Choosing Your Perfect Stroller – Ultimate Buying Guide

As you will have no doubt noticed by now, the stroller world is pretty big. And confusing. Nowadays, there are so many options available and it's difficult to narrow down the right one for you.
choosing a stroller

All parents will agree, a suitable stroller is a must-have item. When we were choosing a stroller, we were left scratching our heads as to where to begin. We ended up spending hours upon hours carrying out online research. Eventually, we managed to work out what kind of stroller would work best for us.
I know many other parents will be wondering the same things as us, so I decided to form this comprehensive stroller buying guide. Hopefully this will save you some of the hard work!

Terminology

You may feel bewildered by all the different names you’ve come across or heard people mention when discussing strollers. So what is a stroller? It’s the name given to a folding chair on wheels, used to transport your baby from A to B. People also sometimes call these pushchairs. Prams are more of a traditional carrycot on wheels. These are normally designed for newborns. A buggy is often used to describe a lightweight, travel friendly stroller. Depending on where you live in the world (and who you speak to), you may find these terms are interchangeable. So don’t worry too much about it.

Types

If you’ve already started looking for strollers, you’re probably aware of the countless types available on the market. In this section we will delve deeper and classify the stroller groups for you.

Full Size (All Purpose / Standard)

These are the most popular amongst parents hoping for a long term investment. They are considered the most versatile and multifunctional. The all purpose strollers tend to be good on most terrains. They offer flexibility and are convertible, allowing multiple seating options and positions. For this reason, most models are suitable for newborns and toddlers. 

PROS

  • Solid and sturdy design, making them versatile.
  • Good maneuverability overall.
  • Good quality tires and suspension to absorb shocks.
  • Easy to use.
  • Deep seat recline.
  • Longevity as it grows with your baby. Optional bassinets or car seat attachments for newborns. Easily converting to toddler use (up to 50 pounds).
  • Some models can be expandable to allow addition of another child.
  • Good variety of packages and options available on the market: Expandable canopies, interchangeable front- and rear-facing seat positions, spacious storage baskets, telescopic handlebars, cup holders and snack trays.

CONS

  • Can be bulky and heavy.
  • Difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces, on public transport and in stairwells.
  • Can take up quite a lot of space … even when folded.
  • Some do not accommodate 0-6 month babies.

Convertible

Car seat attaches to the convertible stroller

Convertible strollers can convert into a travel system (by adding a car seat), a pram (by adding a bassinet), or from a single to a double stroller. Some allow the addition of a standing platform (sit and stand strollers) or a seating bench (which could seat an older third child). Nowadays, many of the Full Size strollers also fit into this category (see above).

PROS

  • Very flexible. There are often multiple seating configurations. So  you can put your baby in whatever position you desire.
  • Some models can be adapted for multiple children.

CONS

  • Often heavier on the scales.
  • Tend to be more expensive initially. But the versatility may save you money over time.

Lightweight

Lightweight strollers suit older babies

These are very light and portable, often weighing no more than 15 pounds. They are suitable for older children who can fully sit up and perfectly control their heads. They can often fully fold making them very compact. Optional carry straps mean you can easily carry them on your shoulder. Many have curved handles for easier maneuvering.

PROS

  • Can be inexpensive.
  • Lightweight makes it very portable.
  • Good for travelling by car or plane.
  • Good for toddlers who like to mix it up with walking and sitting.
  • Excellent for storing in tight spaces.
  • Many still come with reasonable features (like partial seat recline, expanding canopies, cup holders and snack trays).

CONS

  • Can not use for younger babies (under 6 months) and those not yet able to support their own heads.
  • Limited suspension makes it a bumpy ride on uneven surfaces.
  • Less features than the full size stroller (e.g. smaller storage options).

Umbrella

These are an even lighter version of the Lightweight strollers, often weighing no more than 10 pounds.

PROS

  • Usually very cheap.
  • Very lightweight so you can carry other things (or a baby) at the same time.
  • Very portable making it good for day trips and travel.
  • Good for toddlers who like to mix it up with walking and sitting.
  • Works well on smooth and flat surfaces.
  • Ideal for use on public transport.
  • Excellent for storing in tight spaces.

