Shopping for a crib often tops the to-do list when planning a nursery. Fortunately, frugal parents-to-be will find a wide assortment of cheap cribs that are safe, sturdy, and attractive. We set our price ceiling at $200 for a high quality cheap crib and turned up three models that will serve both you and the baby well while adding a bit of flair to the room's overall appearance. Our list of the best cheap cribs includes two convertible models (with future use as a toddler bed, daybed, and full-size bed) and one traditional (crib-only) model.
DaVinci Emily Crib
This convertible crib boasts a classy profile, quick set up, solid build quality, and versatility. It comes with a toddler guard rail, the sides serve as headboard and footboard when converted to full-size bed mode, and there are four mattress...
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Baby Relax Crib
A traditional, non-convertible crib that appeals to parents for the value of the total package (which includes a dresser), the good looks of the walnut finish, and the sturdy build. The mattress in this Walmart exclusive can be set at four...
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Graco Lauren Crib
Parents like the design, price, stability, and user-friendly assembly of this 4-in-1 crib, although a few grouse about the absence of a toddler guard rail and only three mattress settings, the highest not quite high enough for newborns.
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Cheap Cribs Buying Guide
These days the market is awash in convertible cribs, the type that morph into beds that suit children as they grow. You'll find 2-in-1 styles (crib to daybed or twin bed), 3-in-1 styles (crib to toddler bed to daybed, or crib to daybed to full-size bed), and 4-in-1 styles (crib to toddler bed to daybed to full-size bed).
Traditional, or standard, cribs -- i.e., first and always just cribs -- are increasingly scarce, so you'll have to look harder if that's the style you prefer. The Baby Relax My First Nursery Crib & Changing Table/Dresser Set (starting at $169) is the best cheap crib for families wanting a model that has no second life as an older-child bed. The crib comes bundled with a matching dresser, and parents are thrilled with the value.
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. Experts 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.
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 stringent standards 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.
Important note: Taking a pre-2011 hand-me-down crib from a friend or relative or finding one online is probably not a good idea. Aside from the potential hazards addressed by the latest CPSC regulations, older cribs present a variety of risk factors such as toxic lead paint and stripped screws that weaken the crib over time. With the new safety requirements now in place, the sale of used cribs, even at consignment stores, has been outlawed. We also caution against round or odd-shaped cribs, even if the price seems right, because you may have difficulty finding affordable sheets and mattress covers that fit properly. Altering bedding to fit the mattress is another potential safety issue: infants can suffocate in soft bedding that bunches up or comes loose.
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).
That said, the consensus opinion about our top picks is that they're excellent buys, sturdy, easy to set up, and attractive. Best baby bed reviews note, however, that the woods and finishes used in these models are easily damaged (scratches and dings) and some unassembled units arrive at home with missing and/or damaged parts.
Baby Cribs Durability.Cribs reviews aren't particularly useful in assessing durability of the models on our list primarily because they're written at the moment of assembly or shortly thereafter. Parents can get some assurance about their investment, however, by knowing that cribs certified by the CPSC have survived more than 75,000 testing cycles that involve shaking, battering, and beating to see how well the frame, slats, mattress supports, screws and other hardware can take the abuse.
What the tests don't measure, though, is the effect of hard, sharp objects, like the metal of a belt buckle or a baby's emerging teeth. While the cribs reviews we read don't complain about cribs falling apart, they do gripe about dings and scratches and finishes that lift or seem off-color. Most cheap cribs are made with relatively soft wood, such as pine, that easily shows signs of wear and tear -- the hidden cost of using softer woods that help to keep prices in the budget zone. Crib manufacturers aren't always forthcoming about the wood and may advertise a "cherry" or "walnut" crib that merely means a cherry or walnut finish. Some parents and experts suggest performing a "scratch test" on a display model in the store to determine how tough the wood, or at least the finish, is. (Again, retailers probably won't welcome this.) If you know in advance that the sight of nicks and scrapes will upset you, consider moving up the price ladder to models made with harder wood.
