Stroller Buying Guide
Cooped up with babies and toddlers for two years, more or less, has some parents itching to get outside—more than anyone. As the weather breaks, spring walks, summer vacations, and fall road trips should do the trick.
So it’s time to start packing and get moving.
A stroller is an essential piece of baby gear—one of the most important purchases you’ll make. Play it right and you’ll get miles, memories, and years out of your child’s stroller. That is, if you buy the right one.
Like your car, your baby’s cruiser should be safe, reliable, and comfortable. Even if you test-drive a stroller in a store, it’s hard to know how it will handle on sidewalks, curbs, grass, playgrounds, and boardwalks. That’s why we buy and test dozens of strollers—so you don’t have to—all with your baby in mind.
No single type of stroller is best for everyone. The right choice for you has features that fit your child and lifestyle at a price that matches your budget. You can spend less than $100, or well over $1,000. Styling, lightweight materials, and added features increase the price, but our tests consistently find that you don’t have to spend a fortune to snag a good, safe stroller.
Here’s what you need to know before your stroller pounds the pavement. Is the stroller stiff around turns? Does it fold easily? Is it too heavy? Is it approved for Disney theme parks? (Yes, that’s in our ratings.)
CR’s testers put strollers through their paces in our labs and outside—on the grounds of our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters—to assess which strollers are easy to use, highly maneuverable, and, of course, safe. Testers use each stroller the way a parent would, except a weight simulates a child in most of our testing. We adjust the harness, backrest, and wheel brakes, and we fold and unfold each model, as well as collapse and carry it, noting the weight and the folded size.
Time for a walk. We push each stroller, with “baby” on board, through a test course with S-curves, and steer it on pavement between cones, up and down a curb, and over obstructions, including grass, mulch, and tree roots. And finally, we assess safety by subjecting each stroller to standard safety tests as well as CR-designed stability and braking tests.
You’ll see dozens of single strollers in our stroller ratings, and a handful of double strollers. The options are from more than two dozen brands, including Britax, Bugaboo, Chicco, Graco, Maclaren, Mountain Buggy, Peg Perego, Stokke, Thule, Uppababy, and more.
The Early Days: Newborn to 6 Months
You’ll need a stroller seat that reclines to a near-flat position or one that can accept an infant car seat—or do both. Another option? Choose a car seat carrier to safely support your strapped-in infant until she develops neck and head control and can sit up on her own. We note in the full view of our stroller ratings which models are suitable for infants 6 months and younger. (Use the slider bar to check the specs.) A stroller that comes with a car seat, or one that’s compatible with one you already own, can simplify your life.
All-in-One Travel System
It consists of an infant car seat, a car seat base, and a stroller. Once your baby can sit up, you can use the stroller on its own, without the car seat snapped in. Some travel systems, however, have a stroller seat that reclines to a near-flat position, meaning it can be used for an infant not yet sitting up. A travel system is a good value because the stroller can be used after your child outgrows the infant car seat, unlike a car seat carrier frame.
Infant Car Seat Carrier
The lightweight frame lacks a seat, so you use it with a compatible infant car seat. Simply remove the car seat from its base in the car, baby and all, and attach it to the frame. This a good choice if you’ll be moving your infant into and out of a car frequently. Some manufacturers offer car seat carrier frames that are designed for their brand of car seats. Universal carriers, on the other hand, can accommodate a variety of car seat brands.
Baby Buggy Basics: 6 Months to 3-Plus Years
Once your baby is sitting up, you might be heading out into the world even more, on adventures, park visits, and play dates. Are you traveling by car, or taking mass transit? That could be the deciding factor in which stroller you choose.
Mass Transit vs. Suburban Crawl
If you rely on subways, buses, and cabs, you’ll need a lightweight, compact stroller that’s sturdy and folds easily and quickly. A car seat carrier frame would work well until your child reaches about 1 year old; you could also consider a lightweight travel system and an umbrella stroller. We note in our stroller ratings how much each stroller weighs.
