All-terrain strollers

Published: August 2010

In our most recent tests of 11 all-terrain strollers—three- or four-wheeled strollers with large, air-filled tires for use on smooth or rough roads—the three least expensive models were at the top of our Ratings (available to subscribers), costing about half as much as many lower-rated models. Price range of the models we tested was from $135 to $500. (See our complete strollers buying guide.)

Although many people think "all terrain" strollers are equivalent to "jogging" strollers, that is not necessarily the case. Of all the models in our recent tests, only half are usable for jogging, according to their manufacturers. Similarly, many stores lump any three-wheeled stroller in with others that may or may not be all-terrains or even jogging strollers. There is often a degree of overlap in stroller categories, making it difficult to classify some models. (See stroller types.)

If you're considering an all-terrain stroller, keep in mind that they're relatively heavy—all of the models we tested weighed between 22 and 30 pounds—and are often very large when folded. This is not a type of stroller for a parent who wants a light, compact model.

Consumers looking for an all-terrain or jogging stroller should consider doing some research online before buying. This is especially necessary when shopping at larger chain stores, where the sales staff may not be as well informed about the products. If you want a stroller with maximum versatility that you can use every day, for off-road conditions (on uneven dirt, grass, or beach terrains) and for jogging with your baby, make sure the model you consider meets all those needs. (See all-terrain stroller Ratings and model pages, available to subscribers, for details of each tested stroller.)

While we did test the all-terrain strollers on "normal" and off-road surfaces (such as grass, dirt, mulch, and over tree-branch debris), we did not evaluate the models that allow jogging (per the manufacturer) for their performance as joggers. (See the details in the Ratings (available to subscribers) for models that allow jogging.) But in our opinion, an all-terrain stroller that scored Excellent or Very Good for off- and on-road maneuverability should perform satisfactorily for occasional jogging. (See the details in the Ratings, available to subscribers, for models that allow jogging.)

About one-third of the models we tested are car-seat compatible, meaning they allow you to insert an infant car seat into the stroller. (Some stroller brands accept just one, or maybe a few, of their own infant seat models; other brands can accept infant seats from a variety of different manufacturers.) This makes them more infant-friendly and practical as an all-around stroller for everyday use. Though none are required to do so because their seats don't recline to an angle greater than 150 degrees, none of the all-terrains we tested have the foot-area enclosure—a flap of fabric that covers the area at the base of the child's feet—that would make them safe for infants younger than six months. If you choose to use an infant-car-seat-compatible all-terrain stroller (or any type of stroller), always be sure to attach the car seat securely to the stroller, following the instructions in the stroller's and car seat's user manuals.

What is an all-terrain stroller?

All-terrain strollers are typically three-wheeled strollers or traditional strollers with larger, air-filled tires, and are intended to be used on a variety of surfaces, including mall floors, pavement, grass, or "off-road." (See other stroller types.)

Another typical feature is a front swivel wheel that can be locked when the stroller is being used on rougher surfaces.

All-terrains are often mistaken for jogging or running strollers, but should not be used for running unless the user's manual specifically says so.

How is an all-terrain different from a jogging stroller? A jogging stroller has a large, non-swiveling (fixed) front wheel and a hand brake—in addition to the large, air-filled tires of some of its all-terrain counterparts. The larger wheels make the stroller easier to push for the user, and the air-filled tires give the little passenger a smoother ride.

Unless they are infant-car-seat compatible, most all-terrain strollers are not suitable for infants under 6 months old. If you choose a model that accepts infant car seats, be sure to attach the car seat securely to the stroller beforehand, following the manufacturer's instructions, whether you plan to take a stroll or walk briskly. If you don't, the car seat can slip or even disengage from the stroller, and your child could be injured. We don't advise pushing a jogging stroller with a baby younger than a year, though some experts say 6 months is old enough. Ask for your pediatrician's opinion before taking your child out for a run.

How we test all-terrain strollers

We test strollers for ease of use, maneuverability, off-road maneuverability, and safety. Also included in the scoring (not shown in the Ratings, available to subscribers) is a quality-of-construction judgment.

Ease of use

This evaluation takes into account the ease of folding and unfolding, adjusting the harness and backrest, basket access, engaging brakes, and inserting and removing an infant seat, if applicable.

Maneuverability

This testing includes walking each stroller uphill and downhill, on blacktop, grass, mulch, and dirt, maneuvering the stroller through a series of S curves through traffic cones, up and down a wooden box simulating a curb, and through a narrow space alongside a parked van.

