Aluminum Fishing Boats For Sale , H36 or H34 Aluminum Which is Best?

Welcome to Boater’s Chat as we arm wrestle the subject…aluminum plate H34 or H36….yes it all looks the same!  Travelling to The Toronto Boat Show trying to make sense of all the shinny aluminum fishing boats for sale.  Or perhaps you and your family are road warriors visiting aluminum fishing boat dealers or pontoon boats for sale in Ontario.  The aluminum hull skin, not the paint and graphics are a significant portion of the total purchase price you will be paying.  Is the aluminum sheeting used to manufacturer the hull structure in a aluminum fishing boat or a pontoon boat tubing all the same with respect to quality, value and strength?

As you would expect the answer to what type of aluminum and whether welded or riveted is best will be a very biased answer being directed at you by some smiling salesperson with the sales manager looking over their shoulder.  It is the very nature of the sales process that a salesperson must support the brand of the dealership above all others.

Factual Versus Marketing Spin on Aluminum Sheeting

The question goes more to what is factual versus what is marketing spin!  In this article we are going to stay away from the riveting versus welded discussion and stay on point to the aluminum plate. The aluminum alloy sheet plate comes in various thickness and types.  Types or alloys are the buzz words you will hear like H34 or H36 and 98% of their alloys are identical.  Each builder chooses a type/alloy based on cost, weld ability, shear strength, hardness, shine and historical tradition.  The real question as to type/alloy H34 versus H36 is which provides more value to the buyer at least cost?

For example… Crestliner Boats and Lund Boats use H34.  Princecraft Boats when they were owned many years by Alcan starting using H36 grade/type which they claim their kitchen made the recipe for and we are talking about decades ago.  All three of these aluminum boat brands are owned by Brunswick Corporation (Mercury Marine).  For those who did not know… Crestliner and Lund are built by the same people in the same plant.  Brunswick also owns and builds Lowe Boats. For the sake of comparison Crestliner Boats, Lund Boats and Princecraft Boats would be considered Tier 1 ( Best) builders and Lowe Boats is an example of a Tier 3 builder ( Near Lowest).  Of note which is becoming very common on Tier 2 to Tier 4 builders in websites as of today, is there is no description of build materials for Lowe just lots of lifestyle shots. 

Boater’s Chat does use a rating system for quality and value versus cost for boat builders call Tiers.  Tier 1 represents the best available sliding down to close your eyes and buy it at Tier 4.

Here is what Lund says about their aluminum choice. * “We use 5052 H34 aluminum.  Built to perform in all conditions. Most durable in industry.  It offers the perfect balance between strength, weight, hardness and flexibility.” *taken from the Lund website on Dec. 1. 2015

Here is what Starcraft says about their aluminum choice. * “we use only the toughest aluminum-5052 H34 marine grade so our aluminum boats resist dents, dings and corrosion.” *taken from the Starcraft Boat website Dec. 1, 2015.

Here is what Legend Boats says about their aluminum choice. * “Super thick all welded.”  ” Up to 73% thicker than most other boats.” *taken form the Legend website Dec. 2, 2015 Xtreme series.

Here is what Crestliner Boats says about their aluminum choice. * ” With thick high quality aluminum and all welded strength, every Crestliner is ready t withstand the harshest of waters and the worst weather conditions.” * taken from the 2016 Crestliner Magalog on line Dec. 2, 2015.

Are You sold Yet or Confused?

Lets take a moment and drill down on the aluminum claims.

  • 5XXX H 34 and H36 aluminum sheeting is the choice of premium builders.  There are many other types and grades available.  The argument goes that H36 is stronger on shear strength but it is the sum total of type + overall thickness + joint type + weld/rivet + supporting members + shape that actually determines the strength.
  • Any side wall that is crimped or bended to form a rigid wall structure will be superior in strength to any flat side wall.  Think cardboard versus a plain sheet of paper as an example.
  • Crestliner Boats and Lund Boats both use H34 marine grade aluminum sheeting that comes to the plant in roll format.  The sheeting is unwound and the CNC computer cut to exact tolerances.   Crestliner has been building boats for 70 years and Lund just a little shorter.  These brand are made in the same plant with the same materials by the same workers.  The only structural difference is Crestliner is welded and Lund is riveted.  There is some hull shape differential depending on the model.
  • Starcraft has been making aluminum fishing boats essentially forever.  They are using the same 5052 H34 as Lund and Crestliner.
  • Legend if you do not know has there hull made for them by various boat builders depending on the year.  Limited finishing may be done in the main Sudbury center.  Legend is claiming to offer up to 73% thicker  aluminum than most brands……nonsense!  Legend is .100 on most models….Crestliner has a very high aluminum thickness of .100 to .125 mm.

