In Depth Baby Product Reviews Led by a Pediatrician

How to Find a Car Seat and Stroller that will work Great Together

How to Find a Car Seat and Stroller that will work Great Together
The Doona is an infant car seat that also converts to a self-contained stroller.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Friday May 4, 2018

We purchased 26 top strollers and car seats to create combinations for testing over several months to determine which combinations are the easiest to use. We discovered why some car seat attachments and adapters are better than others and why some designs don't work as well. This article includes all the details we learned during testing to help you determine which option in our review of the best stroller and car seat combos is the right choice for your family and goals. Plus, you'll learn what to avoid and which combinations aren't the best.

stroller and car seat combo - some options tested over the years for stroller and car seat...
Some options tested over the years for stroller and car seat combinations.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Why Buy a Car Seat Stroller Combination?

While most parents purchase an infant car seat for the baby to travel in a car, and some consider a stroller a must-have, they may not have thought of a stroller and car seat combination they can use together. Purchasing a stroller that works well with your infant car seat means you can quickly move the baby from the car to the stroller without disruption. We think that adding a car seat compatible stroller to your gear must-have list can make life with your newborn easier to manage, and it can increase the life of some products or help you buy time until you are ready to make a more permanent purchase.

When we discuss the timeline for stroller use, we think of it as divided into two distinct periods:

  • The Infant Car Seat Era: birth-to-6 months — for the first six months, your infant won't have the neck or core muscle strength to sit upright for strolling. So, your options during this phase include using a bassinet or a stroller that works with infants (many aren't) or using your infant car seat with an adapter to attach it to the stroller's frame.

  • The Full-size Strolling Epoch: 7 months to 3+ years — the sweet spot for strolling is in the toddler years when your baby enjoys exploring locations away from home and still can't walk long distances and are heavy to carry for extended periods. Most parents use their stroller extensively for 2-3 years, and increasingly less once their baby reaches age 3+. Remember that your needs for stroller functionality will differ from when your child is an infant to when they are a toddler. If you focus too much on the infant phase in choosing a stroller, you might make a decision that is overly optimized for the infant era and fails to meet your needs when your baby is older.

Consider Delaying Your Purchase of a Full-size Stroller for 6 Months
One option worth considering, with distinct advantages, is delaying the decision to buy a full-size stroller for six months. We recommend using a frame stroller or one of the best baby carriers for the first six to nine months of your baby's life and postpone making your long-term decision until your little one has outgrown their infant seat. Not worrying about car seat capabilities opens the possibilities to top-ranked Umbrella Strollers that don't usually offer car seat adapters, relying on a top-ranked jogging stroller for everyday use, or any of the best full-size strollers we cover in our review.

Types of Car Seat Strollers

Many full- and mid-sized strollers and some jogging strollers offer infant car seat compatibility with the stroller as it comes or with car seat adapters. However, there are also frame strollers to consider depending on your needs and goals for car seat attachment and getting your baby from point A to B. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, and depending on your short and long-term plans, one might be better than another.

The Chicco Keyfit Caddy works very well but only with the Chicco...
The Chicco Keyfit Caddy works very well but only with the Chicco infant car seats it was designed for.
The photos above show a car seat frame stroller on the left and a full-size stroller with a car seat adapter on the right.

There are three common ways to use an infant car seat with a stroller:

  • Car Seat Frame Strollers — a minimalist stroller that relies on the infant car seat carrier to hold the baby and provides a light and compact frame-on-wheels for attachment. These frame strollers have a limited lifespan working only as long as the baby can fit in their infant car seat. But, we find them to be very convenient and recommend you consider going this route. Frame strollers are very light, easy to fold, and compact for versatile storage options. They also retain their value and are easy to sell after your baby has outgrown them. If you choose a frame stroller, you won't be limiting your full-size stroller selection by car seat compatibility, a significant advantage considering you will use a full-size stroller for 3+ years.

