The 10 Best Cars For Dogs
At first glance, a list of the 10 best cars for dogs might seem to be a superfluous topic. After all, your dog would theoretically be happy riding in whatever vehicle you have—right? And, in most cases, yes this is true. However, if you truly care for your pet, and you’re going to be buying a new car anyway, why not take your four-legged family member’s needs into consideration too?
All of the cars on this list are currently available new models (except one very exceptional one), and all have a certain group of attributes in common. Whether or not you agree with our specific picks, or if you’re shopping for an older used model that wouldn’t be covered here, there are a number of particularly desirable features you should make it a point to take into consideration when you’re looking at different automobiles.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Desirable Features
The best cars for dogs have a separate cargo area with plenty of room, tie-down hooks for the harnesses they should always wear, and some reliable method of separating the cargo compartment from the passenger compartment—while still allowing you to see the dog and more importantly, the dog to see you. The harness issue is very important. It keeps the dog from jumping out of the car should it say, see a cat in the next car at a traffic signal, and it restrains the canine in the event of a crash.
Think about it; in a crash on the highway at 65 miles per hour, if your dog isn’t properly restrained, it could potentially become a missile flying at 65 miles per hour through the interior of your car. Whatever it hits, odds are the dog dies. If it hits a person, that individual is going to suffer a significant injury (or possibly death) as well. This is something so many pet owners overlook—until it’s too late.
Bottom line; get your dog a harness—and use it.
Another important consideration is ease of ingress and egress. The entrance to the cargo area should be as low to the ground as possible to make it easy for the dog to get in and out, especially as your beloved canine companion starts to age. Yes, some models do come with ramps to facilitate this, and you can also purchase a ramp on the aftermarket. However, ramps also eat up valuable space inside the car. If you’re carrying the dog and the ramp too, and you also have a need to transport four people as well, your car will get pretty crowded. Which is a shame, when all you really had to do was choose a car the dog could get into and out of as easily as possible.
For this reason, you won’t find any SUVs on this list.
In addition to being as low to the ground as possible, you’ll want to make sure it has a hatch so the dog get in and out easily. When you consider the possibility you’ll be loading a pet carrier back there from time to time too for longer trips, you’ll want that to cargo compartment to be easy for you to get things in and out of as well.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Desirable Features—Continued
Fold flat rear seats give you more room inside the car to allow your pet to roam a bit—just make sure you keep the harness fastened. You’ll also want to make sure the any fabrics in the car can be vacuumed easily; so pet fur doesn’t become an issue. Also, folding the seats means you’ll be less likely to have to worry about what your human passengers are sitting in when you open them up for people.
If at all possible, the cargo area should have flat sides, with no spare tire or anything else intruding into it, so as to give your dog as much room back there as possible. The cargo area should also be fitted with some sort of attachment apparatus so you can secure the dog’s carrier when you need to—as well as its harness.
Ideally, the cargo area won’t be carpeted so it doesn’t trap hair. While you can always buy a rubberized liner for the floor, if the sides of the cargo area are carpeted, there’s not a lot you can do about that. In a perfect world, that cargo area would also feature in-floor storage so you can carry items you might need while keeping the dog’s area clutter free.
The rear windows should be capable of being lowered, and preferably they should be power windows you can control from the driver’s seat. This provides much needed ventilation for your pet. Remember, dogs are “air cooled”. As much as possible, in hot weather, they need flowing air to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Rear air conditioning vents are highly desirable for this for long highway trips when you’ll want to keep the windows closed. The doors however should not open from the inside. The best way to manage this is with child safety locks so your dog can’t accidentally open the door by inadvertently placing a paw on the door handle. Or worse, learn to open the door and get out whenever it decides it time to do so!
