What Are The Pros And Cons of Leather and Leatherette?

Leather upholstery

Leather upholstery

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

Q: What are the pros and cons of leather and leatherette?

A: Good-quality leather feels softer and is more pliant, and it should have a pleasant aroma. Leatherette, or synthetic leather, is made of vinyl and is generally easier to keep clean than leather, which will absorb dirt and spills.

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Because leatherette is plastic-based, it isn’t porous, so liquids or food sit on the surface and can be cleaned up with a wet cloth. But since leatherette doesn’t “breathe” like the real stuff, it gets hotter during warm weather and is “stickier,” especially when you perspire. Leather is easier to scratch, so it’s not a good choice if you carry a dog or cat in your car.

Cost is another disadvantage to leather. It can cost up to thousands of dollars more than leatherette materials. In leather’s favor, it adds resale value to a car, and many buyers of luxury vehicles consider leather a must-have feature.

Monetary considerations aside, your friends and relatives will be far more impressed if you tell them your car has leather seats instead of leatherette. The flip side to that is that some leatherette upholstery looks so good that most people won’t know it’s not the real thing.


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Contributor Rick Popely has covered the auto industry for decades and hosts a weekly online radio show on TalkZone.com.  Email Rick