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Pushchairs buying guide: What to consider before you invest

Can't decide whether to splash out on a travel system? Unsure what to get for a newborn? The Unmumsy Mum explains the confusing world of pushchairs and prams

Sarah Turner
Wednesday 29 May 2019 16:14 BST
Rex Images
Rex Images

Choosing a pushchair sounds simple enough. You just need to work out what brands you like the look of, what your budget is and then pick one suitable for the age of your child (or children) in question, right?

That’s certainly what my husband and I assumed when we first went pram shopping a little over five years ago, only to discover that we had stumbled, completely underprepared, into a minefield of chassis weights, seat recline angles and customisable colour pack options.

Listening in on the conversations around us (“Could you tell me whether this one is compatible with the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix car seat and is it a one-step fold?”), we soon realised that the other more diligent parents-to-be had spent hours doing their research and the panic purchase we subsequently made, based almost entirely on our budget and its “nice grey hood”, would probably never have happened had we invested a little more time considering what we wanted from our pram and how long we would need it for.

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Pram vs. Pushchair vs. Buggy – what’s the difference?

I was originally under the impression that pram, pushchair and buggy are essentially just different terms for the same thing. However, if we’re getting technical, a pram is designed for newborns or younger babies up to around six months old and is usually parent-facing (a modern upgrade on the old baby carriage), whereas a pushchair is more likely to be geared towards older babies and toddlers, tends to be forward-facing and may also be referred to as a stroller. “Buggy” tends to refer to the lightweight collapsible frames - often less than 5kg, whereas many pushchairs are upwards of 10kg. Buggies are generally cheaper but less likely to be your everyday option (I tend to think of buggies as being the sort you see whizzing around the baggage reclaim carousel at the airport).

Rex Images

What type of pram do I need for a newborn?

Newborn babies should lie flat in a pram as this protects their backs, assists with breathing and is considered much healthier for their overall development than being scrunched up at any kind of angle. This tends to mean that a chassis with a carrycot (a bit like the pram version of a Moses basket) is where babies start, though there are a range of seat reclining pushchairs now that enable 180-degree-lie-flat seat positions. As a general rule, a maximum recline-angle of anything less than this is not suitable until the baby is between three and six months old.

How much should I spend on a pushchair?

This depends both on how much you want to spend and how long you will be using a pushchair for, but you could be looking at anything from £300 to £2000 (unless you’re buying second-hand, where there are some cracking deals to be found).

Many brands now offer pram and pushchair combinations where you will get both a carrycot and a seat unit plus the necessary adapters, which can then be interchanged on the same chassis. Though you will almost certainly pay more for a combination package or a “travel system” (the latter includes the baby’s first car seat plus adapters so you can slot the seat straight onto the frame), it’s worth bearing in mind that combination packages will last you from birth until around the age of three and possibly even beyond, depending on your child’s height and weight. A cheaper option at the outset may just mean you need to buy the next one up in six months’ time.

What features should I look out for when buying a pushchair?

Most brands offer models better suited to urban over country living and vice versa so it’s a good idea to consider where you will be doing most of the pushing and how big your boot is. If you are intending to take the pram off-road, you’ll probably want to suss out the models with all-terrain features and if you’re a regular public transport user you’ll no doubt be less worried about how the pushchair copes on rough ground and more worried about how easily it’ll fold down in rush hour. If you’re a runner and want to combine pram-pushing with your usual exercise you might want to opt for a jogging stroller, which alongside being suitable for your park circuit also doubles up as an everyday option.

Jogging stroller, Rex Images

You may also need to think about older siblings or, if this is your first baby, whether or not you think it’s likely you’ll be having any more children before your new baby is out of the pram stage. With some pushchairs, it is possible to buy a second attachment for subsequent children and of course if you have babies very close in age, or twins, you’ll need to go for a double buggy option from the outset, in which case you’ll need to consider whether you want them to sit side by side or one in front of the other.

