Aluminum vs. Fiberglass RV Siding

Mar 23 2016

When RVs first came into popular culture, campers didn’t have a whole lot of amenities. Cloth tents, reminiscent of today’s pop-up campers, were attached to the back of cars such as the Ford Model T. They were steel-framed, heavy, and cumbersome.

 Worse yet, they were difficult to maintain. Steel has a strong tendency to rust, corrode and deteriorate when exposed to the elements – which is all the time when you’re camping. Years later, aluminum came into vogue. Since it was lighter, cheaper and rust free, it overtook the market. Brands like Holiday Rambler and Airstream popularized this metallic look.

While it’s common to see aluminum RVs on the market still today, a quick walk around an RV dealership will give you a sudden realization to the future of camping: fiberglass.

However, both have virtues that are important to note. Here’s what you need to know about choosing fiberglass over aluminum siding on your RV.

ALUMINUM

When you visit your dealership, you’re going to notice a fifty-fifty split between RVs made with aluminum and fiberglass. A quick way to determine the material of your trailer is its texture: fiberglass trailers are flat on the outside, while aluminum trailers typically have ridges.

The main benefit of aluminum over fiberglass siding is its price. Aluminum trailers can be thousands of dollars cheaper than fiberglass, which makes it perfect for the first-time RV buyer looking to see if the RV lifestyle is right for them.

Another benefit of aluminum is its malleability. If you have an accident with your fiberglass trailer that damages the side of your RV, it’s likely you’ll have to replace its whole side. But if a similar accident happens with your aluminum trailer, it’s probable that any damaged sections can be simply removed and replaced. Replacing one shingle is much easier than a whole side.

If you’ve ever been outside for a long time in cold weather, you know that dressing in layers is better. The more layers you have on, the more insulated you are from the elements. Same goes for your RV.

Aluminum campers typically have a layer of aluminum on the outside, with a wood frame, fiberglass insulation and dead air space beneath. This dead air space gives an added layer of warmth that other insulation types lack.

FIBERGLASS

On the other hand, fiberglass wins the battle over aluminum in just about every other category. There’s a reason why fiberglass is becoming the more prominent material for RVs.

First off, fiberglass is much easier to maintain. Because of aluminum’s matte finish, it has a tendency to attract and hold on to dirt. Fiberglass wins hands-down in durability, shine and cleanliness.

If you’re looking at your RV as an investment, fiberglass RVs tend to hold their resale value much better than aluminum models. Aluminum-sided RVs can be dent magnets, and the smallest ding can be a pain to remove – not to mention the ding it takes out of its resale value.

When it comes to saving money by increasing your gas mileage, fiberglass takes the cake. Weight and aerodynamics are two important factors of gas mileage, and fiberglass trailers are generally lighter than aluminum sided campers. Fiberglass models are more likely to have a streamlined shape, which provides better aerodynamics as well. Again, were generally talking about Travel Trailers being lighter because when a camper is made with Fiberglass siding most of the time the framing is aluminum tubing vs. wood.

THE WINNER

If cost isn’t a huge factor in choosing your RV, fiberglass is the hands-down winner. Its cleanliness and resale value makes up for the initial price, and the gas mileage savings don’t hurt either when you are searching in the Travel Trailer market.

But aluminum has its virtues, too. If you’re just dipping your foot into the world of RVing, an aluminum model might be better to consider.

Overall, the winner is fiberglass. But take a look at all the models available at Good Life to see which one is right for you.