How to Shop for a Massage Chair


At Inada USA, we encourage you to fully research the entire range of available massage chair options before making your purchase, and we welcome you to visit one of our trusted dealers for a product demonstration. In a demo, you’ll be able to quickly discern that the best massage chairs feel more comfortable and more relaxing the longer you sit in them. The chairs to avoid have exactly the opposite effect: the longer you sit, the worse you feel.

So when you’re comparing Inada massage chairs to other brands, it’s important to experience a full, uninterrupted demonstration of each massage chair you’re considering. Do it as part of your shopping process and you’ll be delighted with the massage chair you choose. Skip or shorten this process, and you could be very disappointed

For more information on what to expect during a massage chair demonstration, see this article Using Your Sogno.
Inada Massage Chair Dealer Locations

We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident

Those of us lucky enough to be steeped in the world of massage chairs hold these truths to be self evident. If you’re smart about your money (and your massage) you’ll take careful notes:

Self-Evident Truth #1: There is no substitute for a complete, 30+ minute demonstration of a robotic massage chair. In a short test, specific aspects of certain chairs – particularly lower-quality products – may color your impression of the total experience…and you want to be sure you understand the total experience that you’re buying. Moreover, some actions that are comfortable in a two-minute test become annoying after 10 minutes. Spending at least a half hour in a massage chair is the best way to discover any idiosyncracies.

Self-Evident Truth #2: The Internet is a poor way to understand the real feeling, capabilities, and quality of a massage chair. Be wary of anyone who sells you a list of features versus benefits that you can only judge in person.

Self-Evident Truth #3: Quality is the best value…period! If you shop based on cost alone, get ready for some serious buyer’s remorse and potentially serious reliability headaches. Robotic massage chairs are complex products that require real diligence and care in the design and manufacturing process. Plus, reputable massage chair brands are committed to after-sale service as well.

Self-Evident Truth #4: When you buy any pricey, technically sophisticated product, you’re also buying a support network. Don’t be duped by sales people and sites promising great after-sale service – there is really very little of this out there. Look for the massage chair brands that are widely distributed in stores because these brands must support their products lest they face the ire of an upset dealer base. The Internet-only brands (and brands that you see popping up at trade shows) may not even remember your name after they have made the sale.

Self-Evident Truth #5: Understand the warranty. It’s a good guide to underlying massage chair quality. Read it carefully. All policies will have exclusions. Some policies are deliberately dense and designed to keep you from realizing that they cover nothing at all…or force you to repack your massage chair and ship it back to a repair facility. All these stunts, obfuscations, and roadblocks are downright annoying when you’re looking at a half-reclined, broken massage chair that’s sitting in your house.

Self-Evident Truth #6: There are no good massage chairs out there for less than $2,500. You can believe this or you can find out the hard way. Save your money. Find the best massage chair.

Self-Evident Truth #7: In general, the Japanese brands offer better-built massage chairs than non-Japanese brands. The Japanese have been doing it longer than anyone else in the world. They have honed their skills in Japan, the largest, most competitive massage chair marketplace in the world. They have a commitment to quality – it pervades their business culture – that is unsurpassed.

Inada Japanese brand Massage Chairs

Comparing the Massage Quality of Massage Chairs

This section about “massage quality” addresses the issue of how effectively a robotic massage chair replicates the feeling and therapeutic value of a skilled massage therapist. In other words, this is about how a massage chair makes you feel based on how it performs its massage functions. The discussion after this section deals with product quality and durability, which is a measure of engineering quality. Don’t confuse massage quality and product quality. Though they frequently go hand in hand, this is not always the case.

Any good robotic massage chair must be able to adapt to people of varying size. Since there is in fact a great deal of variability in body types, any decent massage chair must be able to adapt itself to accommodate a range of body profiles. While this may seem like an obvious, basic requirement for massage chairs, very few massage chairs actually have such capability.

Here are a few questions to ask in order to begin to assess the massage quality of a particular massage chair:

  • Does the massage chair offer body scanning? And how does the massage chair scanning actually work? The store, distributor, or manufacturer should be able to explain this in detail.
  • How does the scan then customize the massage to the user??
  • What is the height range the massage chair accommodates? Better chairs are built to fit more people more accurately.
  • Are the massages in the massage chair designed under the oversight of massage experts or is the team strictly comprised of engineers?
  • Does the customization process include management of the duration of a massage? (A “yes” is a good indication that the massage is actually being customized to you since differing body types – torso length in particular – should affect the length of any given massage session.)

