View Full Version : Trailer aluminum vs steel

ralph crocker
07-22-2012, 09:07 PM
in the market for a new trailer for my classic 18 Should I go with aluninum with large I beams or a steel like Continental or Eagle. The aluminum certainly looks beefier. Any input is appreciated.

Rob M
07-22-2012, 09:30 PM
Check out LoadMaster in Port Clinton Ohio. I just had two trailers custom made for my Donzis. They are C-channel steel with multi coat polyurethane custom paint...built like tanks. Very pleased with the quality and the customer service is extremely good.


07-22-2012, 10:13 PM
I have switched from steel to aluminum, the difference in towing is startling. You really know when you have steel behind you, aluminum tows super sweetly almost like no boat in tow. There is no way I could ever consider steel again!

07-23-2012, 08:39 AM
The aluminum will basically last as long as you have the boat. It's certainly not uncommon to hear about someone replacing the axles, suspension, and everything else around an aluminum trailer frame.

The only benefit you get out of steel is it flexes less... On a small boat, doesn't matter, but on bigger boats it can make a difference to some.

The steel will rust, just a matter of time, and will require maintenance. While I wouldn't shy away from a boat that was sitting on a steel trailer... if buying a new trailer the hands down winner is aluminum

07-23-2012, 08:49 AM
IF steel, I would not consider anything but galvanized. I believe the Loadmaster folks have a tank large enough to dip the entire welded frame (I gather some others don't).

roadtrip se
07-23-2012, 09:16 AM
Ralph, do a search here on this one. I think this has been debated almost as much as motor oil.

I have had a lot of steel trailers. They do get knicked up and rust.

I started pulling welded aluminum trailers about seven years ago. I have run MYCO and Manning. They are lighter and they hold up better. I would do another welded aluminum in a heart beat.

The key difference between a welded and a bolt together aluminum is the fit to the boat from my observation. Since the welded is built around the boat, you can have your bunks and frame set-up completely around the hull. My boat sits lower in the trailer so the center of gravity is lower, so it pulls better. The bolt togethers don't fit as nice, the boat sits higher, and they rattle like crazy, because they are an adapted frame, with an erector set of bolt-on parts.

Either way you go, welded or bolt-together, if you are going to buy a new trailer, and plan to keep it, buy aluminum.
People have a preception that welded aluminum trailers are expensive, but I fould Manning to be quite reasonable, and they are here in Michigan. The trailer they built for my Formula 280 was an absolute tank. Give them a call.

BTW, where were you this weekend with the Magnum at Brownies? We looked for you. Nice show.

07-23-2012, 09:44 AM
I've had both aluminum and galvanized steel.......................

For the life of me, I can't think of a single reason why anyone would buy a steel trailer, except maybe they never had an aluminum trailer.

07-23-2012, 09:56 AM
Welded can crack. Even from a quality manufacturer that specializes in welded (manning / myco) there are plenty of complaints of relatively new trailers cracking and having major issues. The problem is you get a new welder or just a good welder having a bad day and everything can go to hell.

Bolted does flex more and they do tend to make some funny noises when flexing over hills etc. A bit of noise and flex I'll take all day Vs. an all out failure that can come at an unexpected time. A cracked weld can really screw up your day, especially after it cracks and you have to find someone that knows how to weld aluminum in who knows where.

07-23-2012, 10:42 AM
many have had great luck with custom built steel trailers from http://www.pcbtrailers.com/ they last a long time they tow great and launching and capturing is a snap . I did see a high end rolls single axle welded alum trailer (was a nice trailer) but it floated making capturing the boat a bit of a challenge and it also developed cracks around the welds.

07-23-2012, 11:17 AM
I've owned probably 15 steel trailers and put thouands of miles on them, when we were racing coast to coast for 15 years with no problems. They look better than alum. as they can be cutom painted to match your boat. Performance trailers in Lake George did 2 of my Donzi trailers and they tow great. However if your near the salt don't even look at steel go aluminum...

roadtrip se
07-23-2012, 12:04 PM
Yep, welded aluminum done wrong can crack. The seams must be banded with a supporting piece of metal to box them in and finish the job. Done wrong, the seam can break. Both MYCO and Manning do the banded form of welding.

Interesting thing, you almost always see the big salty offshores that get launched in the drink, not lifted off, on welded aluminum trailers, not erector set trailers.

As for apperance, my aluminum trailer looks great under my Donzi. I've attached a picture of the Manning under the Formula for reference, too. I would have never put that boat on a erector-set trailer, and it didn't cost any more than one, so it was an easy choice.

To each their own, but I wouldn't have anything else.

07-23-2012, 12:12 PM
they are easier to see in the water when you are coming up to load the boat as well

cause they float

07-23-2012, 02:26 PM
If ya put brakes on all the axles like you're supposed to, they won't float.

