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Strollers seem to come in all ranges of prices. From $100 to well over $1000 (sorry for the US-centrism, but I'd guess it is the same in other places).

Given that this will probably be something that we use all the time for the next few years (or more, depending on how many babies come), I'd be willing to spend a lot of money, but I'm afraid of just being taken advantage of if I buy a product that is just as good, at double the price.

Is it worth it to get an expensive stroller like, for example, the Bugaboo Frog (starting at $600)? Or is a mid-range or even a cheaper one just as durable and easy to use?

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I think it may depend on your child. For whatever reason, our first child hated the expensive stroller we had. After 5 minutes of screaming, we would pick her up out of it, and end up having to carry her and push a stroller. When she got big enough to sit up, we put in her in one of those cheap "umbrella" strollers (for $15-$20) and she loved it! It was way more portable, it still had a visor to block the sun, and we had a happy baby. That doesn't answer your question, but it's another thing to think about. –  BrianH Apr 5 '11 at 14:48
    
A point about wheels! 4 wheels are more stable, 3 are more manoeuvrable, best compromise is 2 far apart at the back and 1 "double" wheel at the front - this comes in to its own when going up steps, onto buses etc as its more stable than '3 only' –  adolf garlic Jun 1 '11 at 11:48
    
Great question! –  tdc Jan 12 '12 at 13:58
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11 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Going through strollers for 5 kids (2 of which are twins), we've been learned quite a bit about what is good and what isn't. When it comes to price, here is what we've learned:

  • Avoid the ultra expensive primary stroller - We test drove some ultra expensive strollers, and have had friends who have owned them, and there wasn't a single thing that the expensive stroller gave us above and beyond a stroller that was 1/6 to 1/10th the price. Durability is a moot point, because mid-range strollers are just as durable. We've had mid-range strollers that we've gone through all of our kids with and have held up just fine.
  • Get a small expensive second stroller - The place to splurge on a stroller is when buying a small/portable stroller. You can get a cheap $10-$20 USD umbrella stroller, but its not worth it. The cheap umbrella strollers are uncomfortable for kids, break and fall apart easier, typically don't allow for attachments, and are harder to push and turn. We used McClaren Volo strollers (which are available in many countries) for our small compact strollers. These are about $100-$150 USD new, but they are very durable, very light, and our kids were always comfortable on them. You can easily find them on sale online or get them used for a fraction of the price.
  • Get a mid-price-range jogger - You don't have to spend too much, but get a jogging stroller as your second stroller. The best one we had was a double stroller that cost $120 USD. A jogger is a practical choice because the ultra-expensive buggy strollers are not as practical for all types of use. You can use the jogging stroller for casual use, as well as for exercise.
  • Get a neutral color - If you're not done having kids, make sure you get a neutral color so you don't have to buy a new stroller if you have a child of the opposite sex.

A few additional stroller tips:

  • If you want a double stroller, go for side by side rather than front / back. These are generally easier to push and have easier / better sun protection.
  • Always look for a pivoting front wheel. The fixed front wheels tend to get misaligned (particularly on joggers), and its a hassle to keep fixing them.
  • Make sure you have good sun protection. Pull down canopies or attachments are definitely needed for summer use.
  • Get a mesh cover for your larger stroller (jogger) if you live in a city that may have mosquitoes. The mesh also acts as a sun barrier.
  • The combo strollers that allow an infant seat are hit or miss. Make sure you try to remove and lock the car seat into the stroller several times before you buy to make sure its easy to remove. Also make sure the seat belt and carrying arm latch are easy to open/close.
  • Always try the buckles out and make sure whomever will use it the most is comfortable getting them on / off.
  • Make sure the seat(s) can recline all the way back so your child(ren) can sleep comfortably if they fall asleep.
  • Make sure it has adequate storage room for things like a blanket, bag, etc.
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nice post, although I have had a different experience with a $20 umbrella stroller. It is light, portable, and durable. –  David Apr 6 '11 at 4:12
    
