Stroller Brand Review: Bugaboo. It’s Dutch for “priced as if from a hotel mini-bar.”
The brand. Bugaboo is the premium-priced stroller brand that launched in the early 2000’s. The company’s flagship multi-function model with reversible seat spurred a luxury stroller market boom that seemed like it would go on forever . . . until the last recession. Since then, Bugaboo’s sales and buzz cooled.
The models. Bugaboo’s flagship stroller, the Cameleon 3 Plus (20 lbs.; pictured), runs $1,239.00—yes, you read that price correctly. The Cameleon’s mojo is a sleek stroller that has a reversible handle (so you can face a newborn then switch for an older baby), air-filled tires and reversible independent seat. The stroller also has adjustable wheel suspension and a height adjustable handlebar.
So why does this stroller cost so much? Beats us. We suppose the allure here is the “Dutch design”—the industrial design feel, tailored fabrics and ergonomics are intended to evoke a BMW or Apple like aesthetic.
Yet unlike Apple products, a Bugaboo stroller has strange quirks that make it user unfriendly. Want to fold a Bugaboo Cameleon to put it in a car trunk? You first have to detach the seat from the frame. No kidding—just about every other stroller on the market folds as one unit, but not this one. What a hassle.
Bugaboo has made a series of improvements to the Cameleon over the years. The most current version of the Cameleon is the 3Plus. Improvements include an easier fold (with one-hand!), larger storage basket with lid, quick release front wheels, improved brake and new mosquito net accessory. Oddly, Bugaboo is also touting the 3Plus’ “refreshed design”, which includes a “more durable chassis.” That seems to be a tacit admission that the previous Cameleon lacked durability, which you think would come standard in a $1000+ stroller.
You can customize a Bugaboo Cameleon 3 Plus to your heart’s content on Bugaboo’s web site with different hood colors, frame options as well as special fabric collections (but you’ll be spending even more in some cases).
We’re happy to report Bugaboo has tweaked the Cameleon 3 Plus to address three faults: gone is the foam that lined the seat frame and always got damaged when it hit the floor. A new exposed metal frame is now standard. The previous draw-string basket that was hard to access is now open. And following the trend of its other strollers, the Cameleon 3 Plus now has more customizable colors and canopies, including a new base stretchy version.
The Bee 5 ($688.88, 20.4 lbs.) is pitched to urban parents looking for a compact stroller. With its narrow width (20”; about four inches narrower than other Bugaboo’s), the Bee has a reversible seat and four-position seat recline.
The Bee allows for the same customization options as the Cameleon 3 Plus: you can change the color of the fabric, frame, canopy and wheels. An under seat storage pocket and improved wheel suspension round out the features.
Bugaboo’s first double stroller is the unfortunately named Donkey ($1,209.05, pictured to the left). The unique feature here is a frame that can expand to accommodate a bassinet, storage basket or second baby seat. In its single or mono configuration, the stroller is 23” wide; for a duo, it expands to 29.” Unfortunately, all this presto-chango goodness comes at a price, both literally and figuratively. The weight of the Donkey is a hefty 32 lbs. as a single and a whopping 40.3 lbs. as a duo (with the added second seat, $201.58). Yep, 40 lbs. before you add your kids!
The Bugaboo Buffalo (26.2 lbs. $749.99), is the company’s first all-terrain stroller featuring foam tires and a one-piece fold(!). The Buffalo features an included rain cover, reversible seat, and is car seat compatible (adapters sold separately, naturally).
Bugaboo finally added a jogging stroller frame to the line called the Runner that works with any of their existing stroller seats. With 16″ rear air-filled tires and a 14″ front fixed wheel, the Runner chassis also has a hand brake, height adjustable handle and is compatible with any Bugaboo stroller. The Runner is sold as a chassis only for Out of stock or as a complete system with seat.
FYI: Bugaboo also sells a raft of accessories for its strollers such as cup holders (What? You thought that would be included?). Example: $41.99 car seat adapters that let you attach most major brand infant car seats to the frame. That cup holder is $24.90; parasol; footmuff $129.95.
