Dogs love the open road as much as we do!
While humans always remember to buckle up before leaving the driveway, dogs don’t really have a say in the matter.
Many owners let their dog roam free in the car, which can be a deadly mistake.
Even owners who opt for using a dog carrier or crate designed for car travel will likely be shocked to discover that the vast majority of mainstream products aren’t crash proof and won’t protect you pooch in the event of an accident.
Today we’re covering what you need to know about dog carriers and car travel – why securing your dog is essential and which crates and carrier you can trust to keep your pooch safe & secure in the car.
Read below for details on what makes a crate safe for car travel and how certain crates were tested to be recognized as best of their breed – or check out our quick picks below!
What about harnesses? We cover those too in our guide to safety-approved, crash-tested dog car harnesses. Harnesses are often a better bet for large dogs.
Quick Picks: Safest Dog Car Crates
|Dog Car Crates||Best For||Price|
|#1 Pick: Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed (w/ Handilock)||Small / Medium (up to 15lbs)||$$|
|#2 Pick: Pet Ego Forma Frame Carrier||Medium (up to 22lbs)||$$|
|#3 Pick: Gunner Kennel||Large (up to 75 lbs)||$$$$|
|#4 Pick: Gen7Commuter Carrier||Medium (up to 20lbs)||$|
Continue reading for more in-depth reviews
Whether you opt to use a dog car crate, or some other kind of canine car restraint, your dog needs to be secure while you’re driving.
Many owners opt to let their dog have free reign in the car, but this can be very dangerous for both owners and pets. For one, in the event of an accident, your dog will become an instant projectile, flying through the windshield and injuring you, other passengers, and themselves.
Unrestrained dogs are also a common cause of distracted driving. Renowned author Stephen King famously got into a horrific, nearly-fatal car accident when the other driver took his eyes off the road to correct his misbehaving dog.
Even though it’s fun to have your pup by your side as a copilot, the distraction of your dog can be deadly for you both. It’s just not worth the risk!
Many owners place their dog’s car crate in the back of the car – the traditional cargo area.
Unfortunately, this often isn’t a safe area for your pooch to be. In many cars, certain front and back sections of the car are designed to be designated “crumple zones” in the event of an accident. The idea is that, by allowing certain sections of the car to crumple on impact, passengers in the interior of the car may be preserved.
This can be life-saving technology, so long as no loved ones are stuck in those crumple zones.
Crumple zones can vary, especially when it comes to larger cars and SUVs that use more of the back car space for seating (making those areas unsafe to be designed as crumple zones, therefore making them safe areas to keep your dog).
Back crumple zones may not be a threat with all cars, but we recommend consulting with your car dealership to determine what the crumple zones of your car are – and then make sure to place your dog’s car crate away from that dangerous crumple zone.
Placing your dog in the front seat isn’t a viable option either, as that exposes your dog to front passenger airbags, which are designed to save a human’s life – not a dog. Similar to how you shouldn’t place a child in the passenger seat, due to their size in relation to the airbag trajectory, dogs also can’t safely be placed in the passenger seat.
While dog car safety is important for all canines, special care needs to be given to bigger dogs.
Larger dogs are even more of a dangerous projectile than small dogs, as a 70 lb canine body hurtling through your car at 70 mph is going to be a whole new level of dangerous as opposed to a 10 lb pup.
On top of that, larger dogs will experience more force on impact. Unfortunately, this collision force is so strong that very few dog crates can hold up – the list of car-safe dog crates for big dogs is a very short one.
We’re going to take you through what to consider when selecting a super safe car crate for your pooch.
Be sure to keep in mind:
Size. Pay attention to the size of your dog, compared to the size of the crate or carrier. A dog car crate should never be 6 inches longer than your dog. This is because the snugness is actually what is keeping your dog safe – allowing too much excess space means increased momentum and heavier force on impact, resulting in a more dangerous crash for your dog.
Connectors. If your crate’s connectors aren’t strong and up to snuff, the crate will go flying in an accident. And that kind of defeats the whole points of having a sturdy dog car crate! In many dog crash tests, connector straps were a key point of failure.
Wire. Wire crates won’t do a ton to protect your dog in a car accident. While they are suitable for stopping your dog from distracting you while driving, wire crates have been reported to collapse upon impact.
Soft-Sided Crates. Soft-sided carriers and crates are fine enclosures for general use, and they work great as airline approved in-cabin carriers. However, they will do little-to-nothing when it comes to protecting your pooch in a car accident. Since the carriers are soft, most will immediately collapse on impact.
