Stroller? I hardly know her!
February 18, 2012 9:09 AM   Subscribe

What are the three most important features in a stroller? What three features do NOT matter in a stroller?

I'm doing some stroller research and I'm overwhelmed by the number of different little features. I've used strollers before but only a completely bare-bones umbrella stroller and a top-of-the-line bugaboo. I need something in the middle but I have no idea exactly which features are necessary and which are frivolous.

If you put these things in list form that would really help me organizationally (my ADHD is making this a nightmare).

Thank you!
posted by the young rope-rider to Grab Bag (37 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
A handle that goes all the way across the top horizontally so you can push it with one hand.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:11 AM on February 18, 2012

Important features:
1. Wheel locks don't get stuck while walking.
2. Lots of space for stuff without being bulky.
3. Handles that are easy to push for tall people.

Do not matter:
1. Looking cool.
2. Cupholders and their ilk.
3. Jogging wheels.

We mostly get ours used or hand-me-down so cost is irrelevant.
posted by michaelh at 9:12 AM on February 18, 2012

- Removable and washable covers
- Not having air-filled tyres (punctures)
posted by Morsey at 9:19 AM on February 18, 2012

Depends on your expected use. Long distances on rough terrain? Big, sturdy, heavy, large wheels. A few blocks of sidewalk or parking lot at a time between shops? As light and portable and collapsible as possible.

We bought a big fancy one and hardly ever used it because it was such a pain to transport and maneuver; I ended up mostly leaving it at home and holding the kid on my hip.
posted by ook at 9:21 AM on February 18, 2012

A huge amount of this will depend on your particular situation. Are you in a city like NYC where you don't have a car and storage is at a premium? Do you have a car? Do you live in a place that gets a lot of snow so you need a stroller that's good in those conditions?

We just moved to VT and are plan on getting one of those jogging strollers, not because either one of us jog (perish the thought!), but because they have big, good-in-the-snow wheels. Back down in NYC (where we lived before this), everyone loved the Metro Mini (?) because it was good on crowded Manhattan sidewalks and folded up nicely in NYC apartments.
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:21 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Can you push it easily in bad (winter) weather (so does it have good wheels/good handle/good steering)?
2. Is the handle tall enough that you/your partner don't have to hunch over when you push it?
3. Is it easy to fold up/open up and does it stow well wherever you will stow it folded (does it fit in your car trunk, etc.)?
posted by flex at 9:22 AM on February 18, 2012

What was important to me was the height: I did not want my babies to breath exhaust fumes while I was pushing them on sidewalks.
posted by francesca too at 9:22 AM on February 18, 2012

Sorry, that should be "City Mini."
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2012

If it's an umbrella stroller, it must have what we used to call the "zip-zip" factor. With baby on hip and bag on other shoulder and only one free hand, it must collapse in two moves, toe lever near the wheel, and push on handle, zip zip.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2012

My preferences:
1) sun protection (as in a shade e that can easily be pulled over baby)
2) cup holder - preferably two, one to hold baby's drink and one to hold my coffee. Bonus is that the holders can keep your iPod or keys instead of your drink
3) horizontal bar for pushing.

Being able to fold easily is also nice. We ended up getting two strollers- one bulky tank, and one super light thing to take to the mall and such.
posted by Philemon at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2012

The Baby Jogger City Mini is a great mid-range stroller, especially for city living. Pros (for it and any good stroller):

1) Easy to fold up and store
2) The seatbelt/straps are easy to deal with
3) Lots of storage
4) Good sturdy wheels for a smooth ride
5) Fairly small profile and good maneuverability
posted by tetralix at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately the answer to this is "the features that are important to you given your lifestyle and needs."

We do not have a car, live in a 3rd floor walk-up and are 5'10" and 6'2" respectively, so our 3 most important features were 1) sturdy enough to hold up to daily mile-plus street walks 2) easy to fold and carry with one hand and 3) tall handle. (we have a Baby Jogger City Mini, FWIW)

Someone else who mostly hauls their stroller in and out of their car but does a lot of grocery shopping might prioritize collapsibility but not light weight, but also value a tight turning radius and a capacious basket.

It's also possible to spend unbelievable amounts of money.

