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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.
213 REPLIES 213
New Driver

my wife has a Telluride and the vinyl looks an feels pretty good; I like to use it to get steaks and burgers.
Pit Crew

GTI. Clark plaid cloth. Seat heaters. Happy as a clam!

Amusing, but I am not sure if it was tongue-in-cheek or not. Of course, the author is entitled to his opinion, as are the commenters here.

Personally, I prefer leather, and am always willing to pay extra for it. Vinyl (QUALITY vinyl) is next. Cloth is last: I do not like my clothes being twisted and turned, when the fabric clings to the seats. Heated seats? Great - I'll pay more for those, too, with vinyl or leather. Cooling? I find good leather to be cooler than vinyl anyway, but adding cooling to the seats works well, for those who want it.

No point in letting those hides go to waste, and I do not see folks - in this country at least, myself included - eating less beef in the foreseeable future.
Intermediate Driver

I agree. I have only owned two cars with leather seats, one was a 1960 Buick and the other is my wife's last one, a Mercury Grand Marquis, 2008 model. I detest leather seats as they are too hot in warm weather and too cold in winter. The only reason I wound up with those two, is that I only buy 3 year old used cars and they were the models I wanted. I could not find any of those models with cloth interiors. I also do not, and will not, own a chair or couch with leather.
Pit Crew

Leather doesn't come in Porsche Tartan Plaid or VW GTI Clark Plaid. Until it does, why bother? It's good for seat sides or bolsters, but vinyl's fine for that too...
Advanced Driver

Whether you use a cheap synthetic, cloth or a good leather hide, the labor cost is about the same. When vinyl gets old, it looks crunchy, brown, burned. Old cloth looks torn up. Leather looks seasoned. Think leather is hot in the summer, try vinyl! It's like putting your butt on hot plastic. When it gets real hot, vinyl outgasses a chemical slime that gets everywhere inside the car. If you go to sell the car, what looks better to the prospective buyer? Everyone is entitled to their opinion. My opinion is Hagerty needs to get better writers.
New Driver

I’m very disappointed that Hagerty would put their name associated with this article.
Intermediate Driver

Mixed here,yes leather is hot in the summer and cold in the winter,but do miss the heated leather seats I had in my accord come winter.the vinyl seats in my 50 year old cuda still look great. Can you get heated cloth seats nowadays?

Hmm, "... eating less meat, which would also cut methane emissions." Sounds like solid advice. Let's look at a perfect example, that being India. Cows are sacred, and the air there is... wait, WHAT? Not clean? How can that be??? And the average India resident is not exactly a picture of strength, but a rice-heavy diet will definitely keep that gut in check. But wait, how about deer? Lots of people like venison. And elk steaks. No more? Let them run free, fearing only the wolves. I have it! Bacon! What? None of that either? No more pork chops for anyone! Dang it! So, according to you, Mr. Robinson, we are not to consume things that fart. Wouldn't that have an impact on agriculture in general in regards to the fertilizer needed to grow all of the kale you would have use try to live on? Have you looked into the holes in the ground (no pun intended) that are the result of ore mining needed for EV batteries? In your opinion, is that better for the planet than eating a hamburger? I hope Major League Baseball doesn't read your article, because they like their leather. As does the NFL. And don't forget those movers and shakers sitting in their favorite leather chairs at the club. You know, the ones that own the stock in the companies that make stuff, like the device you prepared your article on. They really like leather.
New Driver

Aaron seems to be missing the point that leather is simply a by product of the beef industry. If the hides weren't used to make leather shoes, handbags, furniture, garments, auto interiors etc it would end up in our landfills. What a great idea!
Advanced Driver

