How To Buy A Newborn Stroller : Criteria For Evaluation
In testing each product we focused on 5 key scoring metrics, with ease-of-use being the single most highly weighted and extensively scrutinized category in our evaluation process. Our ratings were based on a combination of real-world testing (i.e. strolling with babies, toddlers and young children), and more than 30 side-by-side lab tests in which each product was rated in comparison to other competitors.
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Ease of Use
From our point of view, ease of use is measured based on the tasks you will do repeatedly in daily use. For example, taking Baby in/out of the seat is among the most frequent tasks, along with folding and unfolding. Similarly, we looked closely at the ease of loading in/out of the trunk of a car and ease of taking harness off/on — tasks that you will perform countless times. These common tasks, along with key features, in day to day use such as available storage, sunshade canopy performance, and accessories will comprise the bulk of your experience with a product.
In our tests, the Britax B-Agile, City Mini Single, and the City Mini GT tied for top scores in ease of use. What separated these three products from the rest was how lightweight and easy folding they were, while still retaining adequate storage and above average sunshade canopy.
Pleasantly, these three are all reasonably priced in the $200-$350 range. They share a similar design and are all very compact when folded. This makes it easier to place them in the trunk of a car and they also fold small enough to easily manage on public transportation. In addition, all three can be folded with one-hand. Of the three, the B-Agile folds to the most compact size (shown below).
The top three all lacked nice-to-have amenities such as a parent tray or child tray, but these can be obtained as options for around an extra $50 bucks. We like having these convenient options, and recommend you consider the cost of buying them in your purchase decision.
The worst performers in our ease of use tests were the Graco FastAction Fold and the Jeep Liberty Limited Urban Terrain. Both suffered from being bulky, awkward and large when folded and are relatively heavy. Both of these did include parent trays and child trays, but the performance in other day-to-day utility factors was insufficient compared to competitors. So much so that they scored poorly overall in ease of use.
To test maneuverability we put each product through a torture test of turns and corners over a variety of surface types including pavement, gravel, grass, snow/ice and dirt. A test that was particularly revealing was navigating crowded supermarkets. To create a test to compare each product in exactly the same way, we created the crowed-supermarket-from-hell simulator which is a multi-surface obstacle course, containing all kinds of tight corners and real-world maneuver challenges we observed in actual strolling situations. We then scored each product on ease of pushing, ease of turning, and performance over various paved and non-paved surfaces. In addition, we performed stair and curb tests, taking each repeatedly up and down curbs and steps, and subsequently rating each on the relative ease of navigation.
The top performers for maneuverability all shared a 3-wheel design and large pneumatic (air-filled) tires. The top three earned scores of 9 out of 10, including the BOB Revolution SE, the Baby Trend Expedition and the Bumbleride Indie. What all three of these products have in common is 11" - 12" front wheels and 11" to 15" rear wheels. The BOB and the Baby Trend are both fully capable joggers with 15 inch rear wheels that performed well in our Jogging Stroller Review. On the other hand the Bumbleride looks like a jogger, yet isn't intended for more than fast walking.
The BOB, the Expedition, and the Indie all provide an impressive combination of easy pushing, smooth ride, and fast effortless turns. Well fitting quality construction made these three more responsive and easier to guide through tight aisles and turns. Bumps in the sidewalk were handled with ease by the larger air-filled tires with minimal impact passed on to Baby. The BOB was noticeably better than both the Expedition and the Indie due to especially high quality construction, having the largest wheels, and an especially smooth ride over bumps due to effective shock absorbers.
It is worth noting that these three were top performers on both paved and non-paved surfaces. On pavement their large wheels made for every easy pushing, single-handed turning, and they excelled in tight spaces. When we went over grass or gravel in the park, their advantages were even more pronounced. Smaller wheel products with solid tires got bogged down off pavement and on rough surfaces, often to unworkable levels. They also transmit bumps and jarring shocks much more directly to Baby. Yet the larger tire, 3-wheelers, took these off-road surfaces in stride. If your strolling will often involve traveling over grass, gravel or dirt, you'll want to consider maneuverability as a very key factor.
The worst performers in our maneuverability tests were the Chicco Cortina and the Graco FastAction Fold. These both use solid wheels, which under 7" in diameter, on the front and less than 8" in diameter in back. We found turning through our obstacle course was harder and travel over bumpy and/or non-paved surfaces cumbersome, or worse. In addition, these products felt "loose" when turning, meaning there was a flex in the frame when we turned, which made them less responsive and required more effort to effectively turn. Coincidentally, both had a tendency to tip forward when going over a 6" curb, presenting a potential risk.
Studies published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) who both analyze US hospital injury databases, identify falling injuries as the most common safety issue with strolling representing more than half of the 46,200 strolling-related injuries between 2008-2011. Tip-over related injuries are the second most common. Experts conclude that use of a restraining harness would have prevented many of these injuries.