  • Travel Systems — these are “bundled sets” that include both a stroller and an infant car seat all in one box, sold as a discounted package. You'll see travel systems stacked up in the aisles of big-box retailers. Although attractive and seemingly convenient, don't be tempted by these packaged bundled systems since they tend to lack the quality and features available if you purchase the components separately. Our opinion is that most parents will regret the purchase of a travel system and are usually unhappy with one or more of the components.

stroller and car seat combo - the peg perego has one of the largest most substantial car seat...
The Peg Perego has one of the largest most substantial car seat adapters of those we tested for the City Mini.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

  • Strollers with Car Seat Adapters — many full-size strollers and some jogging strollers offer adapters that enable a car seat to attach to them. For those that want to choose their long-term stroller right away, it makes sense to pick one that will work with your car seat. We recommend selecting your infant car seat first and then choosing a stroller since the car seat is a more important decision from a safety perspective. We also advise considering only those strollers with adapters that provide a simple “click-in” car seat connection. Those that rely on straps to retain the seat are not just a hassle, but we worry some caregivers might skip the second step of attaching the straps and end up with a poorly secured car seat. The lighter and less bulky the stroller is when used with a car seat, the better.

stroller and car seat combo - wearing your baby in a carrier can be a joy for both baby and parent.
Wearing your baby in a carrier can be a joy for both baby and parent.
Credit: maximkabb ©

  • Baby Carrier as an Alternative — some parents skip the stroller entirely for the first 6 months and instead transport their baby using a baby carrier. Infants love snuggling, so using a baby carrier can be a pleasure for both you and your baby. Some of the best baby carriers cost less than $150, a fraction of the cost of high-end strollers, and while your child is an infant, a carrier is a great option to consider that both you and your little one will find comfortable and loving.

Give your baby adequate tummy time
Make sure your little one gets enough tummy time when they are awake and under observation on your lap or the floor. Too much time spent in car seats, swings, and bouncers can increase the risk of “flat head syndrome” (technically known as Positional Plagiocephaly). Also, be aware that infant car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers, and infant slings should not be used for routine sleep because they can put babies in a position that places them at risk of suffocation or airway obstruction.

Car Seat Attachment Methods

One important difference between competing products is how they attach the car seat to the frame. There are two basic types of attachment methods:

stroller and car seat combo - the mesa attaches to the vista by aligning the seat up to the...
The Mesa attaches to the Vista by aligning the seat up to the attachment point on either side of the Vista frame.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
  • Click-In Systems — are designed to automatically latch the frame and seat together when the seat lowers onto the frame. This system can typically be managed with one hand and emits an audible click to alert the user that a connection is complete. Our tests found the click-in attachment to be fast and reliable.

stroller and car seat combo - the restraint straps that come from the bottom of the frame and snap...
The restraint straps that come from the bottom of the frame and snap over the middle portion of the car seat on the Baby Trend are mandatory parts of the attachment process that must be done for safe installation.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
  • Strap-In Systems — utilize a belt or strap for retaining the car seat. The strap is fed through the seat belt notch in the car seat and tightened down to secure the seat to the frame. It requires more steps to get the carrier attached, too many in our opinion, and we worry some caregivers won't follow through, potentially creating a safety concern for the baby. Some stroller attachments utilize both a click and a strap, making them truly a hassle and a connection type we don't like. Our view is clear and straightforward: don't waste your time with strap attachment systems.

How do I decide which combo is best for me?

Determining which combination is right for you might be a little more challenging than other baby gear categories because it impacts your use of the stroller for just the first 6-9 months of life. For the vast majority of the life of a stroller, typically 3+ years, the car seat is irrelevant. So, do you optimize your decision for the long-term, choosing the best stroller for three years of regular use or the first 6-9 months when your baby will be in an infant seat? The steps below are intended to help you make the right decision for you and your little one.

stroller and car seat combo - we have tested over 60 car seats, including 29 infant car seats. our...
We have tested over 60 car seats, including 29 infant car seats. Our extensive testing protocol includes crash testing each seat the same certified testing lab the US Government uses for its safety certification testing.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

First: Choose The Car Seat

First, we recommend you consider which car seat is right for you before you choose your stroller. Look at our Infant Car Seat Review for help. It is wise to choose the seat first, or at least narrow it down to a few finalists, because we consider it a more important decision for you and your baby. Once you choose a seat or a few top contenders, then you can consider which strollers work with it.

