Rubber vs Leather Steering Wheels: Which One Is Best?

Rubber vs Leather Steering Wheels

The steering wheel is the most important aspect of any vehicle. It controls movement and makes driving a lot easier. Two of the most common types of wraps for steering wheel wheels are rubber and leather. In this article, I did research into how the two compare to one another and I’m happy to share all my findings with you.

So, rubber vs leather steering wheel! Leather is sourced from the skins of animals while rubber is obtained from certain types of trees and plants like dandelions. In terms of overall appearance and feel, leather steering wheels are a lot better than rubber. But when it comes to grip and price, rubber steering wheels offer the best form of grip and are also budget-friendly.

In the remaining parts of this article, I have put together a couple of factors you would want to consider if you’re torn between rubber and leather steering wheels. Keep reading to find out more.

Rubber vs Leather Steering Wheels – Details

1. The Grip

One of the main differences between rubber and leather steering wheels is the grip action you get with them. This is a pretty important metric to measure when choosing between a leather steering wheel or rubber as this can affect your driving experience.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • Rubber is a lot grippier and you can really feel the difference when driving. You have more control with rubber because it reacts to your grip much better than leather does.
  • The good thing about the rubber steering wheel is that its grip can be customized or made to suit different situations, sports, or people.
  • For example, a manufacturer can decide to make their rubber steering wheel a lot grippier.
  • This is possible because rubber as a material can be shaped and formed that way to suit a particular market.

Leather Steering Wheels

  • Leather steering wheels on the other hand are smoother when compared to rubber. This means that they’re not as grippy as well.
  • There are many different types of leather steering wheels. Some are made with a more grip-friendly material while others have rubber in certain areas.
  • These grip-friendly materials will often be installed on the lower half or in the center of the steering wheel to make it easier for you to grab on and control your car during bad weather conditions.
  • This is not to say leather steering wheels have no grip on them. Trust me they do! However, its grip doesn’t just compare with what you will get with rubber.

The Verdict:

Rubber Wins!!

Leather steering wheel not being as grippier as rubber can be both good and bad, depending on who’s using them. For example, someone who drives fast would prefer rubber because it gives you more control of the vehicle.

But when it comes down to it and you need a steering wheel that is going to give you a lot of grip, it’s hard to do better than a rubber steering wheel.

Rubber steering wheels give a lot more grip than leather ones do, so if you have sweaty hands then your best bet is rubber.

2. Durability

The durability of the material used for the steering wheel also goes a long way when it comes to the overall user experience of the steering wheel.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • Rubber steering wheels are known for their durability and high resistance to stress and wear.
  • This is because rubber steering wheels are made from a durable rubber compound that can last up to 50 years before they may start to decompose.
  • This means that they are able to withstand a lot of wear and tear without wearing out quickly.
  • Because of this rubber steering wheels are going to last long, which makes it a better long-term investment for your vehicle than most materials.

Leather Steering Wheel

  • Leather as a material is also very durable and tends to last lifelong. Leather in itself with proper care and maintenance can last for over 100 years before it may begin to disintegrate.
  • There’s no doubt leather is durable so what you would be looking at here in terms of durability is not how fast the leather degrades or deteriorates but how fast it loses its grip. And this is where rubber simply knocks leather off the wagon.
  • This is because leather is a soft material with natural fibers. This means that its grip is not going to last you as long as rubber would before wearing down – and you begin losing grip on the handlebars.
  • While there are various ways of ensuring a leather steering wheel lasts last long as well, it will come with a lot more hustle with its maintenance for it to maintain its original appearance and feel.

The Verdict:

Rubber Wins on this one as well!!

When it comes down to it both the leather and the rubber steering wheels are very durable materials.

If you want a steering wheel that is made of a natural material that is also extremely durable then your go-to is the leather steering wheel.

However, if you would want your steering wheel to have awesome grip action that will not wear down very quickly, then the rubber steering wheel is the way to go.

3. The Fit

How the steering wheel wrap fits the steering wheel is also one of the important factors to consider when you’re choosing between a rubber and leather steering wheel. Not only does this add to the aesthetics of the interior but also adds to the durability of the wrap.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • The way rubber fits the steering wheel is tight and snug with very little chance of movement. This is especially true if the rubber wrap has been done by a professional without any air bubbles or wrinkles.
  • The drawback of rubber steering wheel wraps is that although they offer quite a good fit they are not as aesthetically pleasing.

Leather Steering Wheel

  • Leather wraps around the steering wheel are usually seamless due to how shapable leather is when heat and moisture are applied to the leather.
  • This makes leather one of the best materials for steering wheel wraps as it fits perfectly to give you an aesthetically pleasing look while offering you a good grip.

The Verdict:

Leather Steering Wheel Wins!!

I find leather steering wheels to have the best fit when compared to rubber as it also offers a luxurious feel while offering you an aesthetically pleasing look.

