Best Briefcases

Updated May 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

67 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
115 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best briefcases

Last Updated May 2019

A good briefcase can complement your wardrobe and protect your most important documents and devices — but there’s no “best” option. Different lifestyles and careers call for different briefcases, and the configurations of materials, storage space, pockets, and security is nearly endless. To help you with this decision, we’ve broken down the various elements of a modern briefcase.

If you need a professional tool to hold your day-to-day materials, you may opt for a leather hard-sided case. For something more casual and utilitarian, a soft-sided case with plenty of storage and exterior pockets may be your best choice. You should think about what you need to bring with you, how much space you need, and whether security is a high priority. Many modern briefcases have soft-lined compartments for laptops and tablets, but this is not always the case.

A well-made briefcase should last you for a decade or more, so you should consider your needs carefully before investing in one. If you are ready to pick out a case, consider our top recommendations or continue reading to learn more about the key factors in choosing a first-rate model.

Hard-sided briefcases are best for accessing belongings in a horizontal position, while soft-sided briefcases allow for vertical access to belongings.

Key considerations

Materials

Though leather was once the only option, modern briefcases are made from a variety of materials. The material is one of the major determinants of price.

  • Leather

There’s a reason leather has stuck around as the most popular option — it’s durable, it looks better with age, and it’s classy. Though leather is available in different grades, there is no “hierarchy” of leather types. You should choose a leather that suits your tastes and your environment.

    • Genuine leather is a popular choice for its lower price and pleasing smell. Highly durable and pliable, this is a leather that will last for years.

    • Top grain leather is sanded down to remove the outer hide, which results in a more uniform look. It is slightly thinner than full grain leather and somewhat less durable.

    • Full grain leather is often the most expensive grade, known for its classic look and high durability.

    • Split grain leather is thinner and may not last as long as other leathers, but it comes at a lower price.
       

  • Synthetics

    • Nylon and polyester are a good choice for those on a budget. They are both highly durable and flexible, but they may not look as professional as a metal or leather briefcase.

    • Vinyl is a decent stand-in for leather for those looking to save a decent amount or avoid animal-based products.

    • Canvas is soft, flexible, and waterproof, making it a popular choice for soft-sided briefcases and for those interested in a more casual or rugged look.
       

  • Metal

    • Metal briefcases, usually made of aluminum, are a good choice for anyone looking to protect their belongings from both damage or theft.
       

Security

If you are concerned about keeping your personal items safe or you are frequently carrying important documents, you should look for a briefcase that locks with a padlock or combination. Combination locks may take longer to use than padlocks, but they don’t require a key, which can be lost. Soft-sided cases tend to be less secure since they close with a zipper, which can easily be opened by a thief. Attaché and hard-sided cases are the most secure options.

Storage space and size

To get an idea of how much space you will need in your briefcase, gather all of your belongings you intend to carry and place them in a pile. Measuring the dimensions of the pile should give you an idea of how much space you will need.

Most briefcases are around 15 inches wide, 12 inches high, and 5 inches deep, though these numbers can vary. The number of compartments can vary widely, and while more compartments equals less volume for storage, you may find it easier to store smaller items in a case with plenty of pockets and sections. If you intend to bring your laptop with you, look for a case with a soft pocket designed to carry a laptop without scratching its surface.

Construction

The material and quality of components like the handle, hinges, lock, and zippers can greatly affect the price and the overall quality of a briefcase. Metal zippers are preferable to plastic ones for both their look and durability.

In soft-sided cases or messenger bags, look for straight stitching and reinforced stitching in stress-prone areas.

DID YOU KNOW?

Attaché cases are slimmer in profile and have a more formal appearance.

DID YOU KNOW?

Messenger-style bags or soft-sided briefcases often have detachable shoulder straps, so you can choose how you carry your bag.

DID YOU KNOW?

A soft-sided case with a flap-over closure lends to a more modern and casual look.

Features

Styles

Once you know what you are looking for in terms of materials and storage space, you should consider what type of case will work best for your environment and your wardrobe.

  • Hard-sided cases are the classic choice for their distinctive look that holds it shape whether the case is empty or full. These cases open easily for access to all of your belongings, but it’s difficult to quickly open a hard-sided case without a flat surface.

  • Attaché cases are similar to hard-sided cases but tend to be slimmer. Though these cases often have fewer compartments, they may still have a dedicated laptop compartment.

  • Soft-sided briefcases or messenger bags are more comfortable and casual and can be carried by their detachable shoulder strap or handle. These bags are often less expensive, but they are also less secure. Though they can be opened easily, they have the disadvantage of losing their form when empty.

  • Rolling briefcases have plenty of storage space for clothes, laptops, notepads, and other personal items. Their extendable handles allow you to roll your briefcase behind you without having to carry its whole weight, making these the best option for those who travel regularly. Their size makes them slightly cumbersome for day-to-day use, however.
     

Color

The color of your briefcase should complement your wardrobe or any jackets you regularly wear to work. Black and dark brown tend to have a more professional look, while tan is more casual and better suited to soft-sided cases.

High-quality Italian leather

This briefcase may come with a high price tag, but it is a great blend of style and function with its soft Italian leather and large laptop compartment. Customers love the lock-and-key closure. The briefcase is handmade in Italy.

Prices

Inexpensive

Less expensive briefcases cost from $20 to $100 and are usually made from nylon, polyester, canvas, or less expensive leather. Though cases in this range may not look as professional as more expensive designs, they often have plenty of storage space and room for a laptop. Be wary of component and stitching quality, however.

Mid-range

Briefcases in the $100 to $300 range are made from a variety of materials, including full-grain leather and metal. These briefcases are often well constructed and have security features like durable locks.

Expensive

Between $300 and $800 are luxury briefcases made of fine leather that will never go out of style. The price tag is typically the result of hand-crafted designs and high-quality materials.

An affordable, classic design

This inexpensive briefcase is a good option for anyone on a budget who is seeking a streamlined, classic look. It includes a great warranty and has dual combination locks.

Tips

  • A good briefcase should hold its form even when empty. A briefcase that flops against your side or crumples can look sloppy.

  • The handles should attach to the briefcase firmly with solid, reinforced stitching or durable metal hinges that will resist corrosion.

  • Some briefcases have TSA-friendly laptop compartments that can be removed and set on the security belt.

Other products we considered

Though our top recommendations are excellent choices for day-to-day use, there are many rolling briefcases available that are better suited for travel. One standout is the SOLO Bryant Rolling Laptop Case, which holds laptops up to 17.3 inches as well as several other personal belongings. The padded compartments provide plenty of protection, and the five-year warranty is an added bonus. For something a bit sleeker, the Alpine Swiss Rolling Laptop Briefcase accommodates laptops up to 17 inches in size and has dual combination locks for added security. The faux leather is convincing, and customers love the ample room inside the bag. There are some quality concerns with the stitching and durability of the faux leather, but this is an otherwise reliable bag for a low price.

A well-made briefcase can make a great gift for anyone entering the professional world or starting a new job.

FAQ

Q. Are briefcases considered personal items for flying?

A. They are, though you should look for TSA-compliant cases with features like removable laptop compartments if you intend to fly with your briefcase.

Q. Can individual parts like hinges and locks be replaced?

A. Yes, but these are often expensive replacements.

Q. Are briefcases waterproof?

A. This depends on the material and any waterproof coatings. Leather and canvas can both be damaged by water but may have waterproof coatings. When waterproofed, nylon is also a popular option.

The team that worked on this review
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    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
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    Production Assistant
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    Web Producer
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    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer
  • Vukan
    Vukan
    Post Production Editor

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