Polypropylene vs Polycarbonate vs ABS Luggage: What’s the Best Luggage Material?

| Updated: August 7, 2019
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There are three main types of hardside luggage materials to consider. These choices include polypropylene vs polycarbonate vs ABS Luggage — all of which have their advantages and disadvantages.

Apart from what it’s made from, when choosing which luggage is best there are many variables to consider.

Size is the first thing. If you plan to carry your bag on the plane, you may want to consider something that’s a bit smaller, as well as lighter.

Many airlines have a very strict guideline when it comes to weight and size of carry-on bags.

If you are checking your bag, you have more options, as the restrictions aren’t as strict for checked bags.

In addition to weight and size, you’ll want to consider durability, as luggage handlers aren’t always very careful when moving bags.

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Polypropylene vs polycarbonate vs ABS – what’s the best luggage?

What to Consider When Choosing Hardside vs Softside Luggage

When it comes to choosing hardside vs softside luggage, it all depends on preference and what type of traveling in which you choose to use your luggage.

As stated earlier, you may want to consider something very durable if you plan to check your bag. Hardside luggage is the better option for checked bags, as it offers more protection for the contents inside the bag.

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If you’re planning to carry-on your bag, you may want to consider softside luggage. This will be lighter and easier to move around when you have to take it in and out of overhead bins.

Another advantage of softside bags is that you can usually pack them a little more, as the sides have a little room to expand.

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Comparison of Hardside Luggage Materials

 PolycarbonateABSPolypropylene
Why should I
buy it?
Strongest of all three materials.Best if you’re on a budget.Great versatility, durable and lightweight.
AdvantagesVery strong, can withstand absuse.Lightweight, best price.Most versatility, a combo of light weight and durability.
DisadvantagesHeavier than others due to heavier duty plastic.Other materials are more durable.Not as durable as polycarbonate.
DurabilityMost durable.Least durable.Medium durability.
WeightHeaviest of all three.Medium weight, depends if it’s an ABS blend.Lightest on the market.
PriceMost expensive, depending on brand.Least expensive, depending on brand.Moderately priced, depending on brand, (close to the same price as polycarbonate)
BrandsMost major brands offer polycarbonate.Most major brands offer ABS.Typically, most major brands offer polypropylene.

Overview of Hardside Luggage Materials

If you decide that you want to carry hardside luggage, you have several options of material: polycarbonate, ABS, and polypropylene.

In the following section, we’ll explain the difference between the three.

What is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic that contains carbon. This plastic is unique as it is lighter than most aluminum luggage, is scratch resistant, and is less likely to crack during travel.

This type of plastic is used for a wide variety of applications including electronic components, construction, and even aircraft components.

Polycarbonate is known to be very durable. It is tested and designed to be temperature resistant, impact resistant, and scratch resistant. It is available in many colors including a transparent option.

Although you don’t want everyone seeing what you have, and it will still run through an x-ray machine at the airport, the transparent option will reduce any suspicion through security lines at the airport.

What is ABS?

ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) is another type of thermoplastic. ABS is lighter than polycarbonate, but it is not as durable. This makes ABS more common in cheaper luggage.

While ABS is not as durable, it is lightweight, making it a good option if you plan to carry on your hardside luggage.

ABS is often added to polycarbonate luggage. This combination adds durability and takes away a little bit of the weight.

This is a great option for those who travel often. When traveling often, both weight and durability are important.

What is Polypropylene?

Polypropylene is the lightest plastic on the market today that you will find in luggage. Polypropylene is not as durable as polycarbonate, but it does still have some of the same features.

This type of plastic also has a wide variety of applications and is the second-most commonly used plastic in the world. It is most often used for packaging and labeling.

Polypropylene is (similar to polycarbonate) both temperature and chemical resistant. It is offered in suitcases with a wide variety of options including expansion options and wheels.

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Polypropylene vs Polycarbonate vs ABS Luggage Comparison

When you compare polypropylene vs polycarbonate vs ABS luggage, there are several important things to consider. Weight, size, durability, and cost are the most important factors.

While each luggage material has its advantages and disadvantages, some luggage types will be better in certain situations than others.

