Best Baby Strollers of 2016
Looking for a baby stroller? We extensively tested and rated 21 of the top standard-size strollers to find out which are the best. We put them through an extensive side-by-side testing process, involving more than 30 specific tests and long-term hands-on use, rated each product on pragmatic day-to-day use performance criteria. One of the most difficult baby product decisions you face as a new parent is picking a stroller that will work best for you and your baby. Read on to find out which strollers came out on top
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
The UPPAbaby Cruz also works great when used in combination with an infant car seat, and earned our Editors' Choice award in our Stroller and Car Seat Combo review.
The Cruz is a high end option and we walked away from this UPPAbaby feeling like the brand has yet to disappoint us.
The Motion has a nice storage bin that is easy to use and has a 10 pound maximum weight capacity. It took over 35 pounds on the bar to tilt the Motion back and it has a non-rethread 5 point harness that is easy to adjust. The brakes are easy to set and release and they had very little play with limited sliding resistance. Overall the Motion is a good option for parents with limited space on a budget, who are looking for a quality option with most of the features parents want and find useful.
Analysis and Test Results
A new baby brings so many wonderful life-changing elements, enough that a stroller, in the big picture, seems a minor afterthought. But of the baby gear decisions you'll need to make, deciding which one to buy is often one of the most vexing. And for good reason
Your local baby gear retailer will proudly display a line-up of dozens of competing products. Sorting out which one is right for you, especially for the first time parent, is a real challenge. To make matters worse, a bit of online touring will reveal dozens of other enticing products that may not be carried at your local retailer, so it's tough to compare them on equal ground.
Our advice is to think of a strolling product as a long-term investment. Unlike many baby products that will cease being useful within a year, a quality product should serve you on a daily basis for years to come. Given the duration of time you'll be using it, this is a decision where you may want to indulge your obsessive baby-must-have-the-best mania and invest a little more time and money in your decision.
The good news here is that the top performing products in our tests were not the most expensive. The best for you and your baby, based on our tests, can be found at a variety of price points, from around the $250-$500 range (including several Best Value and one of our Editors' Choice winners), to a stellar high end product close to $800 (worth a look if you can afford to consider something in that price range). The most expensive product in this review is closer to $1,200 and it did not score well in our tests.
We started off our selection process by looking at more than 150 competing products, and eventually narrowed them down to 21 finalists that went through our entire side-by-side comparison process for everything from maneuverability to ease of use and safety concerns. The finalists were selected based on their quality, unique innovations, and/or popularity. Our goal in this review is to provide you with very practical and detailed comparison information on the products most likely to be on your short-list.
Where to Get More Information
To augment this review, we've provided an article chock-full-o-tips to help you find the perfect product titled, How to Choose the Best Stroller. You can also refer to our How We Test article to learn more about our testing process.
The Search for Perfect Strolling
If Steve Jobs could come back to design the ideal strolling product, it would be light as a feather, almost effortless to push, turn on a dime with a single finger, store everything in your grocery cart, and fold to the size of a wallet with the use of only one hand. Unfortunately, none of the products we tested meet this fantasy. The reality is that the lightest products in our test were great for getting in/out of the car, but the more full-featured products were the best for long strolls and maneuverability despite being a bit heavier and bulkier.
Strolling needs change significantly from the first 6 months to the period between 7 months to 3+ years, so much so that the ideal solution for many parents may be not one product, but two. One for each of these two very different age ranges. While that may sound odd, hear us out on this one.
Pick your Infant Car Seat First
As we explain in more detail in our Infant Car Seat Review, we recommend that you choose your infant car seat first, then consider a strolling product after that. The car seat decision is frankly more important, and while compatibility will eventually be a consideration, it is a minor one from our point of view. Best to narrow down to a few car seats, and then use strolling compatibility to help you make your final decision.
Consider Waiting on a Standard-size Product Purchase for 6 Months
Because babies do not have sufficient neck strength to hold their head up until 6 months of age, we advocate breaking your decision making into two stages:
Give your baby adequate tummy time
Make sure your baby gets enough tummy time when they are awake and observed on your lap or on their tummy. Too much time in infant car seats, swings, strollers and bouncers can increase the risk of "flat head syndrone" (technically known as Positional Plagiocephaly). In addition, infant car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers and infant slings should not be used for routine sleep because they can put infants in a position that places them at risk for suffocation or airway obstruction.
