Don’t short change your choice of strollers. How the stroller feels and drives can make the difference between great outings and difficult ones. With so many makes and models on the market, how do you begin to narrow your options? You can start by thinking about where you live, where you’ll be taking your child and what you need to bring with you when you go. Have more than one child? There are strollers that can tow the entire family. Pronto’s Stroller Buying Guide takes you through all the points you need to consider before clicking the “buy now” button (see also Jogging Stroller Buying Guide, Baby Carrier Buying Guide).
Most parents wind up buying more than one stroller to meet different needs. A light weight stow-and-go stroller just can’t be used for a jog, but is great for maneuvering crowded mall shopping racks. The “one stroller fits all uses” really doesn’t exist.
Look for five-point harnesses that restrain your child at the shoulders, hips and crotch to prevent your child from slipping in the seat. Also look for rear-wheel brakes, mechanism locks that prevent the stroller from folding or collapsing when in use.
Check the weight of the stroller before you buy and don’t forget to add that to your child’s weight to calculate how much you’ll be pushing around every day. Ditto its physical dimensions to ensure it will fit easily in your trunk or hatchback. Are you tall? Check out models with adjustable handles.
The general rule is that bigger wheels are best for heavy running and strolling over rough terrain. Smaller wheels are better for walking on smooth surfaces. Air-filled tires make for a better ride and longer-lasting stroller. Ditto non-rusting aluminum alloy wheels.
The list of extras can be long, and even includes built in stereo sound. We recommend the following must haves: A rotating sun canopy so you can shield baby’s face from the sun. A cup holder so mom and dad stay hydrated. And lastly, think of storage like a closet. You’ll likely fill it to the brim. We like to travel light. Don’t always choose the model that has “extra storage” or your stroller could wind up like a mobile Toys-R-Us.
Car seat harnesses that attach at both shoulders, both hips and at the crotch for a total of five attachment points. Beware models that only feature 3 attachment points They are not recommended by either Consumer Reports nor the American Association of Pediatrics.
Lightweight, easily-folded stroller with a metal frame and a sling-like seat. These inexpensive strollers are good for short shopping trips or travel because of their compact nature, but aren’t durable. A good second option to have on hand, but not a stroller for everyday or the long haul. Not a good choice for infants who need back and head support.
These strollers offer a variety of seat positions including full recline for infants, partial and full recline. More solidly-constructed than umbrella strollers, standard strollers are a good choice for every day and offer more comfort for baby (padded seats, sun canopies) and convenience for parents and caretakers (storage and adjustable handles).
These strollers have three large wheels instead of the usual four which enable them to handle a variety of terrains. Feature sets are similar to other stroller types, but you’ll pay for the design, more compact size and lighter weight. See the Pronto Buying Guide for Jogging Strollers.
Travel systems are combination car seat/strollers. The infant seat locks into the base that remains in the car as well as the base of the stroller. Once your baby outgrows the infant seat, remove the base from the stroller and use the stroller on its own.
Strollers that accommodate two or more infants or children of various sizes/ages. High-capacity strollers come in a variety of seating configurations (side-by-side seats, front-to-back seats, back-to-back seats, stadium seating and sit-and-stand which allow older children to stand on a platform while the smaller child sits and still be pushed).
Although some strollers can grow with your child from infant to toddler, chances are that no one single stroller will meet all your needs, so budget accordingly—especially if you already have, or plan to have, more children. Most parents will benefit from purchasing more than one stroller. The good news is that with the wealth of deals available online, you can purchase two quality strollers that meet your needs for less than high-end standard strollers with sought-after brand names.
When you’re evaluating your options, think first about where you live and what terrain you’ll most often be covering with your stroller. If your stroller will mostly do duty inside malls and stores, consider umbrella strollers which have smaller wheels and are easy to navigate through narrow aisles and around tight corners. Umbrella strollers are lightweight and easy to fold and store in the trunk of a car. This also makes them good for air travel, however, their sling-like design makes them a poor choice for infants who need to recline, and may not offer your child the best back support for long excursions.
Standard strollers are great options for everyday and many, like Pronto’s recommended Graco Quattro Tour Deluxe Darius, can accommodate infants and toddlers up to 50lbs and offer you a variety of features and conveniences without breaking the bank (the Quattro’s estimated retail price is $130). These strollers may even be compatible with infant and other car seats made by the same manufacturer. Things you’ll want in a standard stroller include a variety of recline positions (infants must remain flat), five-point harnesses (a must for newborns and infants; three-harness models work best for toddlers) one-handed close capability, lockable wheels, and under-the-seat and other storage options.
If you’re a runner, often go the beach or live in a rural area where you’ll be using the stroller on a variety of terrains, consider a standard stroller with air-filled tires (also known as all-terrain tires) or a jogging stroller. Jogging strollers have three large wheels versus the usual four and handle rougher surfaces better than non-air filled tired (all the better to make your baby’s ride comfortable). An advantage of jogging strollers is their lighter weight, but the sleek design is something you’ll pay extra for.
The first concern is always the child’s safety. Like car seats, the restraint system is key. Five-point harnesses are best and some strollers may convert to three-point harnesses as the child grows. Regardless, you’ll want a restraint system that includes a crotch strap to prevent your child from slipping down in the seat. Other safety features include rear-wheel locks and brakes (some models come with one-hand brake systems for safety and ease). Locking systems on the frame that provide an extra safeguard against it folding or collapsing while in use and if your stroller doesn’t stand firm on the ground with all wheels touching the ground at all times, return it.
Children mean always having your hands full and rarely having both hands free. You’ll want to be able to put your child in and take them out of the stroller with relative ease. That goes double for the harness—you should be able to fasten and unfasten the restraint quickly. Weight is another consideration, which most online shops list among the stroller’s specifications. Don’t forget that you’ll be pushing the stroller’s weight in additional to your child and everything you’ll be bringing along. Sometimes, every pound counts. Check out the dimensions of the stroller. Will it fit in your trunk or hatchback? Other points to consider are how well the stroller handles tight corners and small spaces (strollers have fixed or swivel wheels, but some models feature both ranges of movement) and, for taller parents, whether the handles can adjust to accommodate your height.
The trend in stroller wheels today is aluminum alloy. Aluminum alloy wheels don’t rust, so if you live in a climate where moisture is an issue (coastal, mountain, snow belts), you’ll want your stroller to have them. Yes, they’re more expensive, but if you opt for steel wheels, you may have to replace them in the future. Also, aluminum alloy wheels are lighter than steel and reduce overall stroller weight. If you fall in love with a stroller that has steel wheels, be sure to care for them regularly by rinsing after use near the ocean or on salt-treated winter roads. As for tires, air-filled tires have treads like bicycle tires and not only last longer with repeated use on sidewalks and rougher terrains, but add a level of comfort for your child.
Today’s strollers do everything but push themselves. Do you have to pay a lot to get these accessories and extras? Not unless you want to. Most budget- and mid-priced strollers feature organization trays for your child’s toys, under-the-seat storage for the diaper/activity bag, cup holders for your beverage and even zipper-lid compartments for keys and other essentials. Extras to look for include thicker padded seats, stain-resistant or removable seat covers and shock absorbers. Peek-a-boo canopy windows allow you to keep an eye on your child while rain covers for inclement weather and boot covers for cold weather walking keep your child warm and dry. Some strollers may offer you a variety of colors and/or fabric patterns to choose from. When you pay more for a stroller, you’re usually paying for lighter weight frame construction, compact size and brand name.