Stroller and carseat recommendations
November 6, 2017 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm reading through review websites for strollers and car seats, and realizing that making a choice is... um... quite the project. I'm looking for recommendations. More below the fold.

Originally I wanted a travel system (like this one) because it seemed so nice and minimal, but I'm finding that some major drawbacks are 1.) weight (travel system strollers are heavier), 2.) size - they tend to be bigger, and 3.) my preference is to buy as many gently used items as possible, and it's hard to buy a travel system used without the infant seat, which we would need to buy new anyway, and I don't want to be wasteful.

I want a stroller that...
* folds up easily,
* provides adequate cover in the rain,
* doesn't take up the entire trunk,
* is lightweight,
* doesn't have cheap plastic wheels, and...
* doesn't have a ton of bells and whistles. Like this one.

I'm not as picky about a car seat because, assuming I don't go with the travel system, it will stay in the car and I won't have to futz with it. I did see this 4-in-one car seat which looks perfect, but I have no frame of reference for how much a new car seat should cost. Is $250 too cheap for something like this? I assume that in the States, baby stuff is so highly regulated that I probably shouldn't worry about price being an indicator for safety, but I don't know.

The stroller will be used quite a bit, as I'll likely walk a couple of blocks to daycare with the kid, rain or shine. I'll likely choose something I like and then wait for it to pop up on Craigslist, so price on this is not really an issue, unless it's like $1500 or something.

TL;DR: What system did you go with, and why? If you went with a separate car seat and stroller, do you regret your choice? Are there features you wish you had? Or features that you don't really use? Any and all recommendations welcome.
posted by onecircleaday to Shopping (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just had another baby (he’s 5 days old and my third) and this time around I chose to do the cheap, but well reviewed Graco click connect xl infant seat and the basic stroller that goes with it. I think I spent $140 for both on Amazon. I chose the Graco ‘el cheapo’ system because I need a place to put the kid during doctor’s appointments and such and it’s SO much easier to just lift the whole seat if baby is sleeping. Typically I don’t use a stroller once baby is 5 or 6 months up until baby is about 2 years as I wear my babies (I just find it more convenient). I did buy a Pockit stroller to keep in the car for ‘emergencies’- it folds up tiny.

Once the kiddo is about 5-6 months, I will buy a Clek car seat to just keep in the car as I won’t need the infant seat/stroller combo any longer.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:56 PM on November 6, 2017

We had all of your requirements, primarily the weight and compactness since my partner and I both drive small cars. The stroller we picked was the Babyhome Emotion, because it weighed about 15 lbs by itself and folds up pretty compact (I could fit it easily in my mother's Mini.) The only drawback to this stroller is that the seat reclines even at its highest setting. This was an issue around a year old when my son wanted to see everything that was going on around him. We switched to a Maclaren Triumph at that point and still use it when we travel and for long walks (son is 20 months.) You'd need to buy the rain cover separately for it, plus other accessories like a cup holder depending on what your needs are.

The Babyhome also works as a travel system because you can buy adapters for the Nuna, Cybex, Maxi Cosi and Graco car seats. We ended up with a Maxi Cosi Mico car seat, which is probably one of the lightest on the market, and also the shortest length-wise - I could just barely fit in the passenger seat of my Mazda hatchback when it was installed. The downside is that most babies grow out of it within or little over a year because it has a max height of 22 inches. My son outgrew the car seat in about ten months but by then he was not really falling asleep in the car seat anyway, so waking him up when we transferred him from the Britax Marathon convertible car seat we switched to at ten months was no longer a concern. My partner has the Clek Foonf convertible car seat which we like much better because it takes up less space.
posted by Everydayville at 5:14 PM on November 6, 2017

I use the travel system in your first link and the 4-in-1 car seat you link and I would recommend both. Yes, the stroller that comes with the travel system is a little bulky, but it ends up being worth it for me for the extra durability, ruggedness, and convenience it provides. I have used lightweight strollers on occasion and I am never as happy with them as the stroller that came with the travel system. It has a great suspension, rain protection is fabulous, it's growing with my child, it holds my bag, jacket, etc, while we are out. As for the car seat, I have no concerns whatsoever with the safety features on the 4-in-1 you link and I had mine inspected by the local police station who said it absolutely meets all safety standards.
posted by TurkishGolds at 5:19 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have a very similar Graco and we like it a lot.
posted by pyro979 at 7:01 PM on November 6, 2017

I went the single-purpose route and got a recaro seat much like this one. It does indeed mount forwards or backwards, but most importantly, it's grown along with my daughter from when she was barely big enough to ride (5lbs) to 3.5 years now (much heavier?). It's certainly big enough to keep growing, and it keeps her _safe_. It attaches very securely to the latch anchors and I can get the mount fitting very tightly. Cleans easy enough as well. I haven't had reason to think about getting another seat, and I fully expect that it will last for a good while longer.
posted by rye bread at 11:49 PM on November 6, 2017

Three kids here -- with kid #3, I went with a jogging stroller, and I wish I'd done that with #1 and #2 (had the travel system). Jogging strollers are just so much more comfortable, to walk around with, and cover a lot more terrain. (I do not jog.) Mine doesn't lie flat so baby couldn't ride in it until about six weeks or so, but it was totally worth six weeks of hauling around the car seat or whatever to get to the 24/7 jogging stroller part.

