Best Boat T-Tops For Center Consoles: 2023 Savings Guide

Why Choose A Marine T-top?

overhead photo of two people riding in a center console boat that has a blue colored t-top

Many of us already know that having shade on our boats is crucial for an enjoyable day out on the water. While some people choose to buy a “Bimini” to provide shade, center console owners need a “T-Top.” Buying the best boat t-tops for center consoles equals an excellent investment. As a T-Top gives much-needed shade, without robbing you of space on the deck and adds to resale value.

Unfortunately, picking out the best aftermarket boat t-top isn’t easy as you may think. Like anything else, some t-tops are better than others on the market. To help you avoid wasting your money and time, I wrote this guide with reviews to prevent you buying a junk t-top.

Bear in mind, you get what you pay for, smart boaters follow the adage “pay now, save later.” Spend the extra bucks for a quality product, this is the best insurance in the long run.

First there are comprehensive reviews of the best boat t-tops for center consoles. Second you’ll find a buyers guide about some main the features you should consider before you buy.

If you want to navigate to a specific section, there is a clickable table of contents. Plus below is a tabbed comparison table of every product reviewed in this article. Okay, let’s begin.

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Table of Contents

Comparison Chart

The Best Overall Boat T-Top For Center Consoles

Purple label with gold anchor stating Editor's choice
Fishmaster Pro Series T-Top
  • Frame Materials: 6061 T6 Aviation Grade Aluminum
  • Center Console Fitment: 24 to 50 inches wide
  • Tube Size(s): 2.25" Tubing Side Supports With 1.90" Canopy Tubes
  • Cover Dimensions (inch): 80.5 (Length) x 61.9 (Width)
  • Cover Material: Marine-Grade UV Resistant Sunbrella Fabric (9 colors)
  • Frame Height (inch): 84
  • Top Truss Structure Supports All Fishmaster Accessories
  • Collapsible: Yes - Only Boat T-Top That Folds Twice
  • OEM Styling Matches The Look Of Modern Boats
  • Warranty (years): 5
Pro's & Con's

Fishmaster Pro Series T-Top Review:

In 2023 the Fishmaster Pro Series T-Top continues as my pick for the best boat T-Top for center consoles. This is the gold standard within the marine T-Top industry and has OEM styling. As an added bonus, you can even fit it in ribbed/inflatable boats!

Fishmaster’s headquartered out of Knoxville, Tennessee. The company is a team of seasoned engineers who designed wake board towers. Created in 2005 Fishmaster set out to build the first universal folding T-top.

First Impressions

Seeing the Pro Series in person will convince any boater that they have achieved their goal. The model for this review is the powder coated version, but you can buy it in an anodized frame if you prefer.

The fit is as universal as possible, fitting center consoles from 24″ to 50″ with a standing height of 84″ tall. You won’t have to worry about shade as it has 35 square feet (3.25 m²) of canopy cover via the Sunbrella® fabric. With nine fabric colors to choose from, you’ll have no problem putting a personal touch on your boat.

I like how the white colored powder coating matches the OEM styling of modern vessels. This finish is both sleek and rugged at the same time. Install is easy due to the included instructions and online videos any DIY’er can follow.

First-Rate Construction

Another bonus for boats hitting rough waters, this Pro Series T-Top has a beefed up 2.25″ side support frame. But don’t worry the canopy tubing is 1.90” so all your accessories will attach to it. Plus it has ergonomic grab handles that are comfortable and secure hold.

Speaking of tubing, this Fishmaster marine tower is all 6061-T6 anodized aluminum. This is aircraft grade aluminum that has the highest strength to weight ratio. What’s different with this one is the tubing gets a super durable powder coat paint over top. As a result, the frame is the ultra-protected from harsh marine environments.

Folding T-Top?

What separates this T-Top from the rest: it’s a true “folding” T-Top, meaning it pivots forward! In fact, it folds twice, first at the side supports and second in the canopy, for true storage. Unlike other brands, one person can fold it down for storage or passing under low objects.


For some the main disadvantage might be the price. While there are other cheaper options, these brands cheap out on materials too. Likewise, lower quality materials open you and your boat up to damage and safety hazards.

Another potential downside is the appearance of the rope attachments for the cover. Some boaters prefer a cleaner look with zippers or Velcro, for me though I care about performance instead of appearance.


Do you own a high quality center console boat and want to add a T-Top matches in quality? This is the penultimate marine t-top for you. Fishmaster Pro Series T-Tops match OEM looks, provides great shade and protects resale. If you want the best you need to pay for the best.

