It measures 45" x 81", or around three-quarters of regulation size, with a 12mm thick playing surface and a weight of 75 pounds, which are above specifications for small tables. There's no assembly required, and this table comes equipped with wheels and folds up to measure just 5" deep, making it very easy to store. Corner pads are a welcome feature to protect kids, and the table itself, from getting hurt.
On the down side, as with most other small tables, this model does not have leg-foot levelers, so it's important to place it on a flat, level surface or perhaps have some books handy to wedge underneath wobbly corners. The Butterfly is also expensive for a small table, with a price of around $250.
You could save around $100 by going with the GoSports Mid-Size model. The playing surface measures 3' x 6' (36" x 72"), so it's a bit smaller than the Butterfly Junior. The GoSports model will also feel more like a kids' table because it weighs only 33 pounds. Then again, that low weight comes in handy when you move the table around or store it away, as will its foldable design and suit-case-like carrying handles.
What's more, the GoSports model is rated for indoor and outdoor use, so you can bust it out for quick games in the driveway or backyard. It comes with a net, like most other ping-pong tables, and as a nice bonus you get two paddles and four balls for instant play right out of the box.