Finding The Perfect Dog Car

I’m in the market for the perfect dog car and I know what you’re thinking: “He’s crazy if he’s basing his decision to buy a car on the needs of his dogs.” Well it’s true! I recently sold my old car, a Mazda RX-8 (I loved that car) to find a more suitable car for my two dogs.

bowWOW! Curiously Compelling Facts, True Tales, and Trivia Even Your Dog Won't Know.“Surveys show about half of all car-buyers consider the comfort of the family dog when buying a new car – and 65 percent take their pets on errands,” says Dr. Becker, the New York Times best-selling author and co-author with Gina Spadafori of the new bowWOW!: Curiously Compelling Facts, True Tales, and Trivia Even Your Dog Won’t Know.

“We’re glad to see car-makers address the comfort and safety of our dogs on the road because people don’t want to leave their pets — or should we say ‘four-legged family members’ – behind. More than a quarter even sometimes take pets to work,” he said.– DogCars.com

I guess considering my dogs before buying a new car is not really strange after all. Right now I’m borrowing my mother’s 2000 CRV until I make my purchase. The CRV is a little small, but adequate for toting my two boys (the 2000 CRV is much smaller than todays CRV), but not quite what I want in my perfect Dog Car.
Let the journey begin!

The Passengers

Dog in CarThere are only three in this family. Myself, Linus, and Stetson. I’m not a big guy only 5 foot 8 inches and about 170 pounds so most cars will probably fit me. Linus is a 3 year old Australian Shepherd mix (looks an awful lot like a skinny black Lab) and weighs about 55 pounds. Stetson is a 1 year old purebred Black Labrador Retriever and currently weighs about 65 pounds (he probably won’t grow much bigger in height, but will probably pack on another 10 pounds as he matures).

When Stetson joined the family about a year ago I new that eventually my RX-8 sports car would no longer cut it. Even though I could fit both dogs in the car it was a tight fit and the leather seats really didn’t appreciate Linus and Stetson’s claws.

So, here we are, in the market for a car, SUV, or truck that will fit one average sized adult and two medium/large dogs.

The Perfect Dog Car Criteria

Criteria for the dogs:

  • Seats that fold flat or easily removable – hopefully fits a crate or two.
  • Plenty of usable cargo space relative to the size of the vehicle with wide, square backs, and little rear slope to make most of cargo area.
  • Dog friendly interior – Even the best dog can have accidents in the car.
  • Door & window locks – Dogs are smart and some can open a car door.
  • All-wheel or four-wheel drive and high ground clearance – for camping or going to the mountains with your best friend (I’m talking about your dog of course).

Criteria for the humans:

  • Price Range: Under 30K
  • Curb Appeal – Hopefully the car is not hard on the eyes.
  • Fuel Economy -Unfortunately SUV’s get worse gas mileage.
  • Reliability – If you’re car is not working what good is it?
  • Retains Value – Cars are terrible investments, but we want it to retain some of it’s value.
  • Extras – Any miscellaneous extra goodies the car may have.
  • Car in the City – Smooth ride? Does it have power? Handle Well?

The Perfect Dog Car Candidates

My choices and initial impressions

  • Honda Element – Interior seemingly built for dogs, but UGLY.
  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited – Four door offers plenty of room, rugged interior, and classic looks. Reliability is questioned and poor fuel economy. – This link will take you straight to my review of the Wrangler Ulimited!
  • Scion xBIt’s probably considered a sedan, but has decent interior space for a smaller car.
  • Toyota FJ CruiserGreat off road vehicle like the Wrangler with more interior comfort. Poor fuel economy. – This link will take you straight to my review of the FJ Cruiser!
  • Mazda CX-7Nice refined look, but interior might be small.
  • Nissan Xterra – SUV built for the outdoors. Poor fuel economy.
  • Jeep Commander – Nice size can seat up to 7. High price and poor fuel economy is a deterrent.
  • Toyota TacomaOnly truck in the line up. Truck bed gives you many options, but small cabin space.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe – Great value with a 10 year 100,000 mile warranty. Nothing stands out on this car.
  • Ford Escape HybridFuel Economy is great, but interior might be small.
  • Saturn Vue Green Line HybridFuel economy is great, but interior might be small.
  • Toyota Highlander HybridNice large vehicle (seats 7), but price is out of my range.
  • Mercury Mariner HybridFuel economy is great and supposedly has some nice tech gadgets on the inside, but interior might be small.
  • Toyota Prius Hybrid#1 on fuel economy, but probably has the smallest interior. Can I even fit a crate in this thing?

