High end stroller showdown

Nov 20, 2009 at 1:30 a.m. ET

Is it worth it to buy an expensive stroller? Between umbrella strollers, double strollers and travel systems -- the choices can be overwhelming. Amazon lists about 800 different models. Your local baby superstore might have 200 of those in stock -- which means you could spend hours, days, or even weeks agonizing. Our Stroller Showdown here at SheKnows gives you a fighting chance of choosing the best buggy for your baby in under an hour.

Quinny Buzz, the Teutonia, and the Micralite Toro

The background

Ten years ago, when my first baby was born, I bought a no-name stroller and never used it. My daughter was a tiny thing, and I was very into the sling. I wore her everywhere until I was too pregnant with her sister. Then I wore the new baby, and the first one walked. Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and I found myself pregnant with baby number five and really wanting a stroller.

I started paying attention to the strollers I saw around the neighborhood. Some were fancy, aerodynamic contraptions that made me wonder if couples took out stroller loans, like car loans. I saw ordinary umbrella strollers; I saw bulky travel systems with carseats installed for infants.

On my next Target run, I stopped by the baby section -- and stopped cold. There were so many choices, and I had no idea where to start. The thought of entering a store devoted solely to baby products was even more daunting -- how many more options would they have? The idea for the SheKnows Stroller Showdown was born, if you will, from my own panic and desperation. 

The setup

We invited stroller manufacturers to submit their wares. We explained that our reviews would be honest -- because that's why you trust us. And then, we distributed strollers and a detailed questionnaire and list of assignments to parent testers.  Check out the results of the umbrella stroller challenge and the double stroller challenge here.

The results

Turns out -- you should probably sit down for this -- there's no one stroller that's perfect for every baby and/or parent. Who knew, right? But we did find that within categories of strollers, you can find winners and losers.

We started by looking at some high-end models. We narrowed our choices in this category to the Quinny Buzz, the Teutonia, and the Micralite Toro. Here's what we discovered:

Price: These strollers range from around $450 to well over $750. At the lower end of the range, you won't get accessories like an infant carrycot, which means you won't be able to put your newborn in these carriages until he's at least 3 months old -- unless you buy the car seat adaptor piece. If you spring for the pricier package, you'll get the carrycot as well as some other possible pieces, which lets the stroller grow with your child's changing needs over time.

Style: If you're looking for a stroller with flair, these models fit the bill. They look fantastic! All three models are sleek and modern; you can actually configure your own Teutonia online, by choosing the chassis, wheels, and seat style you prefer. The color and fabric choices are nice, and they've stood up well to stains.

Safety: Of course, a major concern for parents is stability. These three models are stable, for the most part. One Buzz tester remarked when cornering, "one of the rear wheels tended to do a 'wheelie' and lift up in the back." None of her kids fell out, but she still found it "disconcerting." In addition, the rear wheels of the Buzz are significantly wider than its seat, so if you have a toddler walking alongside the stroller, the rear wheel might catch her heels or run over her foot.

Maneuverability: All three models handle exceptionally well, on a variety of surfaces. "It's like a Cadillac," said one tester of the Buzz. The Teutonia and the Toro also push smoothly, on inclines, over grass and gravel, and on uneven sidewalks. And all three strollers handle well in narrow spaces. You can adjust the height of the handles on the Buzz and the Teutonia, but not on the Toro.

Ease of use: The Toro has a simple one-handed fold and can be easily loaded and unloaded from a car, as can the Teutonia. But testers agreed the folding the Buzz "needs a Ph.D in engineering." And the complexity of the Teutonia's straps left testers frustrated, and even after several months, it still takes "quite a bit of time" to buckle a child in "because of the complexity in the way the straps buckle."

Convenience features: None of these strollers has an activity bar or a single cup holder. You can buy these as add-ons, but when you spend this kind of money on a stroller, you expect to have a place to store a sippy cup, as one tester pointed out. And although the extreme maneuverability of these strollers makes it easy to push them around stores, even in narrow aisles, none of them has a basket large enough to hold any purchases. "I can't even fit my purse in the basket," said one Toro tester.

Testers estimated the value of these strollers in the $250 range, on average. When they found out the actual prices, they were surprised and said they wouldn't pay that much for these carriages, knowing what they know now.

Next page: The verdict - Who wins the stroller showdown?

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