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6m Ribeye RIB pvc before it was retubed

RIB and inflatable boat buyers guide

Here is a buyers guide to know what to look for and what is what when you are looking to purchase a rib and inflatable boat.

where to start

When buying a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) it is important to know what to look for and questions that should be asked, signs of age, signs of fabric damage, the case may be that the boat has been incorrectly listed, perhaps the seller has been ill advised in any case its good to know what to look for and what it means for you as the buyer.

Make sure you know what you are looking at!

pvc ,polyurethane,Hypalon

here is a info, that may help! -->is your boat hypalon, pvc, hypalon<-- a helpful guide on how to tell the difference, Hypalon is the #1 choice for high quality fabric, to the point that most companies will not even work on pvc anymore, leaving the few of us that do drowning in repairs of all sizes, pvc will save you money initially but is likely to cost you down the road. Hypalon will be repairable a lot of the time however there is a limit to what can be done once the fabric gets old. polyurethane is a bit of an unknown, so few companies will work with P.U that its still fairly rare on the market. the early p.u ribs i would avoid since they where purely glued together and like pvc there was no u.v barrier to block the u.v rays that destroy the glue. more recently they learnt to weld the seams which can make really strong tubes since p.u is very hard wearing, the problem comes in when not all seams can be welded and also glue is still required to bond to the fiberglass which could be an issue down the line.

My advice

  • newer pvc like valmex boats may be ok for a few years if you are looking to break in to the rib market but don't want to go all out straight away, it could be worth getting one to get a taste, just keep in mind moving them on every few years.
  • Hypalon would be a great choice but be prepared to pay more. make sure you check the tube over thoroughly for sign of the surface wearing thin
  • when it comes to polyurethane I would avoid the older ones, make sure you look for loose edges such as hull bonding strips not stuck in places or seam tapes lifting off, tube detaching from the transom.

here is example of aged fabric.

this is severely aged material , bellow the rip you can see the white weave coming through the blue it looks similar to denim, once this happens repairs are usually short lived. the surface of the fabric will pretty much brush off, is unlikely to hold air and no longer has tensile strength. once this happens you will need the boat to be retubed

previous repairs

it is usually a good thing if any damage or loose parts have been repaired/ reattached before the boat is bought however some home repairs are not really helpful nor going to last, so make sure if there are any home remedies that it is nothing you may need to rely on. such as cleat handle that is used to moor the boat. The phrase " you can buy the ____ on ebay, its easily fixed " springs to mind similar to the car folks having a list of simple problems that need doing but "don't have time" if it was that easy why don't they just do it?.>

check the under neath strips

the underneath strips are a vital part of the boats construction, make sure the strip is stuck all the way around to both the hull and the tube. If this strip comes loose/ detached stop using the boat and get it repaired, once these strips come loose the water may start coming in under the tubes and the tube may separate from the hull.

Transome attatching strips

Make sure these strips are attached correctly, they are another vital area of the structural strength of the boats build, if these become detached it could cause the rear of the tube to bounce and this not only will cause wear on the inflatable tube, i will put strain on the bonding strips underneath and potentially cause the tube to separate from the Hull.

signs this might be happening

if you start getting water coming in through the bottom corner of the tube inside.

you can visibly see loose edges around attaching strips

the tube will not feel secure to the hull


leaks aren't always in the most obvious places, this one had a fair size hole under a wear patch that had been fitted possibly from new but for some reason had not made itself known till there where other leaks repaired, tube was still going down ,checked every where, all seams and just happen to spray soap on the patch when i was checking to see if the valve was leaking (which it wasn't) and seen some bubbles. leaks can be around lifeline patches, wear patches. rubbing strake , seam tapes, any where the surface may have been sanded a bit too heavily.

loose edges

always best to look for loose edges on rubbing strakes can be above or bellow but this can be quite costly to get repaired specially on the older ribs that used PVC strakes on Hypalon tubes, the adhesive is very messy to get off and clogs up sand paper, this can make a simple task take many many times longer and as such when quoting for doing this job it will be a lot higher. it may be fine but if it does happen to need PVC glue removed and re primed it will cost you a pretty penny to sort out, so beware they aren't always an easy fix.

ps no I wouldn't recommend ct1 as an adhesive on tubes

Look for leaks

Take your own soapy water, seller's may not have any to hand (in some cases want it to hand) some sellers may even pump it up before you get to them. look for leaks check valves spray it over seams, around valves , cone end mouldings, on scrapes underneath.

You wouldn't buy a car without checking it over so take your time and have a good look around.


We are based in Yeovil, Somerset but will also work in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

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