The Best Bike Trailers for Kids
The Burley D'Lite won our Editors' Choice award impressing with its versatility. You can purchase attachments for jogging, biking, and cross-country skiing, in addition to basic strolling. When not carrying children, the seats fold flat creating a surface for hauling cargo, which extends the trailer's usefulness beyond children. The interior is roomier than many competitors in this review, and the sides bow out, which creates additional space for the little ones. Larger wheels and an adjustable suspension make it a comfy ride for venturing off-road and extending adventures. The parent experience is also good, with the trailer and bike moving together as one, with minimal feedback from the hitch.
While this is our favorite trailer, there are a few things you should consider before buying. It can sometimes be challenging to switch attachments. However, because you won't be doing this regularly and it gets easier the more you do it, we don't think it's a serious drawback. The D'Lite has a mesh screen and a vinyl window to protect kids from the weather, but the trailer is not 100% weatherproof as some water can seep in around the window. So if you live with significant inclement weather that can change quickly, it may not be the best choice. Last, learning to fold and unfold this trailer can be tricky at first. It gets easier, but you'll need to practice. Despite these minor flaws, we appreciate the D'Lite for its extreme versatility and high quality, making it a trailer that we think you'll love using for years.
The Thule Chariot Cross 2 is a tried and true favorite, winning awards across multiple categories. Though not as versatile as the Burley D'Lite, it is a great multi-sport option including strolling, jogging, biking, and skiing. We recommend this trailer for parents serious about their outdoor pursuits. It is top-quality and has features that keep parents and passengers comfort in mind. Adjustable suspension, large wheels, and padded seats provide a comfortable place for littles to ride both on and off the pavement. The rain shield on the Cross 2 is completely watertight; it has a mesh screen and a large, adjustable sunshade for sun protection. Individually reclining seats come in handy for snoozing passengers. All of the features on the Cross are designed for simplicity and frustration-free use. Folding, unfolding, and switching attachments is a straightforward breeze.
The hitch on the Cross 2 is very easy to use, but there is some feedback from the trailer as the ball and socket design has extra room. The cargo space is a separate compartment that folds down from behind the seats and isn't as large as those on other trailers, so you'll need to keep supplies down to the basics. The Cross 2 has all the bells and whistles and is top-notch when it comes to quality, but this kind of attention to detail comes with a more substantial weight and price tag. It is the most expensive trailer included in the review, which is why we recommend it for parents who are serious about their jogging/strolling/biking routine and plan to use it frequently as it is hard to justify the price for just a casual, occasional ride. Although, the Cross 2 is a high-quality trailer that will last for years and should retain high resale value.
Read review: Thule Chariot Cross 2
Coming from a company based in Norway, the Hamax Outback is a relatively recent addition to the trailer market. We love its roomy interior, and seats that measure nearly 2 inches wider than those of the other high ranking options. The wider seats, along with a taller than average interior height, make it a good choice if you plan to use it with older/taller children or for many years past toddlerhood. This trailer has some of the cushiest padding in the lineup, and when combined with the larger than average wheels, adjustable suspension, and a large, reinforced footwell, the Outback is the Cadillac of cushy bike trailers. We imagine kids will be happy riding in it for hours, and many parents will use it as a jogger just as often as a trailer. The process necessary to swap between activities is one of the easiest and fastest we've seen, simply requiring a click-out and click-in with a color-coded lock that informs you when the attachment is secure.
Despite all the perks, this is the heaviest trailer in the review by nearly 8 lbs! And thanks to the roomy interior, it is also bulky on the outside. Its substantial size makes it challenging to pull the trailer through tight spaces and kind of a pain to manage on sidewalks. The hitch, while good, is not as good as the one on the D'Lite, and some feedback relays to the bicycle. When folded, the trailer is not much more compact than when it is open unless you remove the wheels. This trailer also lacks the versatility found in some of the top competition. The seats are fixed meaning cargo-hauling won't be as easy as it is in the Burley D'Lite, and it is missing the ski attachment that is common in some trailers. Overall, we like the Outback. Unless you are dead set on skiing, the Outback provides a very similar setup with a high level of quality at a lower price than a Thule or Burley. We believe most parents will be very satisfied with the Hamax.
