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The Best Car for Dogs in 2021

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The Best Car for Dogs in 2021

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Before Stephanie Colestock had dogs, she could’ve never imagined a pet impacting the car-buying process. (She wasn’t always thinking about the logistics of children when shopping for a new vehicle either… but becoming a parent quickly changed that.)

Now having two “fur babies,” she finds herself thinking about how her vehicle could be better suited for them, whether they’re headed cross-country or simply taking a drive to the dog park.

Of course, she wouldn’t buy a new car just for her dog. However, there are certain things she’ll look for when it’s time for her family to start car shopping again. These features not only make traveling with pets easier, but also ensure our four-legged family members are as comfortable in the car as they are at home.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular vehicle must-haves for dog owners, as well as unique features car manufacturers are adding for pets these days. Then, we’ll give you a list of the cars we consider to be our “best in show” for 2021.

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’s comfortable, safe and meets your needs (including your budget!). 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- or 16 years-old, many of these features will be helpful for your many adventures together.

features
Leather interior The first recommendation is to opt for a vehicle with leather interior. Some dog owners shy away from leather because they’re afraid of scratches; however, the stains and smells your pet could leave on a cloth interior are often much worse. Plus, vacuuming pet hair from cloth seats is a chore that gets old very quickly.
Roomy backseats and/or cargo

You’ll 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.

Ground clearance

You may 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 or even a hatchback comes in handy. Allowing your pup to climb into the vehicle from the back is usually much easier (and cleaner) than letting them climb all over your seats.

Rear climate control Lastly, if your pup is going to be riding in a third row or cargo area, make sure you choose a vehicle with rear air controls. You’ll want to ensure they can receive adequate and temperature-controlled air flow, even if they’re in the very back of the vehicle.
Dog-friendly accessories

Some manufacturers go above and beyond in terms of offering pet-friendly options for their vehicles, which you can usually purchase separately. These include:

  • Retractable pet barriers
  • Tether anchors for travel harnesses
  • Removable/washable seat covers
  • Rubber floor and cargo mats (with deep treads or high sides)
  • Pet tech features

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 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 2021

Here are our six favorite vehicles, if traveling with your furry friend for 2021.

cars

Honda Odyssey

  • Flat-folding seats 
  • Large cargo area
  • Low vehicle loading height
  • Rear lift gate 
  • Pet-friendly seat material: Cloth or leather available
  • MSRP: Starts at $32,090

There’s no denying minivans were built to combine tons of space with the ultimate convenience features. If you have multiple dogs, one large pup, or a combination of kids and fur-babies, the Honda Odyssey might check all the right boxes.

The Odyssey offers up to 144.9 cubic feet of cargo room if you fold down both of the rows in the back seat. Only fold down the third row, and you’re still looking at an impressive 88.8 cubic feet. (Don’t fold anything down, and you can still pack quite a bit into the 32.8 cubic feet of space back there.)

Whether you need to load up an older pup or your massive Anatolian Shepherd, Honda’s Magic Seat feature allows you to slide second-row seats to the middle of the vehicle. This makes plenty of room in the doorway for loading dogs, kids, and bags alike.

Add in the optional CabinWatch rear seat monitor, or the CabinTalk two-way PA system, and it’s never been easier to talk to your dogs or watch what they’re up to, even if they’re in the back of the vehicle.

Plus, if you snag a 2021 model, you can still take advantage of HondaVac, the built-in vehicle vacuum system that would make it easy to clean up dog hair and spilled kibble. (This feature is being discontinued for the 2022 models and beyond.)

The Honda Odyssey comes in five different trim configurations, with a starting MSRP of $32,090.

Volvo V6

  • Large cargo area
  • Low vehicle loading height
  • Rear lift gate: Foot-activated open and close
  • Pet-friendly seat material: Leather is standard
  • MSRP: Starts at $40,950

Low ground clearance. Foot-activated, hands-free liftgate. Optional pet harnesses that attach to a seat belt and integrated cargo area dog gates. Whether you’re hitting the local dog park or trekking to your favorite state park, the Volvo V60 is one of the most dog-friendly vehicles around.

This wagon comes standard with 50.9 cubic feet of cargo space, so you have plenty of space for your canine companion, their gear, and anything else you may want to bring along. If you’re interested in a protective steel grille divider or kennel-style compartment for the cargo area, Volvo’s partnership with Petfinder can help build the perfect setup for your new vehicle. They also offer four sizes of rear-seat harnesses, to keep your dog(s) secured while on the road.

Volvo has integrated an advanced air filtration system into the V60, so you’re always enjoying fresh air (even if Fido really needs a bath). Plus, you can preheat or pