What’s Better? Gel Coat VS Paint for Rvs

What's Better? Gel Coat VS Paint for Rvs

Always being on the go in your RV comes with its paint chipped off. Different locations come with varying conditions of weather that affect the paint in multiple ways. While some chip it off, some make it bleed.

If you’re investing so much into an RV, you need a paint that lasts the longest, and that is what we are here to discuss.

Let’s talk about the big question here; gel coat vs. paint; which is better for your RV?

Longevity of Your Rv’s Original Paint

First off, your RV already comes with a coat of paint off the shelf. So let’s figure out what your RV comes with and how long it lasts?

The outer layer of RVs typically comes fabricated with a gel coat instead of the powder coating paint on cars and trucks. While powder coating paint is much more durable and has a tough protective layer, the gel coat is very porous.

Since RVs are the best off-road camper trailers that will take you anywhere, they go through extreme heat and rain. This causes moisture to penetrate quickly, yellowing and staining the vehicle due to wind and sun exposure.

This staining makes it hard for the RV to be cleaned because the discoloration sets deep within the surface layer of the vehicle. So, it’s pretty futile to hope that it will change back to its original white color.

Let’s Detect the Already Existing Paint Type

How do you tell if an RV is painted or gel-coated? It isn’t as tricky as you might think it is.

First off, judge by its appearance. It is probably painted if it has a shiny finish that buffs out nicely. On the other hand, it would be a gel coat if it gives off a chalky and dull look.

Another indication that it is a gel coat is if there are chips here and there and the color is relatively thick. Since gel coat is of a much thicker consistency, it is easily detectable due to its thick coatings.

Difference Between Gel Coat VS Paint

“Is a gel coat like paint?”

No, it most certainly isn’t.

The difference between both doesn’t only count for their durability but also their application.

Gel coat is a lot thicker than paint and is made to protect that fiberglass underlying your RVs surface. Because of its consistency, it needs to be applied with a gel cup gun.

After that, there is usually a clear coat put atop vehicles like RVs to give them the protection and resistance they need against water and harsh weather.

What’s excellent about gel coats is that they come in various colors that can easily match your already existing color. However, the gel coat would not adhere to your already existing paint. It also has a shorter shelf life of 2 to 4 months in an area with a temperature around 70 degrees.

On the other hand, paint is thinner, therefore, easier to apply. You also don’t need a particular gun to use it, and gel coat can also be applied atop your already existing gel coat.

As for the shelf-life, solvent-based paints can easily last up to 15 years, while water-based and latex-based paints can go up to 10 years.

Also, while gel coats can sometimes be toxic, one-part paints are easier to apply and less harmful. They are also not as expensive. The only downfall is that they may not be as durable and shiny.

How to Apply Gel Coat VS Paint?

Both the paints have different drying times depending on their consistency. Remember that your surface needs to be prepped before applying either paint.

Take some tablespoons of detergent with 2 gallons of hot water and clean the vehicle.

As for the application, when it comes to gel coat:

  • Once you’re done leveling things on the surface of your RV.
  •   Apply a base coat that takes 30 to 40 minutes to completely dry.
  •  After that, you apply the gel coat, which takes about eight to 24 hours to dry up.
  •  If you use the right amount of catalyst, it should cure in four to eight hours.

A good option would be a 360 degree Gel coat Marine correction compound with low dust compounds that leave a glossy finish. It would also remove any oxidation due to its abrasive nature.

As for the regular paint:

  •    First, apply body filler if there are any dents on your RV.
  •  Then, sand it down until everything is leveled.
  •  Next, mix a pint of thinner with a gallon of oil-based primer to avoid clogging the spray gun.
  •  Finally, spray the paint on the panels.
  •  Apply after the first coat, and wait three to four hours for it to dry,
  •  Then coat as many times as you want.

Remember not to use the RV while trying to avoid streaks and foreign particles sticking onto the wet paint. Then, depending on your budget and ability, you can either get the tools and paint it yourself or get it painted by professionals.

Are you planning to do the job yourself? Here is a way to revamp your old RV into a new one for under $50.

Do you not want to do it yourself? Then head over to RVs and boats for less to get your vehicle’s full paint and body shop.

As for how long they last, gel coats can get your RV through two years without significant repairs; on the other hand, the paint would probably require you to get at least one repair job within the same time.

Pros and Cons; Gel Coat VS Paint

Of course, both the paints would have their pros and cons. Let’s list them down below:

Pros of Gel Coat

  • Do not seep into pores due to thick stain
  •  Can be built up
  •  Cover up the underlying colors properly
  •  Don’t run or bleed; hence great for vertical surfaces
  •  Cheaper

Cons of Gel Coat

  • Take very long to dry
  • It needs a proper gel spray gun
  •  Don’t cover corners and small areas properly

Pros of Paint

  •  Don’t take too long to dry
  •  It can be sprayed normally
  •  Quickly gets into the smaller crevices and corners of RV

Cons of Paint

  •  Seep into pores due to thinner consistency
  •  Don’t mask the already existing colors well
  •  Bleed down vertical surfaces

While gel coats tend to fade, peel, go yellow and even have graphics checking. On the other hand, paint has no graphics or exposed gel coat. 

As experienced by many customers, gel coats come with some issues. For example, areas on the RV such as end caps can fade in seven years even after being inside for at least five months to a year. 

The Final Verdict

Unlike a gel coat, full-body paint seems to be the better choice for some customers.

Now that we have discussed the difference between gel coat vs. paint for RV choosing which to go for is your choice. Since the market is full of mixed reviews, pick the one you think is best for you. Then, paint it yourself, or get it painted to prepare for a great trip ahead; one that is free of scratches, paint leaks, staining, and yellowing.

Once ready, find helpful ways to save money, time, and stress on your trip with these excellent RV trip planner apps.

Warwick Braith

Warwick Braith is a thrill seeker at heart. He loves getting outdoors and testing his limits in the wild. As a blogger for YapQ, Warwick provides readers with insights and tips on how to get the most out of their outdoor experiences. Whether it's hiking, camping, or simply exploring nature, Warwick knows how to make the most of it.

Recent Posts