Buying a stroller is just as complicated as buying a car. All you want to do is take your baby for a walk, but we're talking about hundreds of different ways that you can push your kid around the block. Most parents will own at least one stroller—most likely a full-size or lightweight stroller—and we think the Britax B-Agile is the best choice in that category.
We spent the better part of seven months obsessing over baby strollers: reading about them, testing them, and stopping random parents on the street to talk about them. There are dozens of websites that discuss strollers, but many of them are vague and unreliable. For example, Good Housekeeping, an otherwise decent source of information for parents, picked the Bumbleride Indie as their favorite stroller…and that stroller was recalled in February 2013.Parenting.com 's stroller reviews show up high in a Google search, but there's no date on the piece, and since the magazine folded in the summer of 2013, we know it's not current.
The biggest problem with most stroller reviews is the limited scope. With so many brands available, the "top 10″ lists that are prevalent at parenting sites are so varied that they feel arbitrary in their selections. Even some of the most reliable sources in our research—namely, Baby Gizmo and Consumer Reports—had gaps in their coverage, didn't seem up-to-date, and didn't do a great job of comparing strollers within categories. So it's hard to decide on what the right ones are by online research alone.
Nothing beats seeing a stroller in person, and when you're actively looking for strollers, you realize that you see them everywhere. I know that not every parent's opinion is the same, but we stopped a lot (well over a hundred) of parents over a five-month period to talk about their strollers and what they do and don't like about them.
And then of course, there's the testing of them. There's no way to test every single stroller out there because of the sheer number of brands, and then models within those brands. After extensive web research, we focused in on the brands that were consistently referenced at the major websites to make sure we got to see them in person. These brands are:
- Phil and Ted's
- Jeep Explorer
- Baby Jogger
- First Years
The nice thing about these brands is their availability. It helps to see your stroller in person before you get it, and we were able to find these strollers at pretty commonplace stores, like Babies"R"Us, as well as specialized boutiques. (But you're likely to score a better deal ordering your stroller online.)
What To Look For
Our extensive research led us to a few clear criteria for what makes a stroller great, which has a lot of overlap with Consumer Reports' Stroller Buying Guide. Every stroller we considered has the basics down: sturdy wheels, a decent canopy for shade protection, a five-point harness for strapping baby in, some type of storage for diaper bags, reliable brakes for locking the stroller in place, and the ability to recline so the baby can sit up or lean back. These are non-negotiables in today's stroller world, although of course they can vary greatly.
For example, lighter strollers tend to have limited storage space, while heavier ones have a lot more room for tucking away bottles, snacks, and diapers. Storage is a bit of a tricky issue with a stroller—sometimes it feels easier to have too many things handy when you're with your child, rather than too few. But don't forget, the more you weigh down your stroller with junk (do you really need five diapers for a one-hour walk?), the bulkier and clunkier the stroller itself becomes.
Another example: brakes. You need brakes for your stroller, so that when you're standing around you can lock the stroller in place and not worry about it rolling away on you. This is one of the pivotal safety issues of a stroller, and every stroller we reviewed has good brakes. However, some have separate brakes for each wheel, while others have a single brake for the entire stroller. Truth is, all of these work–the stroller would be immediately recalled if the brakes didn't work–but I found that it's much more convenient to have a single brake mechanism, rather than two separate ones.
But points like storage size and single-wheel or all-wheel brakes, are the nitpicky details. In all of our time with strollers, we found that the heart of the matter is in a few key issues. The three variables that will steer your decision the most are: 1.) How easy is it to use (Is it heavy? Bulky? Hard to open and close?), 2.) How does it maneuver, and 3.) How much does it cost.
You need to be very realistic about your lifestyle to make sure you're getting the right purchase. Someone who lives on the fifth floor of an apartment building in New York City with a very small elevator (or, shudder, no elevator at all) is going to want a different stroller from someone who lives at the end of a dirt road in Montana. The Babies 'R' Us stroller buying guide breaks down the various stroller categories this way:
- Full-size stroller: These are usually the strollers with the most extra features, like snack and storage trays for baby and parent, and a large below-the-seat storage basket. Most accomodate car seats and recline fully. The con is that they can be heavy and bulky. If you rarely use a car and simply park your stroller in the hallway or garage, then the extra bulk may not bother you.
