Boaterpal is a community supported site. We may earn a commission if you buy from a link.

What Are Boats Made Of? (simple explanation)

Not every boat is built from the same material, and many are built with multiple materials. However, boat hulls are generally only made from 4 different types of material.

Fiberglass, wood, aluminum, and steel are the 4 primary types of material boats are made from. Most personal vessels are made from fiberglass and aluminum. Large barges, ships, and mega yachts are made from steel. Wood is most common with old and vintage boats.

Some other not-so-common materials include rubberized synthetic fabrics, PVC, and polyurethane. These materials are primarily used to make inflatable hulls, kayaks, and canoes. Ferro-cement is another not-so-common material that mainly is used in homemade boats.

Additional materials used in boat construction that are not the hull include vinal for seats, plastic for dashboards and instruments, glass for screens and windshields, and carpet.

All of these materials have different pros and cons that benefit a boat according to its purpose and size. For example, barges use steel because it’s very durable and lasts a long time. However, small personal watercraft don’t use steel because it’s heavy and causes the boat to be slow.

What boats are made of based on each kind of boat

Below I’ve listed all the different types of boats in alphabetical order and what materials they are primarily made of. The material to the left of the comma is the most common material, and the one to the right is the less commonly used material.

Boat TypeMaterial They Are Made From
Barge ShipSteel
Bass BoatFiberglass, Aluminum
Bay BoatFiberglass, Aluminum
Bowrider BoatFiberglass, Aluminum
Cabin Cruiser BoatFiberglass
Catamaran BoatFiberglass, Aluminum, Steel
Center Console BoatFiberglass, Aluminum
Cruise ShipSteel
Cuddy Cabin BoatFiberglass, Aluminum
Deck BoatFiberglass, Aluminum
Deep-V Fishing BoatAluminum, Fiberglass
Dingy BoatFiberglass, PVC, Rubberized Fabrics, Wood
HouseboatWood, Aluminum, Fiberglass
Jon BoatAluminum
Life BoatFiberglass, PVC, Rubberized Fabrics
Muscle BoatFiberglass
Pontoon BoatAluminum
SuperyachtSteel, Aluminum
Paddle BoatPolyurethane, Fiberglass, Wood
SailboatFiberglass, Aluminum, Wood
Ski BoatFiberglass
Trawler BoatFiberglass, Steel, Wood
Tug BoatSteel
Vintage Wood BoatsWood
Wake BoatFiberglass
Walkaround BoatFiberglass, Aluminum
YachtFiberglass, Aluminum, Steel

Continue down this article to see what each of these boat materials looks like on a boat. Also what material is used for some of the most popular boat types on this list and why those materials are used.

What’s the most common material used to make boats?

Although each type of boat is different, fiberglass is the most commonly used boat material. Aluminum is second, steel is third, and wood is last. However, steel is the most common when it comes to ships and large vessels.

Fiberglass is a cheap material that is light, durable, stable, and corrosive resistant. This is why it’s the most commonly used boat material. To get a better idea of how common each of these materials are, here’s a pie chart of boat materials:

This graph is an estimate as I only used a small sample size to gather the data

Fiberglass

Are boats made of fiberglass?

Yes, many boats are made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is the most popular type of material used to construct boats. It’s mostly used for personal watercraft such as bowriders, bass boats, cuddy cabins, and ski boats. It’s also used in large boats such as yachts.

What do fiberglass boats look like?

Fiberglass boats are shiny and have a hard plastic-like feel. Here are some pictures:

Why are boats made of fiberglass?

Most boats you see out on the water today are made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is a thin, lightweight, and inexpensive material that suits well for many different kinds of boat types. Fiberglass is heavier than aluminum, but it’s more stable and less affected by the wind.

Pros and cons of fiberglass boats

Pros
  • Looks great
  • Stable
  • Thin
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Susceptible to UV damage
  • Susceptible to cracking

Aluminum

Are boats made of aluminum?

Yes, aluminum is a commonly used material for boat construction. Aluminum is generally used for utility, military, and some fishing boats. Deep-V and Jon fishing boats are primarily made of aluminum.

What do aluminum boats look like?

Aluminum boats tend to appear to have thinner hulls and less curvy lines. They look like this:

Why are boats made of aluminum?

