Car Buying

Leather Seats: Cheaper Than You Think

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2016

Years ago, buying a car with leather seats meant spending a fortune on a high-end luxury model. And even then, you didn't always get leather upholstery with your new luxury car, as many upscale models from Mercedes and BMW offered cloth seats as standard equipment as recently as a few years ago. These days, however, getting leather upholstery isn't as expensive as it was in the past. In fact, leather seats can be cheaper than you think.

Why Leather?

If you've never had leather upholstery, you might be wondering why many drivers consider it an upgrade over cloth or vinyl seats. The primary reason is the way it feels: Leather tends to be softer than those surfaces, offering a more comfortable driving or riding experience, especially if you spend long periods of time in the car. Many drivers also think leather looks better than cloth, especially as it ages, since cloth seats tend to wear out more quickly. Finally, drivers interested in heated or ventilated seats will find it's much easier to find those features on cars equipped with leather upholstery. Very few automakers offer heated cloth seats, and we don't know of any brands who offer ventilated seats with anything other than leather.

Examples

You don't need to buy a big luxury sedan or a high-end SUV to get leather seats. In fact, leather is now available on some of the least expensive entry-level cars on the market. The diminutive Ford Fiesta includes leather upholstery in its upscale Titanium trim, which starts from $19,000 with shipping. The Chevy Sonic includes leather standard in its LTZ model, which starts from just $20,700 with shipping. Even the tiny FIAT 500 offers leather upholstery in its midlevel Sport trim, which starts from just $19,900 with shipping.

It isn't just inexpensive cars that offer affordable leather upholstery. Think it's too pricey to upgrade your Honda Accord to a model with leather seating? Think again. While the sedan's mid-level EX trim comes standard with cloth seats, spending $2,300 extra gets you an EX-L model with leather. And while $2,300 is no small sum, the EX-L also tacks on an enhanced backup camera, a better sound system, heated seats, driver's seat memory and a power passenger seat. More importantly, it offers all these things for under $30,000 with shipping -- not a bad figure for a roomy midsize sedan with leather.

The same is true of many modern SUVs. The Subaru Forester, for instance, comes standard with leather seating in its midlevel Limited trim, which is only around $2,000 more expensive than the automatic transmission-equipped Premium trim slotted below it. In addition to leather, Limited models also add a power liftgate, automatic climate control, automatic headlights as well as heated seats, and the Forester Limited still manages to end up below $30,000 with shipping.

Additionally, a new car isn't your only option if you're interested in an affordable vehicle with leather seats. You can always choose a leather-equipped used car, which can easily be even less expensive than the models we've listed.

Luxury Without Leather

Believe it or not, simply buying a luxury car may not be enough to get you leather upholstery. Many high-end luxury cars such as the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class, actually come standard with a synthetic leather-like material that gives the look and feel of leather without the actual material. In other words, if you want leather, you may have to seek it out, and you may have to pay more (or less) than you think in order to get it.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Leather Seats: Cheaper Than You Think - Autotrader