When the great outdoors come a-calling, but your 100-pound pooch has outgrown the backseat of your old Toyota Tercel, it might be time for a fresh set of wheels. However, choosing a car that best suits your canine companion is a more complex equation than one might expect. Sure, there’s plenty of advice out there for selecting a kid-friendly car that keeps whining from the back seat at bay, but what about man’s best friend?
While the average mutt will still flip when they hear the word “car,” there are a few key factors that need to be weighed when picking the perfect puppy transporter. Car safety crash ratings, interior space, cabin materials, tie-downs, window positions, and ride heights should all be considered when selecting the ideal pet-friendly car.
Thanks to key features like automatic liftgates, electronically controlled fold-flat seats, adjustable rear cargo tracks, a divider or kennel attachment, rear climate controls, all-weather mats, and cargo covers, there are more pet-friendly cars out there than ever before, even if automakers don’t exactly advertise them as such. Keeping in mind the pet transit warnings from the DMV, here are the fifteen best cars for dogs that border on being tailor-made for pets and their humans, along with a few key selling points that make some extra special in our book.
15. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon’s fold-flat cargo hold has a few pleasant surprises in store, especially if you don’t feel like clipping your mutt’s kennel or transit case into the rear-facing third row. For those who like to take their dogs along to the beach, there’s a deep boot tub accessory option that allows even the messiest mongrel to be transported without soiling the back seat, according to Mercedes-Benz. This rubberized addition comes complete with deep corner edges for all-around protection and is easy to remove and clean.
With the E-Class wagon, you can even pair that with the optional load still protector, which is designed to shield the rear of the vehicle from scratches when dogs are jumping in and out while preventing mud and dirt from spreading. This practical design connects to the tub and will easily accordion out of the way when not needed.
14. Jeep Wrangler
As the ultimate off-road vehicle, the Jeep Wrangler is built to be durable and easy to clean in the event of a disaster, such as your dog making a mess in the back seat. Pair that with its all-terrain ability, and it’s easy to take your pup to the best locations for hiking, running, swimming, and more outdoor fun. Additionally, the Wrangler has plenty of dog accessories for prospective pet owners, according to Ultimate Rides.
13. Nissan Titan
Not only does the Nissan Titan pickup come with a wide array of bed configurations and cabs, but it also has a very canine-friendly interior. While roaming freely in the back of the truck bed is without question what your pup wants, modern safety laws dictate otherwise.
Fortunately, Nissan has gone to great lengths to make its Crew Cab build as pup-friendly as possible. With an optional rear-seat cargo organizer featured by Nissan on board and benches folded flush, you can safely transport man’s best friend and Thanksgiving dinner together without the fear of overturned or devoured dishes. This pickup also features a slew of bed additions that make hunting, camping, and sailing trips all that much easier, depending upon whether you want them kenneled in the cab or tethered in the bed at night.
12. Ford Transit Connect
Some people don’t need or want a work truck and have found that the convenience offered by a van easily meets or exceeds their requirements. While a full-size Transit provides loads of space, the smaller Ford Transit Connect is the way to go if you want something that’s both nimble and has the room to haul Great Danes to the vet on weekends.
Since these vans can transport everything from baby seats to custom organized shop tools, the number of latches, hooks, and places for a protective partition will win big points with dog lovers. We’re particularly fond of how easy it is for dogs to get in and out of this vehicle thanks to its lower ride height and how fleet versions can be quickly cleaned due to its lack of carpet and upholstery.
Additionally, the regular Ford Transit is now available as an electric model for those interested in EVs, dubbed the E-Transit. However, it’s pretty expensive and likely too large for most drivers’ needs, so you might want to wait for an eventual Ford E-Transit Connect for a smaller all-electric option.
11. Volkswagen Atlas
Featuring up to 96.8 cubic feet of cargo space once the second and third-row seats are folded flat, the full-size Volkswagen Atlas is one of the best SUVs for dogs and is ideal for transporting larger canines. It is available with plenty of interior accessories for easy cleaning and organizing, including all-season weather mats.
