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I'm in the market for a new suitcase. I've never owned fancy-brand suitcase, and I'm not fussy about issues such as fashion and beauty/elegance of design, so it's unlikely I'll pay the premium for one of those.

My question is: How can I tell, when I'm looking at suitcases in some store...

  • Whether parts like the wheels, the zippers, the corners are likely to wear out quickly?
  • Whether there are specific sensitivities to certain kind of damage due to design/manufacturing faults?

... or other similar aspects of manufacturing quality?

  • 1
    You can't. That's the point of brands. I mean, sure you can discern 1000 denier Cordura from ordinary nylon but many, many deficiencies are difficult to see even for the trained eye much less than the untrained eye and it's unrealistic IMO to expect anyone here to train you as a specialist in this in a few paragraphs here. – chx May 11 '17 at 8:39
  • I buy cheap suitcases which will last a couple of years, instead of brand names at ten times the price which will last double the number of years. You can be lucky, you can be unlucky, with brands as well as with cheap ones. – Willeke May 11 '17 at 9:37
  • .Check for warranty; better brands will have better warranties. – Max May 11 '17 at 14:21
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This websites gives great advice.

Choosing A Bag

The Walls

High-denier industrial nylon fabrics are the way to go: in top quality luggage, the main choices are ballistic and Cordura® nylon, differences between the two being largely cosmetic in nature. Ballistic is a filament yarn, thus smooth and slick, with a very synthetic appearance, which some consider a "high tech" look (and which doesn't dye easily, so is often sold only in black). It is also two-ply, which gives it a slightly "nubby" texture. And it is the heavier (by 5%) of the two fabrics: 1050 vs. 1000 denier (be aware that denier is a measurement of weight, not strength or durability).

The Doors

The most failure-prone components of a bag are its zippers (replacing broken zippers is by far the most common task at luggage repair facilities); consequently, they provide a good place to begin inspecting luggage for quality. There are two basic types: chain and coil (compare photos at left). Modern chain-type zipper teeth are made from injection moulded resins (such as polyacetal and polyethylene), fused directly onto the zipper tape; they are incredibly strong (thus much more durable), more resistant to dirt & sand, and more secure (see "Luggage and Security"). Coil zippers (the coil is made from extruded polyester and sewn onto the zipper tape) are less expensive and more flexible (thus easier/cheaper to install.

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    "compare photos at left"? Also - typically nobody tells you what the material is... – einpoklum May 11 '17 at 15:49
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One proxy for quality is the warranty offered with it, or more specifically, the following criteria:

  • Any warranty at all? Yes/No
  • Length of warranty
  • Warrantor: Manufacturer/Store
  • Warranty covers: Everything/some of the parts
  • Compensation on failure: New suitcase of same kind / another suitcase / store credit / your money back

I was out buying a suitcase yesterday, and that's how I ended up choosing between two options.

Now, it's true that this does not actually guarantee quality, but that's at least something quantifiable, sort of.

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