Heavy-Duty T-Top For Large Fishing Boats

Dolphin Pro2 T-Top
  • Frame Materials: 6063 Marine-Grade Anodized Aluminum
  • Center Console Fitment: Up To 47 inches wide
  • Tube Size(s): 2" Supports & Canopy Tubes
  • Cover Dimensions (inch): 82 (Length) x 61 (Width)
  • Cover Material: Marine-Grade VIII, UV Resistant Acrylic (Black)
  • Frame Height (inch): 83
  • Unique Removable Cover, Attaches Via Zipper & Velcro
  • Collapsible: Yes - Loosen Leg Bolts & Pivot Forward
  • Comfortable Grab Bars For Rough Waters
  • Warranty (years): 1
Pro's & Con's

Dolphin Pro 2 T-Top Review:

The Dolphin Pro 2 T-Top is a popular T-Top for 17 to 25 feet (7.62 m) center console fishing boats in 2023. With a great blend of curves and the ability to fold forward, the quality is good with a nice fit and finish.

For over 15 years, Dolphin has experience in designing aluminum products for boats. With headquarters in both the USA and Australia. The actual manufacturing of the frame is in China as confirmed from stickers that came with it.

Initial Thoughts

While some boaters scoff at frames constructed in China, this one looks sturdy. Secured to the deck and using 4 stand-offs, attached from the frame to center console. It feels rock solid and the silver finish matches most marine hardware on boats.

The tubes are 2″ anodized 6063 extruded aluminum with machined 6061 alloy fittings. While it’s a step-down in strength from the Fishmaster T-Tops, it’s still a bulkier mid-range build.

For center console floor space fitment, this model adjusts up to 47″ in width. With a front to rear measurement of 28″ center to center it’s compact.

Zippered & Velcro Cover

For shading the canopy is a good size of 82″ long by 61″ wide with a standing height of 83″ tall. The cover material isn’t as good as Fishmaster, but it does cost less. Dolphin uses a vague “marine grade” acrylic fabric. It’s UV resistant which is the main factor for hanging out all day under it. That’s a plus, where it may falter is the fade resistance.

A big bonus a lot of boaters love about this T-Top is the innovative zipper and Velcro attachment system. Other T-Top manufactures use a weaved rope with canvas design. As a result, these cover designs are a permanent installation. Whereas the Dolphin Pro 2 cover can come off for safe storage while traveling down the highway.

Folds Down For Storage

Like its competitor (Fishmaster) it’s a “folding” T-Top, which pivots forward for storage. The difference is this one only folds in the side supports.

Any Downsides For This Marine T-Top?

Yes, an unfortunate problem that I see from some customers is quality control. This is a risk for products made in a different country than the brand headquarters. Past issues include small cracks in welds or poor finishing work. That said, Dolphins’ customer service seems to go above and beyond to fix any issue brought to them. Which is great to hear and should avail most concerns at this price point.

Just a heads-up, Dolphin doesn’t include printed instructions with their products. For some this is a massive nuisance and for others it isn’t an issue at all.

Who Picks The Dolphin Pro 2 T-Top?

Boaters who love angling from their midsized center console fishing boat. While complaints of quality control happen, the vast majority have bought without issue. It doesn’t match in build quality of a Fishmaster but for many anglers this T-Top is a great option.

Best Folding T-Top For Fishing Boats

blue and yellow colored top marks label
Fishmaster Original T-Top
  • Frame Materials: 6061 T6 Aviation Marine-Grade Bright Dip Anodized Aluminum
  • Center Console Fitment: 24 To 50 inches wide
  • Tube Size(s): 1.90" Supports & Canopy Tubes
  • Cover Dimensions (inch): 80.1 (Length) x 60 (Width)
  • Cover Material: Marine-Grade, UV Resistant Sunbrella® Fabric (9 Colors)
  • Frame Height (inch): 81.3
  • Canopy Designed With Downward Draft To Reduce Porpoising At Higher Speeds
  • Collapsible: Yes - Folds Forward Twice (At Side supports & Truss-Style Canopy Frame)
  • Includes Easy-To-follow Installation Manual
  • Warranty (years): 5
Pro's & Con's

Fishmaster Original T-Top Review:

Another top choice of a boat T-Top in 2023 is the Fishmaster Original T-Top tower. Consider this the little brother of the Pro Series from Fishmaster. Like the “Pro” this model fits in rib/inflatable boats with center consoles too.

What’s Different From The Pro Version?

The main difference is the size of the support tubes, this model uses 1.90″ diameter tubes for the entire frame. For most applications this size of tube is fine, the beefed up 2.5″ of the Pro is best for rough environments. I like the scaled downside frame because it provides more moving room around the console.

