Boat Gear, Boats

Buyer Guide: The 7 Best Boat Bumpers & Fenders

Last updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Snatler

OCSC Sailing is a reader supported website (and proud of it). We may earn a commission if you buy via our links, at absolutely no cost to you.

EDITOR'S PICKS

Recommended
Best Overall    
Polyform G Series Boat Fenders thumbnail

4.9/5

  • Designed for use by trailered boats and in permanent protected moorings
  • Unique Polyform valve for years of service
  • Provides excellent protection
  • Even wall thickness for maximum strength and durability
Recommended
Maximum Protection
MISSION Boat Gear Sentry Boat Fender thumbnail

4.6/5

  • Comes with an extra-long strap
  • Deploys fast for maximum protection
  • Non-marking, non-staining, and completely waterproof
  • Salt, chemical, and UV damage resistant
Recommended
Best Value Pack
Affordura Boat Fender 4-Pack with Ropes thumbnail

4.7/5

  • Provides maximum protection
  • Easy to inflate, deflate, and store
  • Strong enough to withstands everyday usage but feel soft to show no signs of wear
  • UV, damage, and scratch resistant

MORE PICKS TO CHOOSE FROM

Boat bumpers, formally known as boat fenders, are a great way to ward off dents, dings, and scratches. Designed to absorb impact and protect your boat from damage (and prevent it from damaging anything else), they're a must-have for any water vessel.

Below, we've answered seven of the most commonly asked questions about boat fenders. By the time you've finished reading, you'll better understand why they're crucial for boat safety and protection. Plus, we're offering our picks for the best boat fenders, with options for pontoon boats, speedboats, sailboats, yachts, fishing, bass boats, ski boats, and every boat in-between.

What are boat bumpers for?

Boat fenders work by absorbing impact and creating a physical barrier between your boat and the objects it bumps up against. The cylindrical, air-filled cushions act as a buffer between the hull of your watercraft and large objects like docks, pilings, and other vessels. Not only do they help protect your boat from damage, dents, dings, and scratches, but they help protect other boats in the harbor from being damaged by your vessel too.

What To Consider When Purchasing Boat Fenders

Types Of Fenders

Cylindrical Double Hole

This type of fender comes with rope eyes at both ends and can be hung vertically or horizontally. One of the most popular options, and it is a great option for short and lightweight boats.

Cylindrical Center Hole

Also known as a hole through the middle, this type of boat fender can be hung either vertically or horizontally using one line. This type of fender is ideal for larger boats as it provides more cushioning than the double-hole model.

Cylindrical single hole

A cylindrical single hole is the most basic type of boat bumper, and it can only be hung vertically.

Round

While round boat fenders are the most difficult to store, it is ideal for rafting two boats together. This type of boat fender is mostly used on larger vessels and is commonly used as mooring and fishing line buoys.

Configuration

Aside from the type of boat fender, take configuration in mind. Horizontal and vertical boat fenders are the two ways to attach a fender to the boat. A vertical fender is ideal for a flat dock or seawall area, and a horizontal bender is better for piling or a post.

Some fenders, like center rope tube fenders, allow you to hang the fender vertically or horizontally using one fender line running through the centerline.

Sizes

There are three factors to consider to determine which size boat fender suits the best for your vessel, boat length, weight, and where you moor.

Storing

Before purchasing boat fenders, plan ahead on where you will keep them while you are on the water. Many fenders on the market are inflatable but can be inconvenient to inflate and deflate. Cylindrical fenders are also easier to store than round ones.

You may also want fender racks to keep fenders secure and out of the way when you are on the water.

Fender Accessories

Many boat fenders come with accessories such as lifeline clips, fender adjusters, locks, suction cup straps, and more. They can help you to improve your experience and enhance support to make the boat safer.

The 7 Best Boat Bumpers

While you may see old car tires tied alongside the occasional boat, it's best to purchase fenders designed specifically to protect boats and boat docks from damage. The best boat bumpers, including our picks below, are made using a durable vinyl material that can withstand wet conditions and heavy impact from larger boats.

Polyform G Series Boat Fenders

Best Overall

overall 

4.9/5

Durability

Sturdiness

Ease of Use

Cost

Polyform G Series Boat Fenders

Features:

  • Strong single piece construction
  • Even wall thickness for maximum strength and durability
  • Molded -in ribs for strength and abrasion resistance
  • Reinforced ropeholds

These Polyform G Series Boat Fenders make an excellent pick for any boat owner. They're crafted in the USA using a sturdy, single-piece construction with a molded-in ribbed design with even wall thickness for added strength and durability. Reinforced rope holds, and Polyform's signature inflation valves make for easy, reliable use.

The best-selling boat fenders come in various Polyform colors, making it easy to match your boat's color scheme. Offered in six size options, they accommodate any boat length up to 40 feet. Check the G Series size chart to determine the proper model for your boat size.

