By Michelle Chapman, Associated Press
Choosing a stroller, when it can cost anywhere from $30 to $1,200 and more, can be as daunting as buying a car. Some families end up buying two or even three strollers before they find one they like. Here are practical tests and other steps to take to cut the uncertainty and save money the first time around.
Start with you: Match the stroller to your lifestyle — or that of the family you're buying for, recommends Alan Fields, co-author of “Baby Bargains.” Many feature-loaded strollers will lose their appeal the first time you're forced to change plans because you can't fit your stroller onto a bus or the subway — no matter how prestigious the brand. Generally, urbanites will want a lightweight and compact buggy for navigating congested sidewalks and public transit, while suburbanites may prefer a “travel system” — a stroller that comes with an infant car seat. For hikers and parents who cope with slushy sidewalks and ice several months a year, an all-terrain stroller with hand brakes may be essential.
Testing, testing: Just as you would test drive a car, you should try strollers in real-life situations, especially when buying one used.
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Wear flip flops so you can test whether the foot brakes require hard shoes to set and release. And check that the stroller slips easily into your car's trunk, especially if you have a hybrid with a big battery, says Cindy Lewis, founder of Adviceforbaby.com.
Above all, because putting down the baby is sometimes out of the question, a stroller that takes two hands to unfold should be out of the question.
Shop around: It's always a good idea to compare prices but especially for strollers, whose prices can vary dramatically depending on the type of retailer, season and other factors.
Once you've narrowed your search, be sure to check online and call a variety of stores for their prices. But also ask the manufacturer when new models will hit stores because many retailers will discount the old ones significantly, even if the difference is just in color.
Also check children's consignment shops. And remember online exchanges like Craigslist and your area's parent network, such as MomsCharlotte.com, can be great sources of gently used baby equipment for a small fraction of the retail price.