Boat Covers: Acrylic vs. Polyester Boat Covers — The Pros and Cons
Equipping your boat for the season is probably one of the most exciting things that people do as the weather gets warmer all around them. Purchasing a new boat is quite possibly one of the only things that would be more exciting than that.
Either way, you may be starting to debate different parts of your boat and figuring out what items you need for a successful Summer on the water. Your boat cover may not be the first thing that you think about buying, but it is an important item that will help keep your boat safe and dry when you aren’t using it.
If you are trying to decide between an acrylic boat cover and a polyester boat cover, we are going to break down a few different factors that should help you make the best decision for you.
Acrylic vs. Poylester Boat Covers
Deciding between polyester and acrylic boat covers isn’t easy.
Here’s what to know:
- Polyester is stronger than acrylic when it is brand new.
- Polyester loses that strength faster
- You may need to add chafe resistant patches to an acrylic cover
- If you have a short-term need, definitely pick polyester and evaluate where you’re at in 5 years.
- If you want a boat cover that will last longer, no matter the environment – go with acrylic
More About Acrylic and Polyester Covers
One of the biggest factors you can use to influence your decision is whether you are planning on using your boat cover for a long time or not. Generally speaking, polyester starts off stronger but will wear out sooner than an acrylic cover. This isn’t true for every single cover, but it is a good rule of thumb to use.
If you’re planning on being someone that refreshes everything about the boat every few years, you probably want to get a polyester cover because you will already be looking to update the cover.
If you are trying to minimize the effort that you put into things, you will probably want to go with acrylic because it minimizes the chance that you have to go back and put more work into your boat purchase.
The one thing that should be said is that you may need to add a few chafe resistant patches to your acrylic cover. If that isn’t something that bothers you, then you should be completely set for a period of time more than 10 years, even if you live somewhere that has a strong UV situation.
If you’re not looking to deal with patches or anything like that, it would still probably make more sense to go with polyester because you’ll get more initial strength and then you can just see how things look after a period of 5 years or so.
It is possible to get more than 5 years out of a polyester cover in some environments, so definitely keep that in mind.
There are some other factors when trying to decide on what kind of boat covers you should get for your boat. Here is some of the best information for you to use when deciding on a boat cover.
Waterproof Boat Covers
One common mistake that a lot of purchasers will make is assuming that certain boat covers are waterproof when that really isn’t the case. Some boat covers are actually rated as “water resistant” which is not the same as “waterproof”.
Waterproof fabrics are the ones that you want to aim for because they are always going to repel water, even as they are used continuously.
These usually include vinyl or laminated covers and can be great choices under different environments. Water resistant fabrics can be good for use as well, but you need to be very aware that they are not waterproof covers.
A water resistant fabric will repel water generally speaking, but they are not treated so that water can never get through. Eventually, as time goes on the coating of the covers will start to wear down and water will be leaking through.
This also goes for heavier water conditions where there is pooling on the water resistant cover. In those situations, you’re going to find some leaking and some times when water gets through the cover.
It’s important to know that distinction because that could mean the difference between leaving something in your boat that could get ruined due to rain, or simply knowing when you need to take those items out of your boat.
That makes it seem like waterproof fabrics would be exactly what everyone turns to, and many people do but the waterproof covers also have one major flaw as well.
Waterproof fabrics also stop air flow which means that they are not breathable. The fabric doesn’t let anything through, including air.
If you have air and moisture that is trapped under your boat cover, you are quickly going to be asking for mold and mildew to grow which is a much bigger problem than a little bit of water for most people.
This is a major drawback, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. You can use a boat cover vent to prevent this buildup and make sure that everything is running as smoothly as possible.
However, we would never blame anyone who opts for the breathability of a water-resistant fabric over the waterproof nature of some of the more serious fabrics.
You should always make sure that your water-resistant fabric has a good level of slope to it, even potentially adding in some support poles so that you can fend off any puddles that will cause your cover problems.
One major tip is that you need to make sure you re-treat the cover every few years or wash it with a treatment chemical so that you restore the ability to actually repel the water that is hitting your cover.
There are also a fair number of covers that can actually land somewhere “in-between” waterproof and water-resistant. Basically, as time wears down your cover it is going to be harder and harder to rate it as “waterproof”, and you really shouldn’t be relying on a fabric cover to keep things 100% water-free anyway.
Regardless, using a fabric that is “in-between” is a great idea because it provides a lot of water resistance and some ability to breathe, as long as you keep them vented.
Chafe and UV Resistance
This is another area where many people don’t think too much about the boat covers they are putting on their boat, when they really should take a bit more time to do some research.
Your climate that surrounds you is going to be a big factor as far as whether you need chafe resistance or UV resistance. If you are someone who boats on the coastline, you are probably going to be mainly concerned with UV resistance.
