Stroller Buying Guide

Stroller Buying Guide

By Amy Venzke

amy@strolleria.com

 

What’s the best car for your family? There’s no one answer. It depends on whether you want a luxurious ride or something more economical. The size of your family and your garage. Whether you’ll be navigating the streets of a crowded city or off-roading on trails. Even your sense of style influences the car you buy. 

Buying a baby stroller involves the same decisions, which can be similarly overwhelming. A stroller is one of the biggest and most important purchases you’ll make for your baby. As with a car, it’s something you’ll use every day, and finding a stroller that’s comfortable and safe is a top priority.

We’re here to help you choose the right stroller for your family. In this stroller buying guide from Strolleria, you’ll learn:

  • Stroller buying basics and factors to consider in your purchase
  • Characteristics of full-size, mid-size, lightweight, double and jogging strollers—and the benefits and limitations of each type
  • Features and accessories to look for in a stroller
  • How to test-drive a stroller 

 

Heads-up: This guide is thorough! If it's more than you bargained for, scroll to the end of the page to save a PDF of the Ultimate Stroller Buying Guide to read later.

Ready to stroll? Read on!

 

Stroller Buying Basics

You’ll need a stroller when your baby is a newborn—and when she’s a toddler who can’t trek across the zoo on her own. You’ll want one that’s lightweight and easily foldable for errands, but you’ll also need something more sturdy (with plenty of storage) for walks and long periods of time away from home. Maybe you’ll want to take your baby out for a run. And if you have another child, you might want a stroller built for two.

You probably won’t find a single stroller that meets all of your needs. That’s why the average family owns two or three, according to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.

There are several stroller categories and hundreds of models to choose from. How do you start narrowing down the field? Keep these factors in mind.

 

Strollers for infants

Stroller Buying Guide

Some strollers are intended only for certain ages, while others can be adapted as your baby (and family) grows.

Until your baby is about six months old, when she can support her head, she needs to be fully reclined when riding in a stroller. That means strollers that require a baby to sit upright, like jogging strollers and umbrella strollers, can't be used until later on.

To start, most parents look for a stroller that’s compatible with their infant car seat, which is typically used for the baby's first several months until she graduates to a convertible car seat. By using a stroller/car seat combo, you can let sleeping babies lie while transitioning from the vehicle to the stroller.

But you could also attach a bassinet to your stroller—or simply use the stroller seat itself, as long as it reclines to a flat position that's safe for an infant.

For babies younger than six months, most parents start with one of these options.

 

Stroller with infant car seat

Stroller Buying Guide

While some manufacturers sell "travel systems" as a set, most strollers connect with a number of infant car seats.

Companies including  UPPAbaby,  Nuna and Peg-Perego manufacture car seats that snap into their strollers. Other car seats attach to strollers through the use of  car seat adapters  (an accessory that typically costs between $20 and $70). Either way, we recommend you pick out your stroller first—you'll likely have at least a few choices for a compatible car seat.

With higher-quality models, the stroller seat is removable so that you can replace it with the infant car seat. Otherwise, the infant car seat is inserted on top of the stroller seat.  When your baby is ready, you can use the stroller without the infant car seat. 

 

Stroller with bassinet

 

Some high-quality strollers can be used with a bassinet in place of an infant car seat. Not only is a bassinet more spacious, it's also safer for long-term use. Experts recommend that infant car seats be used only for traveling—not for hours of sleeping.

The UPPAbaby VISTA, the Nuna JETT and the Bugaboo Buffalo, Cameleon and Donkey are among the strollers that come with a bassinet approved for overnight use. Used with a bassinet stand, the bassinet can be baby's first bed before she grows into a crib, or it can be a portable sleeping option for trips and nights at the grandparents' house.

 

Stroller with lie-flat seat 

Stroller Buying Guide

Stroller seats are safe for newborns as long as they fully recline to a flat position. Some brands also make infant accessories, like a seat insert with plush head support, to provide additional stability for the baby's head and neck.

