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Before I had dogs, I could have never imagined a pet impacting the car-buying process. (To be fair, I didn’t always think about the logistics of children when shopping for a new vehicle either… but becoming a parent quickly changed that.) Now that I have two “fur babies,” I find myself thinking about how my vehicle could be better suited to them, whether we’re headed cross-country or simply taking a drive to the dog park.
Of course, I wouldn’t buy a new car just for my dog (although, I can easily see why some pet parents would totally opt for Nissan’s X-Trail 4Dogs concept SUV). There are certain things I will look for next year, however, when it’s time for my family to start car shopping again. These features not only make traveling with pets easier, but also ensure that our four-legged family members are as comfortable in the car as they are at home.
Let’s talk about the vehicle must-haves for dog owners, as well some of the unique features that car manufacturers are adding these days that will make Fido’s ride even more enjoyable. Then, we’ll give you a list of the cars we consider to be our “top dogs” for 2019.
Today’s Dog-Friendly Features
When shopping for a new car as a dog owner, the keyword to keep in mind is balance. You want a vehicle that is comfortable, safe, and meets your needs. However, you want to find one that also makes traveling with your furry friends easier and safer.
There are a few things you’ll want to look for in your search. Whether your dog is a Great Dane or a Maltipoo, and whether they’re six months-old or 16-years-old, many of these features will be helpful.
You will also want a vehicle that has flat-folding seats and/or a large cargo area. Even if your pet typically rides in the backseat, there could be times where a full car relegates them to the back. If you don’t have ample space in a safe cargo area, or if your seats fold down in an uneven way, you won’t have a suitable place for them to lie. Plus, this space comes in handy if you need to travel with your pet’s carrier or kennel.
You may also want to choose a vehicle that sits lower to the ground. This is especially helpful if you have larger or older dogs; trying to hoist a 60lb pup into a tall car can be an awkward — and back-straining — task. This is also where a rear liftgate comes in handy. Allowing your pup to climb into the vehicle from the back is usually much easier (and cleaner) than them climbing all over your seats.
Lastly, if your pup is going to be riding in a third row or cargo area, make sure that you choose a vehicle with rear air controls. You’ll want to ensure that they can receive adequate and temperature-controlled air flow, even if they’re in the very back of the vehicle.
Some manufacturers offer pet-friendly options for their vehicles, which you can purchase separately. These include:
- Retractable pet barriers
- Removable/washable seat covers
- Rubber floor mats
- Washable cargo area mats
The longer your model has been on the market, the more pet-friendly accessories you’ll likely be able to find. Plus, keep in mind that there are plenty of accessories that can help ease your pet’s travels no matter which car you drive, including removable ramps and padded seat covers.
The Best Cars for Dogs in 2019
Here are our five favorite vehicles, if traveling with your furry friend is in the cards for 2019.
1. Chevrolet Equinox
This crossover SUV packs a serious punch in its sleek, affordable package. It also has some great features for dog-owners.
The new Equinox offers a ton of cargo space — 63.9 cubic feet worth, in fact. Its 60/40-split rear seats fold flat, giving you the perfect place for your pup or their crate. Choose to let them sit in the backseat? The quilted leather or optional sport cloth make cleaning up dog hair and dirt easy.
Need to load Fido up? The Equinox rides low, making it easy for your pup to jump in or for you to load in their carrier. Plus, the foot-powered liftgate means you can open the rear door it even if your hands are full.
The 2019 Chevy Equinox starts at an MSRP of only $23,800.
2. Nissan Rogue
See that neat, pup-centered concept car above? It’s an expanded version of the manufacturer’s previous concept crossover, the Rogue Dogue. While the standard Nissan Rogue won’t come with a pet washing station or built-in dog ramp, it is still a great option for pet owners everywhere.
This compact SUV offers 40 cu. ft. of space behind the third row; you’ll almost double that (to 70 cu. ft.) if you fold down the rear seats. That’s plenty of space for your pet, a carrier, toys, and bags, no matter where your travels take you.