And now for some new additions to the Bugaboo stroller line:
Bugaboo Fox ($1,236.00; 22 lbs.): Finally a Bugaboo that folds with the seat or bassinet on the frame. Yep, the Fox now has a self-standing fold with the seat on. But. . . you knew it, there is a ‘”but.” They recommend removing the seat or bassinet if you need a more compact fold for your car trunk. So it’s only sorta good news.
The Fox is a lot like the Buffalo (which we understand will be replaced by the Fox eventually) but lighter in weight and more maneuverable. They’ve placed the toddler seat up higher so baby is closer to you and a bassinet is included. It also has integrated car seat adapters for their Nuna-made infant seat, the Turtle. Like other Bugaboo strollers, the Fox can be customized.
Next up, the Ant. Yes, we’ve exhausted mammal names apparently, and moved on to insects. The Ant is Bugaboo’s lightest weight stroller at about 16 lbs. (The Fox is the next closest in weight at 22 lbs.) You can use the Ant from birth with either an infant car seat–adapters are extra–or with the Bee Cocoon. It is reversible and height adjustable. When facing out, the seat has three recline positions but only two positions when facing in. Stroller Brand Review: Bugaboo
The Ant has a pretty cool compact fold (see picture below) and adjustable handlebar. The all wheel suspension means you get a nicer ride than many other lightweight strollers and the extendable canopy is pretty large. There is a small basket under the seat and a bit of storage on the back of the seat. We really like the ability to pull the stroller along behind like a shopping trolley.
Finally, Bugaboo’s newest stroller is the Lynx ($900). This full-featured stroller is expected to weigh a mere 20 lbs. extending Bugaboo’s trend toward lighter weights. You’ll find it has the usual reversible seat with three recline positions including flat.
The seat will fold on the stroller, but like the Fox, you’ll get a more compact fold if you remove the seat. There is a pedicure friendly brake, adjustable handle and zippered extendable canopy. The Lynx does not come with a bassinet but you can buy it separately. Stroller Brand Review: Bugaboo
Our view. Even if you had the spare cash (or generous grandparents), should you get a Bugaboo?
We say no. These strollers are simply not best in class. Forgot “iconic Dutch design.” Show us quality. What about the new strollers we mentioned: the Fox, Ant and Lynx? These are so new we haven’t had much of any feedback on them yet. But there’s no reason to expect they are better than the existing line.
In fact, with the existing line, our own reader feedback and online reviews are replete with Bugaboo stroller quality problem stories. Example: in 2011, Bugaboo recalled Bee strollers in UK for defective wheels that broke and cracked. Do recalls and quality issues happen with other stroller brands? Yes . . . but when you shell out $800 for a lightweight stroller like the Bee, you’d expect a bit more attention to quality control.
Bugaboo’s notorious and arrogant customer service is another reason to NOT to buy the brand. When you spend this much on a stroller and something breaks, you expect white glove treatment from the company. Yet reader reports and online reviews again and again slam Bugaboo for indifferent customer service, long waits for parts and other hassles. (Example: Bugaboo refuses to honor its warranty for strollers sold through Amazon, say some online reviewers).
This is where the Bugaboo/Apple comparison breaks down. Apple’s excellent reputation for quality and customer service go hand in hand. Someone forgot to tell the executives at Bugaboo that when you sell a $1000 stroller, you should be nice to your customers when they contact you with an issue.
To be fair, we should note that fans of Bugaboo point to the brand’s strong resale value as a major plus. As long as second-hand buyers don’t read too much online about Bugaboo, you can probably sell yours to recoup a good chunk of the purchase price.
And yes, Bugaboo’s fan boys say the strollers’ smooth steering is the best in the business. However, the super-premium prices don’t justify what seems to us to be very small differences in steering and handling between Bugaboo and its major competitors at UPPAbaby, Baby Jogger and Britax.
If you want a multi-mode stroller like the Cameleon, we like the UPPAbaby Vista, Baby Jogger City Select or Britax B-Ready better (bonus: they cost 30%-50% less). The compact Bee is equally overpriced at $800+. Save $550 and get a Baby Jogger City Mini instead. Baby Bargains Resale Rank: Excellent. Rating: C- Stroller Brand Review: Bugaboo