In this Guide
Whether you’re a lifelong masseuse or a new professional massage therapist, there’s no tool more important to have in your kit than a good portable chair. When you’re seeing clients on the go, or traveling to workshops, you need a portable workstation that’s rugged, reliable, and comfortable for all your clients.
Sadly, there are a lot of lackluster chairs on the market these days, as the longtime pros among you will know. For every sturdy, straightforward workhorse, there are dozens of rickety, frustrating and awkward designs that will waste both your time and money.
We’ve put our team to work, in order to help you out! We’ve gone on a comprehensive search for the absolute best portable massage chairs out there. We’ve drawn on our own expertise, as well as feedback from pros who have actually spent time working with our recommendations.
In this handy guide, you’ll find everything a working pro or first-timer needs to know about portable massage chairs. We’ve written our own in-depth reviews of 3 great models, along with a quick guide to sorting through which one is right for you.
Let’s check out the Top Three:
Best on a Budget
- Rating: 4.4
- Reviews: 28
- Rating: 4.0
- Reviews: 104
- Free Shipping
- 1 Year Warranty
- Rating: 4.4
- Reviews: 56
- Free Shipping
- Lifetime Construction Warranty
Portable Massage Chair Reviews
If you’re shopping for your first portable massage chair, we think the BestMassage is a fantastic choice. It’s an affordable, straightforward option for folks who are starting out and can’t afford something premium. It’s sturdy, reasonably comfy, and has a generous weight capacity. While we don’t recommend it to full-timers or experienced pros, it’s an ideal starter chair.
It’s extremely affordable. You can find the BestMassage available for around the $75 mark, which is ideal for the starting masseuse. It’s an excellent way for you to start working with your first clients without having to dig into your savings. This one will allow you to start making some money before you need to upgrade.
It’s more comfortable than other budget options. Previous buyers said the BestMassage’s 4” cushions were reasonably padded, especially given the price. They didn’t report any complaints about comfort, although this one isn’t quite as plush-feeling as the more expensive options. It also has basic adjustments for height and face angle.
It’s easy to clean. The BestMassage has a PU outer layer, which looks like red leather. You can wipe it clean between sessions, and it sanitizes quickly.
It has a high working weight capacity. This one’s rated for up to 300 pounds working, which is actually higher than the capacity on our midrange choice! It’s a lot of bang for your buck in the weight department.
It packs easily. This one folds down to a compact, easy to carry shape. You can carry it by your side without it feeling awkward, and it’s easy to fit on the back seat of your car.
It also comes with a carrying case. While the case that’s included isn’t premium by any stretch, it’s sturdy and durable. Reviewers said it was very easy to get the folded chair in and out of the case. They also appreciated how light the whole thing was to carry.
It’s a bit rickety. While this model has a relatively high weight capacity, it doesn’t feel as sure as more expensive chairs. We didn’t hear of any complaints about the frame’s durability, but this isn’t a chair we’d test. Most users said that while it did the trick for occasional use, it wouldn’t be a good primary chair for a full-time practice.
It feels relatively cheap. Between the PU coating and the lightweight frame, it doesn’t exactly exude premium quality. While it can be perfectly serviceable, it doesn’t have the reassuring feel a full-time pro wants to provide for clients.
It’s not covered by a warranty.
It’s tricky to put together. Previous buyers said that the instructions were frustrating, but necessary as they couldn’t figure out how to secure the headrest on their own. Obviously, we always recommend following the manual for any new massage chair, since assembling your unit wrong can endanger clients. You need to be very careful to follow the instructions on this one, since the bolts aren’t as intuitively placed as we’d like to see.
The center frame is close to the seat, which means that space can be limited for male clients. Most users will be fine, but buyers advised that one key limitation on this model is the tight groin clearance.
2. Therabuilt Apex
Our top midrange pick is the Therabuilt Apex. We recommend it to new massage therapists who want something a bit nicer for their first chairs, or for working pros on a tight budget. While it might have lower specs than the BestMassage, it feels more rugged to use, and it adjusts more easily. Plus, it’s just as travel-friendly. It’s excellent for the part-time massage therapist or ambitious newcomer.
If feels more reassuring than the BestMassage, even if it has a lower weight rating. Previous buyers felt much better about the frame on this model, and said it didn’t bend or flex With all that said, you should pay attention to the weight rating: this one’s only rated for 250 pounds working weight. We did find a few buyer complaints about parts breaking, but they had been using the wrong weight rating, and overloaded their chairs. If you understand this chair’s limits, it’s one of the sturdiest in its class.
Like the BestMassage, it has a PU leather outer coating. It’s easy to clean, and holds up well over time.
The face cradle cover detaches with velcro, for even easier cleaning. Previous buyers really liked this feature, and said it made sanitizing much easier and much more effective.
It adjusts much more cleanly than the BestMassage. While this one doesn’t add any beyond the same basic adjustments, its catches and knobs work more smoothly and easily. That makes for quicker adjustments, and quicker takedown at the end of the session.
It’s covered by a warranty–1 year on the chair itself, and 3 months for the face cradle. While neither component of the warranty is all that long, it’s still more coverage than you get on other models at this price.
