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How we test luggage

CHOICE has decades of experience testing the durability of suitcases.

carry on suitcase being tested in shower rig
Last updated: 02 November 2019

Australians love to travel, and CHOICE is here to help you choose a sturdy, easy-to-manoeuvre suitcase that won't add to the frustration of getting to your dream destination. Our luggage test puts popular carry-on and check-in sized suitcases through some pretty rough treatment to find out which ones will help your trip go smoothly.

We've got decades of experience testing suitcases, and despite high-tech materials and increasingly lightweight styles coming on to the market, little has changed: in 1966 our suitcase report included a user trial along with a range of lab-based performance tests, just as it does today.

Similarly, the brand and style of suitcase was as much a concern in the fashion-conscious sixties as it is now. "Business men are just as prone to the prestige angle as women," says the 1966 report. "Just watch at any international airport and see how many men own really expensive suitcases!"

How CHOICE tests suitcases

CHOICE puts suitcases through their paces

Our expert testers

CHOICE experts use specialised equipment to conduct durability tests on our suitcases. We invest member funds into new, useful equipment to help determine which suitcases will last the distance.

How we choose what we test

Our market researchers survey major manufacturers and scour the market to see what's out there. We include both "luxury" brands as well as cheap suitcases from national chain stores, to see if it's really worth paying more.

Once our market research is completed, we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure they are the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.

How we test

Our suitcases go through many comprehensive assessments:

Performance tests

  • Lift and drop test: We load our carry-on suitcases with 4kg of clothes, while check-in suitcases are loaded with 15kg. Using a custom test rig, we drop the suitcases wheels-first onto a concrete floor 300 times from a height of 90cm. Damage is then assessed; models which survive unscathed receive 100%, whereas ones with missing wheels or severe holes score zero.
  • Puncture test: A heavy pointed cylinder is dropped on to the suitcase surface to see whether any damage occurs.
  • Rain test: In this unforgiving test, we stuff suitcases with newspaper and put them under our custom-made shower rig which simulates a ten-minute downpour. We then assess the cases to see how wet the newspaper becomes.
  • Stability test: We load the suitcases (carry-on is loaded with 4kg and check-in is loaded with 15kg) and tilt them to see whether they will tip at a certain angle. Anything that tips at 6° or less is considered unstable and rated 'poor'; 6° to 15° is considered reasonably stable and 'fair'. Anything above this is rated stable ('good').

Ease of use tests

Three triallists, including our expert tester, take the suitcases for a walk around the CHOICE building, as well as through our local streets and parks. When rating ease of use they look at:

  • Moving the suitcase out of a lift
  • Moving the suitcase down the stairs
  • Taking the suitcase along carpet, asphalt, and cement pathways
  • Comfort (including handle grip)
  • Stability

Test criteria explained

Our suitcases are ranked on performance (60%) and ease of use (40%).

Performance consists of the lift and drop test (60%), puncture test (10%), rain test (10%) and stability test (20%).

Ready to buy?

Check out our latest luggage reviews.

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