Aluminum Boats: Everything You Need To Know

Aluminum-boats

Tin Boats: As Light As A Feather

Aluminum boats (aka tin boats) offer a wide range of uses from fishing to entertainment, sports, and recreation, to day trips for both experienced and novice boaters. They have excellent riding characteristics, and because aluminum boats are often light, they are often speedy even with a lower-powered engine. Tin boats typically range between eight and twenty-four feet.

aluminum boats
Aluminum boats come in all shapes and sizes, and can be designed for various activities. Photos by (left to right): Tracker Boats, Crestliner Boats, Crestliner Boats, Tracker Boats, Lowe Boats, Armstrong Marine, and Lund Boats.

What Activities Are Aluminum Boats Used For?

As far as family day boats on calm or inshore waters are concerned – aluminum boats are a great choice and ideal if you’re a beginner just getting into boating. This is because they are very easy to run and operate with great maneuverability and handling. Consider choosing a smaller model if you intend to use the boat as a learning platform.

Recreation is vital for our self-fulfillment and happiness. Anybody who spends time on the water gets that little bit more disconnected from the ‘on-the-go-24/7’ culture that we have created. On a small to mid-sized aluminum boat passengers are close to the water, and often feel more connected to the natural habitat around them. Plus, many aluminum boats with adequate power can even be used for casual tubing, skiing and wakeboarding or water skiing. Every moment you’re on a tube or wakeboard is a moment less spent on your phone. Of course, if you’re serious about wakeboarding and water skiing you’ll want to look into a dedicated wake boat, but for families looking for all-around versatility and ease-of-use, aluminum boats can often prove more than enough.

Tin boats are a favorite among freshwater and saltwater anglers who find it easy to target shallow-water bass or crappie, salmon, trout, panfish, and catfish in lakes and rivers on these boats (due to their shallow draft and lightweight construction). There is ample storage aboard to customize your boat for a day of fishing, and expert anglers can buy a boat ready-made with rod racks, livewells, and castings decks.

ranger rb 190 aluminum fishing boat
Many aluminum boats, like this Ranger RB 190, are ideal for angling. Photo by Ranger Boats.

As aluminum fishing boats are lightweight and easy-to-handle they are a popular choice for boat owners that frequently cruise and fish in shallow inland waters. However, they do come in a variety of hull shapes, sizes and designs. Flat bottom utility boats made of aluminum are ideal for hunting, hauling lumber up streams and rivers and other tasks. These types of aluminum boats actually sit on top of the water, due to their flat shape underneath, as opposed to cruising through it like other aluminum boat hull shapes. These boats are often used for bass fishing, catfishing and similar types of species and habitats by specialized anglers. They are easy to maneuver and help to get you through tighter spots. If you do bump the boat on a stump, log or rock,  you can rest assured that any dents are easy to repair, unlike fiberglass.

Aluminum Boats For Coastal Areas And Marshes

There are also V-hull aluminum boats ideal for inshore and coastal areas in small to moderate chop. These aluminum boats can get on a plane with the right amount of horsepower and cut through the chop to access sandbars, barrier beaches, coastal marshes and more. These affordable fishing boats offer a stable fishing platform and are light enough to transport on the back of a truck or a car with a small boat trailer. When you’re planning to boat and fish around barrier beaches, marshes, rocky areas and sandbars, V-hull aluminum fishing boats are often a great choice. Some outer shoals can really only be accessed by a tin boat because of their specific characteristics.

lowe boat running
Many aluminum boats have modified V-hulls that can cruise through a chop. Photo by Big Bee Boats & RV.

Aluminum Boats Retain Their Value

Aluminum boats are virtually all trailerable and can be moved from rivers and lakes to saltwater bays and harbors with ease. Aluminum boats are great value because they have a longer lifespan than any other craft. Typically, an aluminum boat can last 30-40 years with regular and little maintenance. Aluminum doesn’t rust over time, and while it can corrode, it will last a lifetime if it is adequately maintained.

aluminum boat
With minimal maintenance, aluminum boats tend to last a long time and retain resale value through the years. Photo by Lenny Rudow

Tough As Nails, Reliable As Old Boots

Aluminum boats are easy to repair. If they do become dented, they can be easily pounded out. For more severe damage, a hull section can be cut out and patched up with rivets or welds and, et voila – it will look like the damage never happened! Moreover, the repair costs are relatively low, especially when compared with fiberglass boat repair.

fixing a boat
Fiberglass boats may require extensive repairs, while fixing aluminum boats is often much easier. Photo by Lenny Rudow

How Much Do Aluminum Boats Cost?

