The 10 Best Boat Fenders

Updated May 27, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

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We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. You probably paid a reasonable amount of money for your boat, so it makes sense to protect it with a set of high quality fenders. We've found center hole and two-eye models, as well as some unusually designed units to prevent dents and dings both at the dock and when on a trailer, so your paint job stays in tiptop shape season after season. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best boat fender on Amazon.

10. MSC Vinyl Ribbed

The MSC Vinyl Ribbed come as a set of two, including lines, and have a smartly-designed valve system that make them easy to inflate with the free, included hand pump. While they aren't the most durable of options, they are affordable and feature molded ribs.
  • even wall thickness throughout
  • sturdy rope holds
  • require periodic reinflating
Brand MSC
Model pending
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Kwik Tek Hull Hugr 1CB

Once a Kwik Tek Hull Hugr 1CB is secured against your boat, you can count on it staying there, even in heavy swells. That's because its lay-flat design means it can't roll up or out of place like traditional round fenders, making it ideal for areas with big tide changes.
  • rip-proof marine grade cover
  • easy to stow in a locker
  • may scratch gelcoats
Brand Hull Hugr
Model HH-1CB
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Taylor Made Low Freeboard

The Taylor Made Low Freeboard has an interesting design specifically made to protect gunwales and rub rails from being damaged by docks. Its shape also helps it to stay in place as it practically hooks onto a boat's side and prevents it from rolling.
  • smart choice for use with high docks
  • does a good job of absorbing impacts
  • only available in two sizes
Brand Taylor Made Products
Model 31005
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Taylor Made Super Gard

The Taylor Made Super Gard is available in a range of colors to match any boat's paint job, all of which have black, double-molded ends that are extra tough and hide rope damage to keep them looking nice. You can choose from four sizes for boats from 15 to 50 feet.
  • standard sports needle valve
  • manufactured in the usa
  • durable enough to last for years
Brand Taylor Made Products
Model 950520
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

6. Hull Hugr P1B

If you have a small PWC, you may think there aren't any protective items available for you, but you would be wrong. The Hull Hugr P1B features a hinge in the center that allows it to hug your watercraft so it can safely dock in areas intended for bigger boats.
  • hooks securely under the rub rail
  • can adjust the strap length
  • affordable but still very effective
Brand Hull Hugr
Model HH-P1B
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Extreme Max BoatTector

The Extreme Max BoatTector value pack comes with two 22-inch vinyl units and rugged lines to secure them in place. For a smaller vessel that measures under 25 feet in length, this pair might be all you need to save it from damage.
  • high strength molded-in eyelets
  • uv-resistant bodies
  • backed by a two-year warranty
Brand Extreme Max
Model 3006.7204
Weight 4.6 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

4. Polyform G Series

Your Polyform G Series will arrive ready to use right out of the box, so you don't have to worry about trying to find the optimal inflation level. Its skin is made from an abrasion and puncture-resistant material to last for a long time and keep your boat protected.
  • suitable for permanent moorings
  • high gloss exterior finish
  • available in 11 colors
Brand Polyform
Model 71201180
Weight 7.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Taylor Made Big B

The made-in-America Taylor Made Big B is a center tube model that can accommodate ropes up to 3/4 of an inch in diameter. It is available in four sizes to suit vessels from 20 to 60 feet, and is guaranteed for the life of your boat not to pop or split.
  • won't deteriorate from sun exposure
  • doesn't get hard in cold weather
  • molded ribs to reduce rolling
Brand Taylor Made Products
Model 1032
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Polyform HTM Series

The Polyform HTM Series have a hole-through-the-middle design that many boaters find more convenient. It allows them to easily be hung in either orientation without having to deal with two separate ropes, plus there won't be a whip left hanging when vertical.
  • sturdy reinforced ends
  • high puncture resistance
  • ship preinflated
Brand Polyform
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Norestar Ribbed

The Norestar Ribbed two-pack comes with the lines you'll need to secure these tough units to your dock, boat, or trailer. They have a non-abrasive finish that won't damage a gelcoat no matter how much they rub up against it, so your vessel stays looking like new.
  • made from marine-grade vinyl
  • for vertical or horizontal hanging
  • can be reinflated as needed
Brand Norestar
Model pending
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

What Are Boat Fenders?

