The answer to this question depends highly on personal preference. While leather has always been known as the ‘’status’’ option, regularly found in higher-end luxury cars, fabric seats were always a bit too provincial and peasanty for people who own cars with leather seats.
On the other hand, there are many benefits to fabric seats. It’s safe to say that one is not 100% better than the other and that it all depends on an individual. Besides leather and fabric, nowadays there are seats made out of faux leather or other animal-friendly materials.
You can also opt for seats completely made out of Alcantara for more of a sporty look. Some brands like Porsche also use special fabrics such as Race-Tex which are made from high-quality microfiber plastics. There is a huge trend nowadays where car manufacturers use recycled materials as the basis for seat covers.
No matter which of these two you like more, it’s good to know that fabric costs less, is easier to maintain, is better temperature-wise, and does not harm any animals. However, leather looks better, feels more luxurious, helps the car’s resale value, and is less prone to making you allergic.
Price – Partial leather is the better value option
No matter what you buy, price is a variable that can not be ignored. That being said, leather always costs more money no matter how you put it. The vast majority of cars nowadays come standard with cloth seats, and there are different levels of leather interior upholstery.
Most cars are available with leather seats as an optional package, and these can sometimes be bundled into more expensive interior packages. Even if you do tick such an option, you can still get a partial leather seat upholstery.
Some brands require you to opt for a so-called ‘’full-leather’’ package if you want to enjoy your seats completely covered in leather. As such, these packages also usually include your doors, your upper dash, your armrests, and sometimes even your roofline in leather.
Fabric on the other hand is a standard option, as such, there is no need for you to pain any more money on anything. Some manufacturers like VW or Audi even offer multiple different choices of fabric seats, and some of them are additional options.
Appearance and style
Cars aren’t just tools, they show the world that we have a specific interest, and they express our style and way of thinking. As such, it is important how a car looks inside and out, especially so if the car in question costs a lot of money.
As such, there is no comparison here, leather seats look way better and they are usually available in multiple different colors which can not be replicated on cloth seats. Some manufacturers don’t even offer top-of-the-line seats if they are not upholstered in leather.
As such, leather can be artistically manipulated with interesting stitching patterns and embroideries which are not available on fabric seats. Whenever you opt for the most expensive and most equipped trim level of a certain model, chances are you are getting leather seats.
However, not all fabric seats are made equal. Some cars like the VW Golf GTI offer specially designed and decorated fabric seats. Porsche is also known for its Houndstooth fabric inserts which are some of the most famous designer options offered by Porsche.
Maintenance and resale value
Between the two, fabric is a lot easier to maintain compared to leather because it does not need any conditioning or regular cleaning. Leather tends to fade away, or even crack if not attended regularly, and fabric seats are usually the more durable option.
On the other hand, if you are in a need of a deep clean, leather seats are easier because they usually don’t absorb as many liquids as fabric seats do. That being said, fabric seats are way easier to permanently stain.
Resale value-wise, there truly is no comparison here, leather seats are way better, but only if the seats are in decent condition at the very least. Sure, you will never get your money back because the extended leather option costs a lot when buying new, but the entire value is not translated to the second-hand market.
Nevertheless, cars equipped with well-kept and conditioned leather seats are bound to sell for more, and the sheer interest towards leather seats also helps. However, there are people out there that do prefer fabric and are more likely to buy a car with fabric seats, not even considering leather.
Is faux leather a viable option?
Faux leather is a leather-like-looking material that actually has nothing in common with leather besides looks. Faux leather can sometimes look and feel like genuine leather, but it can also sometimes look and feel like garbage, it all depends on how much money is invested into it.
Throughout the years, the perception towards faux leather is slowly changing thanks to animal cruelty organizations being more recognized and the fact that faux leather itself is slowly becoming a true substitute for leather.
Is leather available on all cars?
A few years back, leather was available for pretty much every car on the market that does not fit into the ‘’most affordable’’ car category. Nowadays, some manufacturers are slowly moving away from leather because of animal cruelty and environmental considerations.
Tesla, one of the most famous car brands nowadays does not offer leather at all because of these reasons, and the seats in all of Tesla models are actually upholstered with faux leather.
What are the temperature differences between leather and fabric?
Leather and fabric are way different when it comes to temperature retention and absorption. Leather seats are known the get incredibly hot during the summer, so much so that they can even cause some burns and uncomfortable sweating.
During the winter, leather seats are also known to lose heat quicker when compared to leather seats. This means that even if the sun is out, leather seats can still be cold to the touch. Fabric seats are not as extreme no matter the time of the year because they stay relatively consistent to the touch.