Second: Narrow Strollers to Click-in Attachment

How easy it is to attach a car seat to the stroller and what kinds of car seats are compatible with each option is probably the most important feature to consider when putting together a stroller and car seat combination. We recommend limiting your selection to strollers that are click-in compatible with your chosen car seat.

Keep Frame Strollers and Baby Carriers in Mind
When you build a short list of strollers, make sure you consider the alternatives of using a frame stroller or wearing your baby in a baby carrier for the first six months. Doing so lets you delay the decision of your long-term stroller for at least six months. Delaying provides additional time and experience to help identify how you'll use a stroller and frees up your long-term stroller choice from any car seat compatibility limitations. Considering strollers without car seats will open the door to products without car seat adapters, like lightweight umbrella strollers and full-size and our favorite jogging strollers. Waiting is not a bad way to go and one we recommend you consider. You can learn more about wearing your baby in our best baby carrier review.

While some strolling products offer compatibility with a broad selection of infant car seat brands, be aware that many of the compatible seats will rely on a restraining strap to secure the seat to the stroller. You can use the specs table in our stroller and car seat combo review to see which car seats are click-in compatible. Manufacturers that make both car seats and strollers will typically provide click-in compatibility with their own brand but may use straps for use with other brands or offer no compatibility at all. Attachment type can be challenging to determine from the manufacturer's website, so you'll want to double-check the attachment to be sure.

stroller and car seat combo - the shuttle frame stroller, a new frame stroller by chicco, is...
The Shuttle Frame Stroller, a new frame stroller by Chicco, is similar to the old Chicco Keyfit Caddy but this option is also compatible with the Chicco Fit2 infant car seat.
Credit: Chicco

Frame Strollers Offer Limited Click-in Compatibility

If you're considering a frame stroller, be aware there are a limited number of products on the market, and even more so when you restrict the options to click-in only. On the bright side, the award-winning Chicco Keyfit Caddy offers excellent click-in support for the award-winning Chicco Keyfit 30 and Chicco Fit2, great combos that let you walk away knowing you've created a high-performing pair of two award winners. The Chicco seat clicks in place and doesn't require straps. The Graco SnugRider Elite also has an easy click connect attachment, but the compatible car seats did not score well in our infant car seat review. The Baby Trend Snap-N-Go Ex Universal doesn't snap but instead requires some strap work, including a net the carrier rests in that we didn't like.

The UPPAbaby Cruz, which excelled in other metrics, only finished...
The UPPAbaby Cruz, which excelled in other metrics, only finished middle of the pack in maneuverability due to smaller wheels than many competing products. While it works great on smooth surfaces, it is somewhat challenged by uneven terrain.

Third: Choose the Stroller Type from Frame, Full-Size, Lightweight, or Jogging

When considering what type of stroller to purchase for your car seat, there are a few things to keep in mind. Every parent will have a different detail that means the most to them and will be a driving influence on how they make their buying decision. For example, if being able to lift a stroller after a C-section is a requirement for you, then weight and folded size will be critical.

Here's our take on each type:

stroller and car seat combo - the chicco keyfit caddy is a frame stroller that is lightweight and...
The Chicco Keyfit Caddy is a frame stroller that is lightweight and folds relatively flat for easier storage. This stroller also self-stands making it a triple threat for easy stroller transportation and storage.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Frame Strollers

A simple frame stroller is an excellent option for new parents and one we recommend you consider. Frame products are small, lightweight, easy to fold, and create compact packages that can fit almost anywhere. We like that the frames are budget-friendly, can often be resold to recoup some of the expense, and give parents time and added information that will help them make a more informed buying decision for purchasing their long-term stroller (which can be relatively spendy).

