So what's a thrifty shopper to do? Forget all those designer models with upscale names costing $1,000 or more and confine your hunt to the cheap cribs segment, which is dominated by brands such as Graco, DaVinci, Delta, and Dream on Me. Given the current emphasis on child safety, cribs are pretty much all alike but for small differences in design (silhouette, trim), color or finish, and wood type. The research we conducted indicates that parents generally consider the best cheap cribs are value buys that rival, at least in appearance, many higher-end models.
Our search for the best cheap cribs was hampered by the paucity of expert baby crib reviews and the limited number of consumer reviews of models introduced after the 2011 regulations took effect. We also noticed that parents typically post crib reviews either before the baby is born or soon thereafter, so assessments of durability and real-world performance are few and far between. Parents' crib reviews mostly discuss the relative ease of assembly, the condition of the unassembled crib when picked up from a retailer or delivered to the door, and how the crib looks in the baby's room (and whether it matches the other furniture).
Indeed, crib safety is the priority concern. A multitude of recalls have plagued the industry in recent years and in June, 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued more stringen for cribs at all price points. These new regulations are intended to better protect babies and small children from suffocation, entanglement, and injury. The most significant change involves drop-side cribs, the type that let you lower one side to move the baby in or out without having to bend or reach over the rails. The CPSC has now outlawed the sale and manufacture of drop-side cribs; more than 10 million have been recalled since 2007. The CPSC is also requiring stronger mattress supports and crib slats, more durable hardware, and more rigorous safety testing prior to sale. All of the cheap cribs we researched are fixed-side, also known as stationary or static-side cribs, and conform to the new standards.
Although it may be tempting to choose a cheap crib simply because it fits your budget -- some cost as little as $70 -- do your homework first. Infants spend more time sleeping than anything else, so you want to be sure the cheap crib is safe, durable, and right-sized for caregivers (can you put down and pick up the baby without straining your back?). Even if you plan to buy a cheap crib from an e-commerce site, check out displays at a brick-and-mortar store first. Consumer reviews posted online may discuss the virtues and flaws of cheap cribs, but actually inspecting the goods before ordering is the best way to assess factors like stability, mattress placement (how high or low can it go?), and likely resilience in the face of nursery wear and tear. also suggest looking for exposed screws or other hardware that could cause injury, and cracks in the wood that may be an early indication of poor build quality.