2 Pros and 3 Cons of White and Lighter Car Seats and Interiors

Today’s car buyers have a lot of customization options. Most automakers offer a wide range of exterior paint options and multiple interior color schemes and materials to pick from. Broadly, most interior schemes are either dark (black or dark gray) or light (light gray, white, beige, or tan), along with accent choices that often vary widely. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of selecting a light interior and related accessories over a dark cabin color scheme to help you choose.

Pro #1: Retaining and absorbing less heat and light

In its piece, “Do Cars With a Dark Interior Really Get Hotter in the Sun?”, Consumer Reports examined the differences between light and dark interiors and their impact on vehicle comfort, utility, and aesthetics. One aspect of light interiors the site noted was that these interiors handle heat and light better.

In a test, Consumer Reports staff parked vehicles in the sun. Over the course of an hour, the temperature inside the car with the dark interior grew hotter than that of the vehicle with the light interior.

Now while there were only a few degrees of difference, over an even longer period, the difference would have grown even greater. It’s also worth noting that when outside temperatures start hitting 100 degrees, this difference will not matter much to you and your passengers. Still, it is worth considering if you’re in a region with moderate weather.

Pro #2: White upholstery stands out more

White seating upholstery of a BMW M3 Cabrio seen at the Auto Mobil International Show
White seating upholstery of a BMW M3 Cabrio | Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dark interiors are more common than light ones. A lighter interior is the way to go if you want to stand out and impress your passengers. Lighter interiors are also more typically associated with luxury and can often be found in luxury auto brands. 

These interiors can create the impression that your cabin is more spacious and open than it is. So, if you’re considering a compact or subcompact vehicle, a light interior may help it seem less cramped and tight than it is.

Additionally, their ability to absorb light and heat better makes light interiors fade less and slower over time. That means your vehicle will retain a fresh and crisp look for longer, helping keep it attractive over time.

Con #1: White seats are harder to clean

It’s certainly more challenging to clean lighter interiors. Depending on the color and material, as well as the nature of the stain, you may need special solvents to restore your car seat’s condition.

Because it’s harder to clean light interiors, you’ll also spend more time and effort during each cleaning session. It may be worth it for your car to be customized the way you want, but keep in mind that you’ll need to put a lot of elbow grease into eliminating common stains and spills.

Additionally, because light interiors are harder to clean, you may pay more for a professional car cleaner. In fact, if you plan to have your car detailed, expect to pay a higher price than you’d pay for a vehicle with a dark interior.

Con #2: Stains stand out more

It’s not only that cleaning stains on light interiors is more difficult. You’ll feel compelled to clean more often because stains will stand out more.

On dark interiors, many routine stains won’t be readily apparent unless you look for them. That’s simply not the case with light interiors. Every smudge or bit of grime will be visible and noticeable. You’ll likely feel a stronger urge to take care of them – and quickly – than you would in a car where they are barely visible.

In fact, not only will you spend more time getting the stains out of light interiors. You will likely spend more time cleaning your car overall, as every small stain will feel bigger than it is.

Con #3: Light interiors cost more

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Light interiors are usually offered as a premium upgrade or option on a higher-level trim. That means they typically cost a bit more than dark interiors.

Furthermore, most vehicles are equipped with dark interiors. Light interiors, with their mix of materials and colors, are less common and, accordingly, less well-stocked. So, over time, professional cleaning, detailing, reupholstering, and replacement services will cost you more.

You can certainly opt for a light interior. They do add quite a bit of extra pizzazz to a car. However, you should consider the additional costs and effort involved with obtaining and maintaining them.