Easy to use and light, frame strollers usually lack the bells and whistles of the standard strollers and aren't good at much beyond smooth flat terrain, but they are an excellent choice for new moms who've had a cesarean section and are limited in what they can and should be lifting during the healing period. If you only plan to go shopping in the mall or on the occasional errand when your baby is small, then a frame stroller may be all you need to get the job done in an economical fashion that doesn't break the bank or your back.

With price tags around $120 and sizes under 15 lbs, most parents agree this option solves many problems without the need to commit to a more expensive product before you are sure how often you'll be using a stroller and under what conditions. Frame strollers can be a good starter product for parents who aren't sure what kind of stroller they want but need or want the convenience of pushing their newborn. While parents will have to buy an additional stroller down the road if they intend to continue pushing baby once he outgrows the car seat, they won't be out much money on a frame choice and will likely be able to make a more informed decision before spending money on an everyday stroller. Buying time to make a more informed decision makes the price of the frame stroller a good value in our minds as it results in more than just better pushing abilities.

stroller and car seat combo - the brakes on the doona are nicely placed and easy to use with color...
The brakes on the Doona are nicely placed and easy to use with color coded indicators. The canopy is small and does not truly protect baby from the sun.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Combination Product

We consider the Doona Combo to be closely related to the frame stroller function and features. The Doona is a bare-bones stroller with an infant car seat permanently attached. It lacks storage and almost all convenience features and relies heavily on its one-and-done design to draw in buyers. While not as lightweight or as cheap as a frame stroller, it does include the car seat, which defrays the cost and brings it closer to the purchase price of the Chicco Keyfit 30 car seat and the Chicco Keyfit Caddy combination. The Doona will still cost you more, but the convenience of one product vs. two may be worth the additional cost for parents who frequent public transportation.

stroller and car seat combo - the baby trend snap-n-go is a "universal" frame stroller.
The Baby Trend Snap-N-Go is a “Universal” frame stroller.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The So-called “Universal” Frame Strollers are Universal Lame

Some frame strollers, such as the Baby Trend Snap-N-Go EX, tout the “universal” compatibility feature. We urge parents to avoid such systems because it requires the use of a strap connection to attach the car seat. Universal compatibility may make life easier for the reseller because they can have one product in stock that works for almost every car seat on the market. However, it comes at a big cost in ease of use and potential safety in everyday use. We urge you to avoid these products and instead choose a seat and stroller combination that does not need a strap step. If you want a car seat that is not compatible with the remaining two frame strollers, we encourage you to up your game and purchase a full-size stroller that is specifically compatible with your chosen seat instead of wasting time and money on a “Universal” product.

stroller and car seat combo - the cruz v2 is a high-quality option most families will love for the...
The Cruz v2 is a high-quality option most families will love for the long term.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Full-size Strollers

Standard or Full-size strollers are what most parents think of when they add a stroller to their list of desired baby gear. Our favorites for use with a car seat are light and relatively small and provide a simple-to-use click-in car seat adapter. You'll want to spend some time imagining how you might use a full-size stroller in the long term since most parents use their stroller regularly for 3+ years, and your requirements for storage and the length of outings will increase in toddler years. If you are unsure how your strolling needs might change over time, look at our stroller buying advice articlefor an excellent overview.

stroller and car seat combo - the cruz v2 has everything you need to stroll with one child.
The Cruz v2 has everything you need to stroll with one child.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

While your standard stroller will cost you significantly more money than a frame product, it is also potentially the only stroller you need to buy, making the more considerable investment more worthwhile. If you already know how you will use your stroller or how often, then purchasing a full-size product right away might save you money and hassle compared to buying a frame stroller now and a full-size stroller later. However, if you feel at all overwhelmed, uncertain, or not entirely convinced that you'll need a full-size stroller, then it is a relief to know you can postpone this decision. The downside to the full-size stroller is if it isn't what you hoped for, or you aren't using it as planned, then you may be out of the money for a product that doesn't get used very often, if at all. The upside is a one-and-done purchasing decision that can give you all you need for the duration of your strolling years if you make the right choice.

