This is our comparison between Aluminum vs. Fiberglass boats.
I’ve been the proud owner of aluminum and fiberglass boats and have spent countless hours on fresh and saltwater.
Both boats are excellent day trips or fishing vessels; the Aluminum boat with its lightweight hull and the Fiberglass boat with its comfortable ride are worthy rivals.
Let’s take a closer look at their many strengths and weaknesses!
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Which One Is Better?
Fiberglass boats can be molded into any desired shape. They have thicker hulls and superb handling characteristics. Fiberglass boats are heavy, which results in a higher fuel economy. These boats are not 100% waterproof as the fiberglass is slightly porous and will soak up water through Osmosis over the boat’s lifespan of 15 to 25 years.
Aluminum boats are less expensive and weigh less, so they do not need large engines to propel them through the water. The noise in an aluminum boat is much higher as they do not have as much sound dampening material in the hull.
Aluminum boats do not have excellent handling in rough water due to their lightweight and lower horsepower. These boats are robust but can develop leaks at their rivet seams.
Winner: Aluminum Boat
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Boats: Advantages And Disadvantages
Below are some advantages and disadvantages of these boats.
Aluminum Boat Advantages
- Good resale value
- Aluminum offers strength
- Easy to maintain
- Sun exposure resistant
- Great seaworthiness
Aluminum Boat Disadvantages
- Less comfortable
- Can suffer from corrosion
- Expensive anti-fouling
- Poor aesthetics
- Cold to the touch
- The reputational issue for older boats
Fiberglass Boat Advantages
- Fiberglass is very malleable
- Sleek aesthetics
- Ease of handling and comfort
- Corrosion proof
Fiberglass Boat Disadvantages
- Suffers slightly from Osmosis
- More expensive
- Higher maintenance costs
- Weaker structural strength when damaged
This article will compare the differences between aluminum and a fiberglass boat by comparing their comfort, tow ability, hull strength, and more. Read on to learn about these differences.
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat Handling Differences
Fiberglass boats are much heavier than aluminum hull boats, and this weight is great for the handling of the vessel in rough water. The heavy fiberglass hull will push through the waves, and because it has a deeper draught, it is naturally more stable in the water.
Aluminum boats are much lighter, and their handling is pristine on calm water such as lakes and quarries. Unfortunately, they lose their great handling characteristics in rough water as they are at the mercy of the wind and waves.
Winner: Fiberglass Boat –better in rougher water
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat Hull Strength And Durability
There is no real debate when it comes to the strength of aluminum. Compared to fiberglass, aluminum is far superior and is often the first choice for new boat owners. An aluminum boat can stand up to everyday boating incidents such as scraping and minor impacts. In most cases, the small dings and dents can easily be fixed using basic tools.
Fiberglass boats have strong hulls, but scratches and minor impacts can cause cracks in the hull or a hefty gel coat repair bill. More care must be taken to prevent minor accidents. They will need to be repaired immediately to prevent further damage.
Winner: Aluminum Boat – Can take a minor impact without major damage
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat Design
Aluminum can be bent easily without causing any damage to the metal, but when it comes to molding intricate designs for a boat, fiberglass is the way to go. Fiberglass can be molded into any shape imaginable, making it easier to design.
This is the main reason why fiberglass boats look much sleeker and more refined than aluminum boats. There are many new methods to make aluminum more molding friendly. However, it still does not compare to the smooth final result of fiberglass.
Winner: Fiberglass Boat – easier to mold into desired shapes
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat In Shallow Water
Fiberglass and aluminum boats are great fun, but precautions should be taken when boating and fishing in shallow water. An aluminum hull can withstand running into a rock or a tree stump at low trawling speeds without significant damage. On the other hand, a fiberglass boat will definitely show some scars if it comes into contact with a rock.
Winner: Aluminum Boat – less minor damage when it comes into contact with rocks.
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat Maintenance
Aluminum boats are very easy to maintain. The most significant part of the maintenance process will be to rinse the boat off after a day on the water. Fiberglass boats will require regular waxing and buffing to maintain the Gelcoat as there will be more scratches that will need attention.
The one advantage fiberglass boats have is that they do not suffer from corrosion. Aluminum boats are not corrosion-free, and regular inspection should be done to limit it.
Fiberglass can be impaired by the sun, and after a few years, the gel coat will start to show signs of deteriorating. This must be repaired as this could cause water to enter and saturate the structure. Aluminum is resistant to sun damage and will not have any side effects after being left in the hot sun for prolonged periods.
Winner: Aluminum Boat- Lasts longer in the sun and just need to be rinsed off
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat Price
Typical aluminum boats can cost significantly less than fiberglass boats, and this is due to the difference in the two boats’ weight. Having less weight means that the boat does not require as much power to move it through the water, resulting in a smaller engine. So the significant savings come from the size of the power unit and not the materials used for the hull.
It also costs more to manufacture fiberglass, and the resins that are needed further add to the costs. Boats with unique structures like fly bridges will need the fiberglass to be strengthened with metal adding to the cost. Aluminum boats are more simplistic in design and can use added aluminum pieces for structural strength.
