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RIB Buying Guide: Things to Consider

4th April 2017

What's a RIB?

RIB stands for Rigid Inflatable Boat and refers to a variety of vessels that principally share a similar structure; a lightweight vessel with a solid hull and an inflatable collar at the gunwhale. Designed for speed, stability and manoeuvrability, RIBs are a common site up and down the UK’s ports and harbours. They are extremely flexible and durable and are a popular choice of both work boat and leisure craft. A development of the original inflatable boat, RIB’s can also be referred to as RHIBs (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat). You can also find FRIBs which are foldable RIBs usually constructed in three interlocking sections.

They are a common choice for the RNLI, Royal Navy and HM Coast Guard. You can also see RIBs in action as dive boats, tenders for large vessels and as workboats for fishermen.

View FAFB ribs for sale here

Common Characteristics

The design of the RIB has advanced to incorporate various sizes and shapes but largely they all share the same common, or range of, characteristics.


Most RIBs are sized between four and nine metres long but in commercial applications such as sea safaris or military use can sometimes be as long as 18m.


RIBs are typically driven by one (or more) outboard motor(s) ranging in capacity from 5-300 hp depending on the size of craft. Some modern designs actually use an inboard motor that turns a stern drive or water jet for propulsion.


Made from a rigid material ranging from wood to steel, aluminium to glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). Designed to hydroplane, the hull of a RIB is generally a combination of a deep V cut hull with a flatter bow to maximise planning. Shallow hulls offer a more comfortable ride but are slower and do not cut through the waves as easily as their deeper hull counterparts.


Contrary to popular belief and earlier designs, the tubes constructed around the gunwhale are not usually a single construction; rather, they are separate chambers. This reduces the potential catastrophic consequences of a rupture to the entire tube. Most larger boats will have at least six chambers each with their own valve.

Tubes can be made from a variety of materials including PVC, PU and Hypalon. Each material offers their own advantages and disadvantages from cost to durability with some having a shorter lifespan of approximately five years whilst others can be extremely tough (even bulletproof and knife-proof) and last twenty years under normal operating conditions.

Wheelhouse, Cabins and Canopies

Some RIBs, particularly the larger ones, have a wheelhouse, cabin or canopy to offer protection for both equipment and the crew. The current fashion for RIBs as performance leisure/cruising craft has also seen a rise in the demand for small cabins often capable of accommodating two people with the addition of some basic niceties such as a chemical or sea toilet and storage facilities.

Buying a RIB: What to Consider

The first thing to determine when deciding to buy a RIB is whether to buy new or second-hand. The obvious benefits of a new boat include the assurance that comes with buying from a main dealer which can include guarantees and warranties; you can also often negotiate some good deals that may include servicing, free add-ons or even sizeable discounts depending on the time of year. The downside is that you will be paying top dollar for the privilege of buying new.

Second-hand RIBS come with their own considerations which need greater attention when buying; however, buying second-hand boats doesn’t mean buying inferior quality. Most used boats have been well loved, serviced and maintained and offer a cheaper alternative to buying a new RIB.

Whether you are opting for a new or second-hand RIB, you need to have a clear idea about what kind of use the craft is going to be put to before going shopping.

Things to think about

It’s important to get a good look at any used boat you are buying and our general guide of things to look for when buying second-hand might help. However, when it comes to RIBs specifically, we would suggest the following:

  • Inspect all the fixtures and fittings and check for rust, deterioration and damage.
  • Look at the quality of the build and the finish. Is the fibre glass sharp and rough or have the edges been beveled? Poor workmanship can be a sign of poor build quality and can inform you more about the lifespan of the RIB than any sales literature could.
  • Are the grab handles securely fixed and are there enough of them? There should be at least four irrespective of the size of the boat but enough to ensure that any passenger or crew members has easy and quick access to them.
  • Does the deck have adequate drainage? Waves over the bow are common when riding in a rib and the water has to go somewhere.
  • What material are the tubes constructed from? PVC usually has an additive to make it flexible which can make the tubes brittle over time. Tubes made of this kind of polymer tend to last around five years and are the cheapest option.
  • Is there enough dry storage for your needs? Is it watertight? Being confident that your sensitive and delicate items are safe from getting wet is essential so check the seals around storage compartments and make sure you are satisfied with the capacity.
  • Is the configuration of seating appropriate for the use you intend putting it to? Family friendly craft can offer a good array of seat configurations but do you need more load space?
  • Are the controls and display large enough to read at a glance and at speed?
  • Does the helm offer a good and comfortable position? Is it secure and does it offer adequate protection?
  • Are the non-slip surfaces in good repair?
  • Is the engine power going to be enough for your demands?
  • Is the space and payload adequate for purpose?
  • Have the tubes suffered any damage in the past and has this been adequately repaired?

You can find out many of the answers to these questions before even seeing a boat in the flesh by doing some research on the manufacturer and model type. However, there is no substitute for a thorough visual inspection of any boat you intend to buy.

Lastly, the most important part of buying any boat is to take it for a sea trial. There is no other way that you will know exactly what you are taking on unless you stretch its legs in the water.

Finding a RIB For Sale

There are plenty of dealers who specialise in RIBs and inflatables as well as boatyards that sell second-hand ones. You can also find a good selection of RIBs and inflatables on

If you are interested in RIBs and Powerboats then Powerboating: The RIB and Sportsboat Handbook by Peter White is a useful guide. It covers a range of useful tips and practical information on choosing boats, engines and trailers as well as safety advice in man overboard procedures, troubleshooting and navigation.

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