Becoming a first-time mom, I remember the search for the perfect stroller was a nightmare. Your baby needs to sit safely, you should feel comfortable and it needs to suit your lifestyle. It can, however, also be a pricey quest. I wish I had something like this best stroller buying guide on how to choose a stroller.
I discuss everything you need to know, including the different types of strollers, their features and which to choose for newborns and older little ones. By the end of this, you’ll be ordering your new stroller in your sleep… if you’re getting any!
Types of Strollers
Let’s start with the types of strollers out there. It may surprise you with how many there are. There are two main categories with further variations within these:
- Single strollers.
- Double strollers.
Single strollers are, as the name suggests, designed to carry one child. That said, don’t think this narrows down your choices. This is the widest category of strollers available, and it includes these variations:
- Travel strollers.
- Car seat strollers.
1. Traditional Single Stroller
Traditional single strollers are the mother of all baby buggies. It’s the most common type that you’ll see.
They’re quite maneuverable despite their usual larger size, meaning they’re excellent for various settings. Whether you’re in a bustling city going up and over sidewalks or taking a simple stroll through the park, they fit the bill.
Many grow with your child, allowing you to fully recline the seat to support an infant and even place a car seat in it. Turn it forward-facing for a curious toddler.
- Sturdy and reliable.
- Suitable for any occasion.
- Excellent long-term investment.
- Various features to choose from.
- Usually heavier than other types.
- Not all can carry infants safely—double-check before you buy.
2. Lightweight Stroller
With curved handles and effortless folding, these are smooth to maneuver around town and fast to pack in the trunk. Often referred to as “umbrella strollers,” lightweight buggies are excellent for on-the-go parents.
Most lightweight strollers weigh 11 pounds. Some are even lighter, weighing as little as 9 pounds. They were originally designed to fit older babies who can sit up. However, newer models can safely carry an infant car seat—although you will need an adapter.
Newer models are generally packed with features such as sun canopies, cup holders, reclining seats and among others.
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver.
- Quick to fold.
- Lots of added features.
- Excellent for older babies.
- Not the most comfortable ride—they tend to lack thick cushions.
- Be wary of using them with older toddlers, especially during winter with heavy clothes on. Space is limited.
- Unless it’s car seat compatible, it won’t be safe for a baby under six months.
3. Combination Stroller
Combination strollers are similar to the traditional models. The exception is that combo buggies are specifically designed to adapt as your little one gets older. Most can carry heavier children, some up to 40 pounds.
Reclining seats and car carrier compatibility are two standard features. Some offer you the option of placing a bassinet or carrycot. And many let you switch between front or rear facing.
- Useful from day one.
- Capable of carrying heavier loads.
- Most offer bassinet and carrycot options.
- They’re generally pricier.
- A car seat isn’t always included.
4. Travel Stroller
Travel strollers are all-in-one systems suitable for newborns. They consist of three main components: a car seat, a base for the vehicle and a stroller.
These are an excellent solution if you’re often maneuvering a sleeping infant from car to buggy. Most systems are lightweight, so it’s easier to move a sleeping baby undisturbed.
Modern models generally allow you to adjust the backrest as well as with the car seat. Some even let you place your baby front facing when they get older.
- Everything in one package.
- Excellent for car-traveling parents.
- Good-to-have features that allow it to grow with your baby.
- They can be bulky.
- Some are difficult to maneuver while out and about.
5. Car Seat Stroller
These strollers consist of a basic, often lightweight, frame where you place your car seat. They’re an excellent option if you’re frequently on the road. The frames are smooth to fold, and some are compatible with seats from other brands.
- Excellent for car travelers.
- Some allow for car seats from other brands.
- Car seats are rarely included.
- As your baby outgrows the infant car seat, the frame becomes useless.
If you have more than one kid under four years, I highly recommend double strollers. They come in two styles:
1. Tandem Stroller
Tandem strollers are designed for one passenger to sit in front of the other, making them as slim as single buggies. Variations are available where the back seat is higher (think stadium) or lower. Some have a rotating front seat, allowing your children to face each other.
Not all offer reclining options, especially not for the front seat. But, they’re a great choice if you have two kids of varying ages.
- You can carry two babies while still fitting into narrow spaces.
- Seat variations are available to suit a specific need.
- Excellent for moms with a baby and an older toddler.
- The backseat may not be the most sought after place to sit.
