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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shopping for a Stroller? Read This!

By Katie M

Let me start out by saying, “Don’t do what I did!” When I had my first child almost six years ago, I did not put any emphasis on buying a good stroller. I don’t think I even registered for one, and despite the fact that we received enough gift cards from Babies R’ Us to more than pay for a great stroller, we opted to use that money towards other things we thought were more important (probably diapers!).

Buying a stroller is an overwhelming process, to say the least. There are so many considerations, styles, prices, brands, and features that your head will spin! If you are trying to keep your research simple, I would suggest starting your search with the Baby Bargains book,, and by simply talking to professionals at stores like Babies R’ Us. If money is not a concern, you can always check out the latest models at trendy baby boutiques too.

The following is my story which offers some suggested brands and styles, and some to steer clear of. Regardless, hopefully my decisions – and lack of – will better help you in your stroller search.

Like I mentioned above, I did little research on strollers before Emily was born. I did look at some “travel systems” because it seemed like everyone I knew had one. But I never thought they looked user-friendly and I am not the kind of person who deals well with lots of buttons, snaps and instructions when I need something to work quickly and often. As luck would have it, Jen P (of Charlotte Smarty Pants) let me borrow her Baby Trend Snap N’ Go stroller the whole time Emily was in her infant car seat. The Snap N’ Go (or similar model like the Graco SnugRider), in my humble opinion, should be on the top of every new mom’s must-have lists. Not only are these “frames” super inexpensive (between $50 and $60), but they’re incredibly light, and a cinch to pop open, fold up and put in the back of your car. They also have plenty of room below for storage, and some even come with cup holders for mom!

Then when Emily grew out of the Snap ‘N Go, my husband’s sister passed down her Maclaren stroller which, to me, was just a glorified umbrella stroller. Again it didn’t matter to me at the time because as new parents adjusting to living on one salary, we were both immensely grateful not to have to invest in a new stroller. So we stuck with the Maclaren.

However, not getting a more functional stroller was a huge mistake on my part. Don’t get me wrong, Maclaren is a great brand. As far as convenience, it was the ticket. Super light. Easy to fold and unfold. Not bulky at all in the back of a car. But the stroller we had wasn’t suited for what we needed it for. It was better for quick trips with the baby or as a back-up stroller when traveling (it works great in aiports!). On top of that, it had no tray for sippee cups or finger foods. And for some reason, our stroller had no storage. None, zip. Not sure if the lack of the tray and storage bin was because it was an old model, or a result of it being a hand-me-down. (The models on its web site look much more functional than what I had).

But the worst part of our stroller: Emily was constantly in the reclined position and I couldn’t adjust it otherwise. So as a result, she never became a “stroller baby” – something that drove me – and my mom – crazy because it was impossible to take her shopping – or anywhere in a stroller – for more than 15 minutes.

Then my son came along. He too used a Snap ‘N Go, and then we moved both kids into a Joovy Caboose stroller - our mode of transport for nearly two years. I think the tandem model is a novel idea, however, I’m not sure I’m sold on Joovy. Maybe it’s just my stroller, but more often than not its wheels are IMPOSSIBLE to maneuver.

So what should you consider when buying a stroller? Obviously don’t follow my steps! According to Consumer, you should consider the following:

1. Select the stroller yourself. Only you know what will work for you, and what you feel comfortable with.

2. Know your lifestyle, and use that as a guide. Obviously if you live in a busy city, you'll need a stroller that folds quickly and is compact. Here in the Triad, you could probably go for a bigger stroller. Or if you’re athletic, you might want to consider a jogging or all-terrain stroller.

3. Don’t go by price alone. Lots of variables go into the price and you need to determine what’s important to you first, then consider the price. Bigger-ticket strollers might have more amenities than lower priced models, but those less expensive strollers may serve you just as well. The average price of a good-quality stroller starts at about $250.

4. Take it for a test drive. Even if you plan to buy online, find the model in a local store and take it for a spin. Compare maneuverability and ease of use. Make sure the height is suitable for you – and your spouse. Give it a jiggle and make sure the frame feels solid.

5. Take your baby’s age into consideration. Remember newborns can't sit up until about six months old, so be sure the stroller reclines for babies of this age.

6. Check certification. Make sure the certification sticker shows that the stroller meets the minimum requirements of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) voluntary standard, and that its manufacturer takes part in the certification program administered by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Companies that are certified are: Baby Trend, Britax, Bugaboo, Delta Enterprise, Dorel Juvenile Group, Evenflo, Go-Go Babyz, Graco, Hauck Fun for Kids, J. Mason, Joovy, Kolcraft, Maclaren, Mia Moda, and Peg-Pérego.

