There’s nothing quite like taking a road trip with your fury four-legged best friend. Unfortunately, not all vehicles are designed around your pooch’s needs. With the idea of making the trip as enjoyable for your pet as it is for you, here are the best cars with a few features we think every dog-friendly car should have.
Leather seats are easier to clean and are a bit more durable. However, cloth seats also have their advantages. Cloth seats are less slippery under a dog’s paws, making it easier for him or her to stay put when the car is cornering or braking. The cloth is also more comfortable, staying cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. So we recommend vehicles that have leather seats available as an option, and we do not recommend suede seats. Of course, anytime you have a pup in the back seat, they should be properly restrained with a harness, just like a human wearing a seat belt.
Tinted windows are a great way to keep the interior cool for your pet, although please never make the mistake of thinking it’s OK to leave a dog in a parked car just because it has tinted glass. The tint helps reduce heat and UV penetration while you’re driving along. Most SUVs come standard with tinted rear glass, but in passenger cars, you may have to ask the dealer to add it.
A level cargo floor makes it easier for your dog to get in and out, plus it makes carrying a dog crate or a large dog bed a bit easier. For vehicles with small cargo areas, a second-row seat that can fold flat is the ideal solution.
A low cargo area makes it easier for small dogs to get in and out and is easier on the joints of older dogs. This is the main reason there aren’t any large, truck-based SUVs or pickups on our list. In the end we decided to include vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota RAV4 even though they sit a little higher off the ground than we’d prefer—however, both have other positive qualities that outweigh that one consideration. Also, there are many aftermarket steps and ramps that can bridge the gap if you must have a car with high ground clearance.
Rear air vents are a great way to keep fresh, cool air circulating around your dog.
Cargo area tie downs are also crucial for securing crates, attaching harnesses and holding in place wire or mesh barriers.
With these features in mind, here are 10 vehicles we think dogs and dog lovers should own.
In Tesla’s Dog Mode, you can leave your pooch in the car and the system will keep the vehicle cool
2019 BMW X2
Slightly roomier than most compact cars, the BMW X2 has the added advantage of more ground clearance, a sportier ride and the BMW name. Starting around $37,500, the X2 isn’t as affordable as a Subaru Crosstrek or a Honda Fit, but it offers more power and a fun-to-drive attitude than either of those dog-friendly hatchbacks. Inside, the X2 features comfortable faux-leather front seats for you and your partner, and in back a large cargo area with seats that can be folded flat. The big hatchback door makes for easy loading and BMW provides a number of pet-friendly accessories, including rear-seat protectors and a variety of sport bags that hang from the front seat headrest. These bags are perfect for storing treats, toys and water bowls. For you, there’s the option of AWD, a 302-horsepower M35i trim and more high-tech options than you can shake a stick at. One bugaboo about the X2 is that Apple CarPlay isn’t standard and BMW charges an $80 annual fee for the service.
Abby the American Staffordshire terrier says: “I’m a LOT like the BMW X2 my family drives me in. Snicker all you want. I know that my agility, grace and fairly muscular body means I deserve to ride in such a slick car. Sure, I may leave puppy prints on the windows, but that just means I got a lotta love to give, and I’m not afraid to show it.”
2019 Buick Regal TourX
As one of the few true wagons on the market, the 2019 Buick Regal TourX makes an excellent dog-friendly transport. It has more cargo room than most compact crossovers, and its wide rear hatch makes it easy to load a large dog crate or just a large dog. The TourX rides and drives like a car, and unlike many small SUVs, its lower ride height makes it easier for older dogs, small dogs and overweight dogs to climb aboard. The TourX’s turbocharged engine delivers good performance and fuel economy, while its suspension smooths out bumps and blemishes without lessening the car’s handling and cornering abilities. Entry-level models have cloth seats, while more expensive trims offer leather as well as a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat. The Regal TourX also offers the option of all-wheel drive to help get you through deep snow. Prices start around $30,000, but generous incentives could take thousands off the bottom line.
Gracie the Greyhound says: “Sure, I can run super super fast, but sheesh … what I really need is a nap. Throw down a fluffy fleece blanket for me in a Buick Regal Tour X, and allow my peaceful soul (and my crazy long legs) to stretch out, and let me snooze the afternoon away. All of that racing tires a lady out.”
2019 Chrysler Pacifica
Among the more attractive minivans on the road, the Chrysler Pacifica offers a choice of gasoline or plug-in hybrid engines, the latter qualifying for a $7,500 federal tax credit and delivering an all-electric driving range up to 33 miles. The Pacifica’s size makes it ideal for large families with large dogs, and Chrysler offers a number of pet-friendly accessories, such as a lightweight collapsible pet kennel and a carpeted mat for the cargo area. The Pacifica also features lots of clever storage spots for hiding dog toys and accessories, including underfloor storage provided by the ingenious Stow ‘N Go seating (not available on the hybrid model). A low loading floor and sliding side-door windows that roll down are more dog-friendly features, and the tall ceiling and low rear bumper make it easy to use a rear ramp for dogs who can no longer jump up. With prices ranging from around $28,000 to just under $48,000 for a fully loaded Pacifica Hybrid Limited, there’s plenty of room for most budgets.
