A stroller is a nursery necessity
No matter where you live, you are probably going to need a stroller at some point. It's hard to shop, dine, sightsee or just take a long walk when you're holding a baby – and baby will probably appreciate the chance to have his own space or lean back for a nap when he's out and about. Many strollers will also accommodate car seats, be sure to see our separate report where we discuss the top picks in infant and convertible car seats.
Unfortunately, as necessary as a stroller is, choosing one can be anything but simple. Stroller manufacturers are constantly churning out new models, and the different features can be overwhelming. To narrow your search, you may want to start by deciding which of the three major kinds of stroller will best fit your lifestyle: a traditional stroller, an umbrella stroller, or a jogging stroller.
Traditional strollers offer the widest range of features
Traditional, full-size strollers occupy a sweet spot for many families. They include a wide range of features, including ample sunshades, cup holders, snack trays, partial or fully reclining seats, and car seat adapters. Some pricier models even offer bassinets for tiny babies or ride-on boards for older kids. Comfort and performance can vary widely depending on how much you choose to spend, but a traditional stroller will generally beat an umbrella stroller (but maybe not a jogging stroller) in both categories. Keep in mind, though, that the more fully featured you go, the heavier and bulkier your stroller is likely to be. If weight or storage space is a big consideration, look into umbrella strollers; if you want to run with your stroller, be sure to look at jogging strollers.
Umbrella strollers keep weight and bulk to a minimum
If you're short on storage space, travel a lot, or simply want the lightest stroller possible, an umbrella stroller will probably fit the bill. Umbrella strollers boast the most compact fold of all strollers, so they won't take up too much space in your trunk or garage. Though most umbrella strollers will at least have a sunshade and maybe a storage basket, you may sacrifice other features that would add too much bulk. Umbrella strollers are also meant for normal use on even, flat surfaces -- the small, basic wheels won't be able to handle much special terrain. Umbrella strollers are best for travel or as a secondary stroller, most don't accommodate car seats or have a sufficient recline for naps.
Jogging strollers allow a safe, smooth ride at higher speeds
Getting to the gym can be tricky when you have a little one to care for, but a jogging stroller can let you squeeze in a workout while your baby benefits from some fresh air. Jogging strollers are among the sturdiest strollers available: most have a shock-absorption system, large air-filled tires that further minimize bumps and jolts, and a lockable or fixed front wheel that won't wobble at higher speeds. However, they can also be quite bulky, eating up more than their fair share of space in your trunk or a crowded store. Also, experts say a child should be between 6 and 8 months, and have full head control, before jogging with them. Until then, stick to walking.
A word about stroller accessories
Even those strollers that don't include things like baby trays, parent consoles and cup holders often sell them as optional accessories. However, we've found that, in general, these accessories tend to get poor reviews across the board, even if the stroller they are supposed to fit is very popular. While we stick with official accessories in our reviews, we recommend looking at generic products that will also fit the stroller but get better reviews, and usually are cheaper.
How we chose the best strollers
Expert tests and reviews of strollers are abundant. Most helpful are hands-on tests from sites like BabyGearLab.com, ConsumerReports.org, and Good Housekeeping. BabyCenter.coms's Mom Picks Awards also provide a quick snapshot of the strollers most parents prefer. Amazon.com is the most helpful site for owner feedback, offering hundreds of parents' perspectives on how their strollers stand up to day-to-day and abuse. To pick the best strollers, we evaluated these reviews by focusing on how long each stroller can be used, ease of use, lifestyle considerations and safety.
The best strollers
The Britax B-Agile 3 (Est. $220) hits all the stroller sweet spots, reviewers say: It's lightweight, it's a snap to fold, and it maneuvers like a dream. Because it has a near-flat recline, the B-Agile 3 can be used from birth, and it accommodates children up to 55 pounds. At only 16½ pounds, it's one of the lightest fully featured strollers on the market. As its name suggests, the B-Agile 3 has a three-wheel configuration that allows for tight turns.
