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20 October 2020

How to buy the best pushchair

Find out what makes a good pram for a newborn baby and what to look out for in the best toddler pushchairs. Read our pushchair shopping tips to help you avoid the pitfalls.
Best pram and pushchair buying tips
HF
Hannah Fox

Finding the perfect pushchair, travel system or stroller for your little one requires you to make a number of decisions.

To help you on your journey, we look at the features that matter the most: safety and durability, your baby's comfort and portability. Below we've rounded up three of our recommended Best Buy pushchairs for different budgets, along with useful tips on shopping for a new pushchair.

Three of the best pushchairs

Looking for even more options? Take a look at our best pushchairs to find and compare all the models we've tested and recommend.

Best Buy pushchairs

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86%
Best Buy
£399.00
Reviewed

This four-in-one travel system pushchair claims to have a one-hand fold and seat recline, plus soft-wheel suspension for a comfy ride for your baby or toddler. Read the full review of this pushchair to find out if it really can deliver on these promises, as well as survive our tough structural and safety tests

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86%
Best Buy
£500.00
Reviewed

This travel-system compatible stroller that’s suitable for use from birth claims to offer a smooth ride and compact fold that makes it an ideal choice for travelling. Did our expert testers at the lab agree? Read our review to find out how it fared.

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82%
Best Buy
£364.65
Reviewed

This compact, popular, all-terrain pushchair can be used with an optional car seat or carrycot. It features a one-handed folding mechanism and the brand is a popular playground favourite with parents, despite being around for a while.

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Table last updated October 2020.

Video: How to buy the best pushchair

Watch for our tips on what to look out for and the pitfalls to avoid, whether you're buying a new pram or a toddler pushchair.

How much do I need to spend?

Pushchairs vary enormously in terms of cost. You can spend anything from less than £100 to more than £1,000, but in some cases you'll be buying a desirable name and fancy fabrics rather than a practical pushchair that's easy to use and push.

In a Which? survey (March 2020) of 1,500 parents with children under the age of five, the average spend was £378. The majority of parents (39%) spent between £101 to £450. Some of the more expensive brands of pushchair include iCandy, Stokke, Bugaboo and Silver Cross.

We've found Best Buy buggies from as little as £150, so you don't necessarily have to spend a large amount to get an excellent stroller. 

Best pushchair features to look out for

Small niggles and frustrations will become very annoying when using your pushchair on a daily basis, so choosing the right one is essential. 

Before you splash out, read our pointers below to avoid a dud.

Reversible seat: Many parents like to have their new baby facing them to maintain eye contact, so a reversible seat is a good feature. This means you have the choice to keep them parent-facing while young, then world-facing when they're older.

Adjustable handles: Being able to easily adjust the height of the handlebars will make it much more comfortable for you to push, especially if you're a different height from your partner or anyone else using the pushchair. Separate handles, common on strollers, tend to flex quite a bit when pressure is applied, but we safety test them to ensure they comply with the British Standards for handle strength. A handle bar can be a more comfortable option, but a surprising number of bars are oval or square shaped and can become uncomfortable to use after a long period of time.

Suspension: If you're going to be heading to the park, across gravelly car parks or out for country walks, then your baby will get a more comfortable ride with decent suspension.

Shopping basket size: Capacity varies from 1kg to as much as 15kg, but the average pushchair shopping basket can hold 4 or 5kg. Look for a basket that has sturdy sides and good access, even when the seat is reclined. Additional storage pockets around the pushchair are also useful.

Padding: Prams that have extra padding, such as a head hugger, will help to keep your baby supported and snug in their new pushchair.

Swivel wheels: Swivel front wheels rotate to move in any direction with very little pushing and pulling and they make it easy to manoeuvre on normal ground, but they can make it harder to navigate across rougher ground or gravel. For the best of both worlds, choose a pushchair with swivel wheels that can lock, so you can turn this feature on and off depending on where you are going.

Uninterrupted stride: Probably not the first thing you'd think of when choosing a pram, but check you're able to walk with the pushchair using your normal stride. Also make sure you don't scrape your shin on a rear axle, brake bar, shopping basket or any other accessories.

Backrest recline: The angle of the recline on the backrest of your pushchair is important because newborns can't support their own weight and need to be in a lie-flat position. The best pushchairs for newborn babies are those with a recline of 150 degrees or more on the lowest setting. Some recline mechanisms are smoother than others and the best ones can be operated with one hand and are easy to use, even with the weight of a child in the seat. Recline options include a lever, buttons, a back bar and a strap or drawstrings. The latter two are usually the hardest to use.

Folding: An easy-to-use folding mechanism is essential. You'll be folding the pushchair day in and day out, so try this out before you buy and avoid pushchairs where you need to remove accessories before it can be folded. Many pushchairs come with claims of having a one-handed fold, but our tests prove that reality can be very different.

Brake pedals: The best have large pedals that are clearly labelled, easy to apply and effective. Watch out for brake pedals that stick out as these can catch on stairs and a bar connecting the brakes as that can obstruct your feet when walking. Look for flip-flop friendly brakes that you can press on and off to avoid scraped toes or shoes. 

Size and shape: Bulky and heavy pushchairs can be hard to push, lift and generally manoeuvre. A good pushchair can be big without being difficult to use.

Leg rests and leg support: Smaller children who can't reach the foot rest often end up with their lower legs hanging off the end of the pushchair seat in mid-air. An adjustable leg rest provides good calf support, and usually have between two and six positions to help keep your toddler's legs comfortable. 

