What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Steel and Aluminum Cars?

Car body panels and structural components made of aluminum are lighter than those made of steel, giving vehicles that use aluminum components advantages in performance and fuel consumption. However, cars that have aluminum components are usually more expensive to purchase and repair than those with steel panels and structures.

Many vehicles often use a blend of aluminum and steel components to optimize the balance between cost and weight savings. For example, the 2015 Ford F-150 truck uses a traditional steel frame covered with aluminum body panels. High-performance and luxury cars make more extensive use of aluminum, such as the Audi A8 sedan that uses aluminum for the entire space frame and body panels of the vehicle.

The primary advantage of aluminum construction over steel is the lighter weight, though manufacturers claim some aluminum structures are stronger than steel equivalents as well. However, aluminum manufacture is still more expensive than steel manufacture, leading to higher retail costs for cars with large amounts of aluminum in their designs. Aluminum structures are also more expensive to repair as compared to steel panels. Part of this additional cost is due to the longer time it takes for mechanics to repair aluminum structures, leading to higher labor costs when repairing aluminum cars.