While you are shopping for RVs and comparing their specs, you probably noticed that the vast majority of RVs either have aluminum or fiberglass siding. So naturally, this might make you ask, which one is better? Thankfully, we have done the research for you, and we will be able to tell you everything you need to know about the two most common siding materials for RVs.
When deciding which siding is better for an RV, we would have to say that fiberglass is better than aluminum. Fiberglass siding for RVs has become extremely popular, driving manufacturers to produce more RVs with fiberglass siding. Furthermore, fiberglass offers more advantages than aluminum. However, while fiberglass might have more pros than aluminum, aluminum siding has some serious advantages that can make it a better choice, depending on how you plan to use your RV.
As you continue to read this article, we will explain fiberglass and aluminum sidings in-depth. Furthermore, we will list the key pros and cons you need to know and list a few examples of RVs made with each material. Finally, we will deliver our final verdict on which one we think is better and why.
Aluminum Vs. Fiberglass Siding
When it comes to the construction of RVs, the most common siding options are fiberglass or aluminum. While you can find some RVs with other siding options, they are few and far in between. By far, the most common siding is fiberglass due to its advantages. However, aluminum offers some other key advantages over fiberglass, making it a better choice, depending on the situation.
Here we are going to describe the brief history of both siding options and list their most important pros and cons.
When RVs were first being produced in the 1910s, they were first constructed with steel siding. RVs made with steel siding were very sturdy, but they were also extremely heavy. As a result, they could only be towed by powerful vehicles, and the extra weight added by the steel siding made the gas mileage extremely poor.
However, in the 1930s, manufacturers discovered that aluminum was a much better option. Aluminum has quite a few advantages over steel. For example, aluminum is much lighter than steel, thus improving gas mileage. Furthermore, aluminum is much more malleable than steel, allowing manufacturers to start making rounded RVs, decreasing their wind resistance. Aluminum is also much more resistant to rust than steel and does not need paint or treatment to help prevent rust build-up.
Aluminum Siding Pros
- Less Expensive
The material and construction process of RVs sided with aluminum panels are much less expensive than fiberglass. Because of this, aluminum-sided RVs can cost thousands of dollars less than those sided with fiberglass. If you are someone who is new to RVs and want to save as much money as possible, choosing an aluminum-sided RV might be the right choice for you.
- High Durability
Aluminum RVs have been around for decades, and it is proven to be very durable. If you are looking to invest in a camper that will last you for a long time, aluminum campers might be your choice. With an aluminum RV, you will not have to worry about repairing the siding of your RV as often as fiberglass. Furthermore, because aluminum is metal, you do not have to worry about delamination like you would with fiberglass.
- Aluminum is Easy to Repair
It is extremely easy to repair because aluminum siding is installed in sheets and panels. All the mechanics need to do is unbolt the panel and replace it with a new one. This makes repairs to aluminum-sided campers much faster than fiberglass. Furthermore, repairing aluminum siding is much cheaper than fiberglass due to the easy repairs.
Aluminum is one of the most lightweight metals and weighs much less than fiberglass. This allows you to tow your RV with vehicles that have lower towing capacities. Furthermore, the reduced weight offered by aluminum siding increases fuel economy over fiberglass FVs.
- Aluminum Siding has Wood Framing
You might be thinking that aluminum siding will not provide good insulation. Indeed, aluminum itself will not provide nearly any insulation, the wood framing that the aluminum is built on fixes that issue, however. The wood framing inside aluminum RVs provides much-needed insulation from the weather, allowing the interior of aluminum campers to stay at the temperature you want.
Aluminum Siding Cons
- Aluminum is Harder to Clean
Because aluminum campers are constructed with aluminum panels, they are harder to clean. In addition, aluminum RVs are not smooth and have ridges and small gaps where dirt and grime can build up. Using a pressure washer is the best option when cleaning RVs, but cleaning aluminum siding takes more time than fiberglass.
- Lower Resale Value
Fiberglass RVs are vastly more popular than aluminum RVs. Because of this, if you are trying to resell your aluminum RV, it will be more challenging. Furthermore, you will need to sell it at a lower value. Ideally, if you plan to purchase an aluminum camper, you should also plan to use it for a very long time and not resell it.
- Less Aerodynamic
While aluminum siding allowed aluminum RVs to be more aerodynamic than their steel predecessors, fiberglass RVs are much more aerodynamic than aluminum RVs. In addition, aluminum siding has small gaps and ridges that increase wind resistance in small ways, thus decreasing your fuel economy. However, due to the lightweight of aluminum RVs, they are still better on gas mileage than fiberglass RVs.
- Aluminum can be Easily Damaged
Aluminum is not a very hard metal and thus can be bent and dented pretty easily. On the other hand, repairing aluminum siding is so easy and cheap that it kind of balances out. An excellent tip to remember is to store your aluminum RV in a garage or under something to prevent hail and other damages caused by being outside.
RVs Made With Aluminum Siding
While fiberglass RVs are more popular and widespread than aluminum RVs, some high-quality and popular aluminum RVs are still on the market.
Airstream is a tried and true aluminum-sided travel trailer. Airstream has been making aluminum travel trailers since the late 1930s, and their quality has done nothing but improve since then. Airstream offers eight different aluminum travel trailer models with a few floor plans to choose from.
The travel trailers offered by Bowlus are the luxury option when it comes to aluminum travel trailers. Bowlus travel trailers have a distinct look reminiscent of the classic aluminum travel trailers. In addition, Bowlus offers three unique aluminum travel trailers filled with high-quality amenities made from luxury materials.
There is a good chance that you have heard of fiberglass before you were interested in purchasing an RV. Fiberglass is used to make a plethora of everyday items like boats, swimming pools, doors, and house insulation. But what is fiberglass anyway?
