The question of whether you should get your car seats reupholstered isn’t always easily answered. There are a lot of factors involved. Whether you really need it, whether you can afford it, as well as whether it is actually worth the investment.
It is important to understand these aspects as well as what actually goes into car seat reupholstery. Being informed about it and having some idea of pricing will help in answering whether or not you should or need to get your car seats reupholstered. Also, it is just as important to know what other potential options are out there for you.
This article is here to help with determining if car seat reupholstery is the right way to go for you, while also giving you some information about going with custom slip over seat covers as an alternative.
What Goes Into Reupholstering Car Seats?
For simplicity, I am not going to go into extensive detail. When you hire a professional to reupholster car seats, you’re going to be paying the automotive upholstery shop for materials and labor. Materials include the fabric selected to replace the current upholstery, foam and batting as needed. The labor includes the removal of current upholstery, adding that foam and batting to damaged areas, and possible spring repair.
Then once that’s all taken care of, there is actually reupholstering the seats with the fabric and the required tools and supplies to hold the fabric in place.
That’s just a basic explanation of what goes into the process of reupholstering car seats, but it can be quite labor intensive. You have to not only take the current upholstery off, but hog ring the new ones on and ensure that it is in place and won’t move around over time.
One answer on Quora gives another reason why you might want to get one of your car seats reupholstered. Burn marks. The answers explain the process and what goes into repair a small area of a seat:
“If one area needs repair they cut the length they need of the fabric, refoam the area and stitch it in. It’s usually one whole section of the seat, not a tiny area.”
When Do You Actually Need to Reupholster Your Car Seats?
Anyone could get their car seats reupholstered if they wanted to. It is one way to upgrade your old car’s interior, change the aesthetics if you’re unhappy with the current upholstery, but in most cases, it is to repair damaged car seats.
The extent of which your seats are damaged will play into whether or not you actually require repair and reupholstery. If you think about what goes into the actual process of automotive upholstery, then you’ll get a pretty good idea of whether or not you truly need it.
For instance, do you have large chunks of foam missing? Is the actual shape of your seat disfigured? Are there multiple areas where material is missing (not just rips)?
There are some cases where the only option is car seat reupholstery, but do your research first on local automotive upholstery shops that do car seat repair.
How Much Does it Cost to Have Your Car Seat Reupholstered or Repaired?
There is no cut and dry answer when it comes to pricing for car seat reupholstery. Every case is different.
If you’re looking to get an accurate cost for car seat reupholstery tailored to your car, you should contact a few local upholstery shops and request a quote. You’ll have to give the year, make, and model and elaborate on how damaged your seat(s) are. They may request images or ask that you come in so they can have a look at the car seat damage.
To give you a ballpark estimate of what reupholstery costs, I contacted several car upholstery shops requesting general information. For the most part, they asked for more information about the vehicle, for me to call them, or go see them at the shop. However, I was able to get a few quotes. Now, this does vary based on location and shop, but here are a few major cities that I got some general pricing information from. I will stress that these are just estimates and should not be regarded as the bottom line for automotive upholstery repair.
Here are few examples of possible pricing:
San Diego, California: Starting price is $375 for one seat.
New York City, New York: Cost for front and rear leather is estimated to cost around $1300.
Los Angeles, California: Leather repair for one panel with foam repair will cost approximately $375 give or take.
I also found a helpful resource called CostHelper that gives a few more examples of potential costs. On average you can pay between $200-$750 per seat or $500-$2000 for two bucket seats. So as you can see pricing can vary from place to place.
More About Leather Seat Repair and Reupholstery
I’ll start with pointing out that any leather replacement kit isn’t cheap so be prepared to fork out some serious cash.
Leather car seat repair is even more expensive because of the cost of automotive grade leather. You can purchase reupholstery kits online.
Based on an email inquiry where I requested some basic information from one online company, I was quoted for front and rear seats around $1,500 plus tax for a single color or approximately $1,800 plus tax for a custom color combination.
Something else to know is that some online leather kit companies use authorized automotive shops that will install the seat covers for you (in some cases at no additional cost). However, if your seats are missing chunks of foam or require any sort of repair, they may request images as they have to assess the extent of auto seat damage and give you the cost of fixing it.
Car Upholstery Repair is Expensive – There’s Another Option
Now I am not saying, do not get your car seat reupholstered, because in some cases there isn’t really much of a choice. I am saying that there is an alternative, more affordable option that will hide the damage, keep it from getting worse, and give you car a refreshed look.
Consider talking to a local automotive upholstery shop to request your own quote for replacing or repairing the seat upholstery, then compare it to the price of getting custom seat covers for your vehicle. The more information you have, the easier it will be to make the decision.
“I Don’t Want to Have to Get My Car Seats Reupholstered, What Can I Do?”
The cost of reupholstering your car seats can sometimes be too hard to swallow. While in some extreme cases there is no alternative, there is often a more affordable option for car owners.
One option in particular that could save you a pile of cash is custom seat covers. While I’d like to say that seat covers can be a solution for all upholstery damage, it really depends on the extent of it (much like the cost variation).
NOTE: This article discusses custom seat covers not universal. If you’d like to know the difference between the two, check out: Universal Seat Covers or Custom? How to Decide
There are few scenarios that custom seat covers can be a solution.
