Car upholstery options: the pros and cons

Whether you're looking to replace or simply repair your car upholstery, there are a couple of things...

Whether you're looking to replace or simply repair your car upholstery, there are a couple of things you should consider when choosing the material you will use. The three most common materials you'll see are cloth, vinyl and leather. Here is how they stack up against one another in terms of appearance, durability, maintenance and cost.


There are many different kinds of cloth to choose from in a variety of textures and colors, making cloth a great choice if you're looking to add a personal touch to your car's appearance. Cloth is a popular choice for car upholstery because it's economical. It is, however, more absorbent than vinyl or leather. If you anticipate a lot of spills, you may want to consider upgrading to save yourself time and trouble in the cleanup department.

It's also more susceptible to wear and tear. However, the fabrics of today are much more resistant to fading and UV damage than their predecessors. And the flip side to being more susceptible to wear and tear is that cloth is often easier to patch or repair than vinyl or leather can be.


A common choice dating back to the classic cars of the 1950s and 1960s, vinyl boasts an appearance similar to leather, the easiest cleanup of any upholstery option and a cost that falls somewhere between economical fabric and luxury-priced leather.

Many color and texture options are available in vinyl, but some people object to the feel of vinyl when compared to leather. Like leather, it is uncomfortable to the touch in extremely hot temperatures. And while it's easier to clean than either cloth, which absorbs stains, or leather, which requires conditioning as well as cleaning, vinyl is prone to cracking when exposed to extreme temperatures and direct sunlight. And those cracks are more difficult to repair without recovering the seats, entirely.

So if you want the look of leather for less-than-luxury prices combined with low-maintenance cleanup, vinyl is an excellent choice. Just make sure that you protect your car seats from direct sunlight, and be prepared for a little discomfort in the summer and possible deterioration.


Leather is a luxury material, and it comes with the price tag to fit. But for some, there's nothing like the feel and smell of supple leather seats.

Though it's the most expensive option, it's also the most durable. And while its need for conditioning makes it a little more high-maintenance than vinyl, it's still easier to clean than cloth and can be repaired more easily than vinyl, which means it will last longer and look better than your other upholstery options.

When it comes down to it, there's no one upholstery choice that clearly stands out above the rest. It all comes down to your needs and preferences. If you keep those in mind, a local car upholstery professional can help you choose the best material for your needs.

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