Aluminum vs Fiberglass Boat: Which Should You Buy?
In almost every boating sector, there are heated arguments as to what is better than what. For example, people who prefer deep sea fishing will almost always argue that fishing is better than lake or river fishing.
People who use boats seldom understand people who go fishing in a kayak or a canoe. But perhaps the biggest bone of contention has to do with the boats themselves – aluminum vs fiberglass boat, which is better?
Of course, some will swear on their lives that aluminum boats are far better than fiberglass ones, just like some would never understand why anyone would pick an aluminum boat over a fiberglass one.
The truth is, both parties are right to some extent. Each type of boat has its own advantages and disadvantages. What works for you depend on a myriad of factors such as:
- What you are looking for in a boat
- Whether the price is an issue
- How much you want to customize your vessel
Once you start looking at it that way, you begin to see that there really isn’t one type of better boat than the other. There is, however, one type of boat that is better than the other for your specific purposes.
Let’s take a quick look at both types and see why you would consider choosing one over the other.
The Main Differences Between an Aluminum vs Fiberglass Boat
The biggest difference between these two types of boats is the inherent properties of each material. Both aluminum and fiberglass boats borrow heavily from their construction material.
Therefore, boats made out of aluminum are inherently tougher. They can bend, but they can’t break, just like the material itself. On the other hand, fiberglass boats are more comfortable and offer you better aesthetics on the water.
However, those aren’t the only qualities you should consider when thinking about buying one or the other. Here are some of the main factors that should come into play:
Cost – Aluminum
For the longest time, aluminum boats have been much more affordable than fiberglass ones. That being said, advances in boat building technologies, especially aluminum boats, have made them a bit more expensive. However, most of them are still not quite as expensive as fiberglass boats.
Comfort – Fiberglass
If comfort is a huge priority for you, then you need to buy a fiberglass boat. Even though there have been great improvements in the manufacturing process of aluminum boats, fiberglass boats still have a few inherent qualities that make them more comfortable than their aluminum counterparts.
For one thing, fiberglass boats are much heavier than aluminum boats, which means that they can cut through waves more easily, making your ride more comfortable thanks to less lift and push that you would otherwise get from the chop and waves. This means that your fiberglass boat is more stable and slaps much less than an aluminum alternative.
Toughness – Aluminum
There is no debate here – aluminum boats are much tougher than fiberglass alternatives. That is why it’s often more advisable to go the aluminum route if you consider buying your first boat instead of buying a much sleeker, better-looking fiberglass one.
Toughness is something you will need to rely on, especially as a first-time boat owner who is bound to make a few sailing mistakes that could end up punishing your hull. If you are looking at beach launching, aluminum is your best option.
Aluminum boats can withstand poor treatment and rough impact much better than fiberglass boats. What would cause nothing but a scratch or just a slight bend on an aluminum boat could result in major Gelcoat damage or even cracking in fiberglass alternatives.
Customization – Fiberglass
While aluminum can bend without breaking, there is only so far you can stretch it to create complex shapes. This is quite unlike fiberglass, which can be molded into pretty much any shape conceivable to man.
As such, many fiberglass boats offer a much sleeker design, which results in softer chines. For the most part, this customizability results in a boat that can easily slice through the water and increase your ride comfort and speed while at it.
When Should You Choose an Aluminum Boat?
Apart from the reasons listed above, aluminum boats have become quite popular over the recent past because they are lighter, affordable, and resistant to corrosion. So when should you choose an aluminum boat over a fiberglass alternative?
- When you plan to sail in shallow waters: Aluminum boats are tougher and can survive rocky beaches and shallower waters that might cause potential damage to the haul.
- When looking for something long-lasting: Since aluminum has high tensile strength, these boats tend to last much longer than fiberglass options.
- Easy maintenance: Most of what you need to do to maintain your aluminum boat is rinsed it off. Fiberglass options need waxing and buffing using a special fiberglass gel coat. You will also need to do quite a bit of patching up since they aren’t quite as tough as their aluminum counterparts.
On the flip side, aluminum boats are noisier, not quite as comfortable, and offer poor aesthetics.
When Should You Choose a Fiberglass Boat?
You should choose a fiberglass boat when you want:
- Design flexibility: The material can be molded to pretty much any design you want.
- Ease of handling: These boats are more comfortable and much easier to handle than aluminum boats.
- No corrosion: Since fiberglass isn’t metallic, it isn’t as prone to corrosion as its aluminum counterpart. Which means you can leave them on the water for as long as you want.
On the flip side, fiberglass boats can absorb that water through osmosis, leaving your hull with bubbles and bumps. They also feature much weaker structural integrity and come with hefty maintenance costs.
So, which boat should you choose when it comes to aluminum vs fiberglass? It all comes down to your specific needs for the boat in question. Although aluminum boats seem to edge out fiberglass boats on the advantages side ever so slightly, they both have their advantages and disadvantages.