The best version of the VW Atlas that dog owners will want is the Weekend Edition, which sadly is just a concept model and isn’t available for sale, according to MotorTrend. It comes with a cargo divider in the back, which Volkswagen calls “a safe, pet-friendly barrier.” This high-strength cage clips in behind the second row and can be removed easily if Fido isn’t riding along. Note the scuff plate running across the top of the rear bumper sill, which is designed to prevent paws from marring that fresh paint.
10. Honda Odyssey
Next up is a vehicle with so many awards that it needs a third row to hold them all. The Honda Odyssey doesn’t just offer a lot to the average American family, but to the average American dog too. Any model with the Honda Magic Slide seating system and fold-flat third bench is one to consider, appearing to be tailor-made for the easy entry and comfort of 200-pound St. Bernards.
There is also tri-zone automatic climate control to keep everyone comfortable, second and third-row sunshades, and a pinch-to-zoom Cabin Watch setup that allows the driver to focus on what Fido’s really licking back there. A few other canine-friendly selling points include an automatic rear liftgate, interior materials designed to hide stains, and an onboard vacuum to help you say “sayonara” to shedding.
9. Tesla Model 3
One of the coolest features of modern Tesla models is Dog mode. According to Car and Driver, Dog mode is a climate control feature that leaves the vehicle’s air conditioning or heat on when an owner leaves their pets in the car. While the driver is gone, a message is displayed to any passersby that “My owner will be back soon. Don’t worry!” along with a statement of the inside temperature to put worried minds at ease. Paired with the Tesla Model 3 as the most affordable EV from the company, this makes it a great choice for dog owners.
8. Chevy Colorado
The Chevrolet Colorado is one gnarly little pickup. After driving a loaded Z71 Duramax turbo-diesel version, both on and off-road drivers were completely smitten with its work ethics and willingness to play on weekends. This truck is a pup’s dream, too, with its all-weather floor mats, easy-to-clean vinyl seats, fold-down rear bench, and low-riding tailgate for hopping in and out of.
As humans, we like the Colorado’s sturdy corner steps, the dog kennel-ready GearOn utility track and its 13-bed tie-downs, the EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate, having a storage bin beneath the rear bench, and the roominess of the cabin. So regardless of whether you like having the dogs securely stowed in the rear of the cab or within the bed when off-roading, this pickup is an ideal pick for buyers.
7. Volvo XC60
With its modest ride height, sturdy interior, and renowned safety, the Volvo XC60 is an excellent option for families who want to tackle the outdoors and bring the dogs along for the ride. As with most Volvo vehicles, this SUV, an optional dog gate, can be added to the back, easily fitting into the rear storage compartment and preventing pups from jumping out when the tailgate is open. Up to two dog compartments can be affixed to the rear of the cabin with a protective grille and a divider, and the gate can be mounted on the left, right, or both sides.
There’s also a protective grille that prevents pets from being thrown forward into the cabin, which clips into various mounting points and comes equipped with gas cartridges for holding it in place. This tubular steel construction comes color coordinated to the car’s interior, folds up to the roof quickly, and is crash tested to meet Volvo’s tensile strength requirements. As for the optional divider, it helps separate dogs from luggage and has a collapse function, which means that in case of a collision, it won’t penetrate the passenger compartment, keeping you and your dog safe.
6. Honda CR-V
The latest Honda CR-V generation has been redesigned to offer a lower loading height than most pickup trucks and has roomy windows in the back for looking at things like squirrels and such. According to Car and Driver, it also features rear bench legroom of 40.4 inches. So, those in the back have plenty of space when a large dog kennel is stuffed inside.
