One of the most important steps in a new car purchase is to consider what type of seats you want. The two most popular choices involve leather seats and fabric seats – but which one is better?
When choosing a material for your car seats, you’ll need to select one that’s long-lasting, requires minimum maintenance, fits in your budget, and looks stunning with your car’s interior.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to choosing leather and cloth car seats, and how you use and care for each differs significantly. This article will break down the most common factors you should weigh whilst making your decision.
Here’s a quick list of the topics that we’ll cover in this guide:
In summary, leather is the better option, regarding resale value, luxurious appearance, and quality. In other aspects, such as affordability, comfort, and longevity, cloth seats may be the better option for you. Let’s explore both options in more detail.
1. Affordability (Cloth Wins)
When you buy a car, you will notice that there are three main tiers of vehicles. More economically priced cars such as Mitsubishi Mirage or Chevrolet Spark don’t usually have an option for leather car seats.
Mid-tier vehicles come with an option to select leather upholstery for an increased price. On the other hand, luxury vehicles mostly always come with full-grain leather upholstery (or similar type).
This distinction can help you understand that cloth car seats are much more affordable, while leather car seats are deemed higher in value and are therefore also more expensive.
If your budget is already stretched thin, you might look to go with cloth seats to ensure that your car purchase does not overextend you financially as it will likely allow you to lower your overall expenditure as opposed to opting for a leather seat option.
Leather Seats Tend to Have Better Resale Value
Although the condition of a car has more to do with the total resale value, your car may fetch a higher price if it’s equipped with well-maintained leather seats. If you have a full-grain leather interior, you can significantly boost its resale value.
The reason leather seats tend to hold higher resale value is due to their sturdiness and durability, which we will be covering later in the article. They also have a higher perceived value that is often associated with luxury.
Cloth Seats Tend to Be Cheaper to Replace
Cloth car seats are priced significantly lower than leather car seats. No matter which type of leather seats are installed in your car, they will be much more expensive to replace than cloth seats.
This is because there is a wide variety of cloth seats available for every car model and the material itself is cheaper to manufacture. Reupholstering a car seat requires the right materials and tools.
There are intricate processes involved when it comes to reupholstering or replacing leather car seats, such as stitching, stretching, and dying – which usually justifies the increased price.
2. Durability & Maintenance (Leather Wins)
Your car seats will be used regularly during your daily commute to work, dropping off children, and picking up groceries. All this continual usage can strain the material of your car seats and compromise them in a variety of ways.
Here, we will discuss which type of car upholstery is more durable and easier to maintain against staining and damage.
Leather Seats Do Not Tear or Rip as Easily as Cloth Seats
Leather is a much stronger and more flexible material than cloth. Even with rough usage, leather is much more resistant to tears and rips than cloth – especially when they are regularly conditioned. This means that cloth seats may have to be replaced in case of an accidental rip.
Leather Seats Are More Stain-Resistant
Leather car seats are much less porous than cloth seats. This is why they do not get stained by accidental spills from drinks such as coffee, soda, or other beverages.
Although you should remove any type of accidental spills from your leather car seats, you can simply clean them with a leather-friendly cleaner to keep the material healthy and long-lasting.
Cloth Seats Have a Higher Propensity to Develop Unpleasant Odors
Since cloth seats are more porous and absorbent than leather car seats, they are likelier to absorb unpleasant odors from their surroundings. Fabric and cloth car seats can easily absorb passengers’ sweat and give your car an unpleasant lingering odor.
If you are a smoker, cloth car seats may not be a great choice since they can absorb cigarette smoke much more easily than leather car seats.
Leather Seats Are More Susceptible to Sun Damage
Leather car seats may be more durable and resistant to stains; however, the material will not fare well under direct sunlight. Since leather is a natural material with essential fats, it can dry out from the sun’s UV rays and intense heat.
While most leather used for car seats would have been treated in the manufacturing process to protect against sun damage, the protection is not perpetual and you would have to take some effort and care on your own accord to maintain the luscious nature of your car seats.
You can use off-the-shelf products to nourish the leather and prevent it from drying out and cracking due to excessive sun exposure. However, you only need to take minimum precautions for sun damage to cloth seat covers.
