Best Full Size Stroller
Best Overall Full-Size Stroller
Thule Urban Glide 2
The Thule Urban Glide 2 is a cool jogging stroller with impressive features for everyday use. This stroller has covered storage, a giant canopy, excellent suspension, and a lockable swivel front wheel with adjustable tracking. The Urban Glide 2 is easy to push and turn and equally up to the task of running. Parents will enjoy the foam covered adjustable handlebar with twisting handbrake, and passengers will like the deep recline seat back, seat-side storage pockets, and padded sling-style seat. The Urban Glide 2 is also compatible with a variety of infant car seats with the purchase of an adapter.
The Urban Glide 2 is somewhat more cumbersome and awkward when folded, making it a possible no-go for parents looking for light and compact. It doesn't have a parent console or cup holder (though they do offer accessories for purchase). Overall, this stroller is a useful option that does double duty at a reasonable price. This stroller is an excellent choice for parents on the move who like being outdoors or going for an adventurous run. It is also a good choice for those looking for a one and done purchase who don't need a lightweight stroller.
Read review: Thule Urban Glide 2
Best Off-road Full-Size Stroller
The BOB Rambler won our hearts with impressive ease of use and maneuverability. This BOB is easy to push and turn with off-road capabilities and run-ability with adjustable tracking and suspension for rider comfort. This stroller sports large pneumatic tires, giant canopy, and a locking swivel front wheel that provides versatility for errands and adventures. The Rambler has a variety of features and functions for the baby's comfort and parent convenience, and we think parents will be attracted to the versatility even if it is a scaled-back version of other BOB products. Still, others will love that the Rambler is somewhat smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the other BOBs.
The Rambler is somewhat heavier and more cumbersome than a traditional full-size stroller. So, while it may not be the best choice for families looking for lightweight and compact, if outdoor adventures are a must, then the Rambler is an excellent choice for the active family. This option is less expensive than other BOB's so it can save you money without sacrificing functionality.
Read review: BOB Rambler
Best High-end Traditional Stroller
UPPAbaby Cruz v2
The UPPAbaby Cruz v2 is a sleek, no-nonsense stroller that is easy to use with impressive performance for quality, setup, and functionality. While this option is not the lightest in the group, it does fold relatively flat unlike the jogging style strollers. The Cruz v2 has an improved canopy that is giant and versatile and some of the best storage in the business with a 30 lb capacity limit. This stroller comes with one seat that can face either direction and has recline and leg rest adjustments for comfort. The new v2 also sports suspension and never flat rubber tires. It is also compatible with several brands of infant car seats.
The Cruz v2 lost a little ground for maneuverability as the four-wheel design paled in comparison to the three-wheel models that were easier to navigate. However, it isn't hard to push or turn and scored above average compared to traditional full-size options. The Cruz v2 may not be the best bet for adventurous parents who plan to go off-road regularly with their baby or hope to jog with their older baby. However, it is great for days out in the city, running errands, and picnics in the park. It is hard to find a lighter full-size stroller with the same level of performance, quality, or features.
Read review: UPPAbaby Cruz v2
Best Budget-friendly Full-size
Baby Jogger City Mini 2
The Baby Jogger City Mini 2 is a lightweight, compact stroller with a quick, easy fold and cozy napping space. It has a large canopy with two peek-a-boo windows, adequate storage, and a well-padded seat with almost flat recline and pop up footrest for added comfort. This basic stroller offers everything you need (including car seat compatibility) without the high-end design and features that often lead to a heavier stroller and a higher price. The Mini 2 won awards in our full-size review and our umbrella stroller review, which means it is a good one and done for parents who don't run or head off the paved path.
The City Mini 2 is not the best for going off-road regularly as the plastic wheels, and limited suspension makes pushing a chore. It also isn't suitable for jogging despite its "Jogger" moniker. The new Mini 2 is also somewhat heavier and larger than its predecessor. However, if you have a small budget and don't want to sacrifice features or comfort, then the Mini 2 is a double duty powerhouse that can work as a full-size go-to or your lighter weight travel wonder.
Read review: Baby Jogger City Mini 2
Baby Trend Expedition
The Baby Trend Expedition is a jogging stroller that can easily work for everyday use saving you money over time by buying one product, not two. We like the air-filled rubber tires and locking front swivel wheel that makes it ideal for smaller spaces and for getting off-road or going running. The Expedition has under-seat storage, sling-style seat, and parent tray (a rare find these days).
This budget stroller isn't the best quality, and the lack of adjustable tracking or suspension means it isn't the best choice for serious runners. However, if you want an easy to push and turn stroller that can head off-road occasionally, then the Expedition could be the right fit that also saves you money.
Read review: Baby Trend Expedition
Best for Growing Families
UPPAbaby Vista v2
The UPPAbaby Vista v2 earned a high score in our review with impressive results in almost every test. This stroller is easy to use, easy to push, and can accommodate up to three children, making it a versatile option for growing families with top-quality materials that should last for years. The Vista v2 comes standard with a bassinet and toddler seat, and the frame accepts up to two infant car seats, two toddler seats, or other variations, including several using a bassinet with seats that can sit forward or back. These seating variations make the Vista v2 one of the most versatile in the review and an excellent choice for growing families and those with multiple little ones. The Vista v2 also has a giant storage basket (30 lb max limit!), an upgraded canopy, easy fold, and foam-filled, rubber tires.
The Vista v2 is one of the most expensive products in this review. It is also heavier due to its multi-seat design. So unless you need more than one seat, it may not be the right choice for your situation. Overall, this full-size stroller is a stylish product that we love for its versatility of seating and easy to use features, making it an excellent choice for growing families or those with twins.
Read review: UPPAbaby Vista v2
Perfect for Growing Families on a Budget
Evenflo Pivot Xpand
The Evenflo Pivot Xpand is an inexpensive multi-seater that has a lot to offer for a smaller price. We like that this option has versatile seating choice like forward or backward and the ability to accept up to two infant car seats at a time. It can accommodate up to 3 riders at one time, and it has large storage with a quick fold and adjustable handlebar.
