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Author Topic:   Marine-Grade Wire: A Price Survey; Recommended Sources
jimh posted 06-12-2007 09:37 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I have been doing some work on my boat's electrical system. I will need to purchase some wire in the near future. I am in a bit of shock at the price of wire these days. Here is a price survey.

The high-water mark--to use a nautical figure of speech--has to be ALPHA wire from DIGI-KEY. This combination of manufacturer and supplier guarantees the highest possible price:

For 100-feet of Alpha 16-gauge hook up wire, Digi-Key charges $67.16

This is for:
--Stranded tinned copper conductor
--Color coded PVC insulation
--Flammability: Passes UL VW-1 flame test
--Wire is ordered per EIA-359-A color specifications which allows
for some variation in shade
--Operating Temperature: 300 Volt: -40°C ~ 90°C (CSA TR-64), -40°C ~ 80°C (UL AWM 1007)

In the old days we used to have a name for this--usury or petty larceny. I cannot believe that price for 16-gauge hook up wire. Cf.:

An old friend of mine used to be the sales rep for ALPHA wire in SE Michigan, and I learned from him that "alpha" wire was really a code name for "world's most expensive" wire.

At these prices the usual gold-plated marine store price for ANCOR wire is almost bearable. Heck, you can get 100-feet of 16-AWG marine wire from WEST Marine for only $49.99: 10001/145806/10001/121/120/9

This is for:
--105°C dry, 75°C wet
--Rated for oily and wet environments
--Wire has a tin coating for extra corrosion resistance
--Type 3 stranded, with 5–10 times more copper strands than Type 2
Marine UL-listed, and meets the highest ABYC standards for AC or DC use
--Based on AWG (American Wire Gauge) wire sizes, 6–12% larger than SAE gauge wire

The best deal that I could find was from a web supplier, genuinedealz. These guys will sell you 100-feet of 16-AWG for just $12.65. This is for

--Primary Wire, Marine Grade Tinned Wire Boat Cable 16 AWG 100ft
--employs type 3 stranded tinned copper conductors with UL, ABYC and USCG approvals.
--Multiple colors available in each size.
--Colors available for 16 AWG Primary Wire are: Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Light Blue, Violet, Gray, White, Tan, Pink Marine%20Primary%20Wire/16%20AWG%20Primary%20Wire%20100'/?sck=75633544

If anyone has other recommended suppliers of marine wire, please give us the details, including price and specifications for 100-feet of 16-AWG marine grade wire.

I am also interested in hearing of any report of the quality of the wire from genuinedealz. I am thinking of ordering some wire from them, but I'd like to confirm its quality before sending them an order.

David Pendleton posted 06-12-2007 09:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton    
I too am (re)wiring much of my boat this spring.

I bought two 100' spools of Ancor 14AWG from boatfix for 29.50 each.

Bella con23 posted 06-12-2007 10:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bella con23  Send Email to Bella con23     
As a manager responsible for the installation and maintenance of life safety systems in multiple healthcare facilities, I can tell you that all are wired with Alpha or Beldon cable and wire. We know we can install device wiring from these manufacturers and forget about them.

Any new wiring in my Conquest has been Alpha or Belden. Expensive? Yes, but we not wiring a building here so it's worth only the best. Jim, I think I know you well enough from your posts that you would not compromise on anything you own with less then "the best".

Copper and the plastic jacketing, as well as the labor to produce the wire and cable has skyrocketed in the last year or so. For the price of a 3 gallon container of two-stroke oil, one can practically wire any and all accessories in a boat from scatch.

jimh posted 06-12-2007 10:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Dave--To keep the comparison apples-to-apples, the list price is $37.22 for 100-feet of 16-AWG Anchor wire from See:

However in their on-line store they mark it down to $21.08. That sounds like a fair price. submit=Go

Chuck Tribolet posted 06-12-2007 11:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Do the Alpha folks claim to be marine-grade? The specs are
different. Marine-grade has more strands and a bigger
cross-section for the gauge number.

Ancor is the gold standard for marine wire and such. I'd
stick with it.