Specs for the DaVinci Emily and Parker 4-in-1 models and for the Baby Mod Cadence 4-in-1 (starting at $240) identify the wood as pine. The biggest knock against the DaVinci Emily is how easily the surface is marred. It may stand its ground if shaken, assert cribs reviews on Target, but every mark shows. Tell-tale teeth marks and wood stain that shows up in the baby's mouth are the bane of the DaVinci Parker, say some cribs reviews on Amazon, and nicks and scrapes also afflict the Baby Mod Cadence, according to some postings at Walmart.
Like the other cribs we researched, the Graco Lauren and Graco Charleston take a few hits in cribs reviews on the denting and scratching front. A cribs review of a Charleston bought several years ago, however, says this model has held its own through two occupants. The Baby Relax My First Nursery crib is described by parents as sturdy and strong, although some are disappointed in the build quality of the dresser.
Some parents also say the stain on the crib that arrives at your home may not match the color you see online. Several cribs reviews on Toys R Us of the DaVinci Parker say the crib looks more orange than oak and the espresso finish on the Graco Lauren has strong red undertones, assert some cribs reviews.
With so much attention these days focused on crib safety, the prospect of DIY crib assembly and construction may prompt some anxious moments. But not to worry. Although some models cause some parents fits of aggravation due to poor instructions, missing or ill-fitting hardware, or their own lack of mechanical aptitude, crib assembly reviews generally give the models we researched high marks for user-friendly set-up.
Graco cribs lead the way in terms as one of the easiest cribs to assemble. In cribs reviews on Amazon, for example, purchasers report the Graco Lauren Classic Convertible (starting at $135) comes together quickly, although one says a missing hole meant the back and side railing could not be attached and another cautions that the finished product is too large to fit through a doorway (moral: assemble the crib wherever it will be used). Two other Graco models, the Charleston Classic Convertible (starting at $158) and Graco Sarah Classic (starting at $135) are also easy to assemble, typically taking less than an hour, according to cribs reviews. Some comments posted on sites like Walmart note that pregnant women handily managed the task on their own.
For the two DaVinci cribs we researched -- the Emily 4-in-1 (starting at $180) and Parker 4-in-1 (also starting at $243) -- ease of crib assembly varies by model. Purchasers of the Emily write in cribs reviews on the Target site that this top pick for best cheap crib can be assembled in about an hour, and is easier still with two people on hand. The Parker poses more of a challenge for some, according to cribs reviews at Toys R Us. This model comes with a trundle drawer whose set-up stymied one parent; another found the crib directions confusing; and a third said two adults spent two hours laboring to put together the crib.
The one standard crib on our list, Baby Relax My First Nursery (starting at $169), comes with an unassembled dresser that also functions as a changing table. Cribs reviews posted at Walmart, say the crib goes up lickety-split but the dresser is a chore. Reviewers claim the entire process (both pieces) takes several hours, especially if you're working solo. We also came across a couple of reports about needing to drill larger holes.
Based on the cribs reviews we read, no brand is immune from crib assembly complaints, and some safety experts and retailers recommend professional assembly services, if available. Regardless where the crib was purchased or how much it cost, you may discover parts missing, cracked, or scratched when you open the box. If you buy locally, you might try opening the box at the store, although vendors don't always appreciate the gesture. Once the package arrives home you'll have to contact the manufacturer if anything is missing or broken. Using substitute parts from the hardware store is not advisable -- although the parts might fit, there's no way to know if they'll withstand the vigor of a growing and active child.
One of the first and most important crib buying decisions is whether to opt for a traditional or convertible style. The advantage of a convertible crib, also known as a 4-in-1 crib, is its later use as a toddler bed, daybed, and full-size bed; cheap baby convertible cribs also come in 3-in-1 and 2-in-1 versions that provide one or two fewer options. A traditional, or standard, baby crib mattress is just that -- there's no alternative future life except as a do-over with another baby. In recent years standard cribs have ceded their once-lofty spot in the nursery to convertible models, which win over parents due to their versatility. There's nary a price difference between the two in the cheap segment of the market, although standard cribs are increasingly scarce.