Plastic. The majority of plastic crates have been reported to fracture and break upon impact, leaving your dog unsecure. Most traditional plastic crates simply aren’t sturdy enough to be crash-proof.
So what does that leave? Well…not much. The dog crates and carriers that have been deemed crash safe are few and far between – however, the winners are ultra tough, durable devices that blow other competitors away.
It’s worth noting that while the majority of budget-friendly and popular consumer crates and carriers failed the safety test, most of these failed crash products do help substantially at least when it comes to distraction prevent.
Having your dog secured in the back seat, away from the driver, means a safer driving experience and, as a result, puts the entire car at lower risk for an accident.
So while the vast majority of crates will not protect your dog in an accident, even a poorly cash-tested device will likely be better than none at all. This holds true for many dog booster car seats and dog seat belts as well – most provide virtually no protection in an accident, but they will keep your pup from pestering you while you drive.
Still – we want to prevent distractions and keep our dogs safe, so we’d certainly suggest opting for a dog car crate or carrier that is capable of doing both!
The CPS (Center for Pet Safety) is a non-profit research and advocacy organization that conducts crash tests for various dog safety products. They were established in 2011 after realizing the disturbing fact that there are no performance standards or test protocols for testing pet safety devices.
The truth is that manufacturers of canine car crates and carriers aren’t even required to test their products. Many crates and carriers that market themselves as “crash tested” and safe fail to provide substantial protection in the event of an accident.
Most crates or harnesses that claim to be “crash tested” were only evaluated, at the manufacturer’s discretion, for one size. This means that a crate might pass for a very small dog, but lacks the stability and security for a medium or large sized dog.
It is quite shocking that dog car crates and carriers aren’t assessed against the same rigorous government safety standards for child car seats or other vehicle safety devices – especially considering that a compromised crate can injure both pets and humans. Car crates with connector straps that fail under stress means that your dog crate could go flying, hurting any passengers in its way (as well as your canine).
After realizing the horrifying gaps in dog car crate and carrier testing, the CPS organization began conducting rigorous testing through the use of specially designed fake crash test dogs.
The CPS teamed up with Subaru to do an objective study in an independent, third-party testing facility in Virginia. A startling number of car crates and dog car carriers failed, but thankfully, a few shone few and are now being recognized as the life-saving devices that they are!
This video explains a bit about the testing and highlights the three winners. We go into more detail about the winning crates below, but this video offers a nice quick overview:
In the CPS (Center for Pet Safety) Crash Worthiness Study, two tests were performed.
One was completed with a crate placed in the back cargo area of a vehicle, with the back seats folded downwards, and the crate being secured through connector straps. The vast majority of crates failed in this scenario.
In the 2nd test, dog car crates were again placed in the cargo area, this time with one side of the crate resting against the back side section of the back seats (which were up, not collapsed). This allowed the crates to have additional support through the seatback, and many more crates were able to pass this test.
However, the problem is that if the crate relies on the car’s seatback for support, there is an increased risk of a seatback failure in the event of a front impact if the dog and crate have a combined weight that exceeds 40 lbs.
This wouldn’t just put your dog at risk, but your passengers too, so in many cases, using the seatback support for your dog’s crate is not safe or recommended. Crates mentioned here passed BOTH tests, so no worries!
Let’s take a look at the top winners for the most secure and safe dog car carriers and crates!
Today, we’re highlighting the crates and carriers that passed the CPS 2015 Crates and Carrier Crash Worthiness Study, complimented with additional CPS tests performed in 2016. We’ll be continuing to update this article each year when new crash test reports are released.
About: The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed is a CPS favorite as a safe, secure, and affordable dog car carrier that provides security and protection for your pooch in case of an accident.
Size: Fits pets up to 15 lbs. Also available in mini size for pets 7 lbs or less.
The Sleepypod Pet Bed could technically be classified as a soft-sided carrier, but really it’s an entirely different beast.
The Sleepypod is actually made of tough, durable, luggage-grade material. Owners have reported real-life experiences getting into car accidents, even having their cars get completely totaled, but having their dogs come out of the crash safe thanks to the security provided by Sleepypod.
However, you don’t have to go off of rumor – the CPS tested Sleepypod and found that these carriers do indeed provide tremendous safety in the event of a crash.
The CPS test noted that the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed, with the added PPRS Handilock feature, performed exceptionally well. The unit’s straps snugly fit into the car’s seat through the use of the lap and shoulder belt system, providing canine safety.
NOTE: When ordering, remember the Sleepypod’s special handilock device is what, in part, makes this carrier perform so well in car crashes.
Previously the handilock was an optional add-on, but after realizing the value of the device, Sleepypod now provides the handlock free with your carrier purchase!
