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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Auto leather isn't all it's cracked up to be

When you're the car guy, you are often relied upon to counsel other folks on the subject of buying or fixing cars. And you should give your knowledge freely, because the rules of the advice bartering system mean that someday, when you need an asparagus steamer or an automatic tennis-ball launcher, you will have questions.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/auto-leather-isnt-all-its-cracked-up-to-be/
214 REPLIES 214
JimDino619
Intermediate Driver

I'm sorry, but well made leather seat covers give you all of the comfort and are not slick. You really need to try a well made modern leather seat. They have none of the issues you described. You don't slide on them and they don't burn after the vehicle has been sitting in the sun. I think you have just been exposed to junk leather seats covers.

dooscoop32
Detailer

I am one who has owned a lot of cars which had leather. Unfortunately, I had no choice in the matter because they already had it when I bought them. But I don't care for it and never have. It requires tremendous amounts of maintenance and still may not look good later on.

I highly prefer vinyl or cloth.
1966SS
Pit Crew

Tremendous amounts of maintenance ?? Nonsense !!
5 minutes, once a month, with Leather Care keeps
my 35 year old seats look like they did when I drove
the car off the showroom floor ….
JGeske
Instructor

Except when the leather care product of choice (no matter how expensive, even that recommended by the best detailer in town) stains the trousers of my suits over time.
Rick2
Instructor

You are supposed to wipe off the excess !
JimDino619
Intermediate Driver

I have had leather seats and interiors in my vehicles for years. I may take some cleaner to them every 3 -4 years, but only is they are dirty. I don't get where everyone says they require tremendous amounts of maintenance. It just isn't true.

I keep my vehicles until about 200,000 miles. I had been putting on about 40,000 miles per years. So, I was buying a new car and getting rid of it before it could get dirty or show some use. Maybe there is a world of difference in what you get for leather seats. All of my vehicles with leather have been Land Rovers or Mercedes so I may have an unrealistic viewpoint.

 

In any case everyone else has been speaking in absolutes and referencing brands or car class, so I have to assume they are meaning "all" leather seats. I'm saying it doesn't apply to all of them.

AMatyas
Pit Crew

In some cases I agree that the simulated leather is a viable option.

Toyota seems to have this down pat. My daughters Toyotas have Softtex which is superb. Most people could not tell the difference.

Unfortunately not all manufacturers are so inclined. We just ordered a new car and had to accept the nappa leather as it was the only option available on the model we chose.

I recommend people check out the new simulated leather before they comment.
Hodag
Pit Crew

I hate Leather. Cold in the winter. Hot in the summer. I prefer cloth. It breathes.
il66pony
Pit Crew

I won't say I hate leather but you are right. No need for heated and cooled seats with cloth. Now, cup holders on the other hand - how did we ever survive without those being heated and cooled.
JimDino619
Intermediate Driver

Good leather seats breath as well as cloth. 1960s leather seats were not comfortable, but modern seat covers are not the same.

JeffK
Pit Crew

Geez...we must have special bovine here. 😋 Leather never been an issue and our seasonal extremes would certainly test any interior. The price difference isn't what it used to be either.
espo70
Advanced Driver

Oh get off your leather-saddled high horses and lighten up on the guy. There's nothing wrong with a Taco Tuesday joke. Leather looks and smells nice, but it is a PITA. Plus if you like corner carving, it's not particularly grippy.

Pete1
Pit Crew

Automatic tennis ball launcher? LOL
Scary
Intermediate Driver

This writer is not very bright. Vinyl is awful. Just because he couldn't stitch his seats with a machine that was never designed to be used that way, and he is a bad seamstress doesn't mean leather is bad. Vinyl and the offshoots don't breathe, they are non porous, they crack sooner than leather even with care. Under the best care it eventually peels off the woven backing. It sun fades in less than a single summer. Leather on the other hand is still there in those old Ferrari 250's he mentions, but from lack of care it probably cracked. Like the paint, the rubber tires, hoses, chrome, and everything else in the world. I have dining room chairs with leather seats that were made in the late 1800's that are still fine. I wont bother reading any more of his articles, he apparently is clueless.
RobPreato
New Driver

