Travel trailers and recreational vehicles have siding on their exteriors to protect them from environmental elements and to provide insulation to keep the interiors at livable temperatures. The two most common siding materials are aluminum and fiberglass, both of which have benefits and shortcomings.
Aluminum Siding Types
Aluminum trailer siding is either corrugated or smooth. Corrugated panels attach to the exterior of the trailer in interlocking sections and are typically found on low-end or budget-priced trailers. More upscale trailers with higher price tags usually have smooth aluminum siding attached by rivets or other metal fasteners.
Fiberglass Siding Types
Although fiberglass is available in many styles, the type most used as siding falls into the same categories as aluminum. Smooth fiberglass siding is used on all types of travel trailers, from economically priced trailers to top of the line models. Corrugated fiberglass is usually reserved for lower-priced trailers. Fiberglass is typically attached with contact glue, although some trailer manufacturers use metal fasteners to attach the veneer.
Pros and Cons of Aluminum
Corrugated aluminum siding panels are easy to replace, but smooth or polished aluminum replacement usually requires the skills of an automotive technician. Aluminum siding is lighter than fiberglass, so trailers can be pulled behind vehicles with lighter tow capacities. The light weight of aluminum provides the option of buying a bigger trailer than one with fiberglass siding that increases the weight. Aluminum siding is generally less costly than fiberglass and has better breathability, which reduces condensation and the chance of mildew and mold growth on the trailer's interior. Painted aluminum siding normally holds up better than the laminate coatings on fiberglass.
Pros and Cons of Fiberglass
If you regularly travel with your camper to areas with inclement weather, fiberglass siding holds up better to hail than aluminum as it resists denting. Laminates on fiberglass are prone to fading and peeling. Fiberglass provides better insulation than aluminum, so the interior of the camper will hold heat better during cold weather and remain cooler through hot spells. Since fiberglass surfaces are smoother than aluminum, doors and windows generally seal to it more securely than aluminum. Although fiberglass siding is more expensive than aluminum, many camper owners feel its durability, beauty and ease of cleaning make it worth the increased price.
The siding on a travel trailer is one of many buyer considerations. The camper's construction quality, floor plan, amenities, weight, and availability of upgrades all figure into the purchasing choice. It's recommended that all features are assessed before investing in a travel trailer.