Inflatable vs Fiberglass: Buy the Right Dinghy the First Time

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right dinghy for recreational boating. We’re here to help! We don’t sell dinghies, but we do have opinions on them. So, here is an unbiased rundown of the factors to consider while making a decision that’s right for you. As the saying goes, “if you ask the barber if you need a haircut, he will always say you do.” Don’t ask the barber; ask us!
Let’s compare recreational boating options, inflatable vs. fibreglass. Our contest categories are: 1) price, 2) load carrying ability, 3) performance, and 4) the “Cool Factor”. Keep reading to find out who the winner is!
Fiberglass vs RIB boating dinghy

1) Dinghy Price

Simply put, fiberglass boats are the more affordable option. Manufacturing costs are lower and the materials used (wood and fiberglass) are less expensive. Furthermore, repairs are easy and cheap. You could, pick up a secondhand fiberglass dinghy for next to nothing, head down to the hardware store for some glass/resin, throw on a good coat of marine grade paint and be well on your way to a reliable tender.
Comparatively, the cost of a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) can run some scary numbers. There is no denying that a fiberglass boat is your more affordable option. But a deal is only a deal if its on something you can use. So, what are the advantages to a RIB?
Score: Fibreglass: 1/ RIB: 0

2) Dinghy Load Carrying Ability

This is the most notable benefit of a more expensive RIB dinghy. The inflatable tube offers lots of stability and flotation. This is likely a priority for you – if you enjoy boating with lots of friends and family (especially those squirmy little ones who haven’t grown into their sea legs). What about all the supplies necessary to keep boating safe and functional? An inflatable offers unparalleled stability when transporting heavy loads.
Score: Fibreglass: 1/ RIB: 1

3) Dinghy Speed and Performance

This is a tough one. A fiberglass dinghy will have a lower coefficient of friction and is generally going to be lighter weight than an inflatable. This means that if all other factors remain the same, they will be faster and more fuel efficient. Yet, these limitations can be negated by a larger motor. This would be an extra cost for you to consider. However, if you invested in a motor able to get your inflatable to planing speeds, you can cut the additional fuel costs and time spent in transit.
Considering both options, we’re going to award this one to the fiberglass contender. By design alone, it is more fuel efficient and faster without needing a more costly engine.
Score: Fibreglass: 2/RIB: 1

4) Dinghy “Cool Factor”

You may dismiss this category but there is a lot to be said for taking pride in your boat. After all, boating is meant to be fun, exciting, and challenging. A dinghy, in addition to being a functional necessity for your adventures, is also a great way to enjoy the water up close and personal. How else will you and all your friends get to that party on the neighbouring yacht? And what about that crab trap you laid in the perfect spot before finding your anchorage? Better have the right dinghy! There are endless ways to customize an inflatable that are simply not options for a fiberglass. Yes, they come at a premium, but when it comes to ensuring you have the right dinghy to meet your particular needs, a RIB is the way to go.
Score: Fibreglass: 2/ RIB: 2

Bonus round: Safety and Storage

Now that we’re all tied up in the scores, let’s consider a couple more factors. First, in the event of an emergency, which dinghy offers you the piece of mind necessary to enjoy an adventure on the water? Fiberglass is more durable than an inflatable resulting in less surprises. It is also easier and cheaper to fix if need be. Yet, the inflatable provides added stability and load carrying capacity to ensure all your passengers get to safety in one trip. As for storage, the RIB has the advantage of being deflateable making it easier to pack up and store in the off-season. A fiberglass boat, however, is less susceptible to the elements and regular ‘wear-and-tear’. This is mitigated through careful use and maintenance though. Since this one is too close to call, We’re awarding each contender a half point.
Final Score: Fibreglass: 2.5/ RIB: 2.5
After careful consideration, we have a tie. We promised you an unbiased opinion and the results are too close to call. As with everything related to boating, one size does not fit all. And you know better than anyone what tender best suits your needs. We are here to help if you have any questions. Contact us at
Once you’ve made your decision, head over to our online store for all your dinghy necessities!
From the Adventure Marine family,
Happy boating!