@David - Ya, I'm sure there are some cheap and good ones out there, but I personally haven't seen them. The most important thing for us was pushing and turning the stroller. We bought one of our Maclaren Volo's with an umbrella attachment, carrying strap, and a flip down top for $35 USD on clearance. Pushing and turning on them is just so much easier than any other light-weight stroller I've tried. –  Javid Jamae Apr 6 '11 at 16:12
    
this almost exactly follows my experience. The best value for money were the side by side offroad twin with the single pivoting front wheel and the very cheap light buggy as a take anywhere (with a shoulder strap) –  Rory Alsop Apr 7 '11 at 15:30
    
Also consider Phil'n'Teds if you have 2 small but differently aged children - it's not a side-by-side but it is ingenious –  adolf garlic Jun 1 '11 at 11:49
    
I'm a pretty stingy guy, always watching prices like a hawk. So when my wife wanted to get a City Select, which retails for roughly $1200 fully loaded, for only $700, I about blew a gasket. But after using it, compared to what we had before, I wouldn't give it up for anything. I'd pay full price for another if it ever broke. This might be the accepted answer because it's the answer the OP was looking for to begin with, but the City Select was worth every penny. (It also has excellent after market resale value: we will get what we paid for it when we sell it in two or three years, easily.) –  corsiKa Jul 3 '13 at 19:29
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I would recommend a travel stroller one that can be used when the baby is older. Ours was around $200 my son used it all the time until he was around 2 or so. He still used it most of the time until he was 3. He still on occasions tells me he does not want to go to the store and I will offer the stroller and his Explorer or some books and he is much happier. He is 4 now. We would be using for the current baby also because the stroller is still in great condition but we are having twins so the single stroller is out!

I would also think about how much of an age difference in children you are having. If you even know. If you want kids closer together I would say an expensive one may not be in your best interest because you will want to turn around and buy a double stroller.

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I think an expensive stroller is definitely worth it, but only because good quality costs money.

There are some silly-expensive brands out there that are worrisome in terms of ergonomics, for both the child and/or the parent; avoid those. And then some strollers are expensive simply because they're made right. The stroller shouldn't start to fall apart after one year of intensive use, and it shouldn't begin to squeak and creak.

We received generous funding from the family specifically to get a decent stroller (a Teutonia Mistral S), but I think I would have paid the whole sum (about €700) myself anyway. Interestingly, we also bought a used umbrella stroller for €20 which we use when we go by car or plane somewhere, and when we expect to not use the stroller much at the destination. The reason is that our "good" stroller doesn't fold so well so it takes up much more space.

What to look for, in no particular order
These were roughly our decision criteria, off the top of my mind.

  1. Can the stroller be used for a sleeping infant (decent bassinet) all the way up to an active three-year-old (seat)? If not, then you might need to buy a different stroller as the child gets older.
  2. Can you get adapters for your infant car-seat? There may be a long list of useful accessories. In our case, the Teutonia Mistral S is a stroller with a detachable seat; we could put a bassinet on it, or even swap it for the infant car-seat.
  3. Is the bassinet properly flat? Infants should lie completely horizontal; not all strollers allow that.
  4. Is the bassinet hard-bottomed with a decent mattress (good) or is it more like a hammock or "sports bag" (bad)?
  5. Can the child lie down properly, as an infant and also as a toddler? Is the stroller long enough for him in this position? The child must be able to lie completely flat, and a half-reclined setting is an extra bonus.
  6. Can the child sit comfortably, even when he's bigger?
  7. It must be rigid enough to not rattle or wobble when you use it; poor steering is no fun.
  8. It must be quick and easy to fold and unfold. Note that this can conflict with the previous point, especially with cheap models.
  9. It must have decent (large) wheels so small obstacles don't stop you.
  10. The handle must be height-adjustable so that both parents can comfortably use it (I'm a lot taller than my wife). The handle should be easily adjustable.
  11. It must be as compact as possible when folded and not too heavy, so that it fits easily in your car (some shops allow you to actually test this, with your own car). Also, the wheels should be detachable, but this should not be necessary just to fit it in your car.
  12. What kind of wheels are there? They should not be air-filled unless you enjoy fixing punctures often; choose solid rubber. They should have decent watertight ball-bearings unless you enjoy listening to squeaking nylon bearings.
  13. Do you use trams or buses? Make sure it fits through their narrow doors.
  14. What kind of warranty is given?
  15. The cover must be made of UV-resistant material; not synthetic if possible.
  16. There must be enough room underneath to stow things. Some models have ridiculously small cargo space, but they look nice.