Lenny the Labrador retriever says: “Did someone say ‘beach?’ Pretty sure they did so grab my Frisbee and my human brother and sister and let’s GO! Like, NOW. Sure, I’m all awesomeness and comfortable cuddles, but when I’m ready to get my doggy wiggles out by hoofing it on the sand, it needs to happen pronto. The Pacifica gets me to my happy place and really, what more could a fur baby want?”
2019 Honda Fit
The Honda Fit is classified as a compact car, but its tall roof and versatile interior make it the perfect budget-conscious dogmobile. At around $17,000, the Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -2.34% Fit comes with a long list of available features including Honda Sensing, a package of driver assists that includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. For about $20,000, you can get heated leather seats, navigation and Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +1.61% CarPlay/Android Auto integration. In addition to being inexpensive, the Fit sips gas, has an excellent repair and reliability record and holds good resale values. The Fit has a big hatch and massive cargo space for pet carriers and cargo, and its rear seats fold flat, creating a level floor that’s easy to stand on. When you’re not traveling with your pet, the Fit’s rear Magic Seat features seat cushions that fold up, creating more floor space for large items like mountain bikes and boogie boards.
Lucy the Lhasa apso says: “Don’t let my tiny stature fool ya. I can pack a punch. The Honda Fit is my pup match for all the right reasons — we’re both compact, cute, and, well, fun. I’m always up for a long drive in the Fit, but for the love of Pete, no dog parks. Seriously. I got issues with other canines. Just keep driving, Dad.”
2019 Jeep Wrangler
The bold and rugged Jeep Wrangler is an off-road champ, allowing you and your dog to venture deep into the back country without worry. Pricing for the Wrangler ranges from just under $30,000 for the 2-door Wrangler Sport, to nearly $60,000 for a well-equipped 4-door Wrangler Unlimited Moab. Unlike Wranglers of old, this version offers numerous modern conveniences including a navigation radio, a heated steering wheel and seats, plus helpful safety equipment such as forward-collision warning and braking. The Wrangler’s removable top and doors allow your dog the ultimate “head out the window” experience, but you’ll absolutely want to purchase some aftermarket safety harnesses like these Jeep dog safety harnesses on Etsy /zigman2/quotes/202790087/composite ETSY +0.49% to keep Fido safe and secure. And if your dog has trouble jumping up the distance it takes to gain access to the Wrangler’s tall rear cargo area, the Kurgo nonslip pet ramp is the perfect solution. Mopar accessories also offer a very cool lightweight folding dog kennel.
Bailey the Burmese mountain dog says: “Gawk all you want. I’m a fuzzy love bug with the softest fur everrrr. I’m sturdy, strong, and crazy smart. Of course the Jeep’s my ride. It fits all of my lovable sweetness, and my mega size. I’m always up for an adventure (camping, anyone?) so roughing it in this ride makes my furry heart swell with goofy glee.”
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Not your everyday run-of-the-mill crossover, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid capable of traveling up to 22 miles solely on electric power. Like its non-hybrid Outlander counterpart, the PHEV offers a roomy interior with tall side glass that is tinted to help keep you and your dog cool. Unlike its gasoline counterpart, the Outlander PHEV does not come with a third-row seat option (the battery takes up that space). The upside is a massive 30.4 cu ft. of cargo space behind the second-row seat, perfect for storing a dog kennel. Fold said seat down, and the cargo volume swells to over 66 cu ft. All Outlanders feature rear air-conditioning vents, a nice touch that other manufacturers only offer on their most expensive trims. Easy to clean leather seating is standard, and the Outlander’s optional equipment includes a multi-view camera, adaptive cruise control and forward emergency braking. Prices for the EV version are a bit steep, starting just over $37,000. But hey, if you live in California, that price nets you a carpool lane sticker.
Prince the Pomeranian says: “Pint-size, pretty, and, yeah, a potent personality. I may not share a ton of characteristics with the Outlander PHEV, but a little guy like me loves eco-chic errrything (I bark when my fam wastes water filling my dog dish. Oh wait … I bark. All. The.Time.) The Outlander is roomy enough for my BPA-free, environmentally-friendly dog toys, and my massive ego. Did I mention I was adorbs?”
