Wheeled luggage has been a godsend to travelers trying to move quickly and efficiently through airports and around the world. Unfortunately, when it comes to finding a quality wheeled suitcase, consumers face a lot of bumps along the way.
Wheeled suitcases have more parts, which means there are more things that can potentially break. In addition, because wheeled suitcases are pushed, pulled and dragged around, they take a little more abuse than non-wheeled luggage. This makes it difficult for travelers to find a bag that will be with them for the long haul.
This guide will help you make an informed decision when purchasing your next piece of wheeled luggage. It contains insights and practical advice on how to buy wheeled luggage that will suit your travel needs for years to come.
Know Your Wheels
If we’re going to talk about how to buy wheeled luggage, it only makes sense that we should start off by talking about the wheels.
- When it comes to wheels, bigger is better. Larger wheels roll easier and are less likely to get snagged on cracks and pebbles.
- Look for soft wheels. They’ll make less noise and are less likely to get caught on rocks.
- Try to find wheels that can easily be replaced. That way, if they break, the manufacturer only has to send you a part instead of requiring you to ship the entire suitcase off for repairs.
Your next question might be whether you should buy two-wheeled or four-wheeled luggage. The answer depends on your needs, style and destination.
- Two-wheeled bags move more easily over uneven surfaces, such as concrete or dirt roads.
- Two-wheeled suitcases feature recessed wheels, meaning they are built into the construction of the bag. This makes the wheels less likely to break off. This also makes the suitcase easier to fit into tight spaces, such as an overhead bin.
- Because these wheels only go backward and forward, you may have problems making quick movements or maneuvering through checkpoints, turn-styles and aisles.
- The configuration of the wheels means any two-wheeled bag must be rolled width-wise down the aisle of a plane, which can sometimes be a tight squeeze.
Four Wheels [Spinners]
- Spinner luggage can move around in 360 degrees, making it easier to push or pull your luggage down airplane aisles or through tight spaces.
- Spinner luggage is easier on your arms and back.
- Sometimes spinners are built with their wheels in close proximity to each other, which can create instability. This can make it difficult to stack another suitcase on top or hang a bag with a strap on the handle.
- If your bag is on an incline, a spinner will roll on its own.
- Because the wheels on a spinner are externally mounted, they are more likely to break.
- Spinners don’t maneuver well over uneven surfaces, such as concrete or dirt roads.
How to Handle Telescopic Handles
The telescopic handle is the most frequently repaired piece of a rolling suitcase. Handles may break because of careless baggage handlers, from damage to the internal framework or just sub-par construction. Here’s what to look for to avoid your handle breaking midway to your destination.
- Look for handles with two bar construction. These handles are a lot sturdier and less likely to break.
- Handles that are housed inside your luggage are less likely to suffer external damage that will prevent them from opening.
- If the handle takes up a lot of the interior of the suitcase, it may be poorly constructed.
Worth the Weight?
Because wheeled suitcases feature additional machinery for the wheels and the handle, they often weigh more than your average bag. This can make it difficult to pack everything you need and still meet airline weight restrictions. The average airline weight restriction for a checked bag is 50 lbs. A wheeled suitcase can weigh up to 1/3 of that – before you pack your stuff!
- If you are buying a wheeled carry-on bag, try to find a suitcase that is 7.5 lbs. or lighter.
- If you are checking your luggage, choose a bag that weighs around 10 lbs. max.
Choose Your Corners: Round vs. Square
The corners of your wheeled luggage are likely to suffer some wear and tear, which is why many bags feature rounded corners to avoid getting dinged. However, this cuts down on how much can be packed into your bag. If the corners are square, you can pack more stuff, but your bag may be more susceptible to damage from bumping into a wall.
- If you need a lot of room, take the risk and go for the square corners.
- If you are likely to bump your bag into walls or if you frequently travel through thick crowds, go for a rounded case.
- If you aren’t sure, choose a bag based on your personal style and needs.
Some suitcases offer reinforced corners with extra material to avoid wear and tear. This can significantly cut down on potential damage to your bag.
Spotting a Winning Warranty
Because wheeled luggage is more likely than traditional luggage to suffer from wear and tear and, eventually, require repair, it is imperative you buy a bag that comes with a luggage warranty. Check out our warranties page for more information on the luggage warranties from various luggage brands.
- The minimum warranty you should get for a bag is three years.
- Research the warranty process online. Will they send you to a repair shop in your area, or will you have to ship your bag off to the manufacturer? Ensure that you’ll be able to have repairs done quickly and efficiently.
Exceptions to Every Rule
While we stand behind our recommendations, there are some great products that fall outside of our guidelines. We suggest that, in addition to our recommendations, you also consider the brand name, the construction of the overall bag and your own personal comfort level with the product and price.
Have you found a wheeled suitcase that you absolutely adore, or do you have any additional questions on how to choose the right wheeled suitcase? Share your insights in the comments section or contact us directly for help picking out the perfect bag.