Wow. What a totally misguided article. Number one, when you eat meat, the hides are not part of the product, so they actually are useful rather than discarded. Second, vinyl i horrible for the environment in countless ways from its manufacture to its disclosure. And leather is not nearly as hot in summer and cold in winter as vinyl. Ever get in a car with vinyl seats when the weather is below zero? Yikes. Third, I have leather in two of my three vehicles and each is more than 15 years old and in great condition. I confess they are in the garage at night, but one is a convertible and the leather has aged much better than the carpets. Fourth, I have dogs. The leather stands up to them and their fur brushed right off. My fabric truck? The fabric is durable enough but the hair sticks to it like glue. Fifth, leather costs more because it costs more to stitch those hides together and buy the hides. Vinyl is made in a chemical factory or horrible stuff, worse than anything used in tanning leather, so is of course cheap. And toxic. Try doing a little research before you write an article.
New Driver

This guy has obviously never experienced a properly cared for leather interior.
If he had, he would know better than to spout such foolishness and he would insist on leather interiors.
Pit Crew

Some of you always go to some perceived political side... I love leather and will select it when possible. Most daily drivers will be traded before any issues occur anyway. I thought it was an entertaining article and gave me a laugh or two. Lighten up.
Intermediate Driver

WELL I GUESS I WILL HAVE TO BE THE EXCEPTION. Oops , cap key stuck. Anyway I read all the comments abut the writer's persona non gratis and possible motivation and found nothing but humorous anecdotes about an otherwise subjective subject.
For me it was simply refreshing to read an article that did not take itself very serious about an equally non serious subject but provided comic relief to this reader for a funny look at leather in cars both old , current, and new. I have "Leather seat surfaces" in both my new Ford products and find the smell of leather somehow comforting and being a car person have never worn out a seat or had severely cracked leather seats in any of the seventy odd cars i've owned since day one. Having owned several Mercedes I was amused about the fake leather they use as I found it pretty much indestructible in the ones I bought without real leather those (latter) ones I didn't keep long enough to give a **bleep**.
The car companies who sell cars with six or seven figure price tags don't care either . They use leather as an art form to make a buyer feel like all the details of the car make the price tag appropriate and by the same token , the "Leather Seat Surface " crowd like me don't worry about the kids kicking the back of the front seats and rubbing abrasive items in and out of the car is not going to shred the vinyl parts of the seat that don't matter. My bum likes the breathability of the seat and over time the conformity to my bum and backsides is comforting that the upcharge for the leather racing seat option on my mustang was not so bad after all. At the end of the day though what we need in this country in the motor head segment anyway is more humor so we can regain the sense of humor we had in our youth and encourage more of those younger than we to appreciate , dare I suggest it , the fun of leather. Cheers
Pit Crew

Come on folks, that was an entertaining , well written , funny article. One of the reasons I religiously read the Hagerty blog every single day is because of the well written editorials. Hats off to ALL of the good writers at Hagerty who consistently write interesting articles. The word play is fun no matter the subject.

I agree, the article is witty, entertaining and humorous. Vinyl is not organic and will not except stain to freshen it up. Vinyl color coatings are just paint. Leather will freshen up with stain which does not eventually wear off like vinyl paint. Vinyl reaches a point when it cannot be cleaned without using a cleaner that weakens and destroys it. The only upholstery failure I have seen with leather was the result of the stitching and inaccurate application. Either to tight or to loose. Nothing to do with the leather itself. Man made failure.
New Driver

Leather is quite durable IF meticulously maintained, but hot & sticky in summer and cold & clammy in winter (unless heated).To each his own, but I prefer cloth interiors, especially the durable stuff made by Recaro.
Intermediate Driver

Ever try to get oily or acidic food stains off of cloth interiors? How about cloth wearing out much sooner than "leather" or whatever they are calling it these days? I spent a lot of $$$ getting my interior to look rich, handsome and eye-catching. I DO have leather conditioner/cleaner which takes care of any issues in a matter of minutes. Spray it on, buff it off, done! I suspect those who love their cars do so likewise. I also love a good steak; ribeye or T-bone is my favorite. Keep it coming.
Pit Crew

Wow. Bunch of grumps in the responses. Like the author is prying the leather from your cold dead fingers. Lighten up!