4. Resistance To Extreme Weather Conditions

Another essential thing to consider when choosing between rubber and leather steering wheels is how resistant the steering wheel is going to be to the mercy of extreme weather conditions.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • As far as weather resistance goes rubber steering wheel wraps are pretty much the only thing that is resistant to weather conditions.
  • This is because neither rain nor shine is going to affect the nature of rubber steering wheels.
  • However, in some situations rubber steering wheels when subjected to extreme weather like rain and sunshine is that they could develop tiny cracks around pressure points.

Leather Steering Wheel

  • Leather is a little more complicated because leather steering wheels come in all different types of qualities and types.
  • This means some are better than others when it comes to resisting extreme weather conditions.
  • For example, if you have a suede leather steering wheel then chances are it won’t last too long when it encounters rain, snow, and sunshine.
  • Leather as a material can get affected by mold when it gets into contact with rain and snow. It could even fade when it is subjected to too much sunshine for long hours.

The Verdict:

Rubber Wins!!

5. Performance

This refers to how the wrap on the steering wheel influences your overall driving experience. This is relatively important because as you drive, the steering wheel is going to contribute to your fatigue levels as you drive.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • The rubber grip on the leather steering wheel is able to conduct heat more efficiently than leather because it doesn’t absorb water and oil like leathers as suede does.
  • But the rubber steering wheel maybe a little on the heavy side as it is often made to be able to absorb shock from bumps in the road.
  • A rubber steering wheel also absorbs vibration which could eventually cause fatigue and discomfort for the driver.
  • An added benefit of a rubber steering wheel is that it also provides warmth in the wintertime, which can be an important comfort factor when driving on cold days.

Leather Steering Wheel

  • A leather steering wheel is often favored because it offers a more relaxed grip on the hands and it is able to adequately regulate heat much more than rubber would, but these also have their disadvantages too.
  • The leather material can be slippery when wet which could cause the driver to overcompensate and potentially lose control of their vehicle too.

The Verdict:

It’s a draw on this one!!

6. Maintenance

You do not only want to simply choose or upgrade your steering wheel without knowing how to care for and maintain the wrap on your steering wheel.

The way you care for and maintain your leather or steering wheel will go a long way to determine how long your steering wheel is going to be.

The differentiating factor here is also how easy it is to care for and maintain the type of material on your steering wheel.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • When it comes to maintenance, rubber steering wheels are by far the easiest to handle and care for.
  • There is no need to worry about water damage or sunlight exposure because rubber is a sponge-like material that has an innate ability to take in these things without changing its shape or size.
  • There are also very few cracks on a rubber steering wheel since it does not warp easily with sun exposure like other materials do.
  • This makes it easier and cheaper to maintain because you won’t require any constant repairs.

Leather Steering Wheel

  • Leather as material needs a lot of baby-ing in order for it to keep up its beautiful luxurious appearance.
  • With leather, you will need to constantly moisturize and condition it in order for it to maintain its soft, smooth appearance.
  • And if you would want to get the best of the best quality products for your leather steering wheel, the cost quickly builds up.

The Verdict:

Another Win!! for rubber steering wheel

7. Breathability

Breathability is how well the wrap on the steering wheel allows air to pass through for cooling purposes. This is important because you don’t want your hands to be sweaty and slippery on the wheel while driving, which can lead to an accident.

Leather Steering Wheel

  • Leather as a material is very porous. This makes it very breathable.
  • It also means that you can’t simply clean the steering wheel, but you will need to condition it on a regular basis in order for the leather to maintain its soft, smooth appearance.
  • This is why leather steering wheels have such an awesome luxurious feel when you drive.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • Rubber as a material is not porous so it does not breathe at all.
  • Meaning there is the likelihood for your rubber steering wheel to feel sticky.
  • But if you’re someone who is looking for a cheap option, the rubber steering wheel might be right for you.
  • You won’t need to condition it as often and they are more affordable in price than leather steering wheels.

The Verdict:

Leather Wins!! on breathability

8. Price

Last but certainly not the least price. Being able to decide to choose between a rubber steering wheel or going for an upgrade for a leather steering wheel will all come down to its price and your budget.

Leather Steering Wheel

  • When it comes to price, leather steering wheels are a lot more expensive than rubber ones.
  • This is due to the fact that they are often made from expensive cowhide and put together by hand. Which makes them more difficult to produce than a rubber steering wheel.
  • Plus there are also added expenses such as chrome or gold plating for decoration.
  • To get the best price for a leather steering wheel you should look for deals and discounts online like on sites like Amazon or eBay as well as used car dealerships.

Rubber Steering Wheel

  • The cheapest option is by far going with an all-rubber steering wheel, which will be cheaper in price and not only easier to maintain but also cheaper to maintain.

The Verdict:

Depends on your budget!

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it, your choice between rubber steering wheels and leather steering wheels will boil down to your budget, personal preference, or taste.

Rubber steering wheels are cheaper and have a good grip but leather has a more professional feel that many people prefer. Hopefully, this article helped you decide which type of steering wheel is right for you!


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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