If you live in the suburbs or a rural area, you’ll probably be in and out of the car, making a travel system or a stand-alone stroller that is compatible with your car seat a good choice, especially for long walks. Some parents buy one of these strollers, plus a lightweight stroller for traveling or a trip to the zoo.
If you have a car or take cabs, be sure the stroller fits easily into the trunk or back seat.
Whether you’re shopping for an infant or a toddler, be sure to check out the stroller at a store before you decide. Take a measuring tape. Here’s what CR’s experts recommend.
1. Inspect the frame. It should feel solid, not flimsy.
2. Check to determine whether the brakes or swivel lock mechanisms are easy to use and the handles are comfortable. Do your legs or feet hit the wheels as you walk?
3. Lift and carry the stroller, both when open and when folded.
4. Check maneuverability by adding weight, such as a heavy handbag, to the stroller seat, then push.
5. Adjust the backrest. Is it easy to do? And is the harness easy to fasten and unfasten?
6. Open the stroller, with one hand and then both. Now close the stroller doing the same.
7. Note the storage space. If you’ll carry lots of gear, make sure there’s plenty of room for it.
8. Consider your trunk space. Some retailers might let you carry the stroller out to your car to ensure that it fits in your trunk when folded. If you can’t do that, measure it.
9. Evaluate warranty and return policies.
10. Check certification. All strollers sold in the U.S. must comply with the mandatory federal safety standard, but for added reassurance, look for a JPMA Certified sticker. It means that the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has certified that the stroller meets mandatory requirements plus the JPMA’s additional requirements. And check our stroller ratings to find out how well a stroller performed in our safety tests.
These strollers are designed for one passenger. They include lightweight strollers weighing as little as 7 pounds, traditional or travel systems weighing less than 20 pounds, and heavy-duty strollers that weigh 35 pounds or more.
This all-purpose stroller is a smart long-term investment. Many work well on busy sidewalks, on paved streets, in a park, and on a trail. Some have fully reclining seats that allow infants to ride safely, some are compatible with infant car seats, and quite a few do both.
Pros: Sturdy, solid, good maneuverability, and easy to use. Look for features that are most important to you because they can vary by model.
Cons: Often heavier than umbrella strollers, this might not be a good go-to stroller if portability and public transportation are deciding factors. Some might not accommodate infants younger than 6 months; we tell you which tested strollers can’t in the Ratings & Specs section of our stroller ratings.
This consists of an infant car seat, a base for your car, and a stroller.
Pros: Allows you to move a sleeping baby, undisturbed, from car to stroller. Some have a stroller seat that reclines almost flat, meaning it can be used with a baby 6 months old or younger. When your baby is ready to sit up on their own, the backrest can be adjusted to a comfy position. Many travel systems are good values because the stroller can be used after your child outgrows the infant car seat, unlike a car seat carrier frame.
Cons: Can be bulky, and while some are easy to push, some we’ve tested can be cumbersome.
Lightweight strollers that fold compactly and are easy to transport are known as umbrella strollers. They’re ideal for travel or quick trips around town with your child. Many tested models have curved handles.
Pros: Lightweight, convenient, and usually easy to fold.
Cons: Many we tested aren’t appropriate for babies younger than 6 months who can’t sit up on their own, because the seat doesn’t recline fully or the stroller can’t accommodate an infant car seat. Older babies and toddlers may feel cramped, especially when dressed in heavy winter clothes. Some umbrella strollers lack suspension and seat support, so they don’t provide the cushiest ride, and some have small, plastic wheels that limit maneuverability.
Also known as modular strollers, these allow you to adapt the stroller to suit the changing needs of a growing child.
Pros: Use it from the first day of your baby’s life, if you choose a stroller that accommodates an infant car seat, has a bassinet, or has a stroller seat with a full recline. Some are sold as a complete package, with a bassinet and a reversible seat, but options vary.