As someone who raced for years on grippy fabric and, for the street even, changed out the leather in my Porsche 930 for grippy fabric, I can see the downside of leather there. And as someone with several collector cars (E-type, 930, 928, MGB) in the hot dry Southern California climate, I appreciate the comment that my seats are all quietly, constantly, trying to die. It feels that way. I've had a number of old Jags that feel like Pall Mall men's clubs with the smell and the feel. And that's pretty all right...

But I would never buy a new car with leather. The idea is outdated. It worked when it was the most resilient material available. And there's no reason to remove them from collectors cars. That cow has left the barn. But for real use they are, as mentioned, cold in the cold and hot in the heat, and we really should be moving away from industrial cattle. Yes I like a good steak too. But we've reduced our consumption.

I suspect the same anger could come up about carburetors (inefficient), manual transmissions (outdated and slow) and internal combustion (also...oh dear).

But like wooden tennis racquets, leather ski boots, coarse wool scarves, and fountain pens, there will always be enjoyment in DOHC triple-carbed manual trans Jag MkIIs with oceans of leather.

And they will never make their kind again.


Pit Crew

(besides, leather doesn't come in tartan, like in our family GTI)
Pit Crew

Sorry, should have said dual-carbed MkII. Or triple-carbed Jag 420 maybe, even better interior...

Great Posting!
New Driver

The magic of leather is lost on me. As one who keeps his car a relatively long time, I always felt this way. It is pretense, nothing more.

I went out of my way to get cloth seats in my 2018 Ford Edge.

I am so glad my '97 Thunderbird has cloth seats.

Wow, a lot of feelings hurt here in the posts. I have a completely different point of view.

First, it's hard to get leather in any car these days other than some premium European or Asian brands. If you buy a Ford, Lincoln, Cadillac or anything else you'll be hard pressed to find the leather. Referred to now as "leather seating surfaces" you'll note the only real leather is directly under your backside (and it's a very small patch), everything else is made from the hide of the illusive Nauga Beast, the beast is rarely seen though it's hide can be found nearly everywhere.

Not long ago, say a late 80s Fox Body Mustang, the entire seat face was trimmed in leather. Today you get the little patches and if you opt for the 3rd row it will have virtually no leather seating surfaces, it's all vinyl.

Further, if you drive a Buick in China you will note the entire interior is trimmed with leather, if you drive a US made Buick you're lucky to get 4 square feet in the entire car. It's a sad day when a Chinese Buick is head and shoulders above a US Buick in terms of quality interior appointments.

Lastly, leather is the best for the long haul, nothing can replace the smell of leather in an old English car, it must be the mix of leather, leaking oil and gasoline that give it its unique aroma, and that aroma can't be beat. Buy whatever you like in your Camry or Corolla, chances are no one is going to cherish it 50 years from now. If you're buying something to keep for life, do yourself a favor, order the leather.
Advanced Driver

I love the leather in my two little two-seaters. It looks good, feels good and functions well. It fits the location.

I love the MBTex in my Merc kombi. It feels good too, and looks good enough that most folks assume it is leather. It is also plastic and I don't have to worry much about when tossing bags of mulch and similar loads into the back of the car. It fits the location.

Oh and my E93 has leather with some kind of wunder chemical coating that keeps it from getting crazy hot in direct sun. The car is 14 years old and whatever that stuff is really works.

I'm not making much of a point I guess. But to me the stuff on the seats should fit the occasion and location. Sometimes leather is right.
Pit Crew

I like leather. The red leather in my Porsche is gorgeous and compliments the beautiful silver paint. After 20 years of cleaning and conditioning regularly with Lexol, the driver's seat has split and cracked. And this car is a garage queen with low miles. By comparison, the sturdy cloth seats in my 1990 Miata were looking great after 20 years and required no maintenance at all.

So given the choice, I would go for a high quality cloth or synthetic leather any day!

And then there's the fact that raising beef to feed billions of humans is not sustainable. Lucky for us meat lovers, we now have other alternatives. Try an Impossible burger. Producing these tasty burgers generates 90% less CO2 than a beef burger. And the kicker... they are delicious.

