What to choose cloth vs leather seats? Cloth and leather are very common examples of vehicle’s upholstery. Since both have their pros and cons, people are divided into leather seats fans and cloth seats fans.
The cloth is much cheaper and easier to be produced and maintained, while leather is more expensive and requires a high level of maintenance and higher repair costs. However, leather maintains its very high resale value as compared to cloth.
Leather provides the luxury look and new car smell that attracts many car buyers, while cloth does not look as luxuries.
Choosing between cloth versus leather seats depends on your needs and values. For instance, if you care most about the luxuries look despite the price, leather might be your best choice. However, if you have a limited budget, have kids and pets, do not have the time to perform complicated cleaning and maintenance, the cloth might be your best option.
In this article, we will walk you through the main differences between cloth and leather seats. We will discuss in detail the main benefits and drawbacks of each upholstery type to best help you select what works for you the most.
What is Cloth?
The cloth is one of the most common upholstery used in creating car seats. It is considered cheap and very easy to get repaired.
Cloth car seats are not very luxurious, and it might be more practical, especially with families with kids and pet owners.
Many types of cloth material are used in vehicle seats. Some of these types include nylon fabric, faux vinyl fabric, PVC fabric, and vinyl fabric.
What is leather?
Leather is one of the very common types of material used to cover the vehicle’s seats. It always represents a luxury aspect and provides and very nice-looking vehicle’s interior.
Leather consists of animal hides that are chemically treated, and these hides mostly come from cows.
While most leather is known to have very high quality, several factors affect the quality of the final leather product. Some of these factors include animal type, the environment where the animal lives, the workers’ skills who produce the final leather.
What are the main differences between cloth and leather?
In general, leather is considered one of the most expensive materials used in creating car seats. This is because the process of producing leather takes a lot of time and effort (e.g., leather must be aged, tanned).
Unsurprisingly, it is rare to see leather in standards vehicle’s model’s packages. It is always provided as options in higher trims and costly packages. On the other hand, the cloth is always available in standard packages.
Due to the very high leather cost, expect to add a couple of thousand dollars to the vehicle’s price when choosing to add leather seats.
Many manufacturers do not give you full leather seats. You might see that the back of the seat and some of the inserts are cloth. Other manufacturers do not even use real leather. Instead, they use fake leather or leatherette. Leatherette looks very similar to leather in appearance; however, it does not have the full soft feeling and durability like leather.
Therefore, even if the dealer calls it leather, you need to confirm that the material is real leather before accepting the deal.
Level of Maintenance
Leather does not only add price to the value of the vehicle when buying it, but it also requires a high level of regular cleaning and maintenance.
If you do not perform regular maintenance to your vehicle’s leather, you will see that the leather starts to fade or have tears and cracks. Besides, leather absorbs stains, which makes it very hard to clean. Cleaning leather requires special material that can be costly and need to be tested before applying it to the leather. Otherwise, you might result in completely damaging your leather.
If you do not have good experience with cleaning leather, you might have a more experienced person do it for you but, this will add up more costs.
Additional maintenance might be required if you are a pet owner. Leather can get scratched or damaged when driving with pets or when carrying some sharp material. That’s why if you own a vehicle with leather seats, it is recommended that you put any sharp objects or pets items in the vehicle trunk.
In contrast, vehicles with cloth seats do not require a whole lot of effort to be cleaned. You can simply clean the dirt with a vacuum and shampooing if needed. In worst-case scenarios, you might need to do a deep cleaning of vehicles with cloth seats. Deep cleaning can be very time consuming and requires a lot of effort. However, any cloth cleaning does not require the effort you put to detail clean leather seats.
While leather absorbs some of the stains, cloth ability to absorb stains is much higher. As a result, if you spill any liquid on leather, you can quickly use a damp cloth and wipe it off. However, if you have the liquid spilled on cloth, you don’t have any choice besides shampooing it. Imagine if the spilled liquid is oil, you might not be able to remove it off cloth at all.
Many car owners like the smell of a new vehicle interior. Cloth seats tend to absorb all smells (e.g., pets, food, liquids, etc.), making the new car smell fade overtime. However, leather seats attract many car buyers as it maintains the smell of a new vehicle for a very long time.
High and Low Temperature
When shopping for a new vehicle, you might need to consider the environment you are living in. It is important to understand the way each material reacts to temperature and sun intensity, especially if you live in areas with very hot summer.