For this review, I am talking about the white powder coated finish, but you can also buy it in anodized finish. The white color of this one gives a clean look with extra protection for both fresh and saltwater.

Exceptional Features

This Original model boat T-Tops for center consoles fits between 24″ to 50″ with a standing room height of 81.3″ tall. For shade, it has the best available, via the 35 square-feet of canopy cover. Made of Sunbrella® fabric it’s bright and doesn’t fade. The fabric comes in nine colors, so you’ll have no problem customizing your boat. It attaches via tight weave rope through brass grommets, resulting in a taut and secure cover.

Install is easy thanks to the included instructions. Plus there are a bunch of online videos to help. A big green flag for me is their customer service, it’s second to none!

Aviation Grade Materials

Fishmaster blows other brands out of the water with their quality of construction. This marine T-Top uses aviation grade 6061-T6 extruded anodized aluminum for the tubes. On top the surface finish is a bone-white powder coat. This finish makes it a near match for OEM fiberglass center console boats. If you hit some big waves, it has secure ergonomic grab handles which are comfortable to hold.

What about storage? Don’t worry, this is a true “folding” T-Top, that pivots forward. It’s actually folds two times, first in the supports and second in the canopy. It’s so easy that one person can fold it down for storage.

For downsides, I can’t find any, it’s an amazing product. Plus Fishmaster provides a 5-year warranty against defect in parts or workmanship. That’s incredible!


Want an amazing T-Top that shades you from the elements while looking great? Buy the Fishmaster Original T-Top, it’s super high quality and fault free, you won’t regret it.

Popular Basic T-Top For Small Console Boats

Oceansouth Heavy-Duty T-Top
  • Frame Materials: Bright Dip Anodized Aluminum
  • Center Console Fitment: Up To 39 1/3 inches wide
  • Tube Size(s): 1.75" Supports & Canopy Tubes
  • Cover Dimensions (inch): 79 (Length) x 55 (Width)
  • Cover Material: 100% Dope Dyed Polyester ATLAS Canvas (Blue)
  • Frame Height (inch): 79
  • All Components Manufactured With (Basf) Capron HMGB Nylon Blend
  • Collapsible: No - Instead You Can Remove Support Bolts Pulling Off Top
  • Crossbars Positioned High Uprights For Clearance Of Console Side Doors
  • Warranty (years): Info Not Available
Pro's & Con's

Oceansouth Heavy Duty Boat T-Top Review:

The Oceansouth Heavy-Duty T-Top is a popular basic boat T-Top for center consoles. This t-top is compatible for vessels up to 17′ in length, running max speeds of 40 mph (64.37 km/h). It will provide the needed sun and rain protection at a bargain price point. But realize at this price you won’t get a folding T-Top.

In 1986 Oceansouth started with a simple DIY Bimini Kit and today have expanded to over 500 products. Based out of Coral Springs, Florida they offer 4 models of marine T-Tops. Each are no-frills but for basic applications boaters like them.

At First Glance

The 1.75 inch (4.45 cm) tube uprights provide a solid handhold, but don’t expect actual grab handles. Frame and canopy are bright dipped anodized aluminum. Both supports and canopy tubes should match in diameter, but I notice the top tubes are a bit smaller. The front to rear measurement is 16″ center to center, so this model fits smaller consoles.

For a cover material Oceansouth uses a cover made of dope dyed Atlas canvas. What’s dope dyed? Instead of usual fabric dyeing, where yarn gets weaved first into a fabric, followed by dyeing. Whereas, dope dyed yarn is the exact opposite and dyed each strand first. By dyeing strands of yarn before weaving the cover is UV, mold, mildew, and water resistant. This canopy measures 79″ long by 55″ wide giving decent protection from the sun and rain.

Width fitment is fair for small boats with center consoles up to 39 1/3″ wide of floor space. Next the standing height of this boat T-Top is 79″ tall. Walking around, the height is okay but hanging spinning style rods might get in the way. Rod holders are the easiest solution for storage. But recognize, this T-Top isn’t strong enough to attempt trolling off it. Any use of rod holders is for storage only.

With this T-Top you do get an actual manual for installation, which lowers guesswork. Although for some reason, many parts aren’t marked according to the letters in the manual.

Downsides of Oceansouth Heavy-Duty T-Top

Calling this T-Top “heavy-duty” is a misnomer, as its specs don’t match expectations of true “HD.” While the tube diameter is 1 3/4″ outside diameter, Oceansouth won’t state the grade of aluminum. They say it’s bright dipped aluminum with a (Basf) Capron HMGB Nylon blend. The latter material is a step-up old cheap die-cast aluminum. Vague structural specifications for marine products is a red flag for me.

