As you probably already know, mats and liners are a rather simple cover for a vehicle's floor and footwell area, protecting the carpet from the dusty, snowy, and muddy outside world that gets tracked in by your shoes.
We can't blame you if you're thinking, “Floor mats. I put my feet on them. Who cares?" But as a vehicle owner, you should care. And here's why.
You need the protection
These simple mats that you beat with your feet are a surprisingly important part of basic maintenance. Rather than staining the carpet, the floor mat takes your abuse instead. This is especially true in areas with terrible winters. That frozen slush you track into your ride will eventually melt, and with no carpet protection, it's going straight to the floor pan to cause rust.
They're an easy way to customize your ride (and maintain its value)
If you ever plan to resell your vehicle, a stained carpet can reduce resale value. A savvy buyer will know that rust may lurk underneath, and the rest of them will think it just looks bad.
Aesthetics aren't just for resale value, though. If you're the owner of stained vehicle carpets, new mats are a cheap and effective way to refresh your car's interior.
Floor liners are a little different from floor mats and are a good option for Snow Belt dwellers, parents, and commuters who eat many a meal on the road. Liners are laser-cut plastic that exactly match the floor pan and footwell areas of your vehicle. Spill an entire Big Gulp, and it won't damage the carpet, as the liner's grooves and channels catch and hold it all. If they get nasty, just pull them out and hose off. You can't do that with your carpet.
Your Floor Mat Options
Replacing your old trashed mats can be a bit complicated with all the options out there. You can hit up the dealer, where replacements will cost you roughly $200 to $300. That's a lot of cash for something that looks like it should be 40 bucks, tops.
Many companies produce generic mats and liners designed for universal fit. Those are about as sexy as a brown paper grocery bag, but at least they work. They start around $10 each, or about $30 for a more upscale set of four with carpeting in strategic areas of the rubber mat. That's not a bad deal for protection that looks decent. For best results with universal mats, measure the space they will cover before purchase, to ensure they will lie flat. Also, look for a grippy surface on the back as it helps keep the mat out from under the pedals.
If you're a superfan of the local team, or just have an obsession with a favorite childhood cartoon, themed floor mats can add a custom touch. From pro and college football, MLB and NASCAR, to old-school Warner Bros characters, there's a floor mat set for every type of enthusiast.
Of course, if you're looking for something a little higher end, Porsche makes a nice set of carbon-fiber floor mats for a totally reasonable $895. Or, you could save that money and put it towards college tuition?
If your vehicle is running unprotected carpet, look into a set of mats or liners soon. This affordable item can make your vehicle more livable—and nicer looking—for many miles down the road.
Have your floor mats helped you out by keeping your vehicle clean? Do you have a favorite brand? Tell us in the comments.