Baby products conglomerate Dorel takes a divide and conquer approach to its stroller offerings. In mass-market discounters like Walmart, Dorel sells travel systems under the brands Cosco and Safety 1st. For chains like Babies R Us, it sells more upscale versions of its strollers under their Eddie Bauer brand. Finally, at the top end, Dorel uses its European sister brands (Quinny, Maxi Cosi) to sell strollers in specialty stores and upscale chains.
Since Quinny and Maxi Cosi are marketed as their own separate brands, we review them separately. Below is a review of Cosco, Safety 1st and Eddie Bauer. (Trivia note: Cosco stands for Columbus Speciality Company, after the company’s home base in Columbus, Indiana).
The models. Cosco’s divides its strollers into two groups: umbrella and full feature models. The low-end umbrella strollers called Comfort Height are sold in discount stores for $14-$20 and are about as bare-bones as you can get—no canopy, no basket, etc. These are disposable strollers best suited for travel.
The full feature strollers include the Lift & Stroll ($70 as a stand-alone model, $104 as a travel system with Cosco’s infant car seat). The key feature of this stroller: lift a center strap and the stroller folds quickly.
Cosco’s strollers are bare bones but try to hit all the basics: the Lift & Stroll has a basic canopy, parent tray with two cup holders and a decent size basket. There is a simple three-point harness on the Lift & Stroll, not a five-point as seen on more expensive strollers.
Eddie Bauer travel systems include the full-feature Origin and QuadTrek strollers, as well as the tri-wheel TriTrek. Most of these travel systems (sold with the SecureFit infant car seat) are in the $200 to $250 range. New in the past year is the Alpine stroller travel system, which comes in three and four wheel versions, both of which sell in the $250 range. The Alpine features an extendable canopy, parent tray with cup holders and height adjustable handle.
Finally, let’s take a look at Safety 1st, which offers the most strollers in the Dorel/Cosco family, ranging from $23 umbrella strollers emblazoned with Disney characters to $250 travel systems.
Safety 1st’s marquee stroller was the AeroLite LX, which is combined with the OnBoard Air infant car seat to make a travel system $210 to $260). This model appears to be discontinued but is still available online.
New in the past year is the Amble Quad stroller, which is very similar to the AeroLite. It features a curved frame, compact fold, multi-position canopy and seat recline. The Amble is sold as a travel system with various Dorel infant car seats for $150-$200.
Also new is the Safety 1st Step & Go ($250), which has a similar quick fold as the Cosco Lift & Stroll mentioned above. Of course, the Safety 1st version is upgraded with nicer seat fabrics/padding and fancier canopy.
Our view. Let’s be honest here—Cosco, Eddie Bauer or Safety 1st strollers are far from “best in class.” Sold on price and paired with Cosco’s middling infant car seats, these travel systems are aimed at folks on very tight budgets who can only spend $100 or so on a stroller and car seat. Yes, this is a book on bargains, but what we have here is a case where the cheap is cheap.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with those bargain basement $20 or $30 Cosco umbrella strollers—they are designed to be disposable. But when you cross $100, spending that much money on one of these strollers borders on the absurd. “Disappointed” is the most common parent comment . . . and that’s putting it charitably.
Folks soon discover why these strollers are sold so cheaply . . . wheels that squeak, canopies that break, low-end fabric, baskets that are either too skimpy or hard to access.
Take the Safety 1st Aerolite, for example. Parents tell us the strollers’ vaunted one-hand fold/step-up is a pain to use in real life (the stiff release mechanism frustrates users) and design goofs like the wider rear wheelbase cause the stroller to get caught in tight spaces at the mall.
The fold on the new Cosco Lift & Fold (and its upscale sister, the Safety 1st Step & Go) is an improvement—but when folded, these strollers are still quite bulky. They’ll take a good amount of trunk real estate.
Bottom line: Cosco disappoints. Unless you are picking up one as a steal on Craigslist, we suggest skipping these strollers. Baby Bargains Resale Rank: Poor. Rating: C+