One of the biggest drawbacks of leather is that it absorbs heat and stays hot for a very long time if you parked the vehicle under sun rays for a very long time. Moreover, if you try to sit on the hot leather with bare skin, you might get some burns and feel uncomfortable. In severe cases, even if you sit on hot leather with clothes, you still might feel uncomfortable.
It is important to note that real leather absorbs less heat when it is compared to fake leather. Fake leather might even get sticky and stick to your skin when you sit on it. Therefore, even if you decided to go with leather seats, make sure to confirm that it is real leather, not leatherette.
While leather can absorb cold as much, it absorbs heat, and you don’t need to worry about sitting on cold leather as many manufacturers started adding heated seats for trims with leather seats. If you confirmed that the vehicle you are planning to buy does not have heated seats, you could still buy separate external seat heaters to avoid this drawback of leather.
On the other hand, cloth seats do not get extremely hot in summer days or extremely cold in winter days. The cloth reacts less extreme when compared to leather. Therefore, if you know that temperature is going to be a challenge for you and you can not add some sun protectors to the vehicle, you might need to go with cloth seats.
How does it Feel?
Understanding how vehicle seats feel is a very important point for car buyers.
Leather provides the vehicle interior with this luxurious look and feel. If you ride on a leather seat vehicle, you will feel very comfortable as leather is very soft. However, if the leather is not real, in other words, if it is leatherette or fake leather, then you will feel that it is very hard and stiff.
If you own pets and are planning to drive them in the new vehicle, many car owners reported that leather could be slippery and not very comfortable for pets. On the other hand, the cloth is much softer and plusher, which makes it enjoyable for many pets.
Overall, leather provides the top luxury interior look without any competitor. However, cloth manufactures provide continuous improvements to make the cloth look as attractive as possible to many car buyers.
Leather is very durable and looks very high-quality for a very long time. It is soft, comfortable, and has the smell of a new vehicle.
On the other hand, cloth has its fans who prefer cloth more than leather. For instance, many people prefer the appearance of Volkswagen Golf more than any other leather seats.
Since leather is made of natural or animal by-products, leather colors are very limited to black, brown, and sometimes white. On the other hand, cloth seats can come in an unlimited list of colors and patterns that fits many car buyers’ preference.
One of the biggest advantages of riding a vehicle with leather seats is that it does not trap allergens. This characteristic makes the leather very comfortable for people with allergic problems.
On the other hand, the cloth is a very porous material that traps allergens and dust in it. It could be very uncomfortable to ride on vehicles with cloth seats for people with allergic problems even if they tried to vacuum the dust.
According to Kelly’s Blue Book, leather seats can add up to $370 to the resale cost of the same vehicle without leather seats, and the difference can get up to $500.
While you will not get the same price of a brand-new leather, when you sell a used vehicle with leather seats, you will get much higher resale value when compared to a vehicle with cloth seats.
Which one should you choose, cloth or leather?
If you are shopping for a new vehicle and you care about how the interior looks, feels and maintained, you need to set back and define your goals.
Choosing between cloth and leather seats depends highly on what are your values. Do you care about how the interior looks? Do you care the most about how car seats respond to temperature? Or what?
For instance, if you care the most about this luxury look for modern vehicles despite the price, you are looking for leather seats.
On the other hand, if you have kids or pets and expect to drive them very often, the cloth might be your best choice as it is much easier to clean, and you don’t have to worry much about leather getting scratched or damaged.
If you know that you drive in extreme weather environments, leather might not be your best choice as it has extreme reactions to very high and very low temperatures.
Finally, if you would like to ride a car with very costume seats colors, you might need to choose cloth seats as leather has very limited color options since it is made of animal by-products.
There are some simple solutions that you can use to overcome the drawbacks of leather seats. For instance, you can get rid of the cold weather effect on car seats by installing external seat heaters. You can protect the leather from getting damaged from the sun by installing some shields that do not allow sun rays to reach the leather seats.
Leather and cloth are both common types of vehicle’s upholstery. While leather is considered the most luxurious material when it comes to the vehicle’s interior, cloth still has its fans.
Leather is much more expensive, and the price can add up when considering maintenance and cleaning. However, leather can maintain a high resale value when it is compared to cloth.
On the other hand, the cloth is much cheaper, easier to clean, and very practical for car owners with kids and pets.
When shopping for vehicles with leather seats, it is important to confirm that it is real leather, not leatherette, as they both have different characteristics.
Choosing between both materials depends on your goals and needs.