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Leatherette Seats: Everything You Need To Know And Is It Leather?

in Ownership
Leather car seats

Source: Pixabay

Many years ago, leather was all the rage, including vehicle interiors. Premium authentic leather seats are soft-to-the-touch, comfortable, look and smell great, and a hallmark of luxury.

Although leather remains popular, it’s fallen out of favor due to ethical and environmental concerns. In the auto industry, carmakers have shifted from exclusively using animal-sourced leather for their interiors to synthetic materials or leatherette.

Are leatherette seats real leather? No, leatherette is just another name for synthetic leather designed to mimic the properties of leather.

Today, we took a deep dive into leatherette seats, and we’ll talk about things you need to know about this material, including its pros and cons.

If Leatherette Seats Aren’t Real Leather, What is It?

As mentioned, leatherette is one type of synthetic leather which means it’s an artificial material that uses only artificial ingredients. As with genuine leather, it doesn’t involve any natural elements during the manufacturing phase.

Generally, synthetic leathers are made from plastic or vinyl materials, including natural or synthetic cloth fibers covered in PVC or polyurethane - in some cases, scraps from genuine leather. They are made to mimic the look and feel of authentic leather.

But not all leatherette seats are created equal. The look and quality of leatherette seats can vary from one car manufacturer to the next, depending on the resources spent on producing them.

Top-quality leatherette interiors are usually a decent stand-in for the real thing. Plus, they’re ethically sourced and don’t harm the environment.


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Differences Between Leather and Leatherette Seats

Automakers are slowly moving away from using real leather for their car seats, so they’re spending a lot of resources to improve the quality of their synthetic leather. Nowadays, it can be tricky to distinguish high-quality leatherette from authentic leather.

But if you look closer, the difference is clear.

At close inspection, authentic leather has inconsistently spaced pores while leatherette has pores with more consistent patterns, implying that machines make it. In terms of texture, top-quality leather, such as the luxurious Nappa leather, has a soft, buttery feel, while leather has a plasticky feel, but it’s softer and more forgiving than vinyl. Finally, genuine leather has a distinct smell that reminds you of class and luxury, while leatherette may smell like plastic or chemicals, especially if brand-new.

Leather vs. Leatherette Seats: Pros and Cons

Now, let’s compare and contrast real leather vs. leatherette based on their pros and cons.


The key benefit of leatherette and the main reason for its rise in popularity is the cost. Synthetic leather is cheaper to source and make, allowing brands to offer them for much more affordable prices than authentic leather. Genuine leather can be twice as expensive.

Visually, it’s hard to tell the difference between leather and leatherette. Therefore, leatherette seats can still provide a luxurious interior while lowering the price.

Look and Feel

Authentic leather is hard to beat when it comes to class and luxury. Plus, it tends to look better as it ages. Meanwhile, high-quality leatherette can look as good as natural leather; you can’t practically tell the difference. After all, brands have been working hard to make synthetic leather seats look just as good as the real thing.

However, leatherette is at a disadvantage in terms of comfort. Natural leather “breathes” better than any synthetic material, including leatherette. This breathability makes the leather more comfortable for products that directly come in contact with the skin, such as clothing and, of course, car seats. Leather is less likely to stick in your skin than the less breathable leatherette during hot temperatures.

Durability and Maintenance

With proper care and maintenance, leather can be very durable and may last up to 15 years in good condition. However, leather does require a good deal of maintenance and specialized products for polishing and waterproofing. Due to their porous nature, leather seats can absorb spills and odors, so we recommend wiping spills and stains as soon as you can.

On the flip side, leatherette is less durable and long-lasting than real leather. But with proper care and maintenance, leatherette seats may last up to 10 years which is not too shabby at all.

For maintenance, synthetic leather is less porous and waterproof, making cleanup a lot more forgiving because it’s more spill and odor resistant. Spills and stains are usually dealt with with a quick wipe using a damp cloth.


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Ethical and Environmental Concerns

The general use of leather has been a controversial topic for some time now because it’s an animal-sourced material. Animal rights groups and vegans have been rallying to oppose real leather in products.

As a result, many auto companies have moved away from using natural leather for their interiors. However, leather products are also biodegradable, making them more environmentally friendly - but the same can’t be said with leather’s manufacturing processes.

Unfortunately, synthetic leather can do more harm to the environment than good because it’s not biodegradable. For example, the PVC component of fake leather doesn’t decompose and is toxic to water and soil. On a positive note, synthetic leather does not contain animal products, making it the ideal option for people who subscribe to veganism and cruelty-free philosophies.

Resale Value

Authentic leather is the king of resale value. Actual leather seats can increase your vehicle’s resale value by hundreds of dollars more, considering proper care and maintenance were given. Conversely, poorly maintained leather seats are no better than cloth and, in some cases, may even hurt the vehicle’s resale value.

Meanwhile, leatherette seats don’t hold their resale value very well. But with proper care and maintenance, it can make a good impression on buyers and, at the very least, won’t persuade them to dock a few hundreds of dollars down the sale price.


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Leatherette Seats: Are They Worth It?

Both leather and leatherette have their pros and cons. There’s no replacement for genuine leather if you have an eye for detail, comfort, and luxury. Conversely, if you’re on a budget, leatherette offers the good qualities of leather without the inflated price tag.

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