The CR-V also features fully reconfigurable cargo space with storage pockets large enough for treats and Frisbees alike. The rear stow space is also height-adjustable, so you can lower it for more vertical wiggle room or raise it for a completely flat cargo area, giving additional depth and extra height for top-class interior space.
5. Land Rover Discovery
Humans and dogs alike have always appreciated the Land Rover Discovery, with its split tailgate and roomy rear cargo hold. While the third-generation version of the SUV that debuted with the 2017 model year does away with the signature two-piece hatch, it’s been replaced with an extremely sturdy ledge that electronically folds down like a truck tailgate. According to U.S. News, the roomy rear cargo area is still there, too, with 74.3 cubic feet of total load capacity and 45 cubic feet of space behind the second row, making for plenty of room for furry companions.
Another critical factor that makes the Discovery an obvious choice is its available Intelligent Seat Fold technology. This allows the reconfiguration of both second and third-row seats by toggling switches in the rear cargo hold, from within the center touchscreen, or remotely via a smartphone app, an industry first. It also has an optional air suspension setup for off-roading, giving dogs easy access to the rear hatch once lowered.
4. Ford F-150 Lightning
According to Lightning Owners, Ford filed a patent for a “pet mode” selector, likely responding to Tesla’s dog mode. This new feature will debut on Ford’s new lineup of electric vehicles, including the Mustang Mach-E compact SUV and F-150 Lighting pickup truck. Between the two vehicles, we’d say the Ford F-150 Lightning all-electric truck is the better option for dogs looking for excitement and adventure on the road, but mind the ride height, install some side steps, or buy a stool or ramp if your dog has trouble climbing up or jumping into the cabin.
3. Jeep Renegade
The Jeep Renegade is a fun, affordable, and rugged-looking little SUV. It’s also an outstanding option for anyone with love for dogs. Despite being slight in stature, this little CUV offers large amounts of cabin space, and the available MySky removable roof on used models (having been removed as an option on more recent Renegade builds) makes for a significant selling point to those who don’t like the idea of their pooch hanging their head out the window.
The Renegade’s spot on the Mopar website has some nice upgrades, too, offering a wide array of options, including slush mats and a molded rubber cargo tray to protect the upholstery from that beast in the back. So, if taking your four-legged friend on a camping trip sounds like your idea of a good time, and you don’t fancy spending much, we suggest checking out the Renegade, with its turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and your choice of manual or automatic transmission.
2. Mini Cooper Countryman
Mini is back in a big way, with the latest and fastest Cooper Countryman leading the charge. Like all other nameplates under the iconic British brand, the Mini Cooper Countryman allows owners to customize its structure with a combination of over 10 million practical, performance, and appearance options, which translates to big wins for dogs. Like the Land Rover Discovery, the Countryman sports a fold-down rear cargo bench for easy access and tailgating. Additionally, the optional Picnic Bench featured by BMW offers a cushioned seat that protects the rear bumper and folds out of the way when not in use.
There’s also an optional automatic liftgate, reconfigurable storage options, and ample amounts of room, thanks to this generation being the largest Mini in history. Inside, the Cooper Countryman offers a large amount of cargo room for a Mini, as well as a fold-flat rear bench that promotes plenty of dog dreams on long road trips.
1. Subaru Outback
We might have saved the best for last. The Subaru Outback has been a longtime favorite for dogs and their humans alike, and the Outback has just gotten better with age, offering an extra unique approach that appeals to both species. Armed with a rugged interior that is equal parts cavernous and clip-filled, the rear of this wagon-like SUV allows you to securely fasten a canine carrier while also giving them a safe place to sit when their muddy paws can’t be washed off.
A few other reasons why the Outback scores huge points with dog owners is its ability to go off-road with ease and its comfortable on-road driving characteristics. We’re also particularly keen on how wide this vehicle’s rear hatch is, giving plenty of space for four-legged friends when it’s time to hop in or out. Make sure to check out the brand-new Subaru Outback Wilderness for an even more elevated adventure and off-road experience.