What I would do is ask friends who have similar lifestyles to you about their stroller likes/dislikes, think about the way you'll likely be using it, and set a budget. Then go to a baby megastore like Buy Buy Baby or Babies R Us and try some out. We did a bunch of research and had some ideas about what we wanted, but trying to fold/unfold them and steer them around a crowded store reordered our priorities a lot. (Then we actually bought our stroller on Craigslist). Keep in mind that, as with cars, there is no one ideal--just things that fit your needs better or worse.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most important for us (as country-living folks):

1. Comfortable for both parents to push; for us, this made an adjustable handle a "must."
2. Stable and comfortable ride on a few different types of terrain.
3. Not overpriced (i.e. we're willing to pay for useful stuff but not for silly features or "brand status" *cough* Bugaboo *cough*).
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:37 AM on February 18, 2012

1. Tall enough handles.
2. Everything else.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

It would help if you could give us some idea of your use-case. Will you be taking it in and out of the car a lot, or carrying it up and down stairs? Are you and your partner close in height or wildly divergent in height? Snowy weather or sunny weather?
posted by Joh at 10:04 AM on February 18, 2012

Just one thought (as a nanny who sometimes uses the bus with a stroller)... if anyone using the stroller will be using it on public transit, make sure it can fit on the bus. I have used one that was too big to get past the driver area.
posted by Laura in Canada at 10:24 AM on February 18, 2012

1. Good-quality wheels! Like rolling luggage, you don't want wheels that are going to crap out, lock up, or break on you.

If you're considering double strollers: fancy double strollers (2 seats side-by-side) are very popular with swankier moms in my area: they can fit two small kids or one kid + purse/bag. The problem is that these strollers is too wide for your average store aisle, so the mom ends up:
- leaving the stroller parked outside and carrying the kid(s) anyway
- maneuvering the stroller along a too-small space while blocking the entire aisle/sidewalk/walkway.

I don't know if single-file double strollers exist, and they'd probably have their own problems, but not the width one.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:35 AM on February 18, 2012

My personal list:

1. Can push with one hand
2. Easy open/fold
3. Good storage underneath
4. Good sun canopy

Nice to haves:
1. seat reclines so kiddo can nap (some babies do, some don't)
2. parent organizer pocket thingie for water bottle, keys, phone, etc. (can be added aftermarket)
3. rain cover for inclement weather. (probably also can add afterwards)

I'm short (5'3") so handle length not important to me but it does matter if you are taller.

I should add our stroller (a Chicco something or other) meets only 2 and 4 of the personal list and 1 & 3 of the nice to haves, and I can live. Mostly. Not being able to push with one hand is something that I curse on a regular basis. I would shake my fist, but I need both hands to steer the stroller.
posted by ambrosia at 10:37 AM on February 18, 2012

Response by poster: To clarify, I have not decided where we'll be using it so a wide variety of answers are helpful. Thanks.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2012

1. Check for stroller & toy recalls.

2. Check Consumer Reports for stroller reviews and more recall news. Your local library probably subscribes to the print or online database edition for you to access.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:46 AM on February 18, 2012

As many have said, what really matters is where you live. If you live in the city and will be taking a lot of public transit and doing a lot of walking in confined quarters (i.e. downtown sidewalks, stores, etc.), spend the money and get a Bugaboo Bee. Trust me when I tell you that it is hands-down the ideal city stroller. Climate also matters--will you be pushing through snow at any point, for instance? If you live in the suburbs, these things don't matter as much.

Here was my list of must-haves in order of importance (as a city person with no car who takes a lot of transit):

-suitable for birth-age 3
-sturdy (cheap strollers don't last, and the user experience is distinctly worse than an expensive one--you really do notice a major difference)
-single wheels with suspension (rather than double, which are USELESS in snow and impossible to push one handed)
-quick and compact folding mechanism
-multi-recline options (for baby napping)
-suitable for use by tall parents
-cup holder (not key, but nice to have)

Things that didn't really matter:

-storage capacity
-weather canopy (you can buy cheap after market ones that will go over anything)
-tray (for baby)
-car seat adapter (I had one but never used it once)

My Bugaboo Bee was super awesome, and four other urban moms I know also bought it (after my recommendation) and loved it. It took me from birth to age 2 1/2 (Go Banana jr. is rather huge) and my friend is now using it with her newborn. My husband always said it handled like a Porsche compared with other strollers. It is expensive, but less so than the other Bugaboos, and it truly was worth every penny in my case.

