Updated: Aug 17, 2020
With a growing aging population and increased focus on a preventative and holistic approach to health, the massage chair industry has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. As with any product category with improving market size, there are increasing number of massage chair brands today in the U.S. It has also attracted many cheaper off-brand massage chairs that range anywhere between $500 to $3000. It is easy to find them on online stores like Amazon.com and Ebay.com. Many companies also advertise heavily on FaceBook and other social media platform to attract online shoppers looking for just low-priced massage chairs. What is amazing is that it is estimated that there are over 60 independent brands of massage chairs today in the U.S. The vast majority of these low-cost massage chairs are generic factory chairs that anyone can order from Chinese factory and can custom label them with their own branding name in the U.S. Needless-to-say, it has become very difficult for U.S. consumers to sort through this crowded market space.
These low-cost chairs have a niche space in the massage chair industry as it provides option for customers with tight budget and it also introduces massage chairs to many new customers who are dipping their toes in this product category for the very first time. However, there are few important considerations when you are thinking about choosing the low-cost massage chairs over the more premium massage chairs that ranges between $4000 and $10,000+.
Warranty coverage can vary significantly between companies. Businesses can not offer a long-term comprehensive warranty coverage when they are selling cheap massage chairs. Many cover only the parts cost and the coverage decreases after the first year. You should make sure you understand the warranty details. Many of the low-cost brands will try to mislead the customer by stating "3 Year Warranty" but the fine prints specify that year 2 and 3 only cover parts, if and only if spare parts exist at that time. At Healing Touch, all of our premium brands offer 3 years parts & labor in-home repair for free. You can also purchase 2 additional years of coverage for a nominal cost. In addition, our brands carry spare parts for seven years after the model of that chair has been discontinued.
Customer Service department of many low-cost brands is very unreliable. If you do some research online on these low-cost brands, you will likely find many unhappy customer reviews who complain that the customer service was non-responsive or super slow. Many of these companies don't have proper resources and training to provide professional technical customer service. In some cases, the customer service agents don't even speak English so communication can be very difficult.
Build Quality and Materials will vary significantly between the low-cost and the premium massage chair brands. The common saying "You get what you pay for" often applies to massage chairs. Cheaper chairs cost less to manufacture because they use cheaper and lighter components, mostly made up of plastics. This means that these chairs will have higher defect rates and shorter lifespan. Another area that you won't be able to differentiate easily is the quality and durability of the upholstery. Don't be surprised if the upholstery start to come apart after short period of usage on the cheaper chairs and upholstery is not a warranty item since it is considered normal "wear and tear".
Massage programming will also be different between the low-cost and the more premium massage chair brands. This is one aspect of massage chairs that many newer shoppers will not fully understand. Just like a computer is only as good as the software installed on it, a massage chair is only as good as the massage sessions (refer to as massage choreography) that are pre-programmed to deliver optimal physiological benefit. Most of the cheap massage chairs come pre-programmed with 6 or less programs. These are the default programs that come from the OEM factory and these brands rarely have the expertise or R&D funding to engineer more customized massage choreography. A great analogy of massage choreography is a symphony orchestra. You get amazing music only by orchestrating a perfect harmony of all of the instruments playing with perfect tempo, volume, and keys. A massage session is no different. An expert massage therapist is very thoughtful on the intensity, location, speed, and movement of each stroke to deliver a holistic health benefit. For example, our OHCO M.8 massage chair has 14 amazing pre-programmed sessions precisely orchestrated by Akir Okabayashi who is one of the few shiatsu masters licensed by the Japanese Ministry of Health.
Bottomline, it is very challenging to sort through the marketing clutter in the massage chair industry and selecting the best buy for your money may seem overwhelming. In many cases, these low-end, no-name brands will be marked as "discounted" by many thousands of dollars (it usually indicates a huge mark-up of initial listed price) to dupe bargain hunting shoppers. At Healing Touch, we will not artificially inflate the initial price just to show several thousands of dollars of savings. This psychological marketing technique is unnecessary for premium brands since they will focus more on delivering high quality and high customer service to more selective consumers.
There is a simple rule to follow. Buyer beware and choose a reputable dealer who have a proven track record in massage chairs.
Remember this famous saying by Benjamin Franklin, "The bitterness of Poor Quality remains long after the sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten".
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.