Comparing Vinyl and Poly Tarps

Tarps vary in type based on material, thickness and weight. Because there can be several options, choosing the right one may be a bit confusing. Two popular materials are vinyl and poly. But–how do you know which one is right for you? Let’s take a look at the differences between the two.



Both vinyl tarps and poly tarps look similar, but are made from very different fabrics. Vinyl is a strong, all-purpose synthetic fabric derived from ethylene and salt. Vinyl tarps can come in a variety of sizes and colors. Poly (or Polyethylene) is a common plastic material. Easily recognizable, poly tarps are usually blue in color but can also be found in a variety of colors and patterns.



Vinyl tarps are much higher quality than poly tarps. They are made to resist harsh outdoor environments, so they have industrial strength. This allows for a high level of protection, being able to resist against external elements, such as water, oil, grease, acid and mildew. Certain Vinyl tarps can also be flame retardant, have built-in UV protection and are not likely to rip or tear.


Poly tarps provide a decent level of protection. They are also waterproof.  These tarps offer less overall quality compared to vinyl tarps, but are also available in a range of qualities based on end-use. Usually, the blue poly tarps are intended for light, temporary use and offer much less quality compared to other tarps. Poly tarps can also be coated with a UV material to help provide extra protection when needed. However, if your end-use does not require a high level of strength, the lite poly tarp will not be an issue, and can thus provide a very suitable, affordable solution.



Because vinyl tarps are intended for long-term, industrial use, they typically run more than poly tarps. Depending on the size needed, these tarps can range from $21-$2,000.


Poly tarps are much more inexpensive due to their short life-span and are often the least expensive option. Poly tarps usually range from $3-$60, but can also go up to $150 depending on size and quality.


Common uses

Vinyl tarps are ideal for any heavy-duty use. They are particularly ideal for outdoor use, due to its strength, sturdiness and resistance properties. They are most commonly used for industrial and agricultural applications, flatbed tarps and dock curtains. Because they can withstand varying weather conditions, vinyl tarps are great for protecting sensitive items, such as expensive equipment and supplies. They work well as tents, canopies, construction covers, baseball field covers and gym covers.


Poly tarps are best suited for temporary or regular-duty use. These tarps are commonly used in construction and maintenance environments as well as roof tear-offs.  Poly tarps are also widely used for picnic mats, ground and lawn sheets, campgrounds, wind protectors, tent flies and privacy walls.


Looking to purchase your next vinyl or poly tarp? Get a quote or order from Chicago Canvas today!

2 thoughts on “Comparing Vinyl and Poly Tarps

  1. Hailey Renee says:

    That is awesome that when choosing a tarp you can select from different fabric options, to get the durability you need. That is interesting that vinyl tarps are a very high quality tarp option. I really like that vinyl tarps are made to be long term.

  2. Mae says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

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