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Share to PinterestLeather vs. Cloth: Which Car Seat Material is Best?
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Leather vs. Cloth: Which Car Seat Material is Best?

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestLeather vs. Cloth: Which Car Seat Material is Best?

You have a lot of choices to make when you're buying a new or used car, and leather seats versus cloth can sneak up on you.

Which is better? There's a lot to consider here, and while no single answer comes out on top, reviewing the pros and the cons can help you make the right choice for your needs.


What's the cost?

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It's no secret that leather costs more, but the real cost might surprise you. Leather usually comes bundled as part of a luxury upgrade, or it's standard in luxury model vehicles. What this means is that, even though leather all by itself is not that much more expensive than cloth, you're almost always going to be buying leather as part of a bigger upgrade that can add thousands to the initial price of your car and might include "benefits" (like a steering wheel warmer, say) that you just don't need.


How's the comfort?

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People pay a premium for leather for a reason, and the most oft-cited one is comfort. Top-grain leather seats are firm to the touch but feel soft when you sit in them. Not even high-end premium cloth or faux leather can quite match this texture.

Luxury models, such as the higher-end German and American sedans, may have Nappa leather, which makes the seats feel like recliners in a gentlemen's club on long drives. If you live somewhere where it's freezing cold for half the year and baking hot for the other half, though, texture might not be your main concern.


Hot and cold weather

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Leather falls short if you live in a place that gets very hot or very cold; it will zealously take on each of those qualities. Cloth is usually the opposite.

So if you live in Phoenix and park in the open all day, you might have to toss a towel over the driver's seat to avoid burning your legs after work. If you live in Minneapolis and commute through the snowy months, you could have the opposite issue. Cloth experiences much smaller fluctuations and might be better for extreme conditions.


Keeping it clean

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Really good leather is largely impermeable, which means you can wipe it clean with a damp rag. Cloth can be vacuumed, but it tends to collect crumbs, fibers, and mysterious-looking stains over time.

The only way to really keep your cloth seats clean is with occasional deep cleaning, while leather resists most casual messes.


Long-term maintenance

Share to Pinterestcloth car seat being cleaned with steamer
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If you're going to have your car for a long time, you have to think about maintenance issues. Leather upholstery can be more expensive to keep in top shape than cloth, which really only needs an occasional deep cleaning.

Leather, however, ages fast in the hot sun. You have to clean it, oil it, and get professional repair service if it punctures or tears.


The curb appeal of leather seats

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Does the comfort and respect of your passengers mean a lot to you? Whether you work for a ride-sharing service or your friends and family just act like you do, a luxury upgrade to leather could be worth it for your lifestyle.


Keeping up the resale value

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Used cars with leather interiors command a higher private-party price than cars with cloth seats. They also routinely get better trade-in offers from dealerships.

Assuming you've kept up with your maintenance and the leather is in good shape, you might be able to recover much more of your initial and long-term costs than you would with cloth.


Moral objections

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Leather is an animal product, so some people have moral objections to using the material as upholstery. Using cotton or synthetics for cloth seats presents less of an issue for most people. Whatever the seat material, though, you're sure to take out a lot of insects during your car's lifetime.


Does anybody have allergies?

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Cloth seats are magnets for dust and pollen, which gets stuck between the fibers. If you or any of your passengers have hay fever, this is something to think about. Vacuuming the dust out can help, but, much like carpets in the home, it will never be a total solution the way switching to leather might be.


Slip and slide

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Cloth has a rougher surface than leather, so it grips better and is less slippery. This may not sound like a big deal, but you'll think about it the first time you take a tight turn in your car and the smartphone you left on the passenger seat whips into the door well.

Obviously, there are plenty of accessories available to keep your electronics and other items safe in the car, but consider the primary use when making this important decision.



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