The sun beats down on coastal boats non-stop and these are also boats that are typically in the water for the entire year, so you need a cover that is more durable when it comes to the harmful effects of UV rays. You should look for a cover that is rated highly to protect against UV rays.
If you are someone who uses your boat in a climate that has four seasons, or an offseason, then your boat gets a break from the traditional “pounding” that many boats take from UV rays.
The sun typically won’t be as harsh depending on where you are, and your priority is more likely to be towards chafe resistance.
If you have a cover that is excellent when it comes to chafe resistance, you should be able to get a ton of years out of your cover and you won’t have to spend extra time trying to patch up your cover.
Things to Look For When Buying a Boat Cover
When buying a boat cover, you should look for a company that uses industry standard materials to make their products.
You should also try to find a company that has many good reviews and many years of experience with positive referrals from other people who you may know that own boats.
You don’t want a company that cuts corners or isn’t there for its customers, because the protection of your boat should be a top priority!
Here are some of the major things that you should look for when trying to decide on a boat cover, whether it is acrylic, polyester, or some other material – you always want to make sure that you are buying the best of the best for your individual situation.
Polyester vs. Another Material
Although most people consider the debate between acrylic and polyester, some people also wonder if they should compare nylon and polyester.
However, even when looking at nylon, polyester usually still wins. It is highly resistant against UV rays which can harm your boat and it keeps its structural build even when temperatures get high. Most boat cover manufacturers will dye any yarn that they use which will also help with the cover not fading.
The problem with using nylon is that it is going to break down in the sun fairly easily. If you were in a really unique environment where you never had to worry about the sun’s rays, you may be able to squeeze some use from a nylon boat cover, but in general, those situations would be so rare that for most people it doesn’t really make sense to consider them.
Sewing vs. Glued Covers
Unfortunately, using glue in a cover is asking for that glue to break down and cause fraying to happen with your boat cover after it is exposed to the sun for a long time.
While it may not seem like it, the entirety of the material of your boat cover matters, not just the top, so it is a great idea to find a boat cover company that also sews in some reinforcements where the cover could easily wear.
These spots would be located around trolling motors and windshield. It’s also nice to have fuzzy reinforcement area for the windshield.
Rope vs. Stretch Cords
Stretch cords seem like an easy way to get the best value on your boat cover, however this material wears down over time and will only cause you more problems in the long run.
It’s best to find a boat company that uses a heavy duty draw rope instead of a stretch cord. The rope system could also have an assembly that allows it to do its job even though it is less flexible than a stretch cord.
You want to make sure that the entirety of the load gets distributed easily so that there are not damage points anywhere on your boat cover.
Ideally, you want to find a boat cover company that uses proper paneling techniques to make sure that the water moves away from the seams of the cover.
If you go with an inferior company, you may be buying a boat cover that was designed without the thought to where this water will go. If that is the case, you will find water heading towards the boat’s interior which is never a good sign.
Any time you are dealing with moisture, mold and mildew are going to be fairly significant issues. Preventing mildew is one of the biggest priorities that you should have when it comes to cover and protecting your boat, so you need to make sure that your boat cover has appropriate ways to vent the area.
Whether you use a sewn-in vent that will help your boat, or whether you are simply using a fabric that will allow for natural venting, either way you want to get any kind of excess moisture and material out of the boat and allow it to escape back into the atmosphere.
No matter who you buy from, you should make sure to find a cover that has a tight fit for your unique boat style. The smaller details matter when buying a boat cover, so make sure to find one that is right for your climate, your boat, and your situation all together.
Different Boat Cover Fabric Materials
While some people focus on acrylic and polyester, there are also different varieties that you can use for a boat cover that you should be aware of.
Here are some of the most popular ones with a bit about each fabric so that you can make a better purchasing decision.
10 oz. Cotton
The reason that most people use cotton is because it is very low cost and it has the ability to breathe quite easily. This is mostly used for your boat cover if you have a boat in storage or it is moored.
Most manufacturers’ cotton boat covers will be water resistant due to some sort of water repellant solution that they add during manufacturing.
It is not a great idea to use this kind of cover for a trailering cover, nor is it really designed to be good for outdoor use unless your boat is very well covered.
7 oz. Polyester
This is a cover that has a lot of uses and can be quite flexible in that regard. A polyester cover can be awesome to use for towing, storage, or mooring as well.
You want to find a polyester cover that is as breathable as possible, one great example is the Sunbrella product. It has a pretty light weight so it isn’t too heavy to handle, and it keeps a lot of material out of your boat.
The light weight also makes it great for larger boats as well. Many polyester covers will come with a pretty long warranty, and can work for you even if you live in a UV heavy environment.
11 oz. Poly-Cotton Blend
This is an extremely popular material when it comes to boat covers. Basically, it’s a well-balanced material because it has the strength of polyester and the breathability of cotton.
Because of that balance, it can be used for trailering covers or for storage covers as well. If you need to squeeze a lot of value out of a single boat cover, this is probably a great option for you.
