Aluminum canoes were once ubiquitous in campgrounds and parks across the continent. Thanks to their durability, many of those canoes may still be on lakeside racks today. The age of aluminum canoes dawned after World War II, when aircraft maker Grumman took the techniques used for bending and riveting aluminum for aircrafts and applied them to making canoes. This created the first recreational canoe: stable, durable, light and requiring little to no maintenance.
For a generation of paddlers, one’s first canoeing experience often included the numbing cold of aluminum on bare legs, and the groaning of the metal hull as it plowed through the water.
The subsequent rise of synthetic materials like fiberglass, and advances in plastic manufacturing created more options for canoeists. Ultralight materials like aramid composites mean canoes can now be portaged with amazing ease, and ABS laminates like T-Formex provide durability for running burly rivers. Aluminum canoes have felt the crunch. Flipping through any current paddling magazine, or walking a shop floor today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an aluminum canoe.
But they are still out there. Aluminum canoes are dependable boats that require virtually no maintenance. What they lack in grace, they make up for in grit. An aluminum canoe is for you if you want something you don’t have to worry about.
If this sounds like you, read on. We’ve put this guide together to help you find the best aluminum canoe, with buyer’s advice and a listing of all the boats on the market. Continue reading for more information about aluminum canoes, or follow the links below to learn about specific models.
Our picks: Best aluminum canoes for 2022
Are you just beginning to search for aluminum canoes? What is the best aluminum canoe? Start with the ones on this list. These are some of the overall best aluminum canoes across makes and models. Use this to narrow down your personal list of canoes to buy or to better understand what’s out there.
Shop aluminum canoes
If you want to see what’s out there, follow these links to our Paddling Buyer’s Guide where you can browse every aluminum canoe. We’ve sorted them by brand, as well as type and size. Within the filtered pages is all the important information—sizes, prices and places to buy them.
Shop by weight
Shopping for a used aluminum canoe?
Buying a used canoe is a great way to save money. With aluminum canoes in particular, it’s a reasonably safe assumption that the canoe will still be in good shape. They are amazingly resilient, so a 20-year old “tin” canoe should still paddle as well as a brand new one. Here are three key things to consider when shopping for a used aluminum canoe:
1 Look everywhere
If you are looking for aluminum canoes for sale, Craigslist, Kijiji, or other online classifieds are great resources. Ask around as well. There may be an aluminum canoe that’s been sitting in a neighbor’s backyard for years that they’ll be willing to sell.
2 Know what it’s worth
The tricky part is going to be gauging the value of a used canoe, especially older ones. How much is a used aluminum canoe worth? Even if the canoe is in near-perfect condition, if it is decades old, don’t pay more than $1,000. For that price, you can nearly buy a new plastic canoe.
3 Try it before you buy it
Like any canoe, test the aluminum canoe before you buy it if you can. Ensure that you are comfortable paddling it and that it doesn’t have any leaks (a potential problem area is a cracked stem plate).
For more general tips on what to look for when selecting a used canoe, read our article How To Buy A Used Canoe.
Aluminum canoe buying guide
Before you buy an aluminum canoe, read the answers to these questions. Although the canoes were extremely popular in the past, they are a bit of a niche item now. Canoes made from modern materials like plastic or composite are much more common, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in an aluminum canoe.
Why should you buy an aluminum canoe?
The best feature of these canoes is their durability. They can be banged, bashed and dragged with little caution. Aluminum does not degrade from UV exposure like other canoes, so they can be stored outdoors as well. Many are tailored toward recreational paddling, and will have wide, flat bottoms or square sterns for motors to be attached.
What shape of aluminum canoe should you buy?
Aluminum canoes come in two main styles; square-sterned and pointed-end. Square-sterned canoes can have small outboard motors attached to the back. Consider these boats if you are planning to attach a motor. Go for a pointed-end canoe if you won’t use a motor, as the tapered stern helps the canoe travel through the water more efficiently, making it easier to paddle.
