The Insider: How to get a handle on the basics of buggies

The average parent spends more than £600 on pushchairs and car seats, so you'll want to make sure you don't end up buying a buggy with wayward wheels. Not only do they come in a confusing array of shapes, sizes and styles, they can also be called all sorts of names; from buggies to strollers to travel systems.

"It's easy for first-time parents to be drawn to fabrics and design, mistaking pushchairs that look good for the answer to all their baby-transporting problems," says Martyn Hocking, editor of Which?. "But parents need to think about safety, durability, stability, and how they'll cope with everyday activities such as strolling along pavements, negotiating steps, using public transport and being stored in a car boot."

Pramettes are pushchairs with a seat that converts into a pram-style body that a baby can lie flat in. They are therefore ideal for newborns, who need the back support of a fully reclining pushchair, but they can be bulky because they're designed to do two different jobs.

The simplest, lightest buggies or strollers are little more than a chair on wheels, though heavier models offer features such as a rain cover, reclining backrest and hood. They're ideal for day-to-day use, compact, and easy to transport, although some aren't suitable for newborns as they don't recline far enough, and many aren't ideal for bumpy ground.

Travel systems and combination pushchairs can be used with a car seat and/or pram body and are ideal if you use your car a lot as it is easy to transfer your baby in and out. They tend to be larger and more expensive than ordinary buggies though.

All-terrain pushchairs usually have three wheels with chunky tyres, and will provide a smooth, comfortable ride on rough ground for babies older than six months. On the downside though, they can be heavy, bulky and difficult to use on public transport.

One of the best strollers that Which? has tested is the Chicco Multiway, which, at around £100, is rated as "exceptional value". It's suitable to use from birth due to the reclining seat and head support, and testers praised it for being sturdy, nimble and easy to use and to lift. On the downside, it's quite long and doesn't fit lengthways in the boot of a mid-sized car.

The Bugaboo Bee was the best scoring travel system, and impressed Which?'s testers as it was comfortable to push, easy to manoeuvre, sturdy and practical. The seat reclines to five different positions, but the maximum recline is 145 degrees, which is slightly below the 150 degree recline that is best for newborn babies, and there is no leg rest. It's a pricey, but stylish, choice at about £370.

Where to buy

It's essential to try out a pushchair before buying. Stockists include major nursery chains such as Mothercare, Babies 'R' Us and Mamas & Papas, chain stores like Argos, Boots and John Lewis, major supermarkets, and local independent nursery stores. If you're considering a second-hand pushchair, a good place to start is a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) nearly new sale, where you can try before you buy.

You can check where to get the best deals on a range of baby products including pushchairs at www.which.co.uk/babyequipment

Questions to ask...

How comfortable is it?

Test drive to find a model that's comfortable. Look for height-adjustable handles, which are angled to support a natural wrist position, and brakes that are easy to apply but don't protrude or obstruct your feet.

How easy is it to manoeuvre?

Check how easy it is to move in a tight space, do a complete about-face, tip backwards to mount kerbs, and change direction abruptly. If you use public transport regularly, pick a lightweight and easy-folding pushchair with a one-handed fold mechanism.

How easy is it to lift?

Some larger pushchairs can be very heavy, so if your local terrain or daily routine features lots of stairs and kerbs, consider buying a lighter-weight pushchair. Lifting some pushchairs from the car boot can also be a challenge.

Will it fit in your car?

Measure your boot opening and check you can fit the pushchair and all its accessories in before you buy. Most pushchairs are between 95 and 115 cm long when folded – but Which? has found it hard to fit pushchairs longer than 105 cm into a medium-sized car such as a VW Golf or Hyundai Accent.

What extras does it come with?

Some come with rain covers, sun shades and cup holders.

The Insider is written by Which?, the independent consumer champion. For more information go to www.which.co.uk/pushchairs. To get three issues of Which? magazine for a special price of £3, call 01992 822800 and quote INADVICE.

theinsider@independent.co.uk

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