Fiberglass vs aluminum trailer - Fiberglass RV

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Old 09-21-2012, 04:34 PM   #1
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Name: Ruth
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Fiberglass vs aluminum trailer

I am rethinking the whole rv experience, trying to decide which direction. This is probably the wrong place to ask this question, but here goes....
What are the advantages and disadvantages of an all aluminum trailer like a serro Scotty vs an all fiberglass. I see scamps and casitas that have been around for over 30 years, and I see serro Scotty's that are totally refurbished out there also.

I am not camping as often as I want to, working too much, and was sick this year. I hate having a ton of money tied up in a toy that I will use once a month for a long weekend. I dont plan to live in a trailer, and am a long way from retirement ( ten years) I loved having a fiberglass trailer, but what about an aluminum one? Any one with experience, can help me with this?



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Old 09-21-2012, 04:54 PM   #2
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Hi Ruth. There was a time when I really wanted an Airstream. A little one. So I spent some time reading on an Airstream forum. With all those rivets, a story about a hale storm, and the high tow weight convinced me that I would be better off with my Trillium. There is nothing wrong with an Airsream, it was just a poor fit for me. I would go to a forum for Scottys (there must be one ) and read. Find out the pros and cons and see if one is a good fit for you. Remember, all the stuff on the inside, the converter, lights, plumbing, heater, etc. will all be the same. Happy hunting, Raz

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Old 09-21-2012, 05:48 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Ruth G View Post
What are the advantages and disadvantages of an all aluminum trailer like a serro Scotty vs an all fiberglass.
The only thing aluminum with a Serro Scotty is the skin. It's body is mostly wood framed, and painted wood panel inside. Wood is cheaper than fiberglass and easier to work with from a manufacturing point of view. I have always liked the Scotty trailers, especially the "larger" 15' models.

  • Lower cost
  • Taller entry door?
  • Flat side walls allow larger storage bins
  • Readily available at dealerships

  • Leaky seams between panels
  • Heavier weight due to wall and ceiling framing
  • Can be dented easily
  • Wood rots internally
  • Styling limitations of box framing

Now THIS is an all aluminum trailer.

It has eliminated the wood problems suffered by other "Aluminum" trailers.
Frederick - The Scaleman
1978 Fiber Stream 16 named "Eggstasy" & 1971 Compact Jr. named "Boomerang"
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Old 09-21-2012, 05:56 PM   #4
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Hi Ruth,
FWIW, if you have the $$ rent the few times you need for a long weekend for a few years. For both on & off weekends try to hit some meets for both types of trailers, maybe even join them. When you are ready to buy, you will know deep down in your heart what your preferences are.
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:01 PM   #5
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I've owned both and here is what I can't understand: In my Aluminum Stickie that I had for 5 years, I never had one water leak. In the Scamp and reading on this site it appears the fiberglass units are prone to leak.
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:04 PM   #6
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Frederick has some good points I'd like to comment on. Likes the Scotty trailers, we do too, and almost bought an old one. Wood rot, it's a general rule that if you can see signs of leakage on the interior wood there is a lot more rot that you can't see. I know of old Scotty's, and other wood frame trailers that had to be torn down to the frame and completely rebuilt. I've also seen others that were cosmetically restored to just look good for resale, so beware. As for an all aluminum trailer, our 1946 teardrop is except for the plywood floor and ribs in the hatch.
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:27 PM   #7
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One non-leaking aluminum against a bunch of leaking glass? Not much of a sample. The aluminum watertight the same age as the glass sieves? Could have some bearing as a new trailer of any build might just make 5 yrs. without turning into a mushroom house. Did I hear someone say "all the stuff on the inside" (and presumably the windows and thru-hulls also) is the same in both cases? Looks like that makes it a 3-way free for all between a trailer of one build and a bunch of another and the quotidien glazing and vents and thru-hulls common to both.

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Old 09-21-2012, 10:04 PM   #8
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Everyone has to do their homework and make their own decisions. I have a small leak, occasionally, at two windows. They never rot, because I have fiberglass walls, not wood. I just wipe the leak up. I have no 'surprise' leaks because the UHaul is double hulled, and I can find any leak that happens. Disadvantage? No insulation except the air between the hull. Is that an issue for me? No because I don't camp in the winter and a small heater is more than enough to keep it temperate. Cost? Low for both an older stickie or fiberglass. How much restoration work? the amount of restoration on a stick build is more than I want to deal with. I don't see where the fg trailers need as much work because there are a lot less 'parts', screws, trims, caulk lines, rotted plywood paneling, etc. So for myself, fiberglass wins hands down. Now I didn't compare to an Airstream quality, because you won't find a used Airstream 16footer Bambi for $3K like you can a used Scamp or a stick built Scotty. Airstreams are in a class well above a fg, so I'd expect them to be a top quality trailer. But they still have more upkeep than I want. My UHaul is wash and wear - and I Love that about it! Again, this is my opinion, and I'm biased to FG. but others are tickled pink with their vintage Scotties and feel that all the restoration work was worth it. So much variety means that everyone can find a camper thats 'just right'.
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Old 09-21-2012, 10:59 PM   #9
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If the issue is simply "Aluminum vs Fiberglass" or the "skin" - there may not be much difference. If the Issue is MOLDED (boat hull construction) vs any otehr type of construction - then there may some defensible positions.

Molded glass has (effectively) no seams. Yes there are holes cut in it for windows, doors & vents - just as there are in any and all RVs. However - non-molded ones have SEAMS
Seams where the roof meets the sides. (and the front cap and the rear cap)
Seams where the front meets the sides
Seams where the rear meets the sides
Seams where the bottom of the unit meets the sides, & ends

Those seams are the difference in construction and in number of places to have leaks occur.