07-23-2012, 02:29 PM
One other thing I noticed, if ya tied down the transom and the bow, they don't flex either.

07-23-2012, 03:10 PM
Hey Trip,

Don't I remember that your Myco trailer suffered a fracture that had to be repaired/re-welded?

07-23-2012, 03:55 PM
[ QUOTE=widowmaker]
Hey Trip,

Don't I remember that your Myco trailer suffered a fracture that had to be repaired/re-welded?[/QUOTE]

yeah, he deleted most of the thread about his burned trip thanks to his welded trailer. The thread documented the exact situation I described where a weld lets loose and you are not boating. funny as hell, thanks for bringing it up. Even funnier is standing behind the product even more dead set :bonk::bonk:

one of my favorite places to go is in Port Canaveral FL... I have spent many a happy hour there. It's a place called Grills and it borders a huge public boat ramp.

I have seen thousands of boats get launched and retrieved there. Many hard core guys running big center consoles (the real Big Salty Offshores) launch there and I can't remember EVER seeing an aluminum welded trailer there. The welded looks better and *sounds* like it would be stronger. That's why they sell. The hard core boater buys what works.

roadtrip se
07-23-2012, 04:52 PM
Yes, I figured you guys would find a way to bring up my issue with the MYCO. I had a problem and they resolved it,
completely and to my satisfaction. And seven years later and about 10,000 miles per annum, I'm still pulling the same trailer with zero issues. None. Nada. Period. And please feel free to do a search here on the issues, how they were addressed by MYCO, and my satisfaction afterwards with the efforts of a great company. I didn't delete one word of my experience that I posted here. If anything was deleted, it was from being moderated when the hyenas got out of control.

As for the topic at hand, I am recommending Ralph call Manning, so save the pile-on that always comes up about MYCO on these trailer threads. Manning builds a great aluminumn welded trailer here in Michigan at a fair price.

Vette, we have history, and you know it, so please just ignore my posts, and trying to twist or disprove things I say. You aren't credible, you obviously have a hidden agenda, and you are wasting your time trying to discredit me, so give it up. For the record, when I was referencing "offshore salties" I intended a Donzi ZR, a Cigarette Top Gun, or a Fountain 42; not the locally built center console, that do typically ride on the cheapest, erector-set trailer available.

Greg Guimond
07-23-2012, 05:26 PM
The quality of any welded trailer is based 100% on who does the welding at the time it gets fabricated. When you add to this the fact that a repair in any out of the way place with aluminum could become a real challenge I would go bolted every time.

07-23-2012, 06:21 PM
I do not agree with the boats sitting higher on bolted AL trailers, my 22 sits 3-1/2" above the torsion axles and 1"above the back frame rail IE real low.

07-24-2012, 07:10 AM
I sure could see the trailer as it floated, off to the side in the current first time I have ever seen two linemen needed to capture an 18 one for the line on the boat and one for the line holding the trailer straight???? Not all rigs require brakes in all states depending on GLW.

07-24-2012, 10:35 AM
Actually, it doesn't require two sets of brakes to make them sink, but brakes on all axles will definately do the job.

A quick story about Catch22, when he first got his aluminum trailer, it had steel wheels, no brakes, and it didn't float.
Gina gave Jim a set of aluminum wheels and when he had them mounted, the trailer floated.
Later, he added brakes and it sank.
The Minx trailer had brakes on one axle, steel wheels, and it never floated.

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 10:55 AM
Greg, the moving parts, and those that will most likely fail, on any trailer discussed here, steel, bolt-together aluminum, or welded aluminum are the same and available most places. A bad day could be had by anyone with a failed weld on an aluminum or steel trailer, for that matter. Finding a shop to fix either is going to be a challenge, but most can do both. I will take my chances on a failed weld, after 70K pulling a aluminum welded trailer, than losing something in the structure of a bolt-together trailer from a lost piece of hardware, and the resulting damage from the failure. It's a preference.

MOP, if you have a bolt-together trailer that cradles the boat, good for you. Most that I have seen don't, and place the boat high on a set of vertical bunks. Again a preference, but not mine, with the miles I pull.

To the floater comments. This just proves that the trailers are lighter to pull. Where we launch and recover, you typically have to stand on the tonque to reach the winch any way, and the weight settles the trailer into the water. Is it an extra step? Yes? Is it a big deal? Not really.

07-24-2012, 11:04 AM
They won't float when these become the norm... :)


07-24-2012, 11:50 AM
I'm not getting into the welded vs. bolted discussion as it's not worth it.
I'm definately in the bolt together camp, but mainly because it's usually cheaper
and easy to repair. If I were able to barter water treatment equipment for a new,
custom welded trailer, I'd definately consider it.
I'd definately not ever conside another steel trailer though.

