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Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows (2024 Guide)

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Choosing between aluminum vs. vinyl windows for your replacement project can be tough. Both types of windows are more durable and require less maintenance than wood, and they come at a lower cost than fiberglass or composite. 

To help you choose between these two popular window replacement options, we analyzed how they compare in the five categories of appearance, durability, cost, energy efficiency, and maintenance. Our guide also explores the difference between DIY and professional installation and what to look for in a professional installer.

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New Windows in Home
Window Replacement

Window replacement typically costs $300–$2,000 per window, depending on the window type.

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View looking out a casement window from the inside of a house that has turquoise interior walls
Window Repair

Window repair typically costs $177–$623, but it can vary based on the type of repair.

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Picture of a man cleaning a window with a yellow cloth
Window Cleaning Cost

Window cleaning typically costs $80–$430 for an entire home.

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Differences Between Aluminum and Vinyl Windows

Aluminum and vinyl are the two most common materials that homeowners choose for their replacement windows.

Aluminum windows are lightweight but strong, making them a great option if you want something that can withstand the elements. However, this material is less energy-efficient than vinyl, and some homeowners don’t like the look of metal windows.

Those who want a more traditional look will often choose windows made with vinyl, also called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Vinyl is the most popular window frame material today due to its affordability, durability, and ease of installation. While some homeowners worry that vinyl will look cheap, it comes in various colors and finishes to improve its aesthetic value—including faux woodgrain textures.

Appearance

When it comes to appearance, both aluminum and vinyl windows offer a range of possibilities.

Aluminum windows have a thicker frame than vinyl windows and come in a variety of colors. Aluminum frames are typically finished in a smooth or powdered enamel coating for a more modern look. You can repaint aluminum frames with enamel paint if the coating wears away.
Vinyl window frames come in several finishes, such as smooth, textured, and faux wood. These options allow for greater customization, especially if you want a contemporary look. However, you won’t be able to easily change the color later. Painting vinyl is difficult and can void the manufacturer’s warranty.
Aluminum WindowsVinyl Windows

Thicker frame

Suits contemporary styles

Smooth or textured finish

Wide variety of finishes

Can paint

Can’t paint

Durability

Both aluminum and vinyl windows are tough, but they have unique strengths and weaknesses in how they hold up to elements.

Aluminum frames are highly durable and can support heavy windows of different shapes and sizes. Although aluminum can withstand harsh weather conditions and extreme heat and cold, it’s not recommended for homeowners who live on the coast, as salty air can corrode and pit this material. The enamel finish on aluminum also fades more quickly in sunlight compared to the dyes in vinyl. Aluminum windows can last up to 25 years.
Vinyl is durable in most climates and won’t corrode, but extreme heat can cause it to crack, warp, or melt. You should occasionally check your vinyl windows and reapply caulk if necessary. If they’re well-maintained, vinyl windows can last up to 40 years. However, the adage “you get what you pay for” applies here. The quality of the vinyl used, the thickness of the frames, and the construction techniques can all greatly impact durability.
Aluminum WindowsVinyl Windows

Last 20–25 years

Last 10–40 years

Withstand extreme weather and temperatures

Susceptible to damage in extreme heat

Not recommended for coastal homes

May require homeowners to reapply caulk

Cost

Vinyl and aluminum are two of the most cost-effective materials available for windows. Homeowners can expect to pay between $100 and $900 for vinyl windows and $75 to $400 for aluminum—plus $100 to $300 per window for installation.

Replacing eight windows with high-end vinyl frames could cost as much as $7,200 for materials alone. Homeowners could save around $4,000 on the same project by opting for aluminum or mid-range vinyl.

MaterialAverage Cost per Window

Aluminum

$75–$400

Vinyl

$100–$900

* Cost data sources via contractor estimates used by Angi.

Energy Efficiency

Vinyl windows generally offer better energy efficiency than aluminum—though they are not as efficient as fiberglass windows. The increased efficiency of high-end vinyl windows can help offset their higher upfront cost.

Metal conducts heat and cold, making aluminum less energy-efficient than vinyl. You can purchase thermally improved aluminum, which is more energy-efficient, or install thermal breaks, which consist of extra insulation in the frame.
Vinyl naturally offers better insulation than aluminum, saving homeowners money on their energy bills over time. To maximize your energy savings even more, look for ENERGY STAR-approved windows.

Maintenance

Vinyl and aluminum windows are both easier to maintain than wood windows, but they do have different upkeep requirements to consider.