Read review: Hamax Outback
The Burley Bee earned our Best Value award for being a highly functional and easy to use bike trailer with a price of less than half that of many competitors. This trailer has one of the easiest hitches, making it easy to hook up and go without much finagling. At 20 lbs, it is one of the lightest trailers, and with a solid hitch connection that gives little feedback, it is one of the easiest trailers to pull. The rain shield on this trailer works well and will keep kiddos dry on rainy journeys. One of the most loved features of this trailer is the generous cargo space. It is easily one of the largest in the review and is big enough to fit supplies for the whole day, and it can even handle a load of groceries.
The Bee is a simple, single-function trailer. It has no attachments for strolling or jogging, which puts a limit on its lifespan and versatility. There is also minimal padding in the seat and harness, and no suspension system, so kids may not be as comfortable as they would in the competition. The footwell is plain, unreinforced fabric that tends to show signs of wear fairly quickly. It doesn't help that the trailer is designed to rest on the ground when not attached to the bike, causing even more potential damage. All faults aside, we believe that the Burley Bee is a well-designed product, and at this price, we can forgive the drawbacks. If you are looking for an around-town cruiser without the multi-sport versatility, then we think the Bee is the way to go.
The Allen Sports Steel is a straightforward classic trailer. It is one of the least expensive trailers on the market, and it is often on sale. This trailer offers good ventilation, so your kids don't overheat on sunny days. It is one of the lighter trailers in this review, and it has a small profile and very little motion transfer from trailer to the bike which makes it easy-to-pull. Little passengers will enjoy that the front panel unclips, giving them easy access to the seats and the chance to climb in on their own. The Allen Sports Steel also has a relatively compact fold, and without the wheels, it can easily stow away in places the competition won't fit.
When buying a trailer in this price range, you often get what you pay for. The Allen lacks some of the comfort and convenience features you'd find in pricier competitors. It has basic seats with minimal padding, and the harness is only 3-points and connected with clips rather than the usual buckle which makes it challenging to use and not as safe as the 5-point options. The plastic rain cover and sun mesh screen utilize the same zipper, and you use them together without the ability for individual use. The smaller than average wheels and lack of suspension mean you don't want to take this trailer off-roading. Despite the scarcity of convenience features, the Allen Sports Steel can get the job done at a hard-to-beat price.
If you are looking for something with the Thule name and quality, but not ready to spend the ticket price it takes to buy the Thule Chariot Cross, then you might want to consider the Thule Chariot Lite. The Chariot Lite can transform from a bike trailer to a stroller, to a jogger, to a ski sled. It is weatherproof but still manages impressive ventilation thanks to the mesh backing located behind the passengers' heads. It has a straightforward unfold and attaches to a bike, requiring only two steps to unfold and features the same ball and socket hitch as the Cross. It is easier to pull than many trailers, but there is some feedback when towing. This durable and easy-to-use trailer will last through many childhood expeditions.
This high-quality option can take you on many of the same adventures as its more expensive counterpart, but some advantages get lost along the way. There is no storage space aside from a mesh pocket located behind the seats, which is large enough to accommodate bags or jackets that are ok to be squished, but you can't use it for anything that must remain upright or retain its shape. There is a suspension system, but it isn't adjustable, and there is minimal padding on the seats, so kids won't be as comfortable on long rides. Also, this trailer is the second most expensive option in the review, so while budget-friendly compared to the other Thule, it isn't for tight budget. Overall, while this is a good trailer, we aren't convinced that the features justify the price for every family. You maybe be better off spending the extra money on the Chariot Cross to get all the bells and whistles or going with a less expensive but more highly regarded trailers, such as the Burley D'Lite or the Hamax Outback.
The Thule Cadence is a basic bike trailer by Thule that is also the least expensive single sport option. The initial set up of this trailer is quick and simple. The rain shield and mesh screen can zip down independently of one another, and they do a great job of keeping children protected from the elements, outperforming most trailers in this price range. The large wheels make it easy to maneuver, and the lighter weight and compact design make it highly suitable for towing. All components of this trailer are built with quality in mind and will remain sturdy and durable for years.
