NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- If you're stroller shopping, instead of ordering online take the models you're considering for a spin in the store. You'll learn a lot when you compare maneuverability and see firsthand how easy or difficult it is to adjust the backrest, fold, lift and carry the stroller -- even see how well it fits in your trunk, which can be a deal breaker.
From Consumer Reports, here are five key features you should focus on that can help narrow your selection:
The restraint system.
If possible, look for a model with a sturdy harness, which will help keep your baby from slipping out or climbing out when you're not looking. Some strollers offer only waist and crotch straps, but many offer an adjustable five-point harness (two straps over the shoulders, two for the thighs, and a crotch strap), much like those found in car seats. The straps should be height-adjustable for proper fit, and they should be securely anchored. Most are made of thick nylon webbing. Look for buckles on the harness strap that are easy for you to operate but difficult for small hands to unfasten.
The larger the wheels, the easier it is to negotiate curbs and rough surfaces. But big wheels eat up trunk space, so if you have a small car, take that into consideration. Pneumatic (air-filled) tires are relatively new in stroller design. You'll need a pump, which is not supplied with some models. Some manufacturers have created wheel assemblies that can be completely slipped off the frame, which makes it easier to replace a damaged wheel, fix the tire, get it filled and transport the stroller in compact spaces, such as the trunk of a car.
Check that any stroller you intend to buy has a good parking brake, one that's easy to operate and locks one or (preferably) two wheels. Parking brakes on two wheels provide an extra margin of safety. One-touch brakes (a single lever or foot bar that activates both brakes) are a convenient feature.
To protect your baby from glaring sunlight or inclement weather, a canopy is a must-have. Canopies range from a simple fabric square strung between two wires to deep, pull-down versions that shield almost the entire front of the stroller, when necessary, which is ideal. Some canopies have a clear plastic "peekaboo" window on top so you can keep an eye on your baby. A canopy that is reversible (it can be rotated all the way to the front of the stroller) is a handy option, too. You'll use these features more than you think.
Large storage basket.
A roomy, easily accessible storage basket underneath the stroller makes errands with baby much easier. Try to choose one that's at least big enough to accommodate a diaper bag. When shopping for a stroller, press on the storage basket's floor -- it shouldn't drag on the ground when loaded. Make sure you can access the basket easily, even with a bulky item like a diaper bag in there, and when the stroller seat is fully reclined.
By Marshall Loeb