Quality and safety should be held as the highest priorities when choosing any product used to facilitate child transportation, so always place value above the price in this department.
While finding bargain deals on certain products can be wise, I’ve found that cutting corners to save money on a travel system for your baby might not be a great idea.
With that said, here’s what you need to know about judging the value of a car seat stroller combo:
Advantages of a Car Seat and Stroller Combo
The primary benefits of any travel system are convenience and enhanced compatibility. In addition to these obvious advantages, here are some more specific perks that I found to be desirable as a parent:
Smoother Transitions — Car seat/stroller combos prevent you from having to unfasten your baby from their car seat and then refasten them in the stroller. If you have ever had to disturb a little one just to resettle them in the stroller afterward, then you know how much of an inconvenience it can be. With a combo travel system, the transition is as easy as detaching the car seat from the seat base and clicking it onto the stroller base.
Quicker — Removing your baby from a car seat and placing them in a stroller can take 1-3 minutes on average, during which time you are stuck bending over in uncomfortable positions fiddling with buttons and straps, plus dealing with the tantrums that these unnecessary disturbances often cause.
Protect your Baby from the Elements — Speeding up the transition from seat to stroller not only saves time but also keeps you from having to expose your baby to cold, rainy, or otherwise unpleasant weather conditions. With an easy-to-use travel system, you will be able to keep your child warm, dry, and cozy when transferring them from seat to stroller.
A Single Cost-Effective Purchasing Decision — Instead of having to shop for a car seat and stroller separately, browsing through dozens of different models to make two separate purchases, consider opting for the best car seat and stroller combo you can find. Aside from saving time and simplifying the shopping process, many times, a combo deal will also be more cost-effective.
How to Choose a Car Seat and Stroller Combo
Step 1: Decide on a Stroller Type
Since most car seats are very similar in their appearance and features, I wound up basing my own buying decision primarily on the look and features of the stroller side of the combo.
There are three main types of strollers included in a typical travel system:
4-Wheel – This type of stroller is often easier to fold up, stands better on its own when folded, and is generally more stable on uneven terrain. However, the enhanced stability and ease of folding comes at the cost of less maneuverability.
3-Wheel — This type of stroller has the best maneuverability, can turn corners sharply, and is easier to steer with one hand than other types. Many “3-wheel” strollers actually have a total of 4 wheels, except the front two wheels are arranged as a single unit to form a tricycle-like frame.
Jogger — A jogger stroller is simply a 3-wheeler with larger wheels and a more aerodynamic frame designed for higher speeds.
Step 2: Compare the Top Brands
Although feature sets and aesthetic appeal will vary depending on model and price range, in general, you can expect quality travel systems from any of the popular brands like Chicco, Graco, Evenflo, Britax, BOB, Safety 1st, Summer Infant and Baby Trend.
Out of the above brands, personally, I’ve had great experiences with Chicco, Graco, and Evenflo.
You’ll probably find that Graco has the widest range of products to choose from, with high-end options as well as cheaper models, while brands like Chicco and Britax are more strictly geared towards the luxury crowd.
Step 3: Know What Features to Look For
After deciding on a stroller type and becoming familiar with some of the top brands, the next step in my comparison was examining functionality to determine which features I value most:
Infant Insert for Smaller Babies — If you absolutely demand the best car seat stroller combo, an infant insert is a must. After all, you might as well ensure that this investment will be useful for all of your kids in the future, regardless of age group.
Energy Absorbing Foam — Included in both the car seat and stroller to help mitigate the potentially damaging effects of an impact or jolt.
Impact Absorbing Base — A great safety feature to have in the car.
5-Point Safety Harness — Provides optimal head, neck, and body support. Look for models that have convenient latches and buttons.
Thick and Comfortable Padding — The best combo travel systems typically have more padding than their cheaper counterparts. Look for models that include plenty of padding for your little one's comfort.
Convenient Folding and Attaching Mechanisms — Be sure to research or test the folding mechanism before buying. If quick and easy folding is a must for you, look for models that advertise one-hand and/or one-second folding.
I have noticed that oftentimes you can learn more details about the features of a specific model by examining real customer reviews in addition to the basic product description.