It does take up more room in my trunk than I'd like, but I'm so enamored of the jogging stroller in general that I don't even care.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:01 AM on November 7, 2017

The City Mini sounds like it was made for you.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:54 AM on November 7, 2017

We used a bucket carseat until the kids outgrew it. We liked the Chicco keyfit because it was well-made, easy to carry, had good easy-to-use buckles. We liked the feel of it in the store. For most of the first year, we didn't use a separate stroller - we used the bucket and a stroller frame. The one we had isn't made anymore, but there are others. This was fantastic because if the baby was sleeping, we just moved the whole bucket from car to stroller frame to plop it on the floor inside. It's easy to travel with - you don't have to carry a base, you can just seatbelt the bucket in. And if you have 2 cars, you don't need 2 seats as long as the bucket stays with the baby.

After the kids outgrew the bucket, they were ready for a lower profile convertible carseat (rear facing for a while, then flip to forward.)

For our standalone stroller, we like the City Mini for the "nice" stroller - one-hand fold, nice balance between compactness and drivability, steers well. The travel system strollers we tried in the store felt like driving a tank! We also have a cheapo umbrella stroller for travel / when space is a priority. Basically the second cheapest one they have at Babies R Us.

It sounds like a lot of stuff, but (e.g.) we used the bucket for a year with our first, wrapped it up and put it in the basement, and 2 years later our second kid used it. Then we donated it. We still have and occasionally use the City Mini. Ditto for the umbrella stroller - we had to replace one after the airline destroyed it, but it's earned its $30 and square foot of floor space.

I do suggest going to a baby superstore if you can, and putting your hands on the various carseats and buckles and test driving some strollers. You may find that (e.g.) you hate the buckle on one with a burning passion, while the other one bumps your leg in a weird way when you carry it. And I was really surprised at how badly some of those strollers steered!
posted by telepanda at 8:03 AM on November 7, 2017

Came in to recommend the Chicco keyfit for the first year or so. It's so easy to use and it's SO nice to be able to take a sleeping kid out in the seat; the stroller system works pretty well and is really easy. It worked for my kid till she was about 15 months and then she outgrew it, but she's on the very small end of the charts - YMMV. Once she outgrew that we upgraded to the Chicco Nextfit which I expect we'll use for several years (she's 3.5, been using it for more than 2 years, still has plenty of room in it).

If you're only walking a few blocks to daycare, definitely look into baby carriers. Much easier than a stroller! I loved my Boba carrier but there are a ton of brands and your body size and type has a big effect on what's the most comfortable. We have a City Mini but didn't use it till kiddo got too big to comfortably carry.

FWIW: the best carseat is one you can afford and know how to use properly (both attaching to your car and getting your kid in) and that fits in your car(s). Everything else is gravy.

I found the Lucie's List reviews helpful in general; I didn't go with all her picks but found it good background information. Also, the Car Seat Ladies and Car Seats for Littles are helpful sites.
posted by john_snow at 8:11 AM on November 7, 2017

The lightweight stroller you link is essentially identical to one we used for traveling, but around town we used a Phil&Teds Sport. Every time I saw another parent struggling with an umbrella stroller in cracked, bumpy pavement or off sidewalk I felt justified in the Phil&Teds. It lays flat, so the kid could crash while out. It had a rain cover. It worked really well even that one winter where we had 10" of snow. (OK to be honest, for my daily commute that winter, I threw him into a Chariot Cougar, swapping the rear wheels for skis, but you needn't go that far!)

The Britax Marathon seat is pretty good. Removable cover is a plus. Pro tip: Take it off now, learn how it comes off and goes back on. We didn't try it until AFTER the kid barfed copiously, while on a road trip, and it is MUCH easier to disassemble when you aren't dealing with it dripping wet on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2017

The system approach is great up to about 18 months. Moving kid in and out without waking kid is wonderful. We got pair of used Chicco system on Craigslist and bought matching stroller. We experimented a lot after that, found expensive used Bugaboo Bee wasn’t really worth it due to weight and how quickly it got outgrown. Maclaren was lighter and gave more headspace to grow. Had to ditch a hand-me-down macclaren from relatives though, as they’d already worn it out, and got one. Safest seat we could find was Recaro, which is great but is big. Ideally would have preferred something smaller and cheaper, but our kid is 5 and very tall for her age and still has room to grow in it.
posted by w0mbat at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2017

In terms of stores Buy Buy Baby is about the only place with a decent selection, and always has coupons since it is basically Bed Bath and Beyond. Obviously price check against Amazon before buying.
posted by w0mbat at 11:14 AM on November 7, 2017

The City Mini is, I believe, roughly the same as a Britax B-Agile. We chose the Britax B-Agile/B-Safe system thanks to a rec from Lucie's List (which is an ABSOLUTE LIFESAVER, seriously go sign up RIGHT NOW) and have loved it ever since.

We never bought a smaller "umbrella" stroller or anything, and the B-Agile is not the smallest. But it folds up pretty small, and it is absolutely awesome because you can pull it out and flip it open with one hand and a little wiggle. Very useful when you have a getting-bigger-by-the-minute kid in your other arm. We also took it on a plane and it was great.

Smaller than one of those ginormous B.O.B. jogging strollers; large enough to be sturdy when going over railroad tracks and big cracks in the sidewalk. And our daughter LOVES it, even now that she's over 3.
posted by St. Hubbins at 5:26 PM on November 7, 2017

Uppababy Cruz! With separate car seat and adapter.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:15 PM on November 7, 2017

Also had the B-Agile. While it's not technically/officially recommended we also used the Britax bassinet with it.

Had a Chicco carseat and a stroller/carseat adapter with no issues, so don't feel glued to the sets.
posted by typecloud at 11:12 AM on November 8, 2017

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