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Vinyl vs. Aluminum Windows: What’s Right For You? (2024)

Written by Devin Willie , Edited by Gianna Cappuccio

Published on June 17, 2024


Vinyl vs. Aluminum Windows: What’s Right For You? (2024)

In the battle of vinyl vs. aluminum windows, who will come out on top? Read on to learn more.

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With so many different types of windows available, it can be hard to confidently make the right choice for your remodel or new build. When it comes to vinyl vs. aluminum windows, you may be wondering which option is the best for your home. In this article, we'll talk about which factors you should consider when choosing between installing vinyl or aluminum windows, such as upfront and long-term costs, durability, maintenance, energy efficiency, and more.

Let’s get into it.

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Key takeaways

  • Aluminum upfront costs are considerably lower than vinyl.

  • Aluminum lasts longer than vinyl but isn’t as energy efficient. Your long-term costs depend on your energy prices.

  • Vinyl shows less wear but doesn’t last as long. Aluminum is stronger structurally.

  • Vinyl requires less maintenance than aluminum, but neither requires nearly as much as wood frame windows.

  • Vinyl is a clear winner for hot and cold climates in terms of energy efficiency.

Overview: vinyl vs. aluminum windows

When talking about vinyl vs. aluminum windows, it’s important to remember that we’re referring to the frame material. Both vinyl and aluminum windows use glass as the transparent material.

Vinyl windows

Triple hung vinyl window with fixed top sash and bottom sash that slides up, sash divided by white grilles a surrounded by white elegant frame horizontal white vinyl siding on a new construction residenceVinyl-frame windows are made from PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, the same material used to make sprinkler/irrigation pipes or the siding panels on some houses.

PVC is a strong, flame-retardant, slightly flexible plastic that can adjust to temperature changes throughout the year. PVC window frames are also better at insulation and conduct less of the outside temperature into your home.

It can be damaged by extreme temperature changes, is affected by UV solar damage, costs more upfront, and is mostly non-recyclable.

  • + Higher energy efficiency
  • + Traditional look
  • - Higher upfront cost
  • - Shorter lifetime (15-20 years)

Aluminum windows

Large windows black aluminum swing doors nature viewAluminum-frame windows are usually made from an aluminum alloy and small amounts of magnesium and silicon that help strengthen aluminum.

Aluminum is a strong, 100% recyclable, durable material that is naturally resistant to corrosion. While bare aluminum can corrode, it does not rust, instead forming a natural protective layer when exposed to the elements. Aluminum is immune to UV solar damage, which helps it last longer. Perhaps the biggest difference is cost: aluminum-frame windows are more affordable upfront.

As a metal, aluminum conducts heat and cold much more readily than vinyl. This means that as the window frame is heated or cooled by the outside climate, that temperature will be transferred to some degree to the frame inside your house. This is part of the reason they are less energy efficient. That being said, they can better handle extreme temperature changes without warping or cracking.

  • + Lower upfront cost
  • + Longer lifetime (20-25 years)
  • - Lower energy efficiency
  • - Non-traditional look

What’s right for you?

Vinyl: Vinyl windows are best for homeowners in areas with high energy costs where their higher insulation and lower temperature conductivity can save money over the windows’ lifetime. Vinyl windows also look more similar to wood frames in terms of thickness and can be painted or coated in different colors and wood-grain patterns. If you’re looking to save on energy costs and want a more traditional look, vinyl windows are probably the right fit for you. Just be aware of the higher upfront cost.

Aluminum: Aluminum windows are best for someone looking to save money on the upfront cost or implement a more sleek, modern design to their home. If your energy costs are low or if you live in a temperate climate, aluminum windows last considerably longer and are completely recyclable at the end of their lifetime. 

Vinyl vs. aluminum window costs

You probably know by now that there’s a difference in cost between vinyl and aluminum windows, but how much of a difference? Here’s a breakdown of potential costs for new and replacement aluminum and vinyl windows.

Cost of vinyl window installation (per window)

Average cost per square foot


Average cost


Low-end cost


High-end cost


Cost of aluminum window installation (per window)

Average cost per square foot


Average cost


Low-end cost


High-end cost


Cost of vinyl window replacement (per window)

Average cost per square foot


Average cost


Low-end cost


High-end cost


Cost of aluminum window replacement per window

Average cost per square foot


Average cost


Low-end cost


High-end cost


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Differences between aluminum and vinyl windows

If you're still unsure of what window frame material is right for you, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty details. Below, we compare the appearance, durability, maintenance, and energy efficiency of vinyl and aluminum windows. Let's see who comes out on top.


