Protective automotive coverings come in two basic categories: mats and liners. The mats are flat, with a more or less perfect fit. Good protective mats, like Weathertech or Lloyd, have high ridges and deep wells or channels between the ridges, to separate and contain the dirt and moisture from your feet. The liners are molded, also with a more or less perfect fit, to the shape of the vehicle floor, with high lips that run up the walls of the foot-wells or cargo space. This creates a basin that contains the dirt, moisture and spills. Good liners also have a channel/ridge pattern that helps keep your feet dry. So what is the best protective floor covering? As always, it depends on your needs and how much you want to spend. Mats are generally cheaper than liners, and universal mats are cheaper than custom fit mats. The cheapest mats can turn out to be very expensive in the long run. It is wise to stay away from the thin and flimsy universal mats that you find in department stores. They can do more harm than good as they have a tendency to wrinkle and move every time you put your feet on them, offering little or no protection while causing irritation and trouble. They can even be dangerous, as they can get stuck under the gas pedal if they are not properly anchored.
Make sure that mats stay in place
If you decide to buy mats, get the best fitting mats you can find, and make sure that the front row mats can be securely fastened to the anchoring points provided on modern cars, or that they have some other feature ensuring that they stay in place. Thick and well fitting protective mats not only offer better protection than the thin universal mats, catching more dirt and moisture; they also stay in place. Custom fit mats that are cut for a perfect fit to your specific vehicle of course offer the best protection and comfort, but they also cost more. There are also mats, both universal and custom fit, that feature a peripheral ridge designed to keep the dirt and moisture in place, but as mats lie flat on the floor, they always leave a crevice around the perimeter that can trap dirt and debris. To eliminate this crevice you must choose a floor liner. Protective floor liners not only cover the floor. They also cover an inch or two of the walls of the foot-wells, thus eliminating the crevice around the periphery of the floor. Some liners have a lip that covers the whole outer side of the foot-well and part of the threshold. This makes it very easy to empty out the liner without spills.
Sophisticated materials provide perfect protection and nice feel
Most protective mats and liners have a rubber-like surface, but don't let yourself be fooled by the look; modern automotive floor protection is very sophisticated. Most mats and liners are made in purpose designed thermoplastics, sometimes in layers, with different properties for the different layers to provide a mat or liner that has a slip-resistant backing, a middle layer providing the desired stiffness, and a top surface that is easy to clean and has a nice look, touch and feel. Modern floor protection is odorless, regardless of temperature, it is made in materials that stay flexible in extreme cold, that never get sticky in hot weather and don't bleach in intense sunlight. Different brands feature mats and liners with slightly different look and feel to the surface. There are even protective liners and floor and cargo mats that feature a carpeted surface, some with color matching to the original interior floor covering for a perfect, original look, while still providing the same level of protection and easy cleaning as the liners and mats with a thermoplastic surface.
by Peter Altrem on