CONS

  • Can not use for younger babies (under 6 months) and those not yet able to support their own heads.
  • Very limited suspension which makes it a very bumpy ride on rougher terrain, grass and gravel.
  • More of a skeleton design stroller to keep it super lightweight. This means you will lose a lot of features found in traditional strollers.

Jogging

Some strollers are designed for joggers

As the name suggests, these strollers are designed for taking out with you on your run. They usually come with 3 large air filled bicycle wheels. They are designed to reach running speed. Jogging strollers tend to have a lockable swivel front wheel. This allows you to keep it stable when you want to run at speed. Or use the swivel for extra flexibility at other times. Some models come with a handbrake and a foot operated parking brake. These are often not suitable for babies under 6 months, who have not yet mastered their own head control. It should be noted that not all 3-wheel ‘jogging’ strollers are optimized for running. Some of the hybrid types lack the necessary handbrakes and other safety features.

PROS

  • Keep fit whilst keeping an eye on your little one. Jogging strollers are ideal for taking on runs, walks and hikes.
  • Excellent suspension means your baby’s ride will feel comfortable on the bumpiest of terrains.
  • They can be used for heavier children (up to 75 pounds) extending their longevity.
  • Many come with additional safety features.
  • Good stroller for normal use too. Especially when navigating through tight and narrow spaces.
  • Some models come with travel system options.

CONS

  • Can not use for younger babies (under 6 months) and those not yet able to support their own heads.
  • Large and bulky design can be heavy.
  • Difficult to assemble. Be sure the front bicycle style quick release wheel is installed correctly.
  • Takes up a lot of storage room, so check if you have the space at home or in your car trunk.
  • You will need to monitor the tire pressures and occasionally top up with air.

Double (and Triple)

Double stroller

These strollers are not just for twins (and triplets). They can be extremely useful when you have multiple young kids of similar age (normally under 4 years old). Remember, Convertible strollers may be adaptable and allow the addition of more children (see above).

PROS

  • Manage more than one child with only one stroller.

CONS

  • Will be bulky and very heavy (can weigh up to 40 pounds).
  • Difficult to maneuver through tight spaces and around corners.

Double Side by Side

This type of double, appears as if 2 strollers have been joined together. Both seats are fixed onto one main supporting frame.

PROS

  • Suitable for kids with similar height and weights.
  • When fully loaded, traversing curbs and bumps is easier than with its tandem rival.
  • Some specialist models allow both seats to fully recline, or accept car seat attachments.
  • Often you can change the seating directions for one or both seats.
  • Children will enjoy sitting side by side rather more so than in tandem.

CONS

  • The stroller will pull to the heavier side, if there’s a considerable weight difference between the kids.
  • Some models don’t accept car seats (or only allow the addition of one).
  • This design has a very wide footprint. So navigating through some door openings and other tight spots will be near impossible.
  • You will need a large space for storage.

Double Tandem

Tandem strollers are narrower than their side by side counterparts

This is when one seat sits in front of the other. The ‘stadium seat’ variety positions the rear child seat above and with a view over the lower child seat. The ‘sit and stand’ stroller option, is perfect for a baby and toddler combination. The front seat is for the younger child. whilst the rear seat has a platform allowing the older child to sit or stand.

PROS

  • Being narrower, it is easier to get through doorways and tighter spots compared to the side by side double.
  • Doesn’t take up much room when folded.
  • Both seats can be changed to front- or rear-facing, so you can set up your own configuration.
  • Some tandems accept car seats in one or both seats.
  • The stadium seat set up allows both kids to see the world.

CONS

  • Steering can be difficult. This is particularly noticeable getting up a curb.
  • Smaller and shorter parents may struggle with the taller and heavy design.
  • Some models give the rear seated child limited leg room.

