How to Choose a Stroller
Here’s the cold, hard truth: no stroller is perfect. BUT that doesn’t mean you won’t find a stroller that’s perfect for you.
The trick is matching the stroller’s powers to the challenges you will face. This article is your first-time parent’s cheat sheet to help you instantly know the difference between a “good” stroller and a “bad” stroller for your family’s circumstances.
Together, we’ll answer these ten easy questions, and when you’re finished, you’ll be able to look at any stroller in the universe and say in a flash, “That stroller sucks,” or “Oh boy, that stroller is worth it.” It may be the biggest purchase on your Babylist baby registry, but don’t worry, we’ll make sure you get it right.
- What is your budget for buying a stroller? 💰
- Do you plan on having another baby within 1-3 years of this one?👶👶
- Do you want one all-purpose stroller, or different strollers for different situations? ✈️️
- What infant car seat are you likely to buy? Do you want to clip it into your stroller? 👶 🚗
- What kind of terrain will you be strolling on? 🏞️ 🏙️
- Given your living & transportation situation, how often will you be carrying your stroller?
- How much space is there to store strollers in your home? In your favorite mode of transportation? 🚪 🚙 🚇
- Will you be using your stroller for shopping or errands? 🛍️
- Is it important to you to have drink, snack, phone, keys, etc. in easy reach while strolling? ☕ 📱 🔑
- First time moms: these features are ahhhmazing ✨
The reason why no stroller is perfect 💔
The heavier ones tend to be more durable, glide more smoothly, and deal better with bumpy terrain, but they are cumbersome in narrow aisles, small trunks, and flights of stairs. Lighter strollers are easier to carry, lift, and store, but it can be tough to go off-roading with them. There are two strategies for dealing with this trade-off between weight and ease of glide: get an all-purpose stroller that’s a good compromise, or get different strollers for different situations. But before you make that decision, let’s talk stroller budgets.
What is your budget for buying your stroller(s)? 💰
First-time parents are often deeply shocked by how much strollers cost. They guess an expensive stroller is about $200 when in reality an expensive stroller is more like $800+. In the Babylist store (where we curate baby products that parents love) our strollers average around $400. Of course, a lot depends on what category the stroller belongs in.
Your friends and family probably want to get you at least one ridiculously fancy thing for your new baby. 🙂 Will it be the stroller that’s the splurge, or some other item?
Lightweight strollers are cheapest
A lightweight stroller can cost you anywhere from $25 - $300, and our Babylist favorites range from $140 - $200. If you’re only going to use your lightweight stroller once in awhile (say, when you travel) go for the cheaper end of the range. If you are going to use your lightweight stroller every day, go towards the higher end of the range, so it will last.
All-purpose strollers vary widely in price
An all-purpose stroller can really cost anything between $160 - $1,225. With such a huge range of choices, how do you decide how much is worth spending? Think about how much time you spend walking in your everyday life. The more of a walker you are, the more it’s worth spending on your stroller! (It’s a good rule of thumb for baby gear spending in general to ask yourself, “How much will I use this?”)
Jogging strollers don’t usually come cheap
Jogging strollers need to be big and strong to keep baby safe when running. That drives the price up to $380 - $800+. So what should you spend? It’s all about whether the stroller will actually motivate you to jog. In its own way, exercise is priceless. A typical gym membership is $40 - $50 per month. If your jogging stroller replaces your gym, it’s saving you money in the long run!
Double strollers are also pricier than single strollers. The ones we carry go from $300 - $650. Buying an additional seat to convert your single stroller into a double will typically be around $150 depending on brand. That’s much cheaper than buying a brand-new double stroller. However, only a few single strollers have the capacity to expand to double strollers. For more on strollers that grow with your family, see the next section. ⬇️️
Consider how long the stroller needs to last
Why shouldn’t you buy the absolute cheapest stroller you can find? Because it’s going to break! Well, everything we consider good enough to sell in the Babylist store is going to last you longer than a year, but the principle remains: the lower the price, the shorter the lifespan. Purchasing one really nice stroller is generally less expensive than purchasing a “meh” stroller and having to replace it with another “meh” stroller.
Don’t forget resale value
If you buy a durable, quality stroller, don’t just consider the price: consider the resale value. You may be able to recoup a great deal of the sticker price. Hop on Craigslist, and you’ll quickly figure out what types of used strollers people pay good money for.
Do you plan on having another baby within 1-3 years of this one?👶👶
There’s another important issue to consider: are you going to have more than one kid? If so, you might consider getting a single stroller that converts into a double stroller. Many families say that their biggest stroller-buying regret is passing up on the chance to get a single-to-double convertible stroller.
Consider this: nothing brings out sibling jealousy like being really exhausted from walking, and seeing your younger sibling relaxing in luxury on the only stroller seat! Having two seats removes a built-in source of conflict. Of course, a lot depends on how far apart they’ll be in age; a five year old is usually too heavy to ride in a stroller.