Your pet (and you) will enjoy a hands-free liftgate, under-the-floor cargo storage, and built-in cargo dividers. The Rogue comes with a starting MSRP of only $24,920, though this vehicle has been on the road for years. If you don’t want to pay the new price for one, look for certified pre-owned vehicles in your area.
3. Subaru Crosstrek
If ever there were a manufacturer with dogs on the mind, it’s probably Subaru — in fact, you’ll find man’s best friend in most of their commercials! It’s no wonder then that the Subaru Crosstrek is an excellent choice for pet owners, with a ton of space and features that make traveling easier for two- and four-legged travelers alike.
The cargo area offers 55.3 cu. ft. of space when the 60/40-split rear seats are folded down. Optional cargo mats, covers, and dividers are easy to purchase, too, to completely personalize your Subaru. Plus, Subaru is so committed to their pets’ safety, they frequently sponsor crate/pet carrier crash testing initiatives.
The 2019 Crosstrek starts at only $21,895.
4. Ford Flex
Want even more space, along with the flexibility of a third row? Then consider the 2019 Ford Flex. This versatile SUV is well-suited to pet owners and parents alike, making it easy to take everyone (and everything) on your next adventure.
With the Ford Flex, you’ll enjoy a low ground clearance, which makes it easy to load pups into the vehicle. Fold down the third row (leaving the second row for available seating) and you’ll enjoy 43.2 cu. ft. of cargo space. Fold down both rear rows, and this jumps to a whopping 83.2 cu. Ft.
The rear area also has cargo tie-downs, allowing you to safely secure bags, a crate, and anything else you’re bringing along. Need to load up? The intelligent liftgate entry system helps you do it hands-free.
The 2019 Ford Flex has a starting MSRP of $30,575.
5. Chrysler Pacifica
Not only is the Pacifica great for your pups, it’s great for the whole family. In fact, it has been the most awarded minivan two years in a row, as well as being named the 2019 Family Car of the Year — and all with good reason.
With the Pacifica, you’ll enjoy pet- (and kid-) friendly features such as stow-and-go seating, which allow you to completely tuck the seats away for a flat cargo area. In fact, there are over 200 possible seat configurations!
Get pet hair everywhere? There’s a built-in vacuum in the vehicle. You heard me: a vacuum. At your fingertips. At any time. Talk about easy cleanup!
There’s 32.3 cu. ft. available without moving a single seat. Eliminate the third row to get 87.5 cu. ft., and fold down the second row to get a total of 140.5 cu. ft. Do you know how many dogs you can fit in 140.5 cu. ft.? It’s a lot.
All of this, in addition to power sliding doors and a low ground clearance, can be had for $26,985 and up.
Not Ready to Buy?
No matter how enticing some of these pet-friendly vehicles may be, it just might not be the right time for you to buy a new car. If that’s the case, there are some ways that you can make the best of your existing vehicle.
Look online — both through the manufacturer’s website and on after-market sites — to find dog-friendly accessories for your vehicle. These could include easy-clean seat covers, travel bowls, and crash-rated crates. You can also purchase things like removable ramps, if your vehicle has a high clearance, and even harnesses that work with your existing seats.
If you are still paying off your current vehicle, make sure that your auto loan is the best you can get. This might mean considering a refinance, which would allow you to lower your interest rate (paying less over the course of the loan), pay off your vehicle early, or lower your monthly payment (think of how many extra dog treats you could buy each month). With the right refi company, you can even do all three!
Our Top 5 Cars for Dogs Refinanced and The Savings
Dogs like savings too, it means more chew toys and bones.
|Vehicle||Avg. Annual Savings After Refinancing||These savings could buy your pup…|
|Equinox||$910.51*||182 rawhide dog bones|
|Pacifica||$1,186.12*||131 chew toys|
|Flex-V6||$992.23*||33 bags of dog food|
|Rogue||$892.05*||30 months of flea and tick medicine|
|Crosstrek||$618.34*||12 visits to the vet|
Our vehicles are some of the biggest purchases we make. If our furry best friends are going to be along for the ride, we might as well make sure that our cars are suited to their needs, too.