Before You Buy: 17 Pros and Cons of Aluminium Boats

aluminium boat

Fiberglass and aluminium (known as aluminum in North America) are two of the most commonly used materials when building boats. If you're in the market for a new vessel, you'll need to decide between the two.

What are the pros and cons of aluminium boats? And how can you tell if an aluminium boat is right for your needs?

The Pros of Aluminium Boats

We'll start by taking a look at the benefits of aluminium boats, when compared to their fiberglass counterparts:

  1. Lower weight. One of the biggest and most universally recognised advantages of aluminium is its low weight. When compared to the same volume of fiberglass, aluminium is 30 to 40 percent lighter. It’s also 45 to 55 percent lighter than steel, though steel is a less popular material for constructing boats. There are several reasons why it's beneficial to have a lighter boat; in addition to having an easier time towing the vessel, you'll enjoy higher fuel efficiency, so you ultimately save money on fuel. These vessels can also have smaller, lighter engines, and they can run faster, all other factors being equal.
  2. Overall lifespan. If you're looking for a boat that will last you as long as possible, aluminium may be the best material for you. Aluminium has an incredible tensile strength that makes it ideal for whole durability. As we'll see, it's also resistant to many forms of damage and is relatively easy to maintain. Generally, aluminium boats last longer than fiberglass boats.
  3. Resale value. Because aluminium is easy to maintain and capable of preserving its integrity for longer, it has a tendency to preserve its resale value better than its competing materials. If you're thinking about reselling the boat in the future, aluminium may be the best choice.
  4. Hull integrity and energy absorption. Are you heading to rough waters? If so, you should know that aluminium is an ideal material for absorbing energy. Compared to fiberglass, aluminium is resistant to impact and much more flexible, allowing it to prevent hull damage in even the worst conditions. As an added bonus, because aluminium is highly ductile, it's relatively easy to repair – so even if it does get damaged, the damage will be temporary.
  5. Easier maintenance. If you want to maintain a fiberglass boat properly, you need to wax and buff the fiberglass gel coat on the outside. If it ever suffers significant damage, you'll also need to spend an excessive amount of money on a fiberglass specialist to repair it. In contrast, you won't have to do much to maintain your aluminium boat – and repairs are relatively inexpensive.
  6. Solar radiation resistance. Hopefully, you'll enjoy bright, sunny days when taking your aluminium boat on the water. All materials can suffer from sun damage, but aluminium is particularly resistant when compared to fiberglass. If you overexpose your fiberglass boat to solar radiation, the gel coating can degrade – and even the hull can suffer damage.
  7. Recyclability (and eco friendliness). The process of creating an aluminium boat is more environmentally friendly and less resource intensive than creating a fiberglass boat. This makes aluminium an eco-friendlier option from the outset. Aluminium is also easily recyclable, meaning it can find new life if the boat is ever retired or destroyed.
  8. Corrosion and fire resistance. Aluminium can corrode, but it's much more corrosion resistant than other materials. Modern aluminium boats are capable of handling seawater without issue, accordingly. Aluminium is also resistant to fire, while fiberglass is highly flammable without the proper fire-retardant resins to reduce the chance of ignition. Overall, these properties make aluminium a safer choice.
  9. Flexible options. There are some issues with aluminium from a construction perspective, which we'll explore in the next section, but because aluminium boats are constructed from many different parts welded together, it affords boat owners significant customisability.

The Cons of Aluminium Boats

Of course, there are some downsides of aluminium boats, as no material is perfect.

  1. Excessive noise. Aluminium is highly durable, but this property also makes it noisier, especially during rough conditions. The sound of the metal slapping the water may interfere with your ability to relax – and scare away the fish if you're not careful.
  2. Unsteady handling. The lightness of aluminium is a major advantage, but it also has some drawbacks. Because there's little resistance and light weight, rides on the water tend to be bumpier and handling tends to be somewhat more difficult.
  3. Welding and riveting requirements. Boat manufacturers prefer fiberglass because it can be easily moulded to any shape. With aluminium, boats need to be constructed from individual parts, using intensive welding and riveting processes. This also makes aluminium boats more expensive in some cases.
  4. Susceptibility to corrosion (in some conditions). While aluminium is corrosion resistant, it's not totally inert. If you neglect your boat, or if you leave it in seawater for too long, it could end up experiencing corrosion.
  5. Anti-fouling difficulties. If you're thinking about applying anti-fouling paint to your aluminium boat, you may need to reconsider. While this coating can help your boat remain resistant to barnacles and other forms of marine life, it's also much more expensive and complicated to apply to aluminium.
  6. Aesthetic preferences. Some people simply prefer the look and feel of fiberglass to aluminium.
  7. Vulnerability to cold weather. Since aluminium is a metal, it's highly conductive. It also attracts condensation. Because of this, aluminium boats are notoriously cold during cold seasons.
  8. Historical perceptions. Historically, aluminium has been a cheap and unreliable material for boats. Despite the fact that modern aluminium is far superior, it still has a questionable reputation in some circles.

Whether you're looking for a fiberglass boat, an aluminium boat, or you're undecided on the matter, you've landed in the right place. At TheYachtMarket, we list thousands of vessels from all over the United States and Europe so you can find the new or used boat you've always wanted. Browse our selection today if you're ready to get started!

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