Which Is Better: Leather Or Cloth Car Seats And How To Pick

Leather vs cloth car seats

This is a debate as old as time: leather or cloth car seats: Which is best? Okay, probably not as old as time. But this huge debate has gone on for so long it feels like forever.

So in this article, I did in-depth research about these two materials often used for car seats and I can assure you that after going through this article, you will be able to make the perfect choice for you and your family.

So, which is better, leather or cloth car seats? Leather car seats are the best if you want car seats with a luxurious look, durability, great resell value, and you don’t mind paying a premium price, while cloth car seats are great if you simply want a standard, low maintenance, and family-friendly car seats.

But the thing is this debate goes a lot deeper than the simple question of, “which is better”!. What you should be considering in the leather car seats versus cloth or fabric car seats is what’s good and bad about each of them as well as how these two materials function in different situations.

So this is what I’m going to be focusing on for the rest of this article. Continue reading to find out more!

What’s the Difference Between Leather and Cloth?

Before we go ahead, I will briefly touch on a few things on the leather car seats and the cloth car seats. Once we have a clear view of the contrast between the two, it’s going to be easier to understand all the pros and cons that exist between these two materials. 

Leather Car Seats

Up until the time I got my first car, I didn’t care so much about what material was used for a car seat and interior. All I knew was if it looks good and felt comfortable I’m going to enjoy the ride. 

But after my leather work course in college and years and years of helping friends and family understand leather as and when they’re making a choice either for a new car or furniture for their homes. Here’s what I can tell you about leather car seats.

Leather is obtained from the hides of animals and it’s treated through a process called tanning to render it into a material that will never decay or decomposed. The majority of leather all around the world is sourced from cows for one main reason. The cow meat industry is huge and leather is one of its byproducts.

Leather seats generally have a luxurious look and will usually cost more. Leather as a material is costly and because of that its use for car seats can influence the overall value of a car. Leather offers a fantastic lush look and feel to the interior of a car and it’s also highly functional in terms of its durability.

Cloth Car Seats

Cloths or fabric materials are very common and unlike leather, cloths are generally, less expensive. Cloths are produced by knitting, weaving, felting, or braiding natural or artificial textile fibers. 

Cloths are the most common upholstery used for covering car seats. There are a whole bunch of different types of cloth or fabric used for car seats. Some of these are vinyl fabrics, nylon fabrics, polyvinyl (PVC) fabrics, faux vinyl fabrics. There are a couple of things that are great about cloth car seats. 

  • They are cheap 
  • Cloth seats do not markup the price of a car
  • They are also very easy and inexpensive to replace, or repair

Pros and Cons Of Leather and Cloth Car Seats

The type of material used for the seats of a car might not be the absolute deal-maker, but it’s an important part of the car you cannot overlook. The car seats are among the first and last things you will use in your car.

Both the leather and the cloth upholstery have their pros and cons and to be able to answer the question of “which is better”, it’s important to put these two materials side by side on a strength and weakness basis to be able to understand and make a choice that’s great for you.


Leather car seats

Pro: Great style, classic, high-quality, and luxurious look.

Con: Leather Colors are limited.

Cloth Car Seats

Pro: Comes in an unlimited range of colors, designs, and patterns.

Con: Cloth car seats do not have that classic luxurious look that real leather has.

Without a doubt, the luxurious look the leather car seat interior comes with is incomparable to any other material on the planet. The common consensus on the notion of luxury associate with leather is inspired by its sleek high-quality surface look.

But because leather is made from the hides of animals from the meat industry, it falls short when it comes to the versatility of the colors it’s produced in.

With the constant improvements being made with the fabric industry, cloth car seats have been upgraded to levels that’s simply irresistible.

Although the cloth material can never be brought to the level of the rich luxurious look of leather, manufacturers today are also offering stylish cloth with an added advantage of being able to get the cloth car seats in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and textures in accordance to consumer demands and ever-changing taste. 


Leather Car Seats
Pro: Extremely soft luxurious feel.

Con: Feels slippery, sticky.

Cloth Car Seats

Pro: It’s very comfortable with an added advantage of no slippage and no sticky feel.

Con: Doesn’t have that luxurious supple rich leathery feel.

You would want to be as comfortable as possible in your car and the kind of car seat material you have installed will contribute to how comfy you feel during your cruise.

Leather car seats have a comfortable feel and sitting in your car will feel like being in your favorite leather couch at home. 