There is much to love about the Xpand, but it isn't the best quality compared to more expensive strollers. While not bad, it fails to match the higher-end options. It is also somewhat heavy and large, so if you don't need three seats or aren't planning on more children, it may not be the best choice for your family. Despite these minor hiccups, we like what the Xpand has to offer for parents with multiple children. The price is very budget-minded, and we think it has everything a growing family needs without breaking the bank.
Read review: Evenflo Pivot Xpand
Why You Should Trust Us
Our experienced group of stroller testers is overseen by our BabyGearLab founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier, Board Certified Pediatrician, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and mother of two. She uses her education and background as a Pediatrician, in combination with her experience as a mom, to define the BabyGearLab safety standards, and makes the final selection on the top products we include. The lead for the stroller test team is Senior Research Analyst, Bob Wofford, father of 7 who has been the leader of the stroller testing development and execution since 2013. Bob's team includes Senior Review Editor and mother of two, Wendy Schmitz, who has reviewed and researched over 200 various types of strollers since joining BabyGearLab in 2014, including hundreds of hours of hands-on use. The team also includes Senior Review Editor, Abriah Wofford, who joined the BabyGearLab stroller testing team in 2015. Overall, the team has over 20 combined years of experience hands-on using and testing of more than 150 strollers of all types over the last ten years.
Our testing took place in the BabyGearLab in-house lab and the real-world, during day-to-day use with little ones. The full-size stroller reviews use research and details on their performance derived from real-world applications and comparison to the other competitors. We handle each stroller from unboxing to in-house testing and hours in the real world to determine which are the easiest to use, have the most useful features, are the easiest to push and turn, and their quality level compared to the competition.
Jump to: How We Tested Full-size Strollers
Analysis and Test Results
We chose 21 finalists for our comprehensive side-by-side tests that include everything from maneuverability and ease of use to quality and weight. We chose competitors after extensive research on quality, innovation, and popularity. Our goal is to provide practical, detailed information to help create your short-list of potential strollers to buy.
A full-size stroller can be more expensive than other stroller types because you typically use it more frequently, and they have more features. However, this doesn't mean you need to break the bank to find a top-performing workhorse with the right features. Many of the top options in this review happen to be jogging strollers with middle-of-the-road prices. This design means you get a dual-purpose product for a reasonable price, theoretically, saving you money. Are you on a tighter budget? The Baby Jogger City Mini 2 and the Britax B-Lively are both attractively priced with useful features and above-average performance in our tests. These options can be used as lightweight strollers, doing the job of two strollers in one allowing you to keep some cash in your wallet. The Baby Trend Expedition is also a standout with one of the lowest prices and easy maneuverability, but you do sacrifice some quality for this price. If you have a growing family or plan to soon, the the Evenflo Pivot Xpand can give you the versatility you need without breaking the bank.
Ease of Use
Ease of use includes the features you use frequently and that impact everyday functionality. Your stroller's ability to perform as hope is the difference between a stroller you enjoy and one you'll want to kick to the curb.
In our tests, the UPPAbaby Vista v2 (above left) and the UPPAbaby Cruz v2 (above right) both impressive with easy to use features. These strollers have quality features that work well, and offer high maximum storage limits (30 lbs) and the largest canopies. The UPPAbaby strollers have adjustable leg rests, easy to use recline adjustment, and indicators on the seat attachment. The Thule Urban Glide 2 is also easy to use with intuitive features that are useful and improve the overall experience for passengers and parents.
The UPPAbaby strollers and the Thule Urban Glide 2 lack amenities like a parent or child console, but these accessories are available for purchase. We believe these conveniences can be useful, and we recommend you consider their cost in your decision-making process. However, we don't think they are mandatory and found that many strollers with these features weren't that useful or were poorly designed checking a box instead of adding benefits.
The worst performer in our ease of use tests is the Mountain Buggy Swift, which is somewhat awkward, has smaller storage, and is harder than most to operate.
Our maneuverability tests include a convoluted course of turns and corners over a variety of surfaces, including hardwood, pavement, gravel, grass, snow/ice, and dirt. We also created the crowded-supermarket-from-hell simulator, which is a multi-surface obstacle course that contains tight corners and real-world challenges. We push each stroller through it all and then compare their results for ease of pushing, turning, and performance over various surfaces.
The top performers for maneuverability all share a 3-wheel design and larger rubber tires. The top-scorers are the BOB Alterrain Pro, Thule Urban Glide 2, BOB Rambler, and the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0, all with 9 of 10. These jogging strollers feature pneumatic (air-filled) rubber tires, suspension, adjustable tracking, and a swivel front wheel for tight navigation that locks in place for uneven terrain. The strollers with designs for jogging were notably better than the traditional full-size options.
Related: Best Jogging Stroller of 2020
The Mountain Buggy Swift, Baby Jogger City Mini GT 2, and the Baby Trend Expedition all earned 8s. These strollers perform well in our obstacle course and managed uneven terrain better than most of the competition.
The Mountain Buggy Swift and the Baby Trend Expedition both offer solid construction that makes them more responsive and easier to guide through tight aisles and corners. Bumps in the sidewalk were no problem thanks to the larger air-filled tires with minimal impact passed on to the baby.
It is worth noting that most of the high-scoring strollers perform well on both paved and unpaved surfaces. On pavement, the more substantial wheels make for effortless pushing, single-handed turning, and they excel in smaller spaces. When going over grass or gravel in the park, their advantages were even more pronounced. Smaller wheel products with solid tires got bogged down on rough surfaces, often to unworkable levels. The plastic wheels also transmit jarring shocks directly to the baby because they do not absorb the energy and often lack suspension. If you need to stroll regularly over grass, gravel, or dirt, then maneuverability should be a critical factor in your decision-making process, and those with rubber tires should be at the top of your list.
The Baby Jogger City Mini GT 2 is a little bit of an anomaly in this metric. It performed well in our tests but has smaller wheels than the other top performers. It is not as good at traversing rougher terrain as the larger wheel products, but it is still superior to the plastic wheeled competition, dual front wheel designs (2 wheels on 1 leg), and options without suspension. Baby Jogger advertises the GT 2 as an all-terrain option. While we don't feel it is the right choice for regular off-roading (like hiking in the backwoods), our tests indicate it manages uneven surfaces better than other small-wheeled competition. However, its overall performance in our tests is merely average, making it a product that failed to impress or win an award.