Second, the fasteners are supposed to be standard 316 stainless steel. But boaters complain of the included bolts snapping. Boater who choose this package it’s in their best interest to beef up the fasteners.

Third, this t-top for center console vessels doesn’t fold down for storage. You can remove bolts in the middle of the side supports to pull off the top, but it’s cumbersome. Don’t expect easy use if you need to store you boat in garages or carport. One way to make it easy to remove the tops is using wing-nut bolts here, although doing so will lessen stiffness.

Fourth, the brand doesn’t provide warranty information. Do they have one? For my money I want peace of mind that a product has a warranty.

All around this t-top is a traditional solution for boats that don’t need long distance towing. Hitting highway speed with this tower in place can tear the canvas top. To fix this you could remove the top, which is a nuisance after a long day of fishing.


The Oceansouth Heavy Duty T-Top isn’t in any way heavy-duty. But if you own a center console boat under 17 feet (5.18 m), under 40 mph (64.37 km/h) it’s a decent, cheaper option. If you want this for fishing and don’t need to remove the top, beef up the bolts. It isn’t heavy-duty, but it does provide worthwhile shade.

Top Economic T-Top For Mid Sized Consoles

Dolphin Pro E T-Top
  • Frame Materials: 6063 Brushed Anodized Aluminum
  • Center Console Fitment: Up To 43 inches wide
  • Tube Size(s): 1.5" Supports & Canopy Tubes
  • Cover Dimensions (inch): 63 (Length) x 52 (Width)
  • Cover Material: Marine-Grade VIII, UV Resistant Acrylic (Black)
  • Frame Height (inch): 79
  • CNC machined 6061 alloy fittings
  • Collapsible: Yes - Remove Bolts & Pivot Forward
  • Includes 4 x Standoffs To Attach T-Top To The Console
  • Warranty (years): 1
Pro's & Con's

Dolphin Pro E T-Top Review:

The 2023 Dolphin Pro E T-Top is the “economical” version of their Pro 2 Model. This T-Top is a good option for center console boats from 16 to 19 feet (5.79 m). Adjusting in width to fit center consoles up to 43 inches (109.22 cm) wide. It’s manufactured in China and distributed out of the US by the Dolphin brand.

First Look

Like it’s “big brother” it attaches to your boat in two places. First to the deck and second to the center console via 4 provided standoffs. The silver brushed aluminum finish matches a boats’ hardware but has one caveat.

Using brushed aluminum is a weird choice for finish, as it’s easy to gouge and scratch. Trying to remove this damage in brushed aluminum is near impossible to perfect. For some this isn’t a problem, but I dislike this type of finish.

Thinner Frame

For tube construction the Pro E T-Top uses the weaker 6063 anodized aluminum in a thinner 1.5″ diameter. This diameter is the absolute smallest size a quality T-Top can be. It might be a good idea to add extra support via cross-braces. Sizing down is usually done to keep costs lower, which is evident as this one is almost half the price of the Pro 2.

Shade protection comes from a canopy frame that is 67″ long by 48″ wide. This is only 22 square feet (2 m²) of shade coverage, which is the smallest compared to others in the article. The standing height is 4″ less than the Pro2 at 79″ but for small boats this helps stability. A higher T-top could unbalance the boat during a turn, creating a possible safety hazard. Plus the smaller footprint provides more room to move around the boat.

Another bonus in this price range is that this T-Top folds, but doing so takes a bit of time. At the end of the day time isn’t much of an issue. Whereas if you are solo and the boat is approaching low bridge, time is of the essence.

Practical Cover Design

Beyond the time it takes to fold the canopy down, a great thing about the cover is its method of attachment. It uses zippers and Velcro, which is nice because it allows you to detach the cover after use. This is super practical and keeps the cover out of the sun. Which can prolong the color of the cover, and it’s life expectancy.

Disadvantages Of The Dolphin Pro E T-Top?

Weaker materials and thinner tubes are the big disadvantages of the Pro E T-Top. But if your budget is less that $650 it’s better than others. Next, from a cosmetic standpoint brushed aluminum isn’t great. Another complaint is quality issues after delivery. But as I mentioned before, the brand does a great job of addressing and fixing any issues. One last thing to mention, it doesn’t come with printed instructions.

Should I Buy The Dolphin Pro E T-Top Tower?

Buy the Dolphin Pro E T-Top if you have a 16 to 19 foot center console boat and a tight budget. It isn’t as strong as the Pro 2 but for a small boat it provides some shade for a great price.