Owners note that usually the handilock ships separately from the actual carrier, but it should automatically be shipped to your doorstep when you order the bed. If for some reason it doesn’t arrive, make sure to reach out to Sleeypod and they’ll get you set up with a handilock for free!
The CPS actually tested several travel crates from Sleepypod, including the:
All of these beds passed the CPS crash test, are suitable for dogs up to 18 lbs, depending on the model.
About: In the CPS crate crash study, the Gunner Kennel G1 Intermediate Crate was the only kennel that passed for large dogs. This ultra-durable kennel is sure to keep your canine pal safe, no matter how rough the road is.
Size: G1 Intermediate fits dogs up to 75 lbs, while the G1 Large fits dogs up to 110 lbs.
This kennel is serious stuff – it’s tested to withstand over 4,000 lbs of force! In Gunner Kennel’s own tests, they even shot at it with a 12-gauge shotgun, and not a single pellet went through. Wow.
Gunner kennels features extra-strong double-walled rotomolded plastic, along with unique strength-rated connection straps, rubber grip feet, and a dual locking feature on the door that provides additional structural support.
This kennel takes the cake with excellent structural integrity, providing car safety and security even for larger canines.
The only downside is that these kennels are pretty unattractive – those double-cased walls don’t exactly have an aesthetic appeal, but safety doesn’t always look pretty!
The Gunner Kennel car crates are also very expensive – high enough that the average owner might not be able to swing the cost easily.
About: Pet Ego’s Forma Frame Carrier is an elegant, durable dog carrier suitable for smaller sized dogs.
Size: Small (dogs up to 17 lbs) and Large (dogs up to 22 lbs).
The Pet Ergo Forma Frame Carrier is a nice carrier on its own – however, what really sets this carrier apart (and helped it pass the CPS crash study) is its special ISOFIX-Latch Connection, which snaps into place just like a child’s safety seat does.
The CPS was very impressed by this latch system. In their study, they found that this innovative latch connection provided great security and allowed the Forma Frame Carrier to safely contain the test dog (latch connections were a main point of failure for many other carriers tested).
About: The Gen7Commuter Carrier from Gen7Pets passed the CPS’s crash test in January 2018, with a 5-star rating. The carrier was tested and passed with dogs up to 20lbs.
Size: Single-Size (can fit pets up to 20lbs)
This carrier is designed to utilize your car’s existing seatbelt mechanism, with a heavy duty seatbelt latch to keep the carrier in position in the event of a crash. Made with ballistic nylon and industrial-grade stitching, it’s built to last and hold its structure to prevent collapse.
The Gen7Commuter Carrier is also airline approved (for most major airlines – always check your specific airline’s requirements and measurements), making it a carrier that can pull double duty.
It also folds flat when you’re not using it, making it easy to store. The carrier comes in one size (dimensions above) and is available in two colors: black or burgundy.
Since this carrier is a relatively new addition to the list of crash-tested carriers, compared to the veterans on the list, there aren’t tons of user review on this carrier yet. One user complained that the measurements she took of the carrier did not match what the manufacturer specified, but this could also be due to confusion about interior vs exterior dimensions. Make sure to check measurements before purchasing!
It’s also worth noting that this is the most affordable crash-test certified dog carrier available.
The three dog car carriers and crates we mentioned here are the only ones that passed the CPS’s independent crash test study, so they’re all excellent choices!
However, if we had to choose one, we’d go with the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed. This is a favorite of ours because Sleepypod carriers are already widely regarded as very stylish, durable, and comfortable dog carriers for air travel and other activities.
The fact that they are great for safe car travel makes them a true winner in our book. Sleepypod carriers are also very affordable, especially considering the quality and safety your dog receives!
The only issue with Sleepypod? It isn’t big enough for larger dogs. For bigger canines, the Gunner Kennel is really your only option!
Your dog’s car crate should be large enough that your dog can stand up in it and lie down comfortably.
Measure from your dog’s neck (aka where the collar sits) to the base of the tail. Then, add a few inches. That’s the length you want to shoot for.
For height, measure from the top of your dog’s shoulders to the ground. If you’re buying a soft-sided carrier, you should add 2-3 inches to the height measurement. For hard carriers, add 3-5 inches.
Also, make sure to keep weight recommendations in mind – if your dog is between two sizes, you should probably opt for the larger size!
Do you use a crate or carrier in the car with your dog? Are you surprised to hear about the CPS’s study and the lackluster safety of most car crates? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Last update on 2018-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Meg Marrs is the Founder and Senior Editor at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!