Good luck and happy shopping!
posted by Go Banana at 11:13 AM on February 18, 2012

Yeah, it depends wildly on your lifestyle. My three main criteria were: lightweight, easy to fold, and fits easily up the aisle of a London bus. We had a Maclaren Techno XT for what it's worth.
posted by ComfySofa at 11:19 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

OK well I live in SoCal where cold weather is not an issue, but strong sun is. I drive everywhere because my neighborhood is not walkable. Oh and I realise my requirements changed when my baby outgrew the baby bucket carseat. So for me:

When baby is still small enough to be in the bucket:
1. Can transfer a baby bucket carseat onto it, instead of unbuckling the baby from the car seat then putting them in the stroller.
2. something that folds up enough to fit in the car trunk easily
3. has a storage compartment of some sort to hold blankets, cups or whatever
My recommendation for this age would be to buy one of those car seat stroller frames that has no seat, like a Snap n Go. You can get them really cheap off craigslist. No point spending a lot of cash on a new one, since you will only need it for less than a year.

Once baby outgrows the bucket and goes into a convertible:
1. Something I can open or close with one hand.
2. has a storage compartment of some sort to hold blankets, cups or whatever.
3. Has a sunshade.
4. Something that folds up enough to fit in the car trunk easily.
We chose a maclaren triumph. It served us well, but plenty fit this criteria.

Things that other people told us mattered, but didn't:
* adjustable handle height. I'm 5'4" and he is 6'1" but we never adjusted the handle height on the expensive stroller we had briefly (and sold because it was too big).
* smooth ride. Our expensive gigantic stroller had a beautiful smooth ride on inflatable tires, which was nice, but I didn't miss when we switched to a maclaren with solid wheels.
posted by Joh at 11:20 AM on February 18, 2012

1. The seat lays flat or darn close to it.
2. Long enough handles so tall people can walk with a normal stride while pushing it.
3. Folds easily.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 11:29 AM on February 18, 2012

And, if you're looking for a side by side double, the EasyWalker Duo is just as wide as a wheelchair which means it fits through all ADA compliant doors/aisles/stores.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 11:37 AM on February 18, 2012

We have a long snowy winter and for a good period I commuted via the subway to take our firstborn to daycare.

Important features were:

1 Wheels that could deal with snow
2 Foldable/easy to carry
3 sunshade/rain protection
4 Some storage

Sort of important:

1 Reclining seat

Not important:

1 Cup holder/snack holder
2 Detachable baby seat (didn't even use this for baby #2)
3 Tray for baby
4 Movable handle (so and I are the same height)

We ended up with four strollers :)

#1 a Graco (hand me down) with detachable infant car seat - good for the car seat & useless for anything else. I hated that thing.

#2 a Quinny buzz. Maneuverable, realtively light, easy to fold, reversible seat is pretty cool, adjustable handle, just OK in snow. Decent resale value.

#3 a good quality umbrella stroller. I can't remember the brand but we paid about $200. Very light, easy to fold, great at festivals, parades, shopping, subway and bus. Great for travelling & airports. Lousy in snow.

#4 a two seater Chariot. Amazing in snow or for hiking, adjustable handle (sort of). Terrible for city streets, shopping and impossible to fold up and carry, though it does fit in the trunk of the car.
posted by Cuke at 11:58 AM on February 18, 2012

The one thing that mattered a lot but I didn't consider all that much when we were buying was resale value. As it turns out we rarely used a stroller even though we had Bob Revolution and a Maclaren Volo. It was a good mix to have but we just ended up using a baby carrier most of the time (Ergo style) and then carrying her in arms or letting her walk as soon as she could. We all preferred that most of the time so strollers were only rarely used.

But the used market for strollers is really huge so it was good that we had strollers that held their value.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2012


1. Storage, storage, storage! Hands down. My biggest complaint about our current stroller (a Quinny Buzz 3 we purchased used on CL) is that there's no place to put anything. Drives me nuts.