 

Yahoo! Autos

I may add more to this list as time moves on, but these are the candidates so far. Of course, I’m probably leaning more towards few of the cars on the list, but I’m going to try to be objective and test drive each car keeping in mind both my comfort with the vehicle and my dogs comfort.

By the way, a great resource on dog cars can be found on the http://www.dogcars.com website. This is a site devoted to exactly what I’m researching. By the way I fused some of my criteria with some of the criteria listed on the dog cars website.

What do you think? I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who at least consider your dogs interests when purchasing the perfect dog car!

Comments

  1. says

    Although the gas mileage isn’t great, it isn’t that bad either. I drive a F-150 Supercrew 4×4 pick-up truck. It’s a four-door monster that allows me to carry a family of four plus two dogs.

    We have a terrier-mix that easily fits in the cabin. Our Labrador Retriever rides inside based on weather, but mostly stays in the bed of the truck. We have a plastic pet kennel that is tied down in the back of the truck and he rides in there. Loves it. Plus, it keeps all of the hair out of the interior carpet…always a big problem when you have to use your vehicle for work-related functions.

  2. says

    I’ve accepted the fact that if I get an SUV or a truck I’m going to get bad gas mileage.

    I have a couple friends who have F-150’s. They’re very nice trucks, but I think a little big for my taste.

    Keeping the hair out of the interior of the car is a definite plus. I’ve been looking for a vehicle that has plastic floors like the FJ Cruiser or the Honda Element. The carpet on the Wrangler can be removed and the inside has drainage holes which allows you to hose out the inside of the vehicle.

  3. says

    If you want detailed measurements and other dog-related information, take a look at CarGoDogs.com. We have a recent review of the Element, the Hyundai, and the Toyoto RAV, among others.

  4. New York Terrier says

    I found your blog via Google while searching for new york terrier and your post regarding The Perfect Dog Car looks very interesting to me. I have seen many sites before and most of them do not look this good. I cannot wait to let my friends know about this site. Thanks for the excellent content.

  5. Jane says

    You might want to look at Suburu’s. Previously I had a golden Retriver and a lab puppy in training. Now I have a 5 1/2 y old lab and a 7 month old puppy in training. Our household has an Outback and a Forrester. The Outback has 2/3 & 1/3 split rear folding seats. It houses room for a crate and gear with one person in the back.

    Jane

  6. says

    @Jane, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have to take a look at the Outback and the Forrester. If you’ve been reading this thread then you probably know that gas mileage is a concern for me. What kind of mileage are you getting with your Subaru’s?

  7. John S. says

    I read your info regarding the Jeep Wrangler and have to agree it really is a sharp, bold, cool looking vehical. My favorite, although the gas mileage and dependability is really keeping me from buying one of these. I checked out the Rav 4 and the Suburu Outback at the Chicago Auto Show and both have excellent gas mileage and dependabilty. I am so undecided because I really love the styling of the Jeep. The show had a really cool man made obsticle course that Jeep vehicles went through. Prettty impressive! Being a Midwestern person though, I think the Jeep is way more car.

    Another option I am looking for is manual transmission. I enjoy going through the gears and I am lucky I only work 12 miles from my home.

    Anyways, good luck with your decision. I look forward to see what you bought.

    John S.

    • says

      @John S., I love the styling of the Jeep Wrangler too, but still haven’t come to a decision. Other people have mentioned the Suburu Outback so maybe I’ll take a closer look at that car as well. Your concerns about the Wrangler are exactly the same as mine. I’m actually taking a close look at the Mini Cooper Clubman now too. Good luck with your decision too and let me know what car you go with.

      • Jon says

        Colby

        Know this might be out of date, but what did you ever find out about the MINI Cooper Clubman? Would it fit a large yellow lab alright? I live in downtown Chicago – so the gas mileage things important – but do travel up to WI to the lake often. I also have a 3 1/2 year old son to consider too. Have a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland that I am thinking of parting ways with for a more fuel efficient – completely paid off car.

