Is Rimowa’s Aluminum Luggage Actually Worth the Price?

After multiple spins around the globe with Rimowa suitcases, two travel editors give their honest reviews of the form, function—and value—of the brand’s Original luggage collection.

Three Rimowa Original Collection suitcases in black, titanium, and silver, with AFAR Approved logo in pink

Rimowa Original aluminum suitcases come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Courtesy of Rimowa

Welcome to AFAR Approved: a deep dive into the travel items we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about.

→ Buy now: Rimowa Original Check-In Large Suitcase, $1,800,
→ Buy now: Rimowa Original Cabin Carry-On, $1,430,

Best known for pioneering the aluminum suitcase in 1937, Rimowa is the gold standard in luxury luggage brands. Today, the brand’s unmistakable parallel grooved cases—often decorated with kitsch stickers—are a status symbol at airports around the world thanks to their unique aesthetic and timeless beauty.

Over the past year, we tested out two of Rimowa’s most popular suitcases—the Original Check-In Large and the Original Cabin Carry-On—on approximately several dozen flights, road trips, ferry rides, and more. Here’s what we discovered about the ability of this luggage to balance function and style—and if the $1,000+ price tag is worth it.

Rimowa Original Check-In Large Suitcase

Rimowa Original Check-In Large Suitcase in Silver, with handle raised

The Rimowa Original Check-In Large Suitcase in silver

Courtesy of Rimowa

→ Buy now: $1,800,

31.2 x 20.1 x 10.7 inches
13.7 pounds
86 liters

As AFAR’s points and loyalty special correspondent, I’m always one to flex my elite perk muscles (hello: free checked bags). I’m also a perpetual overpacker, so I opted for a large, checked hard-shell bag from Rimowa’s Original Collection. I initially desired a suitcase from the German brand’s Classic Collection, which flaunts a retro-luxe look with sharper corners and briefcase-style locks. However, brand devotees told me that the Classic cases are more delicate and better suited to private air travel. The sturdier, rounded corners of the Original cases are optimal for commercial travel. Plus, the Rimowa Original aluminum suitcase is the luggage legend itself, around which the entire brand has evolved in its 125-year history.

While the Original Check-In suitcase comes in both Medium and Large sizes, I chose the latter to put its full 86 liters of space to use on extended trips up of to two weeks.

Keeping with tradition, I went with the iconic silver color though the case also currently comes in “Arctic Blue,” “Titanium,” and black. Its perfect silver exterior was soon speckled with stickers—a Rimowa rite of passage, a preferred way of breaking in new luggage, and dealing with an inevitable, less-than-perfect appearance. Truth be told, while aluminum is structurally sturdy, it does dent and scratch easily at the surface level. This gives a worn-yet-sexy look (think: a rock star in his 50s) that I grew to appreciate after multiple trips. Admittedly, the first dents on my $1,800 bag were hard to swallow, but over time, I came to think of them more like cool tattoos and scars than open wounds.

Paul Rubio's Rimowa Original Check-In Large Suitcase with two stickers

Adding stickers to your aluminum suitcase is a Rimowa rite of passage.

Photo by Paul Rubio

Like all Rimowa suitcases, the Check-In Large features a proprietary Multiwheel System for effortless steering and rolling, a sturdy telescopic handle that easily adjusts for people of varying heights, and Flex Dividers (with Velcro straps) inside to compress luggage on either side. In addition to TSA-approved locks, this clamshell case also provides extra security with its zipperless design that makes it virtually impossible for thieves to cut into. It’s remarkably simple, but this is simplicity perfected.

Even if you’re not the type to usually care about owning luxury items, you might get a little thrill from the way the case glides through airports with those buttery wheels and the handsome design that will elevate any travel look. Think of it as a statement fashion piece—the kind that gets admiring glances from those in the know.

This case has also forced me to become a more organized packer because the Flex Dividers don’t contain belongings the way zipped dividers do. If you throw things in and stuff the bag to the gills, the edges of the suitcase won’t align and close properly. Because of this, I now properly fold and use packing cubes since the inside needs to look as sleek as the outside. —Paul Rubio, points and loyalty special correspondent

Rimowa Original Cabin Carry-On

Rimowa Original Cabin Carry On in silver

The Rimowa Original Cabin Carry-On in silver

Courtesy of Rimowa

→ Buy now: $1,430,

21.7 x 15.8 x 9.1 inches
9.5 pounds
35 liters

The Rimowa Original Cabin is essentially the same bag as the Original Check-In—with the same wheels, handles, and other features—just sized down to use as a carry-on.

As a light packer who lives in a fourth floor walk-up in Brooklyn, I generally only fly with carry-on size luggage. As AFAR’s gear editor, I own more than half a dozen other wheeled suitcases. Even though my other bags did the trick at a much lower price point, the Rimowa was my holy grail suitcase. For years, I filled Pinterest boards with Rimowa bags laden with stickers, pining after those sleek silver grooves. So when I finally added the Rimowa Original Cabin to my collection in 2022, I was thrilled that it wasn’t all form over function. After using it for more than a year, I whole-heartedly agree it’s worth the investment.

While I may have originally wanted a Rimowa for purely aesthetic reasons, the price really is for the quality of its features. Its sturdy handle slides up and down with ease and adjusts perfectly to my height. But the wheels are what blow me away. Rimowa’s proprietary Multiwheel system is made with ball-bearing mounted wheels with cushioned axles. To the layperson, that means they offer the smoothest roll of any suitcase I’ve ever used—and not just on airport linoleum. They’ve also glided across bumpy pavement and rough carpeting.