Some of these criteria rule out the cheapest models, some don't. Some may not be relevant to you. But the list might inspire you and help your decision-making.

You can of course also go the opposite way and get a used stroller and see how long it lasts; at the very least you've avoided the expensive cost that much longer.

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That was our list too. But as you see from my answer, we figured out that #1 and #2 was a mistake. It's better to have separate prams and strollers, IMO. The rest of the list is good though. –  Lennart Regebro Apr 5 '11 at 19:17
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@Lennart, we paid special attention to getting the stroller with the biggest bassinet (Teutonia Mistral S). Our son is quite big and he didn't outgrow it before he could sit. And now that I've learned the proper(?) words from your answer, I'll edit those into mine as well, for the sake of clarity. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 5 '11 at 19:54
    
Oh, our daughter didn't outgrow ours before she could sit either. But she outgrew it way to early anyway. We were given another bigger pram that we used throughout the winter. It may be that the Teutonia has a big enough bassinet, but that seems to be unusual in these systems. –  Lennart Regebro Apr 5 '11 at 20:05
    
regarding the price/quality issue, I was told that the better quality means that the stroller will alst for more than one child. In my area, the expensive ones were 4-5 times the price of the mid-range. We're not planning on more than 4 kids, so even if we need to buy a new mid-range stroller for each one, it's still cheaper than buying the expensive one. –  Carmi Apr 6 '11 at 7:22
    
I looked more closely at a Bugaboo now when being in Sweden (they are unusual in Poland as they are so expensive) and the bassinet in that is also decently big. I agree that a good quality travel system can be a good choice, if expensive. It is still going to be as expensive (or more) as a separate good quality pram + good quality stroller, but it takes less storage space, which can be an important issue. –  Lennart Regebro Feb 28 '12 at 6:48
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Your question is impossible to answer, as crappy strollers exist in all price ranges. Go to a baby store and try to open and close all the strollers with one hand.

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An even more important test is to put a good 30 lbs of weight into the stroller and then try to steer it with one hand. And then with 4 wheel strollers, consider multiplying that force by about 3 for less than smooth surfaces and later wear. Get the stroller that manoevers the easiest. –  Ernie Jun 1 '11 at 20:27
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My answer would have to be, "It depends". We have an umbrella stroller for traveling and for use in the house when our baby was very young (before he could crawl around on his own). We got both an inexpensive Chicco one as well as a somewhat more expensive MacLaren. They both worked pretty well, except that we actually travel with the MacLaren because it's lighter. So, for this category, my experience is that the $100-or-so stuff is just fine.

These umbrella strollers have limited utility, however, so I also got a BOB stroller, and it has been fantastic. The quality of construction and its ruggedness are worth every penny. I use it for jogging, as well as when we go out to the park and or outdoor festivals. It is clearly superior in construction and performance to the Graco car set+stroller system that we got before he was born.

Actually, the carseat+stroller combo thing from Graco has been almost useless for us. We used the carseat all the time, and the removable bases are a godsend, but the stroller was not that useful for us. When we did have to taken him out with us, we would just use a Baby Bjorn or carry him by hand. We almost never lugged around the carseat, and the stroller for it is so bulky as to be impractical. I would say that my assessment of these combo systems echoes Lennart's.

In short, I would not spend a ton of money on a Bugaboo combo. Your baby will outgrow the bassinet within a few months, and he/she will want to be carried around/worn instead of sitting in a carseat. In terms of pure stroller, I think the BOB is at least comparable if not better, for about half the cost.

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Back when our little one came along we faced the same issue, so I'll share some of my experiences.

  1. Price Does Not Indicate Quality
    We discovered that some of the expensive strollers were really not any better than some "cheaper" strollers, so price is not a good indicator of quality.

  2. Get a "Stroller/Carseat" Solution
    Some strollers are more of a "complete stroller solution" and these will run more. Our favorite feature of our stroller when our son was still an infant was that the baby-seat could detach from the stroller and attach to a base in the car. We were very happy with the carseat/stroller combo solution.

