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10 Great Cars for Dog Lovers

For many of us, pets are a part of our family, and because of this, when we travel, they travel. While cats, birds and reptiles probably don’t mind the occasional road trip, a dog lover knows that the dog is clearly the one companion animal that thinks a day in a car is like winning the doggie lottery. With road tripping in mind, here are some of the features we think a dog might place high on his or her priority list:

  • Tinted glass keeps your dog cool by minimizing the sun’s rays.
  • A flat cargo floor is important for both easy entry and when needing to carry a dog crate.
  • A panoramic sunroof lets in air and light. For Great Dane-sized dogs, a sunroof adds another option for full-force, in-your-face airflow.
  • Cargo-area tie downs make it easy to secure crates, beds and in-car accessories like a water bowl or fan.
  • Rear-seat vents are a must for keeping your pet comfortable, especially when you can’t have the windows down. Some SUVs and vans have both second- and third-row vents if the car is large enough.

Keeping these and other dog-friendly features in mind, we’ve picked 10 cars — new and used — that both humans and dogs can enjoy.

2018 Buick Encore

The Buick Encore is a small crossover SUV big on Buick style and features. In general, the best types of cars for dogs are hatchbacks, wagons or SUVlike vehicles. The large rear door and open cargo floor make them ideal for large or small dogs. The Encore accomplishes this while still having a reasonable price. Plus, the Encore’s large rear hatch makes it easy for dogs to get in and out, and its 60/40-fold-flat rear seats and fold-flat front passenger seat provide plenty of room for Fido to stretch out. Both you and your dog will enjoy the Encore’s comfortable ride, excellent handling, quiet interior and ability to go a long way on a little gasoline. Standard cloth seating makes it easier for pet paws to stay planted, but the available leather option is easier to clean. With a starting price just over $23,000, the Encore fits most budgets, or you can save a few bones and shop for a certified pre-owned (CPO) model.

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2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The ultimate family-hauling green machine also happens to be the ultimate dog-friendly transport. With the Pacifica Hybrid, owners will enjoy excellent fuel economy, an impressive array of safety and technology features and enough room for the kids, the dogs and their combined stuff. With a starting price just over $41,000, the Pacifica Hybrid isn’t the least expensive option on the road, but it’s the only minivan that can travel up to 33 miles solely on electric power. The hybrid model does give up the standard Pacifica’s cool underfloor storage space to make room for its batteries, but the trade-off nets you a hefty $7,500 federal tax credit. That’s more than enough money to invest in a nice roof-mounted cargo carrier or dog-friendly accessory like the Pacifica-specific portable soft-sided dog kennel. The Pacifica’s low cargo floor also helps if you have small dogs.

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2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The Eclipse Cross is a relative newcomer to the compact crossover SUV scene, offering a fuel-efficient turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, optional all-wheel drive and an outstanding standard warranty. Priced from the mid $25,000 range, the Eclipse Cross looks as sharp as it drives. Cargo space behind the second-row seat isn’t huge, but it gives your dog plenty of room to freely move about the cabin when folded down. Your canine companion will also be treated to a great view, thanks to the Eclipse Cross’ lower liftgate glass panel and available dual-panel sunroof. The Eclipse Cross can be loaded with the latest tech including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a head-up display and a full suite of driver assists designed to keep both you and your fur-ever friend safe and sound. Finally, the Eclipse Cross’ mild off-road ability will help you and your best friend explore and roam free away from the city. Car-based crossover SUVs like the Eclipse Cross are ideal for dog owners thanks to a generous cargo area, reconfigurable seating and a large hatch-style rear door. Unfortunately, the extra ground clearance needed to get you and your four-legged friend to that remote, open space can make it hard for older or smaller dogs to get in and out. Look for various aftermarket accessories like ramps or steps to help dogs get in and out of high-riding crossovers like the Eclipse Cross.

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2018 Subaru Crosstrek

With its standard all-wheel drive, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and rugged off-road ability, the Subaru Crosstrek is the perfect vehicle for pets and owners who regularly play in the great outdoors. The Crosstrek’s tall ride height might require your four-legged companion to jump when entering the car, making a ramp or steps a good accessory for senior dogs. Once on board, however, a spacious rear seat, tinted privacy glass and a bevy of Subaru pet-specific accessories promise to make the trip an enjoyable one. The Crosstrek isn’t big on power, but it is exceptionally fuel efficient, and its available EyeSight collision avoidance and driver-assist system is one of the best in the industry. Starting just under $23,000, the Crosstrek still offers the rare option of a manual transmission. Opt for the CVT automatic, however, and the price only increases by about $1,100.

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2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Small, frugal and affordable, the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback offers all the advantages of a compact sedan with the added benefit of a versatile hatchback design — perfect for city dogs and their owners. Besides being ideal for carrying bulky items like skis or surfboards, the Corolla Hatchback’s interior is also very pet friendly with comfy cloth seats that will keep your pooch from sliding around in the curves. The low cargo area access is ideal for dogs, too. You’ll enjoy options like heated front seats, a 7-in infotainment setup with Apple CarPlay and standard driver assists such as a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. Pricing with the manual transmission starts around $21,000; an automatic adds another $1,000 to the bottom line.