The worst performer for maneuverability is the Chicco Bravo LE with its foam-filled plastic wheels (under 7" on the front and less than 8" in the back). We found turning the Bravo through our obstacle course challenging and pushing over bumpy or non-paved surfaces frustrating and near impossible.
Many believe that quality is directly related to price, and while this is somewhat true, we find that some of the mid-range products offer quality on par, or better than, the more expensive options. This observation is good news for anyone hoping to find a high-performing, quality product that won't break the bank.
The best quality choices are the Thule Urban Glide 2 and the BOB Alterrain Pro each earning 9 of 10. The BOB Revolution Flex 3.0, UPPAbaby Vista v2, BOB Rambler follow close behind with 8s. These strollers combine quality components and high-end materials with a fit and finish that stands out in a crowd, and they have a significant price range between them. Products earn higher scores for quality if they have comfortable and durable fabric, pneumatic or foam-filled rubber tires, and sturdy frames with smooth finishes and little flex or rattle. The lowest scoring earns only 4 and includes the Baby Trend Expedition and the Graco Aire 3; most of the low-scoring strollers have plastic wheels, stationary handlebars, and a lot of flex with multiple connection joints. The Baby Trend Expedition, however, combines some nicer features like rubber pneumatic tires and larger wheels, which give it excellent maneuverability and the ability to run. It suffers from things like a uselessly small canopy.
Weight and Folded Size
To test the weight and folded size, we perform our own measurements. This practice proved vital as we discovered that some manufacturers provided weights or measurements excluded components such as wheels or detachable seats. Our measurements include wheels and seats, but do not include accessories like bassinets or rain covers.
The best scoring products for weight and folded size, is the Britax B-Lively with a weight of 18.9 lbs and 6,612 cubic inches folded. The Baby Jogger City Mini 2 is hot on its heels with 19.3 lbs and 8,472 cubic inches folded. These two strollers are light and small enough that we consider them to be good choices for travel or situations where weight and size are a factor. Though they can't touch the size of a true travel stroller. The Mountain Buggy Swift and the Bugaboo Bee5 are also on the smaller and lighter side but didn't perform well overall.
Related: Best Umbrella Stroller of 2020
The heaviest option is the BOB Alterrain Pro at just over 31 lbs, and it is the largest when folded at 17,357 cubic inches. These measurements could make it a no-go for many families for various weight and size related reasons. The average for the group is closer to 11,500 cubic inches and 24 lbs, with the UPPAbaby Cruz v2 at 25 lbs and 12,469 cubic inches coming in close to the average.
Car Seat Compatibility
Most of the full-size strollers in our review are compatible with a variety of infant car seats, and some are light enough to work as a stand-in for a car seat frame stroller. Some are restricted in the seats they work with, or they don't accept infant carriers at all. Other strollers have significant cross-brand compatibility, including the Chicco Keyfit 30 and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 which both won awards in our infant car seat review.
If you plan to combine your stroller with an infant car seat, then we encourage you to choose your car seat first. We also believe many parents should consider a car seat frame stroller for the first 6-9 months because they are easier, lighter, cheaper, and can give you a better idea of how you'll use a full-size stroller going forward, so you can make a better buying decision.
We test strollers with their brand car seat if we have a compatible option in the lab, and we order an adapter for the Chicco Keyfit 30 if an adapter is available. We test the Chicco because it has broad compatibility, and is an award-winning seat with a budget-friendly price. For the most part, the strollers work best with their same brand seat (i.e., the UPPAbaby Vista v2 and UPPAbaby Cruz v2 with the UPPAbaby Mesa). However, many work equally well with the Chicco Keyfit 30, and a few even seem more stable or easier to install.
Some car seats use a click-in attachment, while others click and strap the carrier in place. As a rule, we prefer the click only options because they are more straightforward, relatively foolproof, and usually feel more stable. The strap method isn't challenging, but it is a second step, and we worry parents will skip it (accidentally or intentionally), which could create safety issues. If you choose a strap-in product, like the adapters for the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0, we encourage you to always use the straps as the manufacturer recommends to avoid safety risks.
Ease of Setup
Assembly is a one-time task but still relevant to some parents who lack assembly savvy. We consider how long it takes to set up, difficulty, tools, and manual usefulness.
The easiest option to assemble is the UPPAbaby Cruz v2, with a perfect 10. It took almost six minutes to put the Cruz v2 together with a straightforward manual; we believe it is so intuitive that you may be able to do it without the manual. The Baby Jogger City Mini 2, Baby Jogger City Mini GT2, BOB Alterrain Pro, and the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 are all also easy to put together, just slightly more involved than the Cruz v2. The UPPAbaby Vista v2, the Thule Urban Glide 2, and several others also earned 9s. The hardest to set up are the Baby Jogger City Select, Bugaboo Bee5, and the Peg Perego Booklet 50 which all took over 10 minutes to assemble with harder to follow instructions .
We were disheartened to discover that many of the higher-end strollers were the most challenging to assemble, primarily due to sub-par documentation and excessive parts. These include the Bugaboo Bee5 and Baby Jogger City Select. We feel that the combination of a higher price and poor user manual to be particularly distasteful. Excellent documentation is mostly a result of an intentional decision to generate clear, easy-to-understand manuals in each market language. In our experience, inferior manuals typically have an "international approach" with vague illustrations lacking text are in one part of the guide, and written text is in another.
We've learned a lot in the last ten years, testing strollers of all kinds in our lab and through extensive on-going field use of more than 150 different models. In this section, we share what we know from these hand-on tests.
Why Get a Stroller?
Most parents feel a natural urge to buy every little thing baby might need. A stroller is no doubt on the list, but do you need one?