Greg Guimond
07-24-2012, 01:16 PM
Road, the moving parts aren't the primary issue. For me with aluminum a bolt is stronger then a weld and far easier to repair. Just my preference :yes:

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 04:18 PM
gcarter said: "If I were able to barter water treatment equipment for a new, custom welded trailer, I'd definately consider it."

Thanks for being intellectually honest George. You have hit on something. This really boils down to the cash and for a lot of folks the value proposition of a bolt-together, aluminum trailer works for them, and I don't fault them for that, but to tear down a welded aluminum as inferior, isn't really fact-based either. It's perception-based.

So let's have a little fun here. The Powerball drawing is tomorrow night. Let's say somone here wins it and they start shopping for big offshore boats to go with their Donzi pride and joy. What would they buy?

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 04:20 PM
For $329K. Looks like a nice ride, but who the heck puts a welded aluminum trailer under a center-console wave crusher? Idiots.

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 04:23 PM
For $235K. Nope, can't fool me, that is a painted welded aluminum trailer under there. It could break a weld at any time! Pass.

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 04:25 PM
for $349K. 700 with NXTs, too. Wow. Dang it, I could lose a weld in some remote area. Nope.

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 04:28 PM
for $325K. Nice ride. Riding on welded aluminum. Shoot. Have to pass again.

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 04:35 PM
Some where in the neighborhood of $700K. You think I could get Scott Shogren to keep that welded aluminum trailer? I don't think it would make the trip from Chicago to Detroit.

07-24-2012, 04:42 PM
that does suck cause those are all nice boats

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 04:44 PM
I found almost two million dollars of very nice, and very desirable offshore inventory sitting on welded-aluminum trailers that could fail at any moment. Thanks for allowing me to dream a little on this hot summer afternoon. Have fun on the water!

roadtrip se
07-24-2012, 05:02 PM
I don't understand how Pier 57 became one of the largest offshore performance dealers in the world and still gets away with putting trailers under their stuff that could let their customers down at any time. You would think they would be out of business by now. It must be a conspiracy.

Greg Guimond
07-24-2012, 05:42 PM
Very cool boat pics, thanks for posting ............I'd still go bolted aluminum as my preference for an 18 Classic though :yes:

Greg Guimond
07-24-2012, 06:34 PM
It's a concept known as "graceful failure". In a bolted application you will be forwarned of potential problems via the exact noise/noises that have been mentioned as well as visual inspection. You can remedy a bolt in the field with no struggle and then perform a proper fix at home. When you hit that pothole and a weld cracks you have far fewer options. It is an all or nothing moment as we all know. For my money, in a small boat/trailer application I'd rather have as many choices for repair as possible even if you do have to check all the bolts at the start of each season.

07-24-2012, 07:12 PM
Todd, I'm sure a well built welded aluminum trailer can be a good investment.
I just don't know if a shopper gets a 30%-50% better trailer for the 30%-50%
increase in price. As I said, I'd consider one but it would have to be a deal and
not cost me any more.
I can also understand why high end boats would use welded trailers, as the
percentage of value in the trailer as a percentage of the total package is much smaller.

In the size and value of boats most of us own, I'd be surprised if many (i.e.; an
appreciable percentage) would opt for the more expensive welded aluminum
trailer, and may be saying more about disposable income than
actual benefit gained by the greater expenditure.

07-24-2012, 10:53 PM
The point that MOP made is so true. When I bought my pre-owned 22 Classic, it had a mismatched, older, oversized, aluminum trailer under it that needed to be replaced. I kept it long enough to get the boat back to Ohio and immediately purchased a new custom-fit trailer. Money was not really a consideration. I went with steel because I boat in freshwater and feel that a painted trailer looks better. I pull the 22 Classic with a Jeep Grand Cherokee Hemi with 7,400 lbs of towing capacity. When pulling the larger aluminum trailer, I would not of even known that it was back there except for all of the creaking and groaning. The new steel trailer is quiet and firm like a tank, but you can certainly tell that it is back there because it is much heavier. If I were doing it again on a smaller performance boat, I'm not sure which way that I would go.

Rob M
07-24-2012, 11:02 PM

Nice looking Loadmaster trailer. Gary and co. are top notch. Really pleased with mine so far.


07-24-2012, 11:09 PM
Yes...Loadmaster does an outstanding job. I could not be happier with their quality and customer service. Highly recommend Gary and company.

roadtrip se
07-25-2012, 01:19 PM
Good looking trailer, Tom. The whole rig looks pretty good.

George, when I bought my trailer, I compared it against fully loaded steel trailers. Torsion axles, disk brakes, LED lights, and the rest of it. I did not compare it against a bolt together, because I didn't want one. The upcharge was about $1500. Worth it to me, especially when you look at that cost over seven years of use. $214 per year, and all I have done is tires and normal maintenance, typical stuff.

07-25-2012, 01:55 PM
Thanks Todd. I think you make a rather compelling case and feel that you may have found the best solution.