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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/
211 REPLIES 211
DAdams
Intermediate Driver

In this day seeking natural renewable materials one would think vinyl is a no-no - manufactured from petroleum and natural gas. Mohair is nice - if you can find it - but like any fiber it wears poorly and rots out. Fabricord was a durable, water resistant fabric in the day, but with the death of bound, hardcover books, seems to have gone the way of the Dodo. Thus leaving us leather - natures natural, renewable material.
tigercat
Intermediate Driver

Leather is status, prestige and nostalgic of a higher quality more common in a bygone era. I have an ERA Cobra that uses Connolly leather for it's seats and although in a Cobra have driven a straight 14 hours only stopping for lunch and was more comfortable stopping for the night than in any car in my life. I have a 67' Vette and switched over to vinyl from leather due to finances at the time. Once leather is broke in it is superior in comfort to vinyl After 7 years vinyl is stretching on certain seams and some stitching is broken same as original leather, but original leather was over 40 years old. My ford f250 with cloth is even not near as comfortable as my Navigator with leather.
At car shows even attendee's are more impressed with leather whether better or not. Sad to hear about wasted cow hides would like to know what landfill to hit for free leather.
TG
Instructor

I had a thing for late 70s Caddys when I started driving in the 90s. Every one that I came across that had leather interiors had largely intact seats. Every one with cloth seats were faded with tears. I don't know if Cadillac experimented with Pleather in those days. If even moderately cared for, leather will last for decades, and it just has a richness to its appearance that cannot be replicated in vinyl. I don't know that I would spec a car with leather interior, but I would never avoid buying one
TG
Instructor

And note to the author: as my supervisor always tells me - stick to the facts and keep the emotions out of the discussion. I tend to skim articles instead of reading the whole thing, and I really didn't get the political theme to the comments until I gave it another pass. This really is not the forum for animal rights discussions - there are probably half a million or so other ones out there that would be a better fit
Blah
New Driver

At least leather smells nice, unlike any car I've ever been in with cloth seats that smell like sweat and ass after 2 weeks. I refuse to buy any car that doesn't have "Leather" or Vinyl seats.
grayanderson5
New Driver

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but why somebody thought this should headline today's Daily Driver is beyond me.

It's a pity I can't just block future articles from the author to save the hassle of blundering into another piece like this.
jimliberty
Intermediate Driver

I don't put leather in an open car that I intend to drive. A show car is a different story. No vinyl will ever take its place. JIm.
LIBERTY MOTORSPORTS
TonyT
Instructor

Oh yeah, almost forgot, there are approximately seven billion people on this planet compared to approximately one billion cows. Our methane is better for the environment, apparently.
Bora169
Pit Crew

What the hell is the purpose of this article, people are so focused on consumer choice these days they are more brain dead than the animals that provide the said hides. Leather is tougher than any man made rubbish OK.
bloodnok
Pit Crew

have never understood why anyone would want a leather interior.
Debx2
Intermediate Driver

Having not yet read all the comments, this may have been covered.
There is some misinformation stated in the article.
Lanolin is an oil secreted from the skin and collected in the wool and the lanolin used for the purposes stated here come from sheep. It is NOT sheep fat.
Hides are removed from dead animals and yes, they are byproducts of the meat packing industry (think tasty steaks and burgers) and yes, there is an excess beyond that which is processed into leather. The excess of hides does not however make it any less expensive to convert them into leather. Therefore, leather seat covers are more expensive and will never be free. The cost may be included in the price but you’ll still pay for them.
Personally, I like leather and I like cloth, just depends on the sit-uation.
A car guy that raises Lamb.
DUB6
Gearhead

sit-uation - I see what you did there!  🤣

Uniquecoaches03
Intermediate Driver

Personally I love the feel and the rich smell of leather, regardless of its chemical pickling or that it was the skin off of last nights ribeye.

stevemqueen
Pit Crew

I normally can't wait to read a Hagerty article............until now. WTF was this non sensical diatribe?
Marslander51
New Driver

