A Dad’s guide: A 4-wheel or 3-wheel stroller?

3-wheel or 4-wheel? All-terrain or Mall-terrain stroller?

It’s easy to get confused with all of the different types of strollers available. We found it hard to distinguish between a 4-wheel and a 3-wheel stroller. It can be intimidating and hard to know where to start. I’ll use Netflix to create a metaphor for the problem. There are a million great things to watch but when you get there, you don’t know what to choose.

3-wheel stroller all-terrain tires @jennymackenzie

sport – Photo credit: @jennymackenzie

A stroller – the ultimate purchase

It happens after you’ve purchased a changing table, a nappy bag, and have hired a baby car seat. The baby shower was successful in accumulating onsies and bright coloured toys. And the nursery is decked out with enough modern surveillance gear to keep the white house safe. I love it how sophisticated a baby-monitor is. Ours is high definition, ultra high frequency with a 4k display – made purely for watching the baby sleep! I digress. Now it’s time to tackle the stroller – the penultimate purchase for your brand new small human.

“A stroller is a statement piece that shows the world what type of a person you are” – my wife’s friend.

These were the wise words from the baby sage. She has 3 children already so it’s important that we take her advice.

3-wheel stroller all-terrain tires

sport – Photo credit: @nn_photos

So, where do I start?

You have to figure out what type of lifestyle you are going to lead. The problem with this is that once baby has arrived, everything you have ever known is going to change (for the better) forever. I had to take a deep soul searching journey and think long and hard about what type of parent I was going to be. It took many hours of figuring out what activities I would be keeping, and others I would be ditching.

The Mrs on the other hand, had other ideas. She wanted the big shiny one featured in all of the magazines.

We decided that the best way to go about choosing a stroller was look at the options and weigh up the pros and cons. My job was to figure out the function. After a bit of googling, I found the pragmatic approach here was to break it down into 2 different categories:  4-wheel and 3-wheel stroller.

The Mrs job was to think about the form. It was a good deal really, function first, form second.

I wanted, in no particular order:

  • Build quality
  • All-terrain
  • A good fold
  • Smooth riding

She wanted, in this order:

  1. A nice aesthetic
  2. Easy to clean fabrics
  3. Decent storage

Looks aside, it was important that we established the fundamental differences between a 4-wheeler and a 3-wheel stroller. That was my job. Present the options and then she would ultimately get the final decision. This is what I found.

A 3-wheel stroller is good for all-terrain variances

A 3-wheel stroller is usually good for bumpy stuff. In America they call them ‘joggers’, in the UK ‘prams’ and in New Zealand and Australia they call them ‘buggies’. It’s the larger wheels that make them better for all-terrain activities. The confusing thing that I found was that no two all-terrains are the same. The wheels were different. There are all-terrain strollers with plastic-ish wheels and all-terrain with rubber tires. I tried both of them. The result you ask? Well, the plastic-ish ones, or ‘aerotech’ are a bit bumpier and I found the push on them wasn’t quite as good as the rubber air-filled tires.

The 3-wheeler tire variances

As I found out ‘plastic-ish’ was a crude term that was completely inappropriate. There are real names for them and they all have a legitimate purpose. phil&teds have ‘aeromaxx’ and ‘aerotech’ variances that do not need any pumping or treatment. No punctures or maintenance at all. It’s purely 3-wheeler heaven right out of the shop. These types of tires were great for concrete jungles, suburbia, and any places that didn’t require any heavy duty navigation. Where they fell over was where you actually need to watch your footing. Like on bushwalks, nature trails or any sort of trail walking environment.

For me, air-filled tires are the business. They definitely fit our lifestyle that’s for sure. I tried out so many 3-wheelers that the only real distinguishing factor was how easy they were to push. Almost all of them were all-terrain, or could at least handle themselves with mild all-terrain activity. The strollers with air-filled tires were all much easier to push. They were also smooth, with almost no bumps jarring the buggy at all. I felt completely confident in a 3-wheeler, air-filled tire, all-terrain stroller being able to easily handle our walks along the Hutt river.

3-wheel stroller all-terrain tires @nn_photos

sport – Photo credit: @nn_photos

A 4-wheeler is good for mall-terrain

I heard the term ‘mall-terrain’ mentioned by one of the retail attendants and was immediately confused. ‘Mall-terrain’- what is this term? I consulted the phil&teds Parenting Dictionary and the definition was:

“Mall terrain: a tiled environment usually found in a mall. It’s not rugged enough to justify a full air-filled tire and not quite 100% smooth. It results in clicks under-wheel that speed up as your shopping intensifies”

As a man, mall-terrain is the opposite of what I wanted in a buggy. I only make half of the decision so I had to look into it.

4-wheelers come in so many different varieties it was scary. They are by far the most common stroller available in any retailer. What struck me the most was that they are smaller than their 3-wheeler stroller counterparts. Their wheels are smaller too. The biggest difference between the 3-wheeler and the 4-wheeler from my point of view was the push. A 4-wheeler harder to push than a 3-wheel stroller with much bigger wheels – even more so a 3-wheeler with air-filled tires.

4-wheel stroller mod @fivelittlebirds

MOD – Photo credit: @fivelittlebirds

There were places where a 4-wheeler stood out. They were solid and very stable. A comment that stuck with me from the Mrs was “I’d feel safe fitting my shopping into this”. That was the call of the day. It makes sense to me that a balanced 4-wheeler platform will be more stable in general. My wife isn’t the hugest shopper in the world though. Well, she values being active over going shopping. What does this mean? She relaxes by getting out and about and enjoying the scenery – she’s a bit of an amateur photographer.

A 4-wheeler stroller simply wasn’t going to suit to our lifestyle.

What was it then?

We chose an all-terrain 3-wheel stroller

This was the style that trumped everything on the day. I pitched my case to the Mrs and she agreed. It fit our lifestyle and was pragmatically a good choice for both of us. She then went ahead and chose a stroller that was on both of our ‘yes’ lists.

3-wheel stroller all-terrain @teamrichey

sport in graffiti – Photo credit: @teamrichey

We purchased a phil&teds sport stroller.

More posts from A Dad’s Guide:

Christmas with a baby

Thanksgiving travel hacks

Shopping for a portacot

Fathers Day

Mothers Day

Easter Weekend

A dads point of view


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