Finally, if someone tells you something that seems like it might be too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few things that you might hear from people who are eager to sell you whatever massage chair they happen to carry:

  • “It’s a “shiatsu massage chair.” All massage chair makers claim this to be the case. Some do and some don’t actually use shiatsu techniques. The proof is in the pudding. In other words, you just need to know how it feels in an extended demonstration. This is, after all, all that matters.
  • “It reads your mood.” No it doesn’t. Your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend doesn’t do this well; the massage chair you’re in certainly doesn’t!
  • “It detects tension in your muscles and focuses massage in those places.” Really? As far as we know, this does not exist in the market.

Comparing the Product Quality of Massage Chairs

If every company would just practice full disclosure, it would be easy for consumers to figure out whether or not their massage chair products will perform as promised over time. Beyond evaluating the massage quality, you need to consider the reliability of a massage chair’s working electronics and mechanisms and the quality of after-sales support.

Most lesser companies refuse to share any information about actual failure or service rates for their massage chairs because these would – we promise – scare you away. As you consider the thousands that you are about to spend on a massage chair, ask yourself this question: based on what I am spending, how much usable, trouble-free life do I expect from my massage chair purchase?
Here are some things you might want to consider as you work through the buying process:

  • How long has the company been in business? Beware if the answer is under 20 years.
  • Any company that claims its massage chairs have a very low failure rate is usually wrong. Most have embarrassingly high failure rates! Even the very best Japanese brands, including Inada, Sanyo, and Panasonic, will fail in the 1%-3% range. How bad are the worst of them? Try a 40% (and higher) failure range. Most brands easily top 10% failure, an unacceptably high level for the best massage chair brands on the market. Shop wisely lest your relaxing massage chair purchase becomes a stressful headache that’s difficult to resolve.
  • Your salesperson says, “We are a major manufacturer and have a very large factory.” Well…we can’t all be major manufacturers.

Many robotic massage chairs are bought at trade shows. Here are a few simple tips that will keep you from getting red-faced with anger and embarrassment:

  • Generally speaking, watch out! There are countless “no-name” companies that are at shows to make a quick buck, pack up, and leave you with a massage chair of extremely low quality.
  • Chair manufacturers know that the Japanese set the standard in product quality so they will make up very Japanese-sounding brand names for their massage chairs. This despite the fact that they are 100% not a Japanese company. Many have been fooled…make sure it isn’t you.
  • Watch out when the price seems a little too good to be true. The real “value massage chairs” out there cost more, deliver a great massage, and last for many years.
  • • Look closely at the warranty! Remember that you are depending on the company standing in front of you to service and repair any issues you have with the chair. If the warranty guarantees anything less than one year of full, in-home, on-site service, you’re dealing with a company that does not have a lot of confidence in its own product. If you look at the Inada massage chair warranty, you will see that it stands head and shoulders above all others in the industry by offering three full years of on-site service that covers parts and labor. For full details, please visit our warranty page.
  • Ask about how the warranty is supported. Who will they use for repairs if you live a thousand miles away from their office (if they even have an office)? You could be waiting many months (or forever) for a repair from a massage chair company that cares only about making a tradeshow sale.
  • Ask what happens to the warranty if the company you’re buying from fails. Business is tough. Fly-by-night massage chair companies come and go, and customer after customer is left to lament their foolhardy decision.
  • The best massage chair manufacturers actually protect you with three layers of warranty support: 1) The manufacturer is the first line of support for the warranty; 2) The manufacturer is backed by a “Warranty Plan Administrator.” All fully backed, fully supported warranty plans will include this type of agent whose role it is to validate and facilitate warranty claims. They are a third party whose obligation is to fulfill the requirements of the warranty;
3) Finally, the Warranty Plan Administrator is backed by an insurance underwriter who has agreed to cover any costs associated with servicing warranties, and this will happen regardless of whether or not the company that sold you the massage chair is around but unwilling, bankrupt, or completely gone.

If the warranty assurances you receive are anything less than what is outlined above, find a reputable company that is serious about making you happy in the long run.

Buy a Japanese Massage Chair

The quality massage chair market is dominated by Japanese-owned and operated manufacturers. This is not surprising as Japan is the single most competitive massage chair market in the world. Amazingly, over 22% of Japanese households own a robotic massage chair! Over the years, fierce competition in Japan has pushed the sophistication and reliability of Japanese massage chair brands to where they are today and well beyond what non-Japanese makers are able to produce.

Other companies are all relative newcomers to the world of massage chairs and usually trail the Japanese leaders by many years in innovation. Often, these companies also deliver far less in reliability and overall massage performance. Worldwide, the leader in the luxury massage chair market is Inada.

As you shop around, you will note that established massage chair dealers that are interested in quality focus their selection on the Japanese brands. Usually this is the result of experiments with lesser quality brand. To date, those who know the massage chair business tend to agree that these non-Japanese companies simply don’t measure up to the Japanese manufacturing standards or massage quality.

Inada Massage Chairs

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