It can tend to be a bit heavy, so for those people who own a very large boat it may not make the best fit.
9 oz. Acrylic
As mentioned, the acrylic fabric is used often to guard patio furniture, as awnings, or indeed as boat covers as well. There are a lot of amazing acrylic fabric covers out there and these boat covers can have a ton of value when made correctly.
Ideally, acrylic covers will have more strength due to the weaving of their cover and they should be made to be water-resistant and breathable as well.
You should watch out for cheap acrylic models as they may not be up to par with the top of the line ones that are on the marketplace.
Breathability With Your Boat Cover
You need to make sure that your boat cover has what is called “breathability”. No, your boat cover won’t be coming alive, but you need to make sure that you can avoid any kind of mold or mildew build up that would be caused by your boat cover locking in dirt and moisture.
This would be one of the worst things you could ever do to your boat with a plastic or a vinyl cover.
Many polyester covers now allow for a lot of circulation underneath the cover so that a lot of the moisture vapors get evacuated from carpets, upholstery, and things of that nature.
You could also consider using a support pole that will allow more venting from your cover and will result in increased air circulation. Many people swear by support poles and would not cover their boats without them.
This makes a lot of sense because it also helps to keep rain from pooling up on the cover as well, so in the sense of air and moisture, these support poles tend to make a lot of sense.
As far as materials go, cotton is actually the best fabric when it comes to allowing your boat cover to have “breathability”, but it is not as strong as polyester or acrylic covers and therefore it isn’t strong enough to be towed around and it doesn’t really last if it is going to be held up to significant UV rays either.
If you’re storing your boat in a carport or inside of a building during the Winter, cotton is almost always going to be the best choice because of its natural “breathing” ability.
Supporting Your Boat Cover
One thing that people should consider more often when it comes to their boat cover is the level of support that it gets and the shape of the boat cover itself.
If you have standing water, you are going to be basically breeding things that can eat the natural cotton fibers of the fabric of your boat cover. That’s not good. It will lead towards a boat cover that needs to be replaced quite quickly.
On top of that, having significant levels of moisture sit on your boat cover is bad because it is going to add even more strain on to the cover for something that really isn’t designed to work that way.
To use your cover support, you should be sure that your cover is designed to spread and can handle the strain that you are placing on it.
What does “7 oz., 10 oz, etc.” mean?
Generally speaking, these weights do actually refer to the weight of the fabric that you are using. Many fabrics are weighed on a scale in pieces of 1 square yard measurements.
Whatever weight you get from that fabric is the weight per square yard. So therefore, a 6 oz. fabric would be quite thin and would be much more light as an entire cover than a 10 oz. or an 11 oz. piece of fabric would be.
The numbers are small, but they scale up quite significantly when you think about the weight of an entire boat cover.
Using a Cover for Trailering
Generally, most companies use a polyester mix or another fabric that doesn’t rip or tear easily to be used when speaking about trailering boat covers.
Another good option would be a 50/50 poly and cotton blend because the polyester adds in the strength necessary to be a good trailering cover while the cotton adds in that “breathability” factor that we have been discussing. It would also be appropriate to use an acrylic cover as a trailering fabric as well.
A 100% marine polyester cover may be a bit too much because it doesn’t deal too well with humidity.
When trailering, you should always make sure that your cover is secured to the trailer. Basically, you need some kind of tie down method so that you don’t have air entering the cover and making your rig into a “parachute” effect.
Most professionals know that, but it can be an extremely important detail that a beginner might miss. Obviously, if that happens are you are creating an enormous hazard and destroying the boat cover that you just purchased.
You should also be sure to use padding when necessary so that your cover isn’t going to be pushing or pulling on anything the wrong way.
Using a Cover for Mooring or For Storage
If you are looking for a boat cover for storage, cotton is a great way to go. For a lot of people, a 50/50 Poly Cotton blend is even better because it is actually a little bit stronger than the plain cotton cover.
This is definitely useful in situations that have a lot of wind, or if you just think you’re going to need a bit more durability based on whatever climate you’re in.
Ideally, you will be able to find a boat cover that has some kind of cord or rope sewn into the perimeter of the cover. Trying to get a boat cover placed correctly when a rope is working against you isn’t easy, especially if you are in a tight spot when it comes to one of the sides of your boat.
If you have a self-adjusting cord, you’re going to find that it will take the shape of the boat much easier, in turn, making your life a lot easier.
If you’re leaving your boat covered for a long period of time, you need to make sure that you provide proper support for your boat cover.
If not, you are asking for pooling of water, snow, and any other materials that could easily damage your boat, your boat cover, or it could simply render your cover useless and allow your boat to be damaged from the elements.
These kinds of situations can become disasters, so if you are leaving your boat for a long time, make sure it is in the proper condition to hold up to the test of the elements.