Most Affordable Boat T-Top For Small Boats

green and white colored budget friendly label
Oceansouth Classic Aluminum T-Top
  • Frame Materials: Bright Dipped Anodized Aluminum
  • Center Console Fitment: Up To 33 inches wide
  • Tube Size(s): 1.25" Supports & Canopy Tubes
  • Cover Dimensions (inch): 67 (Length) x 48 (Width)
  • Cover Material: 100% Dope Dyed Polyester ATLAs Canvas (Black)
  • Frame Height (inch): 81
  • CNC machined 6061 alloy fittings
  • Collapsible: No - Instead Remove Side Support Bolts & Lift Top Off
  • All Components Manufactured With (Basf) Capron HMGB Nylon Blend
  • Warranty (years): Info Not Available
Pro's & Con's

Oceansouth Original T-Top Review:

This is the absolute cheapest model in this review guide of boat T-Tops for center consoles. The Oceansouth Classic Aluminum T-Top is my pick for the most affordable model for 2023. It’s almost too inexpensive to include, but it’s useful for small fishing boats that need shade.

By small, I mean 16 foot (4.9 m) and under boats doing slow inshore fishing. If you aren’t fishing but need shade for your kids, get a Bimini top instead.

Inexpensive Specifications

At 1.25″ outside diameter the frame is tiny, and I suspect the strength will match. Yet for boats under 20 mph (32.19 km/h) it might work. Boats with small consoles under 33″ can use it, and it has a standing height of 81″ tall. I find the side supports do jut out from the console quite a bit, so keep this in mind.

If you have a side door or a short in height console you can adjust the side cross supports up or down. But understand, the front crossbar doesn’t adjust or slide up or down.

As mentioned before, Oceansouth is a bit vague about frame material specs. It isn’t stated, but the frame is most likely made in China. While for the cover they use a dope dyed fabric that’s UV and water resistant. Total protection from sun and rain comes from a canopy measuring 67″ long by 48″ wide. Which means a driver and maybe one passenger in close quarters have shade protection.

For installation, the package includes an instruction manual. Expect install to take a day due to having to weave the rope attachment for the canvas. Use the rope though, it’s a pain to install but with a waterproof spray it preforms great.

It Doesn’t Fold Down

Beyond being weak in strength, this T-Top doesn’t fold down for storage. Oceansouth states the top section is removable but doing so for storage or towing is a pain in the butt. Some boaters modify it by using wing-buts to speed up the removal, but I don’t recommend it as it will weaken it further. Plus towing at highway speeds with this T-Top is a recipe for disaster.


The Oceansouth Original T-Top is the best cheap model for small boats running super slow speeds. Ones that either don’t need towing or need to shade more than two people. If this is your application do yourself a favor and beef up the bolts. You won’t find a cheaper boat T-Top.

Ultimate Buyers Guide: Boat T-Tops For Center Consoles

What Is A Center Console Boat?

This is a type of single-deck open hulled boat with the helm located in the center. Some larger models may have a cabin located in the bow with small berths for sleeping. Small center consoles are popular for fishing or as a tender boat for yachts.

photo of a white center console boat docked at marina


An advantage of this type of boat is that underway or at rest, a person can walk all around the boat with ease. The console is the location for all the controls of the boat. Most center consoles use outboard motors for power and range from 16 to 40 feet (12.19 m) long.


What Is A Boat T-Top?

A boat T-Top is metal frame that looks a “T” shaped from the side profile, mounted around a center console boat. On top of the frame it has either a canvas fabric or hard metal. Its main use is to provide standing height shade and rain protection for 2 or more passengers.

beach scene with black and white colored center console boat parked at beach

Unlike a Bimini top, it gives anglers a 360-degree area to move around or to cast out lines. It isn’t uncommon for factory T-Tops to cost over $4500. To lower costs, the advent of universal T-Tops has entered the boating market. These bolt-on adjustable products give exact fits, with options and colors to customize.

Benefits Of Boat T-Tops For Center Consoles

Buying a T-Top for your center console boat adds many benefits for out on the water. But it’s important to keep in mind, it’s also an excellent long-term investment. Below are a few examples:

  • Sun and rain protection. High quality canopy covers withstand UV rays and survive the harshest climates.
  • Place to secure accessories. Many T-Tops have attachment areas to add accessories like fishing pole holders. Plus some have cross bars which you can strap items like fishing rods on to.
  • Adding a quality T-Top improves your boat’s resale value. Buyers love and pay more for vessels with useful modifications.
  • T-Tops provide ample protection without sacrificing head space like Bimini tops do.

How Is A Universal T-Top Different?

These “Universal” T-tops are different because their design allows for an adjustable width. As a result, this type of T-Top can fit on a wide ranges of boat makes and models no matter their age.

