Car shopping gets everyone’s tails wagging, but for dog owners, the process can get a little hairy. As members of our family, doggos cruise around in our vehicles too, so finding something pet-friendly is a must.
There are many factors to consider while making your decision, ranging from storage space to climate control, as you probably couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) stuff a Great Dane into a Smart car.
We followed the scent trail and found the nine best cars and SUVs for dog owners. Check them out below!
Table of Contents
- What Features Should Owners Look For in a Dog-Friendly Car?
- Bonus Features For Dog-Friendly Cars
- 9 Best Cars for Dog Owners
What Features Should Owners Look For in a Dog-Friendly Car?
Dog-friendly cars come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t think your options are limited. Every doggo is different, so it’s important to keep your four-footed friend’s features in mind while shopping.
For instance, you’ll need a lot more space for a mastiff than a toy poodle. Likewise, a lowrider like a Basset hound might need something shorter to climb into than a long-legged Borzoi.
When browsing the car lot (or your computer), you should consider the following characteristics:
Adequate Space For Your Pup
Keeping your canine comfy goes a long way in guaranteeing a safe, happy car adventure. He should have enough room to lie down comfortably without feeling cramped.
Ideally, your dog should ride in a car-safe travel crate, so you’ll want to make sure your new ride has enough space to accommodate one. Larger crates can be especially hard to fit, so owners must take into consideration the height and width to ensure it’ll work in their new ride.
Separate Cargo Area (with Climate Control)
Space is great, but having a separate doggy zone is optimal for keeping everyone safe and secure.
No one wants a surprise lap visitor while cruising down the freeway, nor do you want your pupper to make a break for it when you open a door.
The best vehicles have climate control in the cargo area, ensuring that ruff riders have a cozy journey. This is particularly important for bulldogs and other brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds during the summer months.
(While we’re on the subject of summer car travel, check out a few additional tips on keeping canines cool in the car.)
Childproof Locks (They’re Dogproof Too)!
Keeping things secure with childproof locks for rear doors and windows is a must. Accidents happen, and while a slightly ajar window is great for fresh air, serious problems could occur if your pooch puts his paw on the button while you’re driving.
Luckily, these features come standard in most vehicles today, but just make sure you double-check.
Easy Access For Fido
Climbing in and out of the car shouldn’t be an ordeal. The best vehicles for dogs make access a breeze with low floorboards that allow your pup to pounce right in.
Hatchbacks are particularly pawsome, as they offer a wide rear entry point. This is very helpful for multi-dog households and those who travel with crates and other equipment.
Some cars also include self-opening features, where drivers can wave a foot over a sensor for hands-free entry. These are obviously helpful for busy families with fur kids.
Many cars feature tie-downs in the back that are great for securing dog travel harnesses or dog car crates. While puppers love to roam, a car ride is not the time or the place for it. A loose dog can easily cause an accident by jumping into your lap or bumping into the steering wheel.
In the event of a crash, they can get seriously injured if left roaming free. So, just like the humans riding in your car, any dogs on board should be secured to stay safe.
Foldable Rear Seats
Foldable rear seats are fantastic for families with four-footers. They offer more space than traditional seats, letting puppers perfect their best napping skills on the road and making room for crates and other supplies.
While romping outdoors is fun, the cleanup afterward isn’t. An easy-cleaning interior goes a long way for fur families.
For cargo holds, a waterproof liner is preferred, as they typically only need a wipe down to stay fresh between rides.
Things get a little trickier when it comes to seats. Some paw parents like the easy cleanup of leather while others fear their dog’s nails will damage the material. Cloth is great for durability, but things can get a little hairy (literally), as fur weaves into the fabric easily.
The decision can be made easier by purchasing car seat covers that leave messes and potential damage in the dust, and keep your car looking and smelling great between doggy adventures.
Ample Storage Space
Doggos have lots of accessories to tote around like leashes, toys, and training treats. Having extra storage around the car to contain them is always a bonus.
Storing them out of sight is ideal, preventing treat snatching while driving from point A to B. Some vehicles include hidden floorboard storage while others have netted side compartments.
Some vehicles come with containment barriers, keeping the fun (and fur) in the back while you focus on driving. These can be used for separating the cargo space from the cabin or the backseat from the front.
Generally these barriers are made of metal or mesh. But don’t worry if your preferred pick doesn’t come with included containment barriers; they can be purchased afterward.
Sunroofs offer a fun way for your pup to get the air he craves without hanging a head unsafely out the window.
They’re also great for keeping the air breathable during travel, as doggy odor can be rough, especially if a pupper is damp from the rain or a swim.
Okay, so this isn’t a must, but it’s definitely nice to have a car with built-in navigation for stress-free exploration. Dogs, after all, aren’t good at holding maps or plotting a course (they prefer to navigate via their noses).
Most navigation systems also have features for finding attractions or amenities in your area, and they could also help you find an emergency vet, dog park, or pet store, should the need arise.