- They’re quite long, so steering can be challenging.
2. Side-By-Side Stroller
As the name suggests, side-by-side strollers allow your babies to sit beside each other. They consist of a single buggy frame but with two seats attached.
It’s recommended that both kiddos using this type of stroller are similar in weight and height. Otherwise, it’s tricky to steer and may lean to one side.
- Both babies can sit in front, and perhaps entertain each other.
- Sturdy frame.
- Umbrella types are available.
- Bulky and wide—difficult to bring inside stores.
- Not recommended for babies of varying ages—preferably for twins only.
- Require more storage space.
Buying Strollers for Newborn vs. Six Months
Your baby will have different needs depending on their age. Let’s have a look at how to choose a stroller for two contrasting life stages:
Newborns are delicate cargo, who require extra care and support while in a stroller. Your infant has little to no control over their head and neck—at least until the six months mark. Hence, the system you decide to use must be able to recline fully.
The safest way to go is with a stroller that’s compatible or comes with an infant car seat. Combination or travel systems are two excellent examples. Another advantage is that you can continue to use them after your baby outgrows the seat.
Some parents choose to invest in a car seat carrier. This is a smart choice if you’ll often be transporting your baby in a car for the first year. The frames are usually inexpensive, and if you find a universal model, you don’t need a special car seat.
Six Months and up Strollers
After the six-month mark, babies tend to be able to sit up and support their neck and head. By this time it’s easier to take your little one with you.
However, this requires additional considerations. Do you walk, drive or use public transport?
Living in larger cities, and relying on cabs or subways, it’s best to choose a stroller that’s easy to fold and carry. If you’re often on your own, ensure that you can lift both buggy and baby. A lightweight umbrella stroller is perfect for this. Your baby has enough support while it’s effortless to fold if you’re taking the bus or a cab.
Checklist for Buying the Best Stroller
Instead of having this entire guide to hand when looking at your options, consider these points to check before buying:
- How does it drive?
- Braking system.
- Handle height.
- Folding mechanism.
- The fit.
- Included warranties?
- Safety certifications.
- Storage basket.
- What fabric is it made from?
1. How Does it Drive?
Unless you’re buying your stroller online, checking how it feels to push is essential. Does it feel bulky to turn? Are your feet hitting the frame while walking?
These are valid points to check. Trust me, my first buggy was horrible—it had me walking like a penguin to avoid touching the frame.
If you decide to buy online, check for videos of parents using the stroller. Many brands include “test drive” footage.
2. Braking System
Does it have brakes or a swivel lock? And is it easy to engage? We all want to avoid that cartoon-like situation of the stroller rolling away.
If you buy a jogging stroller, ensure the handbrake is on the right side. It does vary between brands, and it may not be an important factor. However, if you’re a devout lefty or righty, verify that you have full control.
3. Check the Handle Height
Is the height of the handle adjustable? Hunching over while pushing the buggy is a big no-no.
Not only is it extremely uncomfortable, and you’ll look like a fool, but it can have long-term negative effects. This includes anything from bad moods to breathing problems.
Let your partner or other stroller users test drive the height with you. Ensure they’re comfortable as well.
4. Folding Mechanism
Is it easy to fold? Is it a two or one hand procedure?
Many tend to prefer a one-handed fold. It’s a lot easier if you’re alone and need to reserve one arm for your baby.
A one-handed fold mechanism generally means a smaller, more lightweight stroller, which might not be for you. Either way, check how it folds and accustoms yourself with it before the baby arrives.
5. Check the Fit
If you have a car, ensure that you can fit it into the trunk. Measure everything and ensure that nothing becomes a flying hazard in case of a crash.
6. The Harness
Even though you aren’t going a hundred miles an hour with the stroller, the harness is essential. Awake babies tend to move and wiggle a lot, where older, crawling babies are always trying to escape. If the harness isn’t secured, your little one could slip out, get stuck and potentially get strangled.
It’s recommended to use a five-point harness. These mean your little one is secured from the shoulders, around the waist and from the crotch area. Ensure it’s easy to adjust and fasten.
7. Are there Included Warranties?
Some manufacturers include warranties on flaws and other workmanship errors as standard with each brand-new purchase. I highly recommend choosing one that does. Look for a flexible return policy, try the stroller for some time and return if you’re not happy.
