When you’re car shopping, don’t forget your four-legged family members. A happy dog makes for a happy owner, so there are some things you should consider when buying a dog-friendly ride.
First, you’ll want a vehicle that’s big enough to carry your pooch. That’s easy if you have a Chihuahua, but a bit more difficult if your furriest family member is a Great Dane.
“The larger the dog you have, the bigger the car you need,” says David Lytle, a spokesperson for the Oregon Humane Society (which is not affiliated with any other Humane Society). “You want to be able to get them into and out of the car easily.”
On the next couple of slides, we’ll look at some of the other things you should consider when buying a dog-friendly car; then we’ll look at 11 of the best vehicles available for you and your pet.
What Does Your Dog Want From a Car?
There are two basic things to consider when looking at cars for your dog. Your pet needs to be comfortable and secure. An uncomfortable dog will make every trip a challenge, while an unsecured animal can be injured or killed in an accident. It can also injure you or your passengers.
Doors that slide (like a minivan’s) or a hatch that opens wide make it easy to load and unload your dog. Consider how high the floor of the vehicle is off the ground as well. Do you want to have to lift your 55-pound Bull Terrier into a full-size SUV every time, or would a minivan that they could jump into work better?
You’ll want to pick a vehicle with the flattest floor possible, without obstructions or other nooks and crannies. Not all SUV second rows fold fully flat, and that can make it difficult to carry and secure a crate. Many SUVs have huge gaps between the folded seats that can catch dog’s feet or become a home for dog toys, biscuits, and hair.
Planning on using a pet harness that clips into the car’s LATCH anchors? Make sure that they are accessible enough to find easily. If you’ve ever had to vacuum dog hair out of cloth seats, you know that it’s a virtual impossibility. Leather or vinyl seats actually work better for dogs, and seat covers are available for many cars. You might consider aftermarket FloorLiners from Weathertech.com that span the carpets from edge to edge, unlike most auto manufacturers’ mats.
Keeping Rover Comfy
Many manufacturers offer pet barriers designed to keep your dog behind the second or third row of seats. You’ll want to make sure that the one you choose – either from the carmaker or aftermarket supplier – is strong enough to keep Rover contained, even in an accident.
A better solution is a harness that attaches to the car or a crate that’s fully tied down in the vehicle. When shopping, buyers should look for attachment points that are strong enough to hold a crate firmly in place. Pets are often lost after accidents, when they are scared and run away from the danger. If you are going to use a dog crate or harness, it’s a good idea to take it to the dealership and make sure it fits in whatever vehicle you’re considering.
“Dogs should always be safely secured when traveling by car,” says Executive Secretary Gina DiNardo of the American Kennel Club.
You’ll also want to make sure your new ride is equipped to keep your puppy at a comfortable temperature. Look for SUVs that have tri-zone temperature controls or rear air conditioning systems.
“Look for cars with separate temperature controls for the back of the car so that you can better regulate the temperature for your pet,” says DiNardo.
Rolling down windows can give dogs some extra air, though you don’t want your dog to hang their head out the window with unprotected eyes. Tinted windows and built-in window shades can protect your pooch from the sun.
“If you’re comfortable in the car, your dog will be comfortable in the car,” says Lytle.
Keep in mind that the scores on our site are updated constantly as new expert reviews and data become available. Therefore, the scores mentioned in this slideshow may not match the scores in our reviews.
The Honda CR-V, which is a top-ranked compact SUV and the winner of U.S. & World Report 2017 Best Compact SUV for Families and Best Compact SUV for the Money awards, is also an excellent choice for trips to doggy day care. Its ample cargo area is just one reason.
The flat load floor of the CR-V is lower than those of several of its rivals, and Honda offers accessory all-season cargo mats that protect the CR-V’s carpet from edge to edge. Despite a price tag that’s higher than most in the class, the CR-V gets better mileage than nearly all other non-hybrid compact SUVs, and you can put the cash you save into dog biscuits.
When you talk reliable and all-weather capable, you’re either talking about a Labrador retriever or a Subaru Forester. The compact SUV’s boxy profile and rear seats that fold nearly flat and are perfect for holding dog crates. All Forester models come equipped with standard all-wheel drive.
For 2018, the available EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance and safety features includes reverse automatic braking. Even when your energetic Golden Retriever or his crate is blocking your view of what’s happening behind the car, the vehicle will automatically brake to avoid obstacles. The Forester doesn’t have quite as luxurious an interior as some rivals, but its hard plastic surfaces are actually better at shedding dog hair and scratches than other materials.
The Subaru Forester holds a spot in the upper half of our rankings of compact SUVs.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Minivans are often overlooked as puppy carriers, but look at the parking lot of any dog show and you’ll see their popularity among Best of Breed contenders. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is exceptionally well suited for hound-hauling duty with a low, flat, and unobstructed load floor.
The Pacifica Hybrid also has plenty of tie downs for dog crates, especially when the second row of seats is removed and you can use the seat attach points as tie-downs (something you can’t do in the non-hybrid Pacifica).