2. Big, fat tires. I live in a rural area with minimal sidewalks and lots of mud, snow, and other weather-related things, and I can't imagine having a stroller with tiny wheels. Not an option.

3. Ease of collapsability. Our current stroller is difficult to fold up, even with two hands and your whole body, and I would love a stroller that folds up easily. Doesn't even have to be one-handed, just "easy."

We also have a cheapy umbrella stroller that we keep in the car, which I would highly recommend.

Not important:

1. Carseat compatibility - we never, ever used the stroller when our baby was little because he was always in a Moby wrap or Ergo carrier. Whether or not our stroller was compatible with our carseat didn't end up mattering at all. YMMV, but I wish I would have realized we'd only use the stroller once he was a toddler.

2. Looks. I thought I wanted a stroller that looked awesome. Now, I don't really care as long as it's an inoffensive color.

3. A highly adjustable handle. My husband and I have about a foot difference in height between us, but I am the primary stroller-pusher, so a super-adjustable (or even just a tall one) handle didn't really end up being important either.
posted by meggan at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2012

Safety. Can kids' get fingers caught in hinges and clasps? Can it inadvertently collapse with a kid inside it? Is it stable while parked, and over slightly bumpy ground?

Storage. Can you fit what you need inside it? (This might include cup holders if you enjoy large hot beverages - much safer than pushing / steering one-handed.) Can you fit it in your car?

Handling. Can you turn it easily in small places? Is it narrow enough to fit through commonly-encountered spaces?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:34 PM on February 18, 2012

Nthing City Mini - we ordered from the US we liked our friend's one so much, and it's not a total rip off. To answer you question:

Important features:
1. Weight
2. Does it fold easily and quickly?
3. How will it deal with changes in baby's size? Will be be okay for toddler?

Do not matter:
1. Colour
2. If it's metal or plastic
3. Cupholders and shit - you can buy them later.
posted by smoke at 3:49 PM on February 18, 2012

Is this for a newborn or an older child? If it's your first stroller for a new baby, let me pass on the best advice I ever got (I'm in NYC, so space was an issue) - Skip the stroller altogether until your child outgrows the first carseat, and just get a wheeled base (like the Snap n Go) that holds your carseat. Period.

This is because -
1) if you need a taxi or to drive somewhere, you'll want your carseat. Putting it inside a stroller works, but then you're lugging extra weight and you still have to break the thing down and put it in the trunk. Snap n Go was one-handed open/close once you detached the car seat.

2) Tons of storage underneath, which you need when you have a young infant, because there's so damn much more to schlep.

3) Baby is up high and facing you, so you can interact and keep him/her protected at a second's notice.

4) By the time your baby has outgrown the carseat and needs a new stroller, you will have figured out what you like and don't like about your stroller, which makes buying the next (real) stroller a lot easier and less confusing.
posted by Mchelly at 5:05 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm in NYC and my criteria were:

1. small, but good steering
2. baby can face stroller-operator (important to me with city noise - I can't hear them when they face out)
3. good sunshade
4. good under-seat storage

I found all this in the Bugaboo Bee. Its small size is great for narrow stores and sidewalks. But I will note that I never took it on the subway. For that I use baby carriers. But the Bee does allow for a baby bucket carseat to snap on, if you get the attachment. I think it'd be a pain to collapse if you take lots of taxis. I rarely take taxis.

Didn't need: the infant snuggle-nest thing. A tray. Fashion colors.
posted by xo at 5:10 PM on February 18, 2012

It was important to me to have a stroller where the baby faced me - I chose one that could face either way. I wanted to be able to see my baby, sing to them, talk and know whether their hat had fallen off, they'd thrown up, fallen asleep, etc. It was also handy for keeping them from having things fall on them - idiots often will hold things over your stroller, like coffee or whatever, when they're trying to squeeze past you. And I could keep dogs and random strangers off the baby. (Some people think babies are public property. By having my babe facing toward me, I could more easily fend off random people. I live in a busy downtown area with a diverse population.) There have actually been some language studies that show having a baby face you in the stroller promotes language development. I would imagine so, since you can actually talk to them and hear them. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could stand to have a tiny baby facing away from them. It's fine when they are older and can tell you when they need you.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:37 PM on February 18, 2012

