How To Buy A Boat Cover – Pick the Right Cover

Finding the ideal boat cover isn’t always simple because there are many factors to consider. However, now that you’ve found the right boat, you’ll want to ensure it’s well protected. One of the greatest ways to protect your precious investment from the elements is to invest in a high-quality cover.

Don’t assume that since your boat is in storage, it doesn’t need to be covered. Yes, it does. If you store your boat indoors, a good boat cover will safeguard it from dust, dirt, mice, and other pests. A good boat cover will also keep it safe from the elements if you keep it outside.

Regardless of whether this is your first time purchasing a boat cover or replacing an old one, you must know what aspects to consider when comparing the many options. In this guide on how to buy a boat cover, we will look at the factors to consider before making this purchase


Before you buy, inspect the material properties. Most online retailers include material quality charts that demonstrate which covers repel water the best, last the longest, are suitable for travel, and are resistant to UV damage. Cheaper cover materials, such as cotton, cannot withstand long-term exposure to the sun and are prone to mildew.

Although more expensive, polyester and acrylic textiles are often the superior long-term solution. They breathe better, are more resistant to UV radiation and extreme temperatures, and are sturdy enough to withstand trailering speeds. Polyester threads and straps are also resistant to UV rays.

Purchase the cover that is best suited to your intended application. If you want to keep your boat outside all year, invest in a higher-quality boat cover that will last longer and preserve your investment better. A lower-quality dust cover will do if you have a “garage queen” that only comes out of hibernation a few times a year.

However, here are the most important factors you should consider when selecting the material.

  1. It must be water/moisture resistant to prevent rain, snow, and mildew from penetrating the boat.
  2. It must be UV ray resistant to prevent the cover from fading while protecting your boat from the sunlight.
  3. It needs to be breathable to allow good ventilation and discourage mildew.
  4. It needs to be durable to resist tears when installing or removing it from your boat.

Now you may be wondering which material is best for your boat cover. And the answer is it depends on where you live and how you plan to use it.

To help you decide, I’ve prepared a list of the most popular boat cover materials with their plusses and minuses.


Acrylic is considered the top-notch material for boat covers because it lasts for a long time and remains beautiful even after years of use.


  • Breathable
  • UV resistant
  • Solution-dyed
  • Mildew resistant
  • Durable


  • Not always waterproof (Might need to be waterproofed)
  • More expensive
  • Weak abrasion resistance


There are different types of Sunbrella (Sunbrella Plus, Sunbrella Supreme, and Seamark). All Sunbrella covers are made of acrylic fabric, which explains why they are so durable.

The Seamark and the Sunbrella Supreme are 100% waterproof but less breathable.

The Sunbrella Plus is not waterproof but is highly water-resistant and provides more breathability. 


  • Waterproof
  • Durable
  • UV resistant
  • Fade-resistant
  • Easy to clean


  • Heavier
  • Expensive
  • Less breathable


There are three different kinds of polyester materials: Coated Polyester, Vinyl coated Polyester and PVC, and Solution Dyed Polyester. So let’s take a look at their pros and cons.

Coated Polyester


  • Sturdy
  • Abrasion-Resistant
  • Mildew Resistant
  • Great UV resistance
  • Highly Water-Resistance


  • Fade over time
  • Become stiff in cold conditions
  • Lower breathability
  • it can show signs of crazing over time

Vinyl Coated Polyester and PVC


  • Very durable
  • Waterproof
  • high UV resistance
  • Easy to clean
  • Rigid


  • Not breathable
  • Become stiff in cold conditions
  • More expensive

Solution Dyed Polyester


  • Highly water-resistant
  • Durable
  • Sturdy
  • UV resistant
  • Breathable


  • Even though it’s sturdy, it’s still less durable than acrylic



  • Look nice


  • Don’t last long 
  • Super lightweight
  • Poor UV resistance


As surprising as it may sound, boat cover sellers suggest choosing dark colors. This is because the material they are made of contains a higher amount of dye, making them more resistant to UV rays and durable. Dark boat covers won’t fade as fast as lighter colors. In short, Black, green, and blue will provide more protection and will last longer than tan, white, or red.

