Rear Facing Only Car Seats: Where Does the Handle Go?

The child passenger safety world is full of outdated information that has been spread by well meaning individuals.  One of the most common misconceptions is which position the handle on a rear facing only seat must be in while in use in the car.
“The handle must be up because it protects the baby in a rollover crash.”I have heard this a few times, and I have not been able to pinpoint where this particular rumor came from;  it seems to go back to the early 2000’s. Some seats have designed the handle to act as a rebound control, but certainly not all of them.

“The handle must be down because that is how it locks.”This rumor is a little easier pinpoint the origination. The rear facing only seat has seen many transformations since it first came out; first without a base, then with a base.  The first rear facing only seat to be sold with the base that stayed in the car came out in the 1980s. This seat, made by Century, was required to have the handle in the “down” position, by the back of the seat.  This was required because this was how the seat locked into the base.  Most other manufacturers followed suit and required theirs to be down as well.

“A police officer told me it’s against the law for it to be up”There are some CPSTs and public safety officials that have latched onto this “rule”, and it traces back to seats that did have this requirement – however it’s completely false. There is not a law in any state that regulates the position of an infant seat handle. Most simply require the seat to be used according to the manufacturer’s directions.

The truth.Each seat has different rules for where the handle can be.  As always, your manual is your most powerful and informative tool about the correct handle position(s) that your seat allows.  For quick reference we have made a chart showing what positions are allowed for each rear facing only seat.

First though, let’s talk about what those different positions are: 

Car seat handle carry position

Car seat handle carry position

 

 

This first picture shows the “carry” position.  It can be called different names by different companies, but carry describes the position well.  It puts the handle straight up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle convenience position

Car seat handle convenience position

 

 

The second position is called the convenience position.  This puts the handle more towards the head of the seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle travel position

Car seat handle travel position

 

 

The third position is called travel.  It puts the handle at the top of the head.

 

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle stand position

Car seat handle stand position

 

 

The fourth position is called the stand position. This position is completely behind the head of the seat.

 

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle rebound position

Car seat handle rebound position

 

 

Last, a handful of seats have what’s called a rebound position.  This position is down towards the child’s feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the most common position for handles on a rear facing only seat. Some seats will allow for any of these positions, others specifically require one or another.  Below, you will find the chart we have made to quickly reference which handle position is correct. Canadian seats have different rules, so this chart only applies to the US. As always, your very best reference is the manual for your seat: always read the manual!

Handle Positions- USA Only

ManufacturerModelAllowed Position(s)Notes
4MomsAllCarryThere are 2 handle positions.
Baby TrendAllAnyRetroactively allows any locked position. Baby Trend still recommends keeping the handle back if possible.
BritaxAllAny
ChiccoAllAnyThere are 3 handle positions.
CombiAllCarryThere are 3 handle positions.
CybexAton 1, 2, QCarryThere are only 3 positions on the Aton 1 and 2.
CybexCloud QRebound (known as Drive)There are 6 handle positions.
DorelAll (Cosco, Maxi-Cosi, Eddie Bauer, Safety 1st)Carry (Upright)**Follow the manual for each seat. Dorel is moving to all handles upright, but it is NOT retroactive.
EvenfloEmbrace 35 (and SensorSafe version), SnugliTravel or ReboundRequires 1.5" of clearance between any part of the child restraint and the seat in front of it.
EvenfloEmbrace, DiscoveryTravel or StandEvenflo refers to the travel position as the "car" position. Requires 1.5" of clearance between any part of the child restraint and the seat in front of it.
EvenfloNurture, Serenade, SecureRideTravel or Stand or ReboundEvenflo refers to the travel position as the "car" position. Requires 1.5" of clearance between any part of the child restraint and the seat in front of it.
EvenfloLiteMaxTravelRequires 1.5" of clearance between any part of the child restraint and the seat in front of it.
GBAsana 35 DLXAny
GracoAllAny
HauckAllAnyThere are 5 positions. All are allowed in the vehicle.
IngenuityIntrustTravelThere are 3 handle positions.
Orbit BabyAllTravelThe Orbit has soft handles.
Peg PeregoPrimo Viaggio 30/30Travel
Peg PeregoViaggio 4/35AnyMust use rebound position if installed baseless. With base, any locked position allowed, but prefer travel.
Phil and TedsAlphaAnyAlso marketed as Mountain Buggy Protect.
RecaroCoupeAnyDiscontinued
Summer InfantProdigyAnyDiscontinued
UPPAbabyMesaAnyThere are 3 handle positions.
UrbiniAllAny