        Thanks,
        Jon

        • says

          @Jon, I test drove the regular Mini Cooper s and I sat inside both the Mini cooper Clubman and the Countryman and the Los Angeles Auto Show. However, I still haven’t purchased a new car…still rockin the 2000 CRV. I think I’d consider the Countryman over the Clubman because it’s larger and I prefer having 4 doors for getting my dogs in and out of the car. I had an RX-8 and it was difficult getting the dogs out using the suicide doors. Plus the gas mileage is still pretty good on the Countryman (27 city, 35 hwy). I think the Clubman would be sufficient if you have a large yellow lab, but the Countryman would be better.

          I’m still not sure what I’m going to get, but the CRV has 170K miles so it’s getting close to time. Good luck with your dog car search!

          • Jess says

            170,000 on a Honda is only half way there! Lol
            I’ve drove a Honda element since a couple months after my dog’s first seizure almost 6 years ago. To be honest, when I bought it it was hideous. But nothing on the market beats the interior and when you have a dog who could seizure and need some clean up the wipe able flooring and stain resistant seats (I’ve never used more than some water), fold up seats. Easily removed seats… You just can’t beat it… The inside became beautiful in a matter of weeks!!! I love that on a day when the temps are mild but a normal vehicle would still heat up too much I can fully remove the rear sun roof and the temp in the Ellie stays at 70 degrees.

          • says

            @Jess, I’ve heard so many people who love their Honda Element I wonder if they will bring it back newly redesigned. I agree that it’s not a very good looking car, but I can see you’re point on how beautiful it is on the inside…that’s all that matters right? Maybe I’ll have to go out and find me a used Honda Element.

          • Jess says

            Lol… It’s not ALL that matters… But yes it is also all that matters. I’ve had my ’03 since ’06, brought it home at 72,000 miles and am sitting at 155,222 (weird, but I noticed this today lol). It’s still going strong… Part of me wants it to die… I want a car thats good looking!! I’ve got a list from a Mercedes c300 4matic to a jeep wrangler Artic edition… But the jeep lacks the out right SPACE of my element, the space is just expansive and the Mercedes… Uh… Lol yeah. Everything that could almost do the job of the element gets the same gas mileage but is lacking something the element offers… It has everything but looks. I don’t blame you for not choosing one. Something nice about the looks is that without a major redesign no one has a clue that my element is almost 10 years old. Lol

            Good luck picking a car! Dogs make us so picky!!

          • says

            @Jess, I vote for the jeep wrangler arctic edition! If I didn’t mind the gas mileage I would get the 4 door wrangler arctic edition. If you go with a c300 I think you should also keep your Element. I’ve been looking at cars for 5 years and I still haven’t seen one that fits my needs. I guess I’ll just keep waiting for now…

  8. says

    My parents (58 years old) recently bought a car to travel between their summer home in MN and winter home in LA. Their dogs are seniors so clearance and space (they have two 70lb Golden Retrievers). They bought a CHrystler Town and Country Minivan. Although they added all the extras (really dvd for the dogs?) The vehicle is amazing. Plenty of space, fold down seats, sliding doors on either side and huge rear gate. It is by all rights a grocery-getter but the dogs love it. They can step in and out by themselves which makes them fell a little more independent

  9. says

    @Martin, thanks for letting us know about the Chrysler Town and Country Minivan. I know a lot of our puppy raising friends love their minivans, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to get a minivan of my own (although the Honda Element looks an awful lot like one).

  10. Anne says

    I know this is an old post, and its likely you’ve purchased a car by now, but I gotta tell you, we own an Anatolian Shepherd (they are sort of like German Shepherds, only bigger, google them they are a beautiful breed) and a tiny mixed breed. We bought a Scion xB (2008) expressly for the purpose of fitting our big dog. Its GREAT. Our Anatolian even fits in the back with the seats up, and can stand up comfortably. Which means from our xB we get space for 5 passengers, two dogs, one of whom is HUGE and over 25 MPG City. Can’t beat it. While it doesn’t have the plastic flooring like the Honda Element, there is something about the seat upholstery that it doesn’t “hold” hair if you know what I mean. Dog hair gets on it, but you can simply brush it off, you don’t feel like you are scraping at it to get it off the seats as we did with our old car. I highly reccomend!