In my experience sitting on leather is less cold in the cold and less hot on the heat. Has the author ever used leather seats? I doubt it.
1933ford
Intermediate Driver

Like belly buttons and the other side everyone has one and this article is proof. Although its was not very thought provoking.
BigDog
Pit Crew

I personally don't have a favorite. I have cars with leather and some with cloth. I think it boils down to a persons likes and dislikes. As my dad use to say." God made us all different, with different personalities, if we were all the same, we would all drive brown Chevrolets, with black wall tires and fighting over the same woman".
Nelson
New Driver

I enjoyed the article and have used “fine German vinyl” recently (lower cost) to re-upholster seats and so far I’ve loved the look and feel. Only time will tell.
Vern
Intermediate Driver

I don't think this was supposed to be a big political statement... it was supposed to be funny. Well, I thought some of it was funny. 🙂 And I too am a vegetarian who owns a car with leather seats. I see no problem with it. If you-all are going to eat the meat, why should I waste the hide?!
SLAVENDER
Intermediate Driver

The last two cars I bought have leather and though I DO work to keep it supple and conditioned, I just don't see the attraction. If I had the choice, and I had it to do over, I would choose an alternative seat material. Fabric. Clown Rodeo Hide. Something else.
I don't dislike leather and heaven knows I personally ate many of those cows, but I just think there are newer materials that are more serviceable.
Yes, my 44 year old 280Z still has the factory vinyl that was installed at the factory. Yes, it feels a little icky. But it looks as good as it did all those years ago.
SLAVENDER
Intermediate Driver

BTW. Those discarded landfill hides could've become something other than automotive seating. Like shoes. Baseball gloves. Couches. Pants.
fordguy65
New Driver

This articles funny. Take it for what it is - one mans opinion peppered with a little humor . I've been upholstering classic and antique cars for 49 years now and haven't done a vinyl job in about 45 years. Leather is so nice to work with, smells great, and looks great - and besides that it's preferred by 99.9 percent of my clientele. Whether it's hot - cold or hard to care for is non of my concern, all I know is in 49 years I've never had one person come back to switch their leather for vinyl ....or cloth. BTW - why would one try to sew leather on moms sewing machine and then condemn the leather. Just sayin'. Oh yeah, and I love a great steak!
DC
Intermediate Driver

Worst Hagerty article ever.
F360Spider
Detailer

Such toxic comments. Can't we lay off the political nonsense at least here? Jeez.
DUB6
Gearhead

   I have no pertinent comments on leather upholstery vs. anything else (or like meat vs. plant).  All I can say is that this whole thing reminds me of a funny CAR-RELATED story (at least it's funny to me and to the others who were there at the time).  Back in about 1967, a guy in our car group who had a rich daddy, got a 1965 (I think) Dodge with a 413 and a TorqueFlight tranny.  He thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Bucket seats.  Vinyl.  Which he promptly treated with some brand of silicone stuff to "clean, soften and protect".  I think you all know where this is going.

   He was so pumped to show off his hot ride, and put on displays of power from that big motor.  When he got in the car to go drag Main Street, he couldn't keep his rear-end (his, not the cars) planted.  Darned near slid out of the seat and onto the floor several times.  Had to slow down to about 5 MPH just to turn a corner.  Heaven forbid going fast and then having to jam on the brakes at the next light.  But the seats looked great.

   It took about 4-5 weeks to get that stuff all wiped/worn off, and the seats weren't really safe to sit in for months after that.

   I don't know whatever happened to that guy, but often when the remaining members of the "old gang" get together and talk about our mis-adventurous days, the story comes up and we have a good laugh.  We also thank goodness that we learned to not silicone our vinyl seats!