This also means that there isn’t a perfect one. One may be better for you, while one may be better for someone else.

Ask yourself what type of traveling you do, how often you travel, and what type of items you pack with you. This will help you decide which luggage is best for your situation.

Durability

While all three types of plastic are at least somewhat durable, polycarbonate luggage is going to be the most durable.

This type of plastic is both impact and scratch resistant, which makes it stand out the most in the durability category.

Polypropylene is the second-most durable of the three types of plastic. Although not quite as strong as polycarbonate, it is still temperature and chemical resistant. This type of plastic can handle minor drops, but over time it is at more risk of getting cracked.

ABS comes in as the least durable of all three plastics, although that doesn’t mean that it will break easily. ABS has the advantage of weight, but the disadvantage of durability.

Weight

Polypropylene is the best option if weight is your main focus. These suitcases are the lightest on the market, in fact, even lighter than aluminum suitcases.

This is the best option if you plan to use your luggage often and need something that is very lightweight with medium durability.

ABS is the second lightest option, but it tends to be the least durable. If you’re not planning to use your ABS luggage too often, this could be a great option for you.

Polycarbonate, although the most durable, tends to be the heaviest of the three types of plastic. If you’re not super concerned with weight, this may be the best option for you, especially if you plan to travel often.

Price

As with anything, the price will vary with the brand name, size, quality, features, and materials.

If you’re looking for the lowest price, you may want to stick with an ABS only suitcase. These are typically cheaper to manufacture, but the quality will not be near that of polypropylene or polycarbonate suitcases.

While a bit pricier than ABS, polycarbonate and polypropylene luggage will be more durable and will last a bit longer if it is abused.

Add-ons and extra features such as easy locks, wheels, and expansions will add more on to the price, depending on the brand.

Design

When comparing polypropylene vs polycarbonate vs ABS luggage, you may find several different designs. Although most have a similar look, there are subtle differences that make each piece of luggage unique.

There are different options available on the market as well that can make each piece of luggage competitive.

Sometimes you will find extra-thick ABS that will be more durable than many other ABS luggage models, as well as thinner polycarbonate to reduce weight.

You will also find things such as TSA locks (that make TSA inspection faster), expansion zippers, and wheels that make traveling more convenient, as well as getting through the airport quicker.

Of course, most of these types of luggage are available in many colors, shapes, and sizes.

Brand

Delsey, Samsonite and Travelpro are among some of the highest rated luggage brands today. All three are similar in many ways, and all three have their advantages over the other.

In general, all three use a polycarbonate, polypropylene, or ABS plastic in their hardside luggage.

Of the three, Delsey seems to have the best prices with the highest quality materials. With their cheapest suitcase being an ABS/polycarbonate blend, you can expect durability without the weight.

Samsonite offers high-quality products, but they tend to be a bit more expensive than others. Of course, you get the respected name of Samsonite with that price tag.

Travelpro, although around the same price as Delsey, has one main advantage over it and Samsonite. Travelpro products come with a lifetime warranty. This is especially important if you plan to travel often.

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Choosing the Best Hardside Luggage

Delsey
Samsonite
Travelpro
Delsey Helium Aero 29" Expandable Spinner
Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 28" Luggage
Travelpro Maxlite 4 29" Hardside Spinner
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What’s the Best Hardside Luggage Material?

When it comes to the best hardside luggage, there is no definite answer. Many things need to be considered when choosing luggage, such as how often you travel, what type of things will you be packing, and how rough/careful will your luggage be handled?

All in all, polypropylene will be the best option that offers both durability and a lightweight design. Although polycarbonate is much tougher, it will be a bit heavier. ABS is also not a bad option, but it won’t be as tough and lightweight as other materials.

Polypropylene is the most versatile. If you’re a frequent traveler (once a month or so) with standard items (clothes, toiletries, etc.) this may be the best option for you.

If you fly very often (once a week or more) you may want to consider polycarbonate. This material is a bit heavier but will last through the abuse of continuous travel.

If you don’t travel very often (several times a year) an ABS/ABS blend may be the best option for you, as it is the least expensive.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out my detailed luggage review of Delsey vs Samsonite and my other guides on the best travel duffel bags or the best waterproof backpacks.