Nobody is recommending Soylent Green?

New Driver

So the answer to the question is don't eat meat. Please, no more of this woke nonsense on Hagerty. There's plenty of other platforms more suitable for such.
Advanced Driver

Ahh yes, the good old days when Naugahyde was the epitome of luxury seating.

Aaron, when I can I try to avoid leather interiors in my climate. They are hot in the Summer, making for uncomfortable driving air conditioning notwithstanding, and cold in the Winter.
I'll go for General Motors '60s or '70s Living Room Interiors in Velour, or whatever that fabric is. For some reason Chryslers with bucket seats, mid sixties 300s, were much better even though I had two with leather. Mercedes has the best idea with MB Tex Leather which is comfortable in all seasons and not impossible to maintain.
Pit Crew

No apologies, I love my leather. Have hat three cars with leather and will continue to park my a-- on leather as long as I can still drive and it is still available.
Pit Crew

I think dear Aaron had a deadline to meet and no subject...and then, VOILA, a story about leather in cars. Talk to us collector guys about leather...not some scientific journal. Sit on it. Inhale that incredible scent in my 54 Sunbeam Alpine or find a Jag.
Pit Crew

Great story, it's about time someone speaks the truth about leather. Whenever you see an advert about a used car with leather interior they only show pictures of the back and front passenger seats and only the part of the drivers seat facing away from the door. The part of the drivers seat facing the door is usually cracked and in need of replacement. I've owned several older Volvo's only one with leatherette, it was very nice and comfy but the drivers seat was cracked. At least 3 other Volvo's had velour and it was as good as new. I still have my 1988 wagon, that's the one with leatherette. I removed the front seats and installed a pair of front seats that came out of my 1984 sedan, they are still as good and comfy as they were when I bought that car 25 years ago. I also have a Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC with the optional velour interior, still like new. Leather was standard on that model. I am glad my car is equipped with velour. Good luck to all you young bucks out there who haven't been around long enough to know any better.
Intermediate Driver

Well....I LOVE leather seats ! At least when I get in and slide over the seat the seat of my pants doesn't become the right hand side of my pants. I can still remember the wonderful Coventry leather aroma in my friends 64 E Type...smelled even better than meatloaf !

They might have BECOME meatloaf.
Intermediate Driver

This article is BS. I have owned several vehicles with leather interior. I still own my 1999 Chevy Blazer Trailblazer with leather. I have owned it for 20 years. The leather is still soft and supple. I take care of my property and that includes my vehicles. I am 73 years old and do not find it too much to treat my cars to the care they need. I personally prefer leather to velour or vinyl. The velour sticks to your rear and make shifting in the seat a labor. The vinyl gets stiff when cold and uncomfortable when hot. I have chosen leather in the last 5 new vehicles I have purchased including my new GMC Acadia. Leather is great for automotive interiors. It wears well, last a long time, requires minimal care and adds value to your vehicle.
New Driver

I think it was funny, and I think that is the author intended it to be.

Here is something. My father for a long time claimed he would never buy leather seat with the they are hot in summer and cold in winter. The last real leather he sat in was long ago and they were hard as rocks. Now move forward to the 90’s and he is looking at a Buick with Standard Leather. 

My father buys the leather seats and then marvels at how good they felt. They were not the hard roasting seats of his youth. 

Also he was disabled and he found they were much easier to get in the car with vs cloth. 

Look if you like cloth seats like this guy that is fine. But don’t be dishonest on the other. You are not talking to a group that has no clue on this topic and we know better. 

Hagerty needs to leave this agenda drive rants off the sight. This is for automotive people to share our love for our cars not to be addressed by people with personal agendas. 

