Aluminum Boats vs. Fiberglass Boats: A Definitive Guide

Aluminum Boats
Aluminum Boats vs. Fiberglass Boats: A Definitive Guide

There’s a reason why $42 billion worth of boats and marine products are sold each year. Almost everybody loves the idea of a day spent on the water. If you’re interested in finding boats for sale, then you need to be sure about the boat types that work for you and the ones that don’t.

This means having a detailed understanding of the popular material used on many boats. Fiberglass and aluminum boats are two of the most used materials on the market.

As such, you should know the pros and cons of each of these types of boats. So how do you learn? By reading this handy guide. We’ll lay out everything you need to know in the aluminum boats vs fiberglass boat debate. Let’s get started!

Aluminum Boats

In this section, we’ll be going over some of the benefits of aluminum boats, as well as some of the drawbacks. Aluminum is one of the more popular of the common metals.

This is thanks to its low density, which makes it light. Keep in mind that while aluminum is a popular material, it often isn’t the only thing found on a boat. For example, pontoon boats are typically made with a combination of aluminum, PVC, steel, and plastic. 

Pros

The biggest advantage that aluminum has over fiberglass is its weight. These types of boats are usually 40% lighter than fiberglass, which gives them a great amount of speed. They’re also easier to transport. They also last for a long time which typically gives them a higher resale value if they’re kept in good shape.

Since it’s a metal, aluminum can also take a beating. Rocky bottoms, weeds, and sharp banks have a much smaller chance of damaging the material than fiberglass.

This makes them ideal for shallow water, cove trips. Aluminum is also sun resistant, so it won’t warp or change color when exposed to harsh UV rays. Finally, aluminum is also cheaper to make and takes little effort to maintain. 

Cons

Unfortunately, aluminum material isn’t perfect. When you drive at high speeds the material can make a loud, annoying noise when it hit the hull. In some cases, this can even scare off fish. When going at high speeds, you also get less resistance from waves. This makes it less stable.

In addition to this, it also doesn’t conduct heat well, which makes it freezing in cold weather. As such, it’s not as comfortable as fiberglass. While the material is corrosion-resistant, it’s not corrosion-proof.

As such, in saltwater environments, it will require extensive cleaning if you don’t want it to corrode. Finally, aluminum has a reputation for inferior looks. While you can still find attractive ones, they likely won’t be as flashy as fiberglass. 

Fiberglass Boats

Next, we’ll go over some of the advantages that come with fiberglass boats, as well as the disadvantages. Fiberglass is a type of plastic that’s reinforced using glass fiber. The composite is typically made using petrochemical resins. 

Pros

One of the biggest pros of fiberglass material is its flexibility. This gives the boats the ability to be crafted into one singular shape, without a bunch of nuts and screws. Since these types of boats typically only comprise one or two parts, they can be crafted into unique forms that are better at taking on the water.

Fiberglass is also very attractive. The gel finishes and sleek designs give them a definite edge over aluminum when it comes to appearance. Do you dislike being uncomfortable?

If the answer is yes, then you’ll enjoy fiberglass. The heavy nature of the material means fewer bumps and more stability when traveling at high speeds. Finally, fiberglass is completely corrosion-proof. Since it’s not made of metal you don’t need to worry about any electrolytic reactions occurring on the hull. 

Cons

Unfortunately, fiberglass material also isn’t perfect. One frequent problem is what’s known as osmosis. This refers to a material’s ability to absorb water. When a manufacturing flaw leaves space for water to get into the boat, then it can reduce its structural strength.

This is due to bubbles and bumps that form when the water expands. The material is also usually more expensive than aluminum. So, if you’re on a budget, then fiberglass might not be the best option. Fiberglass also requires a lot of maintenance if you want to keep it in good condition.

While aluminum boats just require a quick rinse, fiberglass needs wax and polish if you want it to look nice. This is both expensive and time-consuming. Since it’s not a metal, the material also has less structural strength than aluminum.

As such, high impact with rocks or the shore can crack the material and ruin it forever. Finally, fiberglass isn’t good for the environment. It can’t be recycled like aluminum and creating it creates a lot of pollution. As such, if you care about the earth, then you might want to reconsider. 

Aluminum Boats vs Fiberglass Boats

Now that we know more about some of the pros and cons of each type of boat material, let’s dive into some specific questions that buyers often have. The activities you plan on doing and the features you want both play an important part in which boating material is right for you. So when reading these questions try to keep in mind things like:

  • Your budget
  • What you plan on doing with your boat
  • How long you want it to last

Which Is More Cost-Effective?

Traditionally, aluminum boats have almost always been more affordable than fiberglass boats. This is due to a variety of reasons. First, aluminum is recyclable, which makes it easier to reuse old material. Second, the petrochemical resins needed to make fiberglass are expensive to reproduce and difficult to recycle.