What does Boater’s Chat Consider Best Aluminum Sheet

Most of what you hear about aluminum sheeting form the builders is nothing more that marketing spin.   The Legend claim of 73% thicker in combination with their exclusive extrusion placement welding is……disappointing and I fail to see any basis in fact.  Is someone prepared to tell me just on sheet choice that one of the brands listed above is superior….don’t buy it!   I would recommend that you go past the hull sheeting type in a Tier 1 or Tier 2 brand and look at how the sheeting is supported, formed, joined as well as features.

What about riveting versus welded….another topic.  So is hull shape, dead rise, negative chines and spray deflectors.  If you would like to dig deep into aluminum sheeting here is a web site to visit.  H34/H36 Marine Aluminum.  Click on this link to look at different Types of Aluminum Sheeting.  Take a moment and view Aluminum Types and Application.   There are many types of aluminum sheeting with pricing all over the map.  When the builder does not state type due to the fact that they do not want you to know or buyers do not seem to care….the results are never good for the buyer.

Aluminum boats and pontoons are built with hundreds of pounds of aluminum.  If as an aluminum boat builder I make a decision to reduce pounds of aluminum or use a cheaper alloy…. the aluminum boat for sale builder reduces the build cost of the boat!  If the buyer is not taking notice and just makes and emotional decision based on paint, graphics, marketing spin and that smiling salesperson has said quality 27 times….the buyer looses the value versus price war!

Toronto Boat Show 2018

As I mentioned in a pervious article The 2018 Toronto Boat Show is going to be very interesting form a price standpoint.  2018 American made aluminum fishing boats and boats in general are priced higher than 2017 due to price increases in material costs plus extremely high consumer demand for boats and the boating lifestyle in the USA.   Pontoons and fishing boats are in many cases sold out for 2018 on the production side. At this time this does not mean that you cannot order a boat exactly to your specifications…..but if the dealer you are speaking with does not have production slots confirmed for spring build….you will not be getting that boat from that dealer till late 2018 or 2019.  Some boat builders are not taking any orders at this time.  Fortunately  there will be limited bargains on 2016 and 2017 non currents but these will be sold early in the show to smart well versed shoppers.  That being said, buyers may have to decide whether their first choice due to exchange pricing may be out of reach and then the question becomes are we going to settle for something different in terms of brand, model or construction quality.

Dealers and brands make their own decisions on pricing at a show based on competitive pressures and available inventory.  For example Huntsville Marine is a Crestliner dealer and we took the position for the show to purchase as much 2017 product at a better exchange rate and discount as we could get our hands on.  Please note that buyers doing contracts in US funds that the final price to you will be when that boat is invoiced to the dealer base on the exchange at that time not what is the exchange at The Toronto Boat Show. Make sure you are aware of this and do not get a significant surprise in the spring on an ordered boatThose looking to purchase a non current and get the real deals will at the show be asked by most dealers to pay the entire boat out in full by the end of January 2018.  Most non currents are held in dealer inventory in Canadian dollars taking exchange issues out of the equation.

Like all dealers for The Toronto Boat Show…show pricing will not be posted till just before the opening of the show.  Huntsville Marine will be posting prices on or about Jan 5/6 and most others will be doing the same.

With the 2018 Toronto Boat Show fast approaching if you have any topics you would like covered or show questions please drop me a line and I will try and accommodate your requests.  For those wanting to chat at the show you will find me in the Cypress Cay Pontoon booth/Crestliner Booth most of the time.   I can be reached at or 705-571-2628 at the show.