How To Buy A Stroller
Spending a little time learning all things Stroller 101 can go a long way in helping you make this big decision. This quick guide covers the major types of strollers, what to keep in mind as you shop and the features parents appreciate the most.
how to buy a stroller
Also known as an everyday or full-size stroller, an all-purpose stroller is ideal for everything from a walk around the neighborhood to a family trip to the zoo. These are typically solid strollers that combine a smooth ride with convenient features like a storage basket, seat recline and cup holders. Most (but not all) all-purpose strollers are on the heavier, bulkier side and take a bit of effort to fold down. They vary in price from as low as a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand, and some are also modular and have the ability to change the seat direction or add on another seat or stroller board (an area for a toddler to stand and ride) down the road.
Even among the same type of stroller, features can vary a lot. Here, too, it helps to keep in mind how you plan on using the stroller the majority of the time. Evaluate these popular features to see which ones are most important to you:
An adjustable handlebar, often also called a telescoping handlebar, makes the stroller comfortable for everyone to push no matter their height. This is a great option if you and other caregivers are on entirely different latitudes.
This article provides the background information you need to choose the best stroller for you. It is related to and intended to complement our comprehensive side-by-side review of the top-rated full-size strollers.
The purpose of any stroller is to make it easier to transport your baby while you walk. At its purest, it is an alternative to carrying your baby in your arms or on your hip. However, your baby will almost always prefer to be held instead of riding.
A good alternative, especially in the first six months, is wearing your baby in one of the best baby carriers. Infants love the snug hold of being carried on your chest, and toddlers often like to be carried on your back. The best carriers distribute weight so well that you can wear your baby for hours, leaving your hands free to perform other tasks. While strolling is very convenient, a baby carrier offers a practical alternative, and baby carriers are a lot less expensive and take up a lot less space. The other bonus is, carried babies tend to be less fussy than babies sitting in a stroller.
It is also worth noting that too much time in a car seat, baby bouncer, or favorite baby swing can contribute to plagiocephaly, or flattening of the back of baby's head. What does this have to do with strolling? In the first six months, most parents use their car seat for strolling, connecting it with a car seat adapter to the frame of a stroller. Pediatricians consider it relatively acceptable for a baby to spend 1.5 to 4 hours per day in a combination of the best infant car seat, baby bouncer, or the best baby swing. However, if your little one spends more than 4 hours in these devices, especially in the first few months when their skull is soft, they will have a higher risk of developing a flattened area in the back of the head. Using a baby carrier in a parent-facing chest position can help by taking pressure off the back of the head, and in combination with supervised tummy time, can help you avoid flattening the head.
For most of us, even the most hard-core fans of baby carriers, the convenience of strolling makes a stroller an essential tool that will get daily use for years. The main advantages are:
Unlike many other baby products, a quality strolling option will serve you for years. We consider this to be one of the categories where you might want to spend extra to get what you want in a stroller. A quality stroller will serve you between the ages of 6 months to 3+ years, and it can work well for multiple children or as a hand-me-down to friends and relatives. Many of the best products enjoy a significant resale value.
Outfitted with large air-filled tires and shock absorbers, top-ranked jogging strollers are specially designed to roll smoothly and straight while running and reduce the impact of bumps and curbs on your baby. Most weigh anywhere from 23 to 38 lbs.
We encourage new parents to consider starting off with either a car seat adapter for their stroller or a car seat frame (and delay buying a full-size product until you have a better sense of what your long-term strolling needs will be). While most full-size products offer car seat adapters, a full-size product with a car seat adapter is more cumbersome and more laborious to use than a car seat frame product.
In any event, make sure you get a car seat adapter or frame stroller that provides a click-in method of securing your specific model of car seat rather than a strap-in. The click-in way is much faster and easier than using the two-step strap process.
Some high-end strollers come with a bassinet that can attach to the frame and may (or may not) be suitable for sleeping. The UPPAbaby website prominently notes that their bassinet is appropriate for overnight sleeping as well as strolling. But, as you'll read in our safety tips below, we're a bit anxious about bassinets for unsupervised sleeping due to suffocation risk.
