Leatherette vs. Leather vs. Cloth: Which Is Best?

Enthusiasts pine for talkative steering, drift mode, responsive power, and a manually operated transmission when considering a new car purchase. … Continued

Enthusiasts pine for talkative steering, drift mode, responsive power, and a manually operated transmission when considering a new car purchase. Average consumers, however, just want safe cars comfortably shuttling them from the dog park to the local coffee shop. Comfort levels depend on a number of characteristics, including suspension, but none are more crucial than how the seats feel. 

Most modern consumer cars offer a choice between three-seat materials: leather, fake leather, or engineered cloth. Although leather is widely considered the premium option, every material has its pros and cons. 

Car Bibles editors have put their butts in virtually every seat material known to man, and we’re here to share our experiences and findings with your readers. Let’s get to it.

What Is Upholstery?

Upholstery is the assembly of materials that covers a type of seating or furniture. The two primary purposes of upholstery are aesthetic design and comfort.

Leather rear seats.
Depositphotos

What Is Leather? 

Leather is a durable and flexible material made from the tanned and cured hide of an animal. The most common type of leather used in vehicles comes from a cow. Different dyeing finishing techniques create different levels of softness, different design details, and different colors.

Pros

  • Premium
  • Durable, stain-resistant resistant, and water-resistant resistant
  • Adds to the new car smell

Cons

  • Gets extremely hot in the sun
  • Cold in the winter
  • Cracks after extended use
  • More expensive
  • Requires conditioning
Faux leather at its finest.
Depositphotos

What Is Leatherette? 

Leatherette is a material designed to emulate the look and feel of leather. It is typically made of a synthetic material such as vinyl or some type of plastic. It’s also commonly known as synthetic leather, faux leather, or pleather (plastic leather). 

Pros

  • Leather-look without the leather price
  • More durable than cloth
  • Stain- and liquid-resistant

Cons

  • It’s not leather
  • Made out of plastic
  • Colder, harsher, and less cozy than cloth

What Is a Cloth Seat?

A cloth seat is covered in a soft fabric. It is the base material for most budget vehicles, as it is the cheapest material of the bunch.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • The most comfortable option
  • Better for fun designs
  • Warm and cozy
  • Not susceptible to extreme heat or cold

Cons

  • Easily stained
  • Moisture absorbent
  • Retains smells
  • Can look cheap

What Is Vegan Upholstery? 

One of the newest marketing avenues in the automotive industry is going vegan. Consumers who live vegan lifestyles do not want to drive cars with dead cows covering the seats. So, manufacturers such as Volvo, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Bentley, and BMW have started to offer vegan “leather” alternatives that are typically made of recycled plastic or recycled plant material. 

Because of this sustainable approach, vegan upholstery is also offered more frequently in hybrid and electric vehicles due to its eco-friendly and progressive nature.

Pros

  • Sustainable
  • Friendly to the environment

Cons

  • Not widely available
  • You can’t replace real leather
  • Likely more expensive
  • Not much available durability and longevity data
Cracked leather seats.
Depositphotos

Your Questions, Our Answers About Leatherette

Q: Do Leatherette Seats Crack? 

A: It’s not as likely, but it’s possible.

Q: Does Leatherette Need To Be Conditioned?

A: Different manufacturers use different materials for their leatherettes, so each might require different attention and care. Read your owner’s manual for more information. 

Q: How Do You Maintain Leatherette Seats? 

A: Your owner’s manual and/or service manual will tell you specific instructions for maintaining your seat materials. Certain manufacturers only recommend using a damp towel, and that’s it. Otherwise, cleaning products specifically made for leatherette do exist. Some people use leather cleaners and conditioning products on leatherette, but there’s a chance specific chemicals could damage the leatherette upholstery, so always check first.

Q: Is Leatherette The Same As Vinyl?

A:  In many cases, yes, leatherette is made from vinyl.

Car Bible’s Favorite Leatherette Related Products

Meguiar’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

303 Products Ultimate UV Protection

 

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Tony Markovich

Tony MarkovichTony has a thing for pop-up headlights. His first car was a $3,000 1996 Saturn SC2 Coupe, and his current project is a 1970 Opel GT junker. When he's not daydreaming about the Cadillac Sixteen, he's watching the Chicago Bulls go undefeated on TNT. Contact the author here.