Let’s face it, floor mats are more or less a necessity in the car world. They protect your carpet from the dangers of the universe – spills, mud, dirt, you name it. Most of the time, floor mats are the first things to go into a new car. Sometimes dealerships will even include them with the car fresh off the lot. They’re just that essential. (My dealership didn’t, which I’m still pretty annoyed about, but that’s another story for another time.)
The good news is, floor mats are so necessary and have been around for so long that by now there are tons of different types out there to fit a variety of budgets. All of them do their main job -protecting your carpet- but they all have their key differences. So we took three of the most common floor mats in the industry and put them head to head to see who comes out on top. This is…
The Battle of The Floor Mats
Custom Floor Mats
Custom floor mats are a great choice if you’re looking for the absolute best protection there is. They’re designed to fit every nook and cranny of your vehicle, which means that no inch, no centimeter, no nanometer is left unprotected. Of course, this also means they come with the appropriate price tag; custom floor mats can run you up into the hundreds. For some people, the investment is undoubtedly worth every penny. But for others, maybe those with secondhand vehicles (or just who are a little more budget conscious) the idea of sinking so much money into floor mats of all things is enough to make their wallets cringe.
The unique nature of custom floor mats makes them more specific and difficult to manufacture and produce than their universal counterparts, which can be mass produced in huge numbers due to a large and constant demand. Retailers and manufacturers don’t wants a giant inventory of 1998 Toyota Corolla floor mats just hanging around gathering dust, so generally speaking custom floor mats are usually made to order. That means once you go through and purchase them, you still have to wait for them to be made before they’re even shipped out to you, and that’s on top of the dreaded wait for them to be delivered. That’s a pretty sharp contrast to the universal floor mats you can grab off the shelf at Target while you’re picking up some windshield wiper fluid.
But the most important thing to consider with custom floor mats is that when they say custom, they mean custom. Manufacturers get down into the nitty gritty of every little detail so you need to really do your research before taking the jump and ordering. Make sure you know exactly what vehicle you’re driving. This sounds like common sense but you can order custom floor mats with the correct year, make, and model but with something as silly as the wrong trim and potentially throw off the entire order. The mistake might end up being pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but if you’re spending $400 on floor mats in the first place, don’t you want them to be perfect? It’s worth it to take a few extra minutes to make sure you’re ordering exactly what you need.
If you can manage to get past the staggering price point, custom floor mats are undoubtedly the best you can get. Not only will they protect your carpet the best, but aesthetically they definitely take the top spot too.
Universal Floor Mats
Universal floor mats are an awesome alternative to custom floor mats – in fact, the majority of people end up buying them. They come at a fraction of the cost and for the most part, any set you pick up will be able to fit in your vehicle. They’re also much easier to find – you can order them online, pick them up at Walmart, and sometimes even snag them from your local car wash. This makes them convenient, easy, and kind of idiot-proof; a far cry from the research and patience (not to mention the fund$$$) involved in buying custom floor mats.
The downside to universal floor mats is that while they do work well enough for most vehicles, they’re never going to be a perfect fit. They leave areas of your carpet vulnerable to debris and tend to slip and slide around beneath your feet, which exposes even more of the carpet and can lead to getting dirt and mud where you don’t want it – which is exactly why you bought the floor mats in the first place. And for some oversized or specialty vehicles, universal floor mats might not work out at all. But this is the sacrifice made for their affordable price and their ease of availability. For most consumers, universal floor mats fit their needs just fine and the minor annoyances of not fitting perfectly and sometimes sliding around are easily dealt with.
As time goes on and manufacturers are reacting to their customers’ demands, new varieties of universal floor mats are popping up in the wild all the time. Even larger vehicles like work vans now have access to affordable universal floor mats that can work for their size and newer materials and advances in engineering allow for floor mats that are less prone to slipping and sliding. Universal floor mats are definitely not to be counted out. They have their spot in the race.
Trimmable Floor Mats
Trimmable floor mats, also known as trim-to-fit or snip-to-fit floor mats, are something of a happy medium between universal floor mats and custom floor mats. Their cost skews more towards the affordable prices of their universal brethren, but their unique ability to be trimmed to a certain shape or size allows for a more accurate fit more reminiscent of custom floor mats. Most trimmable floor mats are made of rubber or vinyl, which provides adequate protection from spills and debris but also allows for easy cutting. The secret is in the trim lines, which are etched into the material giving you a guideline to cut.
