Thinking about getting a new suitcase, but can’t decide between rollaboard vs spinner luggage?
Well, then you’re in the right place because in this article we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both.
Spinner suitcases have experienced a huge boom in popularity, but it doesn’t mean they’re better. For some, luggage with two skate wheels is a much smarter choice. Although suitcases with spinner wheels are easier to move around, they won’t be as durable, they’ll have less space inside, and they won’t perform that well on rough surfaces.
What Is Rollaboard Luggage (Other Called Inline or Upright)?
Rollaboard luggage, other known as “upright”, “inline”, “rolling”, or “two-wheeled” luggage, comes with two wheels and a retractable handle on top. Both wheels are attached to the backside of the suitcase, and the suitcase is pulled by the retractable handle at a 45-degree angle. Instead of “sticking out”, both wheels are somewhat integrated with the main structure, which makes them harder to break off.
Although it’s still debated who invented rolling suitcases first, it was either Briggs & Riley or Travelpro. and the idea originated sometime in the ’60s-’80s. Before that, the idea of wheeled suitcases seemed silly for everyone.
What Is Spinner Luggage?
Spinner luggage comes with four spinner wheels attached at the bottom of the suitcase. All wheels rotate in 360 degrees, which makes the bag much more maneuverable. Instead of pulling behind at a 45-degree angle, spinner suitcases can be pushed/pulled at a straight, 90-degree, vertical position, which is good for the spine. All four wheels are kind of “sticking-out”, which makes them easier to break off.
Some spinners come with four double spinner wheels (eight in total), instead of four regular ones. They’re slightly better because they’re more durable, and handle smoother on rough surfaces. Some brands also offer magnetic spinner wheels, which snap to a specific angle and roll in a straight position, and spherical spinner wheels, which are more durable, and better on rough surfaces.
It’s unclear who invented spinner luggage first, but it has become really popular lately, especially on hardside suitcases. Today, most people prefer spinners over rolling suitcases, just because they’re easier to maneuver.
Rollaboard vs Spinner Luggage: Which One Is Better?
Both wheel types have their own advantages and disadvantages, which is why spinner suitcases are better for some, but for some, only rolling suitcases make sense. Here, we’ll talk about how each type performs from various angles, such as moveability, durability, stability, e.t.c.
On smooth surfaces, spinner wheels are very easy to move around. However, on rougher ones, they become stuck between all the little crevices. On especially rough surfaces, you might even have to carry the spinner suitcase by the handle, to avoid damaging the wheels.
Because spinner wheels rotate in 360 degrees, the bag is much more maneuverable, as you can quickly turn it to any direction you want.
Here’s how both wheel types perform on different surfaces:
- On a carpet: Spinner wheels don’t get stuck on a carpet (at least, from my own experience), so they perform better than rolling wheels.
- On cobblestone streets: Rollaboards will be easier to move around because spinner wheels often get stuck between the cobblestones. I usually carry my spinner in hand whenever I have to cross a cobblestone street.
- On dirt/gravel: If the dirt/gravel isn’t too rough, then spinner wheels will roll as smooth as two rolling wheels. That said, if the surface is too rough, you’ll have to carry the spinner by a handle.
- On smooth surfaces: On smooth surfaces, spinner wheels work much better than rolling skate wheels. Instead of pulling the bag from behind, you can push it in front of you, which doesn’t put any strain on your back.
- On regular pavement/asphalt: In most touristy cities, except for old-towns in Europe, the roads will be covered with pretty smooth materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or bricks. Even on torn-down, cracked asphalt and brick surfaces, spinner wheels are still much easier to move around compared to regular skate wheels.
- On staircases: The wheel type doesn’t matter, because you’ll always have to carry your suitcase by the handle when walking stairs. You could potentially pull rollaboards when walking up, but it will ruin the wheels pretty quickly.
- In buses, metros, trains: In moving vehicles, two rolling wheels are better, because suitcases with spinner wheels will start to roll away by themselves if not properly secured. Some spinners come with “stop buttons”, which lock the wheels in place.
I’ve used suitcases with two rolling wheels and four spinner wheels. Personally, I like spinner suitcases much better, because they’re much easier to move around. On moderately-rough dirt roads and cobblestone streets, you can tilt the spinner suitcase in a 45-degree angle and pull it from the behind. I don’t mind carrying the bag by the handle on really rough surfaces and stairs.
Generally, spinner suitcases are just as stable as rollaboards. You can find both spinner suitcases and rollaboards that tip-over. Really, it depends on the specific model, not the wheel type.
