In recent years, many hybrid inorganic-organic systems have been proposed in order to replace the traditional conversion coatings on metals like aluminum, and some results have been promising. However, many proposed solutions are based on complicated processes which are not easy to be adapted to industrial scale. The aim of this study was to establish a simple process leading to the production of highly efficient corrosion protective hybrid sol-gel coating systems for the aluminum alloys as replacement for the highly hazardous conventional chromate conversion coatings. Hybrid coatings have been realized by means of the sol-gel process. CeO2 and ZnO have been introduced as dispersions of nanoparticles in the system and used as corrosion inhibitors. The aim of this work was to obtain pore-free coatings with increased barrier properties using nanoparticles that possess the double function of pore fillers and corrosion inhibitors. The proposed processes led to coating materials with good adherence to the aluminum substrate and an extremely long life in the accelerated neutral salt spray test according to DIN ISO 9227. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy approves these results by high impedance values in the low-frequency region of the Bode plot. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.