This price difference hasn’t always been locked down. For example, in recent years some manufacturers raised their prices when aluminum tariffs went into effect.

However, there are other factors to consider as well. Since aluminum weighs less, it means that it can go just as fast as a heavier fiberglass boat with a much smaller engine. This means less engine and fuel costs when building your boat. 

Which Is Better At Seakeeping?

Fiberglass boats win this category for one main reason: their sheer weight. The heavy nature of the material allows them to power through huge waves. They can keep the chop underfoot which is ideal in sea or ocean conditions. Another big factor that favors fiberglass for seakeeping is the design.

Since fiberglass is initially so flexible, manufacturers can get a lot more creative with the design. This means adding features that allow it to handle rough days on the water. For example, bow flares, variable-degree deadrises, and several strakes can help make it more capable in rough waters.

It’s also good for busy days on the lake or river when multiple boats create choppy conditions. Aluminum, on the other hand, suffers in this category due to its weight. Boating in the ocean in aluminum watercraft will likely batter you around left and right. In some cases, it can even overturn your boat, causing damage and dangerous conditions. 

Which Is More Durable?

There’s a reason why aluminum has been used to create vehicles and components for the United States Army, NASA, and the Air Force. This material is tough. To be specific, it can reach strengths of over 72,000 pounds per square inch. Fiberglass, on the other hand, isn’t as strong.

The material might be flexible during the manufacturing process, it becomes rigid and stiff when hardened. As such, an intense impact can cause fiberglass to crack and break. Aluminum operates quite differently when hit with high impact. Instead of breaking, it usually just gets dented or scratched.

That’s why you see so many vintage aluminum boats. Their durable nature gives them huge longevity as long as you take care of them. However, the specific durability of aluminum depends on the manufacturer.

There are many aluminum boats makes that use cheap material or poor designs to bring the price down. As such, we recommend going with a supplier that uses high-grade aluminum like Lund or Lowe Boats

Which Is Easier to Repair?

As we mentioned before, when an aluminum boat gets damaged, it’s typically in the form of a dent or scratch. These problems are usually incredibly easy or affordable to fix. Fiberglass, on the other hand, cracks when it breaks. Patching this repair up will be a lot more expensive. If it’s bad enough, then in some cases it won’t even be possible.

There’s also the issue of maintenance to consider. Aluminum boats are notoriously easy to maintain. A quick rinse after being in the water is all you need to keep it looking great. Fiberglass, by contrast, needs a lot more work to look nice. Waxing and polishing are necessary if you want the boat at its best.

And these services don’t come cheap. They require a lot of time and money. So, if you don’t want to be spending a lot of money on your boat in case of an accident, then your best bet is aluminum. 

Which Is More Attractive? 

It’s usually agreed in the boating community that fiberglass boats are more attractive and stylish than their aluminum counterparts. This is due to a variety of factors. For one thing, the fiberglass allows for beautiful enamel paint jobs and gel coats to make them shine. However, it also comes down to design considerations.

Since these boats are one component, certain features can be carved right into the design. Some examples include things like live wells, leaning posts, and comfortable seating. Aluminum boats, on the other hand, require welding and screws to attach these components.

The paint jobs on these models are also nothing to write home about. They’re not flashy and even new models can look old. So, if you’re trying to impress the neighbors, an aluminum boat isn’t likely to do it. However, many people don’t care about how their boats look. Some people prefer the rugged, laid back look of an aluminum boat. As such, it also comes down to personal style preference. 

Which Is Better For Fishing?

If you’re one of the forty-nine million fishers in America, then you’ll want your boat catered toward this activity. Generally speaking, we recommend aluminum boats for most fishing activity. This is especially true if you plan on navigating rocky rivers. For example, fishermen looking for salmon in Alaska almost always need to use aluminum boats.

However, this changes if you want to go deep-sea fishing. In that case, you should go with a large fiberglass model that can handle rough waters. For fishers, we recommend something small and affordable like the aluminum Jon Boat. This watercraft is rugged yet versatile. But, best of all, it can handle shallow and rocky waters that you need to navigate to get to good fishing spots. 

Need Tips When Looking At Boats For Sale? Keep Reading Boating Scout

We hope this article helped you find out which type of material is better for your needs: aluminum boats or fiberglass boats. As you can see, there’s no easy answer when it comes down to the question. Instead, it depends on the things that you want out of the boat.

Aluminum might be a little more practical, but some people love the feeling of soaring through the waves in a fiberglass model. Do you want more helpful tips on how to invest in a boat? If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place.

Boating Scouts provides you with everything you need to know to find the boat of your dreams. Visit our definitive guide to buying a used boat to find out more.