Metal vs Plastic Gas Can

Metal vs Plastic Gas Can: Which One Is Best For You?

If you’re a prepper, a busy farm owner, or simply a foreman in a worksite, there’s a high probability that you’ll need to store a considerable amount of gas for future use. When this happens, you’re likely to get stuck between two almost identical options—metal vs plastic gas can. Although you’re likely to receive lots of advice, depending on each person’s experience, making an informed decision can sometimes be tricky keeping in mind there’s no clear-cut answer on what to consider.

But, before you can make any move, it’s good to note that gasoline is a highly flammable liquid that demands proper storage inside gas cans that have adhered to regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Whether it’s plastic or metal gas cans, these containers should be OSHA and FM/UL listed as safe enough for storing flammable liquids. Since each of these gas cans (metal and plastic) has its own set of strong and weak points, this guide will get deeper into their features and key characteristics to see which between the two will stand out as the ultimate best.


Metal vs Plastic Gas Can: An Ultimate Guide


Plastic Gas Cans

Since the mid-1980s, plastic cans have been slowly been overtaking metal (steel) cans due to a number of reasons. First, plastic containers are much lighter (about 30%) than their metal counterparts. Secondly, plastic containers have received a major boost thanks to the advancement in technology where they’re now made of High-Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE) material. Due to its authenticity, these new gas cans have met OSHA requirements and are FM (Factory Mutual) approved.

Although these cans have met strict permeation standards, they have immense benefits that allowed them to keep the job done.

  • Lightweight:

Apart from being UL and FA listed, plastic gas cans are lighter than their metal counterparts. Since they must be transported from the filling station to your garage, choosing a plastic container will save you the bulk as compared to a heavy steel can. In addition to that, installing plastic cans in your garage and organizing them is much easier as you only need to lift them and place them back gently without causing any spills.

  • Doesn’t Rapture:

Most people will generally criticize the safety features of plastic gas cans in terms of how well they can perform in case of a fire scenario. After numerous product liability lawsuits were issued since 1998, it became clear that plastic gas cans were dangerous, defective, and susceptible to flashback explosions. Due to this reason, the Consumer Product Safety Commission requested manufacturers to add flame arresters on plastic gas cans.

Since then, plastic gas cans have become the best in terms of safety thanks to the fire arrester technology that works by absorbing heat to prevent explosions. Apart from absorbing the heat, a flame arrester forms a screen or rather a barrier that prevents flames from entering inside the can to ignite the vapor.

  • Flexible:

Something else about plastic gas cans is that they’re flexible. Unlike metal, plastic is capable of springing back to its original shape after swelling. Since gasoline vapor tends to expand when exposed to high temperatures, plastic gas cans react by swelling or shrinking. This is quite different from metal gas cans that tend to give up at some point by bursting at the seams.

  • Corrosion Resistant:

Finally, plastic gas cans are less susceptible to rust thanks to their continuous molding process. This is quite different from metal (steel) cans that are likely to corrode following the accumulation of water vapor inside the cans. You see, when the gas inside your gas can reduce (following regular use), it attracts buildup of water vapor.

The good news is that the water vapor is not likely to corrode plastic cans. Due to this reason, plastic cans are likely to last longer which is the case with the gasoline stored inside them. On the contrary, once metal gas cans begin to corrode, the gas stored inside them is likely to get compromised and contaminated. Once the rust gets to your fuel, then it will eventually clog your machine’s fuel lines or damage the engine.


Metal Gas Cans

Although plastic gas cans are dominating the market at a rapid pace, there are a variety of situations where metal steel cans will thrive. Since gasoline is highly flammable, most metal cans are made from powder-coated high-grade steel to bolster durability and chemical resistance. With that in mind, let’s now discuss some major benefits of metal gas cans.

  • Reliable:

Although they’re heavy, metal gas cans are extremely reliable and are designed to meet permeability requirements. Since metal is not flexible enough to swell, its ability to allow easy escape of gases during high temperatures is one impressive characteristic that prevents metal gas cans from exploding.

  • Environmentally Friendly:

One of the biggest drawbacks of plastic gas cans is that they inevitably absorb fuel and other chemicals stored inside them. This weakens the integrity of the cans since they can’t be recycled. This is not the case with metal gas cans as steel is non-porous meaning it doesn’t absorb fuel. This makes it easy to recycle metal gas cans since they don’t pose any environmental dangers.

  • Cheap to Manufacture:

Another benefit of metal gas cans is that they’re quite cheap to manufacture. This makes it possible to construct large-sized metal tanks that can hold over 30,000 gallons of gasoline. So, if you live in rural areas where most of your power equipment is gas-powered, then this might be the perfect solution for you. Just to add to that, metal gas cans are not weakened by sunlight. This makes it possible to store metal gas tanks on the outside as compared to plastic gas cans.



Overall, choosing between a metal and a plastic gas can will largely depend on your intentions. That’s because both tanks offer similar functionality. Some people will consider plastic gas cans due to their portability and ease of arrangement in a garage. On the other hand, some people will consider metal gas cans due to their ability to store larger quantities of gas enough to fuel multiple power equipment.

With that said, whether you choose metal or plastic gas cans, the most important factor is to ensure its UL, FA, and OSHA are listed. It should also meet the required safety standards such as having a tight seal and an authentic flame arrestor screen to protect both you and your investment from explosions.

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