Boat Fender Types: A Quick Guide

Fenders protect your boat and/or personal watercraft from making contact with a dock, piling or any other object that can damage your vessel while it’s moored.

Boat fender types quick guide

Boat fenders come in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes, and can be inflatable or made of materials like soft foam. Fenders hang off the side of a boat to absorb the shock of bumping into any object that can damage it. They’re essentially a buffer zone between the boat and the dock and/or other vessels. 

They all serve the same purpose, but fender designs have evolved to provide different types and levels of protection for your watercraft. Here’s a quick guide to several basic boat fender types.

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Cylindrical Boat Fenders

This traditional style of boat fender has three basic designs: single-eye, double-eye and center-rope tube. Single-eye cylindrical fenders have one tab with a hole at the top and hang vertically over the gunwale, while double-eye cylindrical fenders have two tabs with holes, one at the top and one at the bottom, and can be hung vertically or horizontally. Center-rope tube fenders can also be hung horizontally or vertically with one rope through the centerline. 

Double-eye boat fender

Center-rope tobe boat fender

Round Boat Fenders

Better known as buoys, these boat fender types are typically made of soft vinyl, and are used mainly for larger powerboats and commercial vessels such as fishing boats. 

Specialty Boat Fenders

These boat fender types come in a wide range of designs tailor-made for specific applications. Some popular specialty fender types include:

Pontoon fenders, which are designed to protect the aluminum fencing and odd corners on pontoon boats. 

Low freeboard fenders, which are designed to sit high on the hull and hang inward over the gunwale. These fenders provide great protection for boats that sit low in the water.

Pontoon boat fender

Low freeboard fender

Pontoon fender

Low freeboard fender

Flat fenders, which are designed to string together in a modular style for a custom-fit protection. These fenders are usually made with vinyl and contour around the gunwales of smaller boats.

Rafting fenders, which are designed to help join boats together in a raft formation. They have a large surface area and can be mounted in a variety of ways.

Flat boat fenders



Rafting fender

Flat fenders

Rafting fender

Boat Fender Accessories

What good are fenders if you have nothing to hang them with? Fender lines are just one accessory needed to make use of these protective buffers, but there’s also fender adjusters, fender locks, fender boots and a hand pump for inflatable fenders to consider, among other accessories. 

Boat Fender Requirements

The size, shape and amount of fenders you’ll need depends on your boat’s size and weight, as well as the location and the conditions of where you dock your boat. For example, if your boat moors in the bay of a stormy area that’s prone to choppy water, you’ll need more fenders around both sides of your boat than you would for a small fishing boat docked in a quiet lake.

Boat fenders

No matter where you moor your boat, a good rule of thumb for boat fenders is the larger the diameter, the more protection the fender provides. And of course the larger the boat, the more fenders you’ll need to protect it.  




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