There are some questions that no matter who you are, when looking for the right RV, you must ask. One of the most important and frequently asked questions is "What are the pros and cons to aluminum and fiberglass sides?" Just like anything, each option has some positive and negatives that one must consider before narrowing down which they need.
Price is obviously one of the key aspects in the buying process, and rightfully so. Therefore, if the most important thing to you is keeping your cost to a minimum, you will probably want to consider an aluminum sided product. Aluminum skinned products are typically less expensive both at the point of sale and down the road as well, especially if you experience unexpected repairs due to exterior damage. Due to the cheaper manufacturing costs of aluminum skin products you will likely see a significant price difference between them and fiberglass products. If the unfortunate event of exterior damage does occur to an aluminum sided product, the repair is typically cheaper because owners can replace only the damaged pieces of aluminum, whereas fiberglass sided products have to have a more extensive and larger section repaired. Consumers also have to keep in mind that once a section of fiberglass is damaged, most dealers have no way of having the new fiberglass section vacuum bonded like the rest of the unit likely is. This is not obvious to the eye unless sealed incorrectly or insufficiently which could let water penetrate behind the fiberglass, and if that takes place, a wave in the fiberglass could occur.
Some consumers have to be more conscious of the weight of the unit rather than the price. If this is you, a fiberglass sided product might be what you want to consider. However, fiberglass sided products have more variability in their actual construction compared to aluminum skin products, so paying attention to even the smallest of details is important. Some products have vacuum bonded sidewalls, while some have what we call free-hung fiberglass or roll-pressed fiberglass. Some fiberglass products use a gel-coat on top of their fiberglass to prevent decal issues and overall fading of the fiberglass, and some products do not. Most fiberglass products will use aluminum framing in place of wood used in aluminum sided products hence the weight difference, but some fiberglass product manufacturers will cut costs and use wood in their booths, beds, rear end, etc. You will also find that to keep weight down, some fiberglass sided products use a vacuum-bonded floor, which can sometimes be problematic down the road. As a consumer, these are all features that you need to discuss with the dealers you are working with as well as researching on your own.
Some people also have concerns when it comes to maintenance and keeping the unit in "like-new" condition. When trying to care for an aluminum skinned product, simply a wash with the correct cleaning agent will typically do the job on most units. The biggest issue commonly seen with aluminum products are black streaks not being washed off frequently enough, so as long as an owner removes black streaks relatively quickly and often the unit will continue to look new. The process for taking care of a fiberglass unit is more complex. Washing it is definitely a necessity and also helpful, but if someone wants to make sure the unit stays looking new, a wax every six months will prolong the life of the fiberglass and help prevent fading.
As you continue the process of trying to find the RV for you, it is crucial that research is done prior to speaking with dealers. Going into the buying process with preceding knowledge will allow you to know what quality unit you are being shown, allow you to discern the truth from and opinion of the salesman, and cut down wasted time on looking at units that you know are over your weight, outside your budget, or would require more maintenance than you prefer. If you have additional questions, we here at Arrowhead will be happy to help you in any way that we can. We look forward to the chance of earning your business!