Marine fenders are essentially bumpers that can prevent damage to a boat, dock, pier, or wharf. Navigating a vessel in water is very different that driving a car on land. There is no such thing as hitting brakes. The only way to quickly slow or stop a boat is by putting it in reverse and revving the engine thereby creating an opposing force from the momentum of the vessel. This means that when docking a boat, it is not uncommon for the vessel to bump against the dock or wharf. The same is true when rafting up to another boat. To minimize or completely eliminate the damage this causes, people invented fenders.

Fenders prevent damage to the body of a boat and the berthing structure by absorbing the kinetic energy of said vessel as it bumps up to the wharf or jetty for docking purposes. They are used on practically every type of seagoing vessel, from the smallest recreational boats to the largest of cruise ships and tankers.

Originally, fenders were made from thick woven rope in a variety of different patterns. Over time, fender technology has evolved, and they are now generally made from foam, rubber, or plastic, though traditional rope varieties can still be seen on some historic vessels. These new elastomer-based fenders have high energy absorption qualities with very low reaction force, making them ideal for the task at hand.

Most boats make use of mobile fenders that are hung from the side of the boat just before docking. These are usually lightweight pneumatic units. When at sea, the fenders are stored somewhere inside of the vessel, such as a storage bin, under a seat, in a dedicated fender rack, or tied alongside the inner railing. Piers and wharfs generally have permanent fender installations, usually made from solid rubber. In many instances, old car and truck tires are substituted as purpose-made boat fenders.

Common Types Of Boat Fenders

Boat fenders come in many different shapes and sizes. First, we must break them down into two major categories: permanent and mobile. Permanent fenders are affixed to docks and wharfs. If you have ever walked along a quay wall and seen black rubber bumpers running along its length, then you have seen some of these permanent fenders. The three most common permanent fenders are arch, W, and cylindrical. Each of these styles has their pros and cons. For example, cylindrical fenders are an economical option that offer ease of installation, whereas arch fenders have a better energy-to-reaction ratio, but are more costly and labor intensive to install. W fenders are best suited to quay walls that berth large tankers and cruise ships, as they have the highest rate of resistance, therefore offering the best protection against kinetic energy.

Unless you are looking to equip a private dock with permanent fenders, you are probably more interested in learning about the different varieties of mobile fenders. As with permanent units, these also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each best suited to certain tasks. The most common of these are probably cylindrical fenders. Unlike permanent cylindrical fenders, the mobile varieties are pneumatic, making them very lightweight and easy to move. Cylindrical models can be further broken down into double-hole, single-hole, and center-hole units. Double-hole models have a hole on either end, allowing boaters to hang them vertically or horizontally depending on their needs. Center-hole models, also often referred to as hole-through-middle or HTM fenders, are also capable of vertical and horizontal positioning. Single-hole models are less versatile. Since they only have a hole on one side in which to tie a rope, they can only hang vertically.

Round fenders are another common type of boat fender. While some recreational boaters use them because they are great for raft-ups, storing them is a little more difficult due to their shape. This means they are often relegated to commercial anglers who use them as mooring and fishing line buoys, though they are actually a smart choice for large, recreational power boats that have deep-V concave hulls.

Some less common, but just as useful fender types include freeboard and transom. Freeboard fenders sit high on the hull and hang inward over the gunwale. They are ideal for smaller boats that sit low in the water since they protect the gunwale from damage caused by rubbing against the dock. Transom-mounted fenders have a deep V-groove that allows them to sit tightly on the transom. They are used to protect the boat when docking stern-to. This is by no means an exhaustive list though, as new types of fenders are developed on a regular basis.

Choosing The Right Size Fender For Your Boat

Fender size is dictated by the berthing energy of the vessel. The greater the berthing force, the larger a fender is needed. Berthing force is directly related to the weight and displacement of a boat. Much like when anchoring, one must also take common mooring conditions into account when choosing a fender, as well.

A good rule of thumb for cylindrical fenders is to have one inch of diameter per five feet of boat length. For round fenders, owners should look to have two inches of diameter per five feet of boat length. This is not a hard and fast rule though; it's more a general recommendation. If berthing in rough, choppy water, a boat will need a higher level of protection that when berthing in a calm marina. Also, heavier vessels, like sailboats, will need more fender diameter per five feet of boat length because they have a much higher berthing energy due to their greater weight.

It is also important to purchase the correct number of fenders in order to properly protect your boat. Ideally, you should have one fender per 10 feet of waterline, with a minimum of three overall. So, for example, a 20-foot boat should have three fenders deployed when docking, of at least four inches in diameter, since the minimum number trumps the waterline rule of thumb. A 40-foot boat should have four fenders deployed when docking, of at least eight inches in diameter.

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Last updated on May 27, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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