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Car seat covers are designed to slip over your car seats to protect them from wear, stains or other damage. Some families with children and/or pet owners choose to use car seat covers to prolong the life of their fabric or leather car seats. Other people find using car seat covers give tired, worn car seats a facelift and a new lease of life. Let’s look at whether and how they work, and if they are worth the investment.
Do seat covers work?
In reality, some car seat covers work better than others. It all depends on the material, the fit and the quality of the covers. A car seat cover must fit your car seat snugly and leave no saggy sections or exposed gaps. This way nothing can sneak in underneath the cover and the cover itself is unlikely to get caught and ripped. You will want a tear resistant material for any car seat cover you choose that can be easily wiped down and cleaned. There is no point in putting a cover on your car seat that doesn’t protect them.
So the answer is yes, car seat covers can work to protect your car seats, but you will need to do your research and choose a cover carefully.
Are car seat covers universal?
Many car seat covers claim to be universal which means that they are designed to fit over most car seats. However, in reality there is no way any cover can fit all seats, and they might not even fit your car seat well enough to keep it clean and damage free. There are manufacturers who make car seat covers for specific makes and models that are worth looking at.
Shop around and see for yourself what is on offer. You can find car seat covers for sale in larger supermarkets or auto stores and online of course. You may find there is an element of trial and error when you get your new car seat covers home and try them out for the first time. Remember that even each brand of “universal” car seat covers has a slightly different fit and you may need to experiment to find the best fit.
For rear seats
Motor Trend SpillGuard Car Seat Cover (Universal Fit)
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For all seats
Aierxuan 5pcs Car Seat Covers Full Set
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Are car seat covers bad for your car?
The jury is still out on this one! Many car owners rave about their car seat covers and the advantages of protecting their seats from spills and wear, especially with young children and pets in the family.
Others have not had such a positive experience. They found that even the slightest bit of moisture that leaks through or under their covers can lead to mold growth or hard to remove stains on their car seats. Sometimes they didn’t know about this damage until they went to remove the car seat covers, long after the damage had been done.
Are they safe?
The important question of whether car seat covers are safe to use with airbags and seatbelts comes up time and time again. It is true that an ill-fitting car seat seat cover can cause your airbags to fail. There are few options here, firstly you can choose not to use car seat covers. Alternatively, make sure you install the correct car seat covers sized for your car make and model and fit them according to the instructions. Keep reading for more thoughts on this one.
What is the best material for car seat covers?
There are some popular materials for car seat covers. Let’s look at those in more detail:
- Canvas: This material is popular because it is machine washable and usually designed to be stain resistant. It’s a practical, affordable material but it does lack a certain sense of style for some people.
- Neoprene or Neosupreme (a blend of neoprene and polyester): People like this material because it is soft and cushioned. Think wetsuit material. While it is water resistant this material is not waterproof. It can’t be machine washed but can be hosed down and air dried out. Neoprene covers tend to be expensive.
- Polyester: This popular car seat cover material protects against rips and scuffs. It can be machine washed or wiped down easily. Polyester is popular for car owners with pets. Covers made from polyester are usually affordable for most people.
- Leather or vinyl: People like this material because it can be easily wiped down and look smart. These materials can feel hot in the summer and cool in the winter.
There are also a range of alternative car seat cover materials such a mesh, sheepskin and even velour for those of you who like a softer feel. Most of these materials lean more towards style and fashion than practicality though.
Do seat covers protect cloth seats?
Yes, seat covers can protect cloth car seats. However, they only work when the covers are high quality and fit well. A car seat cover that has gaps, holes, or even if it’s too loose, can allow water or dirt to get under them. Equally a well-fitted but poor quality cover that allows water and dirt to soak through it will make a mess of your car seats underneath too. It’s important to choose your car seat covers with care to ensure they do the job.
Is it worth putting car seat covers on leather seats?
It depends on how much you want to protect them and how heavy your car use is. While leather can be wiped down and cleaned easily with the right products, it can still become damaged over time. It’s always a good idea to use a cover of some sort if your pets ride along with you. Since snags and tears to leather car seats are common from our four-legged friends, it’s smart to protect those seats!
What if they are heated?
It is only recommended to use car seat covers on heated car seats if the cover is fire resistant. There are some fabrics out there such as neoprene and spacer mesh that are designed to withstand heat and protect your car seats. Check the manufacturer’s specifications with care and check reviews before you buy.
Pros and cons of car seat covers
Car seat covers certainly have advantages and some drawbacks. Here is a rundown of the pros and cons to help you decide if covers are for you:
- Seat covers prolong the life of your car seats
- Seat covers protect seats from stains, tears and other damage
- Clean, well maintained car seats can help with a good resale value for your car. Covers help to keep them in good condition.
- Seat covers may give your car seats a new lease of life and hide any existing damage.
- Many covers can be machine washed to keep your car clean and fresh.
- Car seat covers that are not fitted properly or designed to fit your car can affect safety features such as airbags or seat belts.
- Not all covers are fire resistant and they may not be compatible with heated car seats.
- Poorly fitted car seat covers can make stains and damage to the car seats underneath even worse because dirt and water can get trapped.
Can you put a car seat cover on seats with airbags?
This is very much a personal decision for most of us. Airbags fitted into car seats are designed to burst through the carefully designed stitching of your car’s upholstery. The wrong car seat cover could hinder the effectiveness of the airbag deployment. If you would like to use car seat covers in all the seats in your car here are some steps to take:
- Research where your airbags are in your car first.
- Buy car seat covers designed for your car’s make and model.
- Check the safety features of the car seat covers you choose. Many are designed to fit alongside seat belts and airbags.
- Install your car seat covers according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Should you consider a baby car seat cover?
You may wish to use a baby car seat cover to freshen it up, keep it warm and protect the seat from spills. However, it is essential to use caution and follow professional and car seat manufacturer’s advice when deciding if a cover is right for your baby car seat.
Acrabros Multifunctional Infant Car seat Canopy
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Are they safe?
Some baby car seat covers are safe and are designed to work in tandem with your car seat. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before using any cover. You can even see if they have a product themselves that is intended to work with the seat.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against any product that goes underneath a child’s body, between them and the harness straps. Just because the product is on the shelf doesn’t mean that it’s safe.” [source]
Remember that the original slip liner in your baby’s car seat can be taken out and washed as often as you need to do so.
Is it worth buying a car seat cover?
Have a think about how your family uses your car and whether damage to the car seats is likely. Many families with children and pets find that car seat covers are a great solution to avoid stains and other damage to car seats.
Research the options available and ensure that the car seats you choose are designed to suit your car’s make and model in a material that suits your lifestyle. This way you and your family can stay safe, have fun on adventures and look good doing it!
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.