UV and Mildew resistant

A cover with a built-in ultraviolet inhibitor will help safeguard your cover by preventing the sun from breaking down the material. Additionally, it will keep the cloth vibrant and new. As a result of its mildew resistance, the cover prevents mold growth when wet.


These are vital since seams and corners are subjected to lots of stretching and pulling. Having thick layers of fabric in these essential spots will keep your cover from ripping or tearing apart over time.


Regardless of how old a cloth gets, waterproof fabrics like vinyl or laminate will keep their water-repellent properties. Unfortunately, most waterproof fabrics are not breathable. This makes them susceptible to moisture and the growth of mold and mildew. You can consider installing boat cover vents to allow air circulation, keeping your boat moisture-free.

If you choose a water-resistant cover, tent the fabric so that water does not pool on a flat surface, and re-treat your boat cover once a year.

Ease of Use

How easy or hard is it to install/remove a boat cover? Unfortunately, most individuals undermine this feature, especially those who must install/remove the cover on their own. Some boat covers are easy to remove, while others require an extra pair of hands to do so. Some boat covers use latches to hold them in place, while others use elastic bands to tighten them around the boat. The drawback of using elastic boat covers is that they will eventually break down and lose elasticity.

How to Measure Your Boat

Proper dimensions are required to ensure that the boat cover you purchase fits properly. You’ll need to record the centerline and beam’s length and width, respectively.

To determine the length of your boat:

  1. Measure the length from the bow’s tip to the stern’s center.
  2. Include everything extending beyond the stern (other than a motor or motor leg) in the total length.
  3. Always take your measurements in a straight line, not up and over rails or windshields.

Remember to include aftermarket additions or improvements like bow pulpits, transom brackets, or swim platforms in the measurement.

To determine the width:

  1. Measure your boat’s widest point.
  2. Do not include bumpers and other accessories removed before covering.
  3. As with the length, take a straight-line measurement.
  4. Exclude any parts you will remove before covering from both length and width measurements.

Universal Vs. Custom Boat Covers

Boat coverings are available in two variants. You can get a custom-fit cover built and tailored to fit your specific model, year, and boat manufacturer. Alternatively, you can buy a generic boat cover that will fit your particular vessel based on the measurements you obtain. Both have advantages, and only one option is available for certain owners. How do these two types of boat covers compare?

Universal Boat Covers

This type of cover considers your boat’s centerline and beam width. Some manufacturers also consider the hull style. For individuals looking for an affordable option, universal boat covers will best suit their needs.

  • Pros

Good for all types of boats. This type of cover is ideal for boat owners who cannot find a custom boat cover for their boats. You can also use a universal boat cover can on several types of boats without purchasing a new cover for each boat.

  • Cons

Universal boat covers do not give a perfect fit, making your boat prone to leakages and mold.

Custom Boat Covers

A custom-fit boat cover considers your boat’s length, width, console style, beam, and other dimensions to provide an outer shell that genuinely fits like a glove. There is no additional cover that will offer the same level of protection or a tighter seal as a custom cover.

  • Pros

The benefits of a tailored boat cover are simple: a snug fit with no sagging or flapping, built-in places for consoles and other high-profile components, and reinforced regions at important stretch points. This makes it the most popular type of boat cover ordered by boat owners today.

  • Cons

Since custom boat covers are built to fit certain models, any modifications or additions to your boat may interfere with the boat cover. Before making a purchase, be sure to check the dimensions of both your boat and the boat cover. In the long run, a custom boat cover will be more expensive than a universal one, but if you want the best protection for your boat, the custom-made style is the way to go.


Are you aware that some boat covers include a warranty? This is an excellent feature because it allows for a replacement if the product rips or shreds or does not adequately protect your boat. Naturally, like with any warranty, read the fine print!

