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. But 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 choosing 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. Crash ratings, interior space, cabin materials, tie-downs, window positions, and ride heights should all be taken into account 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 a dozen vehicles that border on being tailor-made for dogs and their humans, along with a few key selling points that make each one extra special in our book.
12. Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon
The Mercedes-Benz E400 wagon’s fold-flat cargo hold has a few nice 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 take their dogs along to the beach, there’s a “deep boot tub” option that allows even the messiest mongrel to be transported without soiling the back seat. This rubberized addition comes complete with deep corner edges for all-round protection and is both easy to remove and clean.
You can even pair that with the optional “load still protector,” which only costs $65 and 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.
11. Nissan Titan Crew Cab
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 as pup friendly as possible. With an optional rear seat cargo organizer 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.
10. 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 offers loads of space, the smaller 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 be optioned to transport everything from baby seats to custom organized shop tools, the amount 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.
9. Volkswagen Atlas Weekend Edition
The all-new Volkswagen Atlas hasn’t even been released yet and we’re already swooning over what it will offer adventure enthusiasts and hounds alike. Featuring up to 96.8 cubic-feet of cargo space once the second- and third-row seats are folded flat, this large SUV is ideal for transporting larger dogs, and will more than likely be available with a bevy of all-season weather mats.
The version dog owners will want to look at is the “Weekend Edition,” a model that 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 with ease 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.
8. Honda Odyssey
Next up is a vehicle with so many awards that it needs a third-row to hold them all. Honda’s Odyssey doesn’t just offer a lot to the average American family, but to the average American dog too. The 2018 model is the one to go with, as its Magic Slide seating system and fold-flat third bench appears to be tailor-made for 200 pound St. Bernards.
There’s also tri-zone automatic climate controls to keep everyone comfortable, second- and third-row sunshades, and a pinch-to-zoom Cabin Watch setup that allows you to focus in on what Fido’s really licking back there. A few other canine-friendly selling points include an automatic rear liftgate, interior materials that are designed to hide stains, and an on-board vacuum to help you say “sayonara” to shedding.
7. Chevrolet Colorado
The Colorado is one gnarly little pickup, and after driving a loaded, Z71 Duramax turbo-diesel version both on and off-road we 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.
6. Volvo XC60
With its modest ride height, sturdy interior, and renowned safety, the Volvo XC60 is a great option for families who want to tackle the outdoors and bring the dogs along for the ride. As with most Volvo vehicles, this SUV can be had with an optional dog gate in the back, which easily fits into the rear storage compartment and prevents them 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 interior of the car, folds up to the roof easily, 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.
5. Honda CR-V
Don’t wee on the carpet just yet, but the all-new CR-V 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. It also features rear bench legroom that’s been improved by 2.1 inches, so those in the back have plenty of space when a large dog kennel is stuffed inside.
The latest version features stow space that’s almost 10-inches longer than the old model, is fully reconfigurable, and has storage pockets are 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 9.8-inches of additional depth and 1.4-inches of extra height for top-class interior space.
4. Land Rover Discovery
Humans and dogs alike have always appreciated the Discovery, with its split tailgate and roomy rear cargo hold. While the all-new, fifth generation version of the SUV 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. The roomy rear cargo area is still there too, with 82.7 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 key factor that makes the all-new 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, which grants dogs easy access to the rear hatch once lowered.
3. Jeep Renegade
Over a year after our first drive, we’re still talking about how much fun the cheeky little Renegade Sport was. And in retrospect, it’s an outstanding option for anyone with a love for dogs. Despite being slight of stature, this little CUV offers large amounts of cabin space, and the available MySky removable roof makes for a major selling point to those who don’t like the idea of their pooch hanging their head out the window.
The Renegade’s 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 more than $20,000, we suggest checking out the Renegade Sport, with its turbocharged 1.4-liter engine and six-speed manual transmission.
2. Mini Countryman
Mini is back in a big way, with the latest and fastest Countryman leading the charge. Like all other nameplates under the iconic British brand, the 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, and the optional Picnic Cushion 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 Countryman offers a 30% increase in cargo room, 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 latest version has an extra special approach that appeals to both species. Armed with a rugged interior that is equal parts cavernous and clip-filled, the rear of this wagon 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. Just be sure to check out the 3.6R version, because it’s without question the prime pick of the bunch.