Boaters who are shopping for a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) have plenty of configurations and options to choose from. When it comes to the hull of a RIB, there are really three main materials being used by boat makers. The first is roto-molded plastic (polypropylene) , which is lesser used. The other two materials dominate the RIB market; fiberglass and aluminum.
In some cases, choosing between materials is based on personal circumstances. So before we discuss some of the differences, what’s even more important is learning about how the vessel is going to be used, or what kind of conditions will it need to handle regularly.
One more note, most retailers and manufacturers agree that buyers should ask a lot of questions about how the vessel is constructed. A boater can tell a lot about the quality of a boat depending on the process that was used to build it. An assembly line style option is going to have certain factors that may be of concern to come, whereas a hand-made boat that passes through many hands before landing in the hands of a new owner could provide a certain level of confidence.
In the rest of this article, we will discuss the differences in the most popular hull options, fiberglass and aluminum, to help buyers learn more about what choice might be the best fit.
Aluminum Hull Features
One of the most noted attributes of an aluminum hull vessel is its “toughness.” The material is resistant to minor impacts and can take on rocky underwater obstacles and shallow depths. While the hull may bend or scratch, chances are the material won’t fracture.
Aluminum by nature is lightweight, which means it doesn’t require as much power to propel through the water. This contributes to using less fuel which may be a benefit who use their rigid inflatable boat the same way they use a car. As a lighter weight option, davit systems tend to be able to handle larger tenders made of this metal which might be an important factor depending on where a boater stores their boat.
When it comes to maintaining an aluminum hull boat, like any boat, maintenance is an essential piece of the puzzle. Aluminum vessels are susceptible to corrosion, especially at weld points and hardware attachments. If the vessel is staying in the water, anodes are paramount to the vessel’s structural integrity.
Aluminum hull boats, depending on how they are built, can be a noisy ride. The material has an “echo” property to it, so everything that hits the hull has an audible radiating noise factor.
Finally, aluminum hulls are typically more expensive options in comparison to fiberglass in the RIB market. They will also be more costly to repair since finding someone to work on them is harder than someone who works on fiberglass repairs.
Fiberglass Hull Features
Since fiberglass is such a widely used material, the technology in using that material is continuously improving. Furthermore, there is always someone available to work on fiberglass as it is a simple material to work with for those in the marine industry.
The fiberglass rigid inflatable boats tend to have more underdeck space. For those who need ample storage and secure lockboxes, this is an excellent feature since these spaces do not have to be welded on to the vessel.
Fiberglass has aesthetic options that aluminum vessel’s struggle to compete with. The finishes are sleek and make maintenance and cleaning a little easier. While layouts might be fewer and less customizable with some RIB retailers, in general, fiberglass offers more aesthetic options and storage.
Fiberglass hulls have a smooth and quieter ride than their aluminum counterparts. The material is more forgiving and absorbs sound better than aluminum. It’s a little more comfortable underfoot as it absorbs movement whereas aluminum tends to reflect movement which might make for a jolting ride.
Care to see a fiberglass RIB in action or up close? We welcome you to check out our distributor page to learn about your closest retailer and hope to welcome you to the BRIG family.