But I really fell in love with those wheels in Indonesia last year on the car-free island of Gili Trawangan, when I made the mistake of thinking I could walk 30 minutes to our hotel from the ferry landing. While the first 10 minutes of the walk was on pavement, the sidewalk quickly turned to sand, then mud, and then a mixture that was part sand, part mud, part horse manure. And despite dragging my Rimowa through it all, the wheels still worked just as well after I hosed off all that gunk. (In comparison, my sister’s non-Rimowa suitcase left the island with permanently squeaky wheels.)

Lyndsey Matthews's Rimowa Original Cabin Carry-On at the Peninsula Paris (L) and on unpaved road in Indonesia (R)

The Rimowa Original Cabin Carry-On is stylish enough for luxury hotels like the Peninsula Paris (L) and durable enough to withstand unpaved roads in Indonesia (R).

Photos by Lyndsey Matthews

Now, let’s talk about size. The Rimowa Original Cabin is slightly larger than the carry-on luggage size restrictions of most airlines. At 21.7 x 15.8 x 9.1 inches—or 46.6 linear inches—it’s technically over the limits of most domestic U.S. airlines (usually 22 x 14 x 9 inches or 45 linear inches). That said, I’ve never been forced to gate check it, and it’s fit in every overhead bin on the 15 some-odd flights I’ve taken it on in the past year within the United States on airlines like Delta and JetBlue.

Since aluminum weighs more than polycarbonate, I have had more issues on international airlines that also impose weight limits on carry-ons. At 9.5 pounds, it’s still easy to lift into overhead bins or up and down staircases and really only clocks in about 2 pounds heavier than the polycarbonate bags in my arsenal. But once I filled it up with shoes, toiletries, and clothes, it quickly surpassed the 15-pound carry-on weight limit that Singapore Airlines and Indonesia’s Lion Air enforced when I flew them last fall. But thanks to that durable aluminum shell, I’ve never been too worried to check it. In the half a dozen times I’ve handed it off to airlines to chuck around, it’s always come back in one piece with just a few scratches here and there. (For those who are truly averse to carrying any extra weight, the Rimowa Essential Lite Cabin polycarbonate suitcase is the same dimensions as the Original Cabin but weighs just 4.9 pounds—and costs $670 less.)

With an interior capacity of 35 liters, the Original Cabin can fit up to roughly five days’ worth of clothes for a generally light packer like me. And for that reason, I still often rely on my Away Bigger Carry-On with its 47.9 liter capacity for longer trips or vacations that require bulkier winter clothing. (Rimowa also offers a 49-liter Original Cabin Plus model if you need a little extra wiggle room.)

Unlike Paul, I’m a long-time packing cube user so I didn’t have to adapt to the zipperless structure of its Flex Dividers to keep everything organized inside the carry-on. However, the bag’s lack of zippers on the exterior makes it slightly harder to close because the edges of the bag need to be perfectly lined up in order to lock. When I’ve packed this bag to its max, I’ve often had to sit on it to get the edges flush. But it’s a small task for the added security the zipperless closure provides. —Lyndsey Matthews, senior commerce editor

The Rimowa lifetime guarantee

As of July 25, 2022, all new Rimowa suitcases come with a lifetime manufacturer’s guarantee—versus competitors’ multi-year warranties—that covers all functional aspects of the suitcase. (This guarantee does not apply to cosmetic wear and tear, as well as misuse or abuse.) This is testament to the brand’s commitment to durability and longevity—and insurance that if things ever become too damaged, they will be repaired or replaced.

To keep things as sustainable as possible, Rimowa aims to repair its luggage and only replaces luggage as a last resort. For basic repairs, you can bring your suitcase into any Rimowa store and they can often fix things like a broken wheel on the spot. (Several luxury hotels like the Park Hyatt Vienna and the Middle House Shanghai also offer in-house Rimowa repair services.) For issues that can’t be fixed immediately, Rimowa stores will help coordinate shipping suitcases to its client care team to address any significant repairs and determine if it needs to be replaced.

So far, neither of us have had to put this lifetime guarantee to use yet in the first year of owning our Rimowa suitcases.

Of course, a lifetime guarantee is only worth it if the brand continues to exist. But considering Rimowa celebrated its 125th anniversary this year—it was founded in 1898 in Cologne, Germany, and acquired by LVMH in 2016—it’s likely this heritage brand will be around for a while yet.

The bottom line

The suitcases in Rimowa’s Original Collection are great luggage meant for life. Whether you choose the Check-In Large or the Cabin Carry-On is more up to the length of your average trip and the type of packer you are. The sticker shock is less intimidating when you account for the case’s lifespan—and the lifetime guarantee behind it. Yes, these cases lose their perfect luster quickly, but think of it as a living document of your travels, like a passport, only stamped in a different way.

Paul Rubio is an award-winning travel journalist and photographer. His byline appears in Afar, Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, LUXURY, MSN, NerdWallet, Palm Beach Illustrated, Yahoo Lifestyle, and more. He has visited 133 countries (and counting) over the past 20 years and won 27 national awards for his writing and photography. When he’s not plotting out his next trip, Paul loves to spend time at home watching reruns of Portlandia and Parks and Recreation with his husband and rescue dog, Camo.
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