The Virtual Pram Museum's Advice Page
In a word, it's wheels! wheels! and wheels! Well . . . it's actually wheels and axles and the frame. It doesn't matter how cute the bears-and-bunnies print is if a wheel falls off in the middle of the street, or the frame collapses without warning with your 23-month-old in the stroller.
Check out the wheels on strollers you see everywhere you go. Compare wheels, and you'll learn something surprising--some of the jazziest, most common strollers have the wobbliest wheels around.
Wobbly wheels are no fun--they make the stroller hard to push, can be unsafe, and make for an uncomfortable ride. Buyer beware! Don't let those appealing fabrics distract you from the sturdy engineering you and your baby deserve!
Make sure you check out everything on the stroller. Do the latches and buckles attach easily and well? Can you fold it easily? If possible, bring a borrowed baby and push the stroller fully loaded. Does it seem to be well made? Can you actually use the hood, the boot, the basket? Are the handles the right height, or adjustable if not? Are the brakes effective and easy to use? Try your prospective purchase out as thoroughly as possible -- the time you spend may save you years of aggravation later. Or years and years, if you have more than one child and never have to buy another stroller!
Need help figuring out how to talk about parts of a stroller or carriage? Take a look at our Definitions page.
You can find more information, and advice on strollers for multiple babies and for various special needs on our Links page.
Keep in mind, too, that your baby will be using the infant car seat for a very short period of time -- probably no longer than six months at most and that those six months are when the baby is most portable and easy to carry. As soon as your baby outgrows the infant car seat, you'll have to either get rid of it or find some place to store it and its bulky base.
Very few babies are so fussy that they can't be gently lifted (without risking a hernia) out of a car seat and set into a comfortable stroller or carriage. Why not just leave the car seat in the car, and wheel something a lot more agile around while out and about?
The premium you pay for the 'travel system' doesn't mean any increase in the quality of the stroller. Instead, you get a tremendous amount of bulk with minimal additional value. This is personal preference issue, of course, but if you are willing to haul around all that bulk, maybe you'd be happier with a real carriage--greater comfort for your baby, a real, stable, large wire basket, a smoother ride and greater durability.
People who feel they absolutely must have a travel system might want to look at Combi's Ultra Savvy which combines a Combi Savvy-type stroller with an attatchment kit for most major infant car seat brands. The stroller is pricey, but if you like Combi strollers, you'll probably get much better value-for-money than with the better known travel systems.
Combi has a new, inexpensive stroller which comes with the attatchment kit, but we would suggest evaluating the stroller very carefully before purchasing.
What about industry-wide safety standards? Well, they exist. And yes, they probably contribute to making sure a minimum standard is maintained. But way too many manufacturers seem to rely on the market to test the product.
Check out some of the stroller forums for horror tales for an overview of what sorts of problems parents have encountered. This is worth doing anyway. Do remember that you still must judge whether you think the postings are credible, but it's clear that some manufacturers are more accountable than others, and that many problems surely were predictable.
Contacted a second time, the company sent a catalog, offering a choice of replacement items. This company clearly was not at all interested in the welfare of the babies who used their products, and not only was the replacement spurned, but that brand name became 'mud' to us (and quite rightly!). It was several years before that model was taken off the market. During that time we managed to convince many, many people to avoid buying that model and brand--often right there at the point of sale in the aisles of retail stores. You can't buy publicity like that!
Today, a more effective means may be to post to a stroller forum. Stick to the facts, because the facts are what people need to evaluate what they can or should do. Just blasting a company doesn't help anyone, so make sure that your complaint is clear and accurate. Contact the manufacturer, and get a response. Contact the CPSC, too, and Consumer's Union. There's no reason a product defect should still exist three years after it went on the market if people are reporting it and refusing to buy defective or flimsy goods.
Unfortunately, there hasn't been much interest among US manufacturers in cultivating trust -- there's no tradition of it, and the manufacturers know that babies grow up, and that every three years they are dealing with a new babies and new parents. They don't seem to see any incentive here. You can change that, though, by buying thoughtfully, and encouraging others to do so, too. Not only your baby will benefit, but a whole lot of babies down the line will benefit, too!
Above all, remember that you have a choice! It's a big world out there--and the safety and durability you want is available--it just may take a little more effort. Your baby's worth it.
Start looking once you know the baby is on the way. Don't be afraid to go into more affluent areas to look at thrift shops there -- thrift and consignment shops run by the Junior League in particular can offer very good quality merchandise at reasonable prices. You"ll be amazed at what you might find -- and how little you may pay! Who wouldn't a Perego at a Graco price? Keep in mind, too, that these better consignment shops are just the place to sell your pricey stroller when the time comes.
The bottom line is that the majority of people will be best served by a Perego Pliko Matic or Pliko Sherpa -- lighter, smaller, strollers which fold relatively compactly, are easy to manoeuver and durable. The Plikos will handle all but the most demanding terrain effectively, so unless you really need or want a larger carriage, these models are an excellent solution. One gripe -- though these strollers are pricey, Perego doesn't include the underseat basket, which you will almost certainly want. Expect to part with around $20.00 to $30.00 US for this 'extra' feature.
Any of the umbrella-style Maclaren strollers would also serve well, though they are probably best for hard-core urban dwellers. They aren't as likely to handle rougher terrain as well as the Plikos.
Chicco and other manufacturers make models similar to the Plikos, but in our opinion the durability is not the same. Inglesina also makes a Pliko-like stroller, but the cost has been traditionally much higher than Perego, and it's not clear to us that the value is correspondingly greater.
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