 

Car seat frame

Stroller Buying Guide

As an alternative to a full-size stroller, parents can purchase a car seat frame. The infant car seat becomes a minimalistic stroller by snapping into the lightweight frame, which does not include a stroller seat. Pro: Frames are inexpensive and easy to use. Con: You won't be able to use them once your baby outgrows her infant car seat—and still needs to ride in a stroller.

 

Choosing a stroller for your lifestyle

Stroller Buying Guide

Urban dwellers who get around on public transportation probably wouldn't buy the same stroller as parents cruising the suburbs in an SUV.

Ask yourself these questions when choosing a stroller that fits your lifestyle.

 

Do you plan to have more children?

If you expect to have two children who are both stroller-age, consider a convertible stroller : one that converts from a single stroller to a double stroller (examples include the Baby Jogger City Select and the  UPPAbaby VISTA). Or you might prefer a double stroller with side-by-side seats, like the Peg-Perego Book for Two or the Thule Urban Glide 2.

 

What kind of terrain will you be navigating with your stroller? 

Will you be sticking to city streets and sidewalks—or venturing out to parks and trails? If you're planning to off-road on dirt, grass or gravel, look for a stroller with larger, all-terrain wheels that won't get stuck on uneven surfaces (a couple examples: the Bugaboo Buffalo and the BOB Revolution FLEX).

 

How active do you expect to be? 

Will you be going on walks with your stroller often, or is it mainly a means of transportation from the car to your destination? Your activity level should influence your stroller decision, just like it does for your choice of shoes. You can get away with inexpensive flip-flops for short jaunts, but for longer distances, you'll want something sturdier and higher-quality.

 

Where will you store your stroller? 

Will you roll it straight into your garage or keep it folded inside your house? How does the stroller fit into the trunk of your car? Note the size of the stroller in both its folded and unfolded states before you buy.

 

How much storage space will you need? 

When you're out with your stroller, how will you carry your purse or diaper bag, toys and snacks? If you want to take everything along for the stroll, you might want a substantial stroller like the UPPAbaby VISTA, which has a storage basket with a 30-pound weight capacity. But if you pack light, you might choose a stroller like the VISTA's little sibling, the UPPAbaby CRUZ.

Remember that it's not safe to hang a bag from the stroller's handlebar (in fact, the  Bugaboo Buffalo  is the only stroller certified safe for this scenario).

 

Stroller prices

Stroller Buying Guide

Depending on its quality and features, the price of a stroller varies widely: from less than $200 to more than $1,500. As with anything from a pair of shoes to a piece of furniture, you can buy a stroller to last for a matter of months or for years to come.

On the long list of products needed for a baby, a stroller stands out as one worth an investment in quality. While relying on it every day, you won’t want to deal with one that breaks, doesn’t fold well or is tricky to maneuver (think of an uncooperative cart at the grocery store). That’s especially true if you plan to use the same stroller for multiple children.

What else makes a high-quality stroller worth the price?

  • Quality endures throughout use for multiple children
  • Removable and reversible seats so that you can change the direction the baby faces and replace the seat with an infant car seat or bassinet
  • Lightweight aluminum that makes the stroller lighter, more durable and easier to carry, as compared to plastic strollers
  • Foam-filled rubber wheels or air-filled tires that offer better maneuverability and more durability than plastic wheels
  • Front-wheel or all-wheel suspension for smooth and sturdy handling
  • Manufacturer warranty coverage for as long as three years, as compared to as short as 90 days for low-end models
  • Fashionable styles, colors and prints
  • High resale value for as much as two-thirds of original purchase price

 

Introduction to Stroller Types

In this section, we'll explain the uses for six different types of strollers, along with the benefits and limitations of each type.

 

Full-size strollers

Stroller Buying Guide

The full-size stroller is the staple: usable from day one until your child is a toddler. Two smaller wheels allow for precise steering, while two larger wheels offer stability. Some full-size strollers are also convertible strollers, meaning that they can become a double stroller with the purchase of a second seat.