Tips to Clean Your Boat Cover

Boat covers are exposed to a wide range of pollutants. Examples include bird droppings, spilled drinks, greasy food, and oily streaks. Regularly cleaning a boat cover extends its lifespan. Consider these tips when cleaning your boat cover.

  • Maintain the appearance of your cover by brushing away any dirt and grime with a soft brush and then rinsing with water.
  • Whenever necessary, clean your cover with a solution of lukewarm water and a light soap such as Ivory. Thoroughly rinse and leave to air dry.
  • Always give sufficient time for the cover to dry completely before folding it for storage.
  • Do not machine dry your boat cover; strictly air dry it.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners or solvents.
  • Avoid using a pressure washer on your cover.
  • Use a large enough machine for machine washing to avoid creasing these textiles.
  • Always remove Sap, bird feces, and other organic stains as soon as possible to prevent mold, mildew, and other concerns that require severe cleaning.

Final Words

Boat coverings are well worth the investment when you consider the additional costs you could incur due to external circumstances surrounding the boat (sun, rain, dust, spiders, mice, insects, birds, etc.). Boat covers ensure that your boat is always safe, whether stored indoors or outdoors.

Purchasing a low-cost boat cover or utilizing a universal boat cover may be a good option, but it is an expensive error. It makes no sense to risk saving a few hundred dollars at the chance of destroying a boat worth tens of thousands.

Also, ensure that you use a cover made of a high-quality material that is waterproof and resistant to UV rays, mold, and mildew. The longer you take to purchase a boat cover, the more likely it will be damaged and the more expensive it will be to fix the damage. If you’re not sure which boat cover to buy, seek advice from the manufacturer or a reputable vendor.

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8 thoughts on “How To Buy A Boat Cover – Pick the Right Cover”

  1. About how often can I expect to replace my boat cover? I’m planning to invest in my first boat soon and want to buy the cover at the same time. I’m trying to size up my total investment for the long term, and I’m just wondering how long most covers tend to last. Should I expect to replace it once a year or more often?

    • Hi Theresa,

      Great question. If you want your boat cover to last, you should consider selecting the Sunbrella fabric. But Vinyl coated polyester is also durable and would be a great choice also.

      How often should you replace your boat cover? It depends if it’s of high quality and well maintained between 7 to 12 years.

      I hope it helped. Please let me know if you have more questions. I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.

  2. Hi Daniella

    Thanks for your detailed post on choosing and using a boat cover. I did not know that some boat covers include a warranty so it’s good that you pointed it out! Which brand do you recommend if I want to go with Vinyl Coated Polyester and PVC material?

    Thanks again,


    • Hi Grace,

      Thank you for passing by and for the comment. 

      Many brands out there sell boat covers, but here are the most popular ones.

      I COVER

      I am sure this list of brands will help you find a good boat cover:)

      Let me know if you have more questions. I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      I wish you a lovely day.

  3. Thank you for this guide. I have one question that I don’t think I saw addressed so I figured I would ask here. I live in South Dakota which gets extremely cold in the winter. If I have to leave my boat outside all winter, is there a specific fabric type that is best for withstanding the brutally cold temperatures, snow, ice and wind?

    I would hate to make the investment in a proper boat cover only to have it be destroyed by our winter weather. 

    Thank you!

    • Hi Dustin,

      You are welcome there. If your boat is exposed to the elements all year round, I suggest you choose Sunbrella fabric as it provides the best protection and is durable. A vinyl-coated polyester boat cover is also a good option. 

      I hope it helped. Please let me know if you have more questions; I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.

  4. Thanks for your tips on how to buy a boat cover. I automatically thought that since the boat would be inside, it would be safe from the elements. While it may be safe from the outside elements, there’s still mice, dust and other insects you need to protect it from. Thanks for the tip about buying a boat cover that is moisture resistant, that it must be UV ray resistant and the need for good ventilation. I wouldn’t have thought about those things.  Great post!

    • Hi Shalisha,

      You are very welcome. I am glad you found this helpful article.

      If you have any questions, please let me know. I am always happy to assist.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.


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