Consider "Travel System" Bundles with Skepticism
Many new parents are tempted to buy the so-called "Travel System" bundles, that combine a low cost strolling product with a car seat. At face value, a travel system bundle seems simple, convenient, and economic. Yet, those that go down this road often regret the decision later. Why? Because the travel system products are often bulky and heavy for the first 6-12 months, especially when compared to a Car Seat Frame Product, and less capable for the period between years 1-3+ compared to competitors. In addition, the products bundled in travel systems may be a step down in quality from versions sold separately, and may differ in materials, features, and safety. We encourage new parents to consider the car seat and strolling product decisions separately, and only buy a travel system bundle if both the car seat and the included strolling product meet your needs separately.
This Review Focuses on Standard-size Products
In this review, we focus on 21 top products that are well suited to be your main go-to product for every day strolling for up to 3+ years. These are the most popular types of products for strolling and are well designed for daily use, boast a durable design, adequate storage, and are still reasonable to manage in terms of weight and folded size. Each of these options also offers car seat adapters, either with the base product or as an accessory (sold separately), so you could use them with an infant car seat from birth. However, keep in mind that most of these products combined with a car seat adapter will be significantly heavier and bulkier compared to using a Car Seat Frame Stroller during the first year.
RELATED: our Infant Car Seat Review
Criteria for Evaluation
Ease of Use
UPPAbaby Vista and the UPPAbaby Cruz both earned top scores for ease of use. What separated these two products from the rest was how well they executed the daily features parents use the most; both offered high maximum storage capacities, and the largest canopies in the review. They both offer adjustable leg rests, easy to use recline mechanisms, and simple but useful indicators to help parents ensure the seat is adjusted properly.
The UPPAbaby products are priced a little on the high side with the Cruz coming in around $500 and the Vista closer to $800. Pleasantly, though the BOB Motion has an ease of use score just 2 points below the UPPAbaby products and costs closer to $280. It shares a similar design to many in the group and is the most compact option when folded in the group. This makes it very easy to place in the trunk of a car and manage on public transportation. In addition, it can be folded with one hand, self-stands, and comes with a carry strap.
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 $50 extra. We like having these convenience features and recommend you consider the cost of buying them in your purchase decision.
Quinny Buzz Xtra and the 4moms Origami. Both suffered from smaller sun shades, awkward design choices, smaller storage bins, and are large when folded and are relatively heavy. The 4moms includes parent tray and lots of extra gadgets, but its performance overall in our tests was poor compared to the competition.
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 unpaved 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 compared to the rest of the group.
The top performers for maneuverability all share a 3-wheel design and all have larger rubber tires. The top scoring product, the BOB Revolution Flex, earned a 9 of 10 and features the pneumatic (air-filled) tires, adjustable suspension and tracking, and a lockable swivel front wheel. The second place options scored 8s and included the Mountain Buggy Swift, the Orbit Baby O2, Baby Jogger City Mini GT, and the Baby Trend Expedition. All of these options performed well in our obstacle course and managed rougher terrain better than the competition. The Revolution, Baby Trend, and Orbit also claim jogging capability with the Expedition winning a Best Value award in our jogging product review, and the Revolution earning 5 out of 5 stars in the same review.
While the Baby Jogger brand has the word "Jogger" in the name, most of the products they make are not intended for use while jogging. This is true of all three Baby Joggers in this review. Parents should not attempt to jog with these options as they do not have the design features that make jogging possible to do safety.
The highest scorers for quality are the Revolution (with a price of $500) and the Vista ($799) each with an 8 of 10. Both options combine quality parts, made of high end materials, with a fit and finish that stands apart from the crowd with a relatively wide price gap between the two. In general, products scored higher in this metric if they offered comfortable and durable fabric, pneumatic or foam filled rubber tires, and sleek frames with smooth finishes. The lowest scoring products in the group earned 4s; these were the 4moms ($850), the Baby Trend and Graco Aire 3 ($180); these two products once again show the wide range of price for similar quality. These two share similar plastic wheels, stationary height handlebars, and a lot of flex in the frames with multiple connection joints. The Best Value winners, the BOB Motion and Baby Jogger City Mini Single both earned 6, which is above average, and have budget friendly price tags under $280.
