Enclosed trailers provide a versatile, protected space for hauling gear, equipment, ATVs, and more. The panels on enclosed trailers create secure sides while allowing customization like windows, vents, and interior finish options.
When building or upgrading your enclosed trailer, one key decision is choosing the right panel material. The panels impact durability, insulation, weight, cost, and appearance.
In this guide, we’ll compare the most common enclosed trailer panel options to help you select the best material for your needs.
Aluminum Trailer Panels
Aluminum panels are one of the most popular choices for enclosed trailers. Here’s an overview:
- Extremely durable and corrosion resistant
- Lightweight yet very strong
- Sleek, smooth, industrial appearance
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Good insulation properties
- Expensive compared to other panels
- Can dent if impacted
- Conducts heat and cold more than other materials
- Difficult for DIY installation
$3-$5 per square foot
With their strength, durability, and sleek metallic look, aluminum panels are ideal for rugged use and professional custom trailers.
Steel Trailer Panels
Steel is another metal option for enclosed trailer panels:
- High strength and impact resistance
- Costs less than aluminum
- Easy to weld/modify during installation
- Reflective surface helps with lighting
- Heavy, adding a lot of weight
- Susceptible to rust over time
- Can transfer heat/cold into the trailer interior
- Industrial look not for everyone
$1.50 – $3 per square foot
Steel panels offer serious durability at a lower cost than aluminum. Keep potential rust issues in mind for humid climates or ocean use.
Fiberglass Trailer Panels
Fiberglass is a composite material commonly used for boat hulls and other products. Here are the pros and cons for trailer panels:
- Extremely strong yet lightweight
- Resists dents, scratches, impacts
- Easy to repair and replace sections
- Good thermal and sound insulation
- Gelcoat finish available in colors
- Higher cost than steel or wood
- Can be prone to delamination over time
- Brittle, not as flexible as other materials
$4 – $8 per square foot
Fiberglass panels provide strength and insulation with exciting finish options. The cost is higher but great for specialty custom trailers.
Wood Trailer Panels
Wood is a traditional, affordable enclosed trailer panel option:
- Inexpensive compared to metal panels
- Easy to cut, drill, and fasten during installation
- Accepts paint/stain for custom looks
- Good sound and temperature insulation
- Vulnerable to moisture damage over time
- Not as strong or impact-resistant as metal
- Requires thorough sealing and maintenance
$1 – $3 per square foot
Wood panels are a good choice for DIY trailers on a budget. Be diligent with sealing and maintenance to prevent rot and decay over the years.
Plywood Trailer Panels
Plywood provides an even more budget-friendly option:
- Extremely inexpensive panel material
- Easy for DIY construction
- Simple to cut openings or make repairs
- Not durable for long-term use
- Absorbs moisture easily leading to swelling
- Minimal insulation properties
$0.50 – $1.50 per square foot
Plywood is fine for temporary use but doesn’t hold up to the elements long-term. Stick with higher quality wood or other materials for permanent trailers.
Polyethylene Plastic Panels
Polyethylene plastic provides intriguing benefits:
- Completely waterproof and moisture-proof
- Resists dents and scratches
- Lightweight but surprisingly tough
- Excellent insulation value
- Low maintenance
- Higher cost than basic wood or steel
- Can be flammable depending on material
- Not as strong overall as metal or fiberglass
$2.50 – $4 per square foot
Polyethylene panels provide weatherproof protection at a moderate price point. Great insulation makes them ideal for refrigerated trailers.
Choosing the Best Panels for Your Enclosed Trailer
When deciding on your enclosed trailer panels, consider factors like:
- Budget – Fiberglass and aluminum are premium options, while wood and steel provide value.
- Climate – Steel can rust in wet regions. Wood needs extra sealing. Plastic is very moisture-resistant.
- Use case – Frequent impacts call for aluminum or steel. Refrigerated trailers benefit from the insulation of plastic or fiberglass.
- Appearance – Metals provide a sleek, polished look. Fiberglass offers color options. Wood can be painted or stained.
- Weight – Steel significantly increases weight. Aluminum and plastics are lighter.
- Ease of installation – Wood is the most DIY-friendly. Metals often require professional installation.
Choosing your panels is one of the biggest decisions when building or upgrading an enclosed trailer. Evaluate your budget, needs, and style preferences carefully to select the right material.
With smart planning, you can create the perfect custom trailer for hauling your toys, gear, and equipment anywhere you roam. Enjoy the journey.
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