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Try as you may, you can't stop the onslaught of dirt and water onto your vehicle's floorboard. That debris settles into your carpets, causing stains, mildew, and possibly permanent damage. Now more than ever, as new materials and sizing options offer precise, model-specific fits, floor mats can be pivotal in protecting your car's carpet from a slow death—and preserving your vehicle's resale value. But even the best armor has its pros and cons.
The Gear Team installed five different floor mats into various vehicles in Car and Driver's long-term test fleet. We'll be monitoring all of these over the coming weeks and months, comparing fit, wear and tear, cleanability, and more in an attempt to determine the best of the best. If you're thinking about new floor mats for your car or truck, stay tuned to find out which ones we recommend. In the meantime, here's what we know now.
NOTE: As of January 2024, this article summarizes our initial impressions of the five floor mats we are currently testing. These are not our test results. This article will be updated with our findings when the Gear Team's long-term test is complete.
Do I Need Floor Mats?
The main objective of a floor mat is to protect your vehicle's factory-installed carpet and, therefore, preserve the value of your vehicle. (We've all seen that WeatherTech commercial with the annoying salesman who changes his tune when he notices the floor mats n a potential trade-in.) Using floor mats not only prevents damaging substances from getting onto your carpet in the first place, but it also saves you time on cleanup.
Carpet is the floor covering of choice for most car and truck manufacturers because it improves insulation, deadens sound, and comes in various colors. However, carpet is a fibrous material that soils easily and is vulnerable to wear.
Dirt can get in from anywhere, but the real culprit in car-carpet wear is moisture. Moisture does more than just stain carpet; left to soak in, it can cause mildew and mold growth. Floor mats create a barrier between moisture and your vehicle's carpet, preventing the premature aging of your carpet and possibly protecting your health. (According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "molds produce allergens, or substances that can cause allergic reactions, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances, a.k.a. Mycotoxins.")
Another common compound responsible for grime is the road salt and ice melt used to clear snowy and icy roads, parking lots, and driveways. These products contain chemicals that damage carpet, such as calcium and magnesium carbonate, that can leave white stains. This alkaline residue not only attracts more dirt and grime but is also destructive to the fibers of your carpet if not cleaned immediately.
Lastly, if you're not the type to clean and vacuum your carpets routinely, you're leaving them vulnerable to premature wear. If car carpets aren't frequently vacuumed, dirt, sand, and grit will nestle into the small fibers, causing them to tear slowly and wear out faster. Additionally, this ground-in grit is the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
Things to Consider When Buying Floor Mats
All of the floor mats featured in our test are make- and model-specific. When you order yours, enter the correct year, make, and model of your vehicle to ensure the correct fit. You'll also want to consider if the mats have a feature that keep them locked in. For example, do they have cleats to hold them in place? Or perhaps clips that connect the mat to the trim? Either way, you'll want to ensure they are as secure as possible.
With fitted mats, cleaning your car's footwells is easy. How easy mats are to clean will depend on their groove depth and pattern, the cleaning products used, and good-ol' elbow grease.
While the cost of decent floor mats such as the ones we tested is an upfront investment, we don't recommend skimping on price. Rubberized mats protect your vehicle from carpet wear, tearing, and mold, which can be costly to repair.
Protecting the Resale Value
The visual condition of your vehicle is one of the most important factors when considering resale value. The better shape the floors are in, the higher the resale value.
Here's a preview of our Best Floor Mats test and review, coming soon.
Custom Fit FloorLiners
Test vehicle: Hyundai Ioniq 5
WeatherTech has several lines of floor covers, but for our purposes, we decided to test their best-selling line, the FloorLiner. According to WeatherTech, the FloorLiner uses a patented High-Density Tri-Extruded (HDTE) material. We're not exactly sure what that means, but "really hefty material" is probably a good working translation. Not only does WeatherTech research, design, manufacture, and test on their own products, but it's all done in the U.S. It is a remarkable achievement, considering it can be hard to trace the production and origin of a product nowadays.
During installation, getting the mats anchored with the OEM footings was rather tricky. But once they were on... *chef's kiss* perfect fit.
Weatherbeater Floor Liners
Test vehicle: Honda Accord
The Husky Liner WeatherBeater floor mats hit all the marks of what you would expect to see in a carpet protection solution. The walls of the floor liner cover the front, sides, and rear of the footwell, and cleats on the underside of the mat keep it from slipping and sliding. Husky Liners are affordable and laser-measured; installation only took about five minutes, and the mat settled perfectly into the footwell contours. We noticed a few gaps along the door side, but we're hoping that settles over time.
With Husky Liners, you get an extensive make/model selection, but most notably, Husky Liners are guaranteed to last the life of the vehicle. This is a significant perk since it is a guaranteed one-time investment.
Custom Fit Floor Liners
Test vehicle: Rivian R1T
We love SmartLiners floor mats and their extensive range of liner products. Upon unboxing, it was clear that the rubber-plastic and polythene blend used in their mats created a sturdier, more rigid feel compared to the other products. All the mats in this article form a "tub" for water retention and protection, and SmartLiners stood out as the "tubbiest" of all.
