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Old 04-19-2016, 07:41 AM   #1
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Prospective RV'er. Aluminum or Laminate?

Hubby & I have been dreaming about retiring on the road in just 24 short months (we are Planners). Hubby is an engineer and I am a perfectionist. That makes for some exhaustive research.

We would LOVE input on Aluminum or Laminate.
We had all but decided Laminate was the way to go as an RV salesperson recently told us Aluminum is strictly for the budget-minded.
Then hubby read a lot of reviews about trailers that experienced
de-lamination.

Help?

Feeling. Confused.

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Old 04-19-2016, 08:04 AM   #2
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Aluminum is the original and old standby nothing wrong with it. The laminated in my opinion is the way to go. There were de-lamination problems when trailer makers first went to laminated sidewalls they have that worked out now. Most high end equipment is laminated. I believe the laminated is much easier to take care of. these are just my thoughts. My old winnie was laminated and my new TT is laminated.
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Old 04-19-2016, 08:52 AM   #3
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Aluminum is very prone to hail damage while laminate isn't. We had an Al trailer totaled from hail and our insurance adjuster scoffed at us and wanted to know why we bought aluminum over laminate. Haven't ever made that mistake again 5 trailers later.
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Old 04-19-2016, 08:57 AM   #4
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I'm not going to help.

After the last two of our RV's had delaminations due to water intrusion that we never knew about until we saw the delam, I'll never own a laminate sided RV again. I've completely rebuilt a couple of aluminum sided RV's in the past, but there's no way I could tackle replacing a sidewall.
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Old 04-19-2016, 09:17 AM   #5
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There is maintenance involved with laminated RVs, but if you are willing to maintain it, there is no reason why it shouldn't last.
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Old 04-19-2016, 09:18 AM   #6
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AL is less expensive, but more susceptible to hail damage. Hail damage is covered under insurance. Repairs are easier and much less expensive. It is more difficult to clean, but if kept under cover when out of use, a simple wash down with an extending RV brush a few times a year suffices. If you ever plan to add anything, wires can more easily be routed than because of the use of fiberglass insulation as opposed to the block foam.

FG is cleaner looking and easier to clean. Delam does not occur simply because of an inferior manufacturing process. It will occur if you have water intrusion, even on Azdel backed FG. Delam is not typically covered by insurance.

I have always gone with AL, mainly for financial reasons. It was cheaper up front and I have complete coverage with insurance. If I had FG and delam did occur, I wouldn't have been able to pay to have it repaired and couldn't afford the massive loss of value incurred by leaving it. I liked the assurance afforded by going with AL that, for no more than the cost of the deductible, I could be reasonably sure of my depreciation and condition the trailer would be in down the road. I also like to do modifications that I have found to be easier to do with stick and tin construction. My last trailer, I did heavily consider FG, though. The bulk of the FG trailers tend to be built to be easily towed, resulting in light weight and low CCC capacities. I found it easier to find a TT with stick and tin construction that was "overbuilt" with heavier axles and higher load range tires resulting in higher CCC. But, I have 4 kids and we carry a LOT of stuff, so this might not be as big an issue to you. I will add that my Mom had a Rockwood MiniLite that was a great camper. I maintained the seams for her and made sure there was never any possibility for water intrusion. I found that trailer to be very well made and it still looked new after 2.5 years or so of ownership. All clear as mud now???
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Old 04-19-2016, 09:22 AM   #7
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I have had both and prefer the look of the laminate. It is also easier to clean. Another thing to consider is that most aluminum sided trailers have wood frames. Laminates tend to have aluminum frames which results in lower weight.
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Old 04-19-2016, 10:40 AM   #8
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I really like the look of laminate but happy that I have alu. All of the dings and scratches that we have found from being stored at a storage lot can be easily fixed by taping off the area and getting a can of gloss white paint.


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Old 04-19-2016, 12:42 PM   #9
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This is just my opinion, but from what I've seen on dealer lots and at RV shows, aluminum sided trailers have usually been of poorer quality fit and finish. Laminate tends to be better built but not necessarily in every case. If you are a perfectionist, this will be important to you. It definitely affected my decisions.

There are better built walls than vacuum laminated out there but you'll be into a high end motorhome and 100s of thousands of dollars to get that construction.

Regardless of whether you go with aluminum or laminated, there's no such thing as a maintenance free RV so you'll need to be willing to put the time and effort into maintaining it. This forum is a great resource for gaining the knowledge to be able to do that.

Also, if I might add, you didn't mention anything about previous experience with a camper. If you don't have any experience with a camper (travel trailer, 5th wheel, motorhome or even a pop-up) I would recommend that you rent one for a week to make sure you'll be happy with the lifestyle before jumping into a purchase. Folks with RVs use them for many different purposes ranging from dry camping with no electricity in the woods or the desert, to a mobile hotel room with full hook ups.
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Old 04-19-2016, 08:27 PM   #10
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THANKS to all!

I feel TRULY indebted to all of you for taking SO much of your time to share your experiences and wisdom!
It's forums like this and ALL YOU FRIENDLY PEOPLE that lead us to believe that we want to BELONG to your Community!

I appreciate EVERYONE's input here!

Bama Rambler, it's hearing from people like you that make us "open" to continue considering the AL trailers.

Dustman - your point about AL being covered by insurance is an EXCELLENT point I never considered. Would delamination be covered under the mfr's warranty (if it happened during the warranty period)?

