A vehicle’s interior is just as important as its exterior, and leather gives most vehicles a luxurious and distinct appeal. In this article, I will discuss leather interior and auto upholstery and some helpful tips to know when making a choice.
Leather interior and auto upholstery are materials that cover a car’s interior. Leather is a durable material valued in the automotive industry for its comfort, appearance, and ability to age gracefully. It is often used in the interiors of high-end vehicles, though it can be found in many cars.
Are you in the market for a new vehicle and unsure if a leather interior is the way to go? I will cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision you can feel good about.
What Is Interior Leather?
The leather used to cover seats, steering wheels, dashboards, and other vehicle parts is interior leather. It is a comfortable, durable material that is easy to clean and adds value to vehicles. Interior leather is considered a premium feature and is often associated with luxury or high-end vehicles.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- History of Interior Leather
- Interior Leather Overview Table
- Types of Interior Leather
- Choosing the Right Interior Leather
- Durability of Interior Leather
- Color Trends for Interior Leather
- Cost of Interior Leather
- Pros of Interior Leather
- Cons of Interior Leather
- Tips for Using Interior Leather
- Care and Maintenance of Interior Leather
- My Personal Research Into Interior Leather
- Helpful Interior Leather Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
Some say interior leather isn’t worth the expense and is too much upkeep. However, interior leather is easier to maintain, lasts longer, and is better at resisting stains than fabric while adding value. It has also been said that a leather interior is too expensive, but this depends on the vehicle. A leather interior adds up to $5,000 in cost to a new vehicle; however, it is of much higher quality and durability than cloth interiors.
Clean interior leather and apply leather conditioner every three to six months to keep it soft and supple.
History of Interior Leather
Leather has been around for over 7,000 years and was part of the first vehicles created in 1885. These interiors only included leather seats, which contained metal springs and horsehair for padding. As the automobile industry grew and changed, so did interior leather.
The first luxury vehicles came about in the 1930s and included leather seats, steering wheels, and convertible tops. The leather interiors as we know them today came about in the late 1990s and have included natural and faux leather alternatives.
Interior Leather Overview Table
|Highest quality, full thickness hide, highest durability
|Next highest quality, top layer with imperfections sanded off
|Stamped with artificial pattern to disguise imperfections
|Top hide layer sanded for softness, luxury material
|A natural material that lacks a surface coating
|Created with plant materials and plastics, some include a base layer of real leather
Types of Interior Leather
Full Grain Leather
Full grain includes the full thickness of the animal hide and is of the highest quality and durability. It looks and feels natural and is made to last for decades. Full-grain leather keeps the imperfections of the hide, making each piece unique.
Top Grain Leather
Top grain includes only the animal hide’s top layer, which has imperfections removed through sanding and buffing. It also looks and feels natural, is made to last for decades, and is slightly less expensive. Because of its smoother surface and consistent appearance, some people prefer top-grain leather for specific applications.
Corrected Grain Leather
Corrected grain is stamped with a pattern to disguise imperfections and give a uniform look. Corrected grain leather is created by buffing or sanding away the natural grain and then applying an artificial grain pattern to the surface. It is less expensive than both full and top grain but looks less natural.
Nappa is a sumptuous form of leather that is sanded to create a super soft feel. It comes from the hide’s top layer and is frequently found in luxury vehicles. Nappa leather can be made from various animal hides, but lambskin and sheepskin are most common. This is a very durable leather.
Aniline leather is a type of leather that is dyed with soluble dyes without the use of any surface coating or pigments that would conceal the natural characteristics of the hide. Aniline is less frequently used in vehicles and has been dyed but lacks a surface coating. It requires special maintenance and is not as durable as full or top grain.
Faux leather is frequently used in vehicles for the look and feel of leather without the cost. It usually contains polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics and is durable, but not like full or top grain. The choice between faux and genuine leather often comes down to personal preferences, budget, and the material’s intended use.
Choosing the Right Interior Leather
With so many interior leathers available, how does one make the right choice? Factors include budget, personal preference, and vehicle type, but then consider the following:
- Quality – Top grain leather will have a different feel, grain, smell, and durability than faux leather.
- Tanning – Chrome will have a slightly different look, feel, and smell than vegetable tanned leather.
- Colors – Every color of the rainbow is available for vehicle interiors. White and bright colors will absorb less heat than dark colors and black.
- Finish – From stamped patterns on corrected grain to faux leather, the finish can determine the seats’ comfort. Plastic coatings will feel sticky on hot summer days unless protected from direct sunlight.
Durability of Interior Leather
Leather is more durable than cloth for vehicle interiors, and each type of leather has slightly different durability. With proper care, it can last for decades, perhaps even longer than the vehicle itself!
Daily use will soften any interior leather, and exposure to moisture, heat, and sunlight can lead to cracks and fading. Using the right products and protecting interior leather from the elements can help it maintain its durability and comfortable feel.