The gas-only Chrysler Pacifica is also a great dog car, however. The wells for the Stow ‘n Go seats can be used to hold leashes, food, and water for your pet. The Hybrid model does not include second-row Stow ‘n Go seats.
Power in the Hybrid comes from a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid system that can travel an EPA-estimated 33 miles on electricity alone from a single charge. Paired with the gasoline engine, its fuel economy is rated at 84 MPGe. In our rankings of minivans, the Pacifica Hybrid holds a slot in the upper half.
Land Rover Range Rover
What dog wouldn’t like a car that’s named after him – twice? Plus there’s the street cred your corgis will get by rolling up to the dog park in one of the most opulent SUVs available. Seriously though, there are some benefits that the Land Rover Range Rover offers canines.
All Range Rover models come standard with an air suspension that has an entry mode that lowers the SUV, making it easy for both pooches and people to get in and out. They also feature a horizontally split tailgate, so when your dog jumps in the back, the rear bumper is protected from scratches.
Though it might not look like it from the outside, the interior of the Ford Flex is cavernous, with plenty of room for both passengers and pets. Its broad, squared, and low stance makes it possible to put crates side-by-side in the back and easily load your dogs.
Though your dogs might not notice it, the Flex is getting pretty old, and its features, economy, and seat comfort have not kept up with the times. While your Great Dane might love the Flex, your Great Grandmother might not enjoy the Flex’s loud cabin, rough ride, and uncomfortable seats as much..
Just because your car is a compact doesn’t mean your dog has to be too. The Kia Soul is a roomy and affordable hatchback that’s well-suited for hound-hauling duties. Plentiful tie-downs and rear seats that fold nearly flat make it easy to install dog crates or other restraints.
The Soul also has lots of space underneath the rear load floor to stow things you don’t want your puppy to get a hold of while you’re driving.
Volkswagen showed the Atlas 3-row midsize SUV at the Chicago Auto Show with a host of accessories that help to make it into a great dog hauler. One of those is an aftermarket cargo divider that keeps your puppy secure behind the third row of seats.
The Atlas also has a completely flat load floor without the gaps and crevices found in many SUVs. A number of tie downs in the cargo area also make it easy to secure a dog crate. In our rankings of midsize SUVs, the Volkswagen Atlas holds a top spot.
GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab
Dogs and pickups go together like America and apple pie, though some of today’s trucks are so big that your puppy would need a jetpack to jump in the cab. The full-size GMC Sierra Denali crew cab can be outfitted with power-deploying running boards to help your pooch climb aboard.
Inside, your dog will find a spacious interior with a second row of seats that folds vertically out of the way to provide plenty of space to nap. The Sierra Denali trim, with a base price of $52,155, isn’t the least-expensive pickup truck on the market, but it’s like a luxury car that can also tow 9,300 pounds and carry more than 1,600 pounds of cargo in its bed.
Like the Kia Soul, the Jeep Renegade has a square cargo area and a low load floor. Unlike many subcompact SUVs, however, the Renegade’s rear seats fold nearly flat. Its interior is also pleasant for humans, featuring one of the nicer designs in the class, despite a low starting price.
The Renegade also excels where the road ends, displaying exceptional off-road ability. In its Trailhawk trim level, no other subcompact SUV can take you and your dog the places that the Renegade can. Often, off-road ability translates to an unrefined ride on the road, but the Renegade is a smooth performer on pavement.
The Toyota 4Runner has one feature that makes it an excellent choice for people who carry dogs: The 4Runner’s power tailgate window rolls down. You can lower it an inch or two to take your puppy’s odors out of the cabin. Dog owners know what we’re talking about.
Like a throwback to the early days of SUVs, the 4Runner displays excellent off-road performance. However, it comes at the price of poor on-road handling and a rough ride.
If your hound is up for an adventure, there are few SUVs that can go where the 4Runner can. It will also have plenty of room, as the 4Runner has one of the largest cargo capacities in the class. You’ll want to forgo the 4Runner’s third-row option if you want to maximize the cargo space, though.
Perhaps the greatest dog car ever was the Honda Element, which was built from 2002 to 2011. With a low step-in height, a lack of carpet, and plenty of cargo space for crates or huge dogs, the Element was the darling of the dog park. When the Element interior needed cleaning, you could blow the dog hair out with a leaf blower.
Honda even made a special dog-friendly edition of the Element, with a built-in ramp, crate, and cooling fan. The rubberized floor mats were adorned with dog bones.
Additional Tips for You and Your Pup
When you and your dog sit down to evaluate vehicles, you should do you fair share of browsing online. There, you can see which cars should be on your shopping list, and which don’t make the cut. You can also compare vehicles side by side to see where each excels.
Your puppies will appreciate it if you don’t have to dip into their treat budget to afford the new ride. One way to do that is by taking advantage of deals on used cars. The expert staff at Prestige Auto – Family of Dealerships tracks the best financing deals and lease incentives available. More money in your wallet means more treats for Fido!
By John M. Vincent | August 24, 2017 | U.S. News & World Report