Aluminum Boat Trailer vs. Steel Boat Trailer: Which is Better?

nichee

white and blue boat in aluminum boat trailer

Which boat trailer is best, aluminum or steel? For saltwater boaters, aluminum trailers are the definite choice. However, for freshwater boaters, steel boat trailers have advantages. Learn the pros and cons of aluminum boat trailer vs. steel boat trailer 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. Therefore, saltwater 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. It 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 are 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 having 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, providing a protective coating that resists corrosion. 

Disadvantages of Aluminum Boat Trailers

There are a few disadvantages of aluminum boat trailers.

  • The 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.
  • The second disadvantage of an aluminum boat trailer is that the trailer may float in water when there is no boat loaded on it. It 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 heavier than an aluminum trailer. Weight affects fuel economy when towing and can also make it more difficult to stop.

Conclusion

I hope we answered your aluminum boat trailer vs. steel boat trailer dilemma. If you intend to use your boat in saltwater, an aluminum boat trailer is an 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 of launching your boat in the ocean or someday selling 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.

Please contact Trailers and Transport, LLC for all of your trailering needs. We specialize in boat trailers for sale and boat trailers for rent, but we also have a line-up of many other trailer styles.

Trailers and Transport is a top-tier boat transportation company for local, regional, and cross-country boat transport. Call the professionals from Trailers and Transport at (678) 680-4423 or email us at service@trailersandtransport.com  to find the perfect trailer for your needs.