But the level of comfort leather car seats offers will depend on the quality of leather installed. Car seats made from synthetic leather will not feel quite as comfortable as the real deal — that is natural leather. Synthetic leather often tends to be slightly firmer, hard, or brittle.

When it comes to cloth car seats, I must say, you can never go wrong with them. With cloth car seats, you will have a nice combination of comfort and stability whenever you’re navigating a curve, unlike the slick skid you have on a leather car seat.

The slippery feel you have on leather car seats is not going to be fun for pets if you intend to travel with your furry friend(s) in your car. 

They tend to skid left, right, center, forward and which can be a bit dangerous for our buddies. But with a cloth car seat, there will be no form of slippage and this makes it slightly more comfortable.


Leather Car Seats

Pro: An Investment into a leather car seats will last a long time and offers a great resell value no matter how old the car is.

Con: Leather will be costly and also a lot more pricey to repair or replace.

Cloth Car Seats

Pro: Less expensive and inexpensive to replace or repair.

Con: May have no resell value if you will have to resell the car

On top of the car seat material chain, leather sits comfortably as one of the most pricey materials used for making car seats. This is due to how leather is sourced and processed.

Leather is sourced from the hides of animals, with cows being the most common source. After the leather is obtained from the meat industry, it then goes through a process called tanning to render it imperishable and workable.

Some tanning methods like vegetable tanning can be very expensive because of the kind of materials, equipment, and skills needed to tan the leather.

All these influence the total cost of leather as a material and because of this, it’s very rare to see real leather in standard car packages. Leather seats will often be bundled into costly upgrade packages.

Some dealers try to make money getaway by taking advantage of the markup on real leather even though the car seats may not be offered in full leather.

These types of leather car seats will often come with fabric or synthetic leather inserts on places like the back and sides of the car seats. So you have to be on the lookout if you truly want a bang for your buck. 

The cloth material, on the other hand, is always available as a standard material for car seats. It’s inexpensive and oftentimes, it will not be mentioned as a price influencing factor.

This is because cloth and fabrics do not go through any intensive treatments and are always ready for use by the manufacturers (car).    


Leather Car Seats

Pro: Requires cleaning and conditioning but these maintenance procedures are done only 2-3 times a year. Plus, all stains and dirt can be easily be removed from leather.

Con: It’s costly to have your leather car seats cleaned and conditioned by a professional detailer. Even if you choose to DIY the cleaning and conditioning yourself, it will require you to get specialized leather cleaning products. The very best ones can be quite pricey!

Cloth Car Seats

Pro: Cloth car seats are very inexpensive, fairly easy to clean, and saves a lot of time.

Con: If deep cleaning is required on cloth car seats, it can be very difficult to accomplish. Cloths are porous and so any liquid will easily sink very into it. Stains from oils and ink will be permanent on cloth car seats. 

Yes! leather lasts long, has a luxurious look and feel. But to have a very consistent fresh look on your leather car seats, you must stick religiously to a cleaning and conditioning routine to have your leather car seats in top-notch shape. 

An improperly cleaned and conditioned leather will have a lot of dirt and grease buildup that can cause the leather to fade, crack, and peel.

Cloth car seats on the contrary don’t typically require any expensive deep cleaning and conditioning. A quick vacuum cleaning and shampoo will work the magic for your cloth car seats. But when you have to do a deep cleaning of your cloth car seat due to a bad liquid stain, it can get tricky very quickly. 

Cloth car seat materials are very porous so any form of liquid stain can go straight into the seat and cause damage to the foam, glues, and smell of the car seat. Talk of smell, it’s up next for discussion.


Leather Car Seats

Pro: Leather has a natural fresh smell that most people find sensational in cars. Leather is also a non-porous material so anything odor-causing can be easily removed

Con: Chrome tanned and synthetic leather will have a chemical smell

Cloth Car Seats

Pro: Starts with a nice new car smell and because it’s porous, the unpleasant smells it develops can be managed by using stain guard from a car interior detailer.

Con: Develops odors super fast and can be pretty upsetting.

Leather maintains a fresh natural leathery smell that is very distinct and synonymous with leather and leather alone. Natural leather gets its rich natural smell from the natural plant extracts used to tan it.

This is very common with leather tanned using the vegetable tanning method. Although it’s a known fact that leather easily adopts smell around it such as smoke or perfumes, getting rid of the smell is quite as fast as the amount of time it takes to adopt the smell.

For cloth car seats, its porous nature tends to absorb odors pretty quickly than it would in leather. This causes the fresh car or new car smell to disappear quickly with cars that have cloth or fabric seats. This is then replaced by less pleasant smells from sweats, food, drinks, pets, etc. 