Off-road maneuverability

Because all-terrain strollers are often touted for use on rough terrain, we include a slightly longer and more varied course for these models that goes beyond our usual maneuverability test. Included in the course are level and uphill asphalt and rough-terrain sections, downhill asphalt, and turns on rough terrain. Panelists rate the strollers on overall ease of pushing and maneuvering—one score comprising smooth and rough terrain and the second based on rough terrain only. (The latter score is used for the off-road maneuverability Ratings, available to subscribers.)

Safety

This evaluation includes testing to the voluntary ASTM standard F833-09, Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Carriages and Strollers. Because Consumer Reports does not believe the ASTM stability test is stringent enough, we perform a Consumers Union-designed stability and braking test. In our test, each stroller is placed in different orientations on a platform that's angle is hydraulically raised and lowered. The platform is raised until the stroller either slides or tips, or until a 20-degree angle is reached, whichever comes first. The angle at which the stroller tips or slides (if it does at all) is recorded. That data is used to calculate a relative stability and braking score, which is a significant part of the Safety score for each model. Safety is a Limiting Factor in the Ratings (available to subscribers), meaning that a model that performs poorly in safety can't move to the top of our Ratings.

Quality of construction

This evaluation and scoring attribute was added when we found instances in which a stroller was damaged during general testing, but the damage did not qualify as a failure of the ASTM standard testing and/or was not specifically a safety issue. We also determined that because some types of damage probably would not be discovered in durability testing, the construction score could be used to reflect such damage instead.

Guide to all-terrain stroller features

Here is a list of Ratings (available to subscribers) criteria as well as features found on all-terrains.

Overall score

Overall score is based primarily on ease of use, maneuverability and safety. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points.

Ease of use

Ease of use is based primarily on ease of safety harness use, folding and unfolding, adjusting backrest, lifting and carrying, engaging wheel brakes, and car seat removal and installation (only for compatible strollers).

Maneuverability

Maneuverability is assessed by trained staff members who take into account how well the strollers maneuver S turns through cones, narrow pathways, grass, dirt trails, uphill, downhill, and curbs while walking.

Off-road maneuverability

Off-road maneuverability was assessed by panelists who judged how well the strollers maneuver with locked front wheel(s) over a course consisting of uphill and level pavement and rough surfaces, downhill pavement, and also includes turns on rough surfaces.

Safety

Safety for each stroller is assessed by our testing applying the ASTM F 833-09—an industry voluntary standard—and stability and braking tests designed by Consumers Union.

Quality of construction (not displayed in Ratings table)

This evaluation takes into account instances in which a stroller was damaged during testing, but the damage did not qualify as a failure in the ASTM standard testing, and/or was not specifically a safety issue. Also we thought that the specific types of damage noted would not have been discovered by Durability testing. We wanted to have some reflection of this in the scoring without necessarily displaying this score in the Ratings table (available to subscribers).

Five-point harness

A five-point harness secures a child firmly. Unlike a three-point harness, it secures the upper body.

One-touch brakes

One-touch and/or linked brakes work quickly for added safety. They're also more convenient than standard brakes.

Suitable for 6 month olds and younger

Suitability for babies 6 months and younger means that the seatback reclines to an angle greater than 150 degrees, and that the stroller could include a safety flap at the child's feet so he or she doesn't slip out of a large leg hole, or some other means of containing a child of this age. Even with this added feature, the harness should still be used.

Car-seat compatible

A car seat-compatible stroller allows you to mount a car seat directly onto the stroller. It's useful when you're moving a sleeping infant from a car to the stroller. (Some strollers require an adapter bar, usually included with the stroller. If an adapter bar or frame is required, but not included with the stroller, we indicate "No" for this column.)

Trays for parent, child

Trays for parent and child hold snacks, drinks, and toys for baby. The same features for parents free your hands to push. (Don't use with hot beverages.)

Extra storage

The basket below the seat, and any saddlebags or pockets (the larger the better), give parents an additional place to safely stow items. Use it instead of hanging items off the handlebars, which can cause the stroller to tip. Be careful not to overload them, though; check the owner's manual for weight limits. (Usually these pouches or pockets are small, and the amounts they can hold are limited by their size, but it never hurts to review the owner's manual.)

Adjustable handle

Adjustable-height handle accommodates parents of different heights.

Stands folded

This is convenient in restaurants or other tight spaces. It also makes storing at home easier.


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