Stop Further Damage From Happening
“The seats in my car are showing a lot of wear with fair bit of damage (including leather car upholstery)”
All’s not lost when you own an older vehicle with damaged upholstery. As mentioned above, your seats have to be pretty badly damaged with chunks of foam missing before you really need to consider reupholstery. Custom seat covers are an excellent choice to cover up the old, worn seats.
While that distressed look might be trending in fashion, it definitely doesn’t look that great in your car, nor is it very comfortable. Split leather or vinyl sucks!
Installing seat covers is an effective way to cover up wear and tear even if there is a decent amount of it.
Here are a number of seat cover material options just to give you an idea. You can get seat covers in:
- Neoprene and Neo-Supreme
- Cordura,and Heavy Duty Canvas
- Poly-Cotton and Polyester
- Saddle Blanket
- Camos like Real Tree, Moonshine, Mossy Oak
- Imitation Leather/Genuine Leather
- Imitation Sheepskin/Genuine Sheepskin
There are tons of choices out there. I am not here to recommend one over the other, or tell you to choose one company over the other. Do your research and you’ll be able to find something that suits our needs.
Pricing varies from company to company and depends on the material choice. For instance, you can pay around $150-$200 for a set of Neo-Supreme seat covers from one company, while another might charge you $250-$350. The difference in price is mostly due to the different brands of Neo-Supreme seat covers out there.
RESEARCH TIP: Search for reviews about specific materials on the seat cover company website of interest. Hearing it from customers themselves is very informative and will help you decide not only what type of material is suitable for your needs, but also which company is right for you.
“What if I have leather seats?”
If you have leather upholstery in your car, you can fork out that whopping $1400-$1800 and get your car reupholstered (which as I said might be the only option for extreme cases) or you can search for an automotive accessory company that sells leather seat covers.
Buying genuine leather seat covers is one option when you have leather upholstery. Doing a quick Google search for Genuine Leather Seat Covers brings up quite a few companies that sell them. Once again, pricing varies dramatically, but to give you a rough idea, you can pay anywhere from $340-$630 for each row.
There’s also the option of opting for Imitation Leather seat covers, also known as Leatherette. These have the same look and feel as leather, You can expect to pay around $260-$315 for a set of Imitation Leather seat covers. Remember, this depends on the brand of seat covers you go with.
“I recently purchased a used vehicle and the interior is stained and ripped”
So you got a wicked deal on a used car. It has decent mileage, a good history, and runs great. The only problem is the interior doesn’t look that great. Maybe the previous owner smoked and there are holes in the upholstery. Or maybe they were just messy coffee drinkers and there are stains everywhere. These are just two examples of how custom seat covers can be an affordable solution to hide unwanted stains, holes or minor rips that might come with the purchase of an older vehicle.
There are tons of different options out there for you to choose from that are cost effective and still conform and wrap around the contours of your seat, giving it a new look without the price of reupholstery (which we now know could set you back quite a bit).
Sometimes when you’re just trying to hide a few blemishes on the car’s upholstery, you might want to maintain the original look of the upholstery. One option for this is OEM slip over seat covers. These are still seat covers that you install over top of the upholstery, but have a similar look to what in terms of material you have in your vehicle.
NOTE: When you are researching OEM seat covers, make sure you know whether you’re ordering slip over seat covers or ones that require you to uninstall the original upholstery. Both options are available online, so be sure to read the descriptions carefully. And it never hurts to contact the seat cover company and confirm. Better safe than sorry — especially since you’re ordering a custom-made item.
Prevent Damage from Happening to your Car Seats
“Just bought a new car? Avoid auto upholstery repair altogether”
Start at the very beginning, the beginning is a very good place to start. We all know the song and these words apply to custom seat covers as well.
If you start by installing seat covers at the beginning when you first purchase the car, then you’re going to save ‘future-you’ the headache of debating whether automotive upholstery is required or not. Seat covers prevent damage, stains, and rips from ever happening to original car seat fabric.
Picture this. If you have two identical people with identical cars which have both been driven the same amount, with the same driving habits, and are equally maintained and the only variable is that one car has seat covers and the other one doesn’t. Which car do you think will sell for more?
Even if you’re the cleanest person ever who never eats in your car, over time your seats are going to accrue some wear and tear, just from sitting in them. Seat covers will significantly reduce this and when it is time to say goodbye to your car, the seats are going to look well taken care of.
Not going to lie, seat covers are an investment (just like car seat reupholstery), but so is your car. And it is worth keeping your car as resellable as possible. The state of your car seats when selling your vehicle in the future could cause you to lose money or worse – could be the deal breaker for not selling the vehicle to a prospective buyer.
Bottom Line About Reupholstery Versus Seat Covers
If you can avoid getting your car reupholstered it is probably the best thing. But this is not always possible and you might have to bite the bullet and pay up to get one of your seats repaired.
What can be said about seat covers though is that they are a great alternative if you can’t afford reupholstery, don’t think upholstery is worth it, or if your car seats have minor damage and don’t really need upholstery repair. But beyond that, installing seat covers early on when you purchase a car can prevent damage and save you a pile of cash in the long run.