What are Common Automotive Upholstery Materials?

If you are in the market for new automotive upholstery then you’ll quickly see that there are a lot of options in this modern age of materials.  Here’s a quick reference list of popular automotive upholstery options and their pros/cons, so you can get to what you are looking for more quickly:



Perhaps the most prestigious of automotive upholstery fabric types, this material is chosen for its durability and curb-appeal.  Leather interiors are synonymous with high-end luxury and tend to equate to higher resale value for your vehicle (if the leather is in great shape).  With modern treatments leather also gives you great variety with different textures, pliability (ranging from ultra-soft to more rigid) and in a spectrum of colors.  Most leather is treated with a protective coating to be semi-waterproof but since it is an organic material and more porous, it is more susceptible to staining than a synthetic material.  Also, leather tends to be more expensive, so should be considered an investment and chosen for the enjoyment of it as a luxury finish (and lovely aroma).

Faux Leather

If you like the look of leather, but want more durability or a less-expensive option, faux leather automotive upholstery might be for you.  With a variety of textures (some as exotic as faux crocodile or other skins) and colors, you will have a lot of choices with faux leather. Since it is a synthetic material, most faux leather is more stain and spill resistant than real leather and will hold up to years of wear and use.  When “leather look” is your goal, this is a great material to choose.


Vinyl automotive upholstery fabric has come a long way.  Not to be thought of as rigid plastic, you can find some high-quality grade vinyls come as standard on luxury vehicles, like with Mercedes’ MB Tex Vinyl, which is the go to leather alternative.  With vinyl you get the benefits of durability and easy maintenance, as most vinyl is easy to wipe clean and is fairly stain resistant. Because this synthetic material is popular, you’ll want to consider the quality of the vinyl for your application and not just shop by price.  Longer-wearing vinyls will be thicker and yet have more pliability than more inferior vinyls that might have a lower price point. You’ll find lots of great options with vinyl, as an interior automotive upholstery fabric.

Sometimes you might see the term “faux vinyl” which is still actually vinyl, but is “faux” another material type.  You might see a faux vinyl suede or even super flexible fabric-style material that is still vinyl. Usually the same benefits for vinyl hold true and will give you a cheaper, more durable fabric that simulates the look of another material or finish (like suede).


When it comes to budget options, PVC is a great interior upholstery fabric.  It’s similar to vinyl, in that it is easy to clean, but is not as durable as vinyl.  It tends to be stretchy and is a go-to fabric for lower-end and commercial vehicle applications.  If you have ever had the experience of getting in a vehicle on a hot day and feeling sticky, hot seats, then the upholstery might have been PVC, which is famed for sticking to the skin and making the occupant sweaty during hot weather.  If a budget option is what you are looking for, PVC can offer you color selections, moderate durability and an easy price point.


Nylon automotive upholstery fabric offers perhaps the most selection of any fabric type and is the most common interior fabric for automobiles.  It has the benefit of being woven, which makes it long-wearing and durable -- especially against tears. There is a wide variety of colors, patterns and textures available.  Plus, it has the extra benefit of a great price point. Higher-quality nylons will have more stain-resistance, but most have a tight enough weave that you can clean up a spill before it dries and have good success maintaining its look for years.  You can also find brushed nylons that are super soft, yet still durable.


We hope this gives you a quick survey of your options and would be happy to assist you with any specific questions you have.  Be sure to reach out to our team and we will put our 30+ years experience to work helping you.