DUB6
Gearhead

Oh yeah, and I think the seats of his jeans were water-proof for about a year...

hondo
New Driver

I enjoyed the article. It was one mans opinion that was humorous and well written. I am in no way offended by his opinion. I actually like leather better for my dog. It cleans up nicely and hair comes right off. Thanks Hagerty
gggdds
Pit Crew

I can see cloth as an alternative. I can't really see vinyl, except maybe for boats. Am I the only one that remembers having to clean the inside of my BMW windows with ammonia because the vinyl "evaporated" onto them? I remember this in my 65' Mustang too
ehb704
Pit Crew

As Mr. Robinson alluded to, sometimes you have no choice but leather. I used to be one of the people who, in hot weather, felt like their ass was getting done 'Pittsburgh style'. In winter, it felt like my 'ass'ets were being frozen. This said both of the conditions must have had a numbing effect because leather is my preference now. As a matter of fact, Mr. Robinson may have just unwittingly made himself a candidate for the No Bell Piece Prize by discovering a cure for hemorrhoids.
Should my state of social consciousness rise, maybe I'll become an advocate for gluten free leather and vegan water.
DUB6
Gearhead

"'ass'-ets" - I see what you did there...😊

trahanm
New Driver

Aaron,

I agree. Three of the cars I have are upholstered in leather, and I treat them every year to keep the leather from drying out. It also does not hurt that they stay most of the time in a heated garage out of the sunlight.

The point here is three of my cars have the low cost (at the time) interiors, and they look like new. One is a 1979 308 GT4 with cloth and vinyl. The other is 83 911 with the black vinyl. I also have
73 MGB GT with black vinyl. All three have original interiors and to your point, look like new, and require very little upkeep.

You only have to look at very auction sites and see the challenging state of some 308 an 911 leather interiors

Marc Trahan
NickRath1346
New Driver

A trusted and seasoned (old) interior guy told me that both leather and vinyl are subject to the same extreme temperatures. The difference is leather changes to skin temperature quicker.
I have not put this to scientific test.
DUB6
Gearhead

I think your old guy told you the truth.  I have a recliner that's covered in leather, and a different chair that is vinyl.  When it's chilly and I sit on the vinyl, it seems to me like ice for quite some time.  When I sit on the leather, it's cold, but warms more quickly.  Purely subjective observation and certainly not scientific, but my bum seems to support the theory...

Piper
Intermediate Driver

I'm thinking leather is the most durable interior of all. i\I
Isn't the picture of the classic sports car accompanying the article sporting leather?
redling5
Pit Crew

Ignorant re: Leather
I have Leather Italian handbags from the 1980's I still carry & look new.
I wash in the machine on delicate cycle, only because the interior fabric gets soiled.
Air dry leather & apply Mink oil.
Thats it!
PS: Cows live outside...
DougL
Intermediate Driver

I hate leather seats. My wife hates leather seats. Cold in the winter, hot in the summer. Bare skin sticks to it. It really does not breath and makes you sweat. I cannot imagine why having leather seats is considered luxury. Unfortunately, almost every car that is even slightly upmarket comes standard with the dead cow interior. Nowadays, they make leather seats that are both heated and ventilated, making it almost as good as cloth seats, for only 4 times the cost! If I wanted to sit on a dead cow, I'd visit a slaughterhouse.
Inline8OD
Detailer

Let's park the caffeine and testosterone and focus:  To some of the sneering from the posters suffering unrequited machismo, consider the animals killed for meat/leather 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  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  to begin with. 

erne75
Intermediate Driver

I think the article can be summarized in the known fact that neglected leather generally fares worse than neglected fabric. It gets to a point though, where they both looks hideous e.g. ripped apart. It is also a fact that well cared for leather can last almost forever and it always look more upscale and fancier.
SAG
Detailer

I remember in the '70s customers were having
seats in Mercedes re-done, it wasn't Leather, & you couldn't tell !
A Expensive Ticket, interiors can turn into.
Had a customer wanting his Dash Cover in his Ferrari replaced,
told me where to have it done, and then refused to pay the $1700.00 ticket?
MGcobbler
New Driver