You know the article will be trash when the writer starts out by making completely misleading statements designed to appeal to emotional rather than rational senses. The "living skin" is not striped off of a cow. The cow is dead and so is the skin, unless you believe the skin continues to live after the cow is dead? And if the hydes were not used for making leather goods, they would go to waste, a worse tragedy don't you think? Leather requires care, true enough, but so does the entire car. Last I checked, it is easier to apply conditioner to my leather seats than it is to change my oil and I would never think to skip doing that job. I have a 2006 Volvo V70 with all leather seats. They look as good as the day they came out of the factory, and feel even better now that they are broken in. No seating material will last forever, but with proper care, leather will outlast any manmade material on the planet, plus it looks and feels better than to boot.
ATmgbjaguar
Pit Crew

Leather is an appropriate seat covering for all sorts of cars --- my two collector cars came with it from the factory. Until we reach the point where there are no more cows being slaughtered, then we are wise to make use of the versatile, durable, and attractive hide materials left over from that process. IMHO, it's certainly better than using man-made chemically-based materials like vinyl or naughahide.
erne75
Advanced Driver

"where there are no more cows being slaughtered"
You surely refer to the end of the world!!!
joet
Pit Crew

This is definitely a first world problem.
philrod22
New Driver

What a dipstick. So, I take it you don't like leather? Do you wear leather shoes? Or do they stink too much? I personally like leather and the smell of dead cow in my car/pickup. And leather is hotter than vinyl? Are you kidding me? Where are the air conditioned seats when you need them in your little 250 Cal Spyder? Get an F150 and cool your ass! Stick to asparagus and tennis ball launchers and leave my leather seats alone. Oh, and have a nice day!
MoonlinerPilot
New Driver

I have a 44 year old car with leather, and it only shows minimal amount of wear with 100K miles on the car. The vinyl seats in the Country Squires I grew up with and the Mustangs that my father later collected: the vinyl cracked and flaked long ago. The leather seat surfaces of my 08 Hyundai: perfect; the vinyl on the not-seat surfaces: cracked. Sounds as if this author spun the whole article from thin air, having little knowledge of the topics. With MINIMAL care, leather can last a century. Fabric and vinyl can NEVER endure that long.
MATTMERICA
Technician

Leather looks good and there are so many "kinds" now that it is hard sometimes to tell what is what. I like leather because it doesn't soak up the smoke that might discharged by the driver. And as for meat eaters, I quote Dennis Leary:

Not eating meat is a decision, eating meat is an instinct.
Goes2fast
Intermediate Driver

I happen to belong to PETA People Eating Tasty Animals! LOL! Leather seats in all my cars and trucks forever. It takes less time to put a little Lexol on my seats than to do a wash or wax so what is the problem? My uncle used to recover his pickup seats with Elk skin because nothing else would stand up to his dog's (that went with him everywhere) claws.
Series1Tom
New Driver

My daily is a VW Passat with whatever cloth VW Passats come with. So far (four years) it wears like iron and cleans up whatever marks get on it in a snap. But it does nothing for me. On the other hand. I have a '70 Jaguar sedan with gracefully aging leather - now 50 years old - and every time I open the door I am in heaven. Is it worth the extra care? Hell yeah.
Studenorton
Instructor

Yeah, the guy doesn't know how to handle materials. To sew good quality vinyl, you'd need the same serger machine you use for leather. Stains and small tears in leather can often be fixed "in situ." I have never seen a leather front-dash crack from windshield sun or heat, and if it fades it can be re-dyed and refinished in place. Huge difference. And even though you don't want a tannery next door, vinyl isn't just made of oil. The former Textileather site in Toledo has been a brownfield site for 30 years and will be for the foreseeable future.
RoadDog
Intermediate Driver

I'm not a vegan or a leftist, but to me, cloth seats are more comfortable. My back gets sweaty with leather or vinyl. And good cloth seats last a long time. It's not the most important issue in the world right now, but it does irritate me when I have to get leather seats to get the other options I want in my car.
JGeske
Instructor

Right? The seat covering should not be tied to other features. I should be able to get cloth or leather in everything from a base model to top trim.
Corkola
Intermediate Driver

Everyone has a right to an opinion. My opinion is that this article is a waste of time. If you want leather, then you'll buy it. If it was an option on a car you're restoring, then that's what will be going back on it. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, then you'll want something else.
Jsereno
Pit Crew

Give me soft leather any time over cloth or vinyl seats. If you want something to stay and look nice you take care of it. Gases....please, give me a break.
Pipskismith
New Driver

Enjoyed the humorous article and have added this to my file convincing me not to upgrade my new truck interior to leather.