stroller and car seat combo - the urban glide 2 is highly run-able with an ergonomically...
The Urban Glide 2 is highly run-able with an ergonomically adjustable handlebar, adjustable tracking, and covered storage.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Jogging Strollers

Even when used with car seats, joggers are not the best for the first 6-9 months of life because they are heavy, larger in folded size, and you can't safely jog until your baby is older (12-18 months, ask your pediatrician). But they may be the perfect stroller for you in the long run, so they are worth a look.

An excellent example of making a poor standard stroller buying decision is realizing months later that you wish you had a jogging stroller or a product that was easier to push over rough terrain. Before your baby is born, you might think your strolling life will be limited to malls and grocery stores, only to discover after the baby arrives that you wish you could get out of the house and back to nature or lose a few pounds by jogging with your baby once they are old enough. If you didn't choose a jogger for your strolling needs, then your options will once again be limited, and you might find yourself saddled with a standard stroller that rarely gets used and an equally expensive jogging product that regularly gets the runaround. We feel this is another excellent example of why purchasing a frame product gives you time and life experience to determine precisely how you will use your stroller and why you feel you need one.

While many parents can answer these questions before their baby arrives, we believe just as many will be unable to determine their strolling needs. The stroller concept is new and hard to imagine for new parents who are unsure how they will be moving their baby from place to place, how much time they will have for outings, or what those outings will be.

Given the design features unique to jogging products, it is unlikely that your standard stroller will be able to do what a jogger does and keep your baby safe and comfortable. However, your jogging stroller can potentially work as a full-size stroller, which means you can limit your purchase to one or the other. If you aren't sure which kind you are more likely to use or won't, then the frame stroller buys you the time to decide. In the end, you may discover you aren't that outdoorsy, and the jogger is overkill (being large and heavy) or that you can't imagine life without your workout in the park, and the jogger has now become mandatory.

Can a Jogger be My Only Stroller?
Yes, it can. But, jogging strollers are not ideal for the first nine months with an infant car seat because they are bigger, heavier, and harder to use. They can do the job, and many parents rely on a jogger with a car seat adapter for the first 6-9 months before they transition to using the toddler seat, but you can't use them for jogging until your little one is older (8-12 months). Because infants do not have strong enough neck muscles to jog safely, many manufacturers recommend waiting until your child is at least nine months old before jogging.

In the end, how you plan to use your stroller might not be how you end up using it. While it's hard to say what you will be doing when your baby is nine months old, you might be able to hazard a guess based on prior experience. However, if you aren't sure, you can take the safe route and opt for the frame stroller or baby carrier until you get a clear picture of what life with your baby will bring.

stroller and car seat combo - the urban glide 2 works with a variety of infant car seat brands...
The Urban Glide 2 works with a variety of infant car seat brands including Chicco car seats with an adapter that clicks in without the need for straps.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Final Consideration: Maneuverability, Storage, and Other Features

In the first nine months or so, when your little one is using an infant car seat, your demands for a stroller will be less significant than they will be during toddler years.

In the longer term, considerations like maneuverability, storage, and other features will become some of the key things you notice and appreciate about strollers.

So, once you've narrowed down the products to a short list you feel are contenders, we recommend you consider your long-term needs.

A good place to get an understanding of long-term needs and how different products might meet those needs would be to look at our buying advice articles for:

stroller and car seat combo - we tested a variety of car seat and stroller combinations. we...
We tested a variety of car seat and stroller combinations. We compared products to one another to find the very best combinations for every family and need.
Credit: Abriah Wofford


Determining the right combination of stroller and car seat can be one of the more complicated baby product decisions you'll make. We think it is important to pick your car seat first because safety is an issue and finding the right easy-to-install seat is part of the safety equation. There are good strolling options for most of the top-rated seats. We hope this guide has offered information and guidelines that can help you make the right decision for you and your baby.