Rather than a quick out-and-back, your walks with a toddler become longer expeditions and the stroller will become your base camp. You'll be bringing more stuff to support an extended time away from the house. That means storage for a well-stocked diaper bag, food, bottles, clothes, and toys. But, storage is not the only way your needs will change over time.
If you think you will frequently drive or use public transportation before strolling, a larger folded size may become annoying. If you travel frequently, you might want to consider a lightweight umbrella stroller to augment or replace a full-size product. It can be very convenient to have both a lightweight product when on the road and a standard size for use in your neighborhood. But you'll need to consider whether the convenience justifies the additional expense.
Every day that you stroll, the maneuverability performance of your stroller will be noticeable, and it degrades as your baby gets heavier. During the period you'll do the most strolling, ages six months to three years, your baby will grow from an average of 16 to 32 lbs. The extra weight of your growing baby and the pile of gear you'll need to bring will increasingly impact maneuverability. Almost all products are easy to maneuver when empty.
Key features make the difference between an easy-to-push stroller and a frustrating experience. After pushing, pulling, turning, and finagling more strollers than we can count, you can trust we know a thing or two about strollers.
The downside of bigger wheels is that they are heavier and bulkier. For those who frequently need to load in and out of the car or travel on public transportation, large wheel sizes can be a negative. Several in this review have larger foam-filled rubber tires that aren't as big as those found on the jogging products but are more significant than the traditional wheels that used to be the gold standard for this kind of stroller.
While it is convenient to be able to fold your stroller with one hand, we think manufacturers make a bigger deal of the feature in their marketing than it deserves. Neither of the two Editors' Choice products offers a one-handed fold, and both scored above average for ease of folding.
Simply put, using one hand over two doesn't mean your other hand is free to do your taxes or diaper a baby. Folding is a quick process that doesn't give you time for anything else. So even if your stroller is a one-handed fold, it's over so fast that your free hand will likely be doing nothing, or it will be supporting the product and thus still involved.
Another factor is how the bar adjusts. Some adjust by rotating on a pivot point on each side, so when the handlebar is at its highest point, the pusher is closer to the frame, which results in several testers kicking the back of the strollers while walking. Other handlebars adjust by telescoping in and out of the frame sides, and when the bar is at the highest point, the tallest pusher is furthest away from the back wheels and, thus, less likely to kick the frame. The products with telescoping handles had less flex or play in them than those with the pivot point.
Well, not one of the top-scoring products in our review came with a parent tray as a standard feature (all offer it as an option with costs ranging from $20-$40). Very few strollers offer parent trays.
Every full-size product sold in the US offers a safety harness. In our tests, we found that the best provide a 5-point harness with an easy-to-use latching mechanism. We suggest parents make a habit of buckling their baby into the stroller with a properly fitting harness every time, no matter what, to avoid accidents and injuries.
One of the most disturbing strolling-related injuries is the amputation of a baby's fingertips after being pinched in the hinge while folding. This type of accident only occurs rarely, but as recently as the summer 2012 Kolcraft recalled 36,000 products following reports of three fingertip amputations. In 2009, Maclaren announced a recall of more than 1 million products following reports of 12 fingertip amputations (another five fingertip amputations occurred in the two years after the recall). UPPAbaby also recently (in 2022) had a recall for its jogging stroller for finger amputations.
One fatality reported to the CPSC occurred when a parent attempted to take a stroller containing an unrestrained and sleeping baby up a set of stairs, and the baby tragically fell out, resulting in a fatal injury.
Falls are the most common injury related to strolling, and a fall on stairs is obviously significantly more dangerous. Escalators add the additional hazard of moving mechanical parts. Experts advise that you should never take any strolling product on an escalator or stairs. Find a nearby elevator or ramp and use it instead. If there is no alternative, get some help. Take the baby out of the harness, and carry the baby up or down the stairs or escalator, holding onto one handrail. Have someone else bring the empty stroller up or down separately. 041b061a72