The cost of a new aluminum fishing boat is dependent on its size, the power of the outboard motor, the level of fishing amenities included with the boat, how old the boat is, and its condition. The average cost of a brand new aluminum boat is between $20,000 – $26,00. However, if you’re prepared to buy a used boat, you could easily pick up a decent used boat for as little as $3,000. For a brand new 24-foot aluminum boat with a premium brand and solid modern outboard engine, you could be looking at spending upwards of $30,000 – $50,000, with some extremely specialized and “decked out” boats topping $110,000.

inexpensive boat
Aluminum boats come in all different price ranges, but small, simple models are among the most inexpensive boats on the market. Photo by Boating Lake Meade.

Everybody has a different driving style. Before you go shopping for your boat, consider whether you want to buy a side or center console or a tiller (rear steering) and whether you want a windshield for protection. Also consider your seating arrangement, power options and general layout.

Buying An Aluminum Boat

Another key consideration is how many people you want to fit in the boat with you (depends on who it is, right?!). Eight is generally the maximum number of passengers you can have aboard any aluminum boat, and most will hold less, usually between 3-6 passengers. Generally speaking, the larger aluminum boats tend to be used for fishing tournaments or anglers looking to takes boats out into the ocean near the coast (i.e. inshore fishing).

Buying a used aluminum boat is cost-effective because new boats depreciate the most in the first year. When inspecting a used boat, you should look out for:

Used Aluminum Boats: What To Look Out For

  • Scratches, chips, and cracks. A couple of minor cracks are ok but make sure they are not close together, indicating possible structural damage.
  • A worn-out steering system. Check the cables for wear and tear.
  • Corrosion starts from the inside out, so by the time it shows itself on the outside of the boat, it’s usually a lot worse than a pinhole and will require professional repair.
used boat
Inspect a used aluminum boat carefully, to make sure there are no leaking rivets or significant hull damage. Photo by Lenny Rudow

Propulsion: Mightier Than You Might Expect!

Low power outboard engines tend to sip fuel instead of many other heavier boats that gulp up gas. These characteristics make this type of boat a great, sustainable option with a low environmental impact. Or, if you just feel like a gentle row, you can forgo the engine noise and enjoy the tranquility of the lapping water.

lund boat with electric motor
You can even power some aluminum boats with electric motors. Photo by Lund Boats.

Which Brands Build The Best Aluminum Boats?

While there are too many excellent aluminum boat brands available to list, these three options stand out as our favorites:

  1. Tracker Boats has been highlighted as a manufacturer of great aluminum fishing boats time and time again. They offer endless customization options and were recently recognized for their Excellence in Customer Satisfaction in Aluminum Outboard Boats.
  2. Lund is the Godfather of aluminum boats and has over 70 years of experience in building boats. Popular with anglers, these boats are at the upper end of the tin boat price bracket, but they are superior in quality. Lund has a lifetime warranty on not only the hull but for the plywood materials too.
  3. G3 Boats manufactured in Lebanon, Missouri. Their Gator series is available in a wide range of models to suit any activity or lifestyle. Think wild, sporty, and cool.

Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Boats

Aluminum and fiberglass boats each have their advantages and disadvantages and which one is best for you depends on your personal needs and the natural environment. If you regularly shift your craft in and out of the water for day trips, aluminum boats are lightweight and easy to launch. Boaters who cruise the waters of boulder-strewn rivers, for example, commonly opt for light aluminum boats since hull damage could be an ongoing issue with a fiberglass boat.

aluminum versus fiberglass boat
Aluminum boats and fiberglass boats each have their own strong suits and choosing between them can be difficult. Photos by Mako Marina (left) and Tracker Boats.

Boaters who regularly cruise through open, choppy seas may opt for a fiberglass boat because they are renowned for their seakeeping and handling skills.