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2018 Volvo V90

This is the only full-size wagon on our list. If you like the comfort and handling of a good sedan but want some of the versatility of an SUV, the Volvo V90 and V90 Cross Country are the way to go. Luxurious and brimming with innovative tech and safety features both you and your dog will love, the V90 offers something for everyone. For the dog lover doing the driving, there’s a stylish interior, a modern, large touchscreen and loads of leather and fancy trim. For your pooch, there’s a large cargo area with lots of out-of-site storage. There’s also a standard power-activated hatch and tons of V90-specific accessories available at your Volvo dealer including a tailor-made dog enclosure. Truthfully, that slick, custom-looking dog enclosure is the main reason a Volvo ends up on our list year after year. We also like the rear air vents that help your dog stay cool in the summer, while a heated steering wheel will keep your hands toasty in winter. With its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, the Volvo V90 T5 Momentum starts around $48,000, which, all things considered, is a pretty good price for a large luxury wagon with all the expected Volvo safety and comfort features for both dog and human.

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2018 Nissan Kicks

Nissan‘s newest SUV is a front-drive-only subcompact set to do battle with cars like the Toyota CH-R and the Mazda CX-3. Unlike its rivals, however, the Kicks is a bit more upright, giving it a roomy interior and a tall roof line preferred by dogs and dog owners alike. Although there’s not as much cargo space as in the Rogue Sport, with its rear seats folded, the Kicks still offers 32.3 cu ft., more than enough for a midsize mutt. For about $100, we suggest the Nissan all-weather cargo mat as a pet-friendly accessory. A peppy engine, expressive interior and exterior styling, plus most of the safety, connectivity and premium features found on Nissan’s larger crossovers, make the Kicks a steal of a deal, especially with a starting price around $19,000. So take yourself and your furry best friend and get your Kicks on Route 66 or Highway 1 or the Blue Ridge Parkway or … you get the idea.

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Certified Pre-Owned Chevrolet Equinox

Chevy’s Equinox compact crossover SUV has been around for a number of years, so buying a used model makes complete sense. Buying a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) model ensures you’re getting a late model car that has been thoroughly checked out, serviced and warranted to standards set by the manufacturer. That should make any used car buyer happy. The Equinox’s big back seat slides forward and aft, and its large cargo area and moderate step-in height are pluses for dogs of all shapes and sizes. You’ll both be happy with the large rear windows and flat rear-door armrest, as well as the numerous storage areas for hiding toys, treats or wet towels. The Equinox offers a number of impressive upgrades like collision-avoidance technology, a V6 engine and GM’s excellent MyLink infotainment system with 4G LTE. Based on the Equinox’s height, you may need an aftermarket step or ramp if your dog likes to get in and out via the rear hatch door.

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Certified Pre-Owned Ford Escape

Like the Equinox, the Ford Escape has been around a long time, so why pay for a new base model when you can get a CPO Escape with more features for the same price? Also, vehicles that have remained unchanged for many years often have more accessory options either at the dealer or at your local auto parts store. Your dog will love you for the Escape’s comfortable ride, powerful turbocharged engine choices and available features like a panoramic sunroof and rear-seat air ducts. The Escape’s cargo area includes a 12-volt outlet helpful when using accessories such as a portable light or cooling fan. You’ll find the Ford Escape offers a sportier ride than most competitors in this class, and it has the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds, an added bonus in case your dog takes up all your cargo space. The Escape is one of those crossover SUVs where it might make sense to buy a rear bumper or step accessory to make it easier for older or smaller dogs to get in and out.

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Certified Pre-Owned Honda Fit

Although it qualifies as a subcompact car, the Honda Fit is surprisingly roomy inside, making it the ideal dog/human mobility device for those on a tight budget. A tall roof, low step-in height and a unique rear-seat design go a long way to accommodating dogs of all sizes, and the Fit’s reputation for reliability and strong resale value make it a good used car choice. Along with a pleasant ride and great fuel economy, you’ll find a number of dog-friendly aftermarket accessories for the Fit, ranging from simple seat covers to cargo-area mats and beds. The Honda Fit is a great car for dog owners as a new or used car.

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Check out our list of 6 Must-Have Car Accessories for Your Pet

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More Autotrader articles for Dog Owners


Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo is a longtime contributor who started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2002 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He’s well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to translate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations. Joe has worked for a number of outlets as... Read More about Joe Tralongo

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  1. KIA SOUL? Especially in the Plus and Exclaim models, Great headroom and fold down cargo space. Easy in and out. Very cleanable seats. And very good safety ratings, plus economical.

  2. I have black lab and needed a SUV that would allow two row of seats with him in the back.  I was surprised by how few options there are since the trend is roof lines at the rear that drop to be more sporty, reducing headroom.  All the smaller SUVs in this article can’t hold 4 people and a 70lb dog.   Sad… 

    The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited was best,  but I don’t buy 1st year cars. 
    Ended up with a used BMW X5.  
  3. So what your saying is it’s OK to buy a car to fit your dog, even if it does poorly in crash safety?  An example of a good car for your dog, & one that will keep you safer in a wreck is a VW Touareg. 

    I don’t own one, but a member of my family does, & his big dog fits in it great, & is as safe as you can get.  STOP ALLOWING AMERICAN AUTO MAKERS TO BUILD CARS THAT ARE POOR SAFETY PERFORMERS!
    • Which ones from this list have poor safety performance? I have two med-large dogs and have been in the market for a safe reliable car that is big enough for dogs and gear. I keep landing on a van…ugh. 

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