A lot of luggage manufacturers make a significant mistake by placing the spinner wheels too close together, which makes the bag really easy to tip over. On properly manufactured spinners, the wheels are placed with enough distance from one another. And on rolling suitcases, sometimes the two supporting plastic legs are too short, or the front pockets are too large, so the bag tends to tip over. Regardless of the wheel type, always make sure to read the customer reviews first, to make sure that the bag doesn’t tip over.
Usually, popular suitcase models are offered in rollaboard and spinner versions. And almost always, the spinner version weighs 0.2-0.5 lbs more. That’s because two additional wheels with proper safety guards weigh more compared to two small plastic legs. For instance, the lightest suitcase on the market, the “It Luggage World’s lightest”, weighs at 3.8 lbs on the rollaboard version, and 4 lbs on the spinner version.
Although spinner wheels maneuver smoother, they aren’t as durable two rolling wheels. That’s because on rollaboards, the two wheels are larger than spinner wheels, and they’re also built-in into the main structure, instead of “sticking-out”, which makes them much harder to break off.
Suitcases with spinner wheels are treated much more delicately than rollaboards by the baggage handlers because airlines know how easily spinner wheels can break off. When they’re loaded in the cargo of the airplane, spinners are stored on top and rollaboards on the bottom. However, even with these precautions, spinners still are much more likely to break compared to regular rollaboards.
So if you’re looking for a really durable suitcase, rollaboards will be a much smarter choice.
On spinners, some space is compromised, because the bottom part of the suitcase isn’t used effectively. Because the wheels are “sticking out”, there’s less space in the main compartment.
They’ll always store 5-10 liters less compared to a similarly-sized rollaboard. On carry-ons, the size restrictions include wheels and handles, so if you want to maximize your carry-on allowance, you should get a rollaboard.
Usually, spinners cost around 10$-30$ more than their rollaboard versions. Adding two wheels with proper plastic frames around them adds additional costs, which results in a slightly higher overall price.
Also, you should keep in mind that spinner wheels are less durable, which means that you’ll have to replace them more often. Even if they’re covered by the warranty, sometimes you’ll have to pay for the shipping to the repair center.
Hooking Several Pieces Together
Although rollaboards can be hooked together, they’re pretty hard to move around. If you’re purchasing several suitcases and plan on hooking them together with luggage straps, you should choose spinner suitcases, because they’ll be much easier to maneuver around.
Should You Get Rolling or Spinner Luggage?
While rollaboards are better for some, spinners make a much smarter choice for others. It really depends on what are your priorities.
Generally though, if you’re flying to civilized destinations, or if you’re someone who values moveability over durability, you’ll be better off with a spinner. But if you’re traveling to third-world countries with rough roads, you need something reliable, so you’ll be better off with a rollaboard.
- For Business Travelers: Business travelers spend a lot of time in airports, commuting, and walking to their hotels on well-paved roads, so spinners will usually be the best option.
- For Infrequent Leisure Travelers: For regular people who travel one or two times per year to regular tourist destinations, spinners will usually be a smarter choice. They’re easy to move around and don’t need to be that durable.
- For Frequent Travelers: Frequent travelers, who often travel to “off the beaten path” destinations, need their suitcases to perform well on rugged roads, be durable, lightweight, and maximize the carry-on allowance, so rollaboards will be a better choice.
- For Kids: Because spinners are much easier to move around, they’ll be a solid choice for children, who don’t yet have the strength of an adult.
- For people with back problems: If you have back problems, consider getting a spinner suitcase. Because it doesn’t have to be tilted in a 45-degree angle, it doesn’t put any strain on the back.
Best Suitcases with Four Spinner Wheels
We’ve tested over 16 different luggage brands, and found Chester to be the best mid-class luggage brand. We’ve tested a lot of other mid-class suitcases, and Chester is definitely the best hardside spinner out there. Although it isn’t cheap, it’s well worth the price.
The Chester Minima 22-inch Spinner is very minimalistic in design, so it doesn’t come with too many smart features. It’s simple but very durable. The hard shell is made out of polycarbonate, which is the most durable hardside plastic out there. It’s also backed by a 10-year warranty that covers all functional defects on the suitcase, including the wheels and handles.
This suitcase comes with double spinner wheels, which we tested on smooth and rough surfaces, and they performed really well. We also investigated inside and found out that the wheels are attached with regular screws from the inside, which means they’re easily replaceable.
Other than that, the Chester Minima carry-on is protected with a TSA-approved combination lock, and the main compartment is quite spacious. Essentially, the main compartment is split into two equal parts, and both are separated with an unzippable fabric sheet on both sides. It also has several pockets inside for organizing smaller items and comes with a dedicated laundry bag.
It’s a well-made spinner and has received absolutely amazing reviews on Amazon. We’ve tested it for ourselves, and we can vouch for ourselves that it’s insanely good.