Aluminum is a very corrosive-resistant, lightweight, and durable boat hull material. Unlike fiberglass, aluminum is very unlikely to crack or break because of a collision. Aluminum also makes your boat faster by being so lightweight. However, aluminum boats are less stable than fiberglass and get affected by wind more.

Pros and cons of aluminum boats

Pros
  • Super light
  • Not affected by UV
  • Very durable
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Not very stable

Steel

Are boats made of Steel?

Yes, steel is used for large boat construction such as super-yachts, barge ships, and cruise ships.

What do steel boats look like?

Steel is usually only used in very large boats such as superyachts and barge ships.

Why are boats made of steel?

Steel is generally only used for large vessels. This is because these massive boats need a material that’s very durable, stable, and low maintenance. Steel fits all of these categories.

Pros and cons of steel boats

Pros
  • Extremely durable
  • Extremely stable
  • Last a long time
Cons
  • Very heavy
  • Slow

Wood

Are boats made of Wood?

Yes, many boats are made of wood. However, most of these boats are old.

What do wood boats look like?

Many wood boats make it very obvious they are made of wood. Otherwise, wooden hulls are very basic, with very few unique curves.

Why are boats made of wood?

Wood isn’t used much for modern boats, but there are still plenty of boats on the water today made of wood. Wood is very widely available, cheap, and buoyant in the water. It also looks beautiful when properly painted and polished. However, the downsides of wood are that it’s thick and hard to shape.

Pros and cons of wood boats

Pros
  • Looks amazing
  • Very buoyant
  • Stable
  • Material is widely available
Cons
  • Thick
  • Heavy
  • Susceptible to rotting
  • Not very durable

Additional materials boats are made of

Besides the common materials I’ve mentioned above, there are a few more materials used to make boats. These are listed below:

  • Ferro-cement. This material is mostly used in homemade and DIY style boats. Because of this, they are known for being unreliable and not very durable,
  • Rubberized synthetic fabrics. This material is mostly used for inflatable boats such as life boats and dingies.
  • PVC. PVC is also mainly used in inflatable boats, but its also used a lot in homemade boats.
  • Polyurethane. This material is mostly used in kyaks and conoes or to coat wood boats.

What/why specific boats are made of certain materials

Below I list some of the most popular boat types, what material they are made of, and why they are made of that material.

What are fishing boats made of?

Most fishing boats are made of fiberglass but there are many made of aluminum as well. Bass fishing boats, center consoles, and walkarounds are mostly fiberglass. Deep-V and Jon boats tend to be aluminum.

Why are fishing boats primarily made of fiberglass?

Although fishing boats are commonly made with fiberglass and aluminum, fiberglass tends to be the more common option due to its better stability. In addition, fiberglass is heavier than aluminum, making it more stable in waves and less affected by the wind.

What are ski/wake boats made of?

Ski and wake boats are almost all made of fiberglass. This is because fiberglass is heavier and allows for a larger and more predictable wake.

What are yachts made of?

Yachts are mostly made of fiberglass, but some are also made of aluminum and steel. Fiberglass is inexpensive and easy to form, so it’s used most often.

What are barge ships made of?

Barge ships are primarily made of steel. This is because barges need to be durable, stable, and long-lasting, and steel does just that.

What are sailboats made of?

Most modern sailboats are made of fiberglass or aluminum, but some are also wood and ferro-cement. Fiberglass and aluminum provide thin, light hulls which allow sailboats to travel faster. Wood and ferro-cement are mostly used in old sailboats.

What are canoes made of?

Canoes are mainly made of wood, fiberglass, aluminum, or plastic. Canoes need to be very light but also stable, so that’s why these materials are used.

What are kyaks made of?

Kyaks are primarily made of roto-molded polyethylene, which essentially means plastic. This material is durable, thin, and lightweight, making it the perfect option for kyaks.

How are boats made?

Boats are made in many different ways based on material and just how different factories do things. Although I’m completely oversimplifying it, the process goes like this:

Step 1: A design team designs the boat on computer software.

Step 2: Once a design is chosen, it gets sent down to the manufacturing team and starts to get assembled. Many machines are used in this process (see video below for more info).

Step 3: Once the basic parts are assembled, more advanced items are installed, such as the navigation system, wires, engine, etc.

Check out this video to learn more about the process.

Sam