Despite the surging popularity of 4-in-1 cribs, parents still debate the relative merits of traditional versus convertible cribs. According to a discussion thread on he Bump, the decision usually turns on factors such as: room size (some standard cribs are less bulky and a convertible crib that becomes a full-size bed takes up space); thoughts about the need for a transitional toddler bed (adherents of the crib-to-twin philosophy eschew the convertible crib option); plans for a growing family (traditional cribs are easily handed down while convertible cribs "belong" to the current occupant); and aesthetics (the style of the convertible crib's repurposed sides as headboard and sometimes footboard may not suit a 'tween's evolving fashion sense).
Bear in mind that if you go the convertible crib route, you'll probably need a conversion kit to turn the crib into a full-size bed; the cost of this necessity runs upwards of $100. Consider ordering the kit along with the convertible crib (and keep the assembly directions handy), otherwise, as one parent discovered after putting off the purchase for a while, the parts may not be available when you need them. Some 4-in-1 cribs, including the Baby Mod Cadence and DaVinci Emily and Parker models, come with a guard rail for the toddler bed stage and expand into headboard and footboard for a full-size bed.
Baby Crib Mattress.Even the safest cribs can become danger zones if the mattress doesn't fit snugly. Although most cribs are designed to accept a standard-size mattress, it's a good idea to test the fit by dropping the mattress you're considering into the display model of your traditional or convertible crib choice. (Another reason to do some on-site shopping.) A standard mattress measures 27 1/4 by 51 5/8 inches, with thickness ranging from 4 to 6 inches (experts say 6 inches should be the max). There is, however, slight variation from manufacturer to manufacturer and the exact dimensions should be listed on the packaging. To check the fit, put your fingers in the space between the sides of the crib and the mattress: the gap should be less than two-fingers wide -- extra space poses a potential hazard.
Keep the mattress in its plastic wrapper until you set up the crib just to be sure the fit is right. If the gap is too wide, you may be able to return the mattress. Note that we read some reviews about ill-fitting mattresses for the traditional and convertible cribs we researched. Few cribs of any type come with a mattress, although Walmart is currently offering the Graco Lauren 4-in-1 bundled with a mattress (starting at $175). Mattress prices range from about $40 to $150.
A related issue concerns the level of the mattress in the crib. When babies slept in drop-side cribs, mattress position relative to the top of the rail wasn't a critical factor -- you simply lowered the side to put the baby in or take the baby out. With fixed-side cribs, parents and caregivers must be able to comfortably lift and lower the baby while reaching over the top (never mind trying to do this while a child is sleeping regardless how tall you are).
Traditional and convertible cribs don't come in standard heights, and some models provide more mattress adjustments than others. Cheap cribs generally feature three or four mattress levels that are suitable for babies at different ages (newborns get the highest setting and active toddlers get the lowest). The convertible DaVinci Emily and Parker and Baby Mod Cadence, and the traditional Baby Relax cribs all feature four settings. The three convertible Graco cribs we researched (Lauren, Charleston, and Sarah) sport three.
Sometimes, though, the mattress just doesn't sit high enough. One self-described short mother writes on Amazon that she has to use a stepstool when reaching into the DaVinci Parker, although another parent says the front dip of this design makes it easier to get at the baby. The Baby Mod Cadence convertible crib stands 42 inches high and is a bit lower in front than in back, which, along with the four mattress levels, might make things easier for some parents. With only three mattress settings, the Graco Lauren is the object of some grousing by parents who say the highest level should be higher still for a newborn.
To get around the height issue, the online community at What to Expect is partial to the convertible safety-gate cribs made by Baby's Dream -- the Infinity (starting at $419) being one example. These cribs are priced well above the Cheapism niche, with most falling in the $400 to $500 range, but they might suit shorter parents or those suffering from chronic back problems. The safety gate folds down and effectively lowers the railing height by 6 to 9 inches, depending on the model. Once the gate is back in place, with the mattress set at the lowest level, even active toddlers would have trouble climbing out.
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