In terms of the nitty gritty of the pushchair specification, it definitely pays to test drive (or test push) a few different models if you can. How easy is it to manoeuvre? How robust does it look? Are you looking for a reversible seat unit (so your baby can be either rear or forward facing)? Is it easy to fold down and store, both at home and in the car? Are the brakes easy to operate and does the pram feel secure when stationary? Could you attach a buggy board to the back of it to aid tired toddler legs in future? What’s the overall wheel width of the pushchair and will this fit through your hallway? (Not a stupid question, speaking from experience).

One thing my husband had problems with when we test-pushed a few was finding adjustable handles that would extend to his reach. At 6ft 3in he’s not a giant by any means but still found that several of the “adjustable” handles left him stooping even when fully extended.

What pushchair accessories do I need?

If you’re lucky, you will receive most of the accessories alongside the pram itself but if not there are certainly a few things you will want to get hold of. A rain cover or hood is a must and you may also want a sun parasol if there is no built-in shade (some come with a UV sunshade and insect net as part of the hood). If it’s cold you might want a fleece lining and/or a footmuff and many parents buy clip-on toys for the bumper bar – we found these to be useful not only to keep the baby occupied but also to easily identify which pram was ours when parked up among a sea of others.

Are there any pushchair laws or legislation that parents should know about?

All prams and pushchairs should have a safety label to show that they comply with the relevant British Standards of safety requirements and test methods for wheeled child conveyances - BS EN 1888: 2012 or BS EN 1888: 2003, if you’re wondering. But if you’re buying from a retailer or a reputable brand, this label will always be there.

One thing it is worth bearing in mind – and this is less about legislation and more about safety guidelines – is that if you do purchase a travel system it is not recommended to keep a baby in the car seat for prolonged periods of time. Though it is handy to have the option of attaching the seat to the pram’s frame, particularly if you’re just nipping somewhere quickly, the general advice is

that car seats are designed for car journeys and shouldn’t be somewhere your baby is left to nap noting that it’s safest for them to sleep in a flat position. Some manufacturers recommend a two-hour limit even on journeys, so it’s just something to bear in mind.

Pushchair maintenance

Much the same as a new car, a pram will often start off looking clean and shiny but soon become a mud-encrusted eyesore with rice-cake crumbs in the folds. If you’ve forked out a small fortune for the travel system of your dreams then it’s probably worth reading up on the advised maintenance tips as some brands will recommend seat-cleaning products and tyre inflation guidelines. We’ve always found that brushing the mud off the wheels and giving the straps a once-over with a baby wipe seems to do the job, though that might explain why our pram no longer looks very sparkly.

Sarah Turner is The Unmumsy Mum. Her book is out now.

Pushchairs reviews

Now it’s time to pick the pushchair. Get some inspiration from IndyBest’s top picks.

Mothercare Genie Pushchair: £314, Mothercare

  • Reversible seat
  • Easy to manoeuvre
  • Works on and off road
  • Smooth ride for baby
  • Converts into a travel system
  • Can be lie-flat for newborns or sit-up for toddlers
  • Second seat available if you need to turn it into a tandem pushchair
  • Fairly heavy

Buy now

Bugaboo Runner: £469, Mothercare

  • Extremely easy to run with
  • Good suspension system
  • Secure storage
  • Parent-facing seat option
  • Handlebar has second break feature
  • Comfy and safe for baby
  • Suitable for babies from nine months

Buy now

Joie Aire Twin: £119, Argos

  • Lightweight
  • Dual wheel suspension
  • Reclining seats and adjustable leg rests
  • One-had fold
  • Can use from newborn to 15kg

Buy now

Silver Cross Avia: £199, John Lewis

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to recline and fold
  • Rollable hood with UPF50 ventilation
  • Padded straps
  • Cosy footmuff
  • Can be used from birth to 20kg

Read all our pushchairs reviews

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