Whereas original factory T-Tops have a “fixed-width” construction designed for the specific boat. While factory products are great, don’t discount the universal models. While they are adjustable, this doesn’t mean they aren’t strong and stable. The best universal T-Tops will in fact have many of the same high-quality materials used in OEM models. The biggest advantage is these T-Tops are much less expensive, 2 to 3 times cheaper!

Will Any Universal Marine T-Top Fit My Center Console Boat?

Yes, but which models will depend on the type of deck your boat has and a crucial measurement. Your boat deck must be flat on the sides of the center console for the legs to mount correct. If your deck isn’t flat or a soft bottom inflatable you need to buy a T-Top that mounts only on the console.

Next measure the width and total footprint of your center console. Pay special attention to the base of the console. Does it step or curve out at the bottom? If so, factor any extra inches into the footprint and total width. Another overlooked situation is consoles with an out-hinged door. Look for T-Tops that provide frame design solutions for doors.


What Materials Are Marine T-Tops Made Of?

The type of material for your new T-Top is vital. Since a T-top experiences the same water, wind, and sun that a boat does. Plus the pressure and stress from bumpy seas and the weight of accessories and fishing gear. Which could bend or break certain materials.

As you compare the reviewed T-tops in this article, pay close attention to the material type. Every T-Top frame is a type of metal but each type if very different in strength capabilities. Extruded aluminum is a common material, stainless steel less so. Using aluminum is great because it’s lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and easy to clean. Whichever you choose, it needs stand up to whatever you throw at it. No one wants a cracked T-top that could damage the boat or your skull.

selective photo of rectangle and round metal tubes on a rack

Which Metal Is Best For Marine T-Tops? 6061-T6 Aluminum

Below are explanations of the three metals used for marine T-Tops, starting from best to worst:

6061-T6 Aluminum Alloy

6061-T6 is the most durable and strongest boat T-top metal used by high-quality brands. This specific type of aluminum is an aviation grade metal with high tensile strength. Its a metal used in airplanes and high-end race cars and boats. The marine industry considers this metal as a “structural grade.”

To explain, the numbers 6061 means this is a 6000 series of extruded aluminum. Which is precipitation-hardened that uses magnesium and silicon as its major alloying elements. Thus, its corrosion resistance while having a high strength to weight ratio.

The “T6” means “Temper-6” which is a high level of temper, a heat-treating process. Tempering metal shifts the inner molecules of the metal, increasing its durability. As the number lowers, so does the metals total strength.

6063 Aluminum Alloy

6063 Aluminum is the most popular metal for mid range boat T-Tops. Due to it having very smooth surfaces, making it fit for anodizing. As a 6000 series, it uses magnesium and silicon elements but it’s less strong than 6061-T6. Due to the latter using tempering.

While some brands claim it to be an aviation-grade metal, it isn’t. Considered as an “architectural grade” metal. It’s used in products like windows that need light to medium strength. For small slower boats this level of strength is just fine.

Stainless Steel

This is an odd product to use for a marine T-Top because it’s much heavier and more expensive. While it’s a strong metal, the weight issue make it overkill on fiberglass boats. Plus using it for supports and top tubes can create negative impacts on the boat’s stability.

Brands that use stainless steel “tops” aren’t actual T-Tops. Rather they are like a modified “Bimini” designed only to provide some shade. With small diameter tubes, near 1 inch (2.54 cm), this size can’t withstand the battering of rough waters. I don’t recommend stainless steel T-Tops.

Does Frame Tubing Size Matter?

Yes, it’s important to pay close attention to the diameter of tubing used on T-tops. As it varies by manufacturer and between their models. The larger the outside diameter of the vertical support tubes the better. For larger boats look for at least 1.75 inch (4.45 cm) frames, although it’s better if they are around 2 inches (5.08 cm). Some manufacturers beef-up their leg sections to 2.5″ but lower the canopy size tubes to 2″. This is beneficial for mounting your accessories.

Inexpensive models may use tubes under 1.75 inches, as long as the vessel is small and slow this is adequate.

Which Finish Is Best For My T-Top?

There are three common and one no very common finish available for universal boat T-tops. Including anodized aluminum, anodized brushed aluminum, powder coated and polished aluminum. Each have pros and cons, the one you choose it’s up you.

selective photo of matte silver colored anodized tube

Anodized Aluminum Finish

An anodized finish is best for boats used in harsh saltwater environments. For this us it’s the easiest to maintain and provides the best protection. Doing regular washing with clean water and wiping after with a clean microfiber, is all it needs. This finish is looks dull or matte silver, like most marine hardware.

Anodized Brushed Aluminum Finish

This is a cosmetic treatment that gives the frame a distinct look. The appearance is like what you’d expect on a refrigerator or bathroom fixtures. The intention of brushed aluminum is to limit fingerprint, but for T-Top I say avoid it. It’s prone to scratches and due to the anodization makes scratch repair impossible.

