I sell a number of dolls on my website and each one has pros and cons. So here I will help you find out which one is for you. This is NOT a ranking, it is a number list to make it easier for the reader to read about each doll.
Let me start by saying that this list will include dolls that are 18"-19" because of the size. From personal experience and from what I have heard from many moms and customers say that this size makes the dolls easier for kids to hold and handle.
1. Gotz Doll Hannah doll line
Many Gotz standing dolls fall in this category, but I will talk about the Hannah line since they are popular and the standard line. Keep in mind that Sarah, Charlotte, Tess, Nina, Avery, and more are the same type. The name of the line depends on the face mold, but the body and joints are the same.
the doll is 18" and had a vinyl body and limbs. She is skinnier than the American girl dolls so the clothes will be loose on her, but there are many different people selling clothes for this doll so It is not a problem (One of them being me). This doll had rooted hair and comes in a variety of hair colors and styles. The good thing about rooted hair is that it is less likely to come out so it is great for little ones. I gave one to my 1 1/2-year-old and the hair is still intact. Plus it is washable so it is easy to detangle and clean. She is only jointed at the head, arms, and legs much like the American girl doll. They do not have sleepy eyes (eyes that open and close).
I personally think that they are a great starter doll.
2. Gotz Happy Kidz doll line
Happy Kidz is one of the newer lines. They are almost exactly like the Gotz Hannah except that they have more joints. They are jointed that the head, arms, legs, elbows, and knees. Also, they are 19", but the doll clothes from Gotz 18" fit them and their clothes fit the 18" dolls as well. I often forget that they are even an inch taller.
As another great starter doll, but depend how rare a mold is they are a bit pricier than the Hannah line so many choose to start off with the Hannah line.
3. American Girl dolls
They are 18" and have soft bodies with vinyl limbs. This meant that they are extra huggable, but if the doll wears strapless or halter top then you can see the fabric and vinyl. It is not a big deal, but it bothers some people. They have many face molds. They also have sleepy eyes and wigged hair. The wigged hair requires extra care when brushing, special brush, and it can not be heat styled. (Note: that I do custom dolls where I replace the wig for higher quality wigs that can be heat styled.) They have sleepy eyes.
note: the bitty baby and bitty twin are the baby doll line from American girl. They have the same body. However, they are 16" so take into count the length.
They are a bit pricier than the gotz and due to the wigged hair. I recommend that you give them to a child at least 4 and older.
4. Gotz Precious day/ little sister/ pottery barn kids
These are 18" soft body and vinyl limbs. They have rooted hair and sleepy eyes. The clothes fit the American girl doll and vice versa. Fun fact: they were the company that originally made the American girl doll.
They are great starter dolls due to the rooted and washable hair.
5. Tonner My imagination
These dolls are full-body vynil and wigged hair. They are jointed at neck, arm, and leg. However, the deluxe line is also jointed at the knee. The American girl's clothes fit them and vice versa. Many people like them because of their face mold is like the porcelain dolls, but with durable vynil. I also make custom dolls of this line. note: I think they are discontinued
Not a starter doll. I recommend that you give them to a child at least 4 and older due to the wigged hair.
6. Madame Alexander 18"
These dolls are one of the cheapest high-quality dolls. They have wigged hair and 3/4 soft body and sleepy eyes. That means that they are soft body, the upper chest is vynil so that the tank tops will not show the fabric. they also have many different face molds that depend on the line. American girl clothes fit them and vice versa.
Great starter doll and on the cheaper side.
7. Sonja heartman Kidz n' cats dolls
they are full-body vynil and wigged hair. They are jointed at the neck. arms, legs, knees, elbows, and wrists. They are skinnier than the gotz dolls, so the clothes fit them a bit big depending on the clothes. Note: I think they are discontinued.
They are not a starter doll and can be a bit pricey, But they have the most joints.
there are other brands like Kartio Kids discontinued and are 23", but the 18" doll clothes fit them. You just have to take into account the length.
they have cheaper 18" like our generation and the journey girls before Toys r us closed down. But they madame alexander are better quality and last longer.