Bonus Features For Dog-Friendly Cars
While these features are non-essential and less common, they are worth considering on your car search!
- Privacy Glass / Built-In Window Shades. Tinted glass or built-in window shades will help keep your car cooler in the summer, keeping your pup more comfy. If you live in an area with a large number of hot, humid days, you may want to consider this a must-have feature (although it’s worth noting that window shades can easily be installed aftermarket as well).
- Cameras. Some fancier cars are actually equipped with built-in cameras for the backseat or cargo area so that you can monitor your canine and make sure he’s doing OK when he’s in the car solo.
- Built-In Ramp. Built-in ramps are especially handy for senior doggos, allowing them to go on car rides without needing to jump up and down from the car (which can be hard on the joints of older dogs). The good news is that even if your car doesn’t have a built-in ramp, there are plenty of car and SUV ramps you can buy yourself.
- Shower & Dryer. You basically won’t see this in any car except for the Nissan X-Trail 4Dogs, but if you take your dog on muddy hikes often, it might be worth considering this dog-centric car.
9 Best Cars for Dog Owners
You wanted our favorites, and you got ’em! Check out our nine favorite cars and SUVs for dog-loving families below.
1. 2019 Subaru Crosstrek
About: The 2019 Subaru Crosstrek checks off multiple dog-friendly boxes from a spacious cargo area to easy interior cleaning.
Features: With the Crosstrek’s 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space, your doggo will have a comfy area to relax during rides. If he needs more wiggle room, you can expand it further up to 55.3 cubic feet with fold-flat seats.
Cargo-area tie downs come standard for safe travels, while a rear tray is optional for quick cleanup. Leather and cloth seat options let you choose the best material for your pooch, and features like an acoustic windshield make for a quiet, relaxing journey.
This crossover earns four paws up with its cargo space and 38 inches of headroom. Crates, carriers, booster seats, and more should fit easily, while its low floorboards are great for small pooches.
While there is a lot of room to work with, tall crates may be a tight squeeze, and the cargo tray is not standard in the lowest trim level. A lack of rear climate control is another downside.
2. 2020 Nissan Rogue
About: Dog-friendly drives are guaranteed with the Nissan Rogue. Spacious yet cozy, the Rogue allows owners and puppers to travel comfortably and safely.
Features: Whether you choose to lower the foldable rear seats or not, the Rogue has plenty of space for pupper passengers at 39.3 cubic feet. If you need even more space, the lower floor of the cargo area can be lowered to accommodate taller items like airline crates and other carriers.
Rear climate control will keep things comfy for your canine, while four standard cargo hooks allow you to secure pups or items during transport. A motion-activated liftgate is available on some trims, allowing for hands-free rear hatch opening with the wave of a foot.
The Nissan X-Trail 4Dogs version is available outside the U.S., and is specifically designed for pup parents with a built-in ramp, shower, and dryer.
The Rogue wins in terms of storage, with a spacious hidden compartment in the cargo area that’s perfect for stowing away doggo accessories. Thirty-eight and a half inches of headroom provides plenty of ceiling clearance, and the cargo space can be expanded to 70 cubic feet by lowering the rear seats.
The Rogue can be too tall to hop into for the small doggos, and a ramp may be needed for mobility-impaired mutts.
3. 2020 Honda Odyssey
About: Traveling with the family — including the furry and not so furry ones — is easier with the Honda Odyssey. Two rows of rear seating allow plenty of space for passengers and pets — even if you don’t use its generous cargo area.
Features: The Odyssey’s hands-free rear access eliminates the struggle of fussing with keys and handles with a handful of leashes.
Active noise cancellation technology and tri-zone climate control keep everyone happy, and the rear interior space stretches up to 158 cubic feet, thanks to its removable second row and foldable seating.
The Odyssey is also relatively easy on your wallet and the planet, as it gets up to 28 miles per gallon on the open road (it gets 19 miles per gallon in the city).
Toting all that doggone gear shouldn’t be an issue with the Odyssey’s size, and with numerous storage locations including option cargo bins, staying organized on the go is easy. This is an especially good option for multi-dog families or those who utilize travel crates.
The Odyssey is a large vehicle that may be too high for some doggos to jump into easily. It is a lot of room to clean as well, especially if you don’t purchase optional weatherproof mats and covers. Some may find the rear space just too large for their needs.
4. 2020 Kia Soul
About: Hound lovers will adore the Kia Soul, a small crossover whose roomy interior works well as a canine cruiser. A separate cargo hold allows for distraction-free driving, and its rear hatch allows for effortless entry.
Features: With the rear seats up, the Soul’s cargo hold is a respectable 24.2 cubic feet, but once they’re folded, the cargo space expands to offer a whopping 62.1 cubic feet. This makes for a comfy ride when you’re accompanied by large doggo or two.
A Cluster Ionizer — a technology that keeps the interior smelling fresh — is included in higher trims. This can be especially helpful for managing doggie odors in the car.