    • says

      @Anne thanks for your reply and you won’t believe it, but I still haven’t purchased a new car. I’m still driving the 2000 CRV. We test drove the xB and really loved driving it around. One of our concerns is with trying to keep the dog smell to a minimum in our car that is why we prefer the cars with plastic floors and odor/water resistant seat materials. It sounds like the fur sweeps out very easily, but what do you think about odors? Do the seats and carpets stay fairly odor free? Again thanks for your comment it really helps me and my readers make a better decision on our next dog car.

  11. Daniel says

    Hi Colby – like Anne, this is a very late response to your post, but I loved it! Makes me feel better to know someone else is purchasing a car based mainly on dogs. ;) I will soon have 2 German shepherds. Currently I have a Scion XD, which, as much as I love it, will simply not suffice. I am hoping to stay with the Scion brand as my XD gets around 38-40 mpg, and am so happy to see Anne’s post that the XB is working for her.

    Have you made the purchase yet, and if so what? My brother has a Honda Pilot with 2 large labs, and said the same thing – that having the plastic flooring has made a big difference in not having “dog smell” in the vehicle.

    • says

      @Daniel, unfortunately the poor economy has forced me to stick with my older CRV. However, I’ve been keeping my eye out for my next car purchase and of course I’d like to get something that suits both me and my dogs. I didn’t know the Honda Pilot had plastic floors. That’s another one I’m going to add to my lists. By the way, the cloth interior in my CRV really absorbs the doggy odors so I’m definitely looking to get a car that has water and odor resistant materials and hopefully plastic floors.

  12. Kayla says

    We have a great dane and german shepherd. We decided on a pontiac vibe. It has plastic on the back of the seats and gets approx 32 mpg. I also went to our local farm supply store and got some rubber mats like what is used for horse stalls. I shaped this rubber to the back area and it has worked great!

    Good luck in your decisions!

    • says

      @Kayla, thanks for letting us know about your pontiac vibe. The Orange County Auto show is a couple weeks away and we’ll take a look at that car as well as any other car that might match our dog car criteria. I’m sure someday we’ll find a car that matches our needs.

  13. Becky says

    Another car you might want to consider (if you’re still searching) is the Honda Fit. I carry my 2 basset hounds in their kennels in the Fit with the back seats down, and we all ride as comfortably as possible. It’s not too high off the ground, so I don’t have to make my 5’4″ self any taller or stronger than I am to load them up. I have to load the kennels in so that one dog can jump into his from the side door and I have to pick up the other to put her in her kennel and then just swing her kennel into place to close the hatchback. I get around 30-32 mpg in city and have done as well as 36 on the highway. Maybe it’s just the basset hair, but it sticks to the fabric and is a pain to remove. I’ve about decided that I just have a dog car and if anyone is really bothered by a few dog hairs then they can drive themselves! I am looking for another car since mine was recently damaged by hail and may be totaled by my insurance company (fingers crossed that it’s a no; I’ve almost paid this one off!). Your site has really given me some good options, so thanks!

    • says

      @Becky, thank you for the suggestion. I’ll have to check out the Honda Fit. What size kennels do you put in your car? I would probably need to fit possibly 2 36″ long kennels. I like the mpg of the Honda Fit. One thing I’ve been looking for is a car that has plastic floors and weather and odor resistance seats.

      By the way, if you have to get a new car do you have any ideas on what other kinds of cars you would consider?

      • Becky says

        The kennels are Remington Large with air vents on the bottom and top (a requirement for my basset babies so they can breathe air wo standing on their tiptoes). The measurements are roughly 36 x 24 x 24. For me carting my dogs around, it’s perfect. I can take up to one person in the car, but that person cannot recline the seat back too far. I haven’t had a problem with pet odor in the Fit, but my dogs don’t swim and I try to wipe them down before they get in their kennels if they do get muddy. The floors and seats are cloth, so the hair is pretty noticeable.

        I’ve heard several people talk about the Honda Element being perfect for dogs. The floor is plastic, and there is a ton of room in the back. I don’t think the MPG is as good as the Fit, but it is probably a better choice for a tall dog or multiple animals. Three people and three un-kenneled dogs rode in the Element, and we were all comfortable. If I have to get another car, I might consider the Element.

