How to choose the right buggy or pushchair

Forward or rear facing? Swivel wheels? Travel-system compatible? We talk you through all the options you need to consider when buying a pushchair

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Does it need to be travel-system compatible?

A buggy that’s travel-system compatible means that a car seat can be attached to it. Some travel system packages include a buggy, car seat and even a carrycot, but you can also buy a pushchair and a compatible car seat separately (though only certain car seats will fit certain buggies). There are different ways the car seat can attach to the buggy – some simply click on, while others require special adaptors. 

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Pros

  • Perfect for short trips out with a newborn when you’re using a car and then walking with the buggy
  • If your baby falls asleep in the car you don’t have to wake him to bring him into your home or transport him in the buggy
  • Can be pricey but offers convenience and flexibility
  • Can leave car seat in car for storage

Cons:

  • Can be more expensive, although there are some budget travel systems available
  • Travel-system compatible buggies tend to be bulkier than standard buggies. You may find that within a couple of months, you long for a lighter pushchair
  • You’ll need to fit your car seat into your vehicle each time (this can be made easier with an in-car base or easy-to-install car seat choice)
  • The buggy you like may not take the car seat you think is the safest
  • Unnecessary if you don’t travel by car

Our buyer’s guide to travel systems will take you step by step to help you find the right one for you.

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Does it need to be forward AND rear facing?

Which way your baby faces in the pushchair has become a hot topic in the past few years. Research in late 2008 suggested that parent-facing (rear-facing) buggies could help your baby’s development, as it encouraged increased interaction with your baby. 

Of course, if you’re a parent who would naturally interact a lot with your baby, then this is not something you’ll need to worry about. However, if you’re someone who would like to see, smile and talk to your newborn while you’re pushing him, then you may want to consider a rear facing buggy.

Once your baby becomes older, he’ll get nosey and will no doubt want to look at what’s going on around him. So having an option for both is a bonus, and there are now a number of pushchairs on the market that offer two-way facing.

Pros

  • It’s an opportunity for you to see and interact with your baby while walking along – great if your baby is regularly in a pushchair 
  • It’s good to have the flexibility of changing the way your baby or toddler is facing, according to what you’re doing or what your needs are

Cons

  • Dual-facing buggies can be more expensive, heavier and bulkier to fold
  • For some models, changing the direction can be a bit of a faff. You may have to detach the seat from the chassis, physically turn the seat around and slot it back onto the frame. However, some pushchairs, such as the Graco Symbio and Mothercare Spin, have an easier mechanism, where you simply move the handle.
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Do you need swivel wheels?

Swivel wheels constantly change direction depending on the way a buggy is pushed and are great if you live in a town or plan to do a lot of shopping. The alternative is to buy a buggy with fixed wheels that only move in one direction, which is great if you want to take your buggy off road or you plan to travel long stretches on straight roads in one direction.

Pros

  • Improve manoeuvrability
  • Deal very well with changing direction to avoid obstacles, such as people or shopping aisle displays

Cons

  • Need to be constantly steered, so can be hard work
  • Can struggle to move the buggy where you want it to go, as the buggy can follow the direction of uneven ground, like a supermarket trolley

Many buggies now feature “lockable swivel front wheels”. This is where you have swivel front wheels that can be locked so they act like fixed wheels when you need.

With lockable swivel wheels, bear in mind the following:

  • Fixed wheel buggies are designed with minimal weight distribution over the front wheels for better steering, whereas the weight distribution on a swivel wheel buggy is higher, so when you lock a swivel wheel it is more difficult to steer.
  • When you lock a swivel wheel it is never entirely straight, so you will always get some curving.
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Do you need a carrycot?

A carrycot is a box-shaped baby bed with handles on either side, which can be positioned flat inside a buggy for a newborn to sleep. There are lots of buggies available that are designed to be suitable from birth. Before you buy a carrycot, check if your buggy has a seat that can recline to a lie-flat position and ample padding, so you don’t waste money. If you have a pram/buggy with a pram unit that can be attached to the frame, you won’t need a carrycot, because they do the same job.

Pros

Cons

  • Takes up extra storage space
  • Not all carrycots can be collapsed, so can be bulky
  • Only needed for a short time
  • May cost extra on top of the buggy’s price tag
  • Needs a separate firm mattress to use for sleeping (the one it comes with isn’t suitable for overnight use)
  • Time consuming moving the carrycot on and off the buggy
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Do you need a large shopping basket?

The shopping basket is located underneath the buggy and the size of it can vary greatly depending on the model you choose. In days gone by the basket was usually rigid metal and was quite cumbersome, as mums often pushed their baby to the supermarket. Nowadays, most people have access to a car, so the basket under a buggy is generally smaller and made from fabric.

Pros

  • Great for storing shopping if you opt for a bar handle, where you can’t get shopping bags over the handles (NB: buggy makers don’t advise you do this!)
  • Carries between 2kg-5kg
  • Good for carting various baby or toddler kit on outings

Cons

  • If most of your shopping makes it home in your car, a big basket isn’t needed and you compromise seat size
  • Shopping baskets, regardless of size, can be hard to access under the buggy’s seat
  • Not many are big enough to hold more than the food for your evening meal, so don’t hunt for a shopping basket with visions of doing your weekly shop!
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If you’ve chosen the buggy you like and the shopping basket size is too small, you can buy pannier bags, mesh bags or buggy hooks to hold extra shopping, but be careful not to overload your buggy and never leave it unattended with shopping hanging off, as it can tip backward.

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