Comparing the Pros and Cons of Vinyl and Aluminum Windows

By HomeAdvisor

Updated December 13, 2021

Relax area on wooden windowsill
Photo: Dariusz Jarzabek / Adobe Stock

Vinyl and aluminum are two common window materials, but it can be overwhelming to decide between the two when there are so many types of windows available.

While aluminum is incredibly strong, vinyl is more environmentally-friendly. This guide lays out all the pros and cons of both vinyl and aluminum windows. Continue reading, and learn all you need to know about vinyl vs. aluminum windows.

On This Page:

  1. What’s the Difference Between Vinyl and Aluminum Windows?
    1. Vinyl
    2. Aluminum
  2. Vinyl vs. Aluminum: Which Is Better?
    1. Appearance
    2. Cost
    3. Installation/DIY
    4. Energy Efficiency
    5. Maintenance
    6. Insulation
    7. Durability
  3. Which Is Best for Your Home?
  4. Vinyl vs. Aluminum and Other Material Comparisons

What’s the Difference Between Vinyl and Aluminum Windows?

Aluminum windows consist of aluminum, while vinyl windows consist of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Vinyl

A PVC black window
Photo: Javi / Adobe Stock

Vinyl windows consist of PVC, a common material for making pipes, flooring, and siding.

Aluminum

Close up of a white window
Photo: Javi / Adobe Stock

Aluminum is known for its strength and durability and is one of the most long-lasting materials for windows.

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Vinyl vs. Aluminum: Which Is Better?

Whether vinyl or aluminum windows are better for you depends on several factors.

Appearance

Aluminum window frames are typically thicker than vinyl frames, and the former tend to look more modern. Both are available in a range of colors and finishes, but only with vinyl do you have the option to repaint the frame.

Cost

When looking at costs, aluminum is usually the more expensive option. The average cost of aluminum windows is $400 to $1,200, while the average cost of vinyl windows is roughly $250 to $600.

Installation/DIY

While expert homeowners can replace their own windows, they likely won’t save a substantial (or any) amount of money. Plus, if you install them improperly, you’ll likely end up paying pricey window repair costs later.

Contractors often get materials wholesale, while you’ll probably pay retail prices. Other advantages to hiring a professional window installer include having access to someone skilled, quality tools and a proper installation.

Installing vinyl tends to be simpler and quicker than installing aluminum since vinyl is very flexible.

The cost to install windows varies based on material. Vinyl windows cost from $250 to $600 on average, while aluminum windows cost around $400 to $1,200. Labor is usually around $30 to $50 per hour.

Energy Efficiency

Aluminum windows are not as environmentally-friendly as vinyl windows. This is because aluminum is a heat conductor and results in your home holding more heat. This causes your HVAC system to work harder.

Vinyl windows reduce heat transfers, limit the amount of light coming through the window and act as internal temperature regulators. This allows the HVAC system to work less.

Maintenance

Both vinyl windows and aluminum windows are pretty low-maintenance, but aluminum windows require a bit more upkeep. This is because aluminum may corrode or rust over time. With aluminum windows, you’ll need to wipe them down periodically. If you notice condensation building up, wipe it away as soon as possible to avoid rust. Since the aluminum finishes can peel or chip, you may need to touch them up occasionally.

Vinyl windows will also require some maintenance over time. Since vinyl windows can warp due to fluctuating temperatures, you must caulk them to prevent air from coming in and out.

Insulation

Aluminum windows are better at insulating noise than vinyl, which isn’t great at noise insulation due to its lower mass. On the contrary, vinyl windows are superior when it comes to insulating the interior temperature. Vinyl naturally minimizes heat transference, which helps maintain a more stable temperature inside.

Aluminum windows don’t insulate the interior well and instead can make the rooms get to extreme temperatures since aluminum is a natural heat conductor.

Durability

Aluminum is one of the strongest materials available for windows. Aluminum windows can last 20 to 25 years. Vinyl is very flexible, and because of its flexibility, it can get warped or distorted due to temperature changes.

Aluminum may deteriorate or corrode over time, while corrosion is not an issue with vinyl windows.

Which Is Best for Your Home?

If you’re seeking a cost-effective, low-maintenance and energy-efficient window, vinyl is a great choice.

Vinyl vs. Aluminum and Other Material Comparisons

By looking at the characteristics and pros and cons of other window options, you can more knowledgeably decide when to buy new windows.

Wood

Wood windows have a classic architectural look and typically cost between $150 and $1,300 or more.

Wood is one of the best window options for insulation but requires more maintenance than vinyl since it needs touch-ups every so often.

Like vinyl, wooden windows may warp, expand, contract or rot. Another disadvantage is that wood generally appeals to termites and other wood-eating bugs.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass windows are more durable than vinyl windows yet run more expensive, with an average range of $500 to $1,500. Compared to vinyl and aluminum, there is usually less availability for customization with fiberglass windows.

Fiberglass, like aluminum, is a very strong material. Since it doesn’t expand and contract like vinyl, there is less chance of warping, leaking and weather-related damage.

Composite

PVC polymers and wood fibers comprise composite windows and feature a look similar to wood. It’s more durable than both vinyl and wood and is a low-maintenance material. Composite windows run on average from $300 to $1,200.

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