I've bought some Belden stuff for my day job that was
unimpressive. Some was good, but some not so. This was
not wire, but assembled cables and such. None was REALLY


roloaddict posted 06-13-2007 12:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for roloaddict  Send Email to roloaddict     
For commercial projects, I have been buying my cable here:

I have been a walk in customer for 20 years. Hardware Specialties in Seattle is the place for such items in the Northwest. You can even get cable with red and black or white and black conductors. I'm sure that all those who could mix up thier AC and DC cables on that 16 foot classic will just have to be careful and don't tell the ABYC. Yellow and Red, pleeeze!

jimh posted 06-13-2007 08:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Regarding what standards apply to wire sold as "marine wire", it appears there are three primary standards from three authorities: UL1426 from Underwriters Laboratories, US Coast Guard Charterboat regulations (CFR Title 46), and an unspecified standard from the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC).

UL 1426--Underwriters Laboratory
This is a "UL Standard". A UL Standard has cleared UL's standards development procedures and has been formally adopted and published as a UL Standard for Safety. Here is a brief description of the scope of this standard:

US Coast Guard Charterboat CFR Title 46
These are regulations which apply to commercial boats. The requirements for wire are given in Subpart 111.60 (Wiring Materials and Methods); sid=a31f9db592e93947ed3d72f58ba34aee;rgn=div5;view=text;node=46%3A4.0.1. 3.14;idno=46;cc=ecfr#46:

The ABYC is a private organization and does not give away their standards for free. You have to buy them, and they are expensive. Let me here again repeat a request I have made in the past: If anyone has an extra copy of the ABYC electrical standards, I would be very pleased to receive them as a gift.

Among these three standards are many references to other standards. For example, in the CFR it requires the following:

"Electrical cable that has a polyvinyl chloride insulation with a nylon jacket (Type T/N) must meet UL 1309 or must meet the requirements for polyvinyl chloride insulated cable in section 18 of IEEE Std 45. If meeting the requirements for polyvinyl chloride insulated cable in IEEE Std 45, section 18, the following exceptions apply—

"(1) The thickness of the polyvinyl chloride insulation must meet UL 83 for type THWN wire;..."

Standard for recreational vessel

I do not think there is any federal law covering the wire you put on your own recreational vessel. If someone has a cite for an applicable CFR, please give it to us.

The ABYC probably has standards for recreational vessels, but, again, I don't have access to them at the moment.

I don't have any concern about using a high quality hook-up wire such as the Alpha wire mentioned above in my boat, even if it is not specifically listed as meeting the "marine wire" specifications. It may, in fact, meet a higher set of specifications. Deducing exactly how all the specifications overlap and arrange in hierarchy is left as an exercise for someone else.

jimh posted 06-13-2007 08:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Boy--these "marine wire" standards are really intertwined. I just noticed that UL 1426 makes reference to CFR 33. Here is a link to those specifications:




Subpart I_Electrical Systems

And these in turn call on some Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) specifications.

Chuck Tribolet posted 06-13-2007 09:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Here's a better url for Jim's latest cite that doesn't go
a cache server that may be well located for him, but probably
not for the rest of us:

Why do the folks who publish the CFR insist on a zillion little
webpages rather than a nice PDF file.


jimh posted 06-13-2007 03:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here is a good way to enter the on-line CFR resource. You can branch down to any section from here:

But getting back to wire, any other recommendations for sources? That cite of was a good one. They have an excellent price on a name-brand wire.

kamie posted 06-13-2007 03:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for kamie  Send Email to kamie $29.80
jandrewg posted 06-13-2007 03:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for jandrewg  Send Email to jandrewg     
I'm with Chuck on this one, I find Ancor to be superior. I work with Safe Boats International, a builder of boats for mostly military and the Coast Guard; they use it exclusively.

Ancor's site is Under the "Technical Specifications" tab, they have in depth information on ABYC standards, etc. that you'll find interesting. They also have a wire calculator under this tab that will give wire size requirements for a given amperage load, both with a 3% loss for safety related circuits, and a 10% loss for all others. I have it marked and go to it regularly to use this feature.

george nagy posted 06-13-2007 04:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for george nagy  Send Email to george nagy     
JimH, I have been finishing up a total rewire job on my outrage and have purchased almost all of my wire and connectors from GENIUNDEALZ.COM and can only say good things about them. I was planning on sending you a write-up with photos but I have not yet completed the job. As a matter of fact I have some wire left over, mostly black and red 16awg, if you are interested let me know. The ANCHOR heatshrink connectors are great!
David Pendleton posted 06-13-2007 06:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton    
Interesting that most of the wire that I have encountered in my Conquest has been 14AWG or larger.