  3. Reuse/Remains Useful Over Time
    At times having the larger "jogging" stroller was really useful later on.

  4. A Pivoting Front Wheel (For Big Strollers)
    We always wished we would have had a front wheel that would pivot -- ours was fixed, so we had to lift the front wheel off the ground in order to turn the stroller.

  5. The Cheap Folding Stroller Was Awesome
    When our son was able to sit upright, we heavily favored a second smaller folding stroller (often called an "Umbrella Stroller") that we bought for around $20. It was much more convenient than the heavier jogging stroller (which also folded up). We preferred to use the smaller stroller 95% of the time.

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We have two children of our own and operate an in-home childcare, so we have had some experience with good and not-so-good strollers.

When our first child was born, we were given a Single jogging stroller by Baby Trend. It worked fairly well for our purposes, but it wasn't terribly durable and wasn't really made for speed. We passed it on before our second child came along.

When we started the daycare we were given a used side-by-side double jogging stroller that was originally more expensive and of decent quality. I can't remember the brand now, but it had a stationary front wheel which was challenging to maneuver with heavier children on board. We passed this one along because it was just too difficult.

We have a single convenience stroller (just a step up from a really cheap umbrella stroller) for running errands in the car. I can clip our infant car seat onto it, or use it for our toddler, it is light weight and great for traveling. Not very expensive or of super high quality, but it has held up and continues to be just what we need.

We have a triple side-by-side for the daycare that has two swivel wheels on the front, but I have to say that my favorite stroller that we have ever owned has been our double side-by-side jogger by BOB. I got it used for less that half the price of a new one and I absolutely love it! It is so easy to maneuver, light weight, and plenty of room for both kids.

All that being said, it really depends on what types of conditions you anticipate needing a stroller. It is nice to have something compact, light weight and easy to maneuver for shopping trips or traveling. It is also a good idea to get a jogging-type stroller with bigger wheels that can handle uneven sidewalks or trails without waking the baby or making their ride uncomfortable.

Price is relative. There are some expensive brands that really aren't worth it. When I saw BOB strollers, I didn't really know what all the hype was about, but now that I have one I get it and I will never own another cheapo stroller. I also can't justify paying full price for a stroller that will get a lot of use, but only for a short period of time, so all of our strollers have either been given to us, used, or inexpensive. Try out a few and find out what works for you.

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Love Valco Baby!! After watching my sister push her Valco baby through the sand on the beach with ease - I knew this stroller was a must have- Lightweight design and the front wheel pivots and has a latch to put the front tire in the fixed position. The tires are air filled but I've never had an issue with them as I don't walk down streets covered in glass and nails - I prefer air filled tires over solid rubber especially if youre into fitness and you walk alot - Also a better designed stroller will provide better posture for those pushing the stroller which obviously allows one to endure a longer walk- There's nothing worse than seeing a mom slumped over with odd alignment pushing their stroller-do yourself a favor and pay the money for a quality stroller.

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By the way, rose bushes and other thorny plants puncture tires as well. :) I still think pneumatic tires are better though, because of their lower rolling resistance and comfort for the child. –  Ernie May 31 '11 at 21:07
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A stroller is entirely optional if you only have 1 small child.

Infant carseats typically snap in and out of a base that is secured in your car. This works well for bringing a sleeping baby in to a store or in to your home. You can buy drop-in strollers for these carseats, but they're not necessary. I always carried the carseat in by hand. It's easier to get around than a stroller.

If your infant is awake, or has grown to be toddler, I recommend a sling instead. Properly used, they are very comfortable for parent and child. You don't have to use arm muscles to hold the baby up, so you won't get tired quickly. A baby pressed against your body will be calmer and happier and tend to go to sleep easily. You will also be more intimately aware of how your baby is doing. Nursing mothers can even nurse a baby that's in a sling, hands-free. A toddler likes being a chest height, were they can see more than at stroller height. Slings are very quiet; strollers are noisy. Pushing a stroller made me hunch over, since I am tall, and my back would get tired. It's hard to run with a non-jogger stroller, but I can jog with a sling. Slings are easy to use over rough ground, e.g. across a field or on a trail.

nursing in a sling

There were occasions where I really wanted a stroller over a sling, but they were quite rare. You can't wear a backpack with a sling, for example. For those times, a cheap umbrella stroller was just right. Since I didn't use it much, I was glad it was cheap. An umbrella stroller folds down really small, so it stays out of the way when I'm not using it.