Travel System

This 3 piece system usually consists of a stroller and a matching infant car seat with base. They do come in Full Size, Jogging and Lightweight varieties. The infant car seat is designed with a fixed handle. This makes it easy to lift the infant car seat and transfer it between the car and the stroller. This is useful if your baby is asleep and you don’t want to wake them by lifting them out of their  car seat. After transferring your sleeping baby, you must immediately move them to a flat surfaced crib or bassinet. If you travel a lot and will frequently transfer your baby between house, car and stroller, then you will find this system beneficial.

PROS

  • You can let your baby sleep undisturbed in the car seat. There’s no need to wake them when transferring them between the car, house and stroller. When not travelling, your baby should only sleep in a crib or bassinet.
  • This system works well for running short errands, like popping out to the grocery store. The baby can remain in the car seat for the whole trip.
  • You won’t need different car seat adapters for your stroller. The stroller is already made to accept the car seat directly on to it.
  • You will likely save money if you buy the travel system package, compared to buying the individual items.
  • Your stroller will still be useful even after your baby has outgrown their infant car seat.

CONS

  • Can be bulky and heavy to carry.
  • Not the easiest to handle on public transport.
  • There may be limited options compared to Full Size strollers.
  • You’ll need to buy a new car seat after your baby has outgrown it.
  • Cheap systems may provide low quality components.

Car seat stroller

Unlike the travel system, this is actually an infant car seat which has a fully integrated stroller frame built into it.

PROS

  • From car seat to stroller in seconds.
  • One less product to buy as the car seat doubles as the stroller.
  • Can leave a sleeping baby relatively undisturbed from car to stroller.

CONS

  • Can be heavy and cumbersome.
  • Very limited additional options compared to other strollers.
  • Dirty stroller wheels may cause a mess on your car interior.
  • Will need replacing after your baby outgrows it (relatively quickly).

Frame (Car seat carrier) stroller

These are similar to the Car Seat strollers above, but the stroller is not integrated. This stroller is just a simple frame waiting for the infant car seat to be attached to it.

PROS

  • Very compact and lightweight.
  • Excellent for limited storage space, and will easily fit in most trunks.
  • Simple transition process to ‘snap’ car seat on to stroller.
  • Can leave a sleeping baby relatively undisturbed from car to stroller.
  • Not too costly, so a good intermediate option if you are yet to decide on your long term stroller.
  • Can get a double stroller version for twins.

CONS

  • Is only used with an infant car seat. So when your baby outgrows this, you will need another stroller.
  • Some frames are only compatible with certain infant car seats.

Pram

Prams are more suited for very young babies

These are strollers with bassinets. The bassinets provide a completely flat surface for your baby to sleep for at least the first 6 months of their life. During this time they will not be able to support their own head safely. Bassinets are quite shallow so will be unsuitable when your baby becomes more active as they lack some safety features. Some Full Size / Convertible / Travel system strollers come with optional bassinets.

PROS

  • Provide a luxurious and stylish way for a newborn to travel.
  • Prams exude a status symbol, as they are often used by the rich and famous.
  • The bassinet provides the baby with an excellent supine position to sleep safely.
  • Some bassinets are detachable and can be used as overnight sleeping pods (you must check whether this is the case with each model).
  • They generally have larger wheels with good suspension providing a comfortable ride for your baby.

CONS

  • They are often big and heavy, and hard to store.
  • It can only be used for a few months until your baby becomes more active and needs a safer solution.
  • The better quality ones can be on the more costly side.
  • You’ll have to wake your sleeping baby when transferring them between their car seat and pram.

So what should you consider when making your choice?

Your stroller is going to be one of the key baby gear purchases you make. As with most things in life, you often get what you pay for. But having said that, there are plenty of budget options available which could be more suitable for what you need. Before you make a decision you should ask yourself a number of questions:

Lifestyle

Choose a stroller that fits into your lifestyle

Will you need it everyday? Will you be living amidst the hustle and bustle of an inner city? You’ll need something sturdy yet easy to maneuver. Are you based more rurally? Are you hoping to use it on all terrains? Good tires and suspension are must have features. Are you a keen runner? Jogging strollers will be high on your list. Will you be using a lot of public transport? Consider something more lightweight. Will you be using your car a lot? The travel system will be worth investing in.
There are a lot of questions to ask yourself. Establishing your lifestyle patterns will help you get the right stroller for you.