The answer is maybe not, at least not in the first year. Here's why…
The purpose of any strolling product is to make it easier to transport your baby while you walk. At its purest, it is just an alternative to carrying your baby in your arms or on your hip. And, your baby will almost always prefer to be held instead of riding.
A good alternative, especially in the first six months, is wearing your baby in a baby carrier. Infants love the snug hold of being carried on your chest, and toddlers often like to be carried on your back. The best carriers distribute weight so well that you can wear your baby for hours, leaving your hands free to perform other tasks. While strolling is very convenient, a baby carrier offers a practical alternative, and baby carriers are a lot less expensive. The other plus is, carried babies are often less fussy than babies in a stroller.
Health Benefits of Wearing Your Baby
It is also worth noting that too much time in a car seat, bouncer or baby swing can contribute to plagiocephaly, or flattening of the back of baby's head. What does this have to do with strolling? In the first six months, most parents use their car seat for strolling, connecting it with a car seat adapter to the frame of a stroller. Pediatricians consider it relatively acceptable for a baby to spend 1.5 to 4 hours per day in a combination of car seats, bouncers, or swings. However, if your little one spends more than 4 hours in these devices, especially in the first few months, when the baby's skull is soft, they will have a higher risk of developing a flat area in the back of the head. Using a baby carrier in a parent-facing chest position can help by taking pressure off the back of the head, and in combination with supervised tummy time, can help prevent flattening of the head.
Strolling is Easy
For most of us, even the most hard-core fans of baby carriers, the convenience of strolling makes a stroller an essential tool that will get daily use for years. The main advantages are:
- Easier on you — pushing your baby on a stroll is a lot less work for you than carrying, even with a quality baby carrier.
- Soothing for baby — a gentle stroll, like a drive in the car, is a tried and true technique for soothing a baby, which in turn could mean more sleep for you.
- Safety — strolling provides a safe environment for your baby, with a sunshade, a protective frame, and a safety harness. Wearing your baby is lovely in many ways, but you need to be careful not to bump into things, and take care when bending over to avoid spilling Baby out. Remember, you should never drink a hot liquid like coffee or tea, over a baby in a carrier. It is much easier to keep Baby out of harm's way and enjoy your hot coffee, with your little one safely off to the side (never put a hot drink in the cup holder, where there is a risk of it spilling on baby).
- Carry all your stuff — ample storage enables you to comfortably take all the things you and Baby might need while out walking such as a diaper bag, extra clothes, bottle(s), snacks, toys, and personal items.
- Do some light shopping — for things like shopping, having both hands free is a must. While you can pull off shopping with a baby carrier, it can be awkward at times. While storage is somewhat limited, picking up a bag of groceries or laundry can be convenient when out for a walk.
- Get some exercise — getting back into shape is a challenge with a baby needing constant attention, but strolling provides one way to combine quality time with exercise. A brisk walk can be invigorating for you, and joyful for your baby. If you want to go jogging, you'll need to get a special jogging stroller that includes suspension to protect your baby from dangerous jarring from running, and you shouldn't go jogging until the baby has more head control (8+ months depending).
A Little Extra Investment is Justified
Unlike many other baby products, a quality strolling option will serve you for years. We consider this to be one of the categories where you might want to spend extra to get what you want in a stroller. A quality stroller will serve you between the ages of 6 months to 3+ years, and it can work well for multiple kids, or as a hand-me-down to friends and relatives. Many of the best products, such as the BOB Revolution 3.0, enjoy a significant resale value.
Types of Strollers
There are six main types of strollers:
A traditional, standard-size stroller is the most common type. These full-featured products offer ample storage, comfortable seats, bigger canopies, more maneuverable wheels, and weigh 16-37 lbs. Most offer a car seat adapter of some type, and a minority offer a sufficiently flat fully reclined seat (less than 10 degrees) that can work as an alternative to a bassinet (all recline, but most end up at too steep to be safe for infant sleeping). Some higher-end products, such as the UPPAbaby Vista v2 include a bassinet for infants.
Car Seat Frame
Less well known, but one of our favorite options for the first 6-12 months, while your baby is in an infant car seat, is a frame stroller. These products provide a frame that the car seat can click in. For a first-time parent, this seems like an odd approach, but many second-time parents wish they knew about them earlier. A car seat frame is inexpensive, compact, and light, with the average weight being 11 to 16 lbs. This lighter weight can be useful for moms who've just had a baby or C-section and may have limitations on what they can carry.
Great for travel, Lightweight strollers (sometimes referred to as "umbrella strollers" because of their small folded shape) are light and more compact, usually weighing between 8-17 lbs. But, they cut some corners compared to full-size strollers. For starters, most don't offer car seat adapters and thus aren't usable until your baby is at least six months old. They also use smaller wheels, and this makes them less maneuverable and more difficult to push on rough surfaces.
Outfitted with large air-filled tires and shock absorbers, jogging strollers are specially designed to roll smooth and straight while running and reduce the impact of bumps and curbs on your baby. Most weigh between 23 to 31 lbs.
A double stroller provides two seats side-by-side or in tandem, and is essential with twins. A double can also work for two kids, such as a baby and an older sibling, but we think using a baby carrier and a single is often more convenient. Most are in the 21-36 lbs range and narrow enough to fit through most doorways. If you are expecting twins, keep in mind that car seat frame strollers come in double versions, and maybe a better option in the first year. Plus, some double strollers won't accommodate two infant car seats, making them virtually unusable until your babies are at least six months old.
Technically, these are not a type of stroller, but just a bundle package that combines a car seat with a strolling product in a single package. We advise caution before buying a travel system as many parents later regret the purchase. Why? Because the product quality in these bundles is often lower. While these bundled systems have attractive prices, they are typically bulky and heavy compared to a car seat frame stroller and may offer poor performance in the long-term compared to competing products sold separately.
Needs Change After 6 Months
We advocate splitting your thinking into two periods:
- Car-seat Strolling from Birth to 6 months — for the first six months, your baby can't sit up and lacks sufficient neck strength to be seated upright. In this period, you'll use either a bassinet, a fully reclined seat (if less than 10 degrees), or a car seat adapter. Of the three, we believe the car seat is the safest and easiest option.