- Lightweight (also called convenience) stroller: These are lighter and more compact than full-size strollers. And while they may be easier to lift, fold, and store, you lose some features like parent and kid trays and storage is usually tighter. Some of these also accommodate car seats. In general, we think lightweight strollers will work best for most parents because accessories like cup holders and trays can be added if you need them.
- Convertible stroller: A hot trend in strollers are ones that can convert to face out toward the world or in toward the pusher. Some even start as flat bassinets.
- Umbrella stroller: The lightest and most compact of all strollers, umbrella strollers are great for short outings and for travel. Storage space is extremely limited, and most don't hold car seats. Most parents keep an umbrella stroller on hand in addition to another more substantial stroller.
- Travel system: A full-size or lightweight stroller that is sold with a car seat, sometimes for less than the cost of buying them separately.
- Speciality strollers, such as joggers and doubles.
For purposes of this guide, we looked and compared full-size and lightweight strollers. Umbrella strollers are, for the most part, inexpensive and designed the same. If you're looking for one, we suggest looking for one with a large canopy, a reclining seat, and a high weight limit. (We love Chicco's umbrella strollers: the Liteway ($140) and Liteway Plus ($180), which actually holds an infant seat, and at a bare minimum, the C6 ($82).) Travel systems include many of the strollers we've reviewed here.
About those prices …
Cost is a tough issue with purchasing a stroller. There is a wide range of prices, from $100 all the way up through $1,000. This wide range creates a false sense of what a "mid-range" stroller should cost. You'd guess it's probably somewhere in the middle, around $500 or so. But in truth, the overwhelming majority of strollers are under $500, and in fact, most are closer to $300 and below. Once you cross over $500, there are far fewer options available, and in fact, they tend to be more like $750 and above.
To illustrate this: at the BabiesRUs.com website, there are more than 400 strollers available. Aside from umbrella strollers, the cheapest is the Graco LiteRider at $60; the most expensive is the Stokke Crusi at $1,250, which is the most expensive stroller you can purchase anywhere. With so many strollers and a $1,100 price range, we think the Babies "R" Us online stroller store represents a good sampling of the market at large. When you look closer, you find that more than half of those strollers are $300 or less, so that's what we'll consider mid-range.
We looked into many of the cheapest options, and for the most part, they are not worth it. (Although, the aforementioned Graco LiteRider is a top-seller that seems to be well-loved by reviewers at Amazon and Babies R Us, but that mostly seems to be because of the price and not the durability, maneuverability, and usability). A stroller is something you will use with your baby almost every day, and the cheap strollers feel, well, cheap, even though they technically cover all your basic needs.
Instead, we're focusing mostly on "mid-range" strollers, meaning those that are above $100 and below $500—and again, most are actually in the neighborhood of $300. There are many excellent strollers in this price range, which should come as a relief to those who don't want to spend a thousand bucks to get something that will work for your family. But again, don't cop out and go thrifty, either, especially if you see yourself spending a lot of time strollering. It's definitely worth spending a little extra money to get something that is right for you, rather than just good enough.
Of course, that raises the question of just how much extra money makes sense? With this in mind, we also checked out the luxury strollers, mostly out of curiosity, to see if the extras that come with a luxury stroller merit a price tag that is three, four, or even five times what you'd pay for an excellent mid-range stroller. The extras tend to focus on materials, or amenities that cater to the pusher, rather than the pushee, with things like cup holders, luxe fabrics, places to store your keys, beefier warranties, or even a USB charger on one model. For the most sake, we've found that these are neat, but you can live without them.
Our overall pick
Full-size and lightweight strollers can range in price from $50 to well over $1,000, but all of them accomplish the basic purpose of getting your baby from Point A to Point B. The Britax B-Agile is our pick for best stroller in this category because it has the look and feel of a high-end stroller, it's incredibly lightweight and easy to carry around, and it's a great deal at only $190—hundreds less than what you will pay for strollers that are not noticeably better in quality.
