Your Stroller Buying Guide

Important Questions

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you check out strollers in the store:

Is the handlebar high enough? Take a few strollers for a test push. The most annoying thing when you're out for a walk is pushing a stroller with handles so low that you have to stoop, or so short that you kick the back of the stroller. Look for handles that fit your height and your gait.

Where will you put the diaper bag and groceries? You'll seldom be out just strolling. You'll be running errands or visiting friends with an afternoon's worth of supplies. A basket under the seat is important, and it's lacking on some European strollers. (Where do Europeans stash grocery bags?) Less important, but certainly nice, are cup holders and storage spaces on the handlebar. You can keep water for yourself, pacifiers for baby, and other things in easy reach. Still less important are side pockets -- you can readily buy a storage bag to hang off the back of the stroller. But keep in mind that if you hang too much on the stroller, it could tip over backward.

Can you fold it easily? There may be some families that never fold their strollers. But most parents need to fold them to get them into the car, if not into the house. If you have to wrestle the stroller to the floor, that's not an easy fold. If the stroller doesn't lock in it's folded position, but instead springs back open at the slightest provocation, that's not good either. And sometimes it's just too hard to remember which buttons, latches, and bars you use to fold some models. Test before you buy, and choose one that's easy.

Can you steer it? We have to laugh at the number of strollers that call themselves "an SUV for baby." It's not easy to park an SUV, and it's not easy to squeeze a giant stroller through store aisles. Some barely fit through store doors. Always test-push a stroller. Can it turn corners? Maneuver through tight spaces? Pretend baby just tossed his sippy cup on the sidewalk and you have to spin around 180 degrees. Easy?

How much does it weigh? The lighter the stroller, the easier it is to push, travel with, pack in the car, carry up stairs, and so forth, There are now super-lightweight ones (8 to 10 pounds), but they're generally umbrella strollers for older babies. A good weight for a newborn stroller is more like 11 to 16 pounds. Once you get to the heavy-duty prams, which are -- no lie -- often more than 40 pounds, forget about it. A note: Some new parents worry that if a stroller feels lightweight, it's shoddily made. Not necessarily true; weight does not equal quality.

Can it carry a car seat? Travel systems became so popular that now many strollers accommodate car seats, even from different manufacturers. This is nice, because it's great to take a sleeping infant out of the car and snap her right into the stroller. If you know you want a car seat from a certain manufacturer, it's worth looking at their travel systems. They might price the stroller/car seat combo cheaper than the sum of the separate pieces. Another option is the car seat frame. Baby Trend's Snap-N-Go and Kolcraft's car seat frame are ways to put your car seat on wheels, making a lightweight stroller that accommodates a newborn. Get a canopy for your car seat and a warm boot to sit your baby in if it's cold, and you're set.

Does it have the features you want? Once your child is old enough, it's nice to have the bar on the front of the stroller swing open and shut so he can climb in by himself. But if there's not a bar, there's probably a snack tray, and those are nice too. All good strollers have locking wheels, and they all have harness straps, but five-point harnesses are considered the safest. Look for a removable seat cushion for easy washing.

We know plenty of parents who, despite all of this, still buy based on brand name, color, or some other superficial reason, like the stroller being named after a car. So be it -- you have to live with it. A better way to choose if you're overwhelmed is to get a solid recommendation from a friend you trust, who has a lifestyle similar to yours.

Stroller Safety
Stroller Safety

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