Itat ~ you make an EXCELLENT point about our purpose/experience. I grew up pop-up camping with my parents. Hubby grew up Airstreamin' it with his family. Neither of us have been camping as adults, though does it "count" if we spend our summer vacations at our lake cabin making fires, drinking beer, and eating s'mores? (Our lake cabin doesn't have heat or a/c, so an RV would actually be an "upgrade" in that regard!) We actually want to retire and spend an entire year on the road to see more of this great country of ours, especially our National Parks! How's THAT for jumping in with all 4 legs??

It sounds kind of crazy, even to myself, but what's the WORST that could happen (please don't answer that).

In Appreciation,
KyDustBunny, ready for this:
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Old 04-19-2016, 08:44 PM   #11
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If you don't keep up with laminate it gets oxidized and dull and chalky after a few years. I have aluminum and my last one was and it was easy to take care of.
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Old 04-19-2016, 10:01 PM   #12
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We needed to buy our TV & TT within the same year, so our TT budget was only around $20K... We could buy a new aluminum sided/wood framed TT or a mildly used laminate sided/aluminum framed TT. After a TON of research & spending a lot of hours looking at new & used TTs we bought the higher quality used unit. I spent 2 hours looking-it over before making an offer & then the dealer provided a 2.5 hour PDI in which they adjusted slides, awning, etc. and gave me a new battery, CO2 detector, full propane, "free" WDH & installation, etc....

Our TT has the lightweight/strong welded aluminum framing covered by laminate. All RVs have fit & finish issues but the aluminum welds (I can see) look solid. In comparison, I have seen stick & tin TTs with airspace between the wooden frame members, sloppy cuts, etc. I wouldn't build a dog house to such sloppy standards...

Ours has 2 slide-outs, outdoor kitchen, etc. yet weighs under 6,500 empty w/empty tongue of 640. Stick & tin units with the exact same floorplan were around 8,000 empty with empty hitch weights around 900... Our entry-level 3/4 ton has a payload of 3,000 but we can only tow around 8,500 or we go over our GCVW (combined TV & TT weight). Choosing a stick & tin would have meant giving-up the kid's slide-out bedroom & outdoor kitchen - features we LOVE now that we have them!

Since our TT was over 2 years-old & showed no signs of delamination, water penetration, or other major issues I figured it came off the line well-built. IMO it was built just after the recession by the (better) employees who retained their jobs in a slow market. In comparison, IMO, the recent RV boom has lead to more Q&C issues throughout the industry... We camped for 2 years without any serious issues whereas friends who bought new have had nothing but issues with their RVs... I wax our TT & apply protectant to the decals just 1X per year & it still looks great.

We are paying it off faster, but with no money down our min. payments are only $180/mo. Even if we paid the minimum we would not be underwater - the TT has always been worth more than we owe. This cannot be said if you buy new & only make the minimum...
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Old 04-20-2016, 07:44 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KyDustBunny View Post

Dustman - your point about AL being covered by insurance is an EXCELLENT point I never considered. Would delamination be covered under the mfr's warranty (if it happened during the warranty period)?
Most come with a 1 year warranty and would be covered. With that being said, there are usually clauses that seals and seams must be inspected- every 6 months, I'm thinking- so it's possible they could get out of coverage if you couldn't prove they had been inspected. The majority of delam I've seen seems to start around year 3 and become progressively more common as campers age. My belief is this is primarily due to lack of maintenance on seals and seams.
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Old 04-20-2016, 07:54 AM   #14
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Water intrusion will damage/destroy any RV regardless of the construction. My father-in laws Class C had a leak in the roof that didn't show up from the inside for a long time. After finding it, the wood frame was rotted away and many $$ was required to correct the issue. Buy what you want/like and keep the water out, you'll be just fine with either!
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Old 04-20-2016, 07:58 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by RSchleder View Post
Water intrusion will damage/destroy any RV regardless of the construction. My father-in laws Class C had a leak in the roof that didn't show up from the inside for a long time. After finding it, the wood frame was rotted away and many $$ was required to correct the issue. Buy what you want/like and keep the water out, you'll be just fine with either!
That's true. Water will damage either. There is a MAJOR difference in who is able to repair AL versus FG and how much it will cost, though.
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Old 04-22-2016, 07:41 AM   #16
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Well this is a new question, as most folks who have been around camping for some time normally have a "laminate" walled coach.
So history the Aluminium walled coaches have been around from the beginning, and are considered in the industry as "Stick and tin" meaning wood framed with siding, today most coaches that have Laminate siding are built with aluminum studs (not wood (sticks)) and then the laminate sides, more yes there is still a big difference from company to company, and model to model, so only the two of you can make the final choice.
So i hope this very quick history lesson helps, And Happy Camping in your future.
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Old 04-22-2016, 08:07 AM   #17
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There is another option besides aluminum or laminate, itís the hung wall construction of the Cedar Creek and the less expensive Cedar Creek Silverback. This may not be the cheapest way to go it does provide quality construction which is especially important if you plan to be on the road rather than just camping.
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Old 04-25-2016, 06:26 PM   #18
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I have only owned a trailer for 1 year but I have hauled rv's for 11 years. After experiences I've had we chose aluminum. Hail damage on aluminum is very noticeable but laminate is susceptible to hail damage also, and the little spider cracks are very hard to see. The manufacturer will tell you that laminate cannot be repaired, it must be replaced. It's possible to repair to make look good but the spider cracks will continue. I had an incident where a trailer I had in storage got touched by another trailer. Damage was about the size of a golf ball and the repair was $4800. Had it been aluminum the repair would have been around $300.
We actually purchased a trailer that had minor hail damage and we got a super deal. But yes, laminate does look nice!
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