Previous buyers also said their chairs lasted a lot longer than cheaper budget models like the BestMassage. In fact, we read reviews from buyers who were still using their Therabuild chairs 4+ years on! That’s where that extra sturdiness factor really becomes apparent.
It’s only $25 or so more expensive than the BestMassage.
Like the BestMassage, it comes with a carrying case, and it’s highly portable, at 18.5 pounds.
It doesn’t have as high a weight rating as the BestMassage. This one’s only rated at 250 pounds working weight, as opposed to 300 pounds.
This one has some quality control issues. A few buyers received chairs with rough metal edges, or components broken in shipping. However, any out of the box issues are easy to resolves in the return window. We didn’t find any serious complaints about the build quality on this unit over the long term, though, aside from the buyers we’ve mentioned who overloaded the chair.
It’s not good for larger users 6’ and over. This one’s a bit more compact than the BestMassage, which makes it harder for taller folks to fit comfortably.
3. Earthlite Vortex
If you’re a full-time massage therapist, we strongly recommend this Earthlite chair for your portable sessions. It’s by far the sturdiest of our recommendations, with a light, rugged frame that will last for years of use. Plus, it’s got superior vinyl upholstery that lasts longer and feels better than the cheap PU on our other recommendations. It’s probably overkill for a new masseuse, but it’s a great choice for full-timers, especially if you work primarily with a portable chair.
It’s miles above our other recommendations in terms of build quality. Both in feel and appearance, the Earthlite is by far the best of the three. It uses an aircraft-grade aluminum frame with a special tubing design to provide lightweight ruggedness. The oval tubing adds extra strength while maintaining a slim profile. The cushions combine thick, adaptive PU foam with a vinyl outer coating. It lasts much longer than the other models, and it won’t flake or discolor over time. It also won’t develop unsightly wrinkles as you wear it in.
It has the same working weight capacity as the BestMassage, at 300 pounds. Plus, this unit feels so much more reassuring than the cheaper model. Reviewers overwhelmingly agreed that the Earthlite was the sturdiest chair they’d used, and said it was more than rugged enough for regular travel. We found that this one is one of the most popular portable choices among professional massage therapists. They had no problems with their heavier clients.
It’s not just well-made, it’s guaranteed to last. The frame is covered for life, and the cushions and vinyl outer layer are covered for 2 years.
It has the widest range of adjustments. The Earthlite allows you to massage taller and shorter clients easily, with smooth, secure adjustment knobs. It also has the best headrest adjustments of the three. You can tilt it to precise angles and lock it down snugly.
It’s the lightest of the three, at 15 pounds. That’s especially impressive when you consider that this one feels the most plush and comfortable. The Earthlite one is a breeze to carry around, perfect for full-timers who work primarily on their chair. It fits in its carrying bag easily, and reviewers said this was easier to bring to events than other chairs they’d used in the past.
It’s expensive. The Earthlite will cost you almost $250, and that’s not exactly a casual purchase. We only recommend it to full-time massage therapists, particularly those who work primarily with their chair. It’s probably overkill for new masseuses, and it’s almost certainly cost-prohibitive for folks who don’t make most of their income from their massage work.
There are some quality control/shipping issues. Some previous buyers received chairs with broken or damaged parts from out of the box, either as a result of lax quality control or careless shipping. While Earthlite are quick to respond (especially lately), it’s still a big inconvenience for such an expensive purchase.
Some buyers didn’t think it was so rock solid for their larger clients. You won’t want to go over the 300 pound working weight limit, but the vast majority of buyers said it was very sturdy within its bounds.
Earthlite’s customer service hasn’t always had a great reputation. The company have gotten their act together in the past couple years, but some earlier buyers had poor experiences with Earthlite when their chairs had issues.
Which Portable Massage Chair Should You Choose?
The BestMassage is the most accessible choice for new massage practitioners. It’s the cheapest chair here by at least $25, and it’s got all the key features you need to get up and running. It has generous cushioning, a high working weight rating, and a better frame than other models. We highly recommend it to people who are starting out and need something cheap without putting clients at risk. However, it’s simply not as sturdy or rugged as our other recommendations. It also feels somewhat cheap in the upholstery adjustments, and fittings. The biggest downside is that this one isn’t covered by any sort of warranty. It’s a perfectly good first chair, but it probably won’t be your last.
The Therabuilt is a great compromise between the sturdiness of the Earthlite and the affordable price point of the BestMassage. It doesn’t have quite as large a frame or as high a weight rating as the BestMassage, but it feels steadier to use. It also adjusts a bit more smoothly.
The biggest advantage is that it’s covered by a 1-year warranty, which makes it a safer investment. We think it’s a great choice for newcomers looking for something a bit more refined than the BestMassage, or pros who only travel occasionally. You’ll just want to be aware of its weight limitations and smaller frame, since that does limit your ability to work with larger clients. This one also doesn’t feel quite as rugged as the Earthlite, even though it’s a heavier chair.
The Earthlite is by far the best chair in our Top Three for the professional massage therapist. It has the sturdiest frame, the most durable fabric outer layer, and the best cushioning. Despite all that, it’s the lightest of the three, and the easiest to pack. It provides the most room for adjustments, too.