 

Best for

Families who want a comfortable stroller with lots of room

 

Age range

Newborn (if baby is fully reclined) to 3+ 

 

Benefits

  • Can grow with baby from birth to toddler age
  • Compatible with infant car seats or bassinets
  • Durable and easy to maneuver
  • Roomy, comfortable seat
  • Ample storage space

 

Limitations

  • Heavier and can be more difficult to fold than a mid-size or lightweight stroller
  • Can be cumbersome for quick trips and travel

 

Mid-size strollers

Stroller Buying Guide

The mid-size stroller can be a compromise for families on the go. It's smaller and lighter than a full-size stroller and offers more features than a lightweight stroller, like car-seat compatibility and larger back wheels for better maneuverability.

 

Best for

City parents or parents with limited storage space; families who often travel or make frequent trips throughout the day

 

Age range

Newborn (if baby is fully reclined) to 3+

 

Benefits

  • Can grow with baby from birth to toddler age
  • Compatible with infant car seats or bassinets
  • Lighter and more compact than a full-size stroller
  • More sturdy and easier to maneuver than a lightweight stroller

 

Limitations

  • Less room and storage space than a full-size stroller
  • Heavier and bulkier than a lightweight stroller

 

Stroller Buying Guide

Lightweight and umbrella strollers  

Stroller Buying Guide

The lightweight stroller's main selling points are its compact size and ability to fold, which is why some are called umbrella strollers. Many families purchase a lightweight stroller for quick trips and travel in addition to a larger, more durable model. (Most lightweight strollers can't be used until the baby is about six months old and can sit upright).

 

Best for

Families with older babies or children who are frequently running errands, traveling or using public transportation

 

Age range

6 months or older (unless infant car seat is used)

 

Benefits

  • Can be half the weight of a full-size stroller
  • Easy to fold; compact for storing in a car 
  • Can be gate-checked at the airport

 

Limitations

  • Can't be used without infant car seat until baby is six months old; many models aren't compatible with infant car seats
  • Smaller seat is less comfortable for baby
  • Smaller, plastic wheels offer less maneuverability than larger strollers
  • Limited storage space

 

Stroller Buying Guide

Convertible strollers  

Stroller Buying Guide

A convertible stroller grows with your family, changing from a single stroller to a double with the addition of a second seat. Some models can even take three kids along for the ride when you add a skateboard-like piece that an older child can stand on.

 

Best for

Growing families who want to use the same product as both a single and double stroller

 

Age range

Newborn (if baby is fully reclined) to 3+

 

Benefits

  • Can eliminate the need to purchase a double stroller
  • Compatible with infant car seats and bassinets
  • Can be used in multiple configurations, such as with an infant car seat and a stroller seat
  • Many models offer reversible seats that allow children to face forward, backward or each other

 

Limitations

  • Convertible strollers tend to be heavy and expensive
  • Uneven weight distribution can make stroller more difficult to turn
  • Back passenger may have limited leg space

 

Stroller Buying Guide

Side-by-side double strollers 

Stroller Buying Guide

As a stroller built for two, the side-by-side double stroller features identical seats, making it ideal for twins and kids close in age. In some models, the stroller seat can be substituted for an infant car seat. 

 

Best for

Families with twins and children close in age

 

Age range

6 months and older (unless infant car seat is used)

 

Benefits

  • Weight is more evenly distributed than in a convertible stroller
  • Children are more accessible to parents and can more easily see and talk to each other

 

Limitations

  • Width can make it difficult to navigate city sidewalks, store aisles and other narrow spaces
  • Not all models are compatible with infant car seats

 

Stroller Buying Guide

Jogging strollers 

Stroller Buying Guide

Make baby part of your fitness routine with a jogging stroller, which features shock-absorbing suspension, an adjustable handlebar, a hand brake and large, air-filled tires. A swiveling front wheel can lock for increased stability when you're running.

 

Best for

Active families who want to take kids out for a run or hike

 

Age range

6 months or older for jogging (check with your pediatrician)

 

Benefits

  • Can be used as an everyday stroller and on trails and rugged terrain
  • Weight capacity of 70+ pounds allows for years of use

 

Limitations

  • Can be bulky and heavy for everyday use
  • Air-filled tires can go flat

 

Stroller Buying Guide

 

Anatomy of a Stroller

Seat, wheels, handlebar, canopy: All strollers are comprised of the same basic components. So what makes each one different? Study these features when evaluating a stroller.