You can always buy a single stroller first and a double stroller later, but having a single-to-double convertible stroller is a way to save money. Our favorites in that category are the Baby Jogger City Select, the Britax B-Ready, and the Uppababy Vista. They don’t come with the second seat, but you can buy the second seat to install when the time comes.
Do you want one all-purpose stroller, or different strollers for different situations? ✈️️
For first-time parents, the idea of buying two strollers may seem confusing or excessive. And of course, many parents are well served with one all-purpose stroller. However, the benefit of owning more than one stroller is you can match your stroller perfectly to the situation. We’ll make the case both ways.
The case for a multi-stroller life
Here are some situations where owning different, specialized strollers can come in handy:
Do you have big travel plans? If you have a big trip planned, especially on a plane, getting a travel stroller compact enough for an overhead compartment or a rental car’s trunk can save you a lot of hassle.
Love going to the mall? Having a slimmer, smaller stroller makes navigating crowds and tight spaces less of a headache. Lightweight and umbrella strollers are ideal if you’re staying on paved surfaces. (“Umbrella stroller” does not mean a stroller with a big cheerful umbrella attached–it just means a lightweight stroller that folds up like an umbrella.)
Are you a jogger? You need a jogging stroller to jog safely with baby: it’s not recommended to run with an all-purpose stroller. However, jogging strollers are usually big and bulky enough to be awkward indoors, which makes them less than ideal for everyday use.
If you really want two strollers but are feeling guilty about the extravagance, here’s a fun fact for you: there are literally people who collect strollers and own MORE THAN TEN. They’re basically stroller connoisseurs, savoring the subtle differences between different stroller brands and models. If the idea of being a “stroller connoisseur” unsettles you, maybe you’re more of a one stroller person…
The case for a one stroller life
Are you REALLY a jogger? To be honest with you, many parents who buy jogging strollers don’t end up using them nearly as much as they’ve planned. If you’re a die-hard jogger right now, you’ll probably use it, BUT… planning on starting a brand new jogging hobby right after baby is born may be too ambitious (no offense).
Can you pack around a bulky stroller? As for the whole travel stroller thing, gate checking your stroller isn’t the worst thing ever; it just means more waiting around. The real question is do you have enough room for the stroller and all the other luggage too? And are you going to be okay hauling a stroller, a car seat, and all baby’s other gear around the airport?
How light is light enough? Lightweight strollers are great for impressing your friends (there’s a stroller that folds down into a backpack that’s mind-boggling), but chances are you can find an all-purpose stroller that’s lightweight *enough *for most practical purposes.
Fabulous all-purpose strollers can be found for seventeen or eighteen pounds (not too much heavier than your average load of textbooks). And although all-purpose strollers won’t be able to handle a rocky uphill hiking trail, they can definitely handle park grass.
What infant car seat are you likely to buy? Do you want to clip it into your stroller? 👶 🚗
A car seat and a stroller that clip together is called a travel system. Some parents love these pairs because it’s nice to be able to transfer a baby from car to stroller without waking them up. Plus, newborns aren’t strong enough to sit up in stroller seats until they are six-months old.
If you want your newborn to be able to enjoy your stroller, you need either a stroller seat that reclines completely flat, or the ability to clip a car seat or bassinet into your stroller.
Buying a travel system as one purchase is the simplest way to ensure stroller and car seat compatibility. However, if your favorite car seat and your favorite stroller don’t come together as a set, you can often (but not always) buy an adapter that connects them. Keep this in mind as you choose your car seat and your stroller.
What kind of terrain will you be strolling on? 🏞️ 🏙️
Look at a stroller’s wheels and suspension to figure out what kind of terrain it can handle. Little plastic wheels (the cheapest kind) are just fine for paved surfaces, and maybe okay for some light park use as well. But if you have long stretches of gravel or cobblestone (or crappy sidewalks), you’ll need something more heavy-duty.
Air-filled rubber tires can go just about anywhere, provided they don’t get a flat. (They’re basically mini bicycle tires). However, luxury strollers have foam-filled, no-flat tires. They give you a smooth ride with no fear of punctures.
The strollers with the most lovely glide will have all-wheel suspension. For someone who doesn’t off-road often, all-wheel suspension is overkill. A typical stroller has suspension in just the front or just the back wheels which is totally fine for everyday use. But if you get a stroller with no suspension at all, bumps are going to be rough (they’ll probably wake up baby).
If you really want to know how your stroller will handle outside the showroom, look at the wheel specs! Recap:
- No suspension - can only handle smooth surfaces
- Suspension on just front or just back - can handle regular situations
- All-wheel suspension - can handle off-roading
- Plastic tires - may struggle off pavement, especially if they’re small
- Air-filled rubber tires - can handle anything if they don’t get a flat
- Foam-filled tires - amazing in any situation
Given your living & transportation situation, how often will you be carrying your stroller? 🏡 🏨 🚐 🚲 🏎️
How many stairs are in your life? That is the question. If you’re living in an apartment and taking the subway everywhere, go light! We recommend something like the City Mini or the Chicco Liteway, which both weigh only seventeen pounds. If you’re living in a big suburban house and driving everywhere in a nice big car, it’s fine to get a weighty luxury stroller like the 30 pound Nuna IVVI.
