Welcome to this special excerpt of Baby Bargains for NBC's Today Show. With this free download, we'll give you tips on how to buy the best stroller, advice on safety and more. Plus you'll find all the strollers that were fea-tured on the show! If you like this excerpt, check out the last page of this guide for info on how to download our entire stroller chapter or buy the Baby Bargains book.
Baby stores offer a bewildering array of strollers for parents. Do you want the model that converts from a car seat to a stroller? What about a stroller that would work for a quick trip to the mall? Or do you want a stroller for jogging? Hiking trails? The urban jun-gle of New York City or beaches of LA?
And what about all the different brand names? Will a basic brand found at a discount store work? Or do you need a higher-quality brand from Europe? What about strollers with anti-lock brakes and air bags?
The $500 million dollar stroller industry is not dominated by one or two players, like you might see in car seats or high chairs. Instead, you'll find a couple dozen stroller makers offering just about any-thing on wheels, ranging from $30 for a bare-bones model to $880 for a Dutch-designed uber stroller. A recent trend: tri-wheel strollers that are hybrids between joggers and traditional strollers.
We hope this section takes some of the mystery out of the stroller buying process. First, we'll look at the six different types of strollers on the market today. Next, we'll zero in on features and help you decided what's important and what's not. Then read our picks for strollers, as seen on NBC Today's Show.
There are six types of strollers you can buy:
The name comes from the appearance of the stroller when it's folded, similar to an umbrella.
WHAT'S COOL: They're lightweight and gen-erally cheap-that is, low in price (about $25 to $35). We should note that a handful of premi-um stroller makers also offer pricey umbrella strollers that sell for $150 to $250. Pictured here is a no-frills Kolcraft umbrella stroller. WHAT'S NOT: They're cheap-that is, low in quality (well, with the exception of Maclaren and Peg Perego). You typically don't get any fancy features like canopies, storage baskets, reclining seats, and so on. Another problem: most umbrella strollers have hammock-style seats with little head support, so they won't work well for babies under six months of age.
A carriage (also called a pram) is like a bed on wheels-most are similar in style to a bassinet. Since this feature is most useful when a baby is young (and less helpful when baby is older), most companies make carriages that convert to strollers. Pictured here is the Peg Perego Venezia car-riage stroller.
WHAT'S COOL: Full recline is great for newborns, which spend most of their time sleeping. Most combo carriage/strollers have lots of high-end features like plush seats, quilted canopies and other accessories to keep the weather out. The best carriage strollers and prams have a dreamy ride, with amazing suspensions and big wheels.
WHAT'S NOT: Hefty weight (not easy to transport or set up) and hefty price tags. Another negative: most Euro-style “prams” have fixed front wheels, which make maneuvering difficult on quick trips. Some carriage/stroller models can top $300 and $400. These strollers once dominated the market but have lost favor as more parents opt for “travel systems” that combine an infant seat and stroller.
Lightweight Strollers. These strollers are our top recom-mendation: they're basically souped-up umbrella strollers with many convenience features.
WHAT'S COOL: Most offer easy set-up and fold-down; some even fold up similar to umbrel-la strollers. Many models have an amazing num-ber of features (canopies, storage baskets, high-quality wheels) at amazingly light weights (as light as seven pounds). Combi (pictured at right) is this category's leader, although many companies(namely Graco) have introduced low-priced, Combi knock-offs in recent years.
WHAT'S NOT: Can be expensive-most high-quality brands run $200 to $300. The smaller wheels on lightweight strollers make maneuvering in the mall or stores easy . . . but those same wheels don't perform well on uneven surfaces or on gravel trails. Skimpy baskets are another trade-off.
Jogging (or Sport) Strollers.
These strollers feature three big bicycle-tire wheels and lightweight frames-perfect for jogging or walking on rough roads.
WHAT'S COOL: How many other strollers can do 15 mph on a jogging trail? Some have plush features like padded seats and canopies-and the best fold up quickly for easy storage in the trunk. This category has boomed in recent years; now it seems like every stroller maker is rolling out a jogger model.
WHAT'S NOT: They can be darn expensive, topping $200 or even $300. Jogging strollers are a single-purpose item-thanks to their sheer bulk and a lack of steering, you can't use one in a mall or other location. On the plus side, the flood of new models is helping lower prices. New, low-end jogging strollers run $100 to $150. The trade-offs to the new bargain price models: heavier steel frames and a lack of features.
The baby equivalent of four-wheel drive sport-utility vehicles, these strollers are pitched to parents who want to go on hikes or other outdoor adventures.
WHAT'S COOL: Big air-filled tires and high clear-ances work better on gravel trails/roads than stan-dard strollers. These strollers are great for neighborhoods with bro-ken or rough sidewalks. All-terrain strollers still have convenience features (baskets, canopies, etc.), yet don't cost as much as jogging strollers (most are under $100). Besides, they look cool. Pictured here is the Zooper Boogie.
WHAT'S NOT: A few models have fixed front wheels, making them a hassle to use-when you want to turn the stroller, you have to lift the entire front half off the ground. Even if the front wheels swivel (which is more common these days), the larger wheels make the stroller less maneuverable in tight spaces. All-terrain strollers are wider than other strollers, which could make them troublesome in stores with narrow aisles. Another caveat: many models now boast “pneumatic” (inflated) wheels for a smoother ride. The only bum-mer-what if you get a flat? Look for brands that include a pump. While pneumatic-tire strollers seem to be the new hot trend, most folks who really want to go on a hike will opt for a jogging stroller instead of an all-terrain.