The best umbrella strollers have
- Basic safety features. Five-point
harness with a secure buckle, rear brakes on both wheels (one-touch linked
brakes are a bonus), and canopy hinges should not scissor. Also, the
stroller shouldn't have any recent recalls that have not been remedied.
- Easy-to-use features. Compact,
one-handed fold that locks closed, one-handed opening, low weight -- from
8 to 15 pounds (though more fully featured umbrella strollers may weigh
slightly more). Carry handle and/or shoulder strap is included.
- Stability. Lightweight
umbrella strollers can be more prone to tipping over backwards. You can
test for this by hanging a bag over the back handle of the stroller and
gradually adding weight. If it tips back quickly, it may indicate
stability problems. Wheels should not wobble.
- A canopy. Size will
vary, but most umbrella strollers have them. Adjustable/removable is good
when you want to go low weight. UV-protected fabric is a bonus.
- Recline. Unless you're making short trips,
babies and younger toddlers will probably need a nap. The more recline the
better for small infants.
Know before you go
Prior to picking an umbrella stroller, consider the following:
What size is your trunk or closet? Whether you live in the city or suburbs, the stroller has to be stored
and/or transported. Measure the trunk of your car or the closet it will be
stored in so that you can be sure the stroller you purchase fits inside. Folded
specs are available for virtually every stroller on its manufacturer's website
or by calling customer service. If you're shopping in person, take a tape
How much can you lift? Be sure you know how much weight you can lift and whether you can
comfortably lift that weight multiple times in a day if necessary. City folk
may want to be sure they can carry 17 or more pounds in one hand while cradling
an imaginary infant in the other as they pretend to get on a bus or walk
stairs. Also, be sure there is some comfortable way to carry it -- a strap,
How long do you expect to own the stroller? The upper and lower weight ratings on a stroller are an important guide
to when you can start using your stroller and how long you can use it. Some
strollers won't accommodate an infant without a car seat or bassinet, so the
stroller may not be able to be used until 3 to 6 months. If your children tend
to be taller or larger, you want to look for a higher weight rating so they
won't outgrow it by age 3.
How often will you use the stroller? If your child is going to be in the stroller a lot, look for comfort
features, such as a well-padded seat for older children.
Where will you push the stroller? Some strollers only work well on smooth terrain. If you have to walk over
gravel, in light snow, on playground mulch, or through grass, look for a
stroller that does well on more challenging terrains -- generally sturdy, hard
rubber or foam wheels that can lock. If you take your baby on a lot of errands,
choose a more compact stroller with a narrow wheel base that is easy to
maneuver even in smaller shops. Ample storage is a plus, too. If you walk long
distances on sidewalks, look for all-wheel suspension for baby and an easy push
for you. If you take public transport, be sure you can fold the stroller easily
with one hand. A standing fold would be a handy feature for public transport as
Buying tactics and strategies
These are a few tips based upon the most common
"buyer's remorse" postings we see on consumer-review sites:
- Try it out first. It's tempting
to buy a hot, new stroller off the Internet, but many a parent has been
disappointed to find that a stroller they buy sight unseen does not work
for them. It's best if you can push it around the store and see if it
feels okay. If you're buying a stroller for an older baby or toddler,
bring them along for the tryout.
- Verify upper and lower weight ratings. Stroller manufacturers' websites and vendor websites can be
annoyingly inaccurate when it comes to weight ratings and other details.
It is disappointing to discover that your stroller isn't newborn-friendly
after you pull it out of the box. However, most manufacturers' websites
will allow you to download the manual directly from the website. If there
are inconsistencies, call the company to verify the correct information.
If you can't get a straight answer, think of that as a harbinger of what
could happen with future issues.
- Get last year's model or fabric style
cheap. Stroller manufacturers update models
frequently. Like a car, a brand-new stroller that is last year's model or
in last year's colors can often be found at a deep discount. Look out for
recalls if buying an older model. Recalls (found at CPSC.gov) will list
model numbers and manufacturing dates, which can be located on packaging or
on the stroller itself. Be particularly vigilant about make and model when
buying a stroller online where you are not able to personally verify these
- Don't buy used strollers. Tempting as
it may be, especially if you're purchasing a second stroller, strollers
are often subject to recalls. Even high-end strollers aren't immune;
Bugaboo, Peg Perego and Maclaren strollers have been involved in recent
recalls. The older the stroller, the more likely it is to have been
involved in a recall since they're often retroactive for a few years.
Also, when you buy a new stroller, your product registration will alert
you to recalls as soon as they're announced. If you're set on buying a
used stroller, check
for recalls at the Consumer
Product Safety Commission website.