Fiberglass is made of the same type of glass your windows are made of. However, making fiberglass is sort of complicated. Glass is heated to its melting point and fed through super tiny holes, so small they need to be measured in microns. Fiberglass is used in numerous applications, like weaving the glass fibers together to form insulation sheets. When using fiberglass to coat the outside of RVs, it is mixed with different resins that increase its strength. Then it is sprayed onto the shell of an RV with a large hose. This allows manufacturers to produce RVs with interesting shapes.
When comparing fiberglass RVs to aluminum RVs, fiberglass is around 30 years younger. Manufacturers first used fiberglass for siding RVs in the late 1960s. At first, fiberglass was a commercial failure. However, eventually, customers started to realize how good fiberglass can be.
Fiberglass Siding Pros
- Better Insulation
While the wood siding inside aluminum campers provide adequate insulation, fiberglass is better. Fiberglass RVs can withstand harsh temperatures much better than aluminum RVs, allowing you to stay comfortable even during the hottest summers. Furthermore, fiberglass is much better at retaining heat inside your RV than wood siding, allowing you to enjoy your RV even during the coldest winters.
- Smooth Finish
Fiberglass is hands-down the superior option when it comes to looks and aesthetics. Fiberglass RVs offer more unique looks and many color options that aluminum RVs can’t compare. Furthermore, fiberglass allows you to customize your RV’s exterior however you want before purchase, while aluminum campers will only have a handful of options.
- Noise Resistance
Due to the increased insulation properties of fiberglass, fiberglass RVs are much more resistant to exterior noises than aluminum campers. So if you are camping at a busy and noisy campground, you can rest assured that you can have peace and quiet by retreating into your RV.
- Easy to Clean
One thing that fiberglass lacks when compared to aluminum siding is the ridges and small gaps between the aluminum panels. However, fiberglass is smooth and uniform all around the RV, making cleaning extremely easy compared to aluminum RVs.
- High Resale Value
As we have said, fiberglass RVs are very popular, which will allow you to list your used RV for a higher price. One cool thing about fiberglass campers is that the models look similar throughout the years. For example, comparing scamp trailers made ten years ago look incredibly similar to today’s ones. This means less depreciation over time. So, if you are planning to own an RV for a few years and then upgrading to a new model, fiberglass is the way to go.
- More Durable
One of the key benefits of fiberglass is its strength-to-weight ratio. Fiberglass is much more durable than aluminum and is better at resisting weather conditions than aluminum. In addition, fiberglass does not bend or dent. The only thing you have to look out for are cracks.
Fiberglass siding is smooth all around the RV. In addition, fiberglass does not leave bumps or ridges like aluminum siding, making fiberglass RV more aerodynamic, which helps improve fuel economy.
Fiberglass Siding Cons
- More Expensive
Fiberglass RVs are more expensive for a few reasons. Mainly, fiberglass is more expensive than aluminum due to the manufacturing process of fiberglass. Furthermore, making fiberglass RVs is more complicated and takes more time. Finally, fiberglass is more expensive due to its increased popularity. All of these reasons combine to make a much more expensive RV.
- UV Damage
While fiberglass is more durable than aluminum, one of its most significant weaknesses is UV rays. Fiberglass is significantly more vulnerable to UV damage from the sun than aluminum siding. Fiberglass can get worn down, and the resin can degrade over time when under too much sunlight. Furthermore, UV rays can make the paint on your fiberglass RV fade over time. Repairing UV damage is costly and takes quite a bit of time.
- Extremely Heavy
One significant disadvantage for fiberglass RVs is their immense weight. While most of an RVs weight comes from its frame and chassis, fiberglass adds a significant amount of weight to an RV. This extra weight can make fiberglass RVs more difficult to handle on the road. Furthermore, due to the increased weight of the fiberglass siding, fiberglass RVs tend to have worse fuel economy when compared to aluminum RVs.
RVs Made with Fiberglass Siding
Fiberglass can be used to make every type of RV, from the largest class A motorhomes to the smallest pop-up campers. So, to be fair, we will only offer a few travel trailer examples because aluminum is only used for siding travel trailers.
Palomino offers a vast amount of travel trailers. However, our favorite is the Ultra Light series, which offers different floor plans, including a toy hauler. Palomino prides itself on using very high-quality materials in all of its RVs. Furthermore, the price range of the Ultra Light series is surprisingly low for the quality you are receiving.
Winnebago is another widespread name in the RV industry. Being founded in the 1950s, Winnebago offers only the highest quality RVs. One of our favorite RVs they offer is the Voyage. The Voyage has numerous floor plans you can choose from, all of which have a few slide outs, which can be customizable to suit your needs.
So… Which is Better? Fiberglass or Aluminum?
After reading all of the pros and cons we listed, it can be difficult to say which one is truly better. However, in our eyes, fiberglass pulls ahead in this contest. Fiberglass offers more and better advantages. Furthermore, fiberglass offers fewer (but slightly more significant) disadvantages than aluminum siding.
Even though we say fiberglass is the better siding material, this does not mean it is the best in every situation. For example, if you are looking to purchase an RV and want to save as much money as possible, aluminum siding is the clear winner. Aluminum is cheaper to produce as a material, it is easier to install, and repairs are easier and faster than repairing fiberglass. However, if you are looking for an RV that you intend to sell to get a newer model, fiberglass is much better. Fiberglass holds its resale value for numerous reasons, making it the better choice for those who want to switch RVs every few years.
At the end of the day, deciding which siding is better comes down to you and your plans for your RV.
When searching for an RV, gathering as much information as possible is imperative, and choosing which material you want your RV to be made with is crucial. Hopefully, after reading this article and learning the primary pros and cons of each siding, you have concluded which choice is best for you.