- Full-size Strolling from 6 months to 3+ yrs — starting at about six months, once your baby gains sufficient neck muscle strength to hold their head up comfortably, they will increasingly enjoy (demand) sitting up and watching what is going on while strolling. At this stage, a baby is bigger and requires more stuff (bottles, food, snacks, toys, clothes, diapers, wipes) than needed in the first six months. At this time, a full-size product's advantages (more storage / increased maneuverability) kick in, especially for extended walks around town and in your neighborhood.
Start Strolling in the Car Seat
We encourage new parents to start off with either a car seat adapter for your stroller, or a car seat frame stroller (and delay buying a full-size product until you have a better sense of your long-term strolling needs). While most full-size products offer car seat adapters, a full-size product with a car seat adapter is more cumbersome to use than a car seat frame product. A notable exception might be the Baby Jogger City Mini 2 that weighs around 18 lbs and offers car seat adapters for many of the top infant car seats, including the award-winning Chicco Keyfit 30.
In any event, make sure you get a car seat adapter or frame stroller that provides a click-in method of securing your specific model of car seat rather than a strap-in. The click-in way is much faster and easier than using the two-step strap process.
Why start with using a car seat for strolling?
Here are a few reasons to consider:
- The car seat provides safe, secure, and comfortable support for baby in months 0-6 (and up to 1 year)
- Transitions from driving to strolling are much faster and easier if the baby remains in the car seat
- If baby falls asleep while driving or strolling, you can transition without jostling baby awake (if you don't already appreciate the maxim, "never wake a sleeping baby," you will soon)
- Car seat frame strollers are lighter and more compact than a full-size with a car seat adapter, which makes them a lot easier to use and get in/out of the car
- Only a few of the products in our tests provided a fully reclined seat with an angle of fewer than 10 degrees. It is believed that higher sleeping angles increase the risk of infant suffocation where the baby's mouth and nose are pushed to the side, blocking their airway.
- Bassinets are available for some products, and can be a solution for the first few months, but have limitations as noted in the section below.
A Bassinet is a Luxury
OK, we admit it. We love a bassinet. But there are limitations you should know.
Some high-end strollers, such as the UPPAbaby Vista v2, come with a bassinet that attaches to the frame, and may (or may not) be suitable for sleeping. The UPPAbaby website prominently notes that their bassinet is appropriate for overnight sleeping as well as strolling. But, as you'll read below in our safety tips, we're a bit anxious about bassinets for unsupervised sleeping due to suffocation risk.
As much as a bassinet is dreamy for strolling, we feel obligated to note that it is a luxury you will only use for a brief period, typically no more than three months. Once your baby can move around, a bassinet is no longer safe for sleeping or strolling because they are shallow, and most lack a safety harness. It is easy for a mobile baby to fall out and get injured. A crib is a better investment for sleeping, and your baby can sleep in a crib from day one. On the other hand, a bassinet is nice-to-have, fun for strolling in those first few months, and allows your baby to be right next to you for night feedings.
From a practical point of view, a car seat can work much like a bassinet for infant strolling; the advantage is one may walk for a full year instead of only a couple months, and maintain greater utility and improved safety. Transitions between a car and strolling are vastly simplified. Plus, using your car seat eliminates the need for an extra piece of baby gear. In the end, a bassinet comes and goes so darn fast. If you are on a tight budget, this is one place to save some money that you can use elsewhere.
We're also concerned that safety standards for sleeping in bassinets haven't caught up with crib standards. For example, they no longer recommend padded bumpers for cribs, due to the risk of a baby getting into a position where they press their mouth and nose against the side and suffocate. We have concerns that the sidewalls of bassinets presents a similar suffocation risk, but haven't been given as much attention as cribs. Because of this, we advise parents to closely supervise a baby sleeping in a bassinet (or use a crib instead). Also, the lack of a restraining harness in a bassinet increases the risk of falling accidents or tip-over. Be extra careful.We're not saying you shouldn't use a bassinet; we like them ourselves. But, parents who use a bassinet should be aware of the risks and use appropriate caution.
The Full-Size Sweet-Spot: 6 months to 3+ years
Many people buy a full-size product for strolling earlier than they need to when their baby is an infant (or before their baby is born). Most parents find that they stroll most when their baby is between six months and three years.
To find the right option for you, first, try to envision how and where you'll stroll on a day-to-day basis when your baby is older. It takes a little imagination when your infant is one month old to contemplate what your daily routine might be with a one or two-year-old, but doing so can help ensure your purchase is satisfying in the long-term.
We can provide some rules of thumb that may be helpful.
If you are like most parents, you will start taking more extended strolls as your baby becomes a toddler, and you'll spend more time at parks nearby. As your little one gets older, you may want to take in museums, the aquarium, or visit other baby-friendly venues that take you further from home.
Rather than a quick out-and-back, your walks with a toddler become longer expeditions and the stroller will become your base camp. You'll be bringing more stuff to support an extended time away from the house. That means storage for a well-stocked diaper bag, food, bottles, extra clothes, and toys too. But, storage is not the only way your needs will change over time.
You may need to move across a broad range of terrain, the grass and gravel areas of parks being most common, and you may travel more often in a car or on public transportation as you start venturing further from home.
Mostly in Your Neighborhood?
A lot of people concentrate their walks in their neighborhood, at least initially. When strolling out your door, a more substantial product is not a problem (in fact, its additional storage and performance can make it great). Two of our favorites: the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 and the UPPAbaby Vista v2 are both over 25 lbs. However, what they lack in weight and folded size, they make up for in everyday performance. If you are mostly strolling around the neighborhood, a few extra pounds and added dimensions are not that big of a deal. Still worried about weight? The BOB Rambler is similar to the Revolution but shaves about 3 lbs off the bulk and is smaller when folded.
Frequently Driving Before Strolling?
If you think you will frequently drive or use public transportation with your stroller, a larger folded size will be annoying. A light and compact product, like the Baby Jogger City Mini 2 or the Britax B-Lively, have significant advantages in this kind of situation.