Winner: Aluminum Boat- Smaller engine and less weight
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat Repairs
When it comes down to boat repairs, both aluminum and fiberglass boats can cost a lot to repair. If an aluminum boat has sprung a leak at one of the seams, the whole joining metal strip must be removed, welded, and reinstalled.
Fiberglass boats will have similar repairs if they have a leak. Still, the area can be isolated, and only that section will be repaired, but then there is the added cost of the Gelcoat. For more extensive damage on fiberglass, an area would need to be removed entirely and replaced with a newly molded section.
Winner: Aluminum Boat- Can be repaired by the owner
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Boat Comfort
When comparing the ride quality between fiberglass and aluminum boats, it comes down to the thickness of the hull. Aluminum is strong and thin, while fiberglass has many layers of glass and epoxy, making a strong but much thicker hull.
Fiberglass boats weigh more, which improves the vessel’s stability, making it more suited to seakeeping and rougher waters. The weight also plays a vital role in the drifting characteristics of the boat, as the wind does not buffer the boat. This is a sought-after trait for avid fishermen.
The thickness of the hull will affect the boat’s sound dampening characteristics. Again, the thick fiberglass works like a sound cushion, deadening the sound of the splashing waves on the hull. The aluminum boat is much louder with a slight echoing effect.
Although there are massive technological advancements to help the aluminum boat to dampen the sound, it is still not on the same sound level as the fiberglass boats.
Winner: Fiberglass boat- More comfortable ride and less noise
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Boats: Use In Saltwater
Aluminum is known to resist corrosion well, and it can be used in saltwater. A good freshwater wash-down is required when the boat is out of the water. Fiberglass does very well in salt water with no signs of corroding or bubbling on the Gelcoat. This Gelcoat is the first line of defense in saltwater, so maintaining it is crucial for the boat’s longevity.
Winner: Fiberglass Boat- The Gelcoat offers extra protection in saltwater
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Boats: Value In The Market
After a few years, well-maintained boats are known to sell close to their purchase price. Fiberglass boats lose on average 20% of their value after three years, and aluminum boats lose on average 21%. This will not include any extra equipment and modifications added to the vessel but rather on the standard boat with no alterations.
Winner: Fiberglass Boat- Holds better value
Aluminum vs Fiberglass: Which Boat Is Easier To Trailer?
Average aluminum boats are 35-40% lighter than fiberglass boats of the same size. This lighter weight makes aluminum boats much easier to trailer than fiberglass, especially if a smaller vehicle is used.
The lighter weight makes launching and pushing the boat off a sandbar much more practical. A 20-foot aluminum boat can weigh between 1525 lbs. and 1790lbs. versus a 20-foot fiberglass boat’s average weight of 2010 lbs. to 2700lbs.
Winner: Aluminum Boat- Much lighter and can be towed by a smaller vehicle
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Which Boat Is Faster?
Both the aluminum and fiberglass boats can reach very impressive speeds on the water. The aluminum boat is lighter and can reach the same speed as the fiberglass boat but by using a smaller engine. Having a smaller engine means better fuel economy, thus bringing down the running costs.
The fiberglass boat is heavier and will require more horsepower than an aluminum boat, even with its sleek design.
Winner: Aluminum Boat- Smaller engine for the same speed
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Which Boat Is Better For The Environment?
Fiberglass is made from composite materials, resins, and artificial fibers that can be harmful to the environment. It is costly to manufacture fiberglass, and it is not very recyclable. With all the maintenance done on a fiberglass boat, it has a higher residual pollution rating due to the amount of polishes and waxes that need to be used.
Aluminum is 100% recyclable, and it is cheaper to manufacture than fiberglass, even when the aluminum mining and processing costs per ton are included. Aluminum boats use smaller engines than fiberglass boats resulting in fewer carbon emissions.
Winner: Aluminum Boat- aluminum is recyclable and has lower emissions
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Boat: Water Sports
When it comes to having some towing fun on the water, a boat with enough weight and power is better suited. This places the fiberglass boat at an advantage when it comes to towing. The better handling characteristics, weight, and power make it a firm favorite.
Aluminum boats are capable of towing a skier or tube with ease. Still, the captain will have his hands full, trying to keep it pointed in the intended direction. The lightweight aluminum boat will be pulled from side to side, similar to a Jetboat.
Winner: Fiberglass Boat- More weight and better stability
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: The Winner
The Aluminum boat narrowly takes the top spot with its smaller engine, durable hull, lower running costs, and low maintenance.
Overall Winner: Aluminum Boat
Which Boat Is Best For You
An important consideration is where the boat is going to be used. If the boat is going to be used on lakes for fishing close to the shoreline, then an aluminum boat will be better suited. An aluminum boat will be much easier to launch from the jetty, and it will put up with the occasional collision with a rock.
Fiberglass boats are well suited to the open water on big lakes or oceans. The fiberglass boat will offer a quieter, more comfortable ride, and the handling is better suited to rougher conditions.
Contact MarineMax for the top personalized service when choosing the best boat for you. They have over 100 locations worldwide, including 77 retail dealership locations, including 31 marinas, and storage operations.
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