Reviewers say the B-Agile is very easy to use and push, with a simple, one-handed fold that locks automatically. Owners of the B-Agile say it folds small enough to fit even in the trunk of the smallest cars, like Mini Coopers. The hard rubber wheels "even do decently on gravel," says Matthew Lee of TheSweetHome.com, especially when you lock the front wheel. The recline is a strap mechanism that can be done with one hand, but requires two to put the seat back up. Like Britax car seats, the harness on the B-Agile is a front-adjustable, no rethread style. When used with a Britax car seat, the car seat snaps in easily to the included adapters. The stroller also earns praise for its easy-to-clean fabric.
The canopy on the Britax B-Agile 3 provides full sun protection with ventilation and a peek-a-boo window. There is a large storage pocket on the back of the seat, but some say the basket under the seat small and hard to access. The handle on the B-Agile is not adjustable, but experts say it's high enough, and a curved back axle accommodates tall parents. An Adult Cup Holder (Est. $12) and Child Tray (Est. $20) are sold separately. There are no optional prams or bassinets, but a Stroller Board (Est. $72) is available for older children to ride along. If you don't have a Britax car seat, the Infant Car Seat Adapter (Est. $40) lets you attach certain Chicco, Graco and Peg Perego car seats.
The B-Agile 3 has a padded five-point harness. BabyCenter editors praise the "sturdy buckles that prevent toddler escapees." It has one-touch linked brakes and locking front wheels. If you're buying used, take note: In early 2014, Britax recalled about 225,000 strollers due to significant finger injuries due to a faulty folding mechanism. Models manufactured between March 2011 and June 2013 were affected; contact Britax for a free repair kit if your stroller is among them.
The Baby Jogger City Mini (Est. $250) is eerily similar to the Britax B-Agile. The three-wheeled City Mini is also very easy to maneuver and fold, and, because it has a full recline, it also can accommodate children from birth. It tops out at 50 pounds, 5 pounds fewer than the B-Agile, and weighs 16.8 pounds -- just a shade more than the B-Agile. Note that in spite of its name, the City Mini is not a jogging stroller, something that seems to confuse many reviewers. You should never jog with a stroller that is not specifically made for jogging. See our section on the Best Jogging Strollers for more information on that.
The City Mini's biggest selling point is its easy, one-handed fold that reviewers say is as simple as can be and it folds compactly enough to fit in most car trunks. The seat recline is a one-step, one-handed move; the front wheel locks for more stable strolling, and the rear wheels pop off easily with the push of a button. The harness can be adjusted from the front of the seat so there is no rethreading. The seat is machine washable, but must be air-dried attached to the frame to keep the fabric from shrinking. This stroller is narrow and maneuverable enough to navigate cramped store aisles, while the locking EVA wheels can handle rougher terrains.
One of reviewers' favorite features is the City Mini's huge SPF 50+ canopy with ventilation and two windows. The storage basket below the seat is large and easy to access, and a mesh pocket on the back allows parents to stow essentials. A variety of accessories are available to pimp the ride, including a Compact Pram (Est. $175), Bassinet (Est. $200), Child Tray (Est. $25) and Glider Board (Est. $65): The stroller is compatible with several car seats with optional adapters (Est. $25 - $70).
The City Mini comes with all the safety features you'd expect in a high-end stroller, plus some. It has a padded five-point harness, plus a padded sheath over the buckle to discourage children from fiddling with it. There are one-touch linked brakes. The front wheel suspension keeps your baby from too much jostling.
Ultimately, the B-Agile edged out the City Mini as our top pick for a few reasons: It has a higher weight capacity, it's a bit more accommodating for tall parents, and if you have a Britax car seat, you won't have to pay extra for a car seat adapter. Finally -- and perhaps most importantly -- it's usually a bit cheaper than the City Mini. But both are excellent strollers, and it's tough to go wrong with either one.