If you travel frequently, you might want to consider a lightweight umbrella stroller to augment or replace a full-size product. It can be very convenient to have both a lightweight product when on-the-road, and a standard size for use in your neighborhood. But, you'll need to consider whether the convenience justifies the additional expense.
Every day that you stroll, the maneuverability performance of your stroller will be noticeable, and it degrades as your baby gets heavier. During the period you'll do the most strolling, ages six months to three years, your baby will grow from an average of 16 to 32 lbs. The extra weight of your growing baby and the pile of gear you'll need to bring will increasingly impact maneuverability. Almost all products are easy to maneuver when empty.
Trying out products in a store can be misleading, especially if you push them empty over a smoothly polished floor as most people do. In our tests, we found significant differences in maneuverability between competing products, especially when fully loaded. And we pushed them all, over various terrain and with varying weight in the seat.
Test Drive One-handed and with 25 Pounds of Weight
To properly test a product in a store, we recommend that you put 25 lbs of weight in the seat, simulating an average 1.5-year-old and a diaper bag; now try to maneuver it with one hand. We're not kidding. It's when you load them with the weight that you can feel the differences, and one-handed steering will help you appreciate subtle differences between products.
Consider whether the parks near you will require pushing over unpaved surfaces like grass and gravel. If you need to push over 50 yards of grass or gravel, your small-wheeled product may seem Sisyphean. Will winter change the game for you? Most people go on strolls year-round. If you suspect you will be pushing on unpaved surfaces or dealing with seasonal ice and snow, then you'll want to focus on products with higher maneuverability and larger wheels.
We've read some buying advice guides that describe three-wheeled products as superficial, just going after a "jogger" look. These same "guides" suggest that there is no benefit to these features.
We beg to differ.
In our tests, some of the three-wheeled products kicked some serious butt in maneuverability tests. One of the top performers is a jogger.
Intuitively, the three-wheeled products, with their big air-filled tires, are significantly more substantial, and bulkier when folded.
But the reality is not as dramatic as you might expect. One of our Editor's Choice winners, the BOB Rambler, is 25.1 lbs, and the average for the group of full-size products is 24.1, with several in the group weighing more. Plus, thanks to the large tires and other features, it scored way ahead in maneuverability, arguably one of the most important metrics for this kind of product.
Key Functional Elements
There are key features that make the difference between an easy-to-push stroller and a frustrating experience. After pushing, pulling, turning, and finagling more strollers than we can count, you can trust we know a thing or two about strollers.
Wheel Size Matters
The one product component that most dramatically impacts performance, both good and bad, is the size and type of wheels. Maneuverability is directly affected by these, and thus, the best scores were obtained by larger rubber wheels using air-filled tires, most commonly found on the jogging options. As we noted earlier in this article, maneuverability is one performance factor that will impact your strolling experience every day.
In our tests, we found bigger wheels to be significantly easier to push and roll over bumps and non-paved surfaces. That translates into less effort for you and with less stress on your baby. Air-filled tires make for a smoother ride, but they can go flat just like a bicycle tire. Some people prefer to avoid the larger air-filled tires because they are heavier and might go flat. Our view is that air-filled tires are worth it if you stroll longer distances, over unpaved surfaces, or rough pavement. Flats are rare, but you might want to get a spare tire tube and have it available.
Some of the higher-end products offer "never-flat" tires that use a foam-filled rubber to provide more cushion than solid wheels, but without the risk of flat tires. We found these are a good compromise if you are anxious about a flat. While not as smooth rolling as an air-filled tire, the foam-filled tires did absorb bumps better and performed well compared to their plastic counterparts.
So, why not get the biggest wheels possible?
The downside of bigger wheels is that they are heavier and bulkier. For those who frequently need to load in and out of the car, or travel on public transportation, large wheel size can be frustrating. Several in this review have larger foam-filled rubber tires that aren't as big as those found on the jogging products but are more significant than the traditional wheels that were once the gold standard for full-size strollers. Our review includes specifications of both front and rear wheel sizes, as well as the type of wheels. This information can help you compare competing products.
Our favorite folding mechanisms can be operated with one hand, like those found on the Baby Jogger City Mini 2 and Britax B-Lively. We like the capability and simplicity, but should you walk away from products that require two hands to fold? No.
While it is convenient to be able to fold your stroller with one hand, we think manufacturers make a bigger deal of the feature in their marketing than it deserves. Neither of the two Editors' Choice products offers a one-handed fold, and both scored above average for ease folding.
Simply put, using one hand over two doesn't mean your other hand is free to do your taxes or diaper a baby. Folding is a quick process that doesn't give you time for anything else. So even if your stroller is a one-handed fold, it's over so fast that your free hand will likely be doing nothing, or it will be supporting the product and thus still involved.
All of the products offer a basket for storage underneath the seat. A large storage basket can make daily-use more convenient. For storage, we consider basket size, ease-of-access, and additional storage such as a pocket behind the seat, or interior seat pockets.
The UPPAbaby Cruz v2 and UPPAbaby Vista v2 offer the most significant storage bins in the review with high maximum weight allowances of 30 lbs and super easy access. Both options can carry just about any supply you will need in addition to groceries or gifts you find touring the zoo.
Seats, Padding, and Materials
The quality of seating materials and padding varies considerably between brands. We suggest looking for a generously padded seat with a durable material that cleans easily. Additional pluses include the use of eco-healthy materials and seat covers that remove for cleaning.
In our review, we note whether handlebars are adjustable. But, is it necessary that handlebars be adjustable? We don't think so.
The theory of an adjustable handlebar is that it makes pushing more comfortable for parents who are taller or shorter than average. Since many moms are shorter than dads, it would seem that many couples would find this feature useful. But, our testers of different heights found comfort more related to maneuverability than to handlebar height. Simply put, a highly maneuverable product was comfortable for testers short and tall, even if the handlebar was not adjustable.
It gets a bit more complicated. We found that many of the adjustable handlebars introduced some "play" into the steering, and this means that maneuverability performance can feel "loose" and potentially degraded. As a result, an adjustable handlebar is a trade-off.
