The Pros and Cons of Leather Car Seats Explained

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Red leather front seats luxurious car interior

People always associate leather car seats with luxury and consider them a high-quality option. Are they really? By the end of this article, you’ll know for yourself. I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of leather seats and compare them to traditional cloth seats. Here we go.

Leather is a higher quality option. It costs more, but you get the benefit of a more comfortable seat that looks better. There’s also no odor or risk of staining a leather seat — something that a cloth seat can’t say. Although leather is more temperature-sensitive and slippery, it results in a higher resale value for your vehicle.

How to Spot Leather Car Seats

The two major materials for car seats are leather and cloth. Spotting which kind your car has is actually really easy.

All you have to do is run your hand over the seat (if you can’t tell just from looking at it). If it feels smooth, then it’s leather or faux leather, called leatherette. If you feel little fabrics or texture, then it’s a cloth seat.

Sometimes leather has little textures worked into it, but you’ll still be able to notice the difference between that and the texture of a cloth seat.

Leather interior seats beige color in a Lexus vehicle

Typically, you’ll find leather seats in nicer cars like a Lexus as a stock option. If you currently have a cloth seat and want to upgrade, then it’s easy to do. You simply find a leather seat online that will fit your vehicle, order it, then install it.

Installation is a matter of removing a few bolts from your current seat and putting the new one on then fastening the same bolts. I’m not exaggerating.

Pros of Leather Car Seats

Let me start by talking about the positives associated with leather car seats.

Looks Professional

There’s no denying how professional a set of leather seats looks. It’s a high-quality material that you’ll find in luxury cars, so it has a certain effect on people when they see it.

Close up of a red leather car seat interior of an Audi

Your passengers are going to think twice before wiping their dirty hands on your seats if they’re leather.

It also delivers a great “wow” factor when you take someone in your car for the first time. What I’m trying to say is that leather is a great option for first dates.

Smells Good

Cloth seats start to smell pretty foul after a while. With leather, you don’t have the same problem because it doesn’t trap in odors as a cloth seat does.

Most leather seats smell pretty pleasant because of the conditioner and cleaning agents that go into maintaining the leather.

With my one car, people always said that it had that “new car” smell years after I got it. I later found out that they were simply smelling the leather after I cleaned it.

More Comfortable

Maybe it’s just preference, but I feel a lot more comfortable in a leather car seat. They seem to be comfier and it always reminds me of a modern-day movie theater when I sit in the right car seat.

Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG interior

This is good news for anybody who has to drive a lot for work or just takes a lot of road trips for fun. If you’re stuck in a car for 5 hours and you aren’t comfortable, it’s going to feel like 50 hours.

Easy to Clean

Cleaning leather is impossibly easy. You literally just put the product on a towel and wipe down the seat. Cleaning a cloth seat involves different sprays and chemicals — a lot of which are used just to get the smells out of the cloth.

Harder to Stain

Another great feature of leather seats is how hard it is to stain. I’ve personally spilled coffee and plenty of food on my driver’s seat. Will my passenger ever be able to tell? No. That’s because they’re borderline spill-proof.

Man cleaning the front car seat of a car

I’d also suggest getting a weather mat for your vehicle, that way the floor is stain-proof, too.

Reduces Allergens in Your Car

Since dust, dirt, and hair don’t cling to the fabric of your seat, leather reduces the number of allergens in your car.

This is pretty big news for anybody who regularly suffers seasonal allergies. Maybe your cloth seats are making things worse.

Better Resale Value

All of these factors ultimately boil down to one concept: Leather seats will increase the resale value of your car. They’re more desirable.

Of course, that also means that you’re spending more for the vehicle upfront. Still, I think it’s worth it.

Cons of Leather Car Seats

Now, let’s talk about some of the negatives.

More Expensive

Leather is simply more expensive than cloth. It makes sense after reading through the list of pros I just talked about.

It’s also more expensive to repair if you damage the seats.

Temperature-Sensitive

On really hot days and really cold days, your seat can be your worst enemy. It gives you even more reason to let your car idle a little before hitting the road.

Man sweating inside of a hot car in summertime with leather seat interior

On a winter day, a leather seat will feel stiff and super cold when you sit on it. This is a pretty uncomfortable experience, but it goes away within a few minutes once your car warms up.

Cloth, on the other hand, always feels about the same regardless of the outside temperature.

Not a Lot of Color Options

Leather doesn’t come in a ton of different colors. Cloth, on the other hand, can be found in almost any color you can think of.

If you’re looking to set up a personalized interior color scheme, you’ll probably have to base it on whatever color seats you can find.

Still, leather comes in more than just black or cream options. I’ve been in cars with yellow, red, and brown leather seats (just to name a few different options).

Requires Maintenance

If you have leather seats, you’re going to have to maintain them a little bit. Failure to do so will result in your seats cracking and fading, making them look pretty bad.

Personally, I use a leather conditioner from Zymöl. I try to use it at least every 3 months and really work it into the leather.

ZYMÖL Factory Original Leather Conditioner – 8 oz

Zymöl Original Leather Conditioner - 8 oz
ZYMÖL Factory Original Leather Conditioner – 8 oz

This is the only maintenance you’ll have to worry about. If you take your car in for quarterly or annual detailing, the cleaner will probably use a leather conditioner anyway.

More Slippery

One of the big nuisances with leather seats is that they can get pretty slippery. If I’m wearing dress pants or I just got a good pump in at the gym, I find myself slipping around in the seat until I buckle up.

This is especially true right after I condition the leather.

It doesn’t necessarily make the seat uncomfortable; you just have to be expecting the slip when you get in.

Are Leather Car Seats Right for You?

In general, I highly recommend leather seats to anyone who can afford them. That’s really the only big downside of leather is the price that comes with it. All the other negatives are pretty easy to overlook or ignore altogether.

If you’re someone who likes comfort, luxury, and the ability to not stress over spilling on your seat, then leather is a great option for you.

Conclusion

As you can see, there’s a lot to love about leather seats. Personally, it’s my favorite of the two-seat material options. If you have an opinion on this match-up, drop a comment below. Check out a full list of car products that I recommend to every driver. Also, if you want to see more car topics discussed, check out the rest of my website.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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