7. Evaluate the warranties and return policies. Your best bet is to purchase the stroller from a store, catalog, or web site that offers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

And what are the hot sellers? According to the latest Baby Bargain book, the following are their favorite picks:

Mall Crawlers
Baby Trend Snap N’ Go ($60) or
Graco SnugRider ($60)

Travel Systems
The authors actually advise against these models, but if pushed they recommend Chicco Cortina ($300)

Second Strollers
Evenflo X-Sport Plus ($50) or
Chicco C6 - also known as Capri ($65)or
the Maclaren Volo ($100 - $130)

High-end picks
Baby Jogger City Mini ($230)
or Maclaren Techno XLR ($350)

*Baby Bargain also gives picks for other types of strollers, including urban jungle, green acre, exercise, and double strollers.

I hope this information helps. Let us know what your favorite stroller is, and why!


Summer said...

Katie I will be the first to admit I giggled when I read this post I feel like I have had every type of stroller available! We had twins the first time around so our options were a little more limited, of course I had the super long duoglider travel system that barely fit in our SUV and weighed nearly as much as me! I wish I had gotten the snap-n-go.. and that is what I recommend to all new twin mommies. I followed that closely with the double jogger, only being cheap I couldn't get one with the independent front wheel, and when it needed to be turned It was a veritable bus! My Favorite Twin stroller in the toddler stage is a side by side umbrella, folds small, is light, holds the kids and a fair amount of baggage. When we had a third baby and the twins were barely two, I prepared to dig the duoglider back out, until my dear friend Taryn bought us the joovy caboose at a consignment sale. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that stroller. I have piled as many as four kids on it (not recommended) it weighs practically nothing, the front seat can convert to hold the infant carrier, or be a regular tray seat, and the kid in the back can hop on and off and on and off. As we are not having any more kids (seriously four is enough for us). I see the light at the end of my stroller days. The best advice for strollers... seriously.. if you are going to put $$ into any baby item put it here. You will push that thing every where i'm talking thousands of miles, and if you have more than one kid, you could be standing behind it for YEARS!!

Maythi said...

yes, i agree. put your $ into your stroller, but do your research. we spent WAY too much on a stroller for our oldest daughter and it was AWFUL. a lot of people had recommended them (they're called Zoopers and were as popular as these BOB things you now see all over and just as pricey) - it was a disaster. so, do your research, test drive & test fold one. it took us over 45 min. to get the thing folded back in after a mall trip & i literally almost left it in the parking lot. i was so frustrated.

Carrie said...

We have LOVED our Graco Metrolite stroller. I have used it with all three of my kids from infant seat days right up to three or four years old and it still works great. And it is very affordable. We also loved our Chicco Capri stroller. Folds up to practically nothing and is very light. We have taken it all over the world and had no problems with it until it finally gave out after five years. We also have the Baby Trend Sit-n-Stand which I do not love. It can hold all three kids at once if needed but it drives like one of those oversized rocketship carts at the grocery store. I think the Joovy is more compact if you are looking for a Sit-n-Stand type stroller.

Summer said...

Maythi, I know it is not funny, but I did laugh because I have had that same experience except mine is always trying to fit the stroller back into the car.. Thank Goodness we got a minivan!!

Robin said...

LOVE YOUR ARTICLE!!! My husband and I are so there. Now that we are expecting our third we are on a search for a good,light weight stroller that fits our lifestyle. Why did we not invest in one the fist time??? We are very interested in the BOB and after speaking to a number of our neighbors they LOVE IT! The price is hard to swallow so we have been checking out Craigs list. Good luck to all and put some miles on those strollers!

Michelle said...

My husband and I did our research and invested in a stroller with the "features" including recline, tray etc...only to find us using a Wal-mart $10 umbrella stroller most of the time due to it being light weight and easy to pack. We both work outside the home and with early bed times and nap times to consider on the weekend - we didn't spend a lot of time "strolling." Our daughter grew quickly (imagine that) and preferred to walk - something that I think is good for her even if it is less convenient for me. Just another point of view. We are expecting baby #2 - not sure if that will change anything. Oh - also have a baby jogger for exercise purposes and we got our money's worth from that.

Nikki Francis said...

I told my husband I would never be seen in public with a 5.00 umbrella stroller with red and blue strips on it. (For going to the pool, grocery, around town errands). It seriously could not get any worse in terms of a fashion "NO NO" and my baby and I have been around the town in that thing, and I bang it around, leave it in Wal-Mart parking lot (hoping someone will take it), but alas, it's still around and so very useful. I guess they were right: You can't judge a book by its cover.

Mary said...

Am I the only one who liked the stroller system? We had our Graco system with the carrier that snaps into it and I used it with my children until they were almost three. Yes, it is a little bulky and takes up a lot of room in the car, but you can hold everything in it! Diaper bag, toys, shopping bags, food, etc. I was never at a loss of where to put things. Once my children turned 2 or 3 we started using the umbrella stroller much more since we didn't need as much space to carry all the gear.

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