Finding The Perfect Dog Car

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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 Hybrid – Fuel Economy is great, but interior might be small.
  • Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid – Fuel 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!

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39 Comments

  1. @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).

  2. 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

  3. 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.

    1. @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.

      1. 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

        1. @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!

          1. 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.

          2. @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.

          3. 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!!

          4. @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…

  4. @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?

  5. 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. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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