Powder Coat Finish

A powder coating is a black or white paint application, but it isn’t the same paint used on cars. Rather you apply the paint first by electrify the metal with a positive charge. Second you spray a powdered medium on to the surface. Third, the parts move into an oven to melt the powder down to a smooth, thick layer. After curing, this painted surface is tough and long-lasting. For marine applications it is a superior finish, like the anodized it is simple to clean.

Polished Aluminum Finish

closeup photo silver colored bright anodized aluminum tube white background

Polished aluminum is raw aluminum that gets polished to a mirror finish. As such it’s for cosmetics only and has zero protection. It’s decent for freshwater applications like wake-board towers, but isn’t great for T-tops. Avoid T-Tops that use this finish.

What Are Fasteners For Marine T-Tops Made Of?

The best material used for marine T-Tops is stainless steel. Using stainless steel hardware is essential for strength.

It’s best to confirm this is what you’re getting with whichever kit you buy. Remember that aluminum and stainless steel are dissimilar metals.

Keep in mind, if steel and aluminum touch, these metal will over time experience galvanic corrosion. During install of your new T-top, reduce this problem by applying a protective grease on the threads of every bolt.

Which Canopy Cover Is Best For A Boat T-Top?

The absolute best type of canopy cover material is a Sunbrella® fabric. Lot’s a boat brands use this fabric in their builds for covers, seating, shade, and enclosures.

An important benefit of this fabric is its extreme UV resistance. Other benefits include that it’s fade, mold and mildew resistant. Another bonus is its simple to clean and breathable. While it isn’t waterproof, it does a better job of repelling water than the cheaper stuff.

Speaking of cheaper stuff, another fabric used is a general marine-grade acrylic. This fabric provides shade and is UV resistant to a point. But this fabric lacks in fade resistance, which deteriorates the color and tear resistance. Another con for cheap fabric is it tends to develop sags and tears in high winds.

For boaters looking at a T-Top as an investment, the cosmetics are a factor, especially during resale. What you choose depends on personal choice, again pay now to save later.


How Much Weight Does A Boat T-Top Add?

You can expect a marine T-top to add anywhere from 70-150 pounds (68.04 kg) of weight to your boat depending on the model. As tubes sizes rise and the frame gets bigger it will weigh more. But bear in mind that larger T-tops are for larger boats.


A Folding T-Top, Do You Need One?

Some brands make folding T-Tops for boats, while others can have the canopy top removed. The big difference between the two is convenience. You need a folding T-top if you plan on storing your boat in a covered structure like a garage. It’s much easier with a folding top because you loosen some bolts and fold it forward. Whereas with non-folding you have to semi disassemble it in and out of the garage.

The convenience argument comes into play out on the water too. Imagine passing under a low clearance bridge, a folding T-Top allows for easy passage.

Do have to have one? For ease of use, yes but some boats don’t have room for one. It depends on the configuration of your boat because of the length folded down. Measure your boat from the front of the center console to the bow. You need to ensure you can fold the T-Top down without any obstructions.


Towing With Boat T-Top

If you’re transporting your boat by towing it on the road at highway speeds, it’s critical to remove the top canopy. Or fold it down like the high quality T-Tops allow for. You do this for two reasons; one to reduce wind resistance and two to reduce safety hazards. Wind resistance equate to you spending more money on fuel for your truck. While safety hazards include cracks in the T-Top frame or a cover blowing off and hitting vehicle behind you.

It’s easier to fold down your T-Top at the end of the day out on the water. But if you can’t afford a folding T-Top, it doesn’t mean you can risk leaving it up while driving. Skimping on the purchase cost equate to harder removal most times.

a white pickup truck towing a white center console boat with a t-top


Is It Hard To Install A T-Top?

Installing a boat T-Top is an easy DIY task that two people can complete in a 3 to 5 hours. The timeline depends on how handy you are with tools. As well as how hard it is to install, which is different for each model. Some boaters aren’t comfortable with power tools and can leave it to a professional at a local boat shop. Install will take longer if you add accessories like lights. If you do the work installing accessories, expect to add 2 to 4 hours to the job.

The important factors to consider for install timelines:

  • Included Installation Guides:

Some manufacturers don’t include printed instructions with their boat T-Tops for center consoles. Instead, they post their installation guides online. Which adds a step because you have to download them before attempting the installation. In our digital world this is the norm but can be a nuisance for some.