Our answer to an urban environment with lots of public transit and space constraints was the Maclaren Techno XLR Stroller. One of the reasons we picked it was we test drove a case of formula around the store in several strollers, and we liked the Maclarens. The reasons it was on the short list:
  • light weight - (16 lbs) yet large stroller and easily folds down
  • lays almost flat so the young uns can be put in them
  • other owners in our area loved theirs - we like ours quite a bit and has held up to a great deal of abuse and has been used almost everyday
Summary: Great for urban spaces - this is one of the few strollers that does everything, for all sort of sizes of kids and can be carried up and down and all over and won't fill up the trunk or the coat room at the restaurant, or half the subway car. If space and carrying it around folded up are not issues for you - don't get it because that is the purpose of this device. We wanted one device from birth, and this one was it.

the bad/useless
  • expensive! even compared to the City mini (which is still pretty expensive) Short comparison: Mini has better fold down mechanism, waaay better sun shade, better storage but it is fatter and harder to carry any distance, the seat/recline system is pretty poor and they suck on any surface that isn't smooth.
  • car seat attachment thing was barely used and was a hassle so if I was doing it over I would just get the smaller*/lighter/less $$ XT model
  • storage space is non-existant. Of course I was of the opinion that shopping carts allready have a spot for you to put a kid or car seat...but hauling that stuff around with the stroller becomes a hassle if you are walking the groceries home.
We have also used a Chicco Capri Stroller, which had many of the strengths of the Maclaren XLR (or XT), in a smaller package and much more reasonable price tag of around 70$. It was very well built, didn't have a few features, but for the price represents an excellent choice for a multi-purpose umbrella stroller.

When looking at strollers like Maclarens or City Mini I would encourage you to look at last year's model that always available in odd colors online - both are fine on the safety end (maclaren had a big recall a couple of years ago for their hinges but that's old news) and you can generally save a fair bit of cash.

*The XLR can push around a 65 pounder kid before reaching it's weight limit. That is way beyond the limit I'm going to be pushing someone around.
posted by zenon at 9:22 PM on February 18, 2012

we cared about:
1. weight (lighter is better)
2. one-handed folding mechanism
3. reclining seat w/sunshade

we didn't care about:
1. cup holders/trays for either adults or kids
2. massive baskets for shopping
3. color/style

The stroller we used the most was a Maclaren - it folded down to a very compact size and had a shoulder strap for carrying, didn't take up the entire back of my wagon on road trips. We gate-checked it, carried it on and off trains and subways and buses, rolled around suburbs and city streets... The reclining mechanism was simple and fool-proof, and the kids liked napping in it. Sunshade worked well w/o being a tent. Tall enough for husband and me (I'm nearly 6', he's just over). Never had trouble w/one-handed steering despite having the 2 handles, so I wouldn't discount a stroller for that reason. We got the cheapest one, too. I always kind of wanted to upgrade, but never got around to it before the kids outgrew it. So I guess the basic version was just fine. :)

What's best is to go try them out. A baby boutique-type store is fun since they'll have the newest and greatest models, and BRU and other big box stores are good because they'll have everything.
posted by hms71 at 6:37 AM on February 19, 2012

This is what was important for me. Adjust for your circumstances as necessary: 1. Can I carry it? Folded or open you never know if you might need to pick it up haul it around. 2. Would it fit in the back of the Prius? 3. Is it less than $150? Then we went to the store and fiddled with some that fit those requirements and saw which ones we liked and were comfortable for me to push around. (I love having cupholders - esp. for things other than cups. Cell phones, keys, toys, snacks.)
posted by bijou243 at 11:21 AM on February 19, 2012

To clarify, I have not decided where we'll be using it

In this case, consider not getting one at all, at least at first. Strollers are one of those things that seem essential beforehand, but which you may turn out to only have limited use for / be more trouble than they're worth.

You can always buy one later, if you run into situations where it would be handy, and by then you'll have a better idea of what you really need.
posted by ook at 7:11 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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