The Britax B-Agile gets a lot of love from reviewers. It's the top seller for strollers on Diapers.com, which is pretty impressive since Diapers.com is one of the premiere parent shopping websites. BabyGizmo.com, which has reviewed a grand total of 93 strollers (holy crap!), crowned the B-Agile as one its top picks, displacing the otherwise popular City Mini by Baby Jogger. As they put it, "the B-Agile is similar to our beloved City Mini but has a few improved features that makes it even better." (See video review here.)
It only weighs 16.5 pounds, while most full-size strollers weigh more than 20 pounds. And when you take the baby out of the stroller, there's a handle in the seat that you pull, and the stroller folds. No twisting of handles or levers to pull. Just push the safety button the side, grab the handle, lift, and go. Hollie Schultz of BabyGizmo.com told me, "the one-handed fold is one of the easiest on the market." Many standard strollers require the use of two arms to fold the stroller—with the B-Agile, it's clearly a one-arm operation. This is a big deal, because it frees you up to carry baby with your other arm. If you need to load the stroller in the car, bring it up stairs, or store it in a closet, it's hard to downplay how handy this seemingly simple feature becomes. It also stands on its own when you fold it, which not all strollers can do. Of course, B-Agile is not the only stroller that is light and folds easily, but I found it to be the best in this regard.
Looking beyond weight and foldability, the B-Agile does very well compared with the competition. Its wheels are arranged in a triangular pattern, and the front wheel (which is actually two wheels side-by-side) pivots to allow for a tight turning radius. In general, we've found that three-wheel strollers can handle tighter corners much easier than four-wheeled strollers. (And who doesn't like a good turning radius?) Also, it has a two-year warranty which (like all strollers) covers damage in the stroller itself, but not anything that might be caused by use.
The wheels on the B-Agile are hard rubber tires that can handle flat surfaces really well, and even do decently on gravel, especially if you lock the front wheel to keep it from swiveling. Still, you're not going to go off-roading with this stroller. Some users say they jog with this stroller, but the manufacturer says it's not designed for that.
The seat is wide (Schultz calls it "huge" and says the stroller works great all the way up to preschool age and beyond) and the cushioning is soft and doesn't feel cheap—especially compared to Graco and Chicco strollers, which are popular budget brands that use materials that feel very synthetic and plasticky. The canopy for shade coverage is large, and you can purchase an attachment to make the stroller work with most major car seat brands. Other major selling points: the recline is "infinite," meaning you can adjust it to any position, the buckles are secure, and while there's a one-foot-braking system, there's no rear-axle in the way for those with long strides to kick.
It's not perfect; no stroller is. The handle is not adjustable, while other strollers allow you to raise or lower the handle so taller people don't have to hunch over to push. But the B-Agile's handle is high enough that it should accommodate parents of most sizes. Some people, though, aren't fond of the foam handle covering.
There's no tray for parent or baby, however, there is a zipper storage pocket on the back of the seat with room for parent necessities. The B-Agile also has a smaller-than-average below-seat storage basket. You can cram a diaper bag in, but not much more. At $190, you only get the basic stroller, and any accessories—like trays —you'll pay extra for.
You can also purchase the B-Agile as part of a travel system that includes the Chaperone or B-Safe infant car seat, which can work out to a pretty good deal.
For full disclosure, in January 2014, Britax announced a recall of B-Agile strollers manufactured between March 2011 and June 2013 after receiving reports of several injuries caused by the folding mechanism. The company says it can "partially amputate consumers' fingertips, break their fingers or cause severe lacerations, among other injuries, when they press the release button while pulling on the release strap." Britax says strollers produced since June 2013 do not have this problem. If you do own this stroller, you should check the production date on the frame near the right rear wheel and contact Britax right away if your stroller is affected. The company says it will send out a free kit to fix the folding mechanism.
The strengths of the B-Agile serve to highlight the many drawbacks of the competition, with one exception. The City Mini by Baby Jogger is without a doubt the most obvious competitor of the B-Agile, and it's an excellent stroller. There are entire forums on parenting discussion sites like Babycenter.com and TheBump.com that try to figure out the differences between the B-Agile and the 2012 City Mini, and we have to say, they are negligible.The B-Agile is slightly lighter (16.5lbs compared to 16.8lbs) and narrower; the folding mechanism on both is almost identical; the two strollers even look similar. We've held these two strollers up next to each other and have read every single item of description for them, and the only thing we can find is that the Baby Jogger City Mini has a rear axle encasing the braking system that some say can get in the way. And some reviewers think the City Mini fabrics are more durable.