I would counter, however, that if we are truly worried about the environment (I’m not insinuating the author was), we should eat more bovines and hold our noses to the methane gas, as livestock grazing reduces emissions of nitrous oxide which is the bigger culprit with “global warming”.

abingdon
Pit Crew

" strip the living skin off"??? What kind of weird world do you live in? So, your solution is "eat less meat". How long have they had you under restraint? Do the nice men in white coats take you out for an airing frequently? Hope so, otherwise your "writing" would be ...........

Leather is supple. Leather is soft. Leather is durable. Leather is sustainable. Leather is superior to any interior material in appearance and performance. Leather is the product of craftsmen who perform near miracles in cutting and fitting the contours of an interior. Leather is smooth. Leather is silky. Leather is good. You are bad, bad, bad.
Utopia1
Detailer

Lot's of strong opinions here. I like the look and feel of leather and have it in both of my vehicles. I also loved the velour that my dad's old Park Avenue had when I was young but that's no longer an option these days sadly. If I had my perfect car, it would be fully loaded but with a quality cloth seat but as mentioned, basically not an option anymore. FYI, you have an error in your article. Toyota's Softex isn't "vinyl" at all as vinyl is a petroleum based product and Softex isn't. It also breathes better than leather and lasts longer than vinyl as well.
elldorado2000
Advanced Driver

Vinyl is awful. For some reason some GM fabric stains terribly and is extremely hard to get the stains out. That's why leather is popular. It's extremely easy to keep clean. And if you do take care of it, it is comfortable.
jaglover1
New Driver

I think Aaron Robinson simply stated clearly what a lot of us already know but were afraid to say out loud. As far as I am concerned - he hit the nail right on the head! Leather is hot + sticky and cold + hard in summer/winter months respectively, and leaves you sliding around on those flat buckets or bench seats during a turn (thank God for seatbelts), while a good quality cloth fabric is way more comfortable and holds you in place (a characteristic my wife insists on in all of our every-day vehicle purchases). It requires much more maintenance (which most don't do) and even then doesn't seem to look as nice in the long run when actually used (trailer queens excluded). But of course, we want to maintain the look of our classic vehicles - and leather is what was utilized back then - thus so be it - leather replacement it is. Aaron - I enjoyed the article very much and look forward to more. Nice to get a reality check every once in a while - thanks!
JimDino619
Intermediate Driver

Sorry, leather seats do not have to have any of the characteristics that you attribute to them. Mine are not hot and sticky in the summer. The are not cold and hard in the winter, and you certainly don't slide around in them.

Maybe junky, cheap leather covered seat are as you describe, better made seats are not.

Tim
Technician

I'm a fan of "classic" leather. It seems that today's leather (at least in a typical vehicle), is bonded and more heavily processed. It feels more like plastic or vinyl than leather. Sure, it can be durable, but it doesn't seem much different than the vinyl-by-another-name options available today. Pitted against these new-and-improved, not-your-father's-vinyl, I'd take the fake stuff. If it feels the same, wears as well or better and is cheaper, why not?

But that soft, supple, "classic" leather? It feels nice, smells nice, is easier to clean than cloth and generally doesn't really require any more care than cloth--just different care.

The main drawback to leather is the hot/cold factor, but the industry seems to have solved this with heated or heated and cooled seats.
OldCarMan
Instructor

Modern leather is coated with plastic.
Avoid dark or black interiors in open cars. Hey product planning types, hear that!!
JimDino619
Intermediate Driver

Bonded leather doesn't have to be much different than vinyl. Usually bonded leather is just a resin based product, like vinyl, that has a certain amount of leather fibers in the blend.

SJ
Technician

Hate leather, but love my Sheepskin's covering it up. Hate vinyl too, cloth for the win.
JAG
Detailer

Fun article so don't get so bent! The joke is that everything below a Rolls or Ferrari with leather is really leather "seating surfaces" with vinyl. So about 20% of the seat is leather. Also he is so correct about the spelling of vinyl, I get it wrong every time!
BillM
New Driver

Very interesting topic my late father who owned many cars in his lifetime all convertibles 46,49ans 50 Mercury 53 Lincoln Capri, 57 olds 98 all with leather would advise vinyl. I have his 1973 centurion conv and the vinyl looks great yet my leather henredon sofa takes lots of work to keep it looking good. My friends MB E with MB tech looks just like new. My moms 88 Seville which was well taken care of the leather passenger seat was a disaster. I like the feel of leather but it doesn’t last. Took the 73 centurion to car show Sunday and the upholstery looks great
Oldmanhiker
Intermediate Driver

