Choosing a pram or stroller

Fun on wheels ... finding the right stroller will benefit the whole family.
Fun on wheels ... finding the right stroller will benefit the whole family. 

As a pram or stroller is usually one of the most expensive items new parents purchase, it's important to ensure that your baby pusher is just as safe and practical as it is aesthetically appealing. Here's what CHOICE recommends you look for when buying this big-ticket item.

Safety
Always look for strollers and prams certified to the Australian standard, AS/NZS 2088:2000. Mandatory pram features are wrist tether straps, with a label warning the adult carer to use it, that will help reduce the chance of your stroller rolling away, and red brake pedals/levers so they’re easily seen and more likely to be used.

Other key safety features to look out for include:

  • linked, foot-operated brakes on both rear wheels, so the left and right brakes can be activated by a single action rather than applied individually. Test the brakes by applying them, then push the handle to see if the stroller moves. Foot-operated brakes save you bending down, but make sure your feet fit under them easily; some need to be flipped up from below. Low-lying pedals may also interfere with walking
  • a five-point harness: this includes two shoulder straps (attached to the backrest at shoulder level), waist straps and a crotch strap. The waist straps in particular should be securely linked to the stroller’s frame so the child can’t lean out and tilt the stroller. Give the harness a tug to check the seat doesn't pull away from the frame. The straps should be adjustable to allow for growth and the buckles easy to use (for you, not your child). The mandatory standard allows harnesses without shoulder straps, but CHOICE believes a five-point harness is the best option
  • protruding parts that can hit your child’s head, or small parts that can detach easily and pose a choking risk
  • gaps that could trap fingers – yours or your child’s
  • sharp edges or points
  • a child-resistant mechanism for locks
  • stability: is the stroller stable enough not to tip easily?

Functionality
Choose features that may make you or your baby more comfortable, such as:

  • an adjustable backrest that can move to at least one semi-reclined position. Most of the strollers on test have backrests that recline flat (or nearly flat) and so are suitable for babies under six months
  • a reversible seat or handle that lets you choose whether your child sits facing forward or facing you
  • a detachable front bar your child can hold onto when seated upright (this can also serve as a barrier)
  • a footrest that reduces the likelihood of injury through your child's feet touching the ground or getting caught in the front wheel
  • an adjustable handle that can be adjusted to a comfortable height to suit different users
  • a canopy that can be extended to provide shade or shelter for your child. Some also have a viewing window so you can still see your child when it's extended
  • a storage basket or tray under the stroller for carrying things such as nappies, baby food or shopping. Some have a pouch behind the seat or other small pockets where you can keep small items

Practicality
When thinking about which pram will be best for you and your family, ask yourself: What kind of pram fits our lifestyle best?

Three-wheelers tend to be wider, longer and heavier than four-wheelers, and are usually heavier too. But they’re usually easier to push around, due to larger wheels (which are often on bearings so they pivot easily) and inflatable tyres that help absorb the bumps. However, this easier manoeuvrability can also make them more likely to roll away if left unattended. They can also be more prone to tipping, particularly when turning corners or mounting a kerb.

Four-wheelers, especially umbrella types, are not just more compact when in use, but also generally fold into a smaller package, so they can be a better option for public transport. Some models have two small wheels at the front and two large wheels at the rear, which can provide some of the advantages of both types — the stability of a four-wheeler with the manoeuvrability of a three-wheeler.

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Swivelling front wheels make manoeuvring easier, but it’s useful if they can be locked for travelling at higher speeds or over rough terrain. Large wheels tend to be better on kerbs and stairs; inflatable wheels can puncture but generally give a comfier ride. Check the instructions for the recommended tyre pressure, and use a manual pump; service station pumps are too powerful for small stroller tyres (as one reader discovered to their cost when using a service station pump caused their Phil & Teds stroller wheel to shatter).

Also make sure you can fit the pram into your car - before buying, measure it to make sure it fits into the boot without needing to remove the wheels. You should also try folding and unfolding it in the shop to see if you can carry it comfortably.
 
Accessories
These items aren't usually included with your stroller purchase, but may be useful:

  • a hand-operated tyre pump for inflating tyres
  • a leg cover attachment you can pull over your child's legs in cold weather
  • a clear plastic sheet, used as rain cover, that can be draped over the stroller
  • a mesh insect cover to protect your child from nasties
  • a removable liner, which can provide additional comfort, and also help support smaller babies
  • a matching nappy bag that can fit with the design and shape of your stroller

CHOICE stroller review
CHOICE tests strollers for safety, durability and ease of use. The current CHOICE report has test results for 99 strollers, priced from $99 to $1599, including 12 newly tested models. The latest test results show that price and style don’t always add up to the highest level of safety and durability.

CHOICE has made the move to test and base its recommendations on the latest version of the stroller standard, AS/NZS 2088:2009. Unfortunately not many manufacturers have done the same. Of the 18 new models that were tested to the 2009 standard, only three are recommended, and one is worth considering. But you don’t need to stop using strollers that CHOICE has previously recommended based on the older standard, as mandatory requirements are still based on the 2000 version.

How CHOICE tests strollers and prams
CHOICE buys strollers in retail stores and brings them back to their lab for a thorough independent test. They focus on durability and safety, assessed against key clauses of the Australian Standard AS/NZS 2088, plus ease of use. See how CHOICE puts strollers through their paces in the video below.


The CHOICE stroller test is based on the Australian standard for strollers, AS/NZS 2088:2009. Our testers, Antonio Bonacruz and Matthew Tung, check various aspects, including harness straps that are adjustable and of adequate length, that the child is securely restrained, that folding mechanisms are safe and secure, and that there are no sharp edges or possible entrapment points for fingers or limbs. They also test the stability of the stroller and that the brakes work well.

CHOICE experts put the strollers on the “rolling road” rig for 64 hours at a speed of 5km/h, as per the Australian standard. Three-wheelers that look like they could be used for jogging are then tested for a further 10 hours at 10km/h, to see how they stand up to faster speeds. All the strollers are also attached to a machine that continuously simulates the action of mounting a kerb. These tests show whether anything breaks, falls off or stops working properly after regular use.

The CHOICE team also checks adjustments, such as reclining functions and the safety harness, and various activities such as loading and unloading the basket, using the brakes and locking the front wheel. They fold and unfold the strollers, push them over rough terrain, up and down stairs and through doorways, and test how easily they fit into the boot of a family car.

For the results of the stroller and pram test, you can visit the full stroller comparison report on the CHOICE website. 

Download your free CHOICE guide for expectant parents, or for more expert, unbiased product tests and information, visit choice.com.au.