If you're looking for the most affordable siding options, you'll probably need to choose between aluminum and vinyl. Their prices are comparable. You can buy aluminum siding for about $3-$6 per square foot, and it costs around $2-$7 per square foot for vinyl siding installation. Each material has it's advantages. Here are some things to consider when making your choice.
Both types of siding are water resistant and won't be damaged by bugs. However, metal siding can be dented fairly easily by hail, baseballs, or anything else that knocks against it. The color on metal siding is baked-on to make it more durable, but it still just covers the top layer. If the siding is scratched, the metal shows through the paint, which makes it quite noticeable. One benefit of aluminum siding is that it resists heat and adds fire protection to your home.
The color used in vinyl siding is added as pigment when the siding is made. Therefore the color goes all the way through, and it won't fade as fast as the color on aluminum. Also, scratches barely show. Vinyl has more elasticity than aluminum, so it doesn't dent. However, it may crack in extreme weather conditions, and it is vulnerable to intense heat. In fact, it may melt if you place your grill against the house.
Both types of siding are very easy to take care of over the years. Each type is available in a range of colors, and you never have to paint it. However, you can paint both aluminum and vinyl siding if you want to do so. This increases the amount of maintenance you'll need to do because the paint will eventually peel and need to be reapplied.
About the only maintenance required is washing the siding every few years to get rid of dirt and pollution buildup. Other maintenance that may be needed is in making repairs to damaged panels.
Aluminum siding can be painted any color, so you can create any decorating scheme you want. Vinyl, on the other hand, needs to be a lighter color, because dark colors hold heat, and this can cause the panels to warp. However, vinyl has the advantage that it can be made with a textured surface and colored to look just like wood. This gives you the option of siding that looks like wood, but has the advantages of vinyl. Aluminum siding was very popular decades ago, and is still in use on older homes. This may or may not matter to you if you think aluminum will make your home look dated.
Deciding between the two may be a matter of personal preference when it comes to appearance, since their advantages are about the same. Consider your climate too. If you don't see extremely cold temperatures very often, then you shouldn't have to worry about vinyl cracking. In that situation, vinyl would probably be your most durable choice.