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Thread: Ocean Boat: Aluminum vs. Fiberglass?

  1. #1

    Default Ocean Boat: Aluminum vs. Fiberglass?

    My dad bought a C-Dory earlier this year. It's a 22' fiberglass boat with twin Honda 50's. I also see the Alumawelds and Hewescraft aluminum ocean boats of similar size are very popular, but the only day I spent in PWS there were very few aluminum boats. This got me thinking, what are the benefits for either one, why would someone go with one over the other? I know aluminum is light which leads to more effiecient power from the power plant, but besides that I am clueless. Fill me in.

  2. #2
    Member DMan's Avatar
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    I think the amount of fiberglass vs. aluminum will vary day to day. I see allot of both.

    I bought aluminum for a few reasons:

    1. I like to beach my boat especially for bear hunting. Feel better doing so with an aluminum boat.

    2. Aluminum boats are very popular and have a good resale. One reason is the price is based on the value of aluminum so they hold their value well.

    3. Aluminum is lighter and nice for towing

    4. For the size boat and purpose I was looking for aluminum was lower cost.
    ... aboard the 'Memory Maker' Making Memories one Wave at a Time!

  3. #3

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    aluminum is lighter then fiberglass so it does take less to power an aluminum boat, but becuase its lighter it also does not ride as nice. they tend to "pound" as i like to call it. Its harder to weld aluminum into the shapes fiberglass can be molded to get the real deep V's you see on fiberglass boats.

    aluminum is also virtually maintence free. If you walk any harbor in alaska, look at all the big fiberglass boats that are 10+ years old. Then compare it to an aluminum boat the same age. You'll find out the fiberglass boats need a lot of TLC.

    I might be biased becuase ive grown up on aluminum boats, but each type of boat is a tradeoff.

  4. #4

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    Based on my experience, aluminum is the only way to go for an ocean boat. Fiberglass is a lot of work to keep looking like new year after year. If you drill holes in it for downriggers or the like and then decide later to remove the item fiberglass is a pain to fix and color match the gel coat. Aluminum is easily welded and smoothed like new. Aluminum wears well and is more resistant to dings and scratches from halibut weights etc. The only draw back to aluminum is initial cost but as has been stated it holds its value better. There is a really good reason that you will pay the same amount for a used 18' alumaweld as you would a 24' bayliner trophy: The trophy is probably nearing the end of it's service life where as the alumaweld should last forever if cared for.

  5. #5

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    Aluminum is light and very durable but costs more to manufacture, whereas fiberglass is heavier and is damaged easily but because it can be molded they are cheaper to manufacture. Personally I like wood or fiberglass for an ocean boat because they are heavier and generally have a deeper "V" that make for a much smoother ride in heavy seas. Aluminum boats tend to hammer down on waves instead of cutting through them.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Pluses of Aluminum is it is almost maintenance free, and as mentioned you can beach it with less concerns of doing damage. The downsides of Aluminum is that it's loud and cold. The cold water chills the aluminum right down to water temp, and in the winter you have to worry more about spray freezing on the boat. But for hard work and little upkeep it cannot be beat.

    Fiberglass has a broad spectrum of boats so you need to look at the design and construction of the boat. They can very from cheaply constructed heavy chopper gun polyester resin (short fiberglass strands randomly oriented) to hand layed up cloth and epoxy resin. Hull shapes very as well. These boats very from layouts more towards a pleasure cruiser to fishing boats.

    Then there is wood and wood/epoxy glass composites. Wood has fallen out of favor because of high labor costs for good ones, and cheap ones that rot due to poor material choices and construction techniques. Wood can provide the lightest boats when used wisely, or sorry water logged tubs that should be scuttled.

    This weekend I'd say the boats I saw were a good mix of aluminum and glass, but likely more glass boats than aluminum. If I were looking for a hardcore fishing machine, I'd most likely go aluminum as they tend to be better laid out for that use.

  7. #7

    Default Apples to oranges

    Paul H has it right in my book.
    If you compare an aluminum boat to a Bayliner I will take the almost any aluminum boat. But if you compare aluminum to my GradyWhite I will stick to my hand layed fiberglass boat. I hope I didn't offend anyone too much.
    I do beach my boat on occation if it doesn't have jagged rocks. I can hear an aluminum boat coming before I can see it usually. Most people are surprised when I tell them my boat is 17 years old. Quality does matter.

  8. #8

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    We have a 29 year old fiberglass Bayliner. Goes out in PWS most weekends over the summer. We don't do anything to the hull itself. It looks old 'cause it is. However, I wouldn't say it's any uglier than an old aluminum boat covered in aluminum oxide that turns your hands and clothes grey when you rub up against it.

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    Member Sierra Hotel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthRick View Post
    We have a 29 year old fiberglass Bayliner. Goes out in PWS most weekends over the summer. We don't do anything to the hull itself. It looks old 'cause it is. However, I wouldn't say it's any uglier than an old aluminum boat covered in aluminum oxide that turns your hands and clothes grey when you rub up against it.
    NorthRic, if aluminum is not cared for it can look old too . . . I used a product called Sharkhide this year that is supposed to seal the aluminum against oxidation for up to three years. It's spendy, but I think in the long run worth it. Next year, I plan on polishing the exposed aluminum and reapplying the Sharkhide - will remove some left over scuff marks from shipping and the first year's operation. We'll see how it looks . . .

    SH

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMan View Post
    I think the amount of fiberglass vs. aluminum will vary day to day. I see allot of both.

    I bought aluminum for a few reasons:

    1. I like to beach my boat especially for bear hunting. Feel better doing so with an aluminum boat.

    2. Aluminum boats are very popular and have a good resale. One reason is the price is based on the value of aluminum so they hold their value well.

