Buying a stroller is like buying a car
You know you need it, but all of the models, features, and options can be confusing… Sound familiar? With my first child I chose the SUV of strollers, a travel system that included both the infant car seat and a conventional stroller. I didn’t try out the stroller before I bought it; I had no idea how to fold it, how much it weighed, or if it had adjustable handles; and I didn’t even check for cup holders. I wanted a behemoth to encase my little one—and I bought one.
Yet after getting the stroller out of all the packaging, I couldn’t even figure out how to fold it. Twenty minutes later, stroller folded, I discovered it barely fit into the trunk of my car. I could take my baby to the mall, but anything I purchased wouldn’t fit in the trunk.
So how do you find the right stroller for you? Invest some time (instead of just money) in deciding exactly what you need and try out several strollers before you buy.
Types of Strollers
The granddaddy of strollers, travel systems combine a car seat and a stroller, making it possible for you to use the system throughout your baby’s infancy and toddlerhood. The car seat locks into the stroller for easy transport. Once your baby can support herself, use the stroller alone as you would a traditional stroller.
Pros: The all-inclusive system gives you more for your money. Plus, it offers a smooth ride and good coverage from the elements.
Cons: These strollers can be the bulkiest of the bunch, and once you decide on a travel system you must choose the stroller and the car seat contained in that system.
Price Range: $150 to $500
Within this group, you will find everything from high-end brand lightweight strollers to inexpensive umbrella strollers. Some strollers may be convertible, switching from a carriage (with baby riding in a bassinet-like compartment) to upright seated stroller with only a few mom-friendly flicks of the wrist.
Pros: Traditional strollers are generally easy to use and fold, and are also rather lightweight.
Cons: Depending on the model, you won’t be able to use these during the first few months of your baby’s life.
Price Range: $20 to $900 and beyond
Favored by moms for their classic style, pram carriages are essentially bassinets on wheels. Built with an elegantly curved lightweight metal frame and oversized wheels, traditional prams function as a cozy place for your newborn to nap while you take a stroll. Prams are intended for infant use only, meaning you will need to purchase another stroller once baby is able to sit up.
Pro: Suspension springs give these classic buggies a super-smooth ride.
Cons: Almost all classic prams on the market in the US are made by exclusive European manufacturers and come with a hefty price tag.
Price Range: $800 to $1,200 and beyond
Becoming more and more popular, carriers offer a simple frame to hold your baby’s car seat. Some seat carrier models come with an extra seat for an older sibling.
Pros: You pick your own car seat. Seat carriers are easy to use, lightweight, and inexpensive.
Cons: Seat carriers can only be used with a car seat.
Price Range: $50 to $190
Special Purpose Strollers
If you’re looking for adventure with baby on board, jogging strollers are the way to go. Once expensive options reserved for the jogging enthusiast, these strollers have come down in price and status, making them more practical.
Pros: Joggers are good for all sorts of roads—and even places without them.
Cons: Joggers can’t be used with a car seat and most joggers are designed for use with babies at least six months of age and beyond. According to Consumer Reports, the three-wheel design sometimes proves less stable over curbs than four.
Price Range: $90 to $800
Strolling with two? Double strollers come in two styles: tandem, where you have one child in front and one behind, and side by side.
Pros: Holds two children.
Cons: Double strollers can be harder to maneuver and heavier.
Price Range: $80 to $600
Within each of the stroller categories you can find hybrid strollers such as double jogging strollers.
The most expensive strollers, such as Bugaboo and Peg Perego, tend to score well in reviews. If you plan on putting a lot of miles on your stroller, the extra cash might be worth it. Additional brands such as Graco, Kolcraft, Combi, Evenflo, Century, and Baby Trend offer a variety of great products, often with the same features as pricier models.
When choosing a stroller, consider the following:
- The season during which your baby will be born: This may be one of the first deciding factors in what kind of stroller you buy. If you’re due in the winter and you live in Colorado, you may not be venturing outside often and need only an infant car seat for the first few months. Conversely, if you live in a locale that’s sunny most of the year, you might be thinking more about a lightweight stroller.
- Your baby’s developmental stages: During the first few months of your baby’s life, she won’t be able to sit or support herself. You will either need to purchase a stroller that will grow with your baby (either by reclining positions or by hooking in a car seat), or look for a stroller to use during different times in your baby’s development.
- Where you live: Do you live in the city or the suburbs? If you live in New York City and don’t own a car, your stroller will likely get a lot of wear. If you drive a lot, your stroller may sit in the trunk.
- Your travel needs: How you live is just as important as where you live. If you don’t plan on long walks in the park, but instead short jaunts between errands, you may opt for an infant car seat carrier versus a full-blown stroller. But if you plan on walking everywhere with baby then you might be more willing to spend money on a top-of-the-line stroller.
- Borrow from friends to test out what you think is the right stroller.
- Check out manufacturer recall lists to make sure the stroller you’re looking at hasn’t been recalled. Even the priciest models sometimes have problems.
- Test drive strollers at your local baby superstore, but don’t feel like you have to purchase them there. Once you know what you want, shop for the best price online or suggest it as a shower gift.
- How easy is it to fold?
- Does it have a five-point harness to secure the baby?
- Does it recline? How many positions does it have?
- How easy is it to use the brakes?
- Are the handlebars adjustable?
- Is the basket too low? Too high?
- Is the basket big enough for your needs?
- Does the stroller have cup holders?
- Is it too heavy? Too light?
- Is it easy to steer?
- Do the front and back wheels swivel?
- Does the stroller fit into your car’s trunk?
- Does the stroller have the JPMA seal?
- What is the store’s return policy on the stroller?
- Is the stroller on a recall list?
“Check to make sure that the stroller you purchase has the JPMA seal,” advises Anne Marie Lisko, product manager for strollers with Graco Children’s Products. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association seal ensures that the manufacturer adheres to certain safety standards.
Lisko also recommends that parents carefully read through the instruction manual that comes with the stroller. “The instructions contain important warnings about how to use the stroller properly and how to assemble it correctly.” Lisko gives the incentive that parents are likely to find additional features on their stroller they might not know about if they don’t read the manual.
Buy with Confidence
So you’ve figured out your due date, factored in where you live and how you live—you’re ready to buy the perfect stroller, right? Not so fast! Before you buy, consider the following tips to help you make the best decision for you and your baby:
Stroller Checklist for Your Test Drive
Strollers make parenting much easier—keeping your baby asleep from car to grocery store to home when she’s small, and keeping her out of trouble while on walks and visits to the zoo when she’s a toddler. Take time to find the stroller that will fit your family’s needs.