The Soul is a happy medium for those looking for a vehicle with enough room for larger doggos, while still being short enough for small dogs to climb into. 39.5 inches of rear headroom is great for stowing crates, while optional cargo mats keep your storage area looking its best.
If you regularly travel with your big doggo and several passengers, you may want to look for a different vehicle. Additionally, the rear does not feature its own climate control either.
5. 2020 Chevrolet Equinox
About: The Chevrolet Equinox has a lot of elements dog lovers will wag their tails over. It’s a solid choice with convenience options like hands-free rear entry to standard perks like foldable rear seats to maximize cargo space.
Features: The Equinox provides 63.9 cubic feet of cargo space, so your dogs will have enough room to travel without feeling crowded. It also comes with multiple sensors around the vehicle and an Active Noise Cancellation system to block out scary road sounds.
The optional all-weather cargo mat allows for easy cleaning between trips, while the sunroof (also optional) is perfect for letting your doggo feel the wind in his hair safely.
The Equinox is a solid choice for the majority of dog owners. The included storage space beneath the cargo area is great for hiding treats and leashes, and the wide rear entry provides plenty of space for your doggo to hop in and out.
Some pups will not be able to comfortably climb into the Equinox due to its height.
6. 2020 Kia Optima
About: Sedan lovers will find the Kia Optima a solid option for traveling with their pooch. Roomier than most sedans, this mid-size pick has enough space for a large dog or two.
Features: The rear seats can be folded flat to expand the 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space, allowing doggos to stretch their legs.
The Kia Optima has rear vents to keep backseat pooches comfortable, and its CleanTex seat protector technology keeps your cloth looking great.
One of the most attractive features of this vehicle is its efficiency, as it gets up to 37 miles per gallon on the highway (and a not-too-shabby 27 miles per gallon in the city).
Most dog owners will find the Optima paw-friendly. It’s not so large that you get overwhelmed or have to worry about your dog having too much space for mischief, and its low height is ideal for older or mobility-challenged pups.
A sedan just doesn’t offer the space some pup parents need for travel crates and other large equipment. Owners of giant breeds may also find it too cramped and with no separate cargo bay, a travel harness or barrier is a must to keep things safe upfront.
7. 2020 Honda Accord
About: Another sedan that earns high marks for being dog-friendly, the Honda Accord is ready for all of your four-footed adventures. Cozy and comfortable, the Accord makes car rides fun for you and your pooch.
Features: Active Noise Cancellation technology keeps things calm by blocking out road-noise, and 16.7 cubic feet of trunk space is great for storing doggo items. The rear seats fold down to free up space and make it easier to protect the upholstery from your pupper’s paws.
Heated rear seats are an option, too, allowing for cozy winter travel, and you can also pick up a model with an included moon roof, so your dog gets plenty of fresh air.
The Accord gets about 38 miles per gallon on the highway and 30 miles per gallon in the city.
Most pups can happily ride in the Accord without issue. The rear is spacious, whether the seats are up or down, and the low entry height makes getting in and out easy for small and older dogs. Climate controls for the back seat are also available.
The Accord is not ideal for giant breeds or those traveling with large equipment such as travel crates. Not having a separate cargo area can be a pain, too, especially when traveling with multiple dogs.
8. 2020 Subaru Outback
About: The Subaru Outback is a dog lover’s dream with a roomy interior and rugged design.
Features: The Onyx Edition XT cabin is a water-resistant option that’s built for wear and tear though the standard removable cargo tray does the job just fine too.
The cargo space itself is an impressive 32.5 cubic feet though it can be increased to 75.7 cubic feet by folding the rear seats.
A power rear gate is another perk, a one-touch option that allows for easy access even when your hands are full. Heated seats and dual-zone temperature control are also available for cozy travel in all weather.
The Outback provides enough room for most pooches to ride comfortably, and tie-down cargo hooks allow for safe travels. The low floorboard height is perfect for dogs that might not be able to climb into a standard-size SUV, and underfloor storage in the cargo area is great for packing doggo accessories out of view.
Those with large travel crates may need a bigger vehicle for transport.
9. 2020 Ford Explorer
About: The Ford Explorer is an SUV that isn’t playing around when it comes to dog-friendly fun. A spacious interior is just the start with this all-purpose pooch party mobile.
Features: Chock full of epic (optional) extras like sunroofs and keyless easy entry, the Explorer has plenty of hidden gems in store for doggos and their parents.
Tri-zone climate control keeps every rider (furry or not) comfortable, while cargo hooks keep everything secured as it should be. Up to 87 cubic feet of cargo space is available if you fold down the seats, and 38 to 40 inches of headroom allows most crates and pups to fit with ease.
The Explorer is a wonderful option if you have a big, active pooch or travel with large accessories like crates. The separate cargo area is a major perk if you regularly travel with backseat passengers and your doggo, providing a safe space for your fur friend on the road.
Those will small or old dogs will need to help them in and out, as the Explorer is simply too tall for them to safely board on their own.
Do you own any of the vehicles on this list? What dog-friendly car and SUVs do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!