Baby Strollers Demystified: Let’s Go Shopping

A baby stroller is one of the key pieces of equipment new parents invest in during the months before their baby’s birth. Strollers are one of the workhorse items in any baby-gear arsenal, and if you choose wisely, you likely will be able to use the stroller for a second child as well.

It takes a good bit of research and consideration to make the right buying decision. In fact, it’s a little like shopping for a new car. No stroller is likely to get an A+ in every category, but you probably can find a model that is just perfect for your needs. Remember that the stroller that worked for your friend’s child will not be the best choice for you because every family functions in different ways.

There are a lot of nuances to keep in mind when test driving stroller models. We’ve collected the top considerations here to guide you in the winnowing process.

Young pregnant woman choosing baby carriage or pram buggy for newborn at shop store

Young pregnant woman choosing baby carriage or pram buggy for newborn at shop store

What is Your Budget?

This can be the toughest question, so we are starting here. Strollers can cost between $75 and $800 or more, depending on the features, weight and brand you are looking at. The average may be around $400. When it comes right down to it, you have to decide whether you want a heavy, durable giant or a lightweight model that probably won’t have many features. There are pros and cons of each decision, but the choice ultimately will depend on what you can afford. There is no use looking at $800 models if your budget is $300. And you won’t be bad parents if you don’t splurge, either. Get the best stroller you can afford and care for it well so you don’t have to replace it three times before your child turns 5.

All-Purpose or Specialized?

All-purpose strollers run anywhere between $100 and $800. Lightweight strollers – especially the so-called umbrella strollers – can be under $50. After you understand how you will most likely use the stroller, your decision will be easier. For example, if you are fitness buff and believe you will need a 3-wheeled jogging stroller, that’s what you should test drive. If you don’t want to – or can’t – lift a heavy model out of the back of your car, only look at lightweight, strollers that fold nicely. Finally, if you are a shopping mall warrior who needs a stroller that doubles as a shopping cart, the larger options should be your focus.

3-wheeled jogging stroller

3-wheeled jogging stroller

How Many Should It Seat?

For parents expecting their first child, it may seem silly to think ahead to the next one. However, if you plan to have kids close together, you might want to get a tandem stroller that seats two kids. This may be a side-by-side format, a front-to-back format or a stroller that has room for a car seat near the handle and a toddler at the front. There are even strollers that convert from a single to a double when the time comes. A two-seater can be vital to preventing squabbles when one child gets tired from walking and wants to join his or her sibling in comfort.

Twins in a tandem stroller

Twins in a tandem stroller

What Will Your Car Seat Be?

Many car seats work together with a stroller. These “travel systems” make moving from the car to a stroller format much easier. Most children stay in their cradle-shaped car seat until they are about a year old, so a travel system can be a good investment. They usually have baskets underneath for carrying parents’ personal items or a diaper bag, and most of them convert into a seated model after the car seat section isn’t used anymore. Getting these two features in one can sometimes help you save on buying the car seat and stroller as separate pieces or the headache of finding an adapter to make it work.

Infant Car Seat + Urban Stroller Bundle. Photo: Chicco

Infant Car Seat + Urban Stroller Bundle. Photo: Chicco

How Often Do You Plan to Use It?

Be honest here. Are you likely to jog enough to justify the cost of a jogging stroller? If you are a homebody or don’t travel much, a lightweight, inexpensive stroller might be fine. Or, if you know that you tend to pack heavily and prefer to be prepared for anything, a heavy-duty all-purpose model likely is your best fit. The answer to this question is closely linked with many of the others on this list.

How Big Is Your Car – and Your House?

Parents who drive a small car won’t have room for a giant stroller in the back, even if it is collapsible. You don’t want to buy a model that is so large, you can’t fit anything else such as groceries, suitcases or your family dog. Think as well about your home. If you have to go up two flights of stairs to get to your small urban loft, lightweight, compact strollers are the way to go for sure. On the other hand, people living in large suburban homes who have a garage and a large vehicle will be fine if they choose a giant luxury stroller model.

Do You Go Off-Road?

Are you a hiking family? Or do you live on a gravel road that you might want to take a jogging stroller down? In order to find your ideal stroller, you must look closely at the tires. Hard plastic tires are fine for pavement and concrete mall floors. But for maneuvering to the park with the bark dust paths or cobblestone streets in the historic district of your town requires better tires. Take a look at the specifications on the model you are considering, taking special note of the suspension and materials.

Will You Use It While Shopping?

Most strollers have some sort of basket section meant to carry a diaper bag and anything else as long as the weight doesn’t exceed 10 pounds. If you plan to take the stroller grocery or clothes shopping, you will want to look for models with extra-large baskets. Again, the stroller specs should indicate the weight limit for the basket section. Also, be sure the basket can be easily accessed. You don’t want to struggle to get the diaper bag out when Baby is screaming for a pacifier.

Do You Prefer Baby-Wearing Over Baby-Pushing?

The trend these days is toward parents who prefer to carry their child in a sling, backpack or front pack. This may make a stroller seem superfluous. That, however, is not the case. Parents’ backs get tired from the additional weight. Also, sometimes the child just wants to get down and walk on his or her own. If you need a place to carry a diaper bag or any other items, you should consider purchasing a lightweight stroller for the time when Baby doesn’t want to be worn anymore.

What Sort of Conveniences Do You Want?

With every baby comes at least one parent, and that parent deserves some level of comfort as well. So when you are shopping for your stroller, consider your needs. Do you need a spot to carry a purse or backpack? Do you want cup holders? Lockable brakes are a good idea, and the stroller fabric should be easily washable. Sure, you can buy some of these features as add-on accessories, but that just adds to your expenditure.

Bonus: Awesome Features That Are a Boon for Parents

Not every stroller includes one of the following features, but if you find one that does, it should definitely be on your list of candidates. Check out these selling points:

  • Self-standing folds: Keep at least one hand free with this convenient feature, which keeps the stroller upright when you are collapsing it.
  • Adjustable handle: Do your back – or your partner’s back – a favor and look for a stroller with a handle that can be adjusted for height. You will be less motivated to get out and moving if your stroller is painful to use.
  • Simple breaks: When you are wearing sandals in hot weather, you can prevent battered feet by getting a model that has foot breaks that don’t take brute force to engage. If you can find a stroller with this feature, just know that some flip-flop days are in your future.
  • Window: The convertible tops of the best strollers include a plastic window so you can see what your child is doing even when you are behind him or her to push the stroller. It also allows Baby to see the sky despite the top being down.

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