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Best Dog-Friendly Cars

Find the perfect car for you and your pup.

by Sean Zucker
July 6, 2021
Nova Scotia duck tolling Retriever and Jack Russell Terrier looking out the trunk of the car
annaav / Adobe Stock

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Our cars can represent quite a bit. For some they’re an extension of lifestyle, for other’s they’re a pseudo family member. There are even those who use their cars to follow Phish on tour every summer, in which case they can be something else entirely — short-term housing. Some people buy vehicles because they’re sporty, others because they’re rugged. Many want ones that are good family haulers or get great fuel economy, others just need enough space for a pillow, blanket, cheap acoustic guitar and hacky sack. The best of us, though, have a certain four-legged friend in mind when we purchase a vehicle. 

For a vehicle to be considered dog-friendly, it needs several things. First, it should be large enough to accommodate most common breeds, whether it’s the smallest Chihuahua or the largest Saint Bernard. The vehicle should also be able to carry our canine friend safely and with plenty of room so that tails and tongues aren’t shoved into the front seat to distract us. Most will have enough room in the cargo area for a kennel, some will have wide doors to let Rover in and out easily, and most will be low enough that no one’s paws will get hurt jumping in and out once we’ve arrived.

That being said, not all dogs have the same set of needs, so we’ll split the list of top ten dog-friendly cars into three groups according to canine lifestyle choices.

Outdoorsy Dogs

Some dogs love to swim, some enjoy hiking, some just like going outside and seeing the world. All outdoorsy dogs like to go places and do things, though, and many of those places might be beyond the pavement and out in nature. For the outdoorsy type, here are the best vehicles for their humans to own.

Subaru Crosstrek or Forester 

Nothing says “let’s go outside and play” like a Subaru; it is truly the college camp out party of vehicles. If Colorado was a car, it’d be a Subaru — luckily, that’s one of the most pro-dog states. The Crosstrek has quickly proven itself to be a popular choice in this regard, thanks to its right-sized nature and capable ruggedness. The Crosstrek has more ground clearance than the Impreza, but isn’t as big as the Subaru Outback. The availability of a hybrid option also adds to the Crosstrek’s appeal.

The Subaru Forester is the long-lived and well-loved Subaru SUV, of course, with plenty of capability and a lot of interior space. It’s also very ergonomic both as a daily-use vehicle and a weekend getaway machine. Dogs will love the head room, big cargo area, and roomy back seat.

Jeep Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Wrangler

There’s a reason Jeep brand vehicles are the unofficial car of Jurassic Park — they are simply fit for any terrain, which similarly makes them perfect for outdoorsy dogs. Popular choices are the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. For those who love the outdoors and take their dogs along with them, it’s hard to see a Jeep as the wrong choice.

The Cherokee is a midsize crossover with good off-road capability and plenty of interior room for family, friends and canines. The Grand Cherokee is even larger and adds an air of refinement along with a little more ground clearance. The Wrangler, of course, is the iconic Jeep that can go anywhere (with or without a top), is suitable for extreme explorers and their humans, and can dodge any previously extinct reptiles.  

Nissan Frontier

As far as small pickup trucks go, there are no choices as off-road or adventure-ready as the Nissan Frontier. Coming standard with a large cab or crew cab (four-door) configuration, the Frontier has plenty of space for your dog. The rear bed and optional integrated tailgate extender are a wise choice, allowing you to bring plenty of supplies and an overnight crate for camping. The built-in roof rack just adds to this, of course, so maybe you can bring a tent for yourself as well.

Ram 1500

A full-size truck, the half-ton Ram 1500 is efficient and capable. With plenty of room in the cab and a big bed to fill with gear, the Ram 1500 is a great “get there, do that” machine. The massive storage system makes it even sweeter.

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Refined, Upscale Dogs

Blue ribbon holders, certificates of lineage and regular trips to the salon. These are things that appeal to more than just British royalty. Some canines prefer the good life and live it to the fullest. Exclusive dog parks, high-rent fire hydrants and food spooned into porcelain are the expectation. For dogs like this, the delivery chariot must be as refined and well-bred as they are.

Lexus RX 450h

Here we’re talking luxury for luxury’s sake. The beautiful Lexus RX 450h is made to be refined, capable and efficient. This is the type of ride the Queen accompanies her Corgis in. The hybrid powertrain means fewer stops at the gas station and more time on the road. The plush, roomy interior has a large cargo area, an excellent back seat and more than enough room to stretch. Although capable on beach sand and dirt roads, the RX 450h doesn’t sit so high that mon chéri must look undignified getting in and out of the car.

Porsche Macan

For the truly upscale canine, it’s hard to say no to a Porsche. It is genuinely the raised pinky of car brands. The Macan is a nicely sized crossover that has plenty of space and looks great. It also retains that signature Porsche driving experience. The understated beauty of this SUV will not eclipse the poodle exiting for the daily stop at the groomers either. 

Volvo XC60

When you marry luxury and safety, you get the Volvo XC60 SUV. It’s a small, capable crossover with an upscale look, beautiful interior and a back seat that has enough space to stretch out and be comfortable. There is a luxurious ride, a built-in kennel option for the rear cargo area and a panoramic sunroof option for cloud watching and stargazing.

Family Dogs

Not unlike Vin Diesel and his nonchalant gang of car thieves, for these dogs it’s all about family. Animals roam in packs and today, those pack mates might include other dogs, some humans, and perhaps the occasional cat. For the family-focused dog, a vehicle must have plenty of room and comfort to get everyone there safely — very much unlike Diesel’s crew. A third row is a must-have extra and a lot of cargo space is a given.

Chrysler Pacifica

One of the best-selling minivans on the market, the Chrysler Pacifica offers comfort, style and confidence. This spacious minivan can accommodate even large packs of humans and families of dogs.

Hyundai Tucson 

For those who want the size and space a minivan offers, but need the ability to traverse snow, dirt roads, and other obstacles where all-wheel drive and a little ground clearance are a good thing, there’s the Hyundai Tucson. This crossover has a huge third row, plenty of cargo room and a big, wide interior that allows both dogs and humans to really stretch out and get comfy.

Mazda CX-5

If a minivan with its capabilities is a necessity, but fuel economy and price tag are a concern, the Mazda CX-5 delivers. This “right-sized” minivan has a small third row and plenty of cargo room. Sliding doors and a sleek look add to the appeal, and the Mazda CX-5 has plenty of space for a dog.

That’s the end of the slippery road. The best choices for dogs and their parents on the move. Any car can, of course, become the ultimate canine driving machine, but the vehicles we’ve listed are inherently good at it as-is. Enjoy the ride and remember, sticking your head out the window is addictive, so do it in moderation.

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker

Sean Zucker is a contributor at The Wildest, whose work has also been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He recently adopted a Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and behavioral issues rival his own.