Another factor, is how the bar adjusts. Some adjust by rotating on a pivot point on each side, so when the handlebar is at its highest point, the pusher is closer to the frame, which results in several testers kicking the back of the strollers while walking. Other handlebars adjust by telescoping in and out of the frame sides, and when the bar is at the highest point, the tallest pusher is furthest away from back wheels, and thus less likely to kick the frame. The products with telescoping handles had less flex or wiggle to them than those with the pivot point.
A parent tray would seem a logical and straightforward feature to add. Why not offer a convenient place to store keys or personal items, and one or two cup holders?
Well, not one of the top-scoring products in our review came with a parent tray as a standard feature (all offer it as an option with costs ranging from $20-$40). Only four products in the entire review offer a parent tray with the stroller.
Similar to adjustable handlebars, a parent tray offers both a positive and a negative. On the positive side, a parent tray increases ease-of-use by providing some additional storage at your fingertips. But, on the downside, they can get in the way of folding, and make for a bulky, awkward folded size. Also, most parent trays have cup holders that are too shallow to securely hold a water bottle (over your baby's head). Shallow cup holders translate to items falling out of the console and onto your baby while strolling.
Our two favorite parent consoles are both optional and cost extra, for the UPPAbaby and the BOB. Both use a similar design of soft neoprene with deep (somewhat grippy) cup holder sand a zippered compartment for keys. Neither inhibits folding, or increases folded size.
A child tray also seems like an important feature that should be on every product. But, in fact, similar to parent trays, none of the top scoring products offer a child tray as a standard feature, and only a handful offer it at all. Funnily, only the products with lower list prices seemed to provide a child tray as a standard.
A child's tray is an accessory marketers love, and new parents intuitively think it is essential, but in practice, neither you nor your baby need one. More importantly, like a parent tray, a child tray can be detrimental in practice, making folding more awkward and bulky. Alternatively, the BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 and the Thule Urban Glide 2 have two passenger stow pockets on the inside of the seat, which is very useful. These pockets can hold most bottles and sippy cups, don't drop items while moving, and children don't have to reach forward to use them. Interior pockets a better alternative to the plastic tray that sticks out from the front and can be challenging for a baby to reach while buckled and too shallow to hold anything adequately.
Nine Tips for Safer Strolling
We don't want to scare you, but we do want to make you aware of the types of injuries that happen and introduce some expert advice on how to stroll more safely.
Use the Safety Harness
According to studies published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the most common strolling related injuries are a result of falls, representing more than half of all injuries. The second most prevalent cause of injuries is tip-overs. Experts believe that most of these injuries were preventable if the safety harness was properly restraining the baby.
Each year a few strolling-related deaths are reported. Again, experts believe that the use of the safety harness would have prevented most of these fatalities.The CPSC advises to use the safety harness every time:
Every full-size product sold in the US offers a safety harness. In our tests, we found that the best provide a 5-point harness with an easy-to-use latching mechanism. We suggest parents make a habit of buckling their baby into the stroller with a properly fitting harness every time, no matter what, to avoid accidents and injuries.
Keep Baby Away When Folding
One of the most disturbing strolling related injuries is the amputation of a baby's fingertips after being pinched in the hinge while folding. This type of accident only occurs rarely, but as recently as summer 2012, Kolcraft recalled 36,000 products following reports of three fingertip amputations. In 2009, Maclaren announced a recall of more than 1 million products following reports of 12 fingertip amputations (another five fingertip amputations occurred in the two years after the recall).
To help avoid this problem, always ensure your baby is a safe distance from the stroller before folding or unfolding.
Make Sure It is Locked After Unfolding
Partially unfolding a stroller and leaving it in a state where it could collapse is surprisingly easy. Make sure to listen for a reassuring click sound indicating it has reached its fully locked and ready-to-use position before use (depending on the model). Also, ensure you are using all the safety features that keep it open.
Double Check the Parking Brake
We discovered some products in our tests have parking brakes that could appear locked but occasionally released when bumped. If such an unplanned brake release occurs in a train station or near a busy road, the results could be tragic. We recommend always giving a little shake after setting the brake to ensure it is fully engaged. It takes only a moment, but it could prevent injury or death.
The CPSC notes a report of a stroller rolling off a dock and into a bay, where the child inside the stroller drowned.
Never Put Hot Liquid in the Cup Holder
We love hot coffee every morning as much as anyone. Still, cup holders (which are typically too shallow in our opinion and placed dangerously above your little one's head) should never contain hot beverages. A spill of hot liquid can result in terrible burns that not only hurt but leave scars that last a lifetime.
Avoid carrying children while holding hot beverages; never hold a cup of hot coffee or tea in the beverage holder. The Burn Center at St. Barnabas
Use the Elevator
Although fall injuries are the most common strolling-related risk, most result in minor injuries to the head and face. However, stairs change the potential dangers in a fall.
One fatality reported to the CPSC occurred when a parent attempted to take a stroller containing an unrestrained and sleeping baby up a set of stairs, and the baby tragically fell out, resulting in a fatal injury.
Falls are the most common injury related to strolling, and a fall on stairs is significantly more dangerous. Escalators add the additional hazard of moving mechanical parts. Experts advise that you should never take any strolling product on an escalator or stairs. Find a nearby elevator or ramp and use it instead. If there is no alternative, get some help. You should always remove your baby from the harness, and carry them on the stairs or escalator, holding on to one handrail. Have someone else bring the empty stroller up or down separately.
While we test products going up and down curbs and stairs loaded with a test dummy in our review process, you should not attempt these maneuvers at home with a baby on board. These tests help us determine if a product has a risk of tip-over or collapsing; they are not to prescribe a recommended use with an actual baby. We do not use real babies during in-house lab testing for potential safety hazards or concerns.
Check for Recalls
It is wise to make a quick search on the Consumer Products Safety Commission website to see if a product is part of a recall. This research is particularly important for hand-me-down products from relatives or friends, or any used products. The CPSC does a good job of documenting any active recalls, and their database is easy to search by product name.
Do Not Run if it's Not a Jogger
We cringe when we see user reviews where someone says they have been jogging with a standard product, or any jogging before eight months of age.
Because a baby's head is large, and their spine and neck muscles are not yet fully developed to support the head. The jarring bumps and shocks encountered in normal jogging are not bothersome to the parent but can present real health risks to a developing baby.
You should never run with a stroller unless it is designed for jogging, and even then not before the manufacturer's recommended minimum age. Very often, we find parents confused that products manufactured by "Baby Jogger" such as the popular Baby Jogger City Mini 2 or products that look like a jogger, such as the Mountain Buggy Swift, are NOT designed for jogging.
Joggers incorporate beefed-up suspension systems, reclined seating, and locked front wheels to reduce the impact and make them suitable for running. Even so, most jogger manufacturers recommend waiting until a baby is at least eight months old before using the product for running or jogging. Before then, brisk walks and a strolling workout can help get you back into shape.
Don't Hang Anything from the Handlebar
Tip-over is the second most common cause of injury when using a stroller, and back-tipping is the most dangerous since your baby is more likely to fall on their head or sustain injuries.
We test for front-tip, side-tip, and back-tip risks in our review process.
But, many parents make the back-tip risks more severe by hanging a diaper bag or groceries on the handlebar.
We understand why. It is so compelling to hang a bag on the handlebar, where it is easy to access and might seem stable. But, don't do it! Depending on the product, the weight you put on the handlebar, the weight of your baby, the angle of the terrain, and the weight in the bottom storage basket, tip-over risk varies dramatically. In many cases, just going up or down a curb can turn a seemingly stable situation into something dangerously tippy. Tip-over is most common with infants, who are lighter and provide less counterbalancing center weight.
Place your items in the bottom storage basket instead of hanging them from the handlebar. Doing so will increase stability by adding more weight at a low center of gravity.
How do I determine which option is best for my family?
There are a few simple steps you can walk through to find the best product for your needs. Asking yourself the following questions can take the guesswork and frustration out of finding the right stroller at the right price.
Step 1: Car Seat Compatibility
If you never intend to attach your infant car seat to any contraption for strolling, then you can skip this step. However, if you do plan to use your infant seat while strolling, we suggest you choose your infant car seat first. Why? Finding a quality infant car seat that is easy to use and safe is more important for a baby's overall well-being. So choose your infant car seat, then follow the remaining steps for the options that are compatible with your choice.
Step 2: What terrain will you be strolling over?
Maneuverability is important. Being able to stroll with ease is arguably one of the most critical aspects of this kind of product. Pushing with one hand, and the ability to turn in tight spaces is essential, as is being able to roll over various surfaces. If you plan to stroll only inside the mall or around a paved sidewalk, you can choose almost any of the contenders we tested. If you need to roll over grass or gravel for any period, a green belt outside your house, or a nearby park, then you have fewer options from which to choose. The BOB Revolution 3.0, BOB Rambler, BOB Alterrain Pro, and the Thule Urban Glide 2 are the easiest strollers in the group to push over any surface you can encounter.
Step 3: What features do you need?
There is a difference between the features you think you need and those you'll actually use. There is also a difference between a product that doesn't offer certain features at all, and one that offers an accessory for purchase. You should consider which features are important to you and which you don' really need. If you love a particular product that doesn't have one of these options, determine if you can purchase it later, or if you'd be without it forever. We think some non-negotiable features include a reclining seat, giant canopy, and storage basket with at least 10 lbs of maximum storage. Interesting, but not necessary features, include parent or child tray, cup holders, bumper bars, and a one-handed fold. None of the top products in this review offer all the features you may need or want, but they have parent consoles/cup holders for purchase, which many parents feel are non-negotiable. The UPPAbaby Cruz v2 has excellent storage with a 30 lb capacity, adjustable leg/footrest, recline, and handlebar, and an excellent canopy with lots of features.
Step 4: Do you need to carry it?
The last thing to consider is whether or not you need to fold and transport or carry the stroller frequently. All of the products are relatively easy to fold, but the Britax B-Lively and the Baby Jogger City Mini 2 have quick, easy folding mechanisms with a one-hand pull and carry strap. They are also very light and compact, which makes them easy to carry and transport in a trunk or on a bus. It isn't that the BOB Revolution 3.0 or the UPPAbaby Cruz v2 are hard to fold or carry, you just don't want to do it multiple times a day, in a hurry, alone with your baby, holding a diaper bag, and shopping supplies. Alternatively, if you stroll out your front door and are unlikely to use public transport or your car, then the UPPababy Vista v2 is a good choice. This impressive option can grow with your family up to three passengers, has the most extensive storage in the group, and offers more versatility than any of the other products in our tests.
Over several months, we took these strollers through a gauntlet of tests to see how they compare to one another in day-to-day use. Hands-on testing during regular use provides a lot of information about and how each product compares to the competition in real-world settings. We also perform a series of more controlled tests to look at particular elements of performance in an apples-to-apples manner. We design our experiments to push the products to the limits to see how one compares to the others.
Testing Stroller Performance
We define specific tests to look at key performance elements. These tests range from things such as the ease of unbuckling and buckling a baby using the safety harness, and cup holder stability, to more obscure tests like pushing strollers over grass, gravel, dirt, and snow.
We also perform tests to examine stability. These tests reveal significant differences, such as a back-tip issue in the fully reclined Baby Jogger City Mini GT that we feel is potentially dangerous. The new Baby Jogger City Mini GT 2 has less of a risk than the older version.
We Take the Measurements
In our testing, we refrain from using manufacturer's specifications for weights, size, and other factors and instead perform our own measurements for every product so we can compare the results apples to apples. We hope that by performing a mix of real-world and lab-style testing, we can give parents a complete picture and information to make the right choice for their family.
Is there a single stroller that is perfect for everyone? No, we don't think so. Every family has different needs that naturally vary as a result of strolling habits, travel, home location, family size, and budget. However, we do believe there is a right stroller for every family based on those differences, and we hope to capture those standout products. In this review, our goal is to share what we experienced or observed about each product and relay this information about our experience so you can make an informed decision for your family. We feel that between our award winners and the higher ranking products that you can narrow the field to a couple of top contenders.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz