People’s luggage requirements tend to be unique to their particular travel style or situation. There are four main materials used for hardside material: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polypropylene, Polycarbonate (PC), and Aluminum.
If your decision is going to be based on cost alone, ABS will be the choice for you, being the cheapest of the group.
If you’re looking for something that fits your budget while also being sturdy enough for long-term travel, consider luggage made from either Polypropylene of Polycarbonate
And finally, if the cost is not an issue and you’re looking for the most durable kind of suitcase, go for Aluminium.
In the table above we’ve compared the four materials used for hardside luggage, by price, durability, and weight. You’ll also find more information below specific to each material. Hopefully this will help you judge what material is going to work best for you.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
Short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, ABS is a mix of three different materials. Although it’s widely used in other industries as well, it’s the most popular material used for hardside suitcases. Especially in affordable luggage, due to its cheap production costs. Often, you can get a full ABS luggage set for the price of a single polycarbonate suitcase.
When compared to other plastics used in hard-shell suitcases, ABS is the most rigid one. However, the rigidness doesn’t account for durability, because both polypropylene and polycarbonate are more durable and will last longer. Due to non-flexibility ABS suitcases are more likely to get cracks in the hard case.
Lastly, ABS is more lightweight than polycarbonate, but not as light as polypropylene. This is why cheaper hardside suitcases are often more lightweight than the more expensive cases made from PC (Polycarbonate).
PC, short for Polycarbonate is the second most popular material used in hardside suitcases.
PC is much more impact resistant than ABS or Polypropylene. Upon first picking up ABS and Polycarbonate suitcases, you would think that ABS is more durable, because of its rigidness. But it’s actually not. Polycarbonate is much more flexible and offers more resistance to cracks, which is why it’s the perfect choice for applications where high durability is needed.
However, the enhanced durability comes at a cost, because PC is much more expensive than ABS and polypropylene, and also heavier.
Polypropylene is pretty rarely used in luggage when compared to ABS or Polycarbonate.
It’s the most lightweight material of the three, and it’s also pretty durable – It’s more durable than ABS but not as durable as polycarbonate. In terms of costs, it’s also not as expensive as PC and priced somewhat similarly to ABS suitcases.
Unfortunately, one thing I’ve always noticed with polypropylene suitcases is that they feel cheap. Because of their weight and flexibility, I’ve always perceived polypropylene suitcases as less durable than ABS or PC, which isn’t true. In actuality, the perceived durability might be the reason why polypropylene isn’t so popular in luggage.
Out of all hardside suitcase materials, Aluminum is the most durable.
A clear icon of aluminum suitcases is Rimowa. They’ve been making aluminum suitcases since 1937, and their cases are almost indestructible. The durability lies in the material itself because aluminum is so tough to break. When put under high pressure, aluminum is likely to bend instead of cracking.
However, aluminum is pretty rarely used in suitcases. Mainly, because it’s heavier than plastics and costs much, much more. Usually, aluminum suitcases cost 500$-1200$, which is expensive when compared to say, durable polycarbonate suitcases, which can be bought for 100$-200$.
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