The cloth vs. leather seats debate has existed for almost as long as there have been cars.
Cloth is standard – the crowd-pleaser, the common person’s seat material. Cloth seats don’t aim too high, and they never fall short of expectations.
Leather is status – the attention-grabber, the statement seat material that lets everyone know you go above and beyond. That said, leather seats aren’t for everyone.
When deciding on leather or cloth seats, you need to carefully consider many factors. Cost, appearance, your location, what you generally use your car for – these can make your decision easier.
This blog breaks down how cloth and leather stack up against each other. And maybe, just maybe, the ages-old cloth vs. leather seats question can have a bit more clarity.
5 Factors to Consider in the Leather Seats vs. Cloth Seats Debate
Below, we look at features that demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of both car seat materials to help you determine the merits of each.
While there are surely appealing cloth seats out there, nothing catches your attention quite like leather seats. You often see them in luxury cars for a reason. Common leather seats color range from black, brown, and tan. However, any other color can work depending on your car and personality.
Cloth seats simply don’t possess that “pop” of leather seats. They can occasionally feature some interesting designs, but the most stylish cloth seats can’t replicate the sleek surface of leather seats.
Just remember, before you rush to replace your cloth seats with leather ones, keep in mind your options for your used car seats.
This one is more about “Are leather seats worth it?” than it is which one costs more.
Of course, leather seats cost more, as cloth seats are almost always the default seats in any non-luxury car. It is common to have leather seats as an alternative option, though, and this is often where the tough decisions lie.
Assuming you have the disposable funds to afford the upgrade, the debate over leather vs. cloth seats in this aspect comes down to a couple key factors:
- How important is it to you that the leather is real – and not leatherette?
- Is there a price on style?
If your answer to the first bullet is “very,” then the price tag for your leather seats could get pretty large, pretty quick. The process of tanning and aging the leather warrants its sometimes exorbitant price. So, in this case, you pay for what you get.
As for the second bullet, this question is much more subjective. Most people who have leather seats enjoy the look of it, and also enjoy the looks from people who are impressed by it. It’s not vain to like having others think highly of you. That’s about as human as it gets.
Ultimately, you have to be at peace with ponying up a little extra cash if you really want leather seats. If not, cloth seats can save you some money and still look plenty good.
This is where cloth seats gain a clear advantage over leather seats, as extreme weathers can cause leather seats to become uncomfortable.
On a hot summer day, bare legs on leather seats might get cooked like a rotisserie chicken. During the winter, that leather surface becomes cold enough to pierce all those layers you put on for some warmth. Unfortunately, only about half the year are leather seats just right in most places.
Meanwhile, cloth seats are never heavily impacted by temperature. No matter the season, cloth maintains its feel and keeps you comfortable.
If you are unbothered by how temperature affects leather seats, then all power to you. If not, cloth seats are almost certainly the way to go.
Look out, are cloth seats starting to pull ahead?
Leather is surely more high maintenance than cloth, as ignoring its upkeep can result in fading and cracking.
Cloth seats are more resistant to the regular passage of time and don’t require any sort of special attention to stay presentable. While proper cleaning can’t be shunned for leather or cloth seats, one is certainly more negatively affected by negligence than the other.
Another factor to keep in mind here is who will often be sitting in your car. If you have kids, their treatment of leather seats will only increase your maintenance budget. They can’t ride in the booster seat forever.
The one advantage leather seats can claim here is that spills can easily be wiped off their surface, while cloth seats absorb liquids and make it more difficult to fully clean. This is certainly something to consider when choosing between cloth vs. leather seats.
Leather seats have a higher resale value than cloth seats.
As discussed above, the maintenance may be a bit more tedious than cloth seats, but leather seats are worth it if you plan to resell. Whether it’s a vintage car or a modern one, leather seats are very effective at getting buyers to open up the checkbook.
A somewhat decisive victory here, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a “leather or cloth seats” type of thing to sell a used car for top dollar.
Cloth vs. Leather Seats: Which Should You Choose?
Cloth or leather seats, your choice does not need to factor in all the elements discussed above. But it shows how much can go into a decision that can seem so cut and dried.
Plus, knowing which suits you best can go a long way when it comes to cloth vs. leather seats. When discussing with a partner, for instance, it also helps your side when you know your facts.
Now, the next time you have to choose between leather and cloth seats, you should be equipped with all the knowledge you need to come away feeling satisfied and excited about your choice.