Prior to picking an umbrella stroller, consider the following:
The dimensions of 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 measure.
Your strength: 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, handle, etc.
Number of years 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.
Frequency and duration of stroller usage: 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.
Your environment and circumstances: 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 well.
These are a few tips based upon the most common "buyer's remorse" postings we see on consumer-review sites:
There's always something happening in the world of strollers. Maclaren is under a cloud right now; a large number of its strollers have been recalled twice for the same issue -- potential fingertip amputations. Maclaren USA also filed for bankruptcy in December 2011, and there is some speculation that it is not a legitimate filing. There are also rumors that the brand will be liquidated. Although Maclaren is not included in this report (they mostly make umbrella strollers), we'd hold off buying a Maclaren until the mess is sorted out -- or not.
Peg Perego is tweaking their line for 2013, discontinuing the Si and introducing two new strollers, the Book and the Book Plus. The Books will not be umbrella strollers and are travel system compatible, so look for them in our full-featured stroller category after they're released. The Vela will also be discontinued, and possibly the Pliko P3. The 2012 models, the Pliko and Switch are meant to be updated versions of the P3.
As umbrella strollers add features and full-featured strollers offer ever more lightweight options, look for the lines between umbrella and full-featured strollers to become increasingly blurred.