8. Safety Certifications
When buying online, it’s crucial to check for proper safety certifications. Buggies used in the U.S. must submit to specific safety standards. Look for two main certifications: ASTM and JPMA.
The ASTM safety measure 16 CFR Parts 1227 and 1112 ensures all the components of the stroller are optimized for safety. The JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) assures that no choking hazards, sharp edges and others are present on the buggy.
9. Storage Basket
Every mom knows that going out with a baby requires at least one large bag full of gear. The JPMA advises against hanging heavy bags on the stroller handles. Doing this could cause the buggy to fall backward and injure your baby.
Instead, it recommends looking for a buggy where the storage basket sits directly over the rear wheels. Or, one where it’s located low at the back.
Additionally, ensure the basket is large enough for your needs.
10. The Fabric
Not everyone will deem this a requirement—but with babies, whether small or big, accidents are bound to happen. Check the washing instructions—is the material removable or can you only do a wipe down?
A good idea is to find one with a removable cover. As it gets dirty, take it off and give it a turn in the washer.
Further Considerations Before Buying
Before spending any money, it’s essential to think about your particular needs and requirements. The stroller you pick must be compatible with your lifestyle, especially if you’re planning to use it a lot. Here are some things to consider:
- Your lifestyle.
- Family expansions.
- Stroller weight.
1. The Price
Strollers aren’t exactly cheap—their large price tags tend to shock new parents. Even so, they’re an investment that ideally stays with you for years. Perhaps even for your next baby?!
If you have a larger budget and your sights set on a high-end brand, expect to pay around $600–$800. Of course, all the extra features are included and you get luxuries such as high-quality fabrics and better warranties.
In saying this, a high price tag doesn’t necessarily mean the stroller performs better. Some of the more expensive brands can be bulky and challenging to maneuver.
Fortunately, not all brands are designed to drain our bank accounts. You can easily find a good stroller for less than $300. Types such as car seat frames can sometimes cost as little as $100, although you’d still need to buy the seat.
2. Your Lifestyle
The stroller is not just for your baby to be comfy; it’s also here to simplify your life. Thus, it’s only fair to find one suitable for your specific lifestyle.
What do you do on a day to day basis—do you enjoy long walks or perhaps take a daily jog? If you lead an active life, a good stroller to choose is a jogging buggy. Designed with three large wheels, a wide handle and handbrake, these are perfect for activity.
You can use them whether running or going off-road on the trail. The front wheel usually has a locking mechanism, optimizing your steering on a bumpy road. That said, jogging strollers do take up extra space in the trunk. They’re not as compact as a lightweight buggy, for example.
3. Growing Family?
Are you planning on expanding your family within the next two years? If so, look for a buggy you can convert into a double.
Some strollers come with double seats as well as a stroller board. This is a standing platform at the rear where a larger kid can stand. You can also buy them separately later, but ensure it’s compatible with your buggy.
4. Stroller Weight
If you’re often on the go, having a heavy stroller to lift in and out of vehicles, cabs or buses, isn’t ideal. Strollers come in a range of different weight classes. We have the lightweight models under 11 pounds, all the way up to the heavyweights weighing over 30 pounds.
Having a heavy stroller isn’t always a bad thing. A higher scale number often indicates stronger wheels and a durable frame. These are excellent for active parents who often walk on bumpy terrain.
How About Features and Accessories?
Any best stroller buying guide needs to have some fun features, right? Some are a must-have, there for comfort and protection, others are just for mommy:
- Sun canopy.
- Cup holders.
- Tech strollers.
1. Sun Canopy
Sun canopies are a must-have feature on every stroller, whether you live in the South or North. They protect your baby from bad weather and burning sun rays.
It’s essential to look for one of a substantial size. Not all sun canopies are sufficient—some are short and inadequate, which will barely cover your little one.
The best canopy to pick is a reversible, 180-degree rotation. These protect your baby both from the front and back.
With the sun canopy, there should also be a ventilation window. This usually consists of mesh fabric. Some strollers feature a viewing window made from clear plastic sitting at the top of the canopy. However, keep in mind that your little one should never get too hot.
If nothing covers the front, avoid using a blanket or other materials as your child may overheat. Instead, invest in a separate shield. You can find some specially made for rain and wind, and of course, insects.
2. Stroller Boots
While on the subject of weather protection, boots are an excellent feature if you live in a cold region. These are leg coverings compatible with the stroller, which you use to keep your little one’s chunky legs warm and cozy.
