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Heated Seat Guide: What They Are, How They Work, & More!

Heated Seat Guide: What They Are, How They Work, & More!

On a cold day, as you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, there is no better feeling than sitting down on a heated seat. Giving you the ultimate comfort while driving, you may have questions about heated seats, such as exactly how they work and more.

If so, let’s get started finding the answers to all of your questions about heated seats!

What are heated seats?

Though in years past heated seats were confined mainly to luxury vehicles and were thought of as an option only the rich could afford, more and more of today’s vehicles give buyers the option of adding heated seats.

While you may think heated seats are the product of some revolutionary technical marvel within the automotive industry, the fact is the technology used to make heated seats a reality within vehicles is actually very simple!

Believe it or not, the technology used for these seats is the same as that used for hairdryers, electric blankets, and even water heaters.

Heated seats use an electric element to warm the seat inside of a vehicle to provide additional warmth and comfort. This approach is much faster to warm the inside of the vehicle than relying solely on the circulation of heated air.

Like these other items, heated seats come to life thanks to a standard heating element, a long piece of material that acts as a resistor for the flow of electricity. 

When you hit the switch in your vehicle to warm your seat, the electric current flowing through the resistor turns that energy into heat, which is then dispersed through the seat. 

How do heated seats work?

While we’ve already touched on some of the basics as to what makes heated seats come to life on those cold days or nights, you should also realize it is a bit more complex than what you’ve already read thus far.

Just like your vehicle’s lights, your heated seats are controlled by a relay switch, which lets a small electric current gain control over a larger current. Once you hit the switch to activate your heated seat, the small electric current flows through a coil that is located within the relay switch.

As the current continues to flow through the coil, the result is the creation of a magnetic field, which pulls a nearby open switch closed. Once this occurs, a circuit is completed and electricity is then sent from your car’s battery to the heating element located in your vehicle’s seat. 

In some vehicles, you may hear a clicking sound when you turn on your seat’s heater. If you do hear this clicking, it is simply the relay closing and is nothing to worry about.

If you’re like some drivers, you may be wondering how car seats are kept from overheating and burning you while you are behind the wheel. To keep you safe, your heated seats are equipped with thermostats and sensors. 

The thermostat constantly measures the temperature of your car seats, automatically sending a signal to the relay switch once the desired temperature is reached.

Once your car seat begins to cool down, the thermostat turns on the relay switch so that it can be ready when needed. In many vehicles, you will find “high” and “low” settings, allowing you to have greater control over the temperature of your seat cushions.

Cars with heated seats

As we mentioned early on, heated seats are no longer options on high-priced luxury cars. In fact, even if you are on a tight budget when purchasing a new vehicle, you’ll be glad to know you can likely find an affordable car that will keep you warm in the seat.

As for cars that do contain heated seats, one of the most popular foreign cars is the Fiat 500 Lounge. A compact car that has a sticker price of just over $20,000 for a basic model that includes heated seats, the Fiat 500 Lounge gets excellent reviews from customers for its warm seats.

Should you desire more of a sedan when driving down the road, we suggest you enjoy the heated seats of the Nissan Sentra. But to do so, you’ll probably need to spend a bit more money to get an options package. If you do, you’ll get heated seats and heated outside mirrors, which can make your driving experience both more comfortable and safer on a winter day.

For those of you who love driving a fuel-efficient hatchback around the city, we suggest you consider the Honda Fit. Not only is it economically priced at just over $22,000, but its heated two-level front bucket seats with leather upholstery are standard.

If you happen to be a driver who loves to drive a powerful vehicle down the highway, you’ll be glad to know that heated seats are also available in muscle cars such as the Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang. 

As for an SUV that won’t bust your budget but still give you warm seats whenever you wish, we especially like the Jeep Cherokee FWD Limited. Other cars popular with drivers today that also offers heated seats as either standard or as options include the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Chevy Malibu, and the Lexus IS.

Fortunately for those of you who love a good pickup truck, heated seats are not limited just to cars, SUVs, and crossovers. In fact, most truck manufacturers offer heated seats in their vehicles, though it can vary as to whether the heated seats are standard or purchased as part of an options package. 

The trucks we find to be most popular with drivers include the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram, and the GMC Sierra.

Last but not least, if you want the best of both worlds between a car and SUV, we recommend the Hyundai Tucson crossover and its heated front seats. Affordable and has a reputation for dependability, the heated seats in Tucson are said to be especially comfortable.

