Systematic laboratory and field exposure tests allow to compare nine different stainless steels (three ferritic, three austenitic, and three duplex grades) for civil engineering applications. The influence of surface finish was also taken into account by choosing five different industry-specific features. The three duplex stainless steels revealed excellent corrosion resistance under most of the test conditions. Especially for applications in civil engineering the lean duplex steels offer distinct advantages. The manganese-alloyed 1.4376 and the ferritic steel 1.4509 cannot be recommended as alternative materials as they did not perform satisfactorily.