To score for safety we started off examining basic safety features such as harness systems and parking brakes. We then looked at tip-over issues including front, back and sideways tip-over. We also explored stability risks and performance going up or down steep curbs, steps, and across angled and uneven surfaces.
The top scoring products on safety were two of the heaviest: the Baby Jogger City Select, and the Britax B-Ready. It is probably no coincidence that both are uniquely designed to accommodate a second child. As a result, they are more beefy than competitors designed for just one child. The good news is that both did extremely well in our safety tests offering great stability, top notch braking systems, and quality 5-point harness systems. The bad news is that both weigh over 29 lbs, placing them among the heaviest products in our test.
The lowest scoring products in our safety ratings were the City Mini GT and the Chicco Cortina, both of which earned a 3 of 10 score. Both products had some good safety features such as 5-point harnesses, and good stability in our sideways tip over tests. However, both fell short in specific areas that left us concerned.
The Chicco Cortina
Unreliable Parking Brake — we found the Cortina parking brake to be relatively difficult to apply. Worse yet we found that we could sometimes apply the brake only to find that it was not fully engaged (even though it appeared to be set), and a slight bump on the frame would then release the parking brake.
Front and Back Tip Over — as noted in the Maneuverability section above, the Chicco had a tendency to tip-over forwards when going over a curb. Owners of the Chicco should take care to hold the handlebar firmly when going over a curb, or better yet, tip back on the rear wheels and ease the rear wheels down the curb. In addition, the Cortina had a relatively low backward tip-over weight in our tests; this is not a product that should have anything hung from the rear handlebar (i.e. diaper bag, groceries, etc).
We found the City Mini GT scored poorly in one very specific safety area, that of backward tip-over risk
In our back tip test it was the 2nd most likely to tip backward, with just under 17 lbs of weight on the handle and with a 20 lb test baby in the harness. Again we would not advise hanging a diaper bag or groceries from the handle.
An even more serious back-tip issue was observed when the GT seat was fully reclined, as it might be for a sleeping infant or toddler. If an active infant, toddler or child managed to work their way up to the rear of the reclined seat we found the product could back-tip dangerously, exposing baby's head to a fall injury. Unlike most competing products, the GT reclines nearly flat making it possible for an unharnessed baby to work their way to the back of the reclined seat. Normally a flat recline is a nice feature, one that allows safer sleeping and can work much like a bassinet. But in the case of the GT the rear of the reclined seat is cantilevered well behind the rear wheel axle which creates a tip-over risk if Baby moves to the top end of the seat. When we placed a 10 lb weight in the rear of the fully reclined seat, the GT would repeatedly tip over backwards. No other product in our test could be back-tipped as easily. In our opinion, using the GT with the fully reclined seat without carefully harnessing the baby to prevent them from getting to the rear of the seat, is too dangerous.
Quality and Durability
For quality and durability, we look at a variety of factors including the materials used for seating, seat padding and sunshade canopy, as well as the basic frame and wheel system. Strolling products that wobble or flex when stressed scored poorly compared to those with a precisely engineered frame and wheel systems.
The top scoring products in terms of quality and durability were the BOB Revolution and the City Mini Select which both earned 9 out of 10. They both featured especially high quality materials and construction with heavy duty frames, tight and sturdy fabric, and high quality components. The Select offered a unique and durable rubber handle. The BOB impressed us with precisely engineered components which had tight connections and good wheels.
The worst scoring products were the Evenflo Journey and the Graco FastAction Fold, both of which earned 4 of 10 on quality and durability. Both products had loose frames with plenty of wobble and lower quality fabrics. The Evenflo storage basket frame was weak compared to competing products and could easily bend if stepped on with too much gusto.
Weight and Folded Size
To test weight and folded size we performed our own measurements. This proved important as we discovered that some manufacturers provided weights or folded size that excluded components such as wheels or detachable seats. Our measurements all include wheels and seats. We did not include items like bassinets or rain covers which only some products include.
The best scoring products on weight and size was a 3-way tie, all scoring an 8 of 10, and included the exact same three products that tied for top scores in ease-of-use: Britax B-Agile, City Mini Single and City Mini GT. The B-Agile was the smallest in folded size at 22.5" wide x 10" thick x 28.3" long, about the size of a large suitcase. The B-Agile was also the lightest at 16 lbs 9 oz, almost 5 lbs lighter than the GT, and 1 lb lighter than the City Mini Single.
The worst scoring product on weight and folded size was the Jeep Liberty Limited Urban Terrain which scored a disappointing 2 of 10. Big, bulky, and heavy compared to competitors, the folded size of the Jeep was huge at 25.8" wide x 18.3" thick x 36" long. If you imagine taking two extra large suitcases, stacking them up on each other and then put your purse at the end, you'd have a pretty good picture of the folded dimensions. And, in terms of weight, at 31 lbs 9 ounces, it is almost double the weight of the Britax B-Agile. Making matters worse, the Jeep's front wheel requires two wrenches to remove it. Most competing 3-wheel products offer easy-to-use quick release levers which make it simple to remove the front wheel which reduces folded size and can make packing in the car easier. In addition, the best 3-wheel products also have push-button removal rear wheels. The Jeep's rear wheels are attached with cotter pins, a throwback to days of yore, and are essentially permanently attached.