None of it Ancor, though.

Whaler must get (really crummy) electrical tape for free, however. It's everywhere in abundance.

jimh posted 06-13-2007 07:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The gold standard in vinyl electrical tape is Scotch 3M-33-plus.
tmann45 posted 06-13-2007 08:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for tmann45  Send Email to tmann45     
kamie, I found 100' 16 awg primary wire at for $10.41.

Jim, I have bought from bestboatwire several times and always had great service and the best prices.

tmann45 posted 06-13-2007 08:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for tmann45  Send Email to tmann45     
Forgot, Pacer brand marine grade, same specs as Ancor.
kamie posted 06-14-2007 11:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for kamie  Send Email to kamie     
For single wire, your correct. I just purchased 16/2 for $29.80, sorry for the apples to oranges comparison.
jimh posted 06-15-2007 08:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Tom--Thanks for that cite on You have the new low-water mark on pricing for a marine grade 16-AWG 100-foot spool.
Outnaboat posted 06-15-2007 12:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for Outnaboat  Send Email to Outnaboat     
I'm a little late jumping in here....Whatever brand of wire you use, make sure it's tinned. I finished completely rewiring my Outrage 18 a month ago, and I couldn't believe the difference between the tinned v. just copper strands after several years of use in the salty NW.
jimh posted 06-15-2007 08:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
All of the wire mentioned here is very fine stranded and tinned wire. It is all "marine grade" wire.
cwolf posted 06-17-2007 12:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for cwolf  Send Email to cwolf     
Jim, I ran into the same sticker shock as you when I completely rewired my Outrage. I'm by no means a connoisseur of marine grade wire but I was quite satisfied with the quality of the product I received from "genuinedealz". They also had the best prices on all the various connectors which can really start to add up during a rewire job. Everything received was as described.
fuzzyb posted 06-18-2007 02:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for fuzzyb  Send Email to fuzzyb     
Having recently gone through the same exercise for the re-wire on my 1974 Outrage, I opted for the Pacer wire from The specs between Pacer and Anchor read nearly identically and at the price difference was a no-brainer. However, the choice was really a leap of faith since there were a LOT of Ancor users references and I could find nothing on the Pacer brand.

Time may prove me wrong, but having installed it, I would make the same choice again. I had some short pieces (same gauge) of Ancor from previous projects and was able to compare the two brands side by side. The Ancor brand was more flexible/pliable than Pacer, but not so much as to be easier to install.

davej14 posted 06-18-2007 03:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
The sticker shock comes in when you check out the shipping charges !!
jimh posted 08-11-2007 06:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I have ordered some AWG-16 marine primary wire from I will follow up with comments about the wire quality when it arrives.

The shipping charges were modest. I chose UPS ground, and I should get one day delivery for only $8 on an order of six spools of wire. I did not think that was excessive.

17 bodega posted 08-14-2007 04:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for 17 bodega  Send Email to 17 bodega     
My observations are identical to Fuzzyb. The Ancor is much more flexible and slightly higher quality wire housing. I also had a great experience with "genuinedealz" and they will combine shipping for bulk orders.

jimh posted 08-20-2007 04:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I received my shipment of wire from genuinedealz. The 100-foot lengths I ordered came on spools, and the 50-foot lengths came in loose coils. All of the wire looked to be similar and of very high quality. The 100-foot spool of red insulation wire had the ANCOR brand name! The shipping took a few days longer than indicated on their delivery zone map, but it arrived in a timely manner consistent with UPS ground delivery.
theo posted 08-23-2007 12:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for theo  Send Email to theo     
Just wanted to add, I recently bought wire and connectors from Bestboatwire and am happy with it. High quality marine wire and a family-owned business with fast, friendly, personal service. (Sounds like a TV add but that was my experience.) Highly recommeded by this newb.

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