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Leather Vs Cloth Seats – Pros, Cons, and Making the Choice

Shopping for a new vehicle can be both exciting and daunting, especially when there are so many choices out there and you’re just not sure what the best choice is.  One of the oldest debates is leather vs. cloth seats, and which one is better?  I will lay it all out for you here to help you make the best choice for you.

Leather vs. cloth seats refers to the dilemma of choosing between the two types of material for the seats in your vehicle. Leather vs. cloth seats has been a long-debated topic due to the differences in comfort, durability, price, maintenance, and repairability between the two materials.

Are you in the market for a new vehicle but unsure if you’d like a cloth or leather interior?  Are you looking for an all-in-one guide to help you decide if you should invest the money in a leather interior or save the money and stick with cloth? Let’s compare the pros and cons of both leather and cloth seats.

What Is the Great Leather vs Cloth Seats Debate?

The great leather vs. cloth seats debate has continued for a long time.  It’s trying to decide whether leather seats or cloth seats are better for use in personal vehicles.  Which is more comfortable?  Which is more affordable?  Which is more durable?  Which raises the resale value of the vehicle?  

It is an ongoing debate, especially as more innovative processes are being used to make car interiors, create faux leather, and design higher-quality fabrics for comfortable and sumptuous car interiors. 

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Leather vs. Cloth Car Seats? 

There are pros and cons to both leather and cloth car seats.  One interesting difference between the two fabrics is allergens.  Leather is non-porous (unless it is patterned with perforations), while cloth is highly porous, which is more of a pro for leather if you suffer from seasonal or specific allergies. 

If you are leaning toward the leather interior at your dealership, make sure it’s genuine leather.

Leather and cloth car seats usually get protective treatment during manufacturing.  This is one thing that contributes to that “new car smell” everyone loves; however, this fades quicker with cloth seats because they also tend to absorb smells from the environment, including food, pets, people, etc. 

Regarding comfort, researchers Quattelbaum, Stylidis, Braun, and Soderberg have found that most people tend to focus on aesthetics and material breathability in addition to ergonomics, which have greatly advanced over the last 20 years.  

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Other research by Alam, Kibria, and Islam found that thick, flat-woven fabrics are comfortable, resistant to fading, and strong in cloth car seats.  Let’s look at other pros and cons of leather vs. cloth car seats.

The Pros and Cons of Leather vs. Cloth Car Seats

CharacteristicLeather SeatsCloth Seats
Look Luxurious, dark, rich, fancy, high-end, several color optionsVarious fabrics, designs, colors, less elegant but more options for personalization
FeelSupple, soft, rich, and butterySoft, cool, velvety, and comfy
DurabilityLong lasting with proper maintenance, may scratch from pet nails, children, etc.Doesn’t hold up very well to punctures, wears out quicker than the vehicle
ComfortVery comfortable, gets hot in summer and cold in winterVery comfortable, no temperature changes with the environment
Ease to CleanVery easy to clean, resists stains and liquids, no holding of odorsWill stain easily, absorbs odors and liquids
Cost$$$$5,000+ leather package for brand new vehicle$Dealer standard, no additional cost
FadingNot much with proper maintenance, protect from sunlight exposureNot much with proper maintenance, protect from sunlight exposure
MaintenanceLeather conditioner and cleaner every 3-4 months, spot treat spills and stains, vacuum periodicallyPretreat to prevent stains, vacuum periodically, spot treat spills and stains
RepairsMore durable, more expensive to repair or replaceLess durable, less expensive to repair or replace
Pros and Cons of Leather vs Cloth Car Seats

If you are leaning toward the leather interior at your dealership, make sure it’s genuine leather.  Other leather products like leatherette or pleather may be just as luxurious-looking and more durable but less comfortable and sticky.  If you like the pros of leather but don’t like the idea of animal products, there are always faux leather interiors. 

There are pros and cons to both leather and cloth, and the biggest thing to consider is cost.

A drawback, though, is they can feel a bit plastic-y and stick to bare skin, especially when hot, but their maintenance and care are very similar to real leather.  There are even options for leather and cloth seats so you can have the best of both worlds.  And if you live in a cold climate and prefer heated seats, those are now an option in both leather and cloth interior cars!

For more information to help you decide which type of car interior may be right for you, check out this helpful video comparing the pros and cons of leather seats vs cloth seats.

Related Insights

Are leather or cloth seats better?

That depends on your personal preferences.  Some may like leather better because it looks nicer, is more durable, and doesn’t stain.  Others may like cloth better because it doesn’t heat up in the winter and is more affordable.

 Are leather or cloth seats more comfortable?

Leather seats are softer and more supple, making them more comfortable, in my opinion.  Cloth seats can be comfortable because they don’t heat up in the summer like leather seats tend to do.

Are cloth or leather seats easier to clean?

Leather seats are easier to clean up when there are spills.  Cloth seats tend to soak up liquids, so unless you keep paper towels in the car, they tend to absorb and stain quicker.

​​Can you change cloth seats to leather?

Yes, cloth seats can be changed to leather starting at about $1,600 with professional installation, depending on vehicle size and the number of seats.

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Do black leather seats get hotter?

Yes, black leather seats do tend to get hotter in the summer.  One way to avoid this is to park in a garage or shade or use sun shades in the windows.

How much does it cost to change cloth seats to leather?

Changing cloth seats to leather is about $1,500-$2,000 depending on the vehicle size.  Comparing this to about $5,000 for the leather package for a brand new vehicle is a bargain!

Do black leather seats fade?

Black leather seats fade, but generally less than the lighter leather seats.  Black leather seats are also great for hiding marks, scratches, and dirt.

Should I get leather or cloth seats in my car?

There are several things to consider when looking at leather or cloth seats in your car.  If you have kids and pets, go with leather.  If you don’t want to spend additional money, go with cloth.  If you want comfort year-round, go with cloth.  If you want greater durability, go with leather.  If you want leather but don’t want to spend a fortune, go with cloth and get after-dealer leather seats.

Why People Prefer Leather vs. Cloth Seats

To get more personal feedback on the leather vs. cloth seats debate, I turned to social media.  I asked friends and family whether they preferred leather or cloth car seats in their vehicles and why.  Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll about what people’s preference for leather vs. cloth seats.

Leather vs. Cloth SeatsReason for ChoiceTimes Selected
LeatherLook nicer10%
LeatherGreater durability7%
LeatherEasier to clean16%
LeatherEasier care7%
LeatherResale value better7%
LeatherResist punctures7%
LeatherLasts longer13%
ClothTemperature stability7%
ClothCheaper13%
ClothKids and pets7%
ClothEasier care6%
Reasons That People Prefer Leather vs Cloth Seats

Final Thoughts

I’ve owned several cars and trucks in my lifetime, and I’ve had both cloth and leather interiors.  I currently have one SUV with a black leather interior, and it is quite comfortable and sleek-looking, but it does get awfully hot in the summer. I also have a sports car with a cloth interior, and the driver’s seat has a small hole on the left side backrest, but the car is also 13 years old. 

There are pros and cons to both leather and cloth, and the biggest thing to consider is cost.  Cost to purchase, cost to maintain, and cost to repair or replace if and when that time comes.  Leather vs. cloth seats depends entirely on your lifestyle and wallet, so choose wisely!

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