With that said, here is a quick review of the five best, in our opinion, car seat and stroller combos on the market:
Britax B-Agile 3 Travel System
This 2016 release stroller model has steel components that make it of the most sturdy and durable options. However, it is surprisingly lightweight for its size.
It does not have a parent tray on the handlebar, but you can buy the Britax Stroller Organizer that is available separately. Otherwise, you just have to hold your drink yourself.
The car seat in this combo has Britax’s SafeCell impact protection system. Which combines an extra-stable steel frame with energy absorbing components to mitigate side impacts.
- 3-wheel steel frame with excellent maneuverability.
- One-hand quick folding mechanism.
- Innovative design.
- Extra safety features.
- Stroller seat does not adjust fully upright.
- No parent tray or cup holder.
Chicco Bravo Trio System
The name Trio comes from the system ability to convert into three different modes, which accommodate the different stages of your baby growth.
In the first mode, the stroller can function as a car seat carrier for infants, using the canopy to shield the baby and face them towards you.
In the second mode, the stroller serves as a baby stroller with the car seat attached but facing forward.
In the third mode, it can serve as a standard toddler stroller without using the car seat.
The all-wheel suspension gives it a smoother ride than most 4-wheelers, and it is said to be more maneuverable than similar competitors as well.
- All-wheel suspension.
- Quality canopy material keeps your baby dry and safe as you stroll.
- Stands up by itself when folded and is surprisingly compact.
- Modern frame design.
- One-hand fold.
- Convenient parent tray with cup holders and items storage.
- Some owners have complained about the car seat being bulky.
- There have been complaints about the canopy not opening and closing smoothly.
Graco® Relay™ Click™ Connect
This 3-wheel jogging stroller is equipped with pneumatic tires in the rear and a thick swivel wheel in the front and can comfortably handle moderate jogging speeds.
I found the suspension system to be remarkably responsive. Even on relatively rough terrain, the cabin gently bounces around as you pass over rocks, dirt, grass, and anything else that a reasonable parent would jog over.
Folds up quick with what Graco calls one second, one-hand fold. It might take a few tries before you can literally fold it up in a second., but I’ve found that it is actually possible with a bit of practice.
Includes the well-known Graco SnugRide car seat, which has plenty of padding and cushioning for extra comfort.
- All-terrain suspension.
- Fast one-hand fold.
- Reflective materials for improved visibility and safety.
- On the large side when folded.
- Latch connectors are somewhat difficult to operate.
Baby Trend Expedition System
This lightweight jogging stroller is equipped with bicycle-like tires that provide a smooth ride even on rough terrain.
Additionally, has a parent and a child tray both with two cup holders.
The stroller seat stays relatively upright even in the most reclined position, which might not be ideal for smaller infants who are not yet able to sit up and hold their head on their own.
The car seat is well known for its safety features, such as the flexible base and energy-absorbing materials.
I like the trigger folding mechanism because it really is a simple one-hand procedure. In the same say, the canopy closes and opens swiftly.
- Great value for the price.
- Large pneumatic tires.
- Large canopy.
- Easy one-hand folding.
- Reflectors provide extra visibility in low light conditions.
- A bit too wide and may be difficult to maneuver in tight spots.
Evenflo JourneyLite Travel System
If you are on a tight budget, the JourneyLite™ is one of the lightest and most affordable travel systems you’ll find.
It might not be the fanciest travel system but is so lightweight that you can actually travel with it. The frame is sturdy and is easy to fold and store in the car.
Thes 4-wheel design provides great stability while retaining great maneuverability because of to the flexible front swivel wheels.
The included Embrace™ car seat meets all applicable safety standards and is very light to carry around.
- Unbeatable value in this price range.
- Very lightweight.
- One-hand fold.
- Convenient for traveling.
- Not designed for rugged terrain.
- Quality is not on par with the pricier models.
Our pick is the Britax B-Agile 3 because of its innovative design, extra safety features, and overall quality. Next up is the Chicco Bravo for similar reasons.
Our second choice is between the Graco Relay and the Baby Trend Expedition. These joggers have big wheels which mean they can easily stroll on any terrain from snow to beach sand. However, are too big to fly comfortably with.
For those of you who are on a tighter budget, or are into something light to take on a trip, the Evenflo Journeylite would be our choice in that department.
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