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 were the second most common. Experts conclude that use of a restraining harness would have prevented many of these injuries.
To score safety we started off examining basic safety features such as harness systems and parking brakes. We then looked at tip-over issues including 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. We concluded with the cup holders and whether or not they had a risk of losing their contents on baby's head.
The top scoring product for safety was the Baby Jogger City Select with an 8 of 10. Seven other products came in second place with 7s, and included award winners UPPAbaby Vista, BOB Motion, and Britax B-Agile 3. These options all scored well in our safety tests offering great stability, top notch braking systems, and quality 5-point harness systems that were easier to use than most of the competition. The bad news is that a few of these are on the heavy side; luckily the Britax is one of the lightest in the group at 17.5 pounds, and the Motion is the smallest when folded at around 5,500 cubic inches.
The lowest scoring products in our safety ratings were the City Mini GT that earned a 3 of 10 score. This product had relatively good marks for most of the safety tests, but failed in one that gave us pause and great concern over its overall safety.
We found the City Mini GT scored poorly in one very specific safety area, that of backward tip-over risk
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. We compared information on overall measurements as well as cubic inches.
The worst scoring product on weight and folded size was the Orbit Baby O2 which scored a disappointing 1 of 10. Big, and bulky compared to competitors, the folded size of the Orbit was huge at 23.9"W x 21.6"H x 37.8"L, and 19,514 cubic inches. This is significantly larger the Motion's low 5,817 cubic inches. It is also ridiculously heavy at 37.2 pounds, which is twice as much as the lowest weights in the group. 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. Making matters worse, the Orbit has to be taken apart before you can fold it, resulting in two pieces that you will have to carry if you are on foot or find a place for in your trunk. The average for the group is closer to 11,500 cubic inches and 24 pounds, with the Revolution and Cruz coming in closer to these values.
Ease of Setup
Ease of setup was the least weighted category, comprising only 5% of the overall score because setup 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, and how useful the corresponding manual was in helping us with assembly.
The worst to set-up is the Bugaboo Bee 3, which took us more than 23 minutes to set-up, due to far more component assembly than the competition and documentation so poorly designed that we put different portions together incorrectly.
We were disappointed to find many of the more expensive products ($500-$1,200) were the hardest to set-up, due in part to poor documentation and sometimes a lot of parts. These include the Bugaboo Cameleon 3, Quinny Buzz Xtra, 4moms Origami, Baby Jogger City Select, and Bumbleride Indie 4. 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 $500 to $1,200 we find cutting cost in the documentation to be unacceptable.
Car Seat Compatibility
Each product we looked at is compatiable with different infant car seats and some are light enough to work as a possible stand in for a car seat frame product. A few of the products are really restricted in the seats you can use, like the Orbit and Baby Trend Expedition that only work with the same brand seats, while others have a lot of flexibility in brands and models that will work, including the Chicco Keyfit 30, Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35, and the UPPAbaby Mesa that all one awards in our infant car seat review.
In our infant car seat review we encourage parents to choose their car seat first and then find the best strolling product to go with it. We also think most parents should first purchase a car seat frame product for the first 6-9 months because they are easier to use, lighter, cheaper, and can give parents a better idea of how they will be using the next strolling product. However, all that aside when you are ready to choose your main strolling product, which infant seats are compatiable is kind of a big deal if you plan to use the two together.
We tested the seats with the compatible car seats we had in the lab and ordered an adapter for the Chicco Keyfit 30 if one was available. We used the Chicco because it was compatible with the most products in the review, and it is an award winning seat with a reasonable price tag. For the most part the products worked best combined with the same brand name seat, i.e. the UPPAbaby Vista and Cruz with the UPPAbaby Mesa. However, many of them worked equally well with the Chicco, and a few even seemed more stable or easier to install.
We hope that between our awards and ratings we can help you narrow down the field to a few top contenders. We strive to provide enough detail to help make it significantly simpler for you to find the exact right product for your family's budget and needs. If you still aren't sure what item is best for you, and feel none of the top performers offer exactly what you are looking for, please read our Buying Advice for further guidance on what to consider and how to narrow your options, and review our comparison chart where you will be able to narrow the field based on what features and performance metrics mean the most to you.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Staff
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