Roto-molded coolers have really made the mark in the industry the last couple years, with two brands of cooler in particular at the forefront, RTIC and YETI. These two brands have extremely similar designs, and according to the courts, a little too similar (more on that further down).
But what actually are the differences between these two brands of coolers? We dig into every detail so that by the end of this article, you should be able to make an informed decision and get the one that suits your needs best.
TL;DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read)
Bottom Line – YETI vs RTIC
Rtic Rating: 8.1
Yeti Rating: 8.6
Want to see how these two popular coolers stack up against the competition? be sure to check out our article of the best coolers of 2017
Companies & Reputation
YETI is a company from Austin Texas, founded in 2006 by two brothers, Ryan and Roy Seiders. The Seider brothers grew up extremely active and involved in hunting and other such activities and found that the quality of coolers available was severely lacking. And thus, their new high-end cooler company was born. Since then, YETI has grown to a multi-million dollar company with sales of more than $470 million in 2016. The company is endorsed by several pro athletes such as Cameron Hanes and Flip Pallot.
RTIC is a much younger company, established in 2014 also by two brothers, James and John Jacobsen. These two entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to stake their claim in the roto-molded cooler market and took it. They starting producing coolers very similar to YETI, at a lower price, with the actual slogan, “A Yeti for half the price.” Unfortunately, the likeness was a little too striking, and YETI filed a patent infringement lawsuit against them. Which, isn’t that surprising when you see the two side by side.
The two companies have since reached an agreement, which has led to RTIC being required to cease all sales of their coolers and to redesign any future coolers. Fortunately, there are still many of these coolers available through Amazon, so you can still get your “YETI for half the price” (if that’s ultimately what you decide on).
Design & Quality of Materials
As you’ve seen, the two coolers look almost identical. We won’t go into too much more detail about the similarities between the two, so be sure to check out the full reviews of these coolers (links above) if you want to learn more. They both have the thick, rubber latches, drain spouts, rubber lid gasket, non-stick feet, thick insulation, lockable corner slots, tiedowns etc. Here’s the key differences and what you really need to know.
As far as the quality of plastic of the coolers, both brands are very similar. Which isn’t surprising, since it’s just plastic, molded over insulation. From a durability standpoint, both brands can take a real beating and won’t crack easily.
The rubber on the RTIC is slightly less quality. The latches are a little easier to snap into place, so it’s possible that over time the rubber could wear out enough to compromise the seal of the lid. It’s not very noticeable and you can always replace them should the rubber wear to that point. In addition, the rubber lid gasket is slightly thinner and more flimsy than YETIs. In addition, the gasket is not sealed/joined, so there is a small gap where the two ends meet. If you go RTIC, we would recommend filling the gap with some superglue or epoxy to prevent any issues with it coming off the cooler.
RTIC coolers are available most commonly in tan, or white, while YETI has a tan, white, seafoam green and a light blue colour available. If you aren’t all about the classic desert tan, and don’t want your white getting dirty, you may want to consider the green or blue.
The rope handles of the YETI definitely feel like better quality compared to its counterpart, and the handle is actual rubber. RTICs handles are made of foam, and we could see it degrading over time.
Some folks have received their RTICs with scratches and other blemishes already on the cooler when receiving. These are possibly due to damages during shipping, or from reshipping returned coolers that were returned within the 30 day window. It’s a rare issue, and purely cosmetic since it won’t impede on the cooler’s performance, but it’s also something to keep in mind.
Despite being designed in the USA, both brands of cooler are manufactured in China.
As far as sizes go, YETI definitely has the upper hand for selection. They have way more sizes available (10 total), from the 20 quart model up to a massive 350 quarts (designed for fishermen and hunters). RTICs only come in 20, 45 and 60 quart models. In addition, their coolers all have (slightly) larger dimensions, despite the supposed same number of quarts. Here’s a great video that compares the capacity of the two 65 quart coolers. The larger dimensions of RTICs coolers is also due to the plastic and the insulation are slightly thicker. However, the thickness also bumps the weight up. For example, comparing the 20 quart models of the YETI vs RTIC: 15lbs vs 25lbs. So, If you’re trying to keep the size and weight of your cooler down, YETIs likely your better option.
