A lot of parents think that the handle has to be down when the carrier is in the car. This is not true! Many carriers allow - and some even insist - that the handle be up when the seat is in the car.
What many people don't realize is that while the carrier is in the back seat, it also takes up room in the front seat too as it sits semi-reclined, often forcing the front seats to move up to accommodate it. With the handle in the store position, the carrier often takes up another several inches side-side in addition to 2 inches or more front-back - extra room that typically prevents the carrier from fitting securely in the center without the driver being forced to sit too close to the steering wheel. Therefore, the most versatile carrier allows the handle to be up (i.e. in the carry position). With the handle up, the carrier is more likely to fit securely in the center of the back seat, nestled between the two front seats, while still allowing the driver and front passenger enough room.
If trying to fit two car seats side by side, the extra width of the handle when in the store position will often prevent the two seats from fitting securely side by side.
The table below lists the authorized handle positions for travel in the car for current and recently discontinued infant carriers. Please always double check the manual to your child's seat. If the box is colored, this means you may use the handle in that position.
- Evenflo: On the Embrace, ensure there is at least 1.5 inches of space between any part of the carrier and the vehicle seat in front. Handle may need to be in stand position to provide enough room.
- Graco: There are often several locked positions between carry and store - these are not OK to use in the vehicle
- Orbit Baby: Soft handles are lowered to top edge of seat
- The First Years: Anti-Rebound Position (all the way closest to the baby’s feet) is the PREFERRED position
Curious how the rumor "the handle always has to be down" got started?
- The first infant carrier with a base ever sold in the United States hit the market in the mid 1980's. On this particular seat - the Century 580 - you placed the infant carrier into the base with the handle up and then rotated the handle back to the store position to lock the carrier into the base. Forgetting to move the handle back meant that the carrier was not locked into the base, and could come out of the base in a crash! The Century 580, and its successor the 590, were the only infant carriers to feature this type of locking mechanism - all other seats lock automatically when you place the carrier in the base. Other manufacturers were concerned that if they allowed their seats to use the carry position, parents might mistakenly think it was OK to use the carry position on a Century 580/590, which could be a deadly mistake. With the last Century 590 made in 1997 (and too old to be used after 2003), manufacturers now feel comfortable recommending different handle positions. In fact, most seats in Europe use the handle in the carry position.