In terms of length, standard canoe sizing rules apply. Sixteen feet or less is good for one or two paddlers, and trips on rivers and smaller lakes. Seventeen-foot canoes are good tandem canoes for both river and lake travel, and hulls 18-feet and longer are fast on open water and have much more cargo space. As the length of canoes increases, the maneuverability generally decreases.
Where can you buy an aluminum canoe?
Buying an aluminum canoe is a little different than buying other, more common canoes. You will not find them in most paddling specific shops. The companies making them often make other aluminum products as their primary product – typically motorboats and pontoons. Look to them for high-quality riveting and construction. Because they’re made by marine manufacturers, you may be able to order them directly.
Otherwise, search for aluminum canoes at hunting and fishing outlets. These canoes are preferred by sportsmen because they are so durable, and can withstand being left outside when they aren’t being used.
Want to know more? Find our answers to common questions about aluminum canoes below.
Aluminum canoe manufacturers
Does anyone still make aluminum canoes? They aren’t front and center at paddle shops, but aluminum canoes are still around. Many of the original aluminum canoe manufacturers like Grumman, Michicraft, Meyers and Sportspal are still making canoes.
Does Grumman still make canoes?
The Grumman canoe is still made, under the parent company Marathon Boats.
When did Grumman stop making aluminum canoes?
Grumman has not stopped making aluminum canoes, but they are now made under parent company Marathon Boats.
Aluminum canoe brands
Many used aluminum canoes were made by brands that no longer exist, or do not focus specifically on canoe-building – the market is too niche. You will find that companies like Meyers make aluminum boats of all sorts. This harkens back to the roots of metal canoes, with Grumman originally being a company that built aircraft.
Aluminum canoe weight
How heavy is an aluminum canoe? Aluminum canoe weights vary based on their construction and length. In the continuum of canoe materials, they are on the lighter side, but heavier than ultra-light Kevlar or Aramid composites. A 16-foot aluminum Sportspal canoe with two pointed ends will weigh around 58 pounds, but the transom version weighs 78 pounds.
Are aluminum canoes heavy?
You may be surprised to hear that aluminum canoes aren’t that heavy. No one would call them featherlight, but they are lighter than most plastic canoes, depending on their construction.
Are aluminum canoes lighter than plastic?
Aluminum canoes are lighter than their plastic counterparts. A 17-foot Grumman canoe weighs 75 pounds compared to the NovaCraft SP3 which tips the scales at 99 pounds.
How much does a 15-foot aluminum canoe weigh?
A 15-foot aluminum canoe weighs anywhere from 69-85 pounds. The model, width of the canoe and the thickness of the aluminum sheets will change the weight.
How much does a 16-foot aluminum canoe weigh?
A 16-foot aluminum canoe’s weight can be between 73-90 pounds. The model, width of the canoe, and the thickness of the aluminum sheets will change the weight.
How much does a 17-foot aluminum canoe weigh?
A 17-foot aluminum canoe weighs between 75-99 pounds. The model, width of the canoe and the thickness of the aluminum sheets will affect the weight.
Aluminum canoe weight limit
Aluminum canoes will have a high weight limit. Individual canoe capacities depend on the model, but even a 15-foot aluminum canoe’s capacity is well over 500 pounds. It’s nice to know that many are built with sealed bulkheads to prevent the canoe from sinking, if that limit is breached.
Aluminum canoe dimensions
Check the manufacturers’ specifications for exact dimensions of aluminum canoes. Note that canoes often incorporate the length (in feet) in the model names.
Aluminum vs fiberglass canoe
Are aluminum canoes lighter than fiberglass canoes? In exceptional cases, aluminum canoes may be lighter, but generally fiberglass canoes are lighter than aluminum canoes of equal size.
Kevlar vs aluminum canoe
The reduction in weight and increased performance of a Kevlar canoe compared to an aluminum canoe is incredible. It’s sort of like comparing a sportscar to a minivan.
