Cloth Seat Covers vs Leather Replacement Covers on the 5th Gen 4Runner

Cloth Seats vs Leather Seat Replacement Upholstery Kit Options & Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Cloth vs Leather/Vinyl Seat Covers + Replacement Kits: Product Options + Comparison For the 5th Gen 4Runner

We are going to look at why you would consider upgrading your current cloth interior to leather or something similar.

The 4Runner is an all-around off-roading masterpiece that leaves much to be upgraded and modified to user specifications.

But what about the part of the vehicle where we spend the most time? Now – I am not talking about the cargo area where we keep the drinks and steaks after a long run on the trails. I’m talking about the seats in which we spend our time patiently waiting and enjoying the ride all in hopes for the grand final destination.

Sure, the standard cloth seats are nice and durable, but what about after you jump in and out of the 4Runner all day? After really putting the cloth seats to the test, they can tend to wear over time.

The idea of replacing the cloth seats may be daunting however there are some different solutions to the problem I have all the time.

Upgrading To a Leather Cover or Replacement

Upgrading to a leather cover or complete leather replacement would increase interior comfort as well as make for cleaning much easier. Having two Siberian Huskies in the 4Runner during a long trail ride is awesome, but the subsequent clean up afterward is very time-consuming.

If you have dogs that shed you know that their hair sticks to EVERYTHING!

Imagine having that newly upholstered interior that you can wipe down and be ready for your trip to the office the next morning. This is something I have always wanted to do but didn’t know how to go about doing it. I am going to provide a few ideas that will fit the budgets of all sizes.

Best Options In Seat Cover Replacement Kits

There are a few options out there for keeping the 4Runner seats clean and hair-free – all while possibly protecting it from future damage. One popular option for dog protection is the Canvas Back Cargo Liner which protects the rear cargo area and behind the back seats. This might be perfect for you if you are looking to protect the cargo area but not so much if you are looking to protect your seats.

Here are a few options for seat covers to consider: 

  • Custom Full Leather Interior Kit Replacement | Any Make/Model: Check Price
  • Katzkin Custom Premium Leather Seat Covers | Any Make/Model: Check Price
  • Relations Race Wheels Leather Covers | Check Price
  • AUTO HIGH Full Set Premium Faux Leather/Vinyl Car Seat Covers | Any Make/Model: Check Price
  • CoverCraft Toyota 4Runner Seat Covers | 3rd – 5th Gen Models: Check Price
  • CARiD Toyota 5th Gen 4Runner Leather Seat Covers | Multiple Color Options: Check Price
  • ShearComfort Toyota 4Runner Custom Seat Covers | Multiple Color + Material Options: Check Price

Can’t Seem To Keep It Clean

Cloth Seats vs Leather Seat Replacement Upholstery Kit Options & Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner: Can't Seem To Keep It Clean (Before)

Does your interior look like this?

Spills, burns, wear, and stubborn hair are all apart of having a cloth interior.

In my 4Runner, there hasn’t been a day where I look around and don’t see dog hair all over the place. The trails send dust and debris flying through the window which also tends to settle on the seats and doesn’t seem to come out right away.

There has to be a better solution.

Is A Cover The Way To Go?

Cloth Seats vs Leather Seat Replacement Upholstery Kit Options & Review For the 5th Gen 4Runner: Is a Seat Cover The Way To Go?

A car seat cover is the simple solution to the problem I have with my seats, but is it the best way to solve the problem?

Installation is a cinch, placing the cover over the seat and securing it with the loops that hold it down. If the cover becomes worn or damaged you can just replace the cover by simply removing it and replacing it with another one.

When looking at the cost difference it can save you hundreds of dollars in the short term and possibly the long run as well.

I have two concerns with the use of a cover for my specific application. The first concern is that I have heated seats up front which takes a little bit to heat up now because they were installed aftermarket.

If a cover is placed over the already thick cloth seat, how will that affect the heated seat components?

A vinyl or leather product does absorb heat better than cloth, but the thickness of the seat would concern me.

The second concern I have is with the dogs being in the back. The constant in and out of the car can cause the seat cover to come off and would be a hassle to constantly keep putting back on.

Pros of Car/Truck Seat Covers

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Many different patterns
  • Easy to replace
  • Protects cloth underneath

Cons of Car/Truck Seat Covers

  • Come off easily
  • Heated seats may not work as well
  • Not as durable
  • Potential higher cost in the long run

Why Not Just Replace The Cloth Seats?


The option of doing a full replacement seems to be the best option for longevity of the seat.

Materials have come a long way and are now more durable than what they once were. Now when it comes to this option there are two ways to go about it.

The first choice is to have a professional do the install which is obviously the most costly option. You can spend well over $1500 just for seats!

The second choice is to buy the replacements and install them all on your own. The second option could cost as little as $800 depending on what materials, patterns, and color options you select when making your custom seat.

Cost + Level Of Difficulty For DIY Seat Leather/Vinyl Replacement Install

The two concerns I have with this option is the cost and level of difficulty for self-install.

As the above mentioned a seat cover is the more cost-effective way to go, but not necessarily the best. The cost of custom Katzkin leather installs is quite high when you look at even the most expensive cover costing two to three hundred dollars.

Now if we look at the self-install option, exactly how hard is it to do? In recent months I have seen youtube videos demonstrating the replacement of a damaged seat which looked doable for your average 4Runner owner. Take a look at the video above for reference.

These two things alone would not be enough to deter me from going this route.

Pros of Full Seat Upholstery Replacement:

  • More secure
  • More durable
  • Better factory look
  • Create your own look
  • Allows you to change seat dynamics
  • Heated seats heat more evenly

Cons of Full Seat Upholstery Replacement:

  • Costly
  • Challenging to install yourself
  • Dealer install is expensive

Final Verdict: So What Would I Do?

Considering the vast amount of options between covers and custom replacements, I would take the full replacement route.

Having a leather seat that is fastened rather than just slipped on provides great benefits to myself and my dogs.

When considering the cost I would take on the install myself, paying close attention to how I removed the current cloth to match the leather exactly.

I also like the idea of taking the current cloth seat off so that I can attempt to make adjustments for a more comfortable seat while driving long distances. I believe the full replacement will hold up better over time and will withstand the dogs moving around while driving.

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4 years ago

I also used seat covers for my runner. Being in Hawaii and the hot sun, leather isn’t a great option. I went with wet okole seat covers. It’s doing pretty good considering i have dogs, workout days and running. So the seat covers take a beating. To wash I just pop it off n washing machine or hand wash. But it’s a pun in the butt to put back on. Give n take I guess

Mark Stevenson
Mark Stevenson
4 years ago

I use the Carhart seat covers and love them. I work in the construction industry and track a lot of dirt / dust on them. A vacuum cleans it all right up with no problem. I haven’t had any problems with these coming loose or not fitting right. I haven’t looked under them since purchasing them but couldn’t imagine the dirt or dust passing through.

I would highly recommend these!

4 years ago

I replaced cloth with the katskins as soon as picked up vehicle from the showroom. The katskins were higher quality than the stock leather as well. Much easier to clean from spills and dog hair. There are also a lot of options when selecting your new leather. This was one mod that was well worth it to me as I eventually selected one that matched the stock stitching and color on the doors etc and the matching was incredible. While this sounds like a plug for katskins the real point was going this route worked out well for my custom build.

3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

What was the out the door cost? Did their vendor do the installation? How are they holding up after a year?

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