Since it’s structurally guaranteed for life, there’s not much to complain about with the Earthlite! On the downside, it’s expensive, and probably overkill for people new to the profession. We strongly recommend it to folks who are well-established and have a reputation for a high level of quality to maintain in portable settings. It’s also ideal for folks who do most of their sessions on the go.
While we think the Earthlite offers the working professional a sturdy station at a reasonable price, it’s not quite the best portable chair we’ve ever seen. That honor goes without hesitation to the Stronglite ErgoPro.
It hasn’t made our top three because it’s so darn expensive (more than $100 over the price of the Earthlite). Price aside, though, it’s the closest thing to ideal we’ve seen so far. With a sturdy aluminum frame that holds up to 600 pounds working weight, it’s sturdier than any other portable option. It also has the highest-quality cushions we’ve seen on a folding model. They’re all adjustable, so you can get a comfortable fit for any client.
Best of all, the whole thing weighs just 19 pounds. It’s the go-to of many longtime massage therapists, and while it’s cost-prohibitive for many buyers, it’s our Ultimate choice for full-timers who don’t need to worry about price.
How to Choose the Right Portable Massage Chair for You
Decide on your budget:
Portable massage chairs are generally available from about $50 to $500. Unlike a lot of other massage products, you don’t get many extra features at the higher end of the price range. On the other hand, each standard feature gets steadily better and more user-friendly the more you spend.
So, you should spend proportionally to how much you’ll use your chair, and how long you’ve been working in the profession. Remember that half the client’s experience is sitting in the chair, so make sure you’re not limiting the quality of your work by skimping on a good chair.
If you’re buying your first chair, or buying something to use while you’re in massage school, you can do pretty well with something under $100. Aim to spend around $75 for something with decent cushioning, basic adjustments, and a sturdy frame that can last you awhile.
We think working pros should spend at least $100. That’s where you’ll start to see models that can last for years, and provide a more comfortable experience for clients.
If you work primarily from a studio or other practice, and only use it occasionally, you probably don’t need to spend more than $200.
If you work primarily on the go, you should invest in a top-notch, premium model ($200+). You’ll really notice even the smallest ergonomic design flaws if you’re folding and unfolding it on a daily basis. You’ll also be putting a lot more wear and tear on the frame, so you shouldn’t accept any substandard build quality.
You’ll find that $200+ models are a pleasure to use, and eliminate a lot of the ergonomic frustrations and limitations of the less expensive options. They’re also easier to adapt to a range of different body shapes, which makes them more comfortable for everyone involved.
Look for a sturdy frame:
No matter how much you’re spending on your new portable massage chair, you shouldn’t skimp on the frame. You can always supplement or switch out the cushioning, but you can’t substitute for a good frame. Look for a rugged, all-metal frame with reinforced joints, sturdy bolts, and a high weight capacity. Nobody should be working with a portable model that has a weight capacity below 200 pounds.
Be sure to check that you’re looking specifically at “working weight” as a measure of capacity. Many manufacturers of shoddy chairs list “static weight” instead, which can be much higher.
You shouldn’t base anything on that rating, so look for working weight capacity instead. Working weight ratings tell you how much a chair can handle with some pressure from you, and with some lateral movement as the client shifts around.
Aim for 200 pounds as a minimum. Make sure you think about your clientele as you shop, too. If you have a larger client, be sure they’re not excluded or put at risk!
While you’re comparing frames, balance portability with capacity. The heavier model you buy, the more weight it can usually support. You should aim to buy the lightest model that can handle your required capacity.
Look for comfortable, resilient cushions:
The cushions on a portable massage chair are harder to compare than the frame. Comfort is subjective, while safety is easy to rate with cold, hard numbers.
In general, you’ll want to look for a cushion material that has a bit of give, but some firm structure as well. Look for foam materials rather than fiber stuffing, since foam stands up better over time. PU and memory foam are the most common materials. While we love memory foam, you’ll probably only want it for the outer layer, since it doesn’t have the sturdy resilience of PU structural foam. On the outside of the cushions, you should opt for a comfortable but cleanable material.
Vinyl, PU synthetics, and and imitation leather tend to be best. Avoid natural fabrics unless, you’ll be able to wash at least the headrest covering between clients. In any case, it’s best to go for something synthetic that’s easy to wipe down and sanitize.
Look for plenty of adjustments:
In addition to making sure it has the strength to handle your clients’ weight, you’ll want to be sure it can handle their general body shape. Look for plenty of adjustments to the knee rests height, headrest angle, and so forth. The more adjustments, the more comfortable each patient will be! Ideally, adjustment bolts will be easy to move around, but hard to loosen accidentally.
Make sure you’re covered for the long term:
Anytime you’re buying a trade tool like this, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got warranty coverage for the long term. Check the manufacturer’s warranty policy and be sure to read the whole thing, paying attention to any exceptions. If possible, purchase additional coverage at the checkout.
Add-on warranty coverage is a great way to get more out of your investment for a minimal extra cost. Plus, you can deal with a helpful third party for repairs or replacements, rather than having to deal with the manufacturer.