Vinyl vs. Wood Fence: What’s the Difference?

Updated: May 26, 2023

If you're on the fence between vinyl vs. wood fencing, this guide will help you break down the pros, cons and costs.

One of the first things we did when we bought our house was install a fence. Our adventurous pup loved to take self-initiated strolls through the neighborhood, and we knew we needed a good fence to keep him in.

While style was important, so was budget. We had a hard time deciding between a vinyl vs. wood fence, so we went with both: Vinyl for the front and wood for the back.

We’ve learned a lot since those days, like the differences between these two fence materials, and when to choose one over the other. Keep reading to learn more about vinyl vs. wood fences and how to choose the one that’s right for you.

Vinyl Fence Pros and Cons

Vinyl fences are a relative newcomer to the fencing world, but they’re wildly popular.

Pros

  • Provides security and privacy;
  • Low maintenance compared to organic materials;
  • Easy to clean.;
  • Flexible and impact resistant to a degree;
  • Lightweight and easy to install.

Cons

  • Can be expensive;
  • Requires special hardware;
  • Can be difficult to customize or repair;
  • Brittle in cold temperatures.

Wood Fence Pros and Cons

Wood fences have been making good neighbors for millennia. They’ve come a long way but still have their pros and cons.

Pros

  • Provides security and privacy;
  • Comes in various styles.
  • Some affordable options (though others are extremely expensive);
  • Easy to customize;
  • Requires basic installation techniques and hardware;
  • Material is environmentally-friendly when sustainably sourced.

Cons

  • Requires regular maintenance;
  • Panels are heavy;
  • Susceptible to warping and dry rotting.

Vinyl vs. Wood Fence: What’s the Difference?

While both serve the same purpose, vinyl and wood fences have significant differences.

Maintenance

This is the main difference. Vinyl fences require little maintenance beyond a pressure washing once or twice a year. Wood needs a coat of sealer or stain every few years to keep it looking fresh and clean while preventing rot.

Customization and repair

Customizing and repairing wood fences is much easier than vinyl. Vinyl fences are typically hollow inside the rails and slats,; cutting or reshaping them for a custom look often leaves these spaces open to view. While wood isn’t easier to cut, it doesn’t leave unsightly gaps.

Also, repairing vinyl can be a pain because the pieces are often glued together. If a slat cracks, you often need to replace an entire panel. With a wood slat, it may be possible to remove and replace just the single slat.

Installation process

Installing wood fencing is as straightforward as it gets. Dig holes in the ground for the posts, set them in concrete and attach the panels to the posts with screws. The panels are much heavier than vinyl, however.

Vinyl fencing requires special brackets that attach to the panel posts. These brackets typically have caps that snap on and hide the hardware. Each bracket costs considerably more than the four screws required to hang a wood panel.

Appearance

It doesn’t usually take a trained eye to spot the difference between wood and vinyl fences. Wood looks more natural and rugged, while even textured vinyl looks smoother and more uniform. Some folks dislike vinyl for this reason. If you’re thinking of going with vinyl, check out these popular vinyl fence colors.

How Much Does Vinyl and Wood Fencing Cost?

Another big difference between vinyl and wood fencing is the overall cost of each.

How Much Does Vinyl Fencing Cost?

In general, standard vinyl fencing between four and six feet tall costs around $25 to $35 per linear foot for a DIY install. Hiring a contractor to put it in can increase the amount to $35 to $45 per linear foot. If the ground is particularly rocky or tricky, expect the rate to climb up to $50 more for each hour.

How Much Does Wood Fencing Cost?

The materials to build a four- to six-foot privacy fence can cost between $7 and $15 per linear foot. Hiring a contractor will increase that amount to $27 per linear foot of basic pine and $60 per linear foot of high-end hardwoods.

While the materials are typically cheaper, their weight creates considerably more work than vinyl. Again, rocky or difficult terrain will increase installation costs.

Vinyl vs. Wood Fence: Which Is Better?

Overall, it depends on relative circumstances. Vinyl fences may be better for certain scenarios while wood fences could be the better choice for others.

Homeowners looking for low-maintenance, easy-care fences should seriously consider vinyl. With a simple pressure washing, these fences can look good as new. They don’t chip or rot, and bugs leave them alone.

However, homeowners who prefer classic good looks may opt for wood. While they require more work, wood fences look more natural, are easy to customize and come in lots of styles.