Bugaboo. It’s Dutch for “priced as if from a hotel mini-bar.”
The models. Here’s an unlikely recipe for success in the stroller biz. Take a Dutch-designed stroller, attach an $800 price tag and voila! Instant hit, right? Well, chalk this one up to some creative design, marketing, and a dash of good timing.
Bugaboo’s breakthrough success was the Frog, named as such for its small wheels in front that give it a frog-like look. The Frog (now discontinued) was a clever hybrid of an all-terrain and carriage stroller, pitched to parents for its multiple uses. The Frog was comprised of three parts: an aluminum frame and bassinet that could later be replaced by a stroller seat (included with canopy and basket). It weighed about 20 lbs., which is rather amazing. (Although discontinued, used Frogs can still be found online on Craigslist, eBay, etc.).
Oh, and we forgot the fourth ingredient of a Bugaboo stroller—hype.
The Bugaboo folks were in the right place at the right time. How did the Bugaboo become so hot? Sure, it was fashionable, but that doesn’t quite explain it. Nope, the answer is Bugaboo had one of the great product placements of all time . . . it was the featured stroller on HBO’s Sex in the City. The rest is stroller history. In no time, celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow were swishing their Bugaboos across the pages of People magazine. The Bugaboo was the first baby stroller to cross paths with the white-hot supernova of celebrity product placement.
Cleverly, Bugaboo also played on its Dutch design roots . . . even though (shhh! don’t tell anyone!) Bugaboo strollers are made in Taiwan, not Amsterdam.
Bugaboo’s flagship stroller, the Cameleon (20 lbs.; pictured), runs $1100—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 than switch for an older baby), air-filled tires and reversible independent seat. The stroller also has adjustable wheel suspension and a height adjustable handlebar.
The most current version of the Cameleon is the Cameleon3 (C3 for short). Improvements from the last version include an easier fold (with one-hand!), a larger storage basket with lid, quick release front wheels, improved brake and new mosquito net accessory. Oddly, Bugaboo is also touting the C3′s “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.
The Cameleon is available in two configurations: a base model (basic stroller) or a “complete version” (with bassinet, rain cover and under seat bag) for $1270 retail. And there are various special editions featuring designer fabrics for $1360.
The Bee 3 ($570, 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.
A recent refresh of the Bee 3 included the ability to add an optional bassinet ($260), an extended canopy, larger storage basket and new all black frame (in addition to aluminum).
For nealry $600, y0u’d think Bugaboo would throw in a canopy and seat pad for the Bee . . . but then you don’t know Bugaboo. The nifty new extended canopy is an extra $80. The seat pad (four colors) is another $70. So the Bee 3′s actual price is $700+ as you see pictured at right.
Bugaboo’s first double stroller is the unfortunately named Donkey ($1279, 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, $250). Yep, 40 lbs. before you add your kids!
The Bugaboo Buffalo (26.2 lbs. $1000-$1180), 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).
The most recent addition to the Bugaboo line is a jogging stroller frame 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 $400 or as a complete system with seat for $750.
FYI: Bugaboo also sells a raft of accessories for its strollers such as cup holders (What? You thought that would be included?). Example: $45 car seat adapters that let you attach most major brand infant car seats to the frame. That cup holder is $25; parasol $45; footmuff $130.
Our view. So, given all the hype around Bugaboo, you might be asking: is a Bugaboo stroller worth it?
When you walk into a baby super store, no doubt you’ll see Bugaboo in a marquee position in the stroller department. The brand is positioned as the BMW of strollers . . . yes, it is more expensive than other options, but does the engineering, design and cache make it worth the price premium?
No, not in our opinion.
We will give Bugaboo credit for innovation—the brand’s flagship multi-function model with reversible seat spurred a luxury stroller market boom in the past decade. But Bugaboo slumped when the economy hit the recession of ’08-’09 . . . and never quite recovered in recent years. While economic headwinds no doubt cooled the desire for $1000 strollers, some of of damage to Bugaboo has been self-inflicted.
The company’s notorious slow and arrogant customer service is Exhibit One. 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).
Quality issues have also dogged Bugaboo (plastic parts that break, inflated tires that go flat and so on) and that’s on top of some of the built-in design hassles of the strollers, particularly on the Cameleon. In 2011, Bugaboo recalled Bee strollers in UK for defective wheels. Do recalls and quality issues happen with other stroller brands? Yes . . . but at this price level, you’d expect near perfection.
Readers gripe that the assembly and folding on the stroller takes too darn long. To fold a Bugaboo Cameleon, you must first remove the seat—that’s a major pain, especially for folks who live in the suburbs and plan to fold it up frequently to fit in a trunk (and you’ll need a big trunk). Hence, setting up the Bugaboo requires re-attaching the seat to the frame. Sure, this takes 30 seconds or so, which isn’t forever—but about 25 seconds longer than most strollers. While most strollers advertise a one or two step fold, the Cameleon requires four steps!
The take-home message: a Bugaboo is probably best for urban dwellers or folks who don’t plan to frequently disassemble and throw it in a trunk. (The Bee is an exception—it is easy to fold and set-up).
Fans of Bugaboo love the strollers’ smooth steering, ride and suspension. The multi-function aspect of the Cameleon also earns kudos, although this has been matched in recent years by the UPPAbaby Vista and Baby Jogger City Select. And while we think the Donkey’s amazing expandable frame is a key innovation, the $1200+ price tag for this stroller is just too steep.
Despite kudos from hardcore Bugaboo fans, we aren’t sold on this brand. The price premium Bugaboo demands is simply too much given the above concerns. (On the other hand, one upside to Bugaboo—they do have great resale value).
If you want a multifunction stroller, 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 $700+. Save $500 and get a Baby Jogger City Mini instead. Baby Bargains Resale Rank: Excellent. Rating: B