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

(Last Updated On: October 4, 2017)
For many years, there was a wide variety of rules around the position that the handle on a rear facing only car seat needed to be in while in the vehicle.  To some extend, those rules have changed and become more simple.  We’ve collected rules and restrictions on the most common car seats for you!

“The handle must be up because it protects the baby in a rollover crash.”

We can’t quite pinpoint where this particular rumor came from.  It seems to go back to the early 2000’s. Some car 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 into place.”

The origin of this rumor is a little easier to pinpoint. The rear facing only car seat has changed many times since it was first released.  The earliest models didn’t include a base.  Today, the base is a standard feature.  The first

Century made the first rear facing only car seat sold with a base that stayed in the car in the 1980s. This seat, required that the handle be in the “down” position because the seat locked into the base with the handle in the lowest position.  Most other manufacturers followed suit and required that the handle on their seats be down as well.

“A police officer told me it’s against the law for it to be up”

Some well-intentioned CPSTs and public safety officials have latched onto this “rule.” 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.

Here’s the Scoop

Each seat has different rules for where the handle can be.  As always, your car seat’s manual is your most powerful and informative tool about the correct handle position or positions.  For quick reference, we have made a chart showing the handle positions are permitted for each rear facing only car seat.

Here are the most common handle positions

Car seat handle: carry position

Carry Position

This first picture shows the carry position.  Different car seat manufacturers use names for this position but carry describes the position well.  When the handle is in this, most upright position, it’s easiest to carry the car seat around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle: convenience position

Convenience Position

The second handle position is often called the convenience position. This puts the handle closer to the portion of the car seat where the child’s head will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle: travel position

Travel Position

The third position is often called the travel position.  The carrier handle is at the top of the child’s head.

 

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle: stand position

Stand Position

The fourth position is called the stand position. This position places the handle completely behind the head of the car seat and keeps the car seat from rocking when placed on the floor.

 

 

 

 

Car seat handle rebound position

Car seat handle rebound position

Rebound Position

The final handle position is called the rebound position.  This position places the handle down towards the child’s feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the most common position for handles on a rear facing only car seat. Some car seats will allow for any of these positions to be used while the vehicle is in motion while others require one or another.
The chart below lists the specific rules for most major brands. Canadian car seats have different rules, so this chart only applies to the United States.

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