You should wipe down aluminum regularly to prevent moisture from building up and causing the frame to rust. Homeowners in coastal areas may have to do this more frequently. Use a special aluminum cleaner to clean and remove rust and lubricate moving parts. If the finish begins to peel or chip, paint these areas to extend the frame’s life.
Vinyl is easier to maintain than aluminum. However, if you live in an area with temperature extremes, you should check the vinyl and caulking frequrntly since it can crack over time. Reseal if you notice gaps in the frame or drafts in the house. You may also want to lubricate the hinges and locks occasionally. When the frames get dirty, you can wash them with a mild solution of soap and water.
Aluminum WindowsVinyl Windows

Check for rust and corrosion

Check for warping or cracking with temperature changes

Paint over peeled or chipped finish

Check vinyl and caulk periodically

Wipe down and clean to remove moisture and rust

Reapply caulk when necessary

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DIY vs. Professional Window Installation

Most homeowners find window installation to be a fairly complex task, so hiring a professional contractor is usually best.

DIY Window Installation

Before you tackle a DIY window installation, you’ll need the right equipment, knowledge, and experience to get the job done correctly. Poor installation can lead to moisture and mold in your home. This is expensive to remedy, so you may end up calling a professional anyway. Window installation involves the following steps:

  • Removing the old frame
  • Taking accurate measurements
  • Cutting openings and fitting the new window frame
  • Installing the window
  • Sealing and weatherproofing

Doing this job yourself could save you on your window replacement cost, but there are other considerations, including the following:

  • Do you have all the necessary tools and equipment? This may cost less than labor, but you’ll need saws and drills to install a window.
  • How will you move the materials? If you pick up the materials, they’ll need to fit in your vehicle. Renting a large truck costs up to $100 per day. Shipping is possible, but free shipping may not be available.
  • How long will it take you to replace your windows? You might have to hire a professional if you can’t finish the job quickly.
  • Do you have enough help? You’ll need help to lift and install your window and frame, especially if it’s aluminum.

Professional Window Installation

A professional window installer will measure and fit the window, making necessary adjustments and ensuring it’s level and sealed. Here are several advantages to hiring a professional casement window installer:

  • Waterproofing: A professional knows how to create a watertight seal to avoid mold and damage from moisture.
  • Expert advice: You can ask for help with window placement in the house and get advice on whether you should choose aluminum or vinyl windows.
  • Code compliance: A local pro knows what permits you’ll need and can help you avoid building code violations.
  • More options: A professional can perform custom or complex window installations.
  • Lower material costs: Contractors can purchase materials at wholesale costs, which are lower than retail prices.
  • Warrranties: Reputable window installers often provide warranties or guarantees on their work.

If you’re still unsure whether professional or DIY window replacement is the right choice, check out the video below to get an idea of what’s involved. General contractor Tom Silva walks a homeowner through the process of measuring, removing, and replacing her windows.


How To Hire a Pro

Here are some steps to take when hiring a professional window installer.
Check online reviews for window installers in your area and ask friends and family for their recommendations.
Look up the business on the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Yelp, Trustpilot, and other similar sites.
Get a quote from at least three highly rated window companies and ask about their experience, availability, and rates.
Check whether the company has the proper licensing and insurance in your state.
Ask for a timeline of the project.
Get cost estimates, guarantees, or warranties in writing.

Our Conclusion

The choice between aluminum or vinyl windows depends on your budget, needs, and aesthetic preferences. Vinyl windows require less maintenance than aluminum and may save you more in the long run by reducing your energy bills. Aluminum is generally less expensive and does better in extreme temperatures, but it’s not the best material for wet and humid climates.

We recommend contacting local window installation companies for quotes and assistance with your window installation needs.

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FAQ About Aluminum vs. Vinyl Windows

Does aluminum last longer than vinyl?

No, vinyl windows generally last longer than aluminum. If you invest in high-quality vinyl, your windows may last up to 40 years, while aluminum has an average lifespan of 20–25 years. Even with proper care, aluminum is more susceptible to corrosion and damage in harsh or coastal environments.

What are the disadvantages of aluminum windows?

Aluminum windows have a few disadvantages compared to other window types. Because aluminum is conductive, it provides less insulation from outside temperatures and lower energy efficiency. Aluminum is also more prone to condensation and corrosion in humid coastal climates.

Which are cheaper: aluminum or vinyl windows?

Aluminum windows are generally cheaper than vinyl windows, with an average cost of $275 versus $550 per window. However, the difference between aluminum windows and low-end or mid-range vinyl may be negligible.

What are the benefits of aluminum windows?

Aluminum is very durable and typically costs less than other window materials. It is versatile and comes in several colors and finishes. Aluminum is also environmentally friendly and can be recycled.

Which is better for insulation: aluminum or vinyl?

Between aluminum and vinyl windows, vinyl is less conductive and therefore better for insulation. This can help homeowners save money on energy costs. However, some aluminum windows come with thermally improved features or thermal breaks.

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