If you have 2 small children (e.g. twins) then a sling doesn't work so well. A double-stroller helps a lot. That, or having a lot of extended family around all the time.

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Our experience as first-time parents was: it's a bad idea to buy a lot of stuff up-front at all, and when you do buy, it's probably best to always buy the moderately-priced version first and only upgrade if you discover you have to.

The issue is that parents and kids are different. Some things that other parents say their child loved, our child would have nothing to do with. (And vice versa.)

For example our son has never had the remotest interest in a pacifier, so we have some of those still in shrink wrap. Or for baby blankets, only a certain kind (thin cotton muslin) would hold him in a swaddle, and the other kinds were worthless. We went through a couple different sling/carrier contraptions that he wouldn't tolerate. Various kinds of bottle. Co-sleeper. On and on.

Buying anything baby-related is hit-or-miss because it depends so much on your specific child. Other people's experiences only go so far.

Making it worse, it's tough to even predict your own habits and what will work for you post-baby. Some cherished routines today are probably going to change.

Strollers are no exception. We got a moderately-priced one, and we just don't use it that much, so it's held up well. But we didn't know in advance that we wouldn't use it that much. We also didn't know that our child would be happy to sit in it, though he is, thankfully. But I'm sure if we'd bought the super-expensive stroller, we'd have the child who hates strollers with a passion. ;-) It's just inevitable!

Another stroller-specific point, I don't think one needs a stroller for a newborn. Newborns are not very heavy, and you can just carry them, or carry their car seat, or get one of the many solutions for strapping them to yourself. A stroller is more for at least a few months down the road. Our experience anyway. So it's easy to buy the stroller later.

I'm pretty sure that if you get the moderately-priced version of everything (and buy everything "on demand" and as late as possible), you'll save enough money that you can re-buy the most expensive version of the one thing it turns out you should have splurged on. If that's the stroller, so be it.

If you're missing something, you can (and will) run to the store and pick it up. If it's not an emergency, the Internet is happy to deliver any product to your door in two days. No need to "be prepared" beyond the barest basics.

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We've had some really bad experiences with stroller shopping that were somewhat different from what other people have posted, so I'd like to point out a few things.

  1. Price is not how you shop for strollers. Our first single-kid stroller was $400 for a "Travel Solution" that included the stroller and infant car seat. It was a rebranded Graco that was sold under the Eddie Bauer trademark, and the stroller became utterly unusable in less than a year. Our current double stroller cost about $600 and you can do anything to it short of smash it with a 20 lb sledgehammer and it will still keep going.

  2. Buying several dirt-cheap strollers (as they inevitably fall apart in short order, and their quality even while new is horrid) is a sure way to drive yourself mad, and it's bad for the environment as well. Been there, done that, do not do this. You will need a stroller for about 4 years per child. Durability matters.

  3. Do you drive a lot, or do you take public transportation a lot? If the latter is true, then you need a stroller that fits on buses and streetcars, and one that is considerably more durable than most, because it will see far greater use. If you drive a lot, more than likely you'll use it most in parking lots, shopping malls, and maybe the occasional park. And it probably won't see a lot of heavy use.

  4. I would highly recommend going to a specialty store that caters only to quality baby needs. (For those in North America, "Babies 'R Us" does not qualify - they're more a low-end department store for kids' stuff) Regardless of your needs and budget, they're better informed and care more about giving you what you need. We've had much better success going this route than any other, but the problem is that these stores are harder to find and aren't as well known to non-parents.

  5. In my humble opinion, three wheels are better than four. They're far more manoeverable, and a lot of four-wheel strollers are built that way "because that's how it's always been done". Or maybe because it's cheaper that way.

If you make the right buying decision, you should only ever have to buy one or two strollers (it helps to have a MacLeran umbrella stroller sometimes). This should never be something you consider "disposable". If the stroller lasts longer than your kids' need for it, then that's what Craigslist is for.

Speaking of which, that might be a good place to start shopping once you've found what you're looking for.

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