Perhaps you’re wondering:
What’s the difference between a car seat stroller combo and a travel system?
At first glance, they’re pretty much the same in the sense that you’d both be using them in travelling. But that’s not the whole story.
Let’s start with the basics.
A car seat stroller combo, also known as a stroller frame, is simply a frame. Think of it like a skeleton where you snap the car seat onto, forming a stroller. You buy the frame and the car seat separately. Simple as that.
A travel system, on the other hand, is a multi-piece set sold as a package. The set includes a stroller, an infant car seat, and even extra car seat bases and accessories.
|My Top Picks|
|Chicco KeyFit Caddy|
|Baby Trend Snap N Go EX|
|Graco SnugRider Elite|
So why choose a car seat stroller combo over a travel system?
Here are some compelling reasons:
- Less weight – Since you’re buying just the frame, they’re naturally lighter compared to getting an entire stroller system. They don’t have the whole seat mechanism and padding, making them a lot easier to carry, fold, and store. Oh, and less weight means better steering too.
- Flexibility – Some brands make stroller frames that go with their car seats only while some make just the frames. The latter would be a wiser buy since you’ll get the chance to choose the seat you like as long as it’s compatible.
- More economical – Most parents, especially the new ones, aren’t sure what type of stroller to get until the baby comes out. Buying a less expensive stroller frame paired with the car seat of your choice can save you a lot as opposed to buying an entire system that falls behind your needs after a year.
Unfortunately, it’s not all pros for a car seat stroller combo. The biggest downside is its limited usage. As soon as your little one outgrows the car seat, you’ve no choice but to get another stroller.
Good news for you though:
Some of the newer car seats are made to accommodate babies up to 30 lbs, extending the stroller’s usefulness until your child is a year old or more.
Features that are necessary for a car seat stroller combo are as follows:
- Click-in system
- Car seat adapter
- Frame locks
- All wheel brakes
- Metal frame
- Front wheel swivel
- Adjustable canopy
On the other hand, some features that are also nice to have would be:
- A strap-in system to harness the car seat to the stroller frame.
- An adjustable height handle for easier maneuvering.
- A child tray
- A cup holder
Here are some of the pointers that you need to be wary of before getting your baby a car seat stroller combo.
- Frame – Keep it free from sharp edges and protrusions.
- Compatibility – Some frames are only compatible with specific car seats. Make sure that the frame you get works with the car seat you’re using or planning to buy.
- Maneuverability – The frame alone can be a bit clunky to move around. You should be able to move the frame quickly with or without the car seat on it.
- Car seat attachment – Check for any sharp or protruding edges after attaching the car seat. Make sure there are none.
Finally, we go to my top five picks of the best car seat stroller combo or frame (whichever you prefer). The number one spot goes to…
You get a durable, contoured, aluminum frame that folds with one hand. It also stands on its own when folded, so storage is never an issue. You can also expand the already-spacious storage basket so you can take on more stuff while you’re on the go.
Parent console with cup holders? The KeyFit Caddy has that, too!
All that and more for a budget-friendly price tag.
Tall parents? Not a problem. The handlebar of the KeyFit is adjustable up to four different positions. It’s got dual-action brakes, and a car seat installs very quickly and securely with just a click. It’s also one of lightest stroller frame in the market which makes it compact and ideal when you’re on the go.
The KeyFit Caddy is perfect for new parents as a starter stroller. The low price gives you enough time while you decide which stroller you’d like to go with as your little one grows up.
A few cons I found, though, is that:
One, you don’t have options for a different infant car seat since it’s made for the KeyFit or KeyFit 30 only.
Two, the dual-action brakes are excellent, but they tend to make the stroller a bit hard to maneuver.
- Weight – 11.7 lbs
- Age range – from birth up to 22 lbs (for the infant car seat)
- Other brands/models that are worth mentioning too are as follows.
Our top pick has an appealing price already. But the Snap N Go EX? Even more so, coming in at only half the price of the Chicco KeyFit Caddy.
You get the same goodies that it needs to have. There’s the parent tray with two cup holders and a storage basket as well. This lightweight stroller combo is very lightweight too and folds with one hand for hassle-free storage.
Another good thing about this is that it’s compatible with all Baby Trend infant car seats and other known brands as well. In fact, you can choose from the following — Chicco Key Fit 30; Combi; Shuttle 33; Cosco; Evenflo Embrace; Graco Snugride 22 and 35,& Safe Seat 32; Maxi-Cosi Mico; Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 30; Safety 1st on Board 35.
Now that’s a lot of options!
The only con?
You get what you pay for.
Unfortunately, the build and materials of the Snap N Go EX aren’t top-notch. The front wheels are plastic which isn’t ideal if you plan to put a heavy load on it.
- Weight – 14.2 lbs
- Age range – from birth up to 30 lbs (depending on the infant car seat)
If budget is not an issue for you, then look no further. The Bugaboo Bee3 is a stylish, high-end stroller that comes with aluminum frames and four wheel shocks. Not only that, but you also get a removable canopy and toddler seat, foam-filled rubber tires, and a couple of adapters for simple car seat installation.
Ease of installing an infant car seat is its strongest selling point, and it’s compatible with a lot of brands. The best infant car seat combo for it, however, seems to be the Chicco KeyFit 30. Still, feel free to try other brands out there.
The only con, as you might have guessed, is the price.
It’s too expensive compared to most strollers of its kind. But should you get your hands on Bugaboo Bee3, you’ll see that the stroller’s value is well worth the price.
- Weight – 15.3 lbs
- Age range – birth up to 37.5 lbs
The UPPAbaby Cruz is another fine looker we have on our list. It’s so easy to use and works well with most infant car seats too. Please note though, that the best infant car seat for it is the UPPAbaby Mesa.
You get one of the largest storage capacities available together with an extendable SPF 50+ canopy. You’d be glad to know that the UPPAbaby Cruz also one of the few strollers out there that can be used by toddlers too which makes it sound investment.
Cons? Well, it tends to be a little hard to push and turn with quite a heavy load. The handle adjustment button prevents one-hand steering too.
- Weight – 14.3 lbs
- Age range – birth up to 50 lbs
Another contender in the lightweight category is the SnugRider Elite from Graco. It works exclusively with all Graco infant car seats.
It has an aluminum frame and offers a one-hand, standing fold with automatic storage lock. No more bending when you need to keep it somewhere!
All-wheel suspension, a storage bin with a zippered pocket, plus the adjustable handlebar make the SnugRider Elite an excellent buy.
And to top it all, it comes with a parent console with two cup holders.
The fact that it only works with Graco infant car seats only may give you the impression that installation is a breeze. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
- Weight – 13.3 lbs
- Age range – birth up to maximum allowable weight of car seat
So that wraps up our guide in choosing the best car seat stroller combo for your little one.
Overall, what’s most important is the compatibility of the stroller frame to the infant car seat of your choice and the price. Picking what other good stuff to add is a decision you can make later.