Not to get into any environmental or other conversations; I have many old MGs and they usually have a leather interior. Usually by the time I get them they need a new interior, so, I always replace with original leather interiors (usually the seats only). I then maintain those leathers with appropriate treatments. I usually keep my cars for between 20 and 40 years, so, maintaining the leather is a priority. I realize that many car owners only view their ownership as a short term relationship and do not maintain the interior as recommended by the manufacturer or by the experts in automotive car with aftermarket products, but leather seats will last many lifetimes if well maintained. I also have cars/trucks with fabric covered seats and these are much better maintained with seat covers (yes, I know we buy a car for its appearance, but covering the cloth seats will maintain many of the "new car aspects, even if you are not seeing them day to day). If you ever want to sell the car on, clean like new seats help sell the car. Now, many cars are only offered with leather seats and by garaging the car regularly and treating the seats with leather moisturizer/preserver will help maintain those seats and other interior components as near new. If you put the car out in blazing sun on a regular basis, then it will wreak havoc on the leather. If you don't want to maintain leather seats, then buy a car with fabric seats. I found that vinyl holds up less well than leather over time. My 2 cents!
DBrown
Pit Crew

Some of you commenters need to get a life! Just read the damn article in the informative & joking manner it was written.
Nobody wants to hear you political opinion or social stand.
GTO guy
DBrown
Pit Crew

In response to Tim-
Not to get off the subject. However, do not fool yourself into believing cattle are "euthanized" . Most are are killed with a shot to the head and sometimes with a bolt gun. Occassionally, the workers miss the mark and the cattle are not immediatley dead but left to die in pain. I worked on a cattle producing ranch ouside of Norman, Oklahoma and also did a stint in the OKC stockyards for a VERY short time years ago. Made me stop eating beef......
Real_Life
Intermediate Driver

As David E. Davis. jr. said, "Freedom and whiskey!" If you like and want leather, buy it. If you don't, don't buy it. And, as this product has been around for longer than automobiles existed, the pro's and con's are well established, STFU.
DUB6
Gearhead

And Tom T. Hall said, "Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, more money!"  I'm sure he had his sexist reasons for the younger women part, but I must confess that I've had nothing but troubles from the younger gals in life, and nothing but the very best experience with my wife, who is slightly older than I am.  But as far as freedom, whiskey, fast horses, and money, I'm for them all.  I miss David E., Bedard, Yates, et al from the old days of reading C&D mag.

Quincydubois
Intermediate Driver

Thinking about my first car. ‘52 Plymouth. Paid 40 bucks. Had full tank of gas. No leather, no vinyl, no cloth. Had an orange crate. Two actually. Driver and passenger.
DUB6
Gearhead

There must be a joke about Orange Peel in there somewhere, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how to connect "interior seat covering materials" with "paint blemishes".  Someone help me out, please!

But one thing's for certain: neither leather nor vinyl nor cloth will give you splinters when you turn a fast corner...

whiteZ
New Driver

are we dumping the hides because of demand or to keep the price up by only supplying limited marketable hides? it would appear the hides would be more sustainable, and environmentally friendly then a petroleum based product, has any one studied this question?
Gary_Bechtold
Technician

Aaron you can do better. Not your best work.

Anyway Leather or "fake" leather I don't really care as I have both in my cars. "Fake" Leather like used in the latest Lexus cars feels great and is easy to take care of. The Leather on my Supra is still doing just fine 24 years old to date.
trahanm
New Driver

Aaron,

First, I agree with your perspective on this. Next, after reading all the comments, it confirms my not doing any social media activity.

Really, on a topic like to have this such reaction. People need to get off their “smart devices” and just go to their garage or go for a walk.

I have three cars which have cloth/ vinyl interiors, a 308 GT4, 83 911, and a 70 MGB GT. The interiors all look original and do not need the care like the other cars I have with leather.

Yes, leather is nice and luxurious, but look at the condition of 308’s and 911’s on the auction sites.

My two cars still look like new, all with 75k plus mileage.

Marc Trahan
houdel
New Driver

Eat less meat? What kind of car guy is he? He probably wears crocs too!