Maintaining Your Aluminum Boat: As Easy As 1,2,3

  1. Manage corrosion by washing saltwater off the whole boat using freshwater and gentle eco-friendly soap
  2. Keep your boat clean and dry when in storage
  3. At least twice a season, look under the hull to check for damage underneath
  4. Check the rivets (if you have a riveted hull) or welds for any wear or signs of damage at the start of each season
  5. Ensure your transom is solid and adequate for the motor you have mounted
aluminum lowe boat
Maintain your aluminum boat properly and it will last you and your family for decades. Photo by Lenny Rudow

Common Types of Aluminum Boats

Aluminum boats come in three key styles: Jon boats, Mod-V (Modified-​Vee), and Deep-V.

1. Mod-V Boats

These hulls are a popular choice of aluminum boats in many areas, due to their combination of deep forward and flatter aft sections. They are relatively stable in calmer waters and carve through the water easily plus they handle the water nicely when running at speed. While they are not quite as smooth in rough seas as deep-v hulls (below) they offer a nice in between from a utility boat to a deep-v design.

aluminum boat with a modified v hull
Modified V-hull boats like this Tracker Pro 170 offer excellent stability, good handling, and shallow draft. Photo by Tracker Boats.

2. Deep-V Boats

A wedge-shaped hull and a more pronounced deadrise. They are less suited to extremely shallow water use. However, they provide a smoother ride in rough waters because the hull cuts cleanly through the waves rather than pounding. And many of these boats can still get into shallow water so for many owners the added seaworthiness is worth the loss of a few inches of draft.

deep v aluminum boat
There aren’t many true deep-V aluminum boats out there, but those you’ll find are generally ocean-worthy and are extremely capable boats. Photo by Clements Marina Inc.

3. Jon Boats

Small flat-bottomed utility boats are designed for shallow waters and are typically between 10-16 feet long. The hull has almost no deadrise or just a few degrees at the most, providing minimal draft and excellent stability. Some high performance boats are also flat-bottomed because they skim across the smooth water of lakes and rivers and achieve maximum speed while remaining stable.

lund jon boat
Jon boats have flat or nearly flat bottoms. Photo by Lund Boats.

Aluminum Boats: Three Of The Best

1. G3 GATOR TOUGH 18 CC

The G3 Gator Tough 18 CC is brimming with fishing features. Fishing enthusiasts will appreciate the 16-gallon livewell, vertical console rod racks, a raised forward casting deck, and more. The aluminum hull is light and super sturdy and can take a pounding, and the console is constructed from fiberglass. The camo finish and low draft look stylish, while also making it suitable for use as a hunting boat. We can envisage Indiana Jones cruising on the Gator Tough through the outback.

g3 gator tough aluminum boat
Above: The G3 Gator Tough 18 CC. Image credit: G3

View G3 GATOR TOUGH 18 CC boats for sale on Boat Trader now.

2. LUND RENEGADE

The Lund Renegade is the perfect family fishing boat. It includes a center rod locker, two livewells, large casting decks and even a ski pylon options for family fun. There’s even a boarding ladder and rear flip seats to accommodate family and friends. Lund’s aluminum hull design features a pronounced center keel which provides impressive stability and durability.

Lund 1650 Angler Boat
The Lund Angler Sport. Image credit: Lund
View LUND 1650 ANGLER SPORT boats for sale on Boat Trader right now.

3. TRACKER PRO GUIDE V 16

Whether you choose the side console (V-16 SC) or full windshield (V-16 WT) version of this boat, with a standard Mercury FourStroke 60 HP powerplant, this rig comes with a custom-matched trailer and a sticker price that never breaks $19,000. If you don’t mind cruising at slow speeds and are willing to de-tune to a 25 HP engine —then you buy it for as low as under $15,295. It includes a five-year stem-to-stern warranty and a lifetime structural warranty like other Tracker boats.

While a 16’ boat isn’t huge for open lakes and bays, the Pro Guide V 16 does have plenty of capability. The hull sports a deep 20-degree transom deadrise, and with the 60 HP powerplant on the transom you can cruise in the mid to upper 20’s while burning just a few gallons per hour. That means the boat has plenty of range, with its 25.5 gallon fuel capacity.

tracker-v-16
Above: The Tracker Pro Guide V 16. Image credit: Tracker

Check out Tracker Pro Guide V 16 SC: Fishing For a Winner to find out more about the side console version of this boat in specific.

You can learn more about aluminum fishing boats by watching Stomping Grounds Episode 001, featuring The Tin Boat Mafia in Cape Cod.

This article was updated in February of 2022.

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and boats.com. She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.

Related