3. Aesthetics (Leather Wins)
Although mainly a personal preference, one of the most critical factors in selecting the type of car seat is appearance. The luxurious appeal of leather can be highly desirable for many people.
This section will inform you about the different aesthetic aspects of leather and cloth car seats and help you choose the best one that matches your preferences.
Leather Seats Can Age Well Over Time
Leather is a material that improves its appearance with use. The natural friction and regular wear over the years can help the leather car seats develop a beautiful patina.
This gives the leather car seats a much more desirable appearance as the years go by. However, you should understand that this required regular maintenance and cleaning.
Leather Seats Are More Susceptible to Sun Damage
Leather seats may look stunningly plush and luxurious; however, they are much more vulnerable to fading and cracking due to the sun. Direct sunlight can cause the leather to dry out and become brittle.
Brittle and cracked leather can affect the passenger’s comfort for long journeys and even be uncomfortable for their skin.
Cloth seats may experience some fading due to sun damage. However, they are much less likely to crack and become damaged by the sun. This is why cloth seats are generally deemed to be more comfortable overall.
Leather Has Greater Style Status
Even though there are many cloth car seat designs and styles, nobody can deny that leather car seats will always be more fashionable than cloth car seats. The leather upholstery in your car can provide you with an impressive feel and can make your entire vehicle feel deluxe.
4. Comfort (Tie)
Leather may be the best with regards to appearance and durability, but is tied with cloth car seats when it comes to comfort. This is because certain people prefer harder seats (leather), and others tend to prefer softer ones (cloth).
Cloth car seats are soft and comfortable since they allow for better temperature regulation and passenger ease. Leather car seats can feel more elegant, protect against allergens and be more robust, but may feel a little hard.
Cloth Seats Are Less Susceptible to Weather Extremities
Dark-colored leather interiors can be susceptible to absorbing excess heat from the environment. For example, on hot summer days, your leather car seats can get extremely hot.
Although there are seat warmers and coolers for leather car seats to keep you comfortable during winter, it can add to the expensive price of the upholstery itself.
If you live in an area where you do not deal with extreme temperatures, leather car upholstery may be a good choice for you. This depends if you like harder and more robust seats.
Cloth Seats Are More Likely to Trigger Allergies
Cloth car seats are not ideal for passengers with allergies. This is because cloth seats are known to trap dust, pollen, dander, dirt, and other allergens – especially if they aren’t regularly sanitized or cleaned.
On the other hand, well-maintained leather seats are good at repelling allergens and bacteria to keep you healthy and comfortable. For the most part, you are able to get rid of pollutants and unwanted build-up on your leather seats by simply wiping your seats with a leather conditioner.
Unfortunately, the process to clean cloth seats to the same effect would be a much more complicated endeavor – they’re typically chemically or steam cleaned.
Cloth Seats Are More Resistant to Slippage
Although this may not seem like a significant factor to consider, it can affect the comfort of a car passenger. Leather is a smooth material that can cause passengers or objects to slip as the vehicle moves or makes sharp turns.
Although an object or passenger may not move much, it can be annoying to keep picking items you placed on the car seat from underneath it. If you want to prevent slippage and stay seated comfortably in your seat, cloth car seats may be the best choice for you.
To summarize, selecting cloth car seats makes sense if you are looking to control your overall cost during your car purchase, if you are driving your car in extreme weather conditions or if you prefer softer seats.
On the other hand, leather seats may be the right choice for you if you’re looking to hold your vehicle’s resale value, prefer a more luxurious ambiance, or are looking for a higher degree of durability.
|Cloth Seats||Leather Seats|
|Durability & Maintenance||Requires regular cleaning and easily absorbs spills||More resistant to spills but required leather care|
|Aesthetics||Looks regular||Looks luxurious|
|Comfort||Feels soft and bouncy||Feels hard and firm|
Above, you’ll find a table summarizing all of the points that are important to consider when comparing cloth seats vs leather seats.
Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast turned artisan. Apart from crafting leather products, I’m passionate about writing in-depth guides and reviews on all things leather!