Dear wheeling and dealing,
Need, no. Want, maybe. What you need in a stroller you can get for a reasonable price. There are plenty of basic strollers that can work for a variety of lifestyles – light ones, big ones, pink ones, black ones, roomy ones, easy-fold ones. Like the majority of new families, your new baby will probably be just fine tooling around town in the stroller equivalent of a fabulously affordable Nissan Sentra.
But what you want in a stroller is another story. To some, ergonomic is just a word. But if you’re a gearhead, pushing around an expensive piece of radical industrial design may be the highlight of your day in the park. In the seductive world of high-tech strollers, it can be hard to know where need ends and want begins. And of course, the impact of a $1,000 purchase depends on the depth of your pockets. Below are a few questions to help you sort out if you want to go budget or spring for a tricked-out model.
Where will you be using it? City, suburbs, parks? How often? All the time, or only for neighborhood walks?
If you’re a big walker, you’ll want a stroller that fits both your body and the streets you walk on. Handle height, shock absorption, turning radius and wheels are the big things to think about. Fancy strollers tend to get high ratings in all these departments. But, do think – are you really going to need to move this thing across rugged terrain? (Curbs and cobblestones count.) Trying out the stroller in a store (or friend’s house) is definitely advisable, whether you make your eventual purchase in store or online.
Will you need to carry it up stairs, or fit it through many doors? Will you be folding it up often? Does it need to fit easily into a trunk? How will it be stored at home? Do you need to take it on public transportation?
Strolling is one thing, but schlepping and stowing are important too. If you take the subway a lot, think about how you’ll get the thing up and down stairs, as well as through the turnstile. And if your living space is at a premium, consider how big a parking space the stroller will occupy. Fancy strollers are often sturdy, so harder to squish into nothing and to drag up stairs . . . though they may make more attractive home d’cor when parked in your living room.
Are you planning for this to be your primary stroller for several years? Do you need it to adapt as your baby gets older or if you have another one?
Sometimes one expensive adaptable stroller that covers a baby from newborn through toddler-hood can end up being more affordable than a couple of strollers for different ages and needs. Convertible strollers can also save money in unexpected ways: a stroller that starts as a bassinet or “pram” style baby carriage can actually double as a sleeping space in the early months. One with a carseat adapter can save you the (minor) expense of a separate car seat adapter.
At any rate, try not to get too worked up about the dizzying array of options. We know people who have regretted spending too much and those who wished they’d splurged (after buying three inferior strollers over that many years). The worst that’s likely to happen is that you regret your choice and look enviously at those who have made the other one. And in that case, hey, there’s always eBay.
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