Rub Rail & Insert Trim

Boat rub rails serve two purposes — protecting the boat against impacts and scrapes, and improving appearance by hiding the joint between the hull and the deck or liner. » Read More

Marine Rub Rail vs Rub Rail Insert

Most boat rub rails are composed of two different pieces — the rail itself, which is screwed to the boat, and the insert, which snaps or pushes into the rail to cover the fasteners used to attach the rail. When you purchase a rub rail kit, you’ll get both the rub rail and the insert, along with end caps and often fasteners.

Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase the rub rail and the insert separately and make sure that the two are compatible. Rub rail inserts are not at all universal. Only certain inserts fit certain rub rails.

You may also want to replace just your rub rail insert. Because the insert is the highest part of the rub rail, inserts take most of the abuse and tend to get scraped, cut, or covered with black marks before the rest of the rub rail does. Replacing your insert is much easier and less expensive than replacing your whole rub rail and can give your boat a real aesthetic upgrade.

Boat Rub Rail Materials

The marine rub rail is available in a large (and sometimes confusing) variety of materials, shapes, and colors. Rub rails can be made out of almost anything, but most of the rub rails currently used on recreational boats are made of flexible vinyl, semi-rigid vinyl, rigid vinyl, aluminum, or stainless steel.

Aluminum and stainless are attractive and provide great protection but can’t be coiled for shipping. That means that unless the material is cut into lengths of eight feet or less it has to be shipped via freight, at considerable expense. Rigid vinyl likewise cannot be coiled. At Boat Outfitters, our knowledgeable staff is happy to help you select and order the right metal or rigid vinyl rub rail, but lead times may be longer than for flexible rub rail.

Semi-rigid vinyl and flexible vinyl rub rails are easier to work with as well as to ship. Tight radius corners can be handled with minimal heat (a hair dryer is usually sufficient), and the material is lightweight. Semi-rigid vinyl is easier to install straight than flexible vinyl. Flexible vinyl can also be installed cleanly, but more care is required to avoid up-and-down “bumps” in the line of the rail.

A new option is SuproFlex, made by TACO Marine, which manufactures rub rail material for a large number of boat builders. SuproFlex rub rail combines two different kinds of vinyl — a harder, more rigid material against the hull to help with a straight, strong installation and a softer outer layer to make the material easier to work with and absorb impacts. The result is an extremely lightweight and easy-to-install rub rail.

Rub Rail Insert Materials

Like rub rails themselves, rub rail inserts are offered in a variety of materials, including vinyl, aluminum, stainless steel, and more. Metal inserts are attractive but costly to ship in lengths over eight feet and relatively difficult to work with since they must be bent to conform to the shape of the boat. We frequently help customers find the right metal inserts and special order them, but we do not stock metal inserts.

Vinyl inserts are flexible, easy to install, inexpensive, and absorb shocks well. They come in a variety of profiles, with a simple 3/8”, 1/2”, or 3/4” tube being the most common. Again, not every insert matches every rub rail. You’ll want to be careful to match the size and profile of your existing insert. Many flexible vinyl inserts are available in white as well as black. Switching to a contrasting insert can make a surprising difference in the appearance of your boat.

TACO Marine’s patented Flex Chrome inserts combine the attractive appearance of polished metal with the easy installation and affordability of vinyl. Adapted from a material developed for automotive exterior trim, Flex Chrome stands up to the marine environment and does not corrode. It can be easily coiled for inexpensive shipping and snaps quickly into place without fasteners.

How to Match Your Boat’s Existing Rub Rail & Insert

When replacing your boat’s rub rail, you don’t have to match the existing one exactly, but that’s certainly the easiest route. And even if you don’t match it exactly, you’ll still need to match its height fairly closely as well as its profile.

One good starting point is our Rub Rail Replacement Selection Guide, which can be found under each rub rail product page. It contains an extensive list of boat manufacturers and the rub rail styles they commonly use. Simply look up your manufacturer, note the styles of rub rail and insert used, and then check the photos and drawings to determine which one you have. The Guide also shows which inserts are compatible with each style of rub rail.

If that doesn’t yield an answer, you can also measure the height and depth of your rub rail to narrow down the choices. On most boats, the rub rail ends somewhere near the stern on both sides. If an end is accessible, remove the end cap (which should be held on with one or two screws) and take a photo of the cross-section of the rub rail. With the dimensions and the cross-section profile, you should be able to find a match.

The same approach will work for your rub rail insert.

If you have trouble, though, Contact Us at Boat Outfitters today. Our experienced and knowledgeable staff can help you find the right replacement.

Ordering the Right Length of Rub Rail

Of course, you can measure around your boat to determine how much rub rail you need, but you can also save yourself some time with a simple formula. Just multiply your boat’s length by two, then add its beam, then add a couple more feet to be safe.

So for a 19’6” boat with an 8’0” beam, you’d get (19’6” x 2) + 8’ + 2’. That comes out to 39’ + 8’ + 2’, or 50’. Most rub rail kits come in lengths of 50’, 60’, 70’, or 80’.

When ordering just a rub rail insert, you can order by the foot above a minimum length and get exactly the amount you need.

Rub Rail Upgrades

Rub rails can be an opportunity to upgrade your vessel! It's common to replace the insert with a color or finish that better matches your boat. Another upgrade option is to incorporate your navigational lights into the rub rail with LED Rub Rail Navigation Lights

Rub Rail Kits: A Convient Option

Given the nature of installing a rub rail and all the different parts that are involved alongside the rail and insert, you need to make sure you have everything you need. Rather than buying all of those parts separately, there are great boat rub rail kits available here at Boat Outfitters that come with everything you need, including the rub rail itself, the insert, fasteners, splice caps, and end caps, among many others depending on the size and style.

Need More Help Deciding? Give us a call!

If you’re having trouble finding the exact part you're looking for, the best first step is to take a picture and give us a call. Our customer service team is here Mon-Fri 8am - 5pm and would love to help you track down the exact rub rail equipment you need.

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Commonly Asked Questions about Boat Rub Rails

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