Cesspool vs Septic Tank vs Holding Tank: Differences with Pros & Cons!

Choosing the best sewage tank for your residency is more likely to find a lost needle, right? However, you don’t need to worry because, in this article, you will have a handful of information on the three tanks including, cesspool, septic, and holding tank that will narrow down your research.

Moreover, about 20% of the US population use septic tanks. These are commonly used in rural areas where main sewage pipelines are not available.

Well, it’s quite difficult to determine the differences between the three tanks used for storing sewage to keep your home clean and germ-free. Therefore, scroll down to get better insight into the head to head comparison.

holding tank vs septic tank vs cesspool comparison

Difference between Cesspool, Septic Tank, and Holding Tank

I have highlighted the differences based on the features to help you better understand the differences. Here we go-


Although there are many similarities between these tanks, the major difference that separates them includes their design and function. Since the 1950s, cesspools, made with bricks, were used to collect wastewater and sewage, and until today, cesspools are still used by many residents.

However, updated cesspools are designed with high-quality fibreglass that lasts for more than 15 years. It is cylindrical with no outlet attached and the inner part is lined with concrete, and the sides are perforated.

Contrary, the septic tank consists of two chambers: a rectangular-shaped tank and a drain system. The tank is made out of concrete, polyethylene glass, or fibreglass. Not to mention, an outlet pipe drains the liquid into the soakaway chamber, which is a small-scale drainage system.

Moreover, the holding tank is the simplest compared to the tanks mentioned above. It is an enclosed, cylindrical-shaped structure with no outlet or perforations on its walls. Holding tanks do not release wastewater on the ground.


The three tanks are similar in function- collect sewage water, but the collection process makes these three tanks different.

The cesspool is somewhat similar to a septic tank, but the cesspools dump liquid wastewater into a small area. In contrast, septic tanks spread out liquid waste in a broader area. However, unlike cesspools, the septic system collects and treats the waste at the same time.

The inorganic solids, in a cesspool, settle at the bottom, whereas the organic matter floats on the top. Bacteria convert organic solids into liquids in a couple of days, which seeps into the soil. 

On the other hand, in a septic system, solid waste settles at the tank’s bottom. And the liquid waste, oil, and grease go into the drain field, made in unsaturated soil. The wastewater is absorbed in the soil, and excess liquid is drained into groundwater.

Whereas, if we talk about holding tanks, they can hold sewage waste for weeks until it is pumped out.


Septic tank is the best when it comes to maintenance. It requires no hassle of cleaning every few weeks. On the other hand, cesspools require regular cleaning by licensed professional septic experts.

In a cesspool, the waste collected in the pit must be pumped out regularly by a vacuum tanker because the perforations get clogged by the effluents. However, proper maintenance increases the lifespan of cesspools up to 40 years.

Oppositely, in the septic systems, there is a risk of flooding, especially when they are designed near water bodies. The liquid waste collecting in the groundwater can flood the drain field. As a result, the sewage in pipelines might back up.

Whereas holding tanks have no risk of flooding as the system is fully enclosed. However, any leaks in holding tanks can damage your field. To sum up, experts consider septic tanks to be maintenance-free as the wastes collected are pumped out annually. And if well maintained, these tanks last over 40 years.


You might be thinking about which tank you should select for your location. The answer becomes complicated if you do not have enough knowledge about sewage tanks. Here are some common location sites on where to install these tanks.

Cesspools are used in areas where main sewage systems are not present and there is not enough space for drain field. Its use is encouraged in camping sites and tourist places where residents do not live for a longer period. Regular residents can also use cesspools, but the size should be carefully selected.

However, septic tanks are used to treat waste in rural areas where main sewer systems are not reachable. So, if you have a small house with no sewage line in your area, then a septic tank will be the best option for effective waste management.

On the contrary, holding tanks are used in areas near water bodies where dumping of waste into the ground can have risks of health hazard, and they are used for the temporary storage of sewage.


Before you decide on the best-suited sewage tank for your residency, it is essential to know about the costs of each tank. The installation process depends on the size of your house, the tank’s material, and its size, but on average, a septic tank costs about $3,054 to $9,753.

Remember that the larger the number of people living in the home, the larger the tank will be. And if we talk about a small-sized cesspool, it costs more than $1000, whereas a larger system will cost $1500. Lastly, the holding tanks cost up to $1500, depending on their size. 


After analyzing the three tanks’ properties, we conclude that septic tanks are more efficient when compared to cesspools and holding tanks. Although, septic tanks require a large installation area, they are most cost effective and easy to maintain. As mentioned above, septic tanks require maintenance every 3 to 7 years, which reduces the cost a lot when we see the bigger picture.

Inversely, the cesspools are not so great compared to septic tanks because cesspools need regular pumping, in the long run, leading to increased maintenance cost. Also, there is a chance of damaging the fertile soil surrounding your house as cesspools do not treat the waste, and it directly goes into the soil. You might have known that since the 20th century, many states regard cesspools as illegal.

Moving to holding tanks, they come with an alarm to give you a signal when it gets full and mostly requires pumping every 2-6 weeks, depending on their size.

Head to Head Comparison on Holding Tank vs Septic Tank vs Cesspool

 Septic TankCesspoolHolding Tank
Less Maintenance 
Easy to install
Easily designed
Easily carried
Quick dumping
ConsNo cons if maintained properly.Regular maintenance requiredSmall in size

How to select the best sewage tank?

Now that you know the significant differences between the three types of tanks let us talk about what factors you should consider before buying the best tank.


Before you select the sewage tank, you must consider its size. An average septic tank that holds residential wastewater ranges in size from 750 gallons to 1250 gallons. This tank is well-suited for one and two-bedroom homes less than 1,500 square feet.

However, if we talk about cesspools, for two users, it should have a capacity of at least 18000 gallons. Consequently, the experts say that the size should be increased by 6800 litres with every additional user.

Read: Best Backflow Preventer


As mentioned above, after you have chosen the best sewage tank for you, make sure that it is budget-friendly. Remember that the tank’s cost is different from the installation cost. A 1000-gallon septic tank for a 3-bedrooms home might cost you $2000- $5000. However, if you can afford an expensive sewage tank, you can either choose between a cesspool or holding tank, depending on your area’s requirement. But we don’t recommend them, to be honest.

Septic tank, though costly at the first place, is most economical and less maintenance-hungry than the other two.

Read: Best Septic Tank Treatment


No matter which type of septic tank you choose, you must ask the seller about its quality. The best material for a sewage tank that lasts for more than 40 years is precast concrete.

Although there has been a debate between fibreglass and concrete tanks, concrete septic tanks take the lead on comparing. The concrete tanks survive for years, and they are rust-proof.

Moreover, tanks made with fibreglass are cheaper than concrete, but they cannot resist heavy waste materials. Consistent force along with harmful gases can damage fibreglass, and the tank might collapse. However, fibreglass is watertight and becoming more common day by day with continuous improvement.

Read: Signs Septic Tank is Full


All in all, choosing between the septic tank, holding tanks and cesspools, is easy for those who know the differences between the three tanks.

Therefore, to help you choose the best one, we have outlined some of the significant differences between these sewage tanks. 

With the pros and cons, your search to select the best tank has become more accessible. To conclude, we can say that septic tanks are the best choice among the three as it is not only long-lasting but also economical. 

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