Material

Polyform 

Weight

4.4 pounds

Dimensions

26.8" l x 8.5" w x 8.5" h

Pros:

  • Designed for use by trailered boats and in permanent protected moorings
  • Unique Polyform valve for years of service
  • Provides excellent protection

Cons:

  • Expensive

MISSION Boat Gear Sentry Boat Fender

Maximum Protection

overall 

4.6/5

Durability

Sturdiness

Ease of Use

Cost

MISSION Boat Gear Sentry Boat Fender

Features:

  • Innovative hanging system enables easy positioning on a boat or dock
  • Sentry hangs at an angle that aligns with the contour of your boat's hull
  • Molded in a cross-linked closed-cell foam that is extremely durable
  • An integrated strap easily attaches to boat cleats and docks for super-fast installation

These splurge-worthy MISSION Boat Gear Sentry Boat Fenders offer maximum protection with minimal bulk. They're molded from cross-linked, closed-cell foam that's UV- resistant, water-repellant, and ultra-durable. An innovative hanging system uses an integrated strap instead of annoying ropes and knots, improving security and cutting down on installation time.

Unlike other brands' cylindrical fenders, MISSION's Sentry Boat Fender hangs at an angle that compliments the contours of your boat's hull, offering superior protection both above and below the rub rail. Plus, its clean-lined design adds to your boat's aesthetic instead of detracting from it.

Material

Foam

Weight

2.8 Pounds

Dimensions

‎22.7" l x 10.1" w x 5" h

Pros:

  • Comes with an extra-long strap
  • Deploys fast for maximum protection
  • Non-marking, non-staining, and completely waterproof
  • Salt and chemical resistant, and resists fading from the sun’s harmful UV rays

Cons:

  • Expensive

Affordura Boat Fender 4-Pack with Ropes

Best Value Pack

overall 

4.7/5

Durability

Sturdiness

Ease of Use

Cost

Affordura Boat Fender 4-Pack with Ropes

Features:

  • Heavy duty
  • UV, damage, and scratch resistant
  • Reinforced molded eyelets support the boat bumpers fenders

Consider these Affordura Boat Fenders proof that you don't need to spend an arm and a leg to find a set of long-lasting boat fenders. The set contains four boat bumpers for docking, four color-coordinated ropes, a storage bag, and an air pump and needle. Crafted from UV-resistant, marine-grade vinyl, they easily inflate for reliable protection and deflate for compact storage between seasons. The whole set takes less than four minutes to inflate fully.

Reinforced eyelets on each end allow you to hang the cylindrical fenders vertically or horizontally using the rope included with the set. Four versatile size choices and five color options accommodate every boat length and aesthetic. Each set contains four fenders, enough to protect small boats in mild conditions. You'll need at least two sets to protect larger hulls, especially in harsh weather conditions adequately.

Material

Fleece/Polyester/Aluminum/Nylon

Weight

9.7 pounds

Dimensions

‎21" l x 9.75" w x 8.5" h

Pros:

  • Provides maximum protection
  • Easy to inflate, deflate, and store
  • Strong enough to withstands everyday usage but feel soft to show no signs of wear

Cons:

  • Some fenders deflate quicker than others

BABz The Original Inflatable Boat Fender Buoy

Best for Pontoon Boats

overall 

4.3/5

Durability

Sturdiness

Ease of Use

Cost

BABz The Original Inflatable Boat Fender Buoy

Features:

  • Unique shape, improved thickness, and reinforced anchor points
  • Super soft but extremely durable
  • Provides maximum coverage, while also maintaining contouring to the boat hull
  • Larger opening for much faster deflation

This new-and-improved version of BABz' flagship product was well worth the wait. The trusted boat equipment company completely redesigned its best-seller based on customer feedback and the product performance of previous versions. A set of four to six makes excellent pontoon fenders for any boat owner.

The round fenders are crafted from a thick, durable plastic blend that won't scuff your boat's finish or warp after a long summer in the sun. A handle reinforced with harder, thicker plastic ensures they can handle the impact of a larger boat. BABz also adjusted the air filler location and reinforced it to eliminate leaks or tearing, even with frequent inflation and deflation. Fully inflated (using your average 12V air pump, no needles or valves needed), they measure up to 24 inches and deflated, they fold down for easy storage below deck.

Material

PVC blend

Weight

4.2 pounds

Dimensions

12.4" l x 9.17" w x 4.92" h

Pros:

  • Provides excellent protection and space
  • Versatile and functional
  • Adaptable to a variety of environments
  • Easy to put out and tie off

Cons:

  • Not suitable for regular use

Extreme Max BoatTector Contour Boat Fender 2-Pack

Best for Small Boats

overall 

4.6/5

Durability

Sturdiness

Ease of Use

Cost

Extreme Max BoatTector Contour Boat Fender 2-Pack

Features:

  • Protects gunwale and hull
  • Includes pair of fenders and fender lines
  • Durable, marine-grade tri-laminate cover
  • Tear and sunlight resistant

Small boats equal limited storage space. That's why these Extreme Max BoatTector Contour Boat Fenders are our pick for smaller water vessels. Their flat, curved shape protects both gunwales and hulls and stores more compactly than most round fenders. With three color options to choose from, these flat fenders make a sleek addition to any small boat.

