pushchair guide

My 6th pushchair – the Baby Jogger City Versa

Those of you who know me a little bit will know that I am a bit of a pushchair geek.

I recently bought a(nother) pushchair as my last one was knackered and I counted it was actually my 6th pushchair in 5 years and 2 kids. oops! It is an amazingly important purchase, even if you intend to wear your baby (which I will write about another time), it is very handy to have a pushchair (or two).

When you are first pregnant and you start looking at buggies it is a complete minefield. Not only are prices variable – from about £25 for a cheap Asda stroller through to over £1000 for the full works of the top brand – but there are so many things to consider, many of which you have no idea how you feel about. On top of that, you do some research and think you find one that has the features you like and the price tag to match, and you go and try it out in John Lewis and you hate it.

You will use your pushchair many times a day from birth through to when your child is 3 or even 4 years old. Once they start walking around on their own there are still  often times when you don’t have time (school run of older child), patience (it is pouring with rain), or too much shopping to do it all on foot.

Your pushchair is a bit like your handbag. You store all your personal and useful items in or on it – handbag, keys, phone, coffee, baby change bag, emergency snacks, raincoat, coat, spare clothes, shopping, – the list is endless.

So what should you consider when you are shopping around for a buggy? What things seem important when you are pregnant but actually don’t really matter that much once baby comes, or in fact what just doesn’t occur to you until your child is a bit older?

I have tried to distil the 10 key things that I think you should consider when looking at pushchairs to give you a bit of a starting point. It is by no means any substitution for actually trying it out in a shop, or even borrowing a friend’s for a day to see how you get on.

I would also not leave it too late in your pregnancy as it is hard to properly test drive it with a bump. But also it is advisable to buy it as close to your due date as possible as the warranty starts as soon as you get it so if it is in a box in the attic for 6 months it is sure to break just after the warranty ends!

10 Key things to consider when buying a pushchair

1. Cost

Cost is obviously going to be a huge factor. And there are many imitation pushchairs that are based on the top designs but at a much cheaper cost. Figure out your budget, and add £100 just for good measure! Remember you may use this pushchair 1000 times in the baby’s first year and every penny you spend will be worth it.

2. Overall Size & weight, size of seat

Look at the dimensions of the open pushchair – particularly the width. Will it fit through your front door? How much space will it take up in your house – where will you store it? (It is a fantasy that you will unload it every time and fold it up – this thing will live in your hallway or front room for the duration. Accept this and move on!)

Also look at the folded dimensions – will it fit in the boot of your car? Some stores – such as John Lewis in Reading – will let you park your car nearby and see if it actually fits before you buy it.  This is a Very Good Idea.

3. Travel System or Stroller?

Think about what the main use of your pushchair will be? Will you need to transfer the baby from the car to the pushchair a lot? If so then a travel system is a good idea. Baby should lie flat for the first 6 months so if the seat doesn’t lie flat you will need to get a carry cot. Many Maxi-Cosi car seats do fit with the big brands of pushchairs (often with an adapter) so bear this in mind when choosing.

4. Seat

Does the seat lie down flat (see point 3)? How far does it recline? Does it have fixed recline positions or variable? Is the seat upright enough in the top position?

Do you want the seat to be parent-facing? This is really lovely in the first 18 months or so but usually comes with a price.

How big is the seat back – will it fit your child as they grow older? It has become clear in my recent research that very few pushchairs now have seats that will accommodate a child bigger than 2 years old.

Also worth looking at the hood – does it cover the whole body? Would it protect the baby from the rain or sun? But can the child also see out? Most come with a raincover anyway but sun protection is also a consideration.

5. Basket size and accessibility

This seems a small thing when pregnant but when the baby turns into a toddler and you are carrying around not just a changing bag but space clothes, emergency food, soft toys and other activities, and still leaving room for at least a basket of shopping then you want to have a nice big basket, but with good access. Having a huge basket but a small gap to get things in an out of is REALLY ANNOYING.

6. Folding

Does it fold up without having to dismantle it? Is it easy to fold up? Can it be done with one hand or would you have to put everything (baby?) down on the floor to fold it?