The price of trimmable floor mats are a bit higher than universal floor mats which may tend to turn some people off of them. Why pay more for a product that you have to actually work to make fit when you can pay less for something that works right out of the box? Well, look at it this way. Universal floor mats are a one-size-fits-all kind of deal, except sometimes one size doesn’t truly fit all. For a couple of dollars more, you can get floor mats that you can spend ten minutes trimming to really fit your car. No exposed carpet. No slipping and sliding. Is it worth it? Well, that’s a personal thing. I’d rather spend an extra $10 and play with a pair of scissors than spill my coffee on the way to work and have it miraculously end up in that one spot my universal floor mats couldn’t cover. And besides, it only takes a few minutes.
Before you make any snips, cuts, or trims, check out how the floor mats fit in your car straight out of the box first without any adjustments at all. This gives you a pretty good idea of where you need to cut, which saves you time and eliminates the guesswork. In some cases you might only need to trim the corners. For me, I had to go to town and chop the whole thing up. That’s why it’s good to get a visual of what you’re working with before you start hacking away; the last thing you want is to trim too much away, leaving you with exposed and unprotected carpet.
Here’s my tip: Trace over where you want to cut with a Sharpie so you have an easy to follow guide and won’t lose track halfway through cutting and want to jump into oncoming traffic. I’m speaking from experience.
Once you have your shape and size set, it’s as simple as cutting on the trim lines. Some thicker materials like super heavy duty rubber might require a sharper instrument like a box cutter, but generally speaking most trimmable floor mats can be snipped with a standard pair of household scissors. Just another point to add to their convenience. This is where my tip about the Sharpie comes in handy. If you already have everything traced out, you just have to worry about following the lines and it’s all gravy baby.
After that…admire your handiwork for a minute and then stick your floor mats in your car and enjoy them. Of course, the fit isn’t ever going to be as perfect as custom floor mats will be, but for the price you pay and the minimal effort involved, trimmable floor mats are a pretty good deal. Plus, you feel pretty accomplished afterwards.
How They Compare
So now that we know a little bit about floor mats, it’s obvious that each type has its own unique advantages and drawbacks beyond just the price tag. Let’s have a quick look at the basic pros and cons of them:
CUSTOM FLOOR MATS
Fits like a glove – You’re not getting better protection or fit from any other mats on this list
Looks awesome – They’ll look like they were made for your car…because they were
Long-term solution – You’re paying a pretty penny, but these mats will last you a hot minute
Expensive – You better be ready to spend that money, honey!
Limited availability – Usually made to order, and generally need to be ordered online
New models have to wait – Your 2018 supercar isn’t getting mats right off the assembly line
UNIVERSAL FLOOR MATS
Affordable – You can buy some universal floor mats for less than the price of a tank of gas
Easy to find and buy – You can pick them up almost anywhere – online or in stores
Constant demand – Manufacturers are always expanding and improving designs
Slip and slide – These guys don’t always want to stay where you want them to
Not a perfect fit – One size fits all doesn’t always really mean one size fits all
TRIMMABLE FLOOR MATS
Great value – You’re getting the most bang for your buck with these
Fits most vehicles – Can work for almost any vehicle under the sun
Complete protection – You get to snip them to fill every little nook and cranny
You. Better. Work. – Some minor customer labor required
Nobody’s perfect – Not as flawless of a fit as custom floor mats
One shot, one opportunity – If you trim too much, that’s it! Hope you have some hot glue handy
So how do they stack up?
Any type of floor mat has the potential to be a great fit for you. It just depends what you’re looking for and what kind of budget you’re working with. For some people, trimmable floor mats might be a no brainer but others might not want to put in the extra effort of sizing them out and cutting them to fit. And there are definitely people out there who would absolutely lay down the cash for custom floor mats without blinking an eye or even giving a second though to the other options.
So take the time to think about not only what you want, but what you need. No matter what you choose, the most important part is that the floor mats will be doing their job…which is to protect your carpet!