Stroller Buying Guide

Five-point harness

Your baby won't budge in a five-point harness, which secures at the shoulders, waist and in between the legs. A three-point harness is less secure.

 

Wheels

Look for rubber wheels or air-filled tires, which are more durable and allow for better maneuverability than plastic wheels.

 

Brakes

Test the brake, which keeps the stroller from rolling without you. Most strollers have a foot brake. Some, including jogging strollers, have a hand brake similar to those on bicycles.

 

Canopy

A canopy protects the baby from sun and weather. Many are adjustable, allowing for varying degrees of coverage, and include window panels (often ventilated) for sneaking a peek.

 

Adjustable handlebar

Look for a telescoping handlebar that adjusts in length to accommodate parents of different heights.

 

Storage basket

Add your purse or diaper bag to ensure it fits in the basket and doesn't cause it to sag to the ground. Remember that you'll need to store bags here instead of hanging them from the handlebar, which is unsafe.

 

Adjustable footrest

Some strollers have adjustable footrests to support your child's legs as she grows.

How to test drive a stroller 

Stroller Buying Guide

If you're shopping in-store, follow these tips for test-driving a stroller.

 
Take it for a spin. 

Try some tight turns, stops and, if possible, curbs to get a feel for the stroller's maneuverability. 


Give it the two-parent check. 

See if the handlebar is comfortable for both you and your partner, and make sure you both have ample leg room as you walk with the stroller.


Practice folding and opening the stroller. 

Every model folds differently: some in a single step, some in a two-step process after you remove the seat. Don't be discouraged if you don't master the fold on the first try: You'll need a bit of practice before you get the hang of it. That said, if you truly struggle with the fold, you may want to consider a different model. Folding the stroller is something you'll do every day, multiple times a day—sometimes with one hand, when you're holding the baby! 


Carry the folded stroller. 

Lift it as if you're loading it into the car to see how heavy it is. Note how the stroller functions when folded. To name a few folding features: Strollers like the Nuna MIXX have a trolley function that allow you to wheel it when folded. Strollers from UPPAbaby and other brands stand when folded. And strollers including the Peg-Perego Book Pop-Up fold inward, protecting the fabric from touching the ground.


Try it with the infant car seat. 

Add the infant car seat to see how it fits on the stroller and how easy it is to detach. Does the car seat connect directly to the stroller frame, or do you need to purchase a car seat adapter? Can the stroller seat be replaced by the infant car seat, or does the car seat sit on top of the stroller seat?


Scope out the storage. 

If possible, fold the stroller and see how it fits in the trunk of your car. Check out where you'll store your strolling essentials, like your diaper bag, snacks and phone.


Add some weight. 

As you're testing the stroller, don't forget that you'll someday have a child who weighs as much as 50 pounds sitting in it. Throw in your purse (or, if possible, your baby!) for a more realistic feel while pushing the stroller.


Do a quality check. 

To see how sturdy the stroller feels, give it a little side-to-side shake. Activate the brake to ensure it stays put.

 

Conclusion

Stroller Buying Guide

Thanks for reading Strolleria's Ultimate Stroller Buying Guide! We hope we've helped make the decision a little less confusing.

What's Strolleria, anyway? We're a family-owned and operated retailer of high-quality strollers, car seats and baby gear from brands like Bugaboo, Clek, Nuna, Stokke, UPPAbaby and more. Whether you're shopping at Strolleria onlineor in our showroom in Scottsdale, Arizona, we're here to help you find the baby gear that's right for your family unique needs. We also offer the lowest prices available, plus free shipping on orders over $100 and no sales tax outside of Arizona.

 

About the author

Amy Venzke

Writer Amy Venzke is the co-owner of Strolleria, along with her husband, Drew. Together, they have a mission to make the gear-buying experience easier on parents. That includes you! Feel free to e-mail her with questions at amy@strolleria.com.

 

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