Not all buggies include boots though, so you may have to buy a separate one.
If you do choose to get one, ensure it doesn’t interfere with your stroller. Avoid strings getting into the wheels and make sure it doesn’t hamper the harness.
3. Cup Holders
This is a feature for you! Having a cup holder for your water, or Starbucks Frappuccino, is very convenient. On most strollers, they sit on the handlebar within reach. No matter where it’s located though, avoid using it for hot drinks!
You can also buy them as add-ons. Some offer a deep cup holder, a phone pocket, a wallet and a diaper bag.
Some strollers, particularly those designed for older babies, have tables at the front. Here, you generally have a small cup holder as well for your little one—I like to use it for fruit snacks.
4. Tech Strollers
Yes, you can get tech accessories for your stroller. This includes anything from MP3 consoles to tablet holders so your little one can listen to music or watch videos. Although we should limit our babies screen time, it’s a very good add-on to have for a fussy baby.
Best Stroller Brands
I can’t tell you how to choose a stroller without giving an overview of the best brands. I’ve included some high-end names and some lesser-known ones, to show you a bit of both world:
- Baby Jogger.
- Baby Trend.
Graco is a world-renowned brand. It began back in the 1940s where it was a metal-production company. It supplied car and machine parts to manufacturers.
In the early 1950s, it manufactured its first baby product, an automatic swing. It grew from there, where today, Graco is behind a large line of baby products—everything from activity centers to nursery products.
It also has a mean line of strollers, known for durable frames and comfy seats. You can find them everywhere, whether online or locally. Our favorite is the FastAction Travel System—it includes a car seat, and it’s super easy to fold.
Chicco is another world-famous brand, sold in more than 120 countries. It’s an Italian company, pronounced “kee-co.” Established in 1958, it produces baby clothing, high chairs, toys, car seats and strollers.
We love the Mini Bravo Plus Lightweight Stroller. Like many of their products, it’s reasonably priced yet comes with all the essentials. Chicco has a large online presence, but you can also find its products at most retailers.
If you’re looking for a jogging stroller, start by checking out Baby Jogger. It offers joggers as singles or doubles, and it even started producing traditional buggies suitable for everyday activities.
An excellent example is its 2016 Summit X3 Jogging Stroller. It’s not the cheapest, but you get a quality frame, built for activity. You can find its strollers online and through specialty stores.
BOB, or Beast of Burden, was originally producing bike trailers for children back in 1994. It later ventured into accessories for trailers, car seats and strollers, until it finally came out with a line of buggies for active parents.
Its Revolution Flex 2.0 Jogging Stroller is our favorite. It’s car seat adaptable, capable of staying with you from birth through the toddler years.
A high-end stroller brand from Europe, Bugaboo is known for its customizable buggies. Some are compatible with bassinets and offer adapters for car seats.
Its Cameleon3 Classic comes with a matching bassinet and a classic design. Although, heads up, it’s also accompanied by a hefty price tag.
Stokke is a Norwegian brand, best known for its Tripp Trapp high chair. It launched in 1972 and has since produced high-end strollers such as the Xplory.
Baby Trend is a well-known and trusted brand in the U.S. It was founded in 1988, and today produces anything from car seats to nursery centers.
We love its Sky View Plus Travel System, especially in the Bluebell color.
Starting in 1965, Maclaren came out with a stroller prototype called Baby Buggy B-01. All the strollers you see from Maclaren today are descendants from that first model. They feature lightweight frames, one-handed folding mechanisms and durable fabrics.
Its Triumph Stroller is a hit. It looks classic yet has that signature lightweight frame, making it easy for carrying and storage.
Britax is a British brand, founded in 1938. It’s known for its long-range of child care products. This includes car seats, high chairs and strollers.
It didn’t come to the U.S. until 1996, where you can find its products through mass and independent retailers.
Have a look at the B-Lively & B-Safe 35 Travel System. It’s a car seat and stroller package for a very reasonable price considering the quality.
Keep It Rolling
Remember that strollers are an investment, designed to keep your baby safe for the next two years. It’s essential to find one suitable for you, where both parents and children feel comfortable. Fortunately, plenty of types are available with add-ons, making life a little easier.
Thank you for reading my best stroller buying guide. I hope you now feel more confident to make that buying decision and know how to choose a stroller to suit your needs. Good luck!