There are certain battles in our lives that rage for generations and never come to a conclusion. Beef or chicken? Petrol or diesel? AFL or NRL? Star Wars or Star Trek? Worms or prawns for bait? The list of things we can pit against each other is almost endless and the two rivalries we hear come up time and time again at the John Crawford Marine office is one of the big ones. Aluminium or fibreglass boats – which one is better.
Now like most things in life, this battle isn’t a head-on clash of titans. There’s a little more nuance to the fight and if we dive deep we find that the answer ultimately ends up being ‘it depends’. As you go through this article you’ll discover that it’s like asking “what’s better – a Ball-peen hammer or a sledge hammer? We all know the answer to that is it depends on the job you’re doing.
There’s no two ways about this one, aluminium is the clear winner when it comes down to weight. Aluminium is usually much lighter, therefore you won't need as much towing capacity to haul your boat to the water. Now in saying aluminium is lighter, this is a benefit in towing and launching, but it also means that you won’t get as smooth a ride in an aluminum boat (more on that later).
Durability and toughness
If there’s a good chance you’re going to be rough on your boat, then aluminium is certainly the way to go. When it comes to its ability to take a beating, aluminium is the winner hands down. If you’re likely to be going into areas where there’s rocky shorelines or other structures you can possibly bump into, then an aluminium boat is going to be an option you want to seriously consider.
Ease of repairs
No-one wants to think about having to repair their pride and joy, but from time to time accidents happen and we need to repair our boats. Fibreglass is the clear winner in this scenario as a simple fibreglass repair kit will fix most dings and small holes whereas you need specialised equipment to repair a hole in aluminium boats or take it to a welder. If you’re travelling to remote areas this is a major consideration that many people need to consider.
Smoothness of ride
If having a smooth ride is something that’s important to you, fibreglass will give you a smoother ride through the water. The fact that fibreglass is typically a little heavier mean it will break through waves much easier than an aluminium boat and won’t get bounced around as much.
The fact that fibreglass can be moulded into pretty much any shape gives boat builders a much greater range of design capability. This usually means fibreglass boats have sleeker designs that can slice through the water in a way that’s far superior to most aluminium boats.
Again this will depend on how you are going to use your boat, where it’s kept and if you have have it moored or store it out of the water. Each type of boat has its own unique features when it comes to maintenance so it’s difficult to pick a clear winner in this department.
Aluminium is pretty easy to maintain. You need to be on the lookout for corrosion which is easily combated by making sure it’s drained properly after use, keeping it dry when not in use and cleaning it and polishing it regularly.
Fibreglass on the other hand requires more maintenance than aluminium. Gelcoats and waxing is a must if you want to keep that mirror-like shine and making sure you wash your boat after each use with an appropriate high-quality boat soap will help wash away salt and grime that can potentially damage your coat.
This is another difficult question to answer as there are many different variations when it comes to both types of boats. How old the boat is, the specs, the material it’s made from (plate aluminium or stretch aluminum for example) and a host of other considerations but generally speaking, aluminium is typically a cheaper boat.
The final word
As you can see there are many pros and cons to both types of boats and one type isn’t necessarily ‘better’ than the other. It really just depends on what you’re going to be using your boat for, where you’re going to be taking it and how you’re going to be storing it.