It’s one of the hardest working parts of the car. One that contributes to the look and comfort of your driving experience. It can make you feel like you’re riding in style or like you’re back in high school cruising in your friend’s “new” 25-year-old junker.
Car seat material can make or break your interest in a car. Some of it comes down to what you need from your car’s interior. If you have kids, then something easy to clean, that will stay looking fairly decent for as long as possible, is probably at the top of your list.
For others who don’t have to worry about juice stains and cookie crumbs, aesthetics and the feel of the material are the most likely priories, with durability being a close second.
Your lifestyle will still heavily influence which seats work for you. Are you an outdoorsy type who participates in a lot of muddy activities? Do you have a long commute, and spend a lot of time in your car? These things could influence your decision.
Budget most definitely comes into play, no matter what your wants are. Certain materials definitely hold more appeal, but does the price justify it, and will they hold up to your daily routine.
If you have Champagne taste on a sparkling white wine budget, you may be able to decide on something that holds the same visual appeal as your preferred material without leaving you with a huge payment.
Let’s go over the most common car seat materials. We’ll explore the pros and cons so you can make up your mind which material you think is right for your car seats.
Car Seat Material Options
There are five main options for most consumers when considering seat material. Leather, leatherette, nylon, or polyester.
If you are looking at high vehicles, you may also run into Ultrasuede or Alcantara. Depending on the make and model of the car, not all options will be available to you.
Seat material options will vary by trim package, so if you are on a strict budget, your options will be very limited. They all have pros and cons; for a few, the biggest pro is the price in relation to the upkeep.
Let’s start with the least common option. A single manufacturer produces Alcantra in Italy. It has the look and feel of microsuede with the added benefit of being flame retardant.
It has become more common in recent years in mid-range vehicles, as an option where there would typically be leather or vinyl accents.
- Pros- An elegant look and feel, plus the added safety benefit. It looks like suede but does not require animal products.
- Cons- Expensive and inaccessible. It is primarily used in high-end performance cars. It is difficult to clean, and would not stand up to daily family wear.
Leather is good-looking, durable, and can handle daily use. It’s the material many people want in their car.
Unfortunately, especially with leather prices going up, it could be creeping out of the financial reach of many people. Even lower-end leather prices have seen an upsurge, which is great for the leather business, but not so great for the consumer. The leather in luxury cars is of the best quality and hand-stitched, which adds to the cost.
- Pros- Leather gives a luxurious feel, is durable, and easy to maintain with the right products.
- Cons- It is very expensive. It can get very hot in warm weather. You can damage your seats if you use the wrong products.
Leatherette, or faux leather, has the look of leather without relying on animal products. It has become a much more common option, even in luxury cars, since many people are looking for a vegan option to leather seats. Leatherette is made of vinyl but is made to mimic the look of leather through embossing or other methods.
Vinyl is included here as well because leatherette is made of vinyl, but there are also vinyl seats that, in no way, try to approximate the look of leather.
They have the same benefits and drawbacks as leatherette but are visually appealing to those who like the synthetic look.
- Pros- Leatherette gives the look of leather to those who can not afford it, or who do not use animal products. Vinyl provides a smooth look for those who prefer a non-upholstered surface. Vinyl and leather are both easy to wipe down and keep clean.
- Cons- Even though it has the look of leather, leatherette, and vinyl are not as sturdy, and only has a life expectancy of around 10 years. It also does not breathe well, and while leather can get hot, leatherette will stick to your legs.
Microsuede seats, which are made of polyester, are used to give cars a luxurious suede look. It is one of the most commonly used soft surfaces used in cars.
- Pros- It will not get overly warm, or stick to your legs in the middle of summer.
- Cons- It gets very dirty very quickly and can be difficult to clean. It is prone to staining, and also absorbs odors. If cleaned improperly can become stiff and hard.
The most common material used in fabric upholstery, nylon seats may not give the luxury look of some other materials, but they can still be an attractive and comfortable option.
Nylon has the benefit of being sturdier and more resistant to stains than some other fabric options.
- Pros- The biggest pro of all is that these seats are budget-friendly. They are fairly sturdy, and will not burn unprotected skin in the heat of summer. Repels stains more easily than polyester.
- Cons- Fabric seats can stain easily, as well as absorb odors.
Just like choosing a car, deciding on options like upholstery is a choice that brings a lot of factors into play.
There is no one seat option that is the right answer, and with the right care and cleaning, any seat can stay looking and smelling their best for the long haul.