Color Trends for Interior Leather
Interior leather is available in many colors, and color trends will vary depending on the manufacturer and the year. Most brands offer classic colors, including black, brown, and beige, while others offer more wild choices to fit any personal aesthetic.
Bright colors often seen in interior leather include reds, blues, and greens. Two-tone leather is another popular option with contrasting colors like white and black or light and dark brown.
Cost of Interior Leather
Interior leather costs depend on the leather type, manufacturer, and type of vehicle. Full grain tops the chart as the most expensive, and faux leathers are generally the least expensive. A new vehicle with full interior leather costs about $5,000 more than a similar vehicle with a cloth interior. A used vehicle can have seats reupholstered with leather for $1,500–$2,000, depending on size.
Pros of Interior Leather
Interior leather stands up well to repeated use and can last a decade or more. Its classic look always stays in style, adds style and value, and is easy to care for. Interior leather is made to resist UV rays, temperature extremes, and spills. There are also fewer allergens with interior leather than with fabric.
In a recent publication of the Journal of Cleaner Production, researchers Rodrigues, Mata, and Martins tell us the vehicle industry is working on sustainability and cleaner production of leather and vegetable leather materials.
Cons of Interior Leather
While interior leather in cars and other products is considered luxurious and aesthetically pleasing, it also has some disadvantages. There is additional cost involved with interior leather, generally about $5,000 with a new vehicle.
It needs to be cleaned and conditioned regularly to keep it looking great and is more expensive to repair or replace than fabric. Leather can also become very hot in direct sunlight and extremely cold in low temperatures, which can be uncomfortable during extreme weather conditions.
Tips for Using Interior Leather
When used appropriately, interior leather can look and feel great for many years. Here are some tips for using interior leather:
- Regular cleaning – Clean with a leather cleaner or pH-neutral soap and water every three to six months.
- Apply leather conditioner – Condition when cleaning and as needed to prevent cracks.
- Avoid direct sunlight – UV rays can cause fading and high temperatures, breaking down leather interiors. Use a sunshade or park in a garage or shaded area.
- Avoid moisture and heat – Keep windows tightly closed or park in a garage or shaded area to protect from rain and hot weather.
- Avoid sharp objects – Cover seats when transporting dogs and cats, watch sharp objects like knives, glass, etc.
Care and Maintenance of Interior Leather
By following these care and maintenance tips, you can ensure that your leather interior remains in excellent condition and continues to provide comfort and beauty for years.
- Clean the leather interior with a leather cleaner or pH-neutral soap and water every three to six months.
- Apply leather conditioner with every cleaning and as needed to prevent cracks.
- Protect interior leather from direct sunlight with sunshades or park in the shade or a garage.
- Protect interior leather from moisture by closing windows and sunroof completely and parking in a garage or using a car cover.
- Clean up any spills when they occur to prevent stains and mold.
Watch this helpful video from Pan the Organizer as he demonstrates how to clean and protect leather seats.
My Personal Research Into Interior Leather
I wanted to find out why some people prefer interior leather over cloth, so I asked some on social media. These were their responses:
|Reason for Choosing Leather Interior
|Resale value is higher
|Resists punctures (pets)
|It lasts longer
|Easier to care for
|Easier to clean
Helpful Interior Leather Insights
Is a leather interior worth it?
A leather interior is worth it if one has the budget and personal preference. Leather is easier to clean and maintain than fabric and is more resistant to spills. It adds comfort, style, durability, and value to any vehicle.
How much does a full leather interior cost?
A full leather interior costs between $1,000–$5,000 through a dealership, depending on the vehicle. This generally covers all seats, console, dashboard, interior door panels, steering wheel, and headrests.
Is car interior real leather?
Car interior is real leather, although faux leather is an option with some makes and models. Real leather has a natural and irregular grain pattern, a distinct smell, and a unique texture. Faux leather is uniform in texture and usually smells of plastic or chemical.
Can you get leather interior?
Leather interior can be included with new vehicle purchases, and old seats can be replaced with leather. Some specialty automobile interior places can add leather to other interior pieces, including steering wheel covers, consoles, dashboards, and doors. Leather interior works well in any vehicle, new or used.
Is leather interior expensive?
A leather interior is more expensive than cloth or vinyl and ranges between $1,000–$5,000 at a dealership. It does add value to the vehicle, is easier to clean and maintain, and lasts much longer. A leather interior is worth the investment for a luxurious feel that never goes out of style.
- Leather interior is a comfortable and durable addition to any vehicle.
- Clean interior leather and apply leather conditioner every three to six months to keep it soft and supple.
- Interior leather can last a decade or more with proper care and maintenance.
Leather interior adds luxury and durability to any vehicle. Consider quality, tanning, color, finish, and type of leather for the best choice based on budget. With regular care and maintenance, it may even outlive the vehicle!
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