The four-wheel UPPAbaby Vista (Est. $820) comes with some luxury touches that make it one of the most comfortable rides on the market. At 27½ pounds, it's not for the suburban parent who needs to frequently lift it in and out of a trunk, but it could be ideal for an urban dweller who puts serious mileage on a stroller. An included bassinet means you can use the Vista from birth, and the regular stroller seat accommodates children up to 50 pounds. For parents who want to use the regular stroller seat with a newborn, the optional Infant SnugSeat (Est. $30) insert should be used.
Reviewers say the Vista is very easy to push and maneuver, and its front- and rear-wheel suspension ensure a smooth ride for babies. While it's not difficult to fold or unfold, it does require two hands. It locks and stands when folded. The seat has five recline positions and reverses so that your baby can face toward you. Fabric is removable and washable, and the bassinet mattress comes with a zip-out liner. The adjustable handlebar is particularly good for tall parents, and there's no rear axle to accidentally kick. Wheel and brake levers operate with a simple touch of a button.
The Vista really shines when it comes to features: It has a large, accessible basket that Meg Collins of LuciesList.com calls "the best on the market." The full-coverage canopy has SPF 50+ fabric. A rain shield and bug shield come with the stroller, too. There are several accessories available, including a Rumble Seat (Est. $180) that turns the Vista into a double stroller, a Piggyback Ride Along Board (Est. $100), a Snack Tray (Est. $35), an Adult Cup Holder (Est. $20) and a Parent Organizer (Est. $20). If you have an UPPAbaby Mesa Infant Car Seat (Est. $240), it will click in without an adapter; adapters for Maxi-Cosi and Chicco car seats are available separately (Est. $45).
The Vista has a padded five-point harness and swing-away bumper bar. The bassinet and seat attach securely to the stroller base with red/green indicators to assure a safe attachment. The Vista has one-touch linked brakes, and the wheels can swivel or lock for extra stability. One expert test reveals a low backward tip-over weight, so parents need to be extra cautious about hanging items from the handle.
Buyers will also want to note that UPPAbaby recently recalled about 71,000 strollers, including the Vista, because children were able to bite off pieces of the foam bumper-bar covering, posing a choking hazard. Affected models were sold from December 2014 through July 2015. You can check your model number with the Consumer Product Safety Commission; if it's on the list, UPPAbaby will provide a free bumper bar cover that you can request on their website.
The Graco LiteRider (Est. $70) is a basic four-wheel stroller that won't win any beauty contests, but it has good features for its very low price: cup holders, parent and child trays, and an easy fold. At 17 pounds, it's also relatively light for a traditional stroller. However, it doesn't have a fully reclining seat, so you can't use it with newborns or very small babies without a compatible car seat. And with a maximum weight capacity of 40 pounds, it's not quite as long-lived as our other picks.
The LiteRider requires more assembly than pricier strollers, but parents say it's easy to put together. The stroller has a one-handed fold, but it can cause the baby tray to fall and sustain damage over time. Hollie Schultz of BabyGizmo.com demonstrates this in a video review, as well as a way to fold the stroller to prevent that from happening. Parents say it's easy to snap in compatible car seats, and the stroller is easy to clean. Experts and owners say it pushes best on smooth surfaces -- the small plastic wheels are no match for rougher terrain. Still, BabyCenter.com's editors praise the "nimble maneuverability," and the front wheels do lock for a more stable ride.
The LiteRider boasts included cup holders as well as parent and baby trays -- features that cost extra money on our pricier stroller picks. The baby tray is removable, but parents say it's a hassle to remove. The sun canopy is small, but the storage basket is large enough to fit a sizeable diaper bag, experts say. The Click Connect version of the LiteRider accepts all Graco Click Connect car seats, while the slightly cheaper Classic Connect version accepts Graco Classic Connect car seats. There are no adapters for other car seat brands.
All newly manufactured Click Connect versions of the Graco LiteRider have a five-point harness. Some older Classic Connect models have a three-point harness. This is worth double-checking: Unless you have a child who is content to sit quietly in a stroller seat, a five-point harness is a must. It's also a necessity for younger children who may not have good stability. The stroller's rear brakes lock individually, but they are still easy to set with sandals on. The stroller was in the middle of the pack in experts' tipping tests.