2019 Subaru Crosstrek
For those who need a safe car that gets good fuel economy and has the ability to take everyone and the family pet on big adventures, there’s the 2019 Subaru /zigman2/quotes/200526066/delayed FUJHY +0.54% Crosstrek. This little crossover features a wide rear hatchback opening, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive that can take the Crosstrek over some very inhospitable paths. Because it sits up so high, you may need a ramp to help older dogs get in and out, but thankfully Subaru offers a number of pet-friendly accessories and there’s a huge aftermarket for such things on sites like Chewy.com. To keep everyone onboard safe, the Crosstrek comes standard with Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist suite that includes forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. Also standard on every Crosstrek is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making it one of the best cars for audiophiles. Prices range from around $23,000 for the base model with the manual transmission, to just over $30,500 for a loaded Limited.
Bella the Basenji says: “I don’t bark, but lemme tell ya, I get my point across. I can be affectionate, but strangers can kinda bug. I’m an active kid, so get me into the Crosstrek so I can savor some space, silence, and a smooth ride. That is, until we get to some off-riding madness, and then it’s game on for this little lady. Until then, shhh … quiet, please. I’m sleeping.”
2019 Tesla Model 3
The Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +0.20% Model 3 is quite impressive. It’s fast, efficient, safe and very practical. Depending on the battery pack, the Model 3 can travel anywhere from 240 to 310 miles on a single charge. All models can quickly be recharged at a Tesla Super Charging station that takes about 40 minutes for an 80% charge. At home, you can use a 220-volt Level 2 charger that gets the job done in about eight to 10 hours, depending on which battery pack you have. The Model 3 comes with some amazing features, including the ability to self park, drive itself to you and perform fully autonomous driving. Ironically, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not part of the Tesla’s high-tech feature set. But, the feature that makes the Model 3 one of the best cars for pet owners is Dog Mode. In Dog Mode, you can leave your pooch in the car and the system will keep the vehicle cool or warm (you can choose the temp) as well as display a message on the large touch screen monitor reading “My Owner Will Be Back Soon. Don’t Worry, the A/C is on and it’s set at 70 degrees.” Now that’s dog friendly.
Angel the Akita says: “I’m a bold babe who has some serious smarts, and a fierce devotion to my fam. So when my human mom got herself a Tesla Model 3, let’s just say I’m glad I’m her “one and done” (i.e. only baby). There is only room for one of us in this sleek, eco-charged diva. Kids? Not a fan. I like going the distance, so I do NOT wanna stop for photo ops, takeout or cheap motels. I mean, I’m a looker. As if.”
2019 Toyota RAV4
The 2019 RAV4 has been completely remade this year, with a more rugged look, a better 4-wheel drive system and a new hybrid model with an emphasis on performance over economy. With a starting price just over $26,500, the RAV4 costs a bit more than its competition, but it now offers more features, although Android Auto is still not an option and navigation can only be found on the most expensive trims. For the dog, there’s tinted glass, rear air vents and an Adventure Grade model with easy to clean synthetic leather seating. The folding rear seat provides plenty of space for dogs and pet supplies, and although Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -2.24% doesn’t make pet accessories specifically for the RAV4, the vehicle is so popular there are plenty of aftermarket options, such as Auto Anything’s site.
Milo the Mutt says: “My human dad did NOT want a dog. Nope. Nada. But then he saw me chasing my tail at that adoption event and that was it. I was his. I’ll never forget that first ride to my forever home in a Toyota RAV4. I felt safe, comfortable, and so, so happy. Could a car be part savior? Maybe.”
2019 Volvo V60 Cross Country
Like its larger cousin, the V90, the V60 Cross Country does everything right. Yes, with a starting price of nearly $46,000, the Cross Country is more expensive than a Subaru Outback or a VW Golf Alltrack, but it also offers more luxury and technology, not to mention power. Standard on the V60 Cross Country is a 250-hp turbocharged engine and AWD. The Volvo name has long stood for excellence in safety and Cross Country is no exception. From the dog’s point of view, the leather seats in the V60 are really comfy, but probably a bit slippery and too nice to mess up, which is where Volvo’s extensive line of pet accessories comes in. There’s a cargo compartment load divider permitting a dog kennel to occupy one half and your stuff in the other. There’s also a dog harness for back seat travel, a dog gate to go over the compartment divider and a gate to keep passengers and pups separate. The company even offers pet insurance through Liberty Mutual.
Sam the Samoyed says: “My canine relatives hail from Siberia, soooo ya know I love romping in the snow and having my human mom wonder where the snow starts and my fluffy white fur ends. It’s a sweet/silly existence—one that’s made a ton better in the Volvo V60. A hardy guy like me needs a wagon with all-wheel drive and tons of space for my snow-loving pals. Sure, I savor my alone time, but scampering about in subfreezing temps? Bring on the pals. It’s go time.”
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com .