Cons: Can be costly. You’ll probably need to buy a car seat with a base and possibly a car seat adapter for the stroller. Many have carrying limits of 40 pounds, but you might not need a stroller when your child reaches that weight. Important accessories, such as a rain cover, are sometimes optional.
A car seat is fully integrated with a stroller frame. The stroller frame folds under the seat, allowing the car seat to be installed in a separate vehicle base for car trips.
Pros: One less product you have to buy, because your car seat is also your stroller.
Cons: May be heavy to lift even without a baby in the seat.
Car Seat Carrier Stroller
This lightweight frame lacks a seat, so you add a compatible infant car seat. Also known as stroller frames, some work with more than one brand and model of infant car seat.
Pros: Compact, lightweight, and inexpensive. When you move a baby in an infant car seat from the car to the stroller frame, you’re less likely to wake them. Carrier frames that allow you to just snap your infant seat in are the easiest to use.
Cons: Once your child outgrows the infant car seat stage—around 1 year but sometimes younger, depending on the child—the frame can no longer be used as a stroller. Most universal car seat carriers, which accept a number of brands, do not let you just snap the car seat into place—a strap is used to secure it, adding one more step for you.
It can convert to a travel system or pram by adding an infant car seat or a bassinet, or can switch from a single to a double stroller. Some allow you to add a standing platform, or have a removable seat with a bench seat under it, for a third older child.
Pros: Flexibility. You may be able to position your baby so that you’re face to face or so that he’s looking out at the world. Adding a passenger? The number of configurations varies by stroller, including two stroller seats facing either forward or back, one stroller seat plus one car seat, or two car seats. Be sure that the stroller can accept two infant car seats if you’re having twins, and that it allows the seats to face each other so that later, when your twins are toddlers, they can look at each other.
Cons: Can be heavy and expensive.
It usually has three large air-filled tires, including a front wheel that can both swivel and be locked into a straight-ahead position when you want to run.
Pros: Air-cushioned tires offer a comfortable ride and make the stroller easy to push. May have a longer useful life than a traditional stroller because it can accommodate heavier children.
Cons: Large and sometimes heavy, it might not fit into your car trunk, so think twice about making this your only stroller. You’ll need to check the tire pressure and add air occasionally. If it has a bicycle-style quick-release front wheel, be sure that it’s installed correctly and that you know how to use it—a bicycle shop can help. Most jogging strollers are not suitable for infants younger than 6 months, and CR’s experts recommend waiting until your child is 1 year old before she rides in any stroller when you’re jogging. CR does not test strollers in jogging mode at this time.
If you have two little ones younger than 4 or so, a double stroller can take you places. And like the car seat carrier highlighted above, double car seat carriers are an option for newborn twins. Also consider the multifunctional convertible stroller. It converts from a single to a double stroller, and more.
Double Side-by-Side Stroller
Two seats are attached to a single frame, or some units resemble two strollers bolted together. The side-by-side setup is easiest to maneuver with children of about the same height and weight.
Pros: With two kids on board, it can negotiate curbs more easily than a tandem. If you’re shopping for infant twins, look for a side-by-side stroller in which both stroller seats recline almost flat, and note that some models allow you to attach infant car seats side by side.
Cons: If children of different weights ride in the stroller, it can pull to one side. Some can’t accept an infant car seat, while others will accept just one. It might be a tight squeeze fitting some side-by-side strollers through a doorway, so check the width by moving the slider bar in the specs section of our stroller ratings.
Double Tandem Stroller
On some, you can arrange the seats so that your children face each other, while some have a stadium seat that allows the child in back to see over the one in front.
Pros: Tandems fit through standard doorways and elevator doors more easily than side-by-sides. A folded tandem takes up just a little more space than a folded standard midsized stroller. Some tandems accept an infant car seat in one or both stroller seats. (Find out which car seat brands are compatible and whether you’ll need an adapter.)