Performance (Ice Retention)
Finally, we get to what (arguably) really matters. Which cooler actually performs better? If you’re going to be spending between $200-400 (possibly more) on a roto-molded cooler, it had better work and keep your ice frozen.
Surprisingly, when comparing RTIC vs. YETI, the less expensive RTICs are more effective at retaining ice. Remember how earlier when we were talking sizes, we noted that the the RTICs are larger in general, with thicker walls and plastic? This is the key factor that ultimately contributes to RTICs better ice retention.
Although we have found RTICs to provide better ice retention, it’s important to note that the difference in ice retention isn’t that extreme. Both coolers are great at keeping ice cold, however it is very interesting that the RTIC at half the price can actually do a better job.
One feature that YETI coolers can boast that the RTICs can’t, is being certified bear-proof. They actually filled the coolers up with yummy treats and let grizzly bears go at it and try to get in. With a padlock in the designated hole at the corner of the lid, you can lock the coolers up tight keeping your stuff safe from wildlife.
This is a great feature for when you’re camping, or if you have valuables or liquor in the cooler at the beach. Although RTICs don’t have the certification, we’re pretty sure they would hold up very similar, since they do have the same padlock-hole. But sometimes it’s nice to have the certification.
One important detail that many folks look for when buying new products such as a roto-molded cooler, is the warranty. Should something go wrong, it’s nice knowing that you can quickly replace a defective product. This is another area where the two cooler brands differ.
RTICs warranty is… confusing. They offer a 30-day return window, but it has to be in perfect, unused condition upon receipt. Warranty returns are where it gets confusing, because they don’t actually state what the guidelines are. If you apply for a warranty return/exchange due to manufacturer’s defects, but if they deem the defect as not covered by warranty (the details to which they don’t provide) they’re going to charge you for it.
By comparison, YETI has much better warranty system in place. They offer a 5-year limited warranty to cover any manufacturer’s defects. If by some chance an item is damaged in shipping, you must immediately return the cooler in its original packaging to be eligible for a replacement. Despite the great warranty, they do still reserve the right to refuse warranty should they decide whatever damage you are submitting for was your fault.
As we’ve touched on briefly, and as you probably already know, these two brands are mostly separated by own small thing: the price tag. Why are YETIs so damn expensive?It’s hard to say, really. Partially, yes it’s the marketing. They were arguably the original roto-molded cooler, and people will pay for that fact, just like they will pay for being “officially bear-proof certified.”
That being said, we’ve seen that RTICs can hold ice just as well (or better), at often literally half the price. Yes, RTIC coolers are made with slightly less quality materials in some cases: the rubber latches and gasket, rope and foam handles. However, the plastics and insulation being used are nearly identical, so it’s up to you if these small features are worth paying for. The only other thing to consider is the warranty and if that’s worth the steeper price tag.
So, let’s do a quick recap and see which cooler wins in each category
Design & Features: Tie they’re basically identical
Quality of Materials: YETIs materials are slightly better quality
Size & Weight: YETI coolers are lighter and smaller
Sizes available: YETI has more size options (10 vs 3)
Colours available: YETI tan, white, blue and green RTIC: tan and white only
Bear-Proof: YETI only (technically)
Ice Retention: RTICs surprised us with better performance
Warranty: YETI, hands down
Price: RTIC, by a wide margin
So, while YETIs dominate the categories we have evaluated these in, a few of the features have more importance than others, notably size & weight, ice retention, warranty and price. At the end of the day, we can’t pick one for you, since every person reading this will have different buying values.
Are you the type of person that will pay for the trusted brand, regardless of the price difference and mark-up, knowing you get quality materials with a warranty that backs it up? YETIs are probably for you.
Are you the type of person that is all about functionality and frugality, and as long as your stuff stays cold, you don’t mind if a few things degrade a bit quicker. RTICs are a good choice then.
Regardless, both these coolers are quite impressive and you can’t go wrong with either one.