New Driver

Personally for as many vehicles that I have had with both. I agree that leather is a lot more work to maintain and it does not hold stiches as well. Just my thoughts.
Pit Crew

I will eat less meat when Unicorns fly out of my ass . Vinyl requires just as much 'goop ' to stay pliable .
New Driver

Sorry, but there is something special about leather and any collectible car that came with leather needs to be redone in leather.
New Driver

Leather feels great. The quality of the leather is really important in home furniture and cars. The good stuff lasts a long time. The leather in my Lincoln looked great but only lasted so long. The stuff in my 30 year old, garaged, Alfa Romeo looks great. Some new vinyls look smashing. I had a few motorcycle seats reupholstered and that modern vinyl looks and feels great. My $.02.

To some of the sneering from the posters suffering unrequited testosterone, consider the animals killed for meat are every bit--or more -- as sentient, social as your pets. Every international and med school study comes to the same conclusion: A plant based vegan diet is streets ahead of any other,
preventing not just heart attacks, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, inflammation, but even dementia and Alzheimer's. Lewis Hamilton, the leading Formula One driver, is vegan, as are NFL players, unlimited cage fighters for those who think there's something macho about waddling into Safeway for a piece of Saran Wrapped animal.
Half of all our nation's fresh water is consumed by the meat industry. According to the UN, animals raised for meat and dairy produce more greenhouse gas than all the world's cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes, ships combined.
Prewar Buick, Cadillac, Packard convertibles offered whipcord that was cooler, more comfortable than leather and wore like iron.
Any car somehow diminished foregoing animal skin wasn't much of a car to begin with.
Pit Crew

Back to leather, 18 years ago, when I bought my 73 Grand Prix, I was asked by the interior guy, do you want leather or vinyl, I was doing the white interior over, leather buckets sounded nice, but I knew when I bought this car, it was for life, so I opted for vinyl, cause even though, not as luxurious as leather, it’s not gonna crack, or fade, or turn yellow if I take care of it, vinyl is vinyl, leather ages, shrinks, and it’s a lot more money for a shorter life span, plus my car is a Pontiac, it was born with vinyl

Love the look, hate the heat. ALL leather chairs, seats etc. makes my butt sweat, just can't handle it. Give me some good ole fabric anytime. My next newer ride will have cooled seats!
New Driver

One other point for Mr Robinson, who I've enjoyed reading up till now. My 56 MGA has the original leather seats in it, as have many of my other cars, SUV's etc. Give me natural vs manmade coverings for durability, comfort, and longevity any day of the week.
I expect better from Hagerty than this...

I like both seat coverings. In my daily driver - a 2018 Ford Expedition I have heated and cooled leather seats that are very comfortable for distance driving.
In my two classic cars I have completely restored vinyl seats that still look as good as the day I brought them home from the restoration shop. The red rebuilt seats in my 1966 Corvette still look great and only require a quick cleaning once or twice a year. And the white vinyl seats in my 1969 Shelby GT 350 not only still look good, but they compliment the white GT350 stripes on the sides of the car.
Intermediate Driver

Well this article arroused a nice discussion and that's great. There are plenty of choices and differing tastes in life ...and in collector cars. A Lincoln, Cadillac, or a British sports car calls for the look and smell of leather in most cases. Daily driver late model cars and trucks just need comfy, durable fabric to last 200+ thousand miles. If cow hides are discarded then let's use them to suit differing tastes and wallets! Just common sense! Fake leather "pleather" ) can satisfy too. Variety makes life interesting...just like a variety of opinions does.

I'm rather ignorant on upholstery materials so I'd definitely would welcome a thoughtful, objective and educational article explaining and comparing the different options available for both classic and modern cars. Perhaps a knowledgeable professional would be willing to pick up on this article and provide more objective insight that would educate people like me who know next to nothing about upholstery but want to learn more. Maximize the education and eliminate the ranting and raving--please!:)
Intermediate Driver

This discussion seems to have devolved way off topic.
Back here on earth I have owned two cars with leather. Both bought at around 10 years old with around 150k on the clock. Except for some minor wear on the driver's seat the leather was in good condition and stayed that way with no special treatment for the time I had the cars.
I conclude that leather is great for car interiors!