Choosing a Stroller
Your stroller will be a major purchase, but with some preparation you can avoid buying too little… or too much! Should you invest in a travel system, or in a jogging stroller? You’ll be glad you spent some extra time investigating the difference between various strollers and their features.
A stroller is one of the most difficult baby products to select. With some stores offering 30 or more models and prices varying from $15 to $400 or more, how does one find the stroller that is just right? Well, it is challenging, but with this brief overview, you'll be a stroller expert in no time.
How Strollers Are Used
Wider wheels make steering easier, but 8” should be the maximum!
Your first step is to consider how you'll use the stroller. Then you can select the features and model within your budget. Here are some common uses and the features that are most important.
Shopping (malls, department stores, etc.)
Storage is essential, so, if possible, you'll want to avoid extremely wide (such as side-by-side) strollers, which are difficult to maneuver between aisles and store displays. Comfort is also important, as your child may spend lengthy periods of time in the stroller. To entertain your child, you should look for a stroller with a snack tray or drink holder.
Walks around the neighborhood
Focus on comfort. You'll want a nicely padded seat and wheels that make it easy to push. Extra-large wheels are nice, but not a necessity; wheels six to eight inches in diameter will do the job just fine.
Family outings (zoo, park, sports events, etc.)
You'll need lots of storage, a good canopy for shade, and a seat that's suitable for sleeping. Look for a durable stroller that is comfortable for Mom or Dad to push. An adjustable handle or one with multiple hand positions is a great feature for Mom or Dad's added comfort.
Compact fold and light weight are the most important concerns here. Other desired features may vary depending upon the activities planned for on your trip. Some parents purchase an inexpensive umbrella stroller (see description below) for the airport and check a full-featured stroller with their luggage.
You may want a more practical stroller for everyday use, but if you want to speed walk or jog, you'll need a special stroller. Jogging strollers are sold in stores that carry baby products, as well as many local fitness and bicycle shops.
Types of Strollers
Here is a brief description of the types of strollers available and the features they offer.
This inexpensive stroller has curved handles, like an old-fashioned umbrella, and offers lightweight, compact basic transportation. Durability is minimal, but prices range from only $15 to $30 (canopy included). This one's a great value, but not much stroller.
This is a relatively new style that folds compactly and is lightweight but also offers many features found on more-expensive carriage strollers (see below). Amenities such as a reclining seat, armrest, canopy, and larger wheels are common but not standard. Prices range from $40 to $100, but durability, as well as features, is compromised at the lower prices. The fabric seats typically found in these strollers are more comfortable than the flat board seats found in most carriage strollers (see below). Storage is usually generous. (Most car seat/stroller combination products use some variation of a convenience stroller.)
This style of stroller, the traditional style for the past 30 years or so, generally has a seat back that fully reclines to create a "carriage" position. In contrast, convenience strollers typically recline to about a 30-degree angle. Usually carriage strollers are heavier and do not fold as compactly. Prices range from $70 to $150. A reversible handle is common so you can see baby while you push. Most newer models have a feature - a boot - that prevents baby from sliding through the leg openings when the seat is fully reclined.
Car Seat/Stroller Travel System
These combination products allow you to attach an infant car seat to the stroller. Most include an autobase for the car seat so that you can easily move your baby from the car to the stroller and back without unbuckling or buckling any belts. The system's great advantage is that you need not wake baby unnecessarily, since babies often sleep in the car. Prices range from $129 to $229. Important features to look for include a permanent attachment point on the stroller for the car seat so you don't lose the attachment hardware, a canopy that fully encloses baby in bad weather, and a canopy window so you can keep an eye on your precious passenger.
Jogging strollers are special-purpose strollers that are great for jogging or speed walking but typically aren't practical for everyday use. Storage, seat padding, and seat recline, among other things, are usually minimal. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $400.
Tandem strollers (with front and back seating positions) usually lack storage, but because they are narrower than twin strollers, they offer better maneuverability around retail-store displays. Twin strollers (with side-by-side seats) offer big baskets and allow either or both seats to recline at the same time. Of these two types, twin strollers are wider and therefore more difficult to get into tight spaces. Both are quite large when folded (except certain European twin-style models), so be sure the stroller you want will fit easily into your car.
Stroller Feature Checklist
- Wheel size: Bigger wheels roll more smoothly, but with two double wheels on the front, eight inches is about as big as you want for easy steering.
- Storage basket: A wide variety of sizes is available.
- Reclining seat: Either full or partial recline is typically satisfactory for an infant, but make sure the seat reclines to at least 45 degrees (halfway down).
- Shade canopy
- Viewing window in canopy
- Adjustable handle position: This is for taller users or to accommodate both parents.
- Armrest for child: This gives your child something to hold onto and is a great place to attach toys.
- Seat back height: Make sure the backrest is tall enough for when your child gets older.
- Car seat compatible: The attachment points should be permanent, because extra parts may get lost.
- Replaceable wheels: Nothing takes a beating like stroller wheels.
- Cup holder: This is a nice feature to keep your hands free to push. It is not designed for hot beverages, however.
- Shock-absorbing suspension: Smooths out the ride, especially for sleeping children.
- Swivel locks: Lock front wheels in place for easier steering or rough roads.