Travel-system compatible: All the benefits of a pushchair, with the option of using a car seat on it. Travel systems, which you can use with a Group 0 or Group 0+ car seat, are a good choice for regular car users, as you can transfer your baby from pushchair to car without waking them up. Just bear in mind the current safety advice that babies shouldn’t be confined to their car seat for longer than two hours.

Buying a newborn pushchair or baby pram

Not all pushchairs are suitable for a newborn baby. Before you set your heart on a Bugaboo or an iCandy, check whether the seat is suitable from birth or if it can only be used by babies over six months old.

Newborn babies can't support their own weight when they're so small, so they have different needs from older babies and toddlers. It's important they lie flat in order to support their developing spine and allow them to breathe easily.

The best three options for a newborn are: 

  • a from-birth seat: one that reclines to 150 degrees or more
  • pram format: some pushchair seats can convert to a pram by unclipping or unzipping the fabrics
  • a carrycot: it's best for babies to sleep on a firm horizontal base, so if you’re expecting to use the pushchair for lengthy daytime naps, or whole afternoons in the park, choose one that can take a carrycot. Most pushchairs come with a carrycot option, which attaches either straight on to the seat or using adaptors.

It's best to wait until babies are around six months old, or when they start to sit up on their own, before you use a pushchair seat in its most upright position.

Buying an older baby or toddler pushchair

Pushchairs with bucket seats have a fixed angle, so they're only suitable for babies older than six months. This is the usually around the age a baby can start sitting up on their own and supporting their own weight.

When you recline a pushchair with a bucket seat, the angle your baby is held in doesn't change, and you're effectively only tipping them back. Some experts believe this isn't the most comfortable way for your baby to sleep.

Travel systems with multiple seat-recline positions are suitable to use from birth with the seat in its lowest position (or if you use a carrycot). Older babies and toddlers can then use the seat in its most upright position. Our tests check the ergonomic support given at each stage for every pushchair we review.

A stroller, or buggy, is a lightweight and basic version of a pushchair. Some can only be used with older babies (more than six months) and toddlers, as they don't recline far enough to be suitable from birth. But there are some models, such as the Babyzen YoYo and the Silver Cross Reflex, that you can use with an accessory pack to turn them into a from-birth pram.

Pushchair buying tips for any age

  • Try before you buy: Always try a pushchair before you buy it, either in the shop or borrow a friend's, so you can get a proper feel for how it handles and folds, and and whether the storage is really adequate.
  • Don't leave it too late: Trying out pushchairs with a large bump can be tricky.
  • Check how heavy it is: A lightweight buggy can make life easier for getting on and off buses or carrying it up a flight of steps, for example.
  • Make sure it will fit in your car boot: Our pushchair and pram reviews tell you which models will fit in a standard-sized family car, and with how much room to spare.
  • An older design might save you money: Pushchairs are subject to fashion. Patterns, designs and materials regularly change, so last season's designs can often be found cheaper.
  • Check what's included in the price: You can only make meaningful price comparisons once you know what accessories are included. For instance, you might need to pay separately for a rain cover with some models, and some travel-system pushchairs charge extra for car-seat adaptors.
  • Add it to the gift list: Some baby shops and online stores, such as Mamas & Papas, operate a baby-shower gift list service along the same lines as a wedding list. This means you can ask friends and family to chip in for the pushchair you've set your heart on.
  • Buy now, pick up later: Some retailers will let you buy your pushchair, then hold on to it for you until nearer your due date, to save you space at home.
  • Plan ahead: If you're thinking of having more children in the future, opt for a single-to-double convertible pushchair, which will allow you to easily change it from a single into a double buggy.

Should I buy a second-hand pram or pushchair?

There's a sizeable market for second-hand pushchairs if parents want to save some money. Very often they're sold via local Facebook groups, on eBay, Gumtree or Shpock – our 2020 survey of 1,500 parents found 38% will sell their pushchair via an online marketplace when it's no longer needed. Or, you may be able to buy one from a local mum's group, friend or family member. There may even be one going for free on Freecycle.

If you go down this route, it's better to buy it from somewhere that lets you inspect it before you hand over your cash. Look for 'collection only' sales. You should also check or look over the following:

  • Seat padding, hood and basket Check for any areas where the stitching might be coming loose, or for any tears or holes.
  • Wheels Depending on the age of the pushchair, those wheels could have seen a fair amount of use, so take a look to ensure they're not coming loose or appear rickety. If the pushchair has pneumatic tyres, are there signs of cracking of the rubber near the rims? And does the pushchair come with its own pump? It's worth taking the pushchair for a quick circuit to make sure the wheels are aligned and it steers well.
  • Chassis frame Run your eyes (and hands) over the frame of the pushchair to check for any cracks that could be a weak spot over time, or any dents that might affect the smoothness of the fold.
  • Folding and unfolding Is it easy to fold and unfold? Have a few tries to make sure you feel comfortable with the mechanism and ensure it doesn't get caught at any point.
  • Brake Make sure the brake still holds the pushchair securely, particularly on a slope.
  • Additional accessories The pushchair might come with a raincover or bumper bar, so make sure it's included. Ask the seller if they also purchased any additional accessories that would go with the pushchair including a carrycot, footmuff or car seat adaptors.

Is it safe to buy a second-hand pushchair?

The safety risks from purchasing a second-hand pushchair or pram are far less than those for a car seat. However, it's definitely worth checking if the model you have in mind has been subject to any product safety recalls. You can do this by visiting the Trading Standards website

You should also take a look at our Don't Buy pushchairs to check if it's included there. Many of our lowest-scoring pushchairs have failures with strength and durability, which could be a warning sign if you're buying it second-hand.

Now find the perfect pushchair for you by checking out our pushchair reviews.

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