Aaron, it appears that your journalistic skills have been challenged by the likes of young Mr. S. Smith, to which you have responded (and surpassed) with astounding articles such as the current one regarding leather. There seems to be a Vulcan-like mind meld between us, as I agree with 105.76% of everything you have ever written (well, at least for Hagerty). Keep up the highly factual and objective articles, which I consume even before those penned by the aforementioned S. S. (Mr. J. Baruth is a close 2nd). For those who seem to think that leather is the “it” materiel for luxury automotive interiors, just imagine how much better a Rolls Royce would be with a nice rich 1985 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham brocade interior instead of the tasteless Sean Connelly cowhide.
Ps if you even think of resigning from your position as President of The Grumpy Old Man’s Club, I would respectfully nominate Mr. Larry Webster, with whom I believe you are acquainted. If membership dues are ever required for the GOMC I would humbly request to be active member number 3.
Pps people actually read Jalopnik?
Tim
Technician

Wow, I can't believe how many crabby comments there are just because someone dared to have an opinion different from their own.
pawl7295
New Driver

How many Nauga's are killed each year to make Naugahide? Leather is better. Just boil off the tannins from the acorns on your driveway and massage it in. Next thing you will be telling us is not to polish our cars, because it is upsetting to polish people.
daffodildeb
Intermediate Driver

LOL!
pcchuck
Intermediate Driver

Being from a time when people actually polished their shoes, I never understood maintaining car seats... like giant shoes. 50 years ago we ''fed the hide'' with Lexol which was both expensive and scarce in small towns, so we ''sent in for it... '' ... basically buying it online before there was a ''line''.

More than the maintenence, my issue is with the lack of colors for the leathers in today's cars. The 60's and 70's American cars had some beautiful interior colors.(The 74 Chevy / GMC pickup offered 5 interior colors. ) Picking out a car used to be fun because you could select from so many colors and options... and make it personal. Today, even the most expensive cars offer maybe 2 interior colors... the one you don't like and the one you don't want. One of those is ''work truck black''.
pcchuck
Intermediate Driver

Failed to mention in previous post.... I've tried several types of creams and sprays... gave up. Now, I don't allow Armor All on my property... nor gratuitously sprayed on my car interior by detailers.... it ends up vaporizing and coating the inside windows.... and our lungs? Not even on the tires.... which looks absolutely stupid anyway.
dickscream62
New Driver

I am not impressed with the leather automakers are using in today's cars. It looks like vinyl. (smooth, with no character) The leather used in the seats in my '53 Pontiac Chieftain was great.
oldcardoc
Intermediate Driver

When cattle are brought to slaughter for food you wouldn't want to throw away the skin just because it's an animal hide . That would be a waste and besides Leather is a good covering if taken care of and over priced like any other covering material, Skin like Alligator or Deer hide os a good choice for some projects maybe not a car seat but luggage or maybe a dash cover or an insert in a seat. People get all shook up when an animal skin is used for anything and yet they still buy shoes and the such . I say get over it and find something else to complain about because the industry is still going to use leather unless it's outlawed altogether. I like Mohair upholstery but thats expensive too and doesn't require a dead animal for it . Either way most European and luxury cars ever use the hide anymore, it all synthetic fabric and that will soon go away because it's not green. LOL Ever wonder why we are complaining so much and still we use these products ? I say we need to just ignore the people that complain about such ridiculous thing because thats all they are looking for is an excuse to complain about something, They dont care what it is they will find something wrong . Environmentalists will complain about life and think we need to be erraciated Hahahaha .
HoustonNurse
Intermediate Driver

Personally LOVE leather.. the smell.. the feel.. the look. BUT, it is high maintenance... and these new "synthetic leather" interiors are so easy to maintain.... I have a tan leather BMW interior..... when it's soiled (jeans and tan seats don't go well) I just windex it off..... no special cleaners or care. My tan leather in my Corvette? Slather special oils, wipe, let soak, wipe... spray.... and I still worry that the Texas sun/heat will make it brittle and crack.
stevebee
New Driver

I like leather seats but do not like the manufacturers that do not ever carry new replacement comers. Cloth also wears out and is stringy and ugly; at least leather worn out gives you the satisfaction of having had a premium when new.