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Car sales have been recovering well after the pandemic, and many folks are buying new cars for their families. While many shoppers know what to look for when it comes to cars for families, others may not know what they’d need if they have a dog in the family. Thankfully, Autotrader has an annual list of the best cars for dog lovers, and that will help inform shoppers about what to look for in a car.

The best cars for dog lovers

A dog in shades sitting outside of a sports car at the RDRC Racepark Bykovo
A dog in shades sitting outside of a sports car | Mihail Siergiejevicz/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to Autotrader, the best cars for dog owners in the 2021 model year also tended to be the bigger cars. There were a few compact SUVs on the list, but they were the smallest dog-friendly cars. For example, the Tesla Model Y, a compact SUV, was in eighth place on Autotrader’s list. By and large, however, SUVs bigger than a compact dominated the list. 

For example, the Kia Telluride, the Ford Bronco, the Jeep Wrangler, and the Honda Passport are all midsize SUVs, and they were all in the top five. However, the best car for dog lovers, according to Autotrader, was a minivan. The Chrysler Pacifica was in first place, but it wasn’t the only minivan on the list. The Toyota Sienna also made the list, but it only got ninth place.

The top five features dog lovers should look for

While size seemed to be a major factor, it’s not actually one of the things that Autotrader looked at for dog lovers. After all, pickup trucks are big vehicles, but there were no trucks on Autotrader’s list. Instead, Autotrader looked at five specific features in a car. The better that feature, the better the car for dogs. For example, durable seats are a must. Dogs will be dogs, and having a seat that can handle their paws will make things easier.

As such, leather or faux leather upholstery is preferred. They’re not only durable, but they’re also easier to clean. When it comes to the car’s cargo area, there are a few features to look out for, too. Cargo tie-downs are great because they’ll allow folks to secure dog accessories like kennels or the dog’s harness itself. A low cargo floor is also great because it’ll make it easier for smaller and older dogs to get into and out of the car. 

Two important features, however, have to do with keeping dogs cool. Hot cars are dangerous, and rear air vents are a must to keep dogs cool and comfortable. Similarly, having tinted rear windows will also do a lot of work in helping keep dogs cool. Cars that have rear sunshades will provide even more protection, according to Autotrader. 

Safety practices to consider for pets


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Heat is one of the most important things to think about when your dog is in the car. It’s no surprise that the Tesla Model Y made the list, as its Dog Mode feature makes it very easy for owners to keep their dogs cool. Most folks, however, will have to remember to keep the A/C on if your dog’s still in the car. 

However, there are other safety considerations asides from heat. Dogs, like people, should be secured in their seats. However, a car’s regular seat belt is probably not enough, so a seat belt specifically made for dogs is preferred. Not doing this can lead to the worst-case scenario if you get into a crash. Alternatively, dog lovers can keep their furry friends in a secured kennel. This is why Autotrader likes cars with cargo tie-downs, after all.