Benefits of heated seats

While to some people heated seats may seem like an option that does not make a whole lot of sense, others feel the opposite way and would never go back to driving any vehicle that did not have heated seats. In reality, heated seats offer many benefits to drivers and passengers.

One of the most important benefits of heated seats is the warmth can actually be therapeutic, especially for drivers who are older or have physical issues that make sitting uncomfortable, such as a bad back. 

By having a heated seat, the warmth will not just be limited to the lower part of your body, but can actually radiate throughout your body, helping to ease aches and pains.

Of course, having heated seats can make your commute to work, school, the grocery store, or elsewhere much more comfortable on a cold winter day. However, heated seats can also be used in other seasons as well. 

From a spring or fall day that may be colder than normal to even a summer day when you’ve gotten chilled after eating ice cream, turning on a heated seat for a few minutes can have you feeling great in no time.

Even if your vehicle has an excellent heater, you can still stay cold longer than you prefer.

But with heated seats, this won’t happen. In most vehicles that have heated seats, the seats tend to warm up much quicker than the rest of the vehicle, meaning you can get behind the wheel and be comfortable as soon as you pull out of your driveway.

Are Heated Seats Worth It?

When we’ve asked drivers along the way if having heated seats in their vehicles is worth it, we usually get more positive answers than negative ones. Ultimately, you will have to decide if this is something you really need or desire when behind the wheel.

Should you have your eye on a vehicle that only offers heated seats as part of an options package, you’ll need to decide if you want to spend the extra money to have a higher level of comfort. Remember, many times it’s better to have something and not need it, rather than the other way around! 

Thus, even if you opt for heated seats but don’t think you will use them very much, you may have passengers with physical issues or who tend to get cold easily who will love your vehicle’s heated seats.

If you have a vehicle with heated seats, no matter whether it is considered to be a true luxury vehicle, most people will view it as such, since heated seats have long been seen as a status symbol for the well-to-do.

Because of this, you may be able to impress others with your style and choice of vehicles, which may be important should you have your eye on someone special.

Can You Add Aftermarket Heated Seats?

If you have a vehicle you love except for the fact that it does not contain heated seats, you may be curious as to whether or not aftermarket heated seats are a viable option for your vehicle.

The answer to this question is yes, you can add aftermarket heated seats to your vehicle. However, it is not an easy process, and more than likely will need to be done by those who redesign vehicle interiors for a living.

Since the basic technology used in heated seats is relatively simple, you may think you can take a standard heating element, thermostat, and other parts and install them in your vehicle’s current seats. Unfortunately, this is not done, primarily for safety reasons. Instead, you will need to have new heated seats installed in your vehicle.

If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that aftermarket seats are actually not too expensive. However, you’ll probably pay quite a bit in labor costs. 

While removing your vehicle’s existing seats won’t be too hard, getting the new ones in place and making sure the electrical components associated with them are hooked up and working properly takes more time than you might think.

How Much Does it Cost to Install Heated Car Seats?

If you do want to install heated car seats yourself, this can be done to virtually any makes and models of cars, trucks, and other vehicles. Self-installation kits are available, but you need to know your way around your vehicle’s electronics if you choose to make this a DIY project. 

Installation kits typically cost around $500, so you will definitely save money on labor costs if you can do this yourself. But as mentioned earlier, since you’ll need to make sure the thermostats, heating elements, and sensors are installed properly, you may want to leave this project to the pros.

Should you decide to buy a vehicle with heated seats, we suspect you’ll be glad you did. The first time you sit down inside your vehicle on a cold winter day or night, you’ll wonder how you ever existed without heated seats.

Are Heated Seats Bad for You?

Since heated seats in vehicles have thermostats that regulate the temperature of the seats, there is very little chance you will suffer any burns or other injuries resulting from their use.

However, some drivers and passengers make the mistake of enjoying too much of a good thing with heated seats. As a result, they sometimes get what doctors refer to as “toasted skin syndrome.”

A condition where the skin on the back of your thighs becomes discolored due to prolonged exposure to heat, it’s somewhat similar to a sunburn. When this happens, a red rash that is net-like in appearance may develop, although it usually takes weeks or even months of prolonged use of heated seats for this to happen. 

Since this condition comes on slowly, most people don’t realize it has occurred until significant damage to their skin has already taken place.

Also, if you have passengers who are paralyzed from the waist down, heated seats could pose a health risk. Since these individuals will have no feeling in their legs, a heated seat that was not shutting off properly could lead to serious burns to the lower part of their body. 

Though few documented cases of this happening exist, some auto manufacturers have in the past been sued by such individuals who sustained injuries in similar situations.

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!