For almost as long as cars have been around, people have argued over which interior is better - leather or cloth. Don't believe us, just Google it. Thousands of discussion forums will pop up on the subject. If you aren't one who is biased one way or the other, then you can certainly benefit from learning a thing or two about each and then making a sound decision that suits your lifestyle.
Comparison: Leather Car Interior vs. Cloth Car Interior
Pros and Cons of a Leather Interior
We'll start with leather. There is a lot to love about this material. Before you even touch it, you can admire its luxurious quality. Buying a car with a leather interior can even boost your 'status'? among friends and family. A vain reason to buy but a reason many do, nonetheless.
And oh, that smell. That delicious smell that wafts from the car the moment you open the door: the looks and aroma alone of a leather interior might have you reaching for your wallet!
Once you take a seat, most top notch leathers will be soft and supple. You will also note that it appears low maintenance and is very easy to clean. Combine all of these factors and you get one deluxe interior that adds to a whopping resale value.
Ah, it may sound great, but can you afford it? That is the big question. Leather is significantly more expensive than its cloth counterpart. You can bet on paying at least $300 more for a used vehicle and up to $2,500 more for a new vehicle with leather, depending on the quality of the leather.
Leather is also not a huge fan of the green trend that is currently sweeping the car industry. When you break it down, it is, in basic terms, the skin of a cow. Not very humane or environmentally friendly.
We have also all heard the 'butt burn'? horror stories from those who have had leather vehicles before us. Accounts of how, in the dead of summer, the seats, wheel and shifters are so hot, that they seem to melt the skin right off of your fingertips. And in the colder months, it seems as though your buns could practically freeze to the seats. Carrying a towel or cushion around helps but they also add clutter to your car. This doesn't even begin to cover the way hot, sweaty skin sticks to leather seats.
By far, the biggest complaint about leather interiors has to be the maintenance. Although one of the pluses to leather is that it is extremely easy to clean, it needs to be maintained - often. Your sweat, coupled with other liquids, spores, dust, and gunk leak into the tiny pores over time. If the leather isn't properly maintained, it will show wear quickly. Don't keep it up and you can watch your lovely leather harden, crackle, and wear out faster than you can pull out your saddle soap for a last ditch repair effort. If you do keep up with it faithfully, you'll need to rub it all over with saddle soap and then condition it habitually.
Sounds like a lot of work and concern, right? Well it all depends on what you're looking for. If you don't mind the upkeep and like a luxury look, leather could be for you.
Photo Credit: Christian Wardlaw
Pros and Cons of a Cloth Interior
On the other hand, cloth is also a viable option, depending on your lifestyle. Many people choose cloth because it is simply more affordable. The difference in pricing can be a thousand dollars or more in savings if you go with a cloth interior.
Cloth is also known for its comfort. There is no sticking, no sliding around, and no burning. Speaking of which, this material is much more breathable. What this means for you is that its temperature won't flux with the weather. Plus many vehicles come with the option of heated cloth interiors. See it for yourself in the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Avenger, Dodge Dakota, Ford Focus, Subaru Outback, nearly all Volvo's, MINI Cooper, Saturn Aura, and the Hyundai Santa Fe, just to name a few. Many of these new models are also coming out with a variety of materials like velour or a suede/tricot blend which are even cushier and stain proof than the 'regular'? cloth interiors.
To boot, cloth interiors don't need to be maintained. It is a personal preference how clean you want your car to be. A bi-monthly steam or vacuuming can do the trick and cloth certainly doesn't require any of the extra TLC that leather does.
But speaking in terms of cleaning, it must noted that cloth interiors do stain more easily and, depending on what the stain is, can be more difficult when attempting to remove stains. You can't just take a rag to it. You've got to haul out your trusty vacuum or steam cleaner and take your vehicle to get it treated with a stain guard every few years. You'll probably also note that the 'new car'? smell gives way quickly to the different odors of the items that you bring into your automobile. The fact is that cloth absorbs odor, while leather doesn't.
Cloth can also look 'cheap'? and won't give you that luxurious, status quo feeling that many leather lovers search for. Because there isn't that lofty feeling with cloth, resale value is not as great.
With both options, it is certainly give and take - cloth is affordable but doesn't have as good a resale value while leather is sumptuous but changes with the weather, literally. At the end of the day, based your choice on your lifestyle and your personal preferences, if you research and follow your individual inclination, your certain to be happy with your choice.