Time for a New Mailbox? Compare Plastic vs. Metal Mailboxes Side by Side

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated June 15, 2022
A man checks a mailbox
Photo: Goodboy Picture Company/E+/Getty Images


  • Plastic mailboxes typically cost less on average than metal mailboxes.

  • Metal mailboxes come in many styles and materials, including aluminum, steel, and copper.

  • Plastic is easier to maintain in harsh weather but may fade in the sun.

  • Many homeowners prefer the curb appeal of metal mailboxes over plastic.

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Whether you're tackling new-home projects or if you just lost your mailbox to a powerful windstorm, deciding between a plastic and metal model can be surprisingly tricky. Do you go the easy-to-maintain and less expensive plastic route? Or would a sturdy, highly ornamental, but slightly pricier metal mailbox do the trick? Whether you're looking for a simple and practical wall mailbox or an eye-catching mailbox on a post in the front yard, we'll compare plastic and metal side by side.

Plastic Mailbox Pros and Cons

A view of a green plastic mailbox
Photo: Kevin Brine/Adobe Stock

Plastic mailboxes come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and styles, but most are polypropylene. One of the biggest benefits of a plastic mailbox is that you'll never have to worry about it rusting or breaking down in the salty air by the sea. On the other hand, lower-cost plastic mailboxes may fade in the sun's UV rays and heat up quickly to the touch in hot weather.

And while plastic mailboxes can look as ornate as metal ones, they are tricky—if not impossible—to paint if they fade, dent, or chip. This said, a plastic mailbox is easier to clean if it gets splashed by the mail truck on a rainy day.

Metal Mailbox Pros and Cons

A view of a metal mailbox
Photo: Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock

Metal mailboxes come in a countless array of treated and untreated materials, but the most common are aluminum, steel, copper, iron, and brass. Untreated metals are more likely to rust or change their patina in the sun, moisture, or salty air, so you may save money in the long run by choosing a rust-proof mailbox.

For example, brushed stainless steel is your strongest pick if you live close to the sea with moist and salty air, while cast aluminum is best for inland homes that get a lot of rain and snow.

Overall, metal mailboxes are highly trusted when it comes to safety, lock options, and durability. For example, you'll often spot galvanized steel on mailboxes for large buildings with multiple residents and constant use.

Plastic Mailbox vs. Metal Mailbox

Even if we only run out to the mailbox once a day, it has a 24/7 job to both protect our mail and add a bit of curb appeal. Plastic mailboxes are the go-to choice for balancing price with stability and appearance while metal mailboxes last a bit longer, include a few more security options, and may look a bit snazzier by the curb.


Plastic mailboxes cost less on average, typically between $20 and $100. The price depends on the size of the mailbox and whether it comes with a post, decorative accents, or a UV-protected coating. Metal mailbox prices start closer to $30 and range over $500. Treated and reinforced metals, like galvanized steel, run a bit higher than aluminum.


Both metal and plastic mailboxes can come with locking mechanisms, and sturdy plastic mailboxes can be highly effective against thieves. However, if you're very concerned about the safety of your personal data in the mail, reinforced metal mailboxes made of galvanized steel provide more protection.


The style of your mailbox truly comes down to preference at the end of the day, but there's no question that most metal boxes show off more of a classic character. Metal mailboxes are a bit easier to paint as well, so you can update them when the color starts to fade or add personalized designs. A mailbox that matches the aesthetic of your home is also a great way to boost your curb appeal.


After spending all day susceptible to rain, wind, and the occasional impact, durability has a large say in the right mailbox material for you. On one hand, thick plastic mailboxes are less likely to dent if you pull out of the driveway a bit too quickly. On the other hand, too much time in the sun means your plastic mailbox will fade and even warp in extreme heat.

Metal mailboxes come with their own issues, especially if they respond to salty and moist air, rain, snow, and wind. Always opt for a rust-proof metal design if you live in a region with high humidity.


The trade-off of a great-looking metal mailbox is that you may need to keep a closer eye on it if it begins to rust or change its patina. Plastic mailboxes, on the other hand, are easy to hose down and clean quickly should they get splashed with a muddy puddle from a passing car. 

In the long-term, however, metal mailboxes win this race. When properly treated for rust, they should stand up against weather-related damage much longer than plastic.


There are minimal differences between installing a metal or plastic mailbox. Both typically come with installation hardware and instructions to add the box to a post if necessary. Installing a mailbox—or even making a mailbox yourself—is a doable DIY, but if you call in the pros, the cost of a handyperson runs between $60 and $125 an hour. These pros can help you safely secure a wall box near your front door or install a post on the lawn. 

At the end of the day, both plastic and metal mailboxes have their charm. Spend a bit more for a long-lasting treated metal mailbox in extreme climates or opt for the budget-friend, yet just as sturdy plastic variety.

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