So now, with all of that said, here’s the Autobytel list of the 10 best cars for dogs.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Dodge Journey
The Dodge Journey features spacious storage bins for all of your needs, including the Flip-n Stow front-passenger seat concealed storage bin. The Journey’s Chill Zone glove box cooler ensures you always have cool water for your pet, and the second-row dual in-floor storage bins with washable and removable liners are perfect for extra dog toys—or anything else you’d like to keep out of sight. If you also have small children, the Dodge offers two integrated child booster seats as an option. These pull out from the second-row seat cushion, eliminating the need to transport bulky child seats. For your comfort and entertainment, the Journey offers voice command navigation, satellite radio, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and heated leather seating.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Ford Flex
The Ford Flex features a huge cargo compartment, its rear seats fold flat, and it can be had with a refrigerator large enough to keep cool water and fresh treats on hand, for both you and your dog. The rear hatch opens very wide and the floor of the Flex is close to the ground, so your older dog won’t have to struggle to get into it. A broad array of comfort and convenience features also makes the Flex a nice ride for your two-legged family members. What’s more, the Ford will even park itself.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Honda Element
Honda’s Element was practically designed with dogs in mind. And while Honda has discontinued production of the Element, it’s so good for this purpose we simply had to include it on this list. Right off the top, even with the rear seats deployed, there is plenty of room in the cargo compartment for a relatively large dog carrier. Start folding the seats and you can pretty much transport any size dog in comfort. There are tie-downs for harnesses as well. The Honda’s no-frills interior treatment is exceptionally easy to clean; you can literally hose an Element out to clean the interior. In fact, Honda even offered a Dog Friendly package for the Element which included a custom-fitted, soft-sided crate with a built-in, spill-resistant water bowl; an electric cooling fan mounted in the cargo compartment, a portable ramp, rear seat covers, heavy-duty floormats and a an accessory bag with a collar, leash, poop-bag dispenser, and an ID tag.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Honda Ridgeline
Honda’s Ridgeline offers both an indoor and an outdoor area for your dog. And while it is configured like a pickup truck, it isn’t as high off the ground as a traditional pickup. With its midgate architecture, the pickup bed can be extended into the enclosed part of the Honda so your dog can ride inside or outside. Its split-folding seats fold up, so the dog rides on the floor, which keeps it safer in a crash. What’s more, the Honda Ridgeline has a waterproof trunk which can be accessed it from the rear with the tailgate swung out. By the way, is another highly desirable feature. Swinging out makes the cargo compartment more readily accessible than if it swung down like a typical pickup.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Kia Soul
A lot roomier than its exterior dimensions suggest, the Soul is a good choice for transporting smaller and mid-size breeds. With that said, St. Bernard, Great Dane, and Irish Wolfhound fans, might want to read on a bit farther. However, Kia offers a number of dealer installed accessories to make the Soul even more pet friendly. These include thick, heavy-duty floor mats and pet-resistant seat covers—in addition to pet carriers and cargo compartment dividers. If you’ve a smaller dog and you’re looking for reasonably priced pet friendly transportation, the Kia Soul is a stylish way for you to go.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Mazda5
The Mazda5 features the Holy Grail of dog transportation—sliding doors. The extra wide opening they provide makes entering and exiting the vehicle a breeze for practically any dog, and particularly older ones. Another great feature of the doors is they can be locked in the open position. Even if you’re parked on a hill, you don’t have to worry about the guillotine effect—yowtch! Once the pup is in, they can enjoy up to 44 cubic feet of roaming room if you fold the rear seats too. The climate control system features vents in the second row, and you can set the temperature back there independently of the front seats.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Nissan Cube
Like the Element, which it closely resembles in appearance, the Cube’s interior is remarkably spacious. Note, however, that when folded, the rear seat does fold flat, so you’ll want to add some sort of padding pack there to level the cargo area as much as possible. Even with that issue though, you will find a broad array of aftermarket accessories to enhance the Nissan’s prowess as a pet hauler. Among them are cargo area mats and hair-shedding seat covers.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Subaru Forester
This Forester offers roomy, comfortable accommodations for people and pets. Plus, with the Subaru’s all-wheel drive system, you can even venture onto mildly rugged trails to let your dog run free in the woods. The Forester’s cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is a cavernous 68 cubic feet. And, while the Forester can take you to many of the same places an SUV would go, the Forester’s floor is lower, making it easier for dogs to get in and out. Further, for those times when you need them, there are ample tie-down points to secure a kennel in the Forester.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Toyota Venza
Venza’s large cargo capacity and rear hatch allow for easy entrance and loading of pets. The Toyota also offers a full line-up of canine-friendly aftermarket pet products through Toyota dealers. Available products include: a rear hatch pet ramp for easy loading and unloading, a leash tether for securing pets in the vehicle, a pet booster seat with a harness, a first/second row or cargo area pet barrier, pet seatbelt buckles, and rear seat zipline-style harnesses. Waterproof and removable hammock-style seat covers are also available to fit Venza’s bench and bucket seats.
The 10 Best Cars For Dogs: Volvo XC70
In keeping with their outstanding reputation for safety, of course Volvo offers an integrated pet barrier system for the XC70. A dealer-installed option, it can be bolted into the Volvo so it doesn’t rattle, or shift about the way aftermarket pet barriers can do. What’s more, it stays firmly in place in the event of a crash. In fact, Volvo has crash tested the XC70 with the pet barrier in place and found it remained perfectly intact. The cargo area is quite spacious and it’s really easy for a dog to hop in and out—without a ramp. Plus, the Volvo is comfortable and luxurious for you too.