The first time my husband and I went car shopping together (several years ago), we kept our dog in the back of our mind while studying the features of various cars and SUVs. We ultimately decided on a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
And recently, we traded in our second vehicle — a compact sedan — for another Jeep. This one is a newer Grand Cherokee, and it happens to be dog-friendly as well.
I can give you a bunch of reasons that Jeeps (especially Jeep Wranglers) are great dog cars, but there are plenty of other dog-friendly vehicles too.
Here are the best cars for dog owners, plus some things you should look for in a dog-friendly vehicle…
Dogmobiles Are Popular
What’s the latest trend in car-buying? The hunt for the perfect “dogmobile.” Basically, people picking their ride based on the pets they have – so their furry friends can travel and run errands with them comfortably and safely. —John Tesh
When we were shopping for our first dog-friendly vehicle back in 2006, I followed along as Gina Spadafori, a 30-year pet reporter, test-drove SUVs, minivans, and crossover vehicles to review their suitability as “dogmobiles”.
Dogmobiles were such a novel idea back then. No one else was placing much importance on the dog-friendliness of vehicles.
At that time, the Honda Element stood head and shoulders above the rest as the most dog-friendly vehicle.
When I started doing this, most of the manufacturers were surprised that anybody would take on the job of reviewing cars from the point of view of a dog owner, but when I point out how popular dogs are, how many people have dogs and how many people do things with their dogs, they say, ‘Oh yeah, well of course that makes sense.’ Dog people can be quite passionate about the vehicles that meet their needs. —Gina Spadafori
These days, our pets play an even bigger roles in our daily lives, so it’s almost almost impossible not to think about our dog’s safety and comfort while riding in the car.
Truthfully, I can’t imagine buying a vehicle without considering my dog’s ability to get in & out of it and travel safely while having as little impact on the passenger seating area as possible.
Best Features In Dog-Friendly Vehicles
Here are some of the dog-friendly car features you might want to look for:
- A back door /hatch that opens up – so the dog can jump in and out with ease and a crate/carrier can be lifted in and out with ease.
- Seats that fold flat or are removable – to make room for dog and/or crate while keeping the seats themselves clean at all times.
- Waterproof seat covers – to ensure that your car seats will always look great. If your vehicle didn’t come with them, you can buy a waterproof pet seat cover.
- A large, boxy cargo area – to accommodate dog and supplies while traveling, without wasting space with sloped walls, wheel wells, or spare tires.
- Rear cargo attachment devices – to keep a harnessed dog (or dog carriers/crates) from sliding around.
- A pet barrier – to keep your dog from getting into the front seat. Some vehicles come with one, or you can buy a cargo divider.
- Low-to-the-ground profile – so it’s easier for dogs of all sizes and ages to climb in and out.
- Windows in the back that roll down – for ventilation.
- An ‘extra’ rear seat or cargo area – so you don’t have to worry about how clean the seat is every time someone gets in your car.
- Fold-down rear seats – so the dog won’t actually be sitting on (and dirtying!) the seats themselves.
- Rear A/C vents – so the dog can benefit from interior air conditioning as well.
- Non-carpeted walls and floors – to make cleanup even easier (carpet attracts dog fur!)
- Removable cargo liner – so you can take it out and hose it off occasionally. Some vehicles come with these, or you can buy a separate cargo liner.
- A fold-out ramp – either built in, or buy a dog ramp on your own to make getting in and out easier for your dog.
- Sunroof or moonroof – to provide the maximum ventilation without your dog being able to jump (or fall) out.
- A rear hatch window that rolls down – so the dog gets ventilation and the window won’t come down on the dog’s head or paws.
- In-floor storage bins – so the things you’re transporting don’t get in your dog’s way and they don’t get disturbed en route.
- Childproof windows and door locks – so the dog can’t accidentally open/close the window or the door.