Suitable for newborns

Is the stroller suitable for 0-6 months? Does the seat deep recline or is there a bassinet add-on available? If not, you may need to look at the attachable infant seat option. Will the stroller be useful after 6 months or so? Or will you have to invest in a new stroller after this time?

Cost

What is your budget? It’s true the top end stroller packages can be rather costly, but you can often find good deals to meet all budgets. The more expensive options tend to include optional extras … like high-end fabrics and limited edition colours. Make sure the extras will actually be of use to you and not doubling up on what you already own. The pricier strollers often include more modular options … this adds more configurations and flexibility to your stroller. So you could save money in the long run as you won’t have to invest in a different type of stroller later. 

What are your plans for the stroller?

Is this just a short term newborn baby option? You may not have yet decided what stroller to get for the long term. Do you want one stroller that will last you a few years? The Full Size may be an option worth considering. Are you planning for more children in the future? Can the stroller convert to give you more options? If you are expecting more children, you may want to look at whether your stroller can convert to a double. You may decide that you need a super lightweight umbrella stroller as a second option for when you are travelling.

Ease of use

Make sure you can easily lift your stroller

How heavy is it? Make sure you look at the weight data for the stroller. Don’t just rely on the manufacturer claiming it is lightweight. Remember you have to add the weight of a baby and baby bag … not to mention anything else that you can get to fit into the storage. A lighter stroller doesn’t necessarily mean an inferior product. Can you control it around corners easily? It’s best to get out and actually try the stroller to see how it feels in hand. A good test is to use it one handed … a skill that you’ll no doubt have to learn soon enough.

Folding and storing

Always check how easy to fold and store your stroller is

Is it simple to fold and unfold? Can you do it one-handed? Often you will be carrying your baby whilst simultaneously trying to fold or unfold your stroller. Again, trying it beforehand is the best way. Can it be stored easily? Will it fit in your trunk? Make sure you have measured the storage space you have available and the dimensions of the folded stroller.

Safety and certification

Check to make sure the stroller has achieved the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) accreditation. Check the JPMA website or look for a certified sticker on the stroller. This will ensure that the product has been adequately tested and meets important safety requirements. It’s important to ensure the stroller is free from sharp edges. It should be stable with good brakes and wheel locking mechanisms. The safest stroller uses a 5 point safety harness.
Always remember to register your stroller after purchasing it. This way you should be notified of any recall issues.

Others

There are many other features your stroller may offer you. You may want to consider the following few common ones before making your decision:

  • Wheels – bigger tires made of foam or air filled will be good for rougher terrain. Smaller plastic wheels will be better suited for the city. Swivel front wheels improve manoeuvrability, whilst fixed wheels give stability.
  • Suspension – newborns require more protection for their spines so aim for something with decent suspension to ensure added comfort.
  • Canopy – it should be easy and quiet to pull out and fold in. Make sure it is expandable to provide adequate protection from the elements.
  • Telescopic handlebar – important for parents of different heights.
  • Under seat storage basket – heavy bags hanging from the stroller handles will cause destabilisation. Not all strollers come equipped with a decent sized storage basket.
  • Removable covers and seat padding – make sure you can easily clean your stroller. Babies can be very messy after all. Fabrics should ideally be machine washable.
  • Accessories – a front bar can swing open to allow your toddler to climb in and out by themselves. Snack trays can be handy if you will be out for a while. Leg covers can provide warmth for your baby’s legs if it’s cold.

What to do next

So there you have it. There’s a fair bit to think about before making a final decision on your stroller. Look carefully at your own circumstances and what would best suit your lifestyle. It maybe your perfect stroller doesn’t exist. But there are more than enough options out there which should tick most of your boxes.

Remember a newborn should only sleep in a bassinet or crib. Some strollers do have bassinet attachments. It is very important that your baby practices safe sleeping. You can find out more about safe baby sleeping in our article here.

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