We also own the Travelpro Maxlite 5 21-inch spinner carry-on, and in the affordable class, it’s currently the best choice on the market. We’ve used it for over a year now, and haven’t experienced any problems.
We found that in the medium class, Travelpro makes the best fabric suitcases, and they ranked just behind Chester on our Best Luggage Brands leaderboard. Although the Maxlite 5 is quite affordable, it’s really durable. It’s built from durable materials and backed up by their limited lifetime warranty.
The Maxlite 5 comes with four spinner wheels, and although they aren’t double spinner wheels, they roll really smoothly. We even took it to Israel once, to see how well it would perform on rugged dirt roads, and the wheels still look brand-new. In addition to being durable, the Maxlite 5 is also really lightweight, weighing at just 5.3 lbs (for comparison, the average carry-on weighs 7.9 lbs.)
The main compartment is quite spacious and expandable. You also get two smaller pockets on the exterior and one large zippered pocket in the interior for organizing all the smaller items.
We really like the Maxlite 5, and we think that it’s the best affordable option on the market. Although you can get suitcases for 50$-60$, they won’t be even close in durability to Travelpro, so it’s worth paying slightly more.
On our leaderboard of the best luggage brands, we’ve rated Briggs & Riley as the best luggage brand out there. And we aren’t the only ones who agree. Briggs & Riley is often recommended by frequent travelers and flight crews because of their exceptional durability and “no matter what” lifetime warranty. The Briggs & Riley Baseline spinner carry-on is by far the best spinner on the market.
It’s built out of 1680D Ballistic Nylon, which is considered the most durable luggage fabric. It’s also backed up by their lifetime warranty, which covers all physical defects on the suitcase, including the wheels, zippers, and handles, doesn’t need a receipt, and is transferrable between owners.
The Baseline comes with many smart features, such as a built-in garment compartment for suits, their signature CX compression/expansion system, and a retractable handle attached on the outside for more packing space. It also has quite a few smaller pockets inside for organizing all the smaller items.
Although this carry-on is incredibly expensive, it’s definitely worth it for business travelers and frequent travelers who prefer spinners over rollaboards. This suitcase will last decades, not a few years, so the high price tag is actually quite reasonable.
Best Suitcases with Two Rolling Inline Skate Wheels
Although the Travelpro Platinum Elite 22-inch rollaboard is on the pricier side, we think that it’s worth every penny. It’s the best rollaboard in the mid-class and will be perfect for business travelers, and frequent travelers.
The Platinum Elite is the best rollaboard that Travelpro has to offer. It’s built out of durable materials and backed up by their worry-free lifetime warranty.
Inside, this rollaboard is fitted with a built-in suiter compartment, which is nice if you’re a business traveler. The main compartment is quite spacious, and it’s also expandable if you’re running low on space. Inside, you’ll also find other useful packing features, like a removable TSA-approved toiletry pouch, organizing compartments, and an advanced tie-down system. This suitcase also comes with a USB charger and a dedicated pocket for a power bank, which is nice if you’re carrying many electronic devices.
If you can’t afford the Platinum Elite rollaboard, another solid mid-tier option is the Travelpro Crew 11 Rollaboard, which is essentially a dumbed-down version of the Platinum Elite, yet still pretty good.
We believe that the Travelpro Maxlite 5 22-inch rollaboard is currently the best affordable rollaboard. Although you can get cheap options that cost half the price, it’s worth it to pay more for the Maxlite 5. Travelpro is well-praised by frequent travelers and flight crews for their durability, and the Maxlite 5 is their cheapest collection.
The Maxlite 5 Rollaboard isn’t only durable, but also very lightweight, weighing at just 5.4 lbs. It’s gained really awesome ratings on Amazon, and people seem to like everything about it.
Compared to the spinner version, the rollaboard is slightly more spacious and more durable. Other than that, it essentially comes with the same features. It’s a really great option if you’re looking for an affordable, but durable rollaboard.
Essentially, it’s identical to the Baseline Spinner version, only slightly cheaper, and slightly better. You see, because it comes with two skate wheels, instead of four spinner wheels, it’s more spacious inside, and more durable. The only disadvantage is that it’ll be slightly harder to move around compared to the spinner version.
But other than that, it’s identical. It’s made from 1680D Ballistic nylon, the most durable luggage fabric, and backed up by their “no-matter-what” lifetime warranty, that covers all damages, regardless of the cause, for a lifetime. It also has a built-in suiter, their signature CX compression/expansion system, and the same rectangular spacious interior, with the retractable handle attached on the outside.
If you can afford the Baseline Rollaboard, it’d definitely worth it, because it will last decades.