There were other lightweight/convenience stroller that stood out, but just not as much as the Britax B-Agile and Baby Jogger City Mini. Here they are:
- Graco FastAction Fold Sport Click Connect ($170). Highly rated at Amazon and Babies R Us, this three-wheeler weighs 21.5 pounds (almost 5 pounds more than B-Agile), and reviews consistently point out the stroller's heft and bulk.
- Chicco Cortina ($180). Another top-seller, the full-size Cortina packs even more pounds—23 of them to be exact, and the opening to the storage basket is pretty small. Many parents love Chicco's Key Fit infant car seats and buy this stroller as part of a travel system, keeping the car seat and swapping the the stroller down the road for something else.
- Babyhome Emotion ($299). Sure it's super-stylish, lightweight (13 pounds!), narrow, easy to fold, and comes with a rain shield and a bug net, but the canopy is small and fixed, the harness requires rethreading, and the fold requires two hands. Oh, and it's $300.
- Joovy Scooter ($150, for older model; $300 for newer model). The older model is well-reviewed, but not everyone is enamored with the y-shaped handlebars, the tough fold, and the color options (Greenie is downright neon!). The new model switches to a more standard-shaped handlebar, but at $300, the only thing you're really getting that's slightly better than B-Agile is a huge below-seat storage bin and a bumper bar.
What About More Expensive Strollers?
While there are $1,000 strollers, and those can be easily considered way too expensive for a stroller, but many parents think that if they want to splurge on their kid, splurge on the stroller. Think about it: if you use your stroller every day, a $365 stroller only costs you a buck a day to use for the first year. That's not too much.
We've spent a lot of time looking at strollers that are expensive, but not ridiculous–$300 to $600—and there are unquestionably many great strollers in this price range. Strollers that any of us would love to have. But with each stroller, we found ourselves asking the same question: are the differences in quality between this stroller and the B-Agile worth twice the cost? Because if we're paying twice the cost, we want something twice as good, not something that is hardly any better. Because let's not forget, a $365 stroller might cost you a buck a day to use, but the B-Agile only costs you 50 cents each day.
Strollers that are twice the cost of the B-Agile are definitely good strollers. But they're not twice the quality of a B-Agile, they don't have twice the features, they aren't twice as easy to use in an urban or suburban environment. I understand the urge to spend up for your kid, but a few more hundred dollars than the B-Agile is not getting you a huge upgrade. It's instead a minor upgrade, if even an upgrade at all. You might gain one feature, but you'll lose in getting a stroller that's bulkier, or less easy to fold. And besides, there are expensive strollers that are noticeably worse than the B-Agile, like the Inglesina Avio Stroller, which is all looks, and no functionality. Its bright, flashy colors and sleek design are clearly meant to attract attention, but the thing is clunky to fold and very difficulty to put together in the first place. Not at all designed for a parent whose hands are full with a child, diaper bag, car keys, and groceries. But it does come with a pretty hilarious product description: "Unparalleled, made-in-Italy smoothness and effortless thrust, even after long use." Funny, but I'm not paying $424 for it.
The B-Agile by Britax is the best all-around standard stroller because it is a top performer in functionality and quality, and costs much less than any stroller of a similar caliber.
1. "GHRI Investigates: Baby Stroller Safety," GoodHousekeeping.com.
2. "Mom-Tested: Best Strollers," Parenting.com.
3. "Stroller Reviews," BabyGizmo.com.
4. "Ratings & recommended strollers," ConsumerReports.com.
5. "Stroller buying guide," ConsumerReports.com.
6. "Buying Guide: Strollers," BabiesRUs.com.
7. "Baby Gizmo Review: Britax B-Agile Stroller," BabyGizmo.com.
8. "Strollers Recalled by Britax Due to Partial Fingertip Amputation Hazard," Consumer Product Safety Commission, January 2014.
Kim Hays is a former senior editor at Parenting and Babytalk magazines currently working as a freelance writer and wrangling her elementary-school age twins.