Which boat trailer is best, aluminum or steel? For saltwater boaters, aluminum trailers are the definite choice. For freshwater boaters, steel boat trailers have advantages. Learn the pros and cons of both aluminum and steel boat trailers in this short tutorial.
Advantages of Aluminum Boat Trailers
There are a few advantages to aluminum boat trailers.
The main advantage is that aluminum by its nature is corrosion resistant. Salt water does not adversely affect it. Some parts of a boat trailer are still made of steel like the suspension, axel, and bearings, but corrosion as an issue is minimized.
The second advantage of an aluminum trailer is that they weigh less than a steel trailer. This may be a factor when it comes to the towing capacity of your vehicle, or when considering overall fuel economy or braking power.
The third advantage to an aluminum boat trailer is that it holds its resale value better than a steel boat trailer. Furthermore, if you live anywhere near salt water, when it comes time to sell your boat, you will have a broader market because you can include a potential saltwater buyer.
Advantages of Steel Boat Trailers
There are a few advantages to steel boat trailers.
First, they cost less than aluminum boat trailers. The cost savings is significant in larger trailers.
Secondly, steel trailers tow better. Steel is heavier and more stable to tow. By comparison, an aluminum trailer has flex and tows differently.
A third advantage to a steel boat trailer is that you can have a custom-painted steel boat trailer to match your boat.
Some steel boat trailers are hot-dipped galvanized. The steel is dipped into molten zinc and this provides a protective coating that resists corrosion.
Disadvantages of Aluminum Boat Trailers
There are a few disadvantages of aluminum boat trailers.
First is that they cost more than steel trailers. The larger the trailer, the bigger the cost difference between aluminum and steel trailers. Aluminum is simply a more costly material than steel.
A second disadvantage of an aluminum boat trailer is that the trailer may float in water when there is no boat loaded on it. This tends to be an issue with two and three axel trailers where the tires can create sufficient buoyancy to float a relatively lightweight aluminum trailer. This can create a real nuisance at a take-out ramp.
To negate the issue of a floating boat trailer, many owners simply add some weights to the rear of the trailer to make it sink. A floating trailer becomes more of an issue in saltwater because everything is more buoyant in salt water.
A third disadvantage to an aluminum trailer is that aluminum has flex, and it does not tow as smoothly as a steel boat trailer. Everyone agrees that steel is more stable for towing.
Disadvantages of Steel Boat Trailers
Surely this biggest disadvantage to a steel boat trailer is its susceptibility to rust. As they say, rust never sleeps. A steel trailer will never be the same once it is submerged into saltwater.
If your boat is on a steel boat trailer, and you want to go boating in the ocean, go to a marina where they can crane your boat on and off the trailer. Wash your boat and steel trailer immediately with fresh water after your boat has come out of the ocean.
As for rust on a steel trailer, a hot-dipped galvanized steel boat trailer resists corrosion better than a painted steel boat trailer. Also, for trailer construction, open C-shaped structural steel is preferable to rectangular tubing, because the rectangular tubing rusts from the inside and cannot be accessed.
A second disadvantage to a steel trailer is that it is heavier than an aluminum trailer. Weight affects fuel economy when towing, and can also make it more difficult to stop.
If you intend to use your boat in saltwater, an aluminum boat trailer is the obvious choice because a steel trailer will disintegrate from rust in very little time.
If you are a freshwater boater, the choice is yours if you want to spend more money upfront to purchase an aluminum trailer. Or you can save up-front money and have the smooth towing capability of a steel trailer, but you’ll eventually have the nagging problem of rust.
An aluminum boat trailer holds its resale value better than a steel trailer, and opens the possibility to launch your boat in the ocean, or to someday sell your boat to a saltwater boater.
There are pros and cons to both aluminum and steel boat trailers. This tutorial likely gave you information to help you make a clear and informed choice.