Make sure that your chosen vehicle is large enough to comfortably accommodate both your dog and a dog carrier. Don’t forget that often times you can manipulate the seats of your vehicle to create extra space. Cars designed to be dog-friendly are excellent conveniences for dog lovers, but they are not the only path to a satisfying driving experience with your dog. Take steps that are within your budget to acquire a vehicle that suits your dog, or to modify a vehicle that you already own. Source
Dog Safety First
According to MSNBC, pets need to be properly restrained so they don’t get hurt and letting them run loose is dangerous. Think about it. If you slam on the brakes at 35 miles an hour, your 60 pound dog will hit the seat – or the dashboard or you – like a 2,700 pound weight! —John Tesh
No matter which vehicle hubby and I happen to be riding in, you can trust that our dogs are always safe and secure inside the vehicle. (We learned the hard way after our dog fell out of the car window as I was turning a corner.)
Now, we use a one-piece dog harness that goes over your dog’s head and wraps around your dog’s back and belly. That attaches to a dog seatbelt adaptor which goes right in the car’s seatbelt clip. Or, you could attached the dog’s harness to another secure point inside the vehicle.
Whatever options you choose, it’s important to safely secure your dog inside your vehicle at all times. Otherwise, he could possibly fall out, jump out, or be catapulted like a missile during a sudden stop or car accident.
Top Dog-Friendly Vehicles
So, what is the best vehicle for dogs? The answers are as varied as the budgets and lifestyles of the their owners, particularly in this economic climate. Indeed, it’s not always a brand-new car. —Maureen McDonald
Personally, if I were in the market for a new dog-friendly car, I’d explore these used vehicles first:
- Honda Element – for its ease of ingress/egress, waterproof seats & interior, and the sheer number of dog-friendly features that are built into this vehicle.
- Jeep Wrangler – for its no-frills interior, super durable and offroad-capable exterior, and because it’s the most ‘convertible’ convertible that a person can own.
- Toyota FJ Cruiser – for its waterproof seats, rugged interior and exterior features, and offroad capabilities.
Following is a regularly updated list of dog-friendly vehicles that have been rated highly by pet experts and individual dog owners through the years. I’ve linked each one to a single example of that vehicle’s dog-friendliness. Your own research will reveal many others.
Keep in mind, the newer model years have more dog-friendly features built-in than the older model years. However, if you’re looking at buying one of these vehicles used, you can rest assured that dog owners have been satisfied with these:
- Acura MDX
- BMW 3 Series Wagon
- BMW X5
- Chevy Cruze
- Chevy Volt
- Dodge Durango
- Dodge Grand Caravan
- Dodge Journey
- Ford Escape
- Ford Flex
- GMC Acadia
- GMC Yukon
- Honda CRV
- Honda Element (w/Pet Kit)
- Honda Fit
- Honda Pilot
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Hyundai Tucson
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Jeep Liberty
- Jeep Wrangler
- Kia Soul
- Land Rover Range Rover
- Mazda 5
- Mazda Tribute
- Mercedez GLK
- Mercury Mariner
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Nissan Xterra
- Pontiac Torrent
- Pontiac Vibe
- Porsche Cayenne
- Subaru Forester
- Subaru Outback
- Subaru Tribeca
- Suzuki XL7
- Toyota 4Runner
- Toyota FJ Cruiser
- Toyota Highlander
- Toyota Matrix
- Toyota RAV4
- Toyota Sienna
- Toyota Venza
- Volvo XC60
- Volvo XC70
- Volvo XC90
See how several dog-friendly vehicles compare with regard to cargo space, ventilation specs, and other handy options.
In my search for a dog-friendly vehicle, I would also keep my eye on the annual lists of dog-friendly vehicles that come out each year. Here are the most recent ones – if you’re buying a used vehicle:
- 2015 List of Dog Friendly Cars
- 2013 List of Dog Friendly Cars
- 2012 List of Great Automobiles For Dog Owners
- 2011 List of Top 10 Cars For Pet Safety
- 2010 List of the Best Canine-Friendly Vehicles