        • says

          @Becky, I was hoping/waiting for them to remodel the Honda Element with a new design and better gas mileage. Unfortunately, they discontinued it instead. Now I’m hoping they’ll introduce a new similar car that will replace the Element. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  14. Mandi says

    Hi

    I am glad i am not the only one looking for cars because of dogs. I am in the same boat. mine arent fully grown and i am in need of a car. If you have any other recommnedations please let me know. thanks

    • says

      @Mandi, I’m still trying to figure out the whole dog car situation. I will definitely report back when I find my perfect dog car. Until then let us know the kind of cars you are looking at as well. Good luck finding your next dog car!

      • Lee says

        Hi Colby, a slightly different approach, i have read your posts, as i am in the same situation, although i am in the UK. I have looked at several options to comfortably fit my family of four, plus two german shepherds, i am now in the process of sourcing an Audi Q7 4×4, it has ample space for the family, and enough space at the rear to hold two large removable dog crates, which are easy to clean outside the vehicle, the rear of the vehicle can be lowered with air suspension to help loading and unloading.

        • says

          Hi Lee,

          Thank you for the recommendation. I’d love to get a Q7, but it’s unfortunately it’s outside of my budget. That’s pretty cool the Q7 can be lowered with air suspension.

          Thanks,
          Colby

          • Tom says

            I actually have two giant dogs, a Mastiff and a Saint Bernard. I can only fit one of them at a time in my car (backseat, if they laydown) and am also looking to get a new car.
            I usually borrow my buddies truck for the bed for vet appointments and such but the truck is horrible on gas. I work over 20 miles away from where I live, so I don’t want something that would completely crush my money on gas so that really rules trucks and SUVs out.
            I looked at the jeep Unlimited and I love it, but the MPG is horrid. So currently I am at a loss for a vechicle for both of my dogs as well.

          • says

            Hi Tom,

            I really like the Jeep Unlimited too besides the gas mileage. Do you think we could talk jeep into improving the MPG on the Jeep Unlimited? Maybe a hybrid edition? I guess we can always dream. If you get a new car let me know about it.

            take care,
            Colby

      • Cherie says

        I bought my Subaru Outback just to fit my dog. I have a 90lb. Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The back area has a cargo mat that has a decently high edge to it to trap water and dog vomit. I know an earlier post-er talked about the split back seats. There is enough room in the back for two large dogs or three smaller dogs (medium-ish sized). I get about 24-26 mpg most of the time which is better than most SUVs.

        I think my next vehicle will be the Highlander Hybrid, but I will look for a used one.

        • says

          I just bought a house so it might be a bit before I get that new car. Subaru including the Outback are cars that seem to be catering to us dog loving folk. I’ll definitely take a close look at Subaru’s when the time comes. Thanks for telling us about your experiences.

  15. Xander says

    As this still seems to be an open topic, I’m in the same boat and started looking at the Subaru Impreza Crosstrek. It has the ground clearance, good MPG and it’s decent space on paper, I still need to go check it out in person though.

    • says

      When we were at the Orange County Auto Show a couple months ago we hopped in a couple of the Suburu’s. I believe one was the Outback and the other was the Impreza. Both seemed like they would make nice dog cars.

  16. MaryThompson says

    Even though your post is older, I am surprised that there have not been comments regarding Summer A/C for the best friend in a hybrid car. Since air conditioning is run off the electrical system of the hybrid, it’s easy to take fido along in the summer, and when necessary, leave the pup in air conditioned comfort in the vehicle. Electric system is left ON, to run AC, car IS locked, and when in Park, the gas engine is off. Works very well.

    • says

      Hi Mary,

      That’s a great point. I do remember when Prius released their solar roof in 2009/2010 that powered a fan that circulated air through the cabin when in park. Do you know which hybrid cars are built to run the A/C while you’re car is parked? I’d be very interested as long as running the A/C without the engine on didn’t kill the battery. I know K9 police cars have a similar feature to keep their dogs cool when the car is parked.

      I’m casually looking at new cars and I’m still driving my 2000 CRV as my primary dog car. I’m sad to say that I still don’t see anything that would be ideal as a dog car. I think I’m going to put together an updated blog post to help identify my needs in a dog-friendly car. Things have changed quite a bit since January 2008 not only in the automobile industry, but also in the type of car I’d prefer for me and my dogs.

      Take care,
      Colby

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