If you own a boat, you know that damage and subsequent repairs can be pretty costly. Sometimes the vessel can be hard to fully control when mooring, especially in difficult conditions. Your boat can come in contact with the dock, pilings or even other boats and sustain damage (or induce damage to other vessels), which is not that uncommon.

Boat fenders are an excellent solution to this problem. They serve as a barrier between your vessel and the surroundings, and prevent potential damage. Fenders are something that all boats use in one way or another, and they are available in different types and sizes. We’ve selected fantastic products for you to choose from and created a buying guide with important features to help you find the best boat fender for your vessel.

Let’s get started.

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How To Choose The Best Boat Fender – Buying Guide

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When you decide to buy new fenders for your boat, the most important thing is that they can withstand the berthing energy of your boat. Otherwise you may suffer damage even with fenders mounted. This is why you should buy a quality product, even if it costs a bit more – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take a look at the buying options and features available, which are going to help you make the right choice.

Type

There are several different designs, and each is great for a certain purpose. Most common one is the cylindrical double-eye fender, which has been featured in our boat fender reviews quite a lot. As the name suggests, it’s shaped as a cylinder, with rope (line) holes on both ends. You usually hang this type vertically, but it can be positioned horizontally too if you need, by tying a few knots. Vertical fender works best when mooring against flat structures, like docks for example.

Alternatively,the line hole can be positioned in the center. This allows the fender to be placed horizontally, which is excellent protection against pilings, since vertically positioned fenders could easily move out of the way. The alignment of center hole fender can also be changed. Sometimes buoys (like Polyform A series) are used as round fenders, which can be great too.

Some products on the market are hybrids between round and cylindrical type, and this too can be very useful for certain boats. In general, center hole cylindrical fenders, round fenders and hybrids are better for large and heavy boats.

Also, there are specially designed fenders, as you saw in the review section. Their design allows you to mount them on a particular part of the boat (transom for example), and in whichever position you like, or they are designed for a certain vessel (PWC). Some people like to have several different inflatable boat bumpers, so they can be safe in every place they decide to dock their boat.

Size

Which fender size you should buy depends on three things – weight of your boat, it’s length and finally, mooring conditions. Mooring your boat in calm or choppy water can be different experiences. For this reason, if conditions are harsher, you should buy larger fenders than the boat length and weight indicate.

There is a common rule most people follow, and it says that for every 5ft of boat length you should have at least 1” in fender diameter for cylindrical fenders, or 2” for round ones. This is simply a guideline, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go a bit larger instead of risking damage.

If you buy a boat fender which is too small, it will easily get flattened by the weight of your vessel and won’t be very effective. On the other hand, a fender which is way too big for your boat can be annoying to mount and to stow on-board while you are on water.

Cleaning

Since they are outdoors and in contact with various surfaces, fenders can get pretty dirty. This can be annoying, especially if it’s very visible. However, it doesn’t show equally on every color. When you decide it’s time to clean, you should use water with regular soap (or a mild detergent).

Please avoid aggressive cleaning substances however tempted you are to use them for removing stains. They can damage the material and make the fender more likely to deflate or rupture. Since you probably own a boat cover, you should know there are also special fender covers available, which you can pull over the fenders. They are easy to take off and wash later.

Storage

Your boat bumpers go with you when you head out to sea. This means you need to store them someplace out of the way, so you can move around. There are several places where you can put them, but this depends on their size and size of your boat. Some can be placed in a storage bin, or tucked away under the seat. You can also tie the fenders to inner railing. There are special fender racks available too. They can be differently sized, and can be permanent or foldable to put away when not in use.

Accessories

Boats fenders come with different accessories which can make using them easier and more convenient. We already mentioned the cover and the storage racks. All products in our list are inflatable (whether they come deflated or pre-inflated), and often require a pump. Usually a regular hand pump can suffice, because the fenders often have simple valves. Some manufacturers will provide the pump with the product which is very convenient. Other products (like Polyform) have different valves, and require using a special type of pump adapter.

The height of your fender is pretty important, as you’ll see later on in the text. However, this sometimes requires you to tie several knots to position it properly. Height adjusters were designed just for this purpose – they allow you to easily adjust the fender vertically. Some sailboat fenders will come with lines, saving you the effort of going out and buying them yourself.

Color

While this isn’t very significant when it comes to practicality, it can still be very appealing visually. Most products come in many fantastic colors, so you can easily find a color which is going to be complementary with your boat.

FAQs

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Q: How do boat fenders work?

A: A boat fender is going to serve as a cushion between your boat and the dock, pier or other boats. It’s purpose is to absorb the shock created by the impact, and prevent it from transferring to the hull of your boat, or any other part of it. This is a way of insulating your boat from things that surround it.

Q: Why do I need boat fenders?

A: You should buy boat fenders because repairing damage to the boat can be pretty expensive, many times more compared to your investment in fenders. Also, you can damage someone else’s boat in the process, and end up paying for their repair expenses too. This way you can have piece of mind and think about other nicer things instead of worrying.

Q: How many boat fenders do I need?

A: Again, this depends on size, weight and conditions. In general, it’s said that one fender goes per every 10ft of boat length, with a minimum of three fenders. However, many fenders come in pairs (as you had the opportunity to see) and people use the two, placing them on the side at equal length from the middle. This may not be a great idea if the bow is too prominent, so pay attention. It’s not a bad idea to add a couple more, but they can take more space on-board.

Q: Where should I place my boat fenders?

A: If you follow the rule and put 3 fenders on the side, then the first should be located at maximum beam width. The other two should be placed at equal distances toward bow and stern. If your boat is very long, use the same principle to add more fenders to it. For a 40ft vessel you would need 4 fenders mounted, for example.

Lower the fender until it touches the water surface, then pull it up a couple of inches and tie in that position. This makes it harder to displace fenders. Line should be tied to the boat as close as possible – by doing this you reduce swinging. You should tie your fenders to something firm and solid – deck cleat or stanchion base for example. Avoid using lifelines for this purpose, because they aren’t strong enough to withstand the forces which can be created.

Globo Surf Overview

Boat fenders are fantastic gear which keeps your boat free from damage. Some would argue it’s necessary if you really care about your vessel. As you’ve seen, there are different types for different boats and surroundings. We hope that you can now confidently pick out the best marine fender to serve you great for a long time. Have fun and be safe while sailing, and keep your boat protected when you return!

Have you tried a boat fender that made it onto our list? Was it effective and easy to install? Did it prove to be durable? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.

More Boat Reviews:

Globo Surf Boat Fenders Review

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Very detailed and well structured article. I am using the buying guide to decide which boat fender works best for my boat. Thank you!

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!