Boat Cover Buyer's Guide

Posted by  Thursday, May 23 2013 7:00 am
expert

 

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A cover with a built-in ultra-violet (UV) inhibitor will prolong the life of your cover by preventing the sun from breaking down the materials.

Owning a boat is a major investment. A boat is also your best friend when you're on the water. And, as with all cherished items, you want to protect and prolong your boats value, maintaining its condition for the pride and happiness it provides. 

But many boaters fail to realize the benefit of a boat cover. Instead, these individuals are content with soggy crafts and washed-out carpets, as well as dirt, grime and dust.

Boat covers are an inexpensive necessity for those that spend time on the water. From deterring theft to keeping your craft clean, these polyester or poly-cotton blend covers are truly the real deal. Follow along and find out which cover is right for you.

What Do They Do?

Boat covers have many uses, some obvious and some not. Keeping a boat clean and dirt-free is first on the list. By repelling water and moisture, your interior will remain dry and free of mold. (How many of us want to get comfy on a soggy seat or a slippery deck?)

A cover will also keep out all airborne dust, dirt and grime. Common contaminants include dust from the road, falling leaves from a tree, and the droppings of birds. 

The ultra-violet rays from the sun can also be harmful to your pride and joy. Sunshine can zap the color from carpets, turning once vibrant hues to pale and lifeless fabric. The sun also has an uncanny way of breaking down rubber components, causing cracks and weaknesses on many of a boat's parts -- not a positive thing for gas lines or hoses! 

A snug-fitting cover can also keep animals out of your boat, especially nesting mammals and rodents that like the comfort of your storage compartments or the space beneath your deck. For animals that love to chew on wires (think squirrel) a cover can save valuable time and money.

Humans are also prone to pry their sticky fingers into an unoccupied boat, and a boat cover can act as a great deterrent to theft. Remember, it isn't too hard to carry away a gas tank, battery or paddles from a boat left sitting on the drive or away at camp, but a secure cover might just be enough to make them pass by your boat.

Most boat covers can be tied down for trailering, allowing your boat to arrive at the launch in pristine condition. No wet interiors, dusty carpets or sun damage while pulling your craft down the road, completely covered and snug as a bug.

Custom or Universal Cover?

Boat covers can be purchased in one of two ways. You can buy a custom-fit cover, designed and tailor-made for the exact make, model and year of your boat. Or you can go with a universal style, a generic model that will fit the measurements you take of your watercraft. Both have merits, and for some owners, there is only one choice. Here is the skinny on the two.

Custom Covers

As I mentioned, custom covers are manufactured to the exact standards of a particular model of boat. For instance, if you own a 1996 Tracker Pro 17 SC, then item # 38-528-304-01 is for you.

A custom cover takes into consideration the console style, length, width, beam and various other measurements of your boat to give you an outer shell that will truly fit like a glove. No other cover will provide as much protection or as tight a seal as a custom cover -- there is no two ways about it.

The advantages to a custom cover are straightforward -- tight fit with no looseness or flapping, built-in areas to house consoles and other raised parts and reinforced areas at critical stretch points. The cost of a custom cover will be more than a universal cover, but if you want the best for your boat, custom is your best choice.

Universal Covers

A universal cover takes into consideration the centerline length and beam width of your boat. (To provide a better fit, some manufacturers also take hull style into consideration.)  

If your boat measures 15' in length, and has a 70-inch beam width, item # 38-532-902-01 is one option to look at. But, notice the parameters involved in the description. This cover will fit boats between 14 and 16-feet, with a beam up to 75-inches.

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Universal covers are especially useful for those that desire inexpensive protection. They are significantly cheaper than a custom cover, and they do accomplish the job they are designed for. For some boat owners a universal is the only option, as a custom cover is not available to fit the particular brand and size of boat they own. In this instance, search out the highest quality cover with the closest specifications that you desire. This will bring about the best results.

Measuring Your Boat for a Cover

Measure your boat's centerline length in a flat, straight line from the bow tip to the farthest point aft. (Do not measure up and over windshields, etc.) Add length for options you want to cover, such as bow pulpits, trolling motors and swim platforms. Measure beam width (widest area of boat) in a straight, flat line from side to side. (Note: the windshield area is the widest point on some boats, while the transom is the widest on other boats.) Beam width and centerline length are all you'll need to purchase most universal fit covers. You'll also need to know you're boat's hull style (V-hull fishing boat, pro bass boat, center console, johnboat, etc.) when purchasing Semi Custom Covers -- a cover somewhere in-between custom fit and universal fit.