Installation in our long-term Rivian truck was simple and a definite upgrade from the OEM mats, especially regarding water protection. Given that the Rivian is exposed to a lot of dirt and water, the SmartLiner has its work cut out for it. However, with its robust material, we believe it will do just fine.
Test vehicle: Toyota Tundra
Rough Country is a brand that caters to trucks and Jeeps, offering a variety of aftermarket parts for interior, exterior, towing, steering, and more. For floor mats, their offering remains within the Truck and SUV models. While we're eager to assess long-term performance, the installation perplexed us.
First, replacing the already-rubberized optional Tundra mats that our truck came with ($179) with the Rough Country mats felt a little redundant. Now, redundancy is one thing, but unfortunately, they also felt like a downgrade. The installation was frustrating, even considering external factors like shipping issues and a lack of anchor points on the Tundra. We spent more time than we'd like to admit trying to flatten the mats to the floor and curves, but even so, there were considerable gaps for debris to catch and nestle into the carpets. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; the real test of time hasn't happened yet. For now, we are willing to consider the chance that these mats need some time to settle into their new home.
TuxMat Custom Floor Mats
Test vehicle: BMW i4
The TuxMat is decidedly different in appearance, material, construction, and installation than the others we tested. It appears to be a layered construction, using a waterproof vinyl outer layer instead of a traditional rubberized one. For the i4, these mats cover the entire footwell, floors, walls, and more. Hands down, these floor mats offered the most comprehensive interior coverage, the second-row's being so thorough, we had to lift the rear seat cushion to nestle the walls into place.
While TuxMats are impressive in their appearance and coverage, we are curious about their performance as a carpet protector; considering the multiple layers and stitching, we can't help but wonder if there's a weak point somewhere. TuxMat claims the vinyl is 100 percent waterproof, and we look forward to testing that.
How We're Testing Floor Mats
At Car and Driver HQ in Michigan, cars, slush, and salt are abundant. For this test, we equipped five long-term vehicles with floor mats for the winter season. Starting in December 2023, we installed the floor mats and left a notebook in each vehicle with these five prompts for our team of evaluators to record their opinions:
Do the floor mats provide sufficient traction to prevent slipping while entering or exiting the vehicle?
What is your overall impression of the aesthetic appeal of the floor mat in the car's interior?
In your opinion, how well does the floor mat fit and conform to the specific contours of the car floor?
Do you feel the installation of these mats has changed or reduced the noise/vibrations within the car's cabin?
Have you noticed any unusual odors associated with the floor mats?
Do you have any additional notes or thoughts regarding the installed floor mats?
In the spring, the Gear Team will remove the mats, assess the carpet beneath, and test the mats' durability and cleanability. We look forward to bringing you the results of our test.
A Note on Installation
We've only begun the testing process, but so far, we've got a few notes regarding unboxing, installation, and fitment of floor mats:
Even though second-row mats are designed to be a single, large piece of rubberized material that stretches across the entire floor, almost every rear mat we received was shipped folded in half by its manufacturer. Upon unboxing, unsightly creases and misshapen contours were obvious down the middle of each mat we had to unfold. While this is clearly a shipping approach, probably for logistical reasons, folding firm rubberized mats damages them—or at the very least, disfigures them. We hope it's temporary, and are eager to see if these contours and creases diminish over time.
Additionally, some floor mats posed installation challenges due to the type of footings that secure them. Some OEMs use hooks, some use a ball-and-socket latch, while others use a turn lock. Every company has its own way of securing its mats but we encountered issues with all of them.
For instance, installing WeatherTech mats in a Hyundai Ioniq 5 was tricky. The OEM hooks, originally intended to secure thin, floppy carpet mats, are positioned at a deep angle. This made it difficult for us to connect WeatherTech's trademark hard rubber mats to them. It would be unfair to fault WeatherTech for this, yet it was a hurdle installers should expect. When purchasing aftermarket floor mats, be aware there may be some unanticipated wrestling required.
How do I clean floor mats?
To clean your floor mats effectively, vacuum the channels to remove debris. Afterward, remove the mats, lay them on the ground, and use a hose or bucket with a gentle detergent for scrubbing. Rinse and let them air dry.
Are rubber or carpet floor mats better?
The real advantages of rubber mats are that they are waterproof, resist mold, and are easier to clean. The choice, however, ultimately depends on your needs, budget, and preferences.
What size floor mats do I need for my car?
Most companies offer make-and-model-specific floor mats. Input your year, make, and model to ensure the correct size for your car.
Are custom-fit floor mats worth it?
The value of custom floor mats depends on your definition of "worth it." While they offer complete coverage and protection, they come at a higher price point.
How often should I replace my car floor mats?
Your floor mats should last a long time, barring any accidents or exposure to extreme elements. Many companies provide a limited lifetime warranty, making it generally safe to consider floor mats a one-time purchase for your car.
Why Trust Us
Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as backup cameras, portable jump starters, and OBD-II scanners. We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers.
Hearst Autos doesn't need to game algorithms for traffic or promote lousy products. We're more concerned with our legacy, our reputation, and the trust that our readers have in Car and Driver, Autoweek, and Road & Track to deliver honest opinions and expert evaluations.
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