  • Standoffs:

For buyer who find manufacturers that don’t include these, don’t buy from them. These are NOT optional for T-Tops. A standoff is a horizontal bar that connects the T-top support legs to your boat’s center console unit. This extra lateral support make huge increases for stability and strength. Without them, a T-Top can sway, leading to cracked welds or cracked tubing.

  • Tools Needed:

To calculate time and budget for installing a T-top on your boat, find out what tools you will need. You will need a power drill for making holes to fasten the T-Top to the vessel. If you need non-standard tools this can add to the budget and timeline. To help, here are some standard tools to have on installation day:

  1. A lucky friend to help with the installation (bribes work).
  2. Measuring tools like tape measure and washable marking pen.
  3. Painters tape.
  4. Marine Adhesive (5200).
  5. Socket wrench set
  6. Power drill with variety of drill bits
  7. Allen keys in many sizes
  • Running Into Problems – Customer service:

Look to in the level of customer service of a boat T-Top before buying. Ensure that the brand is reachable and if needed give a high standard of customer service. It’s a gut punch to buy something and get stranded by a company that’s impossible to get in touch with. I like to call or email a brand’s customer service to measure their response time before buying.

Which T-Top Will Fit My Center Console With A Side Door?

If your center console has a side access door, you will want to be very careful picking out a T-top. Most designs have a horizontal leg brace that can block your access. Look for models that allow for moving the side brace much higher. Having adjustable standoffs are another option. But don’t skip using them as a solution for fit, these are critical for frame stability.


How-To Clean Anodized & Powder Coating Finishes

Cleaning An Anodized Aluminum Marine T-Top

First, every time you finish a day on the water, rinse with clean and fresh water. Followed by wiping the surface top to bottom with a soft microfiber towel. A microfiber towel is vital, don’t use cleaning products with grit or abrasive cloths. Remember that anodized aluminum is dull or matte in finish. It isn’t a paint finish, but an electrochemical process. If you use harsh cleaners, you risk damage to the finish.

For hard stains or deep cleaning try using Optimum No-Rinse wash. I love this stuff and use it for the boat and my beloved sports car. I recommend using their “quick detailer” solution for you T-Top.

Quick Detailer Ratio And Wash Method For Boat -T-Tops:

Ratio 1:16 or 8 oz./1 gallon or 240 ml to 3.84 liters for water.

  1. Put some in a 32 oz. garden sprayer. Spray over a 4-foot section, start top to bottom. You don’t need a lot, but make coverage even.
  2. Wait a few minutes, for rinse-less wash to lift dirt, around 5 minutes
  3. Next, take a wet microfiber cloth (dunk into clean water, hand wring) and wipe in straight movements.
  4. Finish up by drying T-Top with a slightly wet (almost dry) clean microfiber cloth.

This is great method if you store your boat in a marina yard. In places like this, water is hard to come by, doing this uses water to fill about a bucket and the sprayer.

How To Clean A Powder Coated Boat T-Top

Unlike other T-Top finishes, powder coating is a free-flowing, dry powder applied on top. The main difference between a liquid paint and a powder coating is the binding agent inside. Powder coating doesn’t use a solvent to keep its binder and filler parts in a liquid form. A coat gets applied via an electrostatic process and then cured under heat to flow and form a top “layer”. As a result, powder coating produces thicker, durable coatings than conventional liquid ones.

In a marine environment it’s best to do the same spray and wipe cleaning method as anodized after each use. If stored, inspect and clean the surface every three months.

For deep cleaning, pressure washing is the most efficient method to remove dirt and grime. Or if you don’t have access to this device use mild soap. Clean with either a soft brush or a cloth. The best type of soap to use for this purpose is one that has emulsifiers. This type of soap will break down most common stains. Avoid using harsh cleaners, these can damage powder coating, halving its life expectancy.


Can You Add Accessories For Marine T-Tops?

Not only are boat T-tops popular for escaping the sun, but also because you can customize them. You can add items like a wide range rod holders, electronics boxes, lights, and even speakers.

As mentioned, the crossbars allow you to secure some of these items to your boat. But you can add many accessories to the support structure too, depending on your needs.

Before you buy, consider which accessories, if any are important for you. Many of the clamp attachments for accessories is about 2”.

Hot Tip: Check that the T-Top you want to buy has support tubes or canopy tubes that are compatible.


Finishing Up: Best Boat T-Tops For Center Consoles

By now picking a marine T-Top for your center console shouldn’t be hard. Following the guide above and the six reviews will ensure greater comfort out on the water. Ensure that the model you buy fits your console, is stable and delivers a good amount of shade.

On last thing, thanks for letting Outdoors Informed help with your research. We enjoy helping out, so you can spend less time indoors and more out on the water.

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Last update on 2023-06-01

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