Ventilated Seats vs. Cooled Seats: What's the Difference?

Learn more about this popular feature and when you might want to get one over the other.

Car control panel with seat cooling ventilationShutterstock

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If you're buying a car, you may be curious about the difference between ventilated seats vs. cooled seats. Both technologies circulate air through tiny perforations in the seat upholstery to keep you comfortable in hot weather. Cooled seats blow cool air — that may or may not be refrigerated — on the seat occupant. Ventilated seats operate similarly, but they never use refrigerated air.

You'll find these features in many modern vehicles, and they can make the driving experience more pleasant for you and your passengers. So, here's what you need to know when evaluating ventilated seats vs. cooled seats as an addition for your next vehicle.

How Do Cooled Seats and Ventilated Seats Work?

Ventilated seats and cooled seats are alike in many ways. But there's also a critical difference between the two.

Various cooled seats use different methods to maintain a pleasant temperature for seat occupants. With one common approach, fans and ducts placed within the seat circulate air through the seat's upholstery. In some cases, this air is refrigerated. This refrigerated air may come either from a seat's cooling element or the car's air conditioning system.

Ventilated seats are similar to cooled seats in that they use fans and ducts placed within the seat to circulate air to the seat occupant. Unlike cooled seats, however, ventilated seats never use refrigerated air. Some ventilated seats suck air into the seat, creating an evaporative effect that can cool the body. Others use fans to blow air directly on the seat occupant.

Which Seats Are Better in Hot Weather?

Both ventilated and cooled seats can keep you cooler in the cabin on hot days. On the hottest days, though — and especially in humid weather — cooled seats that use refrigerated air may deliver better results. Refrigerated air helps these seats cool down seat occupants quickly and effectively. That means if you live in a region that frequently experiences hot and humid weather, cooled seats might be an excellent choice.

Which Automakers Offer Cars With These Seats?

Ventilated and cooled seats aren't as prevalent as another seat-related feature: heated seats. Still, cooled and ventilated seats are widely available. You'll find them in cars and SUVs made by premium brands like Tesla, Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz. You'll also find them in vehicles made by brands with less expensive pricing, such as Toyota, Honda, and Mazda.

Keep in mind that if you like a particular model, that carmaker won't typically give you a choice between cooled and ventilated seats. Some models offer cooled seats, and some provide ventilated seats; models typically don't give a buyer the option to choose between these two technologies. That means if you favor one technology over the other, you'll have to find a model that offers it.

Also, different automakers use different approaches when executing these technologies. Some methods work better than others. Whether you're buying a new or used car, if this amenity matters to you, it's a good idea to test this feature on the vehicle you're considering before you sign on the dotted line. You can evaluate a car's cooled or ventilated seats during your test-drive.

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Warren Clarke
A car purchase is a big decision. And once you've made the purchase, you'll be faced with countless other choices that will affect your ownership experience one way or another. Throughout my career in the automotive industry, I've written everything from vehicle reviews to articles covering topics such as car insurance and leasing. My mission is to help you make the best decisions regarding your vehicle.