The material your seats are wrapped in is one of the more important choices you’ll have to make when shopping for a car. Sure, leather and cloth seats are nice, but they come with downsides of their own. Leather requires a good amount of care over the life of your car, and cloth seats don't manage stains very well.While you may not think of vinyl as a smart way to go, you probably haven’t seen some of the more recent vinyl seating options out there. Most of them are actually quite nice.

While you may not think of vinyl as a smart way to go, you probably haven’t seen some of the more recent vinyl seating options out there. Vinyl used to, well, look and feel like vinyl. Typically thin, without any grain and sometimes a bit on the smelly side. But modern vinyl seats have come a long way. Most of them are actually quite nice, with the look and feel of real leather. Here are some reasons to consider vinyl seats:

It'll Cost You Less

mbusa leater

Leather is simply more expensive than vinyl since it's a material that's natural, rather than man-made like vinyl (essentially plastic). If you’re on a tight budget and you don’t want cloth seats in your car, then a vinyl seating option can be a smart choice. Modern vinyl seats are very comfortable too, so you won’t be giving up that much by opting for the cheaper material. In fact, most buyers have a tough time telling the difference between vinyl and leather. 

Be aware of the different names that automakers use to market vinyl seats, namely leatherette. Also, note that "leather-appointed" seats or "leather seating surfaces" only feature some leather and are not completely wrapped in leather. Only the portions of the seat that come in contact with the occupants are actually leather. This means there is usually some vinyl materials somewhere on the seat, usually backs of the seats and headrests. 

Easy Maintenance 


Cloth or leather are susceptible to stains and scratches in a way that vinyl isn’t. While cloth and leather are the tougher materials over time, vinyl won’t really be that affected if you spill coffee or pop on the seat. Simply spray a cleaner on it and wipe it down. This means that you can be a rather lazy car owner and your seats will still look pretty good. Also, vinyl seats won't stretch or wear out like leather and cloth seats will, meaning they'll hold their shape as long as the foam underneath continues to provide support.

Unfortunately, vinyl isn’t perfect. Over time, vinyl seats have a tendency to crack and that makes them look pretty crappy. Luckily, there are products you can use on your vinyl seats that will prolong their life, much the same as with leather. These are usually creams, lotions or sprays (like the one pictured above) that will need to be rubbed into the seat. While it takes a little work, they can help keep your seats looking good.

Modern Vinyl Seats Look like Leather

bmw leatherette

While old vinyl seats looked cheap and unattractive, the new ones do a fantastic job of mimicking the look and feel of real leather seats. Manufacturers have smartly added in leather-like grain and texture, to the point where you can barely tell the difference. The down side is that vinyl seats will always be hotter in the summer because vinyl doesn't breathe like natural materials, but otherwise they can feel remarkably like leather to the touch. Some really nice vinyl seats can fool most people. Keep in mind, however, that vinyl doesn't stretch. This is good and bad, in that they hold up pretty well over time but aren't as comfortable.