Now that travel is back on the agenda, many of us are locking in the trips we've had to delay for years thanks to COVID.
But with living costs starting to bite, you may find you're having to adjust your travel budget so you can still make the most of your adventures. If your luggage is on its last legs, you're probably dreading having to spend money on a new suitcase instead of on more margaritas on the beach.
The suitcases in our recent test ranged in price from $40 for an Aldi suitcase all the way up to $625 for a Samsonite hard-shell case – that's quite a difference! (And quite a few margaritas.)
"You could buy the $40 Aldi carry-on plus return flights from Sydney to Melbourne and you still wouldn't have spent as much as the recommended retail price of the Samsonite," says CHOICE luggage tester Matthew Tung.
So how are you supposed to know how much to spend on carry-on luggage? And does the extra money really make a difference?
Here's everything you need to know about cheap vs expensive carry-on suitcases.
Some suitcases cost more than a cheap international flight, but is the RRP a good indicator of how much you should spend? Not really, says CHOICE expert Kim Gilmour.
"Expensive suitcases are almost always on sale, so there's rarely any reason to pay full price," she says.
"While hard-shell suitcases from the big brands still aren't cheap even with a hefty discount, if you shop around you should be able to find a price that's well below the RRP."
Keep an eye out for good deals around Black Friday, End of Financial Year and Boxing Day sales.
What does a more expensive suitcase buy you?
With hundreds of dollars' difference between the cheapest and most expensive suitcases in our test, what differentiates them from each other?
When you're trying to squeeze in under the weight limit, every gram counts – and a heavier suitcase can curtail what you can bring with you. This is especially important if you're travelling just with carry-on – you want to squeeze as much out of the 7kg carry-on allowance as possible.
You'd imagine that expensive suitcases might have the edge over cheaper ones in terms of weight due to the more expensive materials used, or special designs that can reduce weight.
Indeed, the two lightest suitcases we tested were from Samsonite:
- The Samsonite Lite-Shock Sport 55cm hard case weighs 1.64kg and has an RRP of $625
- The Samsonite 72 hours DLX 55cm soft case weighs 1.8kg and has an RRP of $329
But the $40 Aldi soft case weighs only 2.1kg and is the same size as these two Samsonite suitcases. Is that 460g weight saving really worth $585 extra?
There's no denying that some of the hard-shell cases do look schmick compared to the plainer cheap options. And a brightly-coloured hard case is easier to spot in a sea of luggage. (Though obviously that's not a consideration with carry-on luggage, only if you check it through.)
More expensive suitcases may come with luxe linings, extra pockets, good-quality zippers and handy compartments that you might not find in cheaper products.
If you have the money and a good-looking suitcase brings you joy, then who are we to judge?
But if you'd rather spend your money on experiences at your destination, are you really going to be paying attention to what your clothes are stored in?
CHOICE experts use specialised equipment to run durability tests on carry-on and check-in luggage. Suitcases get dropped, rained on, dragged around and generally knocked about under test conditions so we can find the best quality brands.
The cheapest and best carry-on suitcases
CHOICE members can access detailed reviews from our luggage test to discover which suitcases impressed our experts the most. Become a CHOICE member or sign in to see the results from our latest carry-on luggage test, including the CHOICE Expert Rating; results for the lift and drop test and puncture test; and other features that make these three suitcases stand out options for anyone looking to spend less on luggage, so they can spend more on their holiday (or margaritas).
Unlock this article and more
- Information you can trust
- See the best brands
- Avoid the worst performers
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.