Kevlar canoes cost significantly more than aluminum canoes, but the price comes with a reduction in weight. They also paddle smoothly and silently on the water, without the noise and cold feeling that accompany an aluminum canoe.
If you want a canoe that you can crash around with, or leave at your camp without needing to worry about it, aluminum is the better option. They require virtually no maintenance either, and will probably still be in good condition for your grandkid’s kids to paddle.
Aluminum vs plastic canoe
Plastic canoes emerged to oust aluminum canoes in the “affordable and durable” corner of the canoe world. They are more susceptible to UV damage than aluminum canoes, but can withstand many of the same physical impacts as aluminum canoes. New plastic canoes are easier to find than aluminum canoes.
There are more options for square-stern aluminum canoes that are closer to “freighter canoes” than the canoe type you would expect to see when paddling in Quetico. These are workhorses for hauling goods, and can be transported more easily than a full-size motorboat.
Aluminum canoe prices
It’s possible to find used aluminum canoes for less than $500. New aluminum canoes cost anywhere from $1,200-$3,000 depending on the manufacturer, model and length.
How much does a 17-foot aluminum canoe cost?
You might find a brand new 17-foot aluminum canoe will cost as little as $1,200, but used ones may be much less than that. Patience can lead to getting a cheap aluminum canoe for less than $500.
Aluminum canoe modifications
Many aluminum canoes can have motors added to them. Another popular modification is adding foam knee pads for extra comfort and warmth. Padding on the yokes can also be added for more comfortable portaging.
Are aluminum canoes slow?
Aluminum canoes are slow on the water compared to modern canoes. The riveted sheets do not make for the smooth entry lines, and they are heavier than more modern canoe materials. When they were first made, they outperformed many wooden canoes but modern materials like composites now dominate racing circuits.
For most of us who aren’t canoe racers, this technology still floats its way over to recreational paddling. There’s a reason most canoe shops carry plastic and composite canoes now.
Are aluminum canoes durable?
Aluminum canoes are extremely durable. They last decades and can handle being stored outdoors much better than canoes made with other materials. In contrast to wood, the other traditional canoe material, aluminum canoes will not rot either.
Do aluminum canoes sink?
Aluminum canoes with sealed bulkheads or “flotation compartments” will not sink. These are placed at the bow and stern of the boat and are essentially bubbles of air. In the event of the canoe filling with water, these compartments will keep it afloat.
Do aluminum canoes leak?
A properly built aluminum canoe will not leak. The sheets are riveted or sealed with an adhesive. Over time, the canoe may lose its structural integrity and leak small amounts, but this is not common. The most common place for a leak to occur is through smashed and cracked stem plates under the bow or stern, if the canoe has been mistreated repeatedly.
Aluminum canoes pros and cons
Pros of aluminum canoes:
Used aluminum canoes are cheap
They last practically forever
They require no maintenance
Aluminum canoes are noisy
They get very cold on cool days and roast in the heat
They are slower than composite canoes
They are not particularly easy on the eyes
How are aluminum canoes made?
Aluminum canoes are made by bending sheets of marine-grade aluminum into shape and riveting them together. The shape is held by the gunwales running end to end along the top of the hull and the thwarts spanning the space in between.
Where to buy aluminum canoes
Many paddling shops have ceased to carry aluminum canoes, but some may still carry them, particularly shops catering towards anglers and hunters. Use the dealer locator tools from Grumman or order direct from the manufacturer.
Types of aluminum canoes
The main types of aluminum canoes you will find are Pointed-End, Square-Sterned, and Wide-Hulled. Pointed-End canoes look like traditional canoes, with both ends narrowing to points. These canoes are used for general paddling. Square-Sterned canoes resemble skinny boats and can have a small motor mounted on them.
Wide-Hulled canoes can have either a pointed or square end. These boats are extra wide, for even more stability.
Aluminum canoe reviews
Read reviews of aluminum canoes to get an idea of how they perform. If you are considering buying one, it’s helpful to see how others use their aluminum canoes.