Learning to Weld and Other Subjects

Blazing The Trail: Should You Choose Steel Or Aluminium For Your Custom Boat Trailer?

Transporting your yacht, motorboat or RIB by road is pretty much impossible without a good trailer to tow it on, and with boats coming in so many different shapes and sizes, having a custom trailer fabricated to your craft's specific needs can be an excellent investment. However, if you are having a custom boat trailer fabricated to order, you will need to decide what it will be made from, and this can be more challenging than you might imagine.

The vast majority of boat trailers, whether ready-made or built to order, are made from either galvanised steel or aluminium. Each of these metals has its own advantages and disadvantages, and can be more suitable for some towing and launching tasks than others. To help you decide, keep the following pros and cons of each metal in mind when specifying your new trailer:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of galvanised steel boat trailers?

Galvanised steel trailers are usually considerably cheaper than aluminium trailers, due to both the lower cost of the metal itself and ease with which steel can be welded and riveted compared to aluminium. This can make steel a very attractive choice if you intend to tow a larger craft, as large aluminium boat trailers can be prohibitively expensive. Steel is also the best choice for larger craft because of its exceptional strength, and a steel boat trailer can bear heavier loads and safely tow much heavier watercraft than an equivalently-sized aluminium trailer.

Steel trailers are also more durable than aluminium, and are more resistant to denting and buckling under impact that damage. This makes them particularly useful if you tend to eschew dedicated launching slipways and frequently launch your craft from rough, unpaved shorelines, where your trailer is more likely to take a beating as you launch and load your craft. Since steel is easier and quicker to weld, any damage your trailer does suffer will also be much cheaper to repair.

Unfortunately, there is one big problem with steel boat trailers—rust. The galvanised coatings used to prevent steel trailers from rusting are quite durable, but will lose effectiveness over time, leaving a steel trailer very vulnerable to rust until it is recoated. Saltwater will degrade galvanised coatings particularly quickly, so steel trailers are usually only suitable for launching freshwater craft. You should also bear in mind that steel trailers will be much heavier than aluminium trailers, making them more expensive to tow.

 What are the advantages and disadvantages of aluminium boat trailers?

Aluminium is completely immune to rust, even without a protective coating, as it generates its own protective layer of aluminium oxide when exposed to open air. As you can imagine, this makes aluminium ideally suited to launching boats into both freshwater and saltwater. Aluminium is also considerably lighter than steel, and many aluminium trailers designed to carry smaller boats can be effectively manoeuvred by hand, even when fully laden.

These advantages have made aluminium considerably more popular for boat trailer building, and its easy to see why. However, there are one or two disadvantages to choosing aluminium; as previously mentioned, aluminium lacks load-bearing strength compared to steel, and may not be suitable for towing particularly weight craft such as tugs and luxury yachts. You should also bear in mind that many metal fabrication companies work exclusively with steel, so finding a reputable fabrication workshop to craft your custom trailer from aluminium can be more difficult.