Is it easy to unfold as well? If you were a bit stressed, say on the bus, with a screaming baby and a bunch of bags, would you be able to get it open quickly? Does it store easily on its side or soes it have to be leant on something or be flat?

7. Break

Breaks tend to vary quite a lot. My preference is a full break bar that you can kick on and off easily without looking. But some have buttons, or a break for each side, or one on the handle – try it out and see if you like it.

8. Wheels

Firstly, solid Vs, pneumatic? Obviously the former are better as they don’t puncture, but the latter have more give on bumpy surfaces. Larger wheels are more stable and go up curbs more easily, smaller ones not so much, but fine for town pavements.

Second, 3-wheels or 4? A 3-wheeler is better on rough ground or even off-road, but they are a bugger to steer on slanted pavements. 4-wheelers have much more stability for those pesky slanted pavements and I have not yet found a reason why not to have 4 wheels (I loathe 3-wheelers but that’s just me!)!

Finally, how does it handle? Does it feel light and responsive or slow and clunky? What is the turning circle?

9. Handle bar

Pushchairs either have one single handles that goes across the whole frame (most bigger brand pushchairs) and some have two separate handles (most strollers). Separates are good for handing stuff off the pushchair but that’s just about it. A single bar gives much greater freedom of movement and will allow you to push one-handed, especially on pesky slanted pavements.

Some of them are quite flat and some very rounded – I think the flatter ones are more comfortable especially if you have suffered wrist pain or carpel tunnel – but it is not a deal-breaker!

Some buggies also have an adjustable handle – making it longer or shorter, or swivelling higher or lower. This is useful if you are your partner are very different heights, or you are shorter or taller than average. Not a dealbreaker for me but for some people it is essential.

10. Double or single?

Nobody who is pregnant for the first time can even conceive of another baby, and if you are a pushchair geek like me will happily buy another one when no. 2 comes along! But it is worth considering if you plan to have another baby within 3 years of the first one. Some pushchairs convert into a double quite easily but you might only buy that model if you were already in that mindset.

So there you have it – my opinion on the things that are important when buying a pushchair. A really great website for reading reviews on just about every pushchair there is is BestBuggy.co.uk. it has official reviews and also user reviews and it a very good place to get the inside story.

And finally, don’t get scared. Have fun!!!! And I am happy to talk at great length to anyone about pushchairs so if you need more advice just give me a ring!

So what pushchairs have I had?

To start off with I had an iCandy Cherry which I dearly loved and only parted with as it practically fell apart (well, it wasn’t that bad but I needed a change!). Having said that the newer models are really awesome and I might not buy this if I got a new one today. I then bought a little Mamas & Papas Kato Stroller to leave outside nursery and to have a small one that easily folds small and can be chucked in the boot for holidays etc. It was a little tank and lasted much longer than I ever thought.

But When I had babyzang 2 I needed a double so I automatically bought a classic double Phil & Teds Explorer and I have to say I completely and utterly loathed it! It isn’t made any more and I am sure the newer models are better, but by God I hated that thing. So I sold it and bought an Out ‘n About Nipper. It was a side-by-side double that was actually too big to get through my front door (still better than the P&T) and served its purpose well. Until Babyzang 1 kept on dropping off to sleep in it so I sold that and went back to my beloved iCandy with a Lascal buggy board.

But it was getting a bit trashed and rather than spend the money on fixing it I decided to get a different one. After much research I opted for a Mamas & Papas Sola which was a really nice pushchair overall. I didn’t feel quite as much love as the iCandy but it gave me everything I needed and the one gripe with the iCandy (hard to access the basket) was not a problem with the Sola. But then I got fed up of having a huge pushchair block up my narrow Victorian Hallway so I went back to the Kato Stroller for a bit until it was so hard to push that it was easier just to carry Babyzang 2. She was now 2.5 and nearly walking so I needed a new pushchair but knew it was only going to be for 6 or so months until she learns how to walk 500 metres in less than half an hour.

So I finally settled on a Baby Jogger City Versa – the 4-wheel, parent-facing version of the classic Baby Jogger City Mini. It is a really lovely buggy and although it is really heavy and hefty, I am very pleased with it (although would have preferred a different colour).