Most strollers weigh between ten and thirty pounds, but strollers that are robust enough for everyday use tend to be above fifteen pounds. Think about how often and how long you’ll be carrying your stroller, and what type of weight you are comfortable lifting ordinarily. Bikes typically weigh between 17 and 30 pounds–almost exactly the same weight range as an all-purpose stroller! So the experience of carrying your stroller will be pretty similar to carrying a bike. Except, of course, you’ll also be carrying a massive diaper bag and a screaming baby. Except for that.
Women who have given birth via C-section are advised not to lift anything heavier than their baby, so the lightest possible stroller still wouldn’t help in that situation. Don’t worry too much about postpartum weakness when you’re making this decision. In the long term, your muscle strength will be growing right along with your baby.
How much space is there to store strollers in your home? In your favorite mode of transportation? 🚪 🚙
If you have a car with a small trunk, or plan on storing your stroller in a small nook or closet, it can be helpful to compare the measurements of the storage space against the stroller’s folded dimensions. Compact strollers are really helpful for urban dwellers with limited storage space, but it doesn’t matter so much if you’ve got a big garage.
Will you be using your stroller for shopping or errands? 🛍️
A typical stroller basket is certified to hold ten pounds (one gallon of milk is about 8.6 pounds). If you plan on doing grocery shopping in your stroller, look for an extra-large basket, like the basket on the City Select or the UPPAbaby Vista. (And be warned, just because the basket is described as “roomy” doesn’t mean it actually is. Look at the “stroller basket weight limit” in the stroller specs.)
For the most part, a ten-pound basket is going to work just fine for baby’s everyday gear. What might matter more to you is how easy it is to reach into the basket. It’s much better when they leave a nice wide gap vs. having to squeeze and wriggle items out of a narrow elastic opening.
Is it important to you to have drink, snack, phone, keys, etc. in easy reach while strolling? ☕ 📱 🔑
Many strollers come with cup holders (parent and child), snack trays and parent organizers (aka pouches for your phone and keys). However, there’s also quite a few strollers that don’t have these features built in. Oddly enough, the more expensive a stroller brand is, the less likely you are to get built-in accessories.
However, you can buy all the cup holders and all the organizers you want separately as add-on accessories, and attach them to the stroller of your choice. Just adjust your stroller budget accordingly (unless you don’t care about them, which is fine too). Parents get surprisingly passionate about having good cup holders. (Deeper is better, say the victims of coffee accidents).
First time moms: these features are ahhhmazing ✨
These are three amazing features that have veteran moms singing their praises. If you’re new to the wide wonderful world of strollers, chances are you’ve never even considered some of these things. Now you know.
One-hand self-standing fold: This is the Holy Grail. “Why?” you might ask. You’re about to spend the next few months wishing you had extra hands. If your folded stroller doesn’t stand on its own, you’re using an extra hand just to keep it from tipping over. Also a stroller that doesn’t self-stand is always waiting to fall over in your hallway. One-handed folds are pretty common nowadays, but self-standing folds are a bit more rare. Look out for them. They are AWESOME.
Peekaboo window: This is a window in your stroller canopy you can open to peek at your baby. If the stroller doesn’t have a peekaboo window, it’s not a total dealbreaker, but parents LOVE to be able to see their little one without breaking stride. Here’s a real insider tip: magnetic catches are better than velcro ones because velcro makes a noise that wakes babies up.
Easy-to-use harness: Chances are you’re taking your strollers on a little test drive around the store, but are you testing how the harness clips & unclips? Some harnesses are really hard to use (and it’s ten times as hard when they’re squirming!) Get a harness that works smoothly.
Other things that can be nice to have: machine washable seats and flip-flop friendly brakes. You won’t believe how dirty a toddler can make a stroller. And if you’re going to be using your stroller in hot weather, you don’t want a foot brake that hurts your foot. (Some strollers come with hand brakes rather than foot brakes, which can be nice too–just make sure it’s in a comfortable spot for your hand, since most are right-handed breaks.)
What about an adjustable handlebar? If you’re unusually tall or unusually short, having an adjustable handlebar will make the stroller much more comfortable to push (it’s especially handy for parents who have very different heights from each other). If all caretakers have fairly average heights, you might be able to skip the adjustable handlebar.
Now you’re a bona fide stroller expert! 🎓
If you made it here, congratulations: you’re a bona fide stroller expert! Now, if you’re a go-getter, you can go to our Best Stroller Guide, browse the strollers that other parents voted best of the bunch, and pick what’s best for you!
On the other hand, we just gave you a TON of information to absorb. Maybe it’s time for a break? Pour yourself a glass of tea, inhale that steam, and take some time to imagine wheeling baby around the park. Your baby’s going to be so excited to see the big beautiful world you’ve got to show them.