Aluminum-frame windows are thinner and have a more sleek, modern appearance, while vinyl-frame windows are thicker and look more like traditional wood-frame windows. Additionally, aluminum-frame windows can be difficult to paint, often requiring metal powder coating which cannot be done at home. Vinyl-frame windows can be painted or given a wood-grain appearance.

Window type

Appearance pros

Appearance cons


  • Sleek

  • Modern

  • Much harder to paint/tint

  • Non-traditional look


  • Looks more like traditional wood frame windows

  • Easier to paint/color with wood-grain pattern

  • Less modern

  • Can yellow with age

Winner: This depends on what look you’re going for! Choose vinyl for a classic look and aluminum for a modern look.

Durability of materials

Both vinyl-frame windows and traditional wood-frame windows are more durable, but aluminum windows outperform them both. Aluminum-frame windows are immune to UV solar damage and provide greater structural support than vinyl.

Window type

Durability pros

Durability cons


  • Structurally stronger

  • Immune to UV damage

  • Better at extreme temperatures

  • Can corrode if bare metal exposed to elements


  • More likely to hide scratches and damage

  • Susceptible to extreme temperatures and UV damage

Winner: Aluminum. Aluminum is stronger and lasts longer.

Routine maintenance required

Aluminum-frame windows can show scratches and chips more easily than vinyl windows, but vinyl windows tend to yellow after years of UV damage. Compared to wood-frame windows, neither requires much maintenance at all, other than cleaning.

Window type

Maintenance pros

Maintenance cons


  • As long as bare aluminum isn’t exposed to elements, little maintenance required

  • Can show scratches more easily, which may require detail work to refinish


  • Very little maintenance required

  • Can chip or break more easily than aluminum

Winner: Vinyl, but neither vinyl nor aluminum require much maintenance.

Insulating properties and energy efficiency

Vinyl windows are better insulated and have less temperature transfer than aluminum windows, which can mitigate the higher upfront cost of vinyl.

Window type

Insulation/efficiency pros

Insulation/efficiency cons


  • Reduced upfront costs can be used to pay for other energy-efficient items/upgrades to home

  • Aluminum transfers more external temperature to inside of house


  • Less temperature conductive, more energy-efficient overall

  • Higher upfront cost means less money for other energy upgrades

Winner: Vinyl. Vinyl is the most energy-efficient window, with greater insulation and less temperature transfer.

Are vinyl or aluminum windows right for your home?

So, which window is right for you?

If you live in a temperate climate with low energy costs and don’t mind a more modern look, aluminum is a clear winner. It has lower install costs and longer lifetimes.

If you live in an area with higher energy costs and want a more traditional look, vinyl is the way to go. It offers better insulation, lower temperature transfer, and greater decorative versatility.

If you’re wondering whether you should replace single or double-pane windows or if you simply need to seal old windows, you can always contact a window professional in your area.

Get free estimates on your new windows from a window installation expert

Frequently asked questions

While it would be great if there was a one-size-fits-all answer here, it depends! Vinyl window frames have a higher initial price tag but can save you money on energy costs and have a more classic wood-frame window appearance. Modern-looking aluminum windows cost less initially and last longer than vinyl window frames but aren’t as energy efficient.

As far as initial costs, vinyl windows are usually more expensive than aluminum windows. As far as lifetime costs, it depends! Vinyl windows are more energy efficient but don’t last as long as aluminum windows. Aluminum windows last longer, but aren’t as energy efficient. The fact is that there are multiple factors to consider, including how long you plan to be in the home, the cost of electricity and gas in your area, and what other energy efficiency upgrades you might be able to afford with lower initial window costs.

Vinyl windows generally don’t last as long as aluminum windows, with an expected lifetime of 15 to 20 years versus 20 to 25 years for aluminum. They can also be damaged by UV solar radiation, which, depending on where you live, could be a problem. But the main disadvantage is the initial cost. Generally, vinyl windows cost more to install than aluminum windows.

Aluminum windows don’t have the same insulation power as vinyl windows, and the metal can also transfer the outside temperature into your home. They also don’t have the same traditional look as vinyl windows and can be harder to tint or decorate.

Written by

Devin Willie Content Specialist

When Devin isn’t writing about home improvement or native plants and animals, you can find him at the top of a mountain or enjoying a hot spring in the vast wilds of Utah.