Ease of Set-up
Ease of set-up was the least weighted category, comprising only 5% of the overall score because set-up is just a one-time task. In this category we looked at the time to set-up, as well as the relative complexity to do so.
The easiest to set-up was the City Mini GT, which took a mere 5 minutes to set-up and came with excellent, step-by-step documentation. Close behind was the City Mini Single and the Uppababy Vista, both of which were set up in less than 10 minutes and offered great documentation with an easy step-by-step process.
The worst to set-up was the Peg Perego Book Plus, which took us more than 70 minutes to set-up, due in part to some of the worst documentation of any product we tested, combined with a complicated, multi-component set-up process.
We were disappointed to find many of the most expensive products to be the hardest to set-up, due in part to poor documentation. These include the Bugaboo Bee, Bugaboo Cameleon, Phil And Teds Navigator, Stokke Xplory, JJ Cole Broadway, and Bumbleride Indie (as well as the previously mentioned Peg Perego). Poor documentation was a common theme. We find the combination of high price tag and poor documentation to be particularly distasteful. Great documentation is largely a function of an investment decision by the manufacturer to create clear, easy-to-understand documentation in each language they consider a target market. In our experience poor documentation typically took an "international approach" where vague illustrations without text were in one part of the manual, and small text in each language referring to those illustrations was in a different section. For products retailing for $400 to $1,100 we find cutting cost in the documentation to be unacceptable.
The Jeep was an exception in that it had okay documentation, but was just plain hard to set-up compared to competing products. It surprised us that the Jeep brand, so known for robust engineering and off-road durability, relied on cotter pins to attach wheels making assembly more complex and removal of the large wheels for travel impractical. The product appeared lost in time as if the designers apparently missed out on the many innovations in ease-of-assembly that competitors have embraced over the last few decades, such as quick-release wheels and color illustrations/photos.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Umbrella Stroller
Since I do most of the shopping for my kids, as much as I enjoy shopping, it was pretty time consuming trying to figure out which product provides the most. I experienced buying the wrong baby stroller and it was a DISASTER! Because of that experience, I learned to pay more attention to all important factors such as brand, framing, style and qualities. I spent a lot of time searching the internet, asking advice from other moms, comparing styles and brands to select the most suitable umbrella stroller for my angel. My husband even teases me that I might become a baby stroller expert that time. He may be my first fan, but one thing I can guarantee you, with all those time and information I gathered helped me put these altogether to help other moms or parents just like you to also find the perfect one for your little ones.
So before you go shopping and make that purchasing decision, it would help to first figure out what you will need. There are basic models which serve its purpose, designed to simply be like a foldable push chair. While there are some complex models that have more features to offer, perfect for the needs of a modern parent. Nevertheless, there are several factors you should consider first to help you find the right umbrella stroller.
The purpose of getting an umbrella stroller is so you can use it for daily errands so you would want a push chair that you can carry and is lightweight to maximize portability especially when you bring this while using public transportation. But don’t go for something that has the lowest weight as they can be more prone to breakage and tipping over backwards. You won’t be able to hang your bags or other carrying items while you push the stroller. I find this important since I don’t like to carry other heavy items and mind other things while I use the push chair. This way, I can focus to my kid and find everything I need in just one place.
Knowing the dimension is important to identify whether the stroller will fit in your car’s trunk or storage at home.
How it folds
Folding mechanisms brings great difference in convenience, so try to find one that offers easy fold mechanism, preferably one that can be operated with just one hand. This allows you to easily fold and unfold the stroller while holding your baby on your other hand. Imagine yourself holding the baby while attempting to fold the stroller with two hands. I’ve tried that and I promise you, it’s really quite a hassle!
It is ideal to own a sturdy stroller made out of aluminum or metal parts. But there are also a handful of them made from plastics. It might cost lesser but you might end up replacing them in a short period. Also, wheels made of rubber is also preferred so it won’t wobble easily and keep it stable.
There are additional features that are nice to have to provide your baby the utmost care, comfort and safety. Five-point harness with a secure buckle and rear brakes secure your kid better compared to average umbrella strollers and prevent the especially energetic kids from falling off. Canopy helps cover your kids from too much direct sunlight. There are adjustable and removable canopy so you can have the option of going even lighter on your travel and can even be available with UV-protected fabric which are great bonus. Often times, smaller children fall asleep in intervals when we go on strolls, so reclining features allows them to rest more comfortably. Lastly, parent tray and children tray are also nice to give you some space to put your things and place your child’s snacks, drinks or toys. All of these features are not always available but are definitely great to have. But remember, the more feature a stroller has, the heavier it gets in terms of handling and price.