Seams are where joints can flex, and seals give way due to that flex.

If I could find an aluminum unit with NO seams (all welded joins) I'd look at it, but having had an aluminum-skinned stick-built that flexed, seams opened up, wood structure rotted allowing even more flex, which in turn...

and after a very few years I had sections of the outter skin flapping in the breeze and I sold it off for parts

The build type that features rigidity and lack of seams is the one and only reason I have a molded glass unit.

The more windows you have - the more places to leak. The more vents, the more doors, the more (etc) the more your glass unit will develop leaks.

Molded glass is a lot closer to my ideal, perfect trailer - Zero maintenance!
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Old 09-21-2012, 11:43 PM   #10
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I agree with Pam about the molded inner hulls in Burros, U-Hauls, Eggcampers, possibly Olivers. Incorporating furnishings into that sort of monocoque structure does get rid of a lot of wood. Cf. the few wood stiffeners in a Burro to the "solid hardwood" and stren board niceties in, say, a trailer which is getting pretty good reviews lately--the Lil Snoozy. The bed deck fwd in the Snoozy is framed with 2x4 spf lumber; there's a flash shot from beneath in the random trailer foto thing at the top of page that shows up occasionally. There are some other molded trailers that share some of this woodiness inside. So anyway, you get glass wet it doesn't decay and fall apart like softwood framing.

I disagree with Pam that a double hull makes finding the source of leaks easy. In my experience a window leak down into the dual skin sandwich can travel the length of the trailer. Leaks under the A/C seal or in vent or fan bedding will also sometimes migrate between hulls and find their level in any number of lockers depending on the tilt of the trailer as it sits.

The simple fact is that the more hydroscopic organic material you've got in a trailer, the more problem you'll have with mildew, mold and rot when, not if, it leaks.

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Old 09-22-2012, 06:13 AM   #11
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ok my take....
any thing with an opening can and eventualy will leak. openings are seams, vents, windoes, rivits, bolts airconditioners, get the idea.

so eventualy you will deal with that. the less wood you have the less there is to rot. but almost all trailers have wood somewhere. i think the 'egg camper" has the least but not sure

my biggist dislike of the aluminium trailer,,,and i dearly love the little scotty trailers,,, is dents and faded aluminium paint. seems like those cute little trailers have their own gravity that draws things over to them , and they get dented. and nearly everyone of them in a few years is faded and sad looking.

why do i love fiberglass? i can tow it with what i drive everyday.
with little care it stays dent free and nice looking.
it is perfect for our use, and thats what really helps to decide,,, what is your use? will it do the job?
it is stylish, and never fails to get admiring glances, and comments from passersby.

but in the end you have to decide what it is you want to do, then select the best option for that purpose.
as an example, my wife and i want to travel. its usually just us two. we always camp where we have water and electricity, showers and restrooms. so we do not need or want a full bathroom in our unit. we know that we will travel in winter and summer, so we need airconditioning and a furnace.
we also know that when we travel we spend most of our time doing things, not sitting around our camper, so aside fromsleeping we just are not in it much aside from a rainy day now and then, so it can be compact, we don;t need a lot of space.. we like to ride bicycles so some ccomodation for taking them with us is needed.

taking these things and cost into consideration, we found a standard 13 foot scamp with a few items added was perfect for us.
with the custom options i added our new scamp came in about $11,500.
after looking at used ones for about a year, and finding all the nice ones ran around 7 to 8 thousand, we went with new on the assumtionm that in 5 years, if we decide we don;t want to continue with it, we will get most of our money back.

back to aluminium,,,,price used ones , and compare with new and you will see a shocking drop in value.

and that is my take, and i am no expert,,,though i play one in my mind.
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Old 09-22-2012, 09:20 AM   #12
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Re: Airstreams, our local rv dealer/repair facility tells me that even Airstreams are having particle board in their construction. Doesn't speak very well for an expensive trailer. As for wood in fiberglass trailers, our Egg Camper has wood cabinet/closet doors, table top, bed base that the mattress rests on, and behind places where screws go through the fiberglass so that there's more than just the fg holding the screws.
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Old 09-22-2012, 09:38 AM   #13
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British Columbia
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Originally Posted by rabbit View Post
I disagree with Pam that a double hull makes finding the source of leaks easy. In my experience a window leak down into the dual skin sandwich can travel the length of the trailer. Leaks under the A/C seal or in vent or fan bedding will also sometimes migrate between hulls and find their level in any number of lockers depending on the tilt of the trailer as it sits.

The simple fact is that the more hydroscopic organic material you've got in a trailer, the more problem you'll have with mildew, mold and rot when, not if, it leaks.

Thats why single hull fiberglass trailers rule! Way easier to see and find the leak, should it happen. In my trailers 20 years it has only had one leak that I am aware of - a window that needed resealing. Noticed it right away. The good news is that unlike a aluminum trailer there was no wood framing damaged due to the leak. Simply a matter of spending an hour pulling out the window and resealing it correctly.
No need to pull interior walls down to check for rot, mold and mildew on wood framing.
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Old 09-22-2012, 09:51 AM   #14
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I have been involved in this same discussion for years on the Toyota Motorhome sites and about the only valid arguement for stick-built RV's is that they tend to have slightly more interior room.
There is a molded fiberglass Sunrader coach (only) sitting on a raised platform in the Jungle in Columbia that has been used as a house for at least 10 years, try that with a stick built.

Basically, all of the people that say that they prefer stick-builts over molded fiberglass are those that already own one and won't admit otherwise.

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