Don't let their affordable price deceive you. This two-pack is built from durable marine-grade materials and includes fender lines that are built to last— and they've got a two-year replacement warranty to prove it. The flat fenders are crafted with double thermal-bonded seams, polycarbonate grommets, and a tri-laminate cover impervious to tearing and UV fading.

Material

Vinyl

Weight

2 Pounds

Dimensions

23" l x 7.5" w x 6" h

Pros:

  • Built to last
  • Each fender contains two grommets for easy and secure hookup to your fender lines
  • Stows efficiently in limited storage space

Cons:

  • Can be too small for medium to big boats

Taylor Made Products Big B Inflatable Vinyl Boat Fender

Best for Large Boats

overall 

4.6/5

Durability

Sturdiness

Ease of Use

Cost

Taylor Made Products Big B Inflatable Vinyl Boat Fender

Features:

  • Crafted with resilient and tough-marine-grade vinyl
  • Provides long-lasting protection and top performance in all types of conditions
  • Unique design but versatile performance

To protect larger vessels, turn to Taylor Made Products' Big B Inflatable Vinyl Fenders. They combine the latest fendering technology with durable materials for unmatched protection and long-lasting performance. Crafted from marine-grade vinyl, they maintain a soft, corrosion-free exterior in any water temperature.

Offered in a range of sizes and color options, these inflatable fenders work particularly well for larger boats. Their ribbed shape doesn't just prevent damage to the hull; it helps minimize swaying in high winds and inclimate weather. Seamless construction and molded valve seals ensure they can withstand any conditions. And did we mention they're American-made?

Material

vinyl

Weight

10.97 pounds

Dimensions

34" l x 12" w x 12" h

Pros:

  • Excellent quality
  • Delivers optimal performance and durable protection
  • Maintain their soft exterior in all temperatures

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Some filler valves leak

Polyform A Series Buoy

Most Versatile

overall 

4.8/5

Durability

Sturdiness

Ease of Use

Cost

Polyform A Series Buoy

Features:

  • A versatile and heavy duty buoy
  • Reinforced ropeholds for superior durability
  • Commercial grade strength
  • Uses Polyform's durable vinyl valve system

Polyform's top-rated A-Series Buoys double as boat bumpers and buoys. Attach them to your hull for enhanced protection, or use them for marking, mooring, and anchoring. They come in six versatile sizes, so be sure to double-check the size chart to ensure you purchase the proper model for the length of your boat.

The heavy-duty boat bumpers are manufactured in the USA using extra-strength, flexible vinyl. They utilize Polyform's durable vinyl valve system. To inflate, use a Polyform Inflation Adapter with any standard tire pump connection, a tapered nozzle blow gun, or Polyform's specialty hand pump. With six fun color options to choose from, they can be as subtle or as stylish as you please.

Material

Double-Knit fabric

Weight

9.5 Pounds

Dimensions

27" l x 20.5" w x 20.5" h

Pros:

  • Excellent quality and performance
  • Provides enhanced protection
  • Can be used as marker buoy or rafting fender unprotected moorings
  • Available in a large range of sizes and colors

Cons:

  • Color fades quickly
  • It becomes extremely heavy when filled

FAQ

Where do the bumpers go on a boat?

Boat bumpers should be placed at the widest points of the boat, where it's most likely to come in contact with the edge of the dock. At a minimum, put one at the widest point of the hull and one close to the stern. They should hang a few inches above the waterline to prevent algae and saltwater build-up.

For even better protection, bumpers can be placed directly on the dock wall and even welded into place on bumper mounting brackets. You should still use fenders on board, even when using boat dock bumpers on shore. They'll help minimize swaying and keep your boat balanced on rough waters.

How many bumpers do you need for a boat?

The number of boat fenders you need depends on the length of your boat, the style of fenders, and where they're placed. As a rule of thumb, you'll need one fender for every four to five feet of boat length. At the bare minimum, you should have one for the hull and one for the stern.

Most mariners would agree that the more fenders you use, the fewer your chances of damaging your hull. Not only do they protect your boat in the harbor, but they also help keep it balanced in harsh conditions away from shore. While there's no need to purchase dozens, you certainly don't want to be stingy regarding protection. It's far cheaper to buy an extra set of fenders now than to repair a damaged hull later.

Do you need bumpers on a boat?

Yes! Boat fenders are an essential piece of boating equipment. If you're going to spend all of that money purchasing and maintaining your boat, it's worth spending a bit more to protect your investment. They don't only prevent your own boat from being damaged but prevent your boat from damaging surrounding vessels. Using them allows for peace of mind when you're away from your boat (hopefully, to enjoy a nice cold drink at your favorite dockside hangout).

What are the buoys on the side of a boat called?

The buoys on the side of a boat as known as boat bumpers or boat fenders. You may also see them called boat dock bumpers when attached to the dock edge instead of the boat itself. No matter what you choose to call them, these protective buoys are an essential piece of equipment for any boat owner to have onboard.

About the Author

Ben Snatler

Ben is a veteran boat captain, scuba instructor and sailing instructor. He grew up on boats and spent nearly the past 20 years working on all types of boats, yachts and even cruises doing all sorts of jobs, from maintenance to safety. He is fully certified with the american sailing association.