Protect your investment by choosing the best boat cover
Choosing the best boat cover for your needs isn’t always easy because there are a number of variables to consider, but since you’ve found the perfect boat, you certainly will want to protect your investment. Of course, we recommend Westland boat covers but our ultimate goal is to help you learn what to look for in a boat cover and make sure you choose the right one for you needs. So, what makes one boat cover better than another?
Boat Cover Materials
The first detail to check out with any boat cover is what it’s made of. Boat covers are made of a variety of materials including polyester, acrylic, nylon, and cotton-poly blends – each of which has its pros and cons.
Polyester is considered an excellent choice for boat cover construction, thanks to its abrasion, UV, and water resistance; good breathability; long useable lifespan; and reasonable cost. This is the most commonly used cover material and you’ll notice that most boat covers (including our SharkSkin® line) are made of polyester.
The only boat cover material generally considered to be superior to polyester is acrylic. Our premium Sunbrella canvas is made of acrylic and is the accepted gold standard of boat cover materials. Acrylic material is known for its breathability and fade resistance. But — no surprise here — it’s also one of the most expensive.
Nylon and Blends
As you shop around, you’ll also see cotton-poly blends and nylon covers on the market. But these can’t be expected to last long because they have poor UV- resistance and are extremely lightweight. The best boat covers will not be made of these materials. You should be a bit skeptical when it isn’t stated clearly up-front whether the cover is made from polyester, acrylic, nylon, or a blend. And when you see a shipping weight of 3.5 pounds for a cover intended to fit a 19-foot boat, that’s a pretty big clue that you’re not purchasing a quality boat cover
Another telltale detail that will help you determine quality again relates to the fabric’s weight. Google “cheap boat cover” and you’ll find plenty of options, even some made of polyester, that cost significantly less than a Westland cover. While these may seem like attractive offers, you’ll see that these are made with “3.0-ounce” or “4.0-ounce” cloth, meaning that the material they’re using weighs three or four ounces per square yard (as opposed to the 6.5-, 7.5-, and 9.25-ounce materials we use). You may also notice that many of these covers come with one-year warranties, as opposed to the five-, seven-, and 10-year warranties that protect Westland’s boat covers. The bottom line? When it comes to ruggedness and longevity, the higher that ounce figure is, the better protected your boat will be. And while it’s true that lighter covers may be easier to handle and stow, you won’t enjoy that advantage for very long — because a lightweight cover simply won’t last.
Terms like “solution dyed” and “pigment coated” will also offer insight into a boat cover’s quality. Solution dyed fibers are superior and highly preferred as this means the fibers are dyed before being woven into cloth. This method allows the color to go all the way through the material and increases its resistance to fading and UV degradation. Pigment coated materials, on the other hand, receive color after the cloth is woven, meaning that the color is only surface level and does not fully penetrate the fibers.
Pro Tip: Lighter color boat covers often last longer than darker colored ones, since the the lighter colors reflect the sun which increases their UV resistance.
Some polyesters are also coated with acrylic, urethane, and occasionally vinyl to enhance their UV, water, and abrasion resistance. All Westland polyester is coated. These are usually a step up from untreated polyester, but in some cases, they can cut down on a cover’s ability to breathe.
As you shop around you’ll also see cotton-poly blends and nylon covers on the market. But these can’t be expected to last long because they have poor UV resistance and are extremely lightweight. The best boat covers will not be made of these materials, and some manufacturers will try to cover up the true nature of their covers by giving the material a fancy name dreamed up by their marketing department. You should be a bit skeptical when it isn’t stated clearly up-front whether the cover is made from polyester, acrylic, nylon, or a blend. And when you see a shipping weight of 3.5 pounds for a cover intended to fit a 19-foot boat, well, that’s a pretty big clue.
How Boat Covers are Made
The second factor you need to examine is how the cover is put together. This is an area in which Westland enjoys a distinct advantage. Westland has over 40 years of experience manufacturing boat covers. Do you think our covers are hand-sewn in North America or glued together in China? Hint: our covers aren’t mass-produced in China, that’s for sure!
Hand-sewing makes for the best boat covers, but there are other construction details to look for too, if you want the very best. Hems and seams will last longer if they’re double-stitched and/or reinforced. Wear points like areas where the cover goes over a windshield frame should also be reinforced. Draw cords should be made of rope, not elastic, which may cinch down tighter for a season or two but inevitably loses elasticity and strength with time. And loops or rings used for tying down the cover should be strong webbing that’s securely stitched. Look out for covers with grommet attachment points, as these are merely holes punched into the material that may be reinforced, but commonly lead to ripping and tearing. Metal grommets will also cause damage to the exterior of the boat.
Breathability in Boat Covers
The ability to breathe is probably one of the most underrated characteristics of a boat cover. If your cover doesn’t breathe properly, you’ll have mildew and mold problems throughout your boat. Moisture will build up on a daily basis as, the interior of the cover “sweats” and this can damage your boat’s critical components such as electronics and wiring. Choosing a cover that can breathe is a big deal. It’s also a big conundrum, because generally speaking the better breathability a cover has, the less water-resistant it is.
The solution? Good water resistance combined with proper ventilation. Consider shrink-wrap as an example. This stuff can seal up a boat tight, and it’s probably the ultimate at water resistance. But it’s also the ultimate for trapping moisture in (not to mention the fact that you only get to put it on and take it off once, which is why it doesn’t compare to a canvas boat cover for boaters looking for long-term protection. ) So, what does any reputable shrink wrap installer do after wrapping a boat? They puncture that plastic sheathing and install vents.
The best boat covers are going to have ventilation built in, period. That’s why we sew two vents into all of our covers, which is something few competitors take the time and effort to do. If you decide to buy a different cover and it doesn’t breathe well or have any vents it’s worthwhile to take the time to install them yourself. They may not look as neat as factory-sewn vents and it may take some extra effort, but if your cover traps moisture in your boat it could end up doing more harm than good.
Naturally, how well a boat cover fits is also an important factor to consider. Whether you’re buying from Westland or a competitor, the best option is getting a cover that’s custom-fitted for the specific model boat you own. This is another area in which we have a leg up, because our sister company Great Lakes Boat Top has 60+ years of experience producing the original factory canvas for many major boat-builders, including the likes of Sea Ray, Grady-White, and Boston Whaler. This partnership gives us access to the original boat patterns for over 150 manufacturers and allows us to offer custom fit covers in our Exact Fit line to fit most boats on the water.
As we’ve discussed, there are a variety of factors that can influence your boat cover buying decision from budget to materials to fitment and more but ultimately, the decision is yours. With this knowledge you’ll know exactly what to look for (and what to avoid) when choosing a boat cover.
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