Features to Consider

This list represents some common traits that are desirable in a boat cover. The more features you can check off while evaluating a prospective boat cover, the better off you will be.

  • UV and Mildew Resistant — A cover with a built-in ultra-violet (UV) inhibitor will help protect your cover by not allowing the sun to break down the material. It will also keep the fabric colorful and looking new. By being mildew resistant, any moisture that remains on the cover will not initiate the process of mold production.
  • Reinforced Seams and Corners — These are important as seams and corners take a lot of abuse, through stretching and pulling. Having multiple layers of fabric in these critical areas will ensure that your cover will not rip or pull apart throughout it's life.
  • Water Resistant and Repellent — A boat cover is virtually useless if it does not resist and repel water. Although it may seem like common sense to believe all covers are made this way, you may be surprised to find that they realistically aren't. Stay away from these bad apples.
  • Elastic Bow Strap — This nifty invention will enable the bow portion of the cover to fit snug and secure. Holding the bow portion tight will ensure that the rest of the cover falls neatly into place.
  • Trailerable — If you want a cover that can be used while trailering your boat, make sure that it is of the trailerable variety. A trailerable cover will come with special straps to ensure the cover stays secure and in place, and not at the side of the road.
  • Tie-Down Straps — Most covers will have elasticized webbing, with a series of straps to hold the cover on. When choosing your cover, ensure that the straps are strong and capable of doing the job. Flimsy straps, belts or hooks will only lead to breakage.
  • Light Weight — Taking a cover on and off a boat can be a bit of task, especially if your chosen cover weighs a ton. Most manufacturers make lightweight covers that are easy on the back and can be folded down nicely for storage.
  • Outboard Motor Hood — Some models of boat covers have built-in motor hoods for outboards. This is a neat concept, as it protects your motor from sun and water damage, and will keep the unit looking brand new. Although these motor hoods can be purchased separately, it is a convenience to have it built directly into the main cover.
  • Warranty — Most reputable manufacturers will offer a warranty on their products. If a company doesn't, it may indicate a less than stellar product.
  • Material — The three main fabrics used in boat covers are polyester, poly-cotton blend and polyester-canvas. three work well, last long and will do the job nicely. 100% polyester is at the top of the class, as it offers the most advantages in terms of no stretch, no shrinkage and water resistance. If deciding on a poly-cotton blend, try to get the highest percentage of polyester in the mixture of the two materials. Cotton or cotton-canvas blends are not as trustworthy, and can stretch or breakdown, so many see this material as a poor choice in comparison to poly.
  • Colors — Boat covers can come in every color under the sun. Mainly a personal choice for this category, as most hues are all on a level playing field. (Black may be one to pass over, as the heat build-up under the cover may do possible damage to electronic components.) 

Cleaning Your Cover

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When not using your cover, a stoarge bag is a great buy. It will keep your cover neat and folded and in a secure space away from the elements.

A little care can go a long way in making your cover last a lifetime. It is a good idea to periodically wash down the fabric with a mild soap and water solution in order to keep your cover looking vibrant and dirt free. I have found this best accomplished by laying the cover out on the lawn or drive, and using a regular mop and bucket for the application of suds. A garden hose or power wash can then be used to rinse it all off. Boat covers will get dirty over time, and simple maintenance like this can go a long way.

When not using your cover, a storage bag is a great buy. It will keep you cover neat and folded and in a secure space away from the elements. (Much better than a balled-up heap sitting in the back of the garage or shed!) This is an inexpensive purchase that can definitely prolong the life of your boat cover.

Although we put a lot of time into the selection process of a boat, choosing a boat cover is usually an afterthought, or is given no thought at all. A boat cover is an important piece of protection that will keep your boat looking fresh and brand new. And that's what we all want for our "best friends" that live out on the water.

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Last modified on Monday, August 26 2013 11:17 am
Justin Hoffman
expert

Justin Hoffman is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, with a fishing specialty, based in Ottawa Ontario, Canada. A graduate of the North American School of Outdoor Writing and currently a field editor with Ontario OUT OF DOORS magazine, outdoor pursuits with a journalistic approach keep him returning to the field week after week. A well-established freelance writer since 1999, Justin has publishing credits in many North American magazines and web sites. His photographic stock work also appears regularly. In addition to his writing and photography work, Justin is also a Pro Staffer for TUFF-Line and National Pro Staff. For more information visit www.JustinHoffmanOutdoors.com.

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