Cons: Steering can be difficult, and it can be tricky getting over curbs. Tandems are long and often quite heavy, so a petite person may find it difficult to maneuver. Some models have limited leg support and very little legroom for the child in back.
It can convert to a travel system or pram by adding an infant car seat or a bassinet, or it can switch from a single to a double stroller. Some allow you to add a standing platform, or have a removable seat with a bench seat under it, for a third older child.
Pros: Flexibility. You may be able to position your baby so that you’re face to face or so that he’s looking out to the world. Adding a passenger? The number of configurations varies by stroller, including two stroller seats facing either forward or back, one stroller seat plus one car seat, or two car seats. Be sure the stroller can accept two infant car seats if you’re having twins, and that it allows the seats to face each other so that later, when your twins are toddlers, they can look at each other.
Cons: Can be heavy and expensive.
Stroller Add-Ons and Extras
Some features will make your baby’s ride more comfortable, while others, such as shopping baskets, are more useful for busy parents. Features include seats that face forward or back, handlebars that reverse and adjust in height, and consoles that hold cups, car keys, and a cell phone.
Even if you buy a lightweight stroller, you may still want accessories, such as a parasol, a rain cover, bug netting, and a drink holder. The options are numerous, and they can drive up the price. But it can be worth paying a little extra up front for a stroller with adjustable handlebars, built-in holders for baby bottles, and a special clip for your cell phone.
Brands in CR's Ratings
There are more than two dozen brands currently in our stroller ratings. Here’s a snapshot of some of them. When models are discontinued, we remove them from the ratings, and as we test more strollers, we’ll add brands to this list.
The original creator of the three-wheeled jogging stroller still produces joggers and all-terrain strollers (singles and doubles) at midrange prices; it also makes traditional strollers for everyday use. Available at specialty stores, baby superstores, and online.
Baby Trend makes a variety of baby gear that’s sold online and in stores, such as Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, Target, and Walmart. Its strollers typically cost less than $200.
Britax is a British manufacturer of child-care products that have been sold in the U.S. for more than 20 years. The company acquired Bob, a manufacturer of strollers and other gear, in 2011. Britax strollers are available at independent and mass retailers, and on websites such as Amazon.
A high-end stroller manufacturer headquartered in Amsterdam, Bugaboo makes strollers and car seats that are sold at Buy Buy Baby, specialty and other stores, and online—at Amazon and Nordstrom, for example.
Pronounced "KEE-co," this Italian brand was established in 1958 and specializes in making clothing and equipment for babies and toddlers, including strollers, high chairs, and car seats. Available online and at Buy Buy Baby, Target, and Walmart.
Graco manufactures a full line of juvenile products, from nursery products and activity centers to strollers and car seats. They’re widely available in stores and online.
Maclaren is known for its lightweight buggies. They’re sold online, including at Amazon and Buy Buy Baby, and at Walmart, for example.
This British company makes strollers that are sold at specialty stores and online, including at Amazon.
“Life without limit” is this company’s motto, and it all started with a father wanting to head to the mountain trails of New Zealand with his baby. The “all terrain” buggy resulted, and Mountain Buggy’s offerings include high chairs and car seats. The strollers are available online, including at Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Buy Buy Baby, and in stores.
This Italian company has been making strollers, car seats, high chairs, and other products for decades. These products are available at Amazon and Buy Buy Baby.
Stokke started in Norway and makes a variety of products for children, including high chairs, carriers, car seats, and strollers. This high-end brand offers strollers with a modern look.
You may know Thule from its cargo carriers that you see attached to car roofs around the country. This company, based in Sweden, has been making gear for decades for families that love the outdoors, including strollers and bike trailers. You’ll see them online and in stores, so check Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn Kids, REI, and others.
Uppababy was founded more than a decade ago by a couple (and parents). The company makes strollers and car seats that are sold online and in stores, including Amazon, Bloomingdale’s, Buy Buy Baby, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Pottery Barn Kids, and specialty stores.