The lower cost of this trailer shows in its lack of features and poorer performance in areas like child comfort. There is no padding in the seat or harness straps, and it lacks a suspension system, so it isn't the best choice if you plan to go on longer rides or gravel roads. The cargo space is relatively small but still larger than either of its sister products. Folding and unfolding the Cadence is not easy or intuitive, as it requires a lot of strength and often risks pinching fingers. The Cadence is also a rattly ride, which could become annoying for some users. In the end, if you're looking for a product in this price range, we strongly recommend the Burley Bee over the Cadence. They are similar trailers, but the Bee has more features and is more user-friendly. However, if you need a weather-resistant trailer that protects little ones from getting wet, then the Cadance is one to consider.
With the lowest list price of all the trailers in the review, the InStep Take 2 can be an attractive choice for those who have the tightest budget but still want to get out with their kids. It has one of the roomiest seating areas and extra-large cargo space to pack everything you need for two children and yourself. The seats in this trailer unclip from the frame to lie flat. This feature makes it a good option for hauling cargo like groceries and can increase the use you can get from this product.
This is where the advantages end. The main complaint about this trailer is the lack of quality. There are complaints of the wheel's plastic rims breaking and being difficult to replace. With semi-regular use, we think you'll be lucky if it lasts a year. The canvas cover is not rainproof, and you'll need to find shelter if caught in a rainstorm. Although this has one of the most spacious interiors in the group, it is still not the most comfortable. The bench-style seat is not supported well, so children tend to sag towards the middle, and the small wheels and lack of suspension ensure that passengers will feel every bump. If you're looking for an inexpensive backup, or don't plan on towing a trailer often, then this product is a potential solution. However, if you want to go out frequently, we believe you'll be happier with the Burley Bee or the Allen Sports Steel, both of which have more to offer for the biker and passenger.
Why You Should Trust Us
The bike trailer team is led by our founder Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier is a board-certified pediatrician with two children and an adventurous spirit that resulted in a love for versatile bike trailers early on. Her children regularly experienced the world and outdoor adventures in a Thule trailer skiing, biking, and jogging. These early experiences and her education helped influence product selection and feature focus. Bob Wofford, the Senior Research Analyst, also got in on the action during testing and research. Given his lifelong outdoor adventure experience, including mountain biking to work, Bob, father of 7, is uniquely qualified to determine which features matter the most and why one trailer is better than another. Given the large scope of this review, the team is rounded out with Senior Review Editors, Wendy Schmitz (mother of 2), and Abriah Wofford. With over 20 years of combined baby product experience and outdoor know-how, the bike trailer review team brings the goods to the table to help you make informed buying decisions for fun early adventurers with your little ones.
We researched many trailers for this review focusing on the top contenders with the highest overall user satisfaction. We purchased a majority of the trailers for in-house testing and on the road/trail use in and around our mountain Colorado town. The trailers in this review were assessed for ease of use, passenger comfort and more before finalizing our list and product ranks.
When selecting a trailer, there are a few things you'll need to consider before finalizing your choice. Do you need a double-seater or a single? Will you use it regularly, or only for the occasional weekend trips? What type of trailer fits your budget and your space? In this section, we review many of the most important factors we believe you should think about when determining which bike trailer is the right fit for your family.
How Many Littles Will You Be Towing?
The trailers in our review are all of the two-seater variety, but most of them come in a single version if you have one child and need to save some money. Also, if weight and maneuverability are important to you, a single-seater can be the better choice. However, choosing a trailer that seats only one means you lose flexibility in how the trailer can be utilized in the future. Even if you only have one child (and don't plan on more), the versatility and space of the double-seaters are useful. Doubles provide more space for more gear for a potentially longer adventure, it allows you to bring a friend and creates more cargo space for hauling things like groceries.
Where and When Will the Trailer Be Used?
How often do you plan to use the trailer? If you commute by bike or plan to use your trailer daily with your kids, then you should consider something that is comfortable for the passengers and places emphasis on space for backpacks, briefcases, and other supplies.
