RIB or SIB - which boat is better for you?

Hull design

The rigid inflatable boat (RIB) is an incredibly popular choice of power boat due to its versatility, speed and ability to cope with challenging conditions. However, many people incorrectly refer to all inflatable boats as RIBs, not knowing that some of these RIBs are in fact soft inflatable boats (SIBs). This means that they do not have a hard hull, so are easy to deflate and store, and also tend to be far more affordable than RIBs.

When it comes to buying an inflatable boat it is important that you choose the right design of hull to suit your needs.


The soft hull of a SIB means that it is very lightweight and easy to transport but it is also much more prone to flipping at speed and is far lower in the water which can make for a wetter ride. One of the main benefits of buying a SIB over a RIB is that its soft hull is suitable for beaching which makes it ideal for those looking to go beach-hopping in the summer and do some shallow-water fishing. It also makes SIBs ideal to be used as tenders to reach other vessels in a harbour. 


The hard hull of a rib makes it safe at high speed and far more stable in choppy conditions. However, the complex design of the hull also makes RIBs far more expensive than SIBs and the weight of the hull means that they can be very heavy to launch and bring ashore. RIBs are considered to be far more comfortable as they often have secure seating and storage space.

Some RIBs have long and narrow, deep V-shaped hulls designed for very high performance. Others have wider hulls with a shallower V-shape at the bow, flattening out at the stern, which provide a more comfortable ride. It is worth checking out both to find the one that suits you.

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RIB materials

Most recreational RIBs are not built to the very high specs of the RNLI’s rescue boats, but nonetheless they all follow similar basic principles:

    • The hulls are usually constructed out of glass reinforced plastic (GRP), although other materials such as aluminium and carbon fibre are sometimes used.

    • The inflatable tubes are made from either Hypalon or PVC, Hypalon being the most expensive material but easier to repair.

    • Although most RIBs follow these basic principles, there are a large variety of hull shapes and engine sizes available across a very wide price range.

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Both RIBs and SIBs have pros and cons, including:

RIB - Pros RIB - Cons SIB - Pros SIB - Cons
High performance and safe at speed Higher price Lower price Limited speed capability and engine size
Rugged and stable in choppy conditions Heavy to launch and bring ashore Portability and easy to launch Less stable at speed than RIB, easily flipped
Storage lockers for gear Trailer required for road transport Lightweight Lack of comfort
Solid floor Storage costs ashore, and mooring costs No need for trailer Limited space
Comfort, more secure seating and 'big boat' feel Storage: is non-foldable Easily stored Lower in water - much wetter ride than RIB
Wide range of uses depending on engine size Not suitable for beaching Usable for fishing and general runabout, as easily beached. Excellent as tenders Not well suited for water-skiing, as a dive boat or in choppy conditions

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Buying your inflatable boat

Once you have done your research and decided on a RIB or a SIB your search can really begin. Search online to see what is available on the market, and consider visiting some specific online forums, as this is a great way to get advice from people with boating experience and may help you to get any questions answered.

It is also worthwhile visiting boat shows in order to speak to a number of experts and see a wide range of different vessels. It is also a great opportunity to talk to people from training schools who will be able to offer their advice when it comes to getting the best training to ensure you are safe and confident on the water. 

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Insurance for your RIB

After you have bought your RIB it is important that you get it insured in order to protect yourself and your boat should something happen. We offer four different levels of cover so you can choose a policy that suits your needs.

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About the author

Adam Summersby is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.