Cars Earn "Best In Show" for Pet-Friendly FeaturesPublished December 15, 2008
Pet parents have unique needs when it comes to choosing dog friendly cars and overall pet friendly family vehicles. According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA), 14 million dogs and three million cats travel annually with their owners on vacation. And millions more ride in the car with their owners every day. Therefore, since it's important that our automobiles are equipped to transport our furry family safely and comfortably, a lot of research has to be done in choosing what the best cars for dogs and cats are.
"If I'm in the car, my dogs are in the car," says Jerry Davis of Parker, Colorado. He takes Daisy and Bear, (Black Labradors), to the park or to run errands every day. "I can't think of another car that fits my lifestyle better than this one," he says about his GMC Yukon XL.
It's no surprise then to learn that over half of dog owners in the U.S. consider the needs of their pets when purchasing a new automobile, according to Business Week magazine.
Only a few manufacturers actually design cars with pet passengers in mind, so many owners, particularly those with large dogs, choose a practical "dog car" then make their own modifications to maximize creature comforts.
For example, Davis installed special hooks for leashes in the back of his Yukon so that when he opens the back door at the dog park, Daisy and Bear can't jump out until he's ready to unload them.
"On long trips, my dogs have lots of room to stretch out and relax," says Davis. "But on short errands, I can easily strap Daisy into her harness in the front seat, while Bear rides in the back.
Davis also appreciates the safety of a large truck and its ability to transport his two dogs and three grandsons comfortably. He says his dogs prefer a white vehicle--"they can find it right away in a parking lot!"
GMC Yukon XL, 2008 models start at $39,815 (the standard Yukon model starts at $36,245).
Dog Friendly Cars: Finding the Best Cars for Dogs and Family Pets
Since car buying can be a daunting task, I've sniffed out some favorites already rated for functionality and safety -- top concerns for pet owners. Following are some of the best vehicles in the 'barking lot'!
Dogcars.com is a great car buying resource for pet-lovers. Recently, they awarded the Honda Element the 'Dog Car of the Year' for 2007.
This affordable, funky critter mobile offers a fido-functional interior, anti-nose print windows, and easy to clean seats and floors. It's easy to see why they chose it Best in Show!
Angela Ellis of Tampa, Florida recently loaded her bunny and two cats into her Element to move last weekend. "I put Sara (the rabbit) in a pet carrier. She kicks litter out every time but I was able to just sweep it out the back really easily," beamed Ellis. "For 11 years I had a German Shepherd. He would have loved the Element and I could have easily cleaned all the hair out."
On the other end of the price spectrum, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged earned an impressive "five-paw rating" from Dogcars.com. If you're sniffing out style and luxury, look no further! There's tons of room for dogs and their gear and the ride is super smooth on the highway, with off-road capability. This SUV is definitely for rich Rovers -- this particular models lists for $72,000!
The List: Dog Friendly Cars and Sorts the Best Cars for Dogs
DogCars.com gave the highest "five-paw rating" to these pet-friendly vehicles:
- Honda Element SUV, models start at $18,980 MSRP
- Mitsubishi Outlander SUV, starting at $19,990 MSRP
- Volvo XC90 SUV, starting at $36,210 MSRP
- Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged, starting at $72,000 MSRP
Earlier this year, an AOL auto report gave top-dog honors to popular pet cars. Among the picks -- the retro and utilitarian Toyota FJ Cruiser. The generous cargo area and swing out back door gave it high barks, er, I mean marks as a pet-friendly drive.
"Summer loves it," exclaimed Luis Cruz of Wesley Chapel, Florida. His 70-pound Golden Retriever enjoys the riding in the roomy hind-end of the FJ Cruiser. "I can even pop the window open in the back for her to get fresh air," adds Cruz. "It's definitely a great pet car."
Cruz also appreciates the FJ's rugged rubber flooring in the back that allows for quick, easy clean ups of spills or drool. "It might be tight for two big dogs, but you can put seats down for more room if you need to."
The same report commended the Jeep Liberty SUV. This good buy has rear multi-fold seats that lock in the down position for a truly flat surface for dogs to lie down on. The moon roof offers pets a breeze and a sky-view ride.
"My Liberty is definitely pet-friendly -- that's the reason I bought it," explains Jennifer Gross of St. Petersburg, Florida. Her "beach bum" Labradors, Max and Maya, love to swim so she keeps the Liberty's back seat folded down permanently for maximum space and comfort. "They have plenty of room after a day at the beach and I just keep a blanket down in the back to catch the dog hair which makes it easy to shake out." The only trouble Gross has is keeping one-year-old Maya out of the front seat, "She likes to ride shotgun!"
Best Cars for Smaller Pets
In addition to these SUVs, the auto report mentioned a few pet-friendly cars too--perfect for smaller dogs, cats and other critters.
The sleek Saab 9 3 Aero SportCombi is a sport wagon with a generous back end that offers more storage than most sedans. The sport-tuned suspension and superior handling will give your pet a smooth, easy ride. And this Saab model boasts a top safety award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety-- three years in a row!
With a name like the VW Rabbit, how could it not be a great pet car! Even though it appears very small on the outside, it's surprisingly roomy for a little car. The hatchback offers convenient loading of pets and the split rear seats allow enough room to haul a big dog.
Best Pet Friendly Cars
Here's a review of some of the auto report's top pet cars/SUVs:
- VW Rabbit, $15,600 - $17,575 MSRP
- Toyota FJ Cruiser, $22,545 - $24,135 MSRP
- Jeep Liberty , $20,330 - $26,125 MSRP
- Saab 9 3 Aero, $26,250 - $43,100 MSRP
Pet parents I spoke to gave honorable mentions to the Chrysler Pacifica and GMC's Yukon XL for safety and space.
"We love our Pacifica because it is roomy and the seats are so big that Bella and Bruno (Soft Coated Wheaton Terriers) can curl up in them or hang out in the back," says Catherine Cole from Tampa, Florida.
More importantly, Cole owes her family's lives to the five-star front and side crash rating of the Chrysler Pacifica. During a road trip to Florida from Virginia, they were in a terrible accident -- hit twice and rolled three times. The Pacifica was totaled, but all passengers (Bella and Bruno included) were fine. "When the insurance check arrived, there was no question about what kind of car we'd buy," said Cole. They purchased another Pacifica.
The Chrysler Pacifica 2008 models start at $25,365. But hurry, Chrysler plans to discontinue this model after 2008.
Resources for Dog Friendly Cars and the Best Cars for Dogs
For tips on safely traveling with your dog, check out the video Training: Introduction to Car Safety