If you only need a trailer for the occasional weekend jaunt, then features like suspension and cargo space may be less important, and a more basic trailer could suit your needs. Alternatively, if you are an athlete and want to tote your children on daily training rides, then you may want to consider a multi-sport trailer. These products are typically pricier than bike-only trailers, but for the dedicated biker/runner/skier, the trade-off for the versatility, and better, high-quality features are probably worth it.
Terrain and Climate
Your local weather and the terrain you plan to cover should play a large part in your buying decision. For a hilly urban setting, the suspension may be less critical, but a lightweight trailer will likely be more valuable as it makes uphill steeper routes more accessible. If you plan on traversing unpaved or rocky trails, then you'll want a trailer with adequate padding and impressive suspension, even if it's only occasionally bumpy. These features make a difference in passenger comfort and how easy it is to pull and maneuver over uneven terrain. The Hamax Outback suspension (below left) is good but could be stiffer, while the Thule Chariot Cross 2 (below right) can be customized depending on the weight of your children.
If you encounter unpredictable or variable weather, then a weatherproof cover is a must. You don't want to find yourself in a storm sopping wet with cold, damp (crabby) kids in tow. The Thule Chariots are some of the most weatherproof trailers you can find, thanks to the plastic rain shield that surrounds the whole trailer. Alternatively, if you live where the norm is typically 70+ degrees and sunny, then you'll be looking for a good sunshade with adequate ventilation, like the Allen Sports Steel or the Burley D'Lite.
There is a huge price difference between trailers, and you may not have decided how much you want to spend. In our experience, when it comes to bike trailers, you do get what you pay for, and a trailer that costs under two hundred dollars do not perform as well as the more expensive products. But, there is a middle ground and a compromise you can reach for most budgets.
Our Best Value winners have below-average prices. The Allen and the Burley Bee are both only equipped for biking and have minimal features, but they get the job done if you only plan to bike. For the slightly higher price of $300, you will get a top-quality product in the Bee that will last longer and be more pleasant to use. If you don't plan to jog or ski, these are good options that can save you money.
If money is not an object and you're looking for the very best, the Thule Chariot Cross costs three times more. It has all the bells and whistles and can cross over four sports all-in-one and is a top-rated, longtime favorite of outdoor enthusiasts. If you find it hard to get past the Cross' price tag, the Burley D'Lite and the Hamax Outback are also both excellent multi-sport options. While they lack some of the same features, they retail for half the price of Cross, making them smart choices for those looking for a quality product that doesn't break the bank.
The last component of value is longevity. Some of the more inexpensive options may not last more than a year of consistent use. However, if a year is all you need, or you only plan to use it infrequently, then there is no benefit of breaking the bank for something with more features than you'll need. Other products have brand name recognition for quality. You will pay more for products that come with certain name, but so will other parents. This name-recognition ensures that your trailer keeps its resale value after your kids outgrow it. Others have seats that fold flat and allow the trailer to convert into a cargo or pet trailer once your kids move on.
Last, but not least, is your choice compatible with your bike? Most of the time you this isn't a problem, but not every hitch will work with every bike. Hitch compatibility issues are not common, but if you are unsure, you should visit your local bike shop and ask the experts. If the trailer doesn't fit your bike, you can typically purchase an adapter. Thule and Burley trailers tend to fit the largest varieties of bikes, while the InStep historically has the most compatibility problems.
Choosing the right bike trailer for your family can be the difference between a fun family outing and a frustrating debacle. With a variety of different choices, there is a competitor for nearly every budget and need. We believe if you consider what features are most important to you, how often you'll use the trailer, and what sort of terrain or activity you hope to do, then you'll be able to find the best fit for you. Like many things today, you often get what you pay for, and the trailers hold true to this saying. We recommend considering the higher quality products such as the Burley D'Lite or the Thule Chariot Cross if you value easy to use, comfortable to pull, and fun. While more expensive than some of the competition, they are still reasonably priced for what you get. If those options aren't in your budget, the Burley Bee is a great trailer that outperforms most in its price range with only a few minor sacrifices over the higher-end more expensive choices. However, in the end, whichever choice gets you out and on the move with the littles is the ideal choice. Happy adventures!
— Juliet Spurrier, MD, Abriah Wofford, and Wendy Schmitz