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Should I choose an aluminium or a fibreglass boat?

The most common question that we’re asked by people who come to buy a boat is: “Which is best – an aluminium boat, or a fibreglass boat?”

Fibreglass vs aluminium boats

Is an aluminium or a fibreglass boat best for you?

If one was simply ‘better’ than the other, that would be an easy question to answer. But the reality is, both aluminium boats and fibreglass boats have advantages and disadvantages. It really depends on what you want from your boat, and which suits your needs best.

So what are the pros and cons of aluminium and fibreglass boats, and which one should you choose? Here’s our comparison of the characteristics of each type of boat, which should help you decide which one is best suited to your needs. And of course, any time you need advice you can call in or contact us – we’re always happy to help.

Aluminium boats

Fibreglass boats

Strength

Aluminium is a strong hull material that will dent or scratch on collision, rather than shatter or split. Most aluminium boats can be driven up onto beaches and will happily take a fair amount of ‘abuse’. With a fibreglass boat, a bad collision with a solid object (like a rock or wharf) is likely to put a hole in your boat. More care is definitely required with a fibreglass boat, as they can scratch easily too.

Weight

Aluminium is a light metal, which makes for lighter boats. That means it’s less work for your car to tow, and you can usually get the same performance out of a smaller engine than you would with fibreglass. Fibreglass is heavy compared with aluminium, which means it takes more power to tow, and you’ll most likely need a more powerful outboard as well.

Handling

Because they are lighter, aluminium boats can feel less stable and more ‘twitchy’ at high speeds, and can give a very rough ride in choppy seas. Because fibreglass boats are more solid and weighty, they are more stable at high speeds, and even in rough seas. For that reason, many families choose fibreglass boats over aluminium.

Comfort

Aluminium hulls can be noisy and uncomfortable, especially at high speeds or in rough seas. Because aluminium transfers heat well, they can also be quite cold, and condensation will form easily on the inside. Fibreglass boats give a more comfortable ride than aluminium, being quieter and more stable in rough seas. They are also generally warmer and drier, as fibreglass is a better insulator better than aluminium.

Appearance

The ‘work horse’ of the boat world. An aluminium boat’s finish may not look as sleek as a fibreglass boat’s, but it is more tolerant of scrapes, scratches and dents. Fibreglass boats have a slick, shiny and great-looking finish, but be careful – scrapes and scratches from bad handling can quickly make a fibreglass boat look tired and old.

Maintenance

Aluminium boats are vulnerable to corrosion, especially where electrical currents or other metals come into contact. Washing with fresh water after each use and regular inspections for corrosion are required. Fibreglass boats will not corrode, so require less regular checking and washing then aluminium boats. An annual cut and polish should be enough to keep your fibreglass boat looking great.

Repairs

Small scratches and dents in aluminium boats are relatively easy to fix, but larger damage or holes can be difficult, as aluminium welding is a specialised skill. Scratches and minor damage to fibreglass boats can be relatively easily repaired, and even with major damage, finding a professional repairer who can do the job should be easy.

Cost

Aluminium boats are generally cheaper than fibreglass, so you can get more boat for your money. Fibreglass boats are generally a little more expensive than aluminium, but provide extra comfort and stability.

Summary

Tough, light, affordable boats that are economical to run, but lack comfort and stability in the rough. Excellent first boats, and ideal for ‘boys’ fishing trips’ where comfort is less of a concern. Good-looking, stable and comfortable boats, but you’ll pay a little extra in purchase and running costs. Ideal for families, or those for whom comfort is a priority.

Still not sure which boat’s for you?

Call in and see us at the Opua Commercial Estate on the Paihia Road for friendly, expert advice, and help finding the perfect boat and outboard combo for you.