Friday , October 20 2017
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TECH: Leather vs. cloth

Which is best for your vehicle?

Recently we faced a choice between two 2010 used-Toyota Harriers newly imported from Japan. The two cars were identical in all except for the upholstery. One has leather seats and the other cloth. Which would you have chosen? We chose cloth, and I can hear you sneer at our choice. After all, isn’t leather interior the thing? Well, here are the 10 reasons we based our decision on.

Price

The leather interior car was priced a notch higher by about Shs2 million. And we are not talking luxurious soft Nappa leather, top-grain, or even brushed leather. This was some faux leather but as the sales person maintained; it was still leather – and therefore more costly.

Status

The price issue took us directly to status. You of course know that most people associate a leather interior with high end, luxury, and higher status or `money’ look. This perception makes some car owners to feel good about their leather. In fact, many insist leather makes them feel good. Conversely, cloth upholstery is seen by some as nothing but plain and practical.

Mid-day heat

The thing about genuine leather is that it is skin of an animal. That means it absorbs heat when it is hot. Under the hot Ugandan sun, the seats literally fry your butt and thighs. In some cases, you should also be prepared to step-out with sweat oozing out of your pants. Remember, skin that touches a car-seat surface over 150 degrees Fahrenheit can be severely burned in one second.

Morning drive

Mornings present the exact opposite challenge for leather interior car owners. Leather, unlike cloth gets really cold. So, although leather seats are luxurious, there is nothing luxurious about a numb bum in the morning. That is why top range cars with leather have heated seats – of course at a price!

Stains

Top-grain leather typically wipes clean, but the same can’t be said for cloth. Instead, cloth seats soak up gumbo stains. Some stains, such as mud from the kids’ shoes and ketchup from their takeaway might be eventually wiped away but nasty liquids such as ink, blood, and motor oil may never fully disappear. Note hear that semi-aniline leather and brushed leather are also susceptible to staining, but not as badly as cloth.

Smell

Still on the topic of stinking cars, leather usually has a pleasant aroma, one that’s distinctly its own. That’s what happens when you take the hide of an animal and soak it in a variety of chemicals and perfumes.  As for cloth seats, the only smells they emit are unwanted odors—which cloth seats absorb more than leather ones do.

Maintenance

Leather is not just high-class, it’s high-maintenance. While the material is better at preventing stains, it needs to be cleaned and conditioned with particular products every few months. If you don’t clean the leather, it eventually will show signs of wear due to the sweat, dust, and dirt that seep into its pores. Without conditioning, it will harden and perhaps crack.

Comfort

Putting heat and cold aside, which option is more comfy to plant your tush on? For many people, a leather seat is the closest they can get to being on their couch at home. Of course, leather comfort depends much on quality. Cheap leather is hard and uncomfortable, while pricier leather can be pleasingly soft. With cloth, you never go wrong when it comes to comfort. In fact, it feels as good on your skin as a soft cotton T-shirt.

Slippage

Leather car seats tend to cause drivers to slip-and-slide while the friction of cloth keeps everything practically glued to the seat.

Resale

When you cough up, say Shs2 million for leather, you’re not exactly out Shs2 million. You can recoup some of that money at resale. But other factors play into resale. Most used-car buyers simply want a reliable vehicle at a low price. (If they had money to burn, they wouldn’t be buying a used car.)

So, which would you choose; leather or cloth? Cloth beats leather on price, comfort, slippage, heat and cold, and maintenance. Leather is good for status, resale, smell, and stains. But leather might be what you want to make a statement. So go for it.

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