Allergic Reactions

Leather Car Seats

Pro: Leather as materials are now safer than it has ever been and due to its non-porous nature does not trap allergens.
Con: Can cause skin reactions if you’re allergic

Cloth Car Seats

Pro: Can be vacuumed and washed constantly unlike leather

Con: Easily Traps allergens

On a health level, different people will react to leather and cloth differently. While most people will react to a cloth car seats that have seen some dirt or dust settlement, others, by simply having their skin touch the leather can cause a mild or severe rash. 

The kind of treatment given to raw animal hides before they become leather used to largely comprise cancer-causing chemicals. But with strict laws and improved quality standards over the years, leather has become safer with the upsurge of vegan or animal-free leathers.

Leather, generally, is also a lot safer in terms of dust and allergens getting settled on them. The only caveat is leather can also cause some allergic reactions in some people especially when the skin comes into contact with it.

The most common leather allergy is skin rash. This is especially common when leather constantly gets wet without treatment. 

The cloth car seat on the other hand, because it’s super porous, dust, and allergens easily settle or get trapped on it and within its fibers and seat cushions.

While cloth car seats can warrant serious allergic reactions, it’s also fairly easy to deal with dust and other allergens that cause health reactions in most people. 

A Bi-weekly vacuuming and cleaning routine will help tremendously but not entirely sure if it’s going to eliminate the problem.


Leather Car Seats

Pro: Temperature regulating systems installed in leather car seats works pretty well due to how natural leather retains any kind of temperature it’s exposed to.

Con: Leather car seats feel extremely hot during hot summers and extremely chili on winter days.

Cloth Car Seats

Pro: Cloth car seats are more breathable and remain quite consistent in any type of weather in terms of how it feels than leather

Con: Cloth car seats will get as cold or hot as leather would but the difference is how it feels on your nothing extreme when compared to leather.

If you have children or pets or you’re a temperature-sensitive person and can’t handle that awkward first encounter with a hot or cold seat, then this is going to be a huge deal-breaker. 

Leather car seats and a cloth or fabric car seats respond almost the same to different hot and cold weathers. For example, in the hot summers, leather would heat up at the same degrees as cloth would.

But the difference is how it feels on the skin. Leather will feel very sticky and hotter. Cloth car seats, unlike leather, will not feel crazy scorching hot when it’s summer. 

While you might experience some amount of temperature change on a cloth car seat, it can’t be compared to what you will typically have with leather car seats.

Generally, this is a problem most car manufacturers have identified and have put in place effective features like the seat heating and car cooling systems to help regulate the awful temperature buildups on car seats.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Between Leather and Cloth Car Seats

Now that we have thoroughly done justice to the pros and cons of each of the car seat material types, here’s a simple list of factors to consider when choosing your car seats. 

The Durability of Car Seat Material

If all you care about is the share robust nature of your car seats above all other things, then you might want to consider a leather car seat. Leather is a super durable material and will outlast cloth or fabric car seat interiors a million times and over.

Your Car Seat Response To Temperature
This factor is subject to individual preferences and how much tolerance you have for your car seats turning very hot or cold during specific seasons of the year. 

While leather is a lot worse when it comes to how much hot or cold it can get, I must say there are a ton of remedies out there (most of which are complimentary) to compensate for this issue. So in my books, this is a tie between cloth car seats and leather car seats.


As the saying goes “Variety is the spice of life”. If you’re meticulous when it comes to the kinds of colors you surround yourself with, then the cloth car seats will offer you the versatility and variety in colors, textures, and patterns you would ever want. So on this level, it’s a definite win for cloth car seats.


Price is a huge factor in this banter between cloth car seats and leather car seats. Now, here goes nothing, if you don’t mind paying a premium price for a car seat because of the material (leather) used, then your guess is as good as mine.  

Luxury Look

If you want your car interior to have a luxurious look and feel, then car seats made from natural leather will quench your thirst for a classy look.


Do you have a family comprising a butter-finger husband like myself, children, or pets? Then getting an expensive natural leather car seat will not be the best of the best decisions. 

In this instance, you might want to go with a synthetic leather car seat. This will be a better option because the cloth car seat is too porous to handle the everyday wear and tear of the family.

Resell Value

Last but not the least, if you’re open to the idea of reselling your car in the future with no significant devaluation specifically from worn-out car seats, then leather will be a great alternative since leather, like fine wine gets better and better with time.


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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