    3. Aluminum is lighter and nice for towing

    4. For the size boat and purpose I was looking for aluminum was lower cost.
    But used boats are used no matter what! And you lose value once you leave the dealership, unless he is your best friend. Same with outboards, used is used and you lose 10% value once you take it home and start it up.
    The emphasis is on accuracy, not power!

  11. #11
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    Punch a hole in an aluminum boat, have it welded up.
    Punch a hole in a fiberglass boat, get a new boat. They are un-repairable.

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    Default aluminum or fiberglass?

    Depends on personal preference, I think. 'Glass is fine for some applications; not others....same with aluminum...or steel, or plastic or concrete or wood; it all depends on choice. Lucky that we have so many choices, eh? Fiberglass is very repairable; just ask Plaschem. So is aluminum, steel, plastic, wood, whatever. You only need the talent and time (or money to pay somebody else!) I have three glass and two aluminums, so I'm not prejudiced towards any particular material; I like 'em all...and they all do the job. Get the boat you want, trade it off in a few years because you want something else....or just get one of everything. Frankly, I'm jealous of those guys that are completely satisfied with one fishing rod, one rifle, one boat, one dog....guess I'm a collector 'cause one ain't enough.

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    Default Fire!!

    Although rare, if a fire breaks out aboard your ship and you are offshore, you better act quick if you're in a fiberglass tub. I've seen two burn and they go up quick! Just something to consider...

  14. #14
    Member PatrickH's Avatar
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    Default Wrong!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    Punch a hole in an aluminum boat, have it welded up.
    Punch a hole in a fiberglass boat, get a new boat. They are un-repairable.
    Not only are fiberglass boats repairable, they can be repaired at home without any special equipment. A good fiberglass repair will be invisible and as strong at the original, but that takes someone with experience.
    On poorly made firberglass boats what usually goes bad is the wooden reinforcements rot out. A well made boat will not have this problem. You can get products that will renew the gel coat or you can paint them with very good results. I have a 25 year old fiberglass boat that looks good and has had lots of hard use.

  15. #15
    Member DMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MARV1 View Post
    But used boats are used no matter what! And you lose value once you leave the dealership, unless he is your best friend. Same with outboards, used is used and you lose 10% value once you take it home and start it up.
    Right they do, thats why I said they have good resale not that you can sell them at the new price.

    I like to refer to them as appriciating depriciating items in that as soon as you leave the dealership you take a hit as with anything. But as the value of aluminum increases (assuming it does) your boat will hold steady in value close to what you paid for it.

    Have witnessed this with a few boats. I had a 1991 Jetcraft jet boat that I sold last summer, and while sold at MUCH less than what a new one costs today (depriciation), sold for close to the same price as it was new in 1991 (appriciation). Helps me sleep at night to look at it that way! HA HA

    A buddy sold an Aluminum boat (last October at that) he bought 4 years ago. Average use on the boat. He sold it for 2K less than what he paid for it new. I bought my boat before the 10% hike last winter and I have already seen 2 boats identical to mine sell for what I paid for it.

    So not saying that it will always be the value of a new boat just that your resale will be good in respect to what you paid for it.

    My thoughts....
    ... aboard the 'Memory Maker' Making Memories one Wave at a Time!

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    Resell prices have little if anything to do with the hull material.
    It has to do with brand of the boat, how popular it is, how it is rigged, what comes with it, the condition of the boat, what the new owners are looking for and a dozen other key factors.
    To make a blanket statement saying metal has a better resell value than glass is simply inaccurrate and without enough supporting data to make this conclusion.
    Tennessee

  17. #17

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    In Alaska, used aluminum boats command a premium resale price over fiberglass due to their reputation of durability. I suspect this is not the case everywhere in the US.

  18. #18

    Default Resale vs. Design

    My perception of the low value of fiberglass boats in AK is due to the fact that most of them are pieces of dog excrement. If you don't believe me, go to Miami or Tampa Bay and look at the prices of some of the gnarly offshore boats there. That being said, have you looked at the prices of used Nordic Tugs? You get what you pay for. If you buy a used Bayliner for $6,000 you'll get exactly that.
    The biggest thing i don't like about aluminum boats is the design of many of them. I don't like a flat sheer. But, if I could find a nice aluminum dory with a sweeping sheer, 12 degrees of deadrise, four ft of freeboard at the transom, and a modest cuddy I'd likely be a believer. Compare your average 17 ft aluminum boat to an Arima. No contest.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by buffalob View Post
    In Alaska, used aluminum boats command a premium resale price over fiberglass due to their reputation of durability. I suspect this is not the case everywhere in the US.

    Last time I talked with a Marine surveyor (met him at the Sportsman show) he told me the boat with the highest % of resale value and the easiest one's to sell around the Anchorage, Seward, and Homer area were Sea Sports or Sea Dory's. However it really doesnt matter to most of us. We buy what we want and like. I could live with either aluminum or glass as long as the quality is there.

    Perhaps we have a Marine surveryor on this forum and he/she could add some comments.
    Tennessee

  20. #20

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    For less maintenance and less worrying about nicks and dings, I'd say go with aluminum. For a better ride and more comfort, go with fiberglass. There are crappy aluminum boats and there are crappy fiberglass boats. You get what you pay for. Look around at both types. Whichever you like the most, then that's the one that's best for you. If I could get (and afford) a big, heavy aluminum boat with outboards that had a nice, comfortable cabin, then I'd be all over that. As it is, I have a 24-ft. 1993 Bayliner that people often think looks nearly new. But it does take time to keep it that way.

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