Don't worry. With more than 75 million pet dogs in America, you aren't the only one shopping for a new car just so you can cart your dogs around more easily. Fortunately, car companies know that ? and there are more than a few new cars out there perfect for dog lovers and their prized pups. From a car with a "Dog Friendly Package" to a convertible that gives dogs a new reason to stick their head out the window, this list outlines some of our favorites.
20 City / 25 Hwy
With a low-opening tailgate, a hose-down interior and rear-hinged side doors for easy access, the boxy Element is the perfect car for anyone with dogs. For 2010, Honda even offered the "Dog Friendly Package," a $995 option featuring a folding aluminum ramp, giving dogs easy access to the cargo area, which contained a nylon kennel. Available all-wheel drive will even help tackle rough terrain for off-road adventures. Sadly, the Element has been cancelled by Honda for future production and won't see 2011. But with many unsold 2010 models still on dealer lots, there are good deals to be had on new models.
18 City / 27 Hwy
Who says dogs can't ride in style? With more than 25 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats ? and nearly 60 with the seat in the down position ? the CTS Wagon can comfortably swallow all breeds. A smooth ride and secure handling keeps dogs from sliding, and a low load floor makes it easier for them to jump in back. Best of all, if your dog really can't wait to get outside, there's a 556-horsepower high-performance CTS-V version available to get you to the dog park just a little quicker.
21 City / 31 Hwy
If you didn't think you could comfortably fit dogs in your high-performance car, think again. Volkswagen's perky GTI packs a potent 210 horsepower, hitting 60 mph from a standstill in the low-6 second range. Best of all, its agile handling makes it fun to throw around corners ? provided your pooch isn't also getting thrown around in the cavernous cargo area. The best part is that you can easily talk yourself into a five-door, providing easier access to the kids and the dog with no measurable detriment to performance or cargo volume.
16 City / 23 Hwy
With its go-anywhere attitude, the Grand Cherokee lets you take your dog beyond the dog park or your typical neighborhood walk, instead giving you access to explore trails, hills, and wilderness. With available Quadra-Lift air suspension, you can lower your Grand Cherokee to let your dog climb in, then put it back in "ROCK" mode to find your off-the-beaten-path destination. A large cargo area gives your dog room to move around, but you should spring for Mopar's aftermarket dog bed ($74.70), fitted for the Grand Cherokee, if you really want your pup to relax.
0 City / 0 Hwy
While every choice on this list is a great car for a dog, they each forget one important feature universally enjoyed by all dogs everywhere: wind. In the cargo area of a hatchback or SUV, a dog can't stick his head out the window, but in Ford's new Mustang convertible, that's all a dog can do. With potent performance and impressive interior volume in front and back, the Mustang convertible is the perfect car for the dog lover who loves to drive ? and the dog who loves to ride shotgun.
Buckle up your dog
Whatever car you drive, remember that buckling up your furry friend is an important safety precaution. Many states and provinces now require that pets be restrained while in a moving vehicle and restraints have several advantages. They help protect pets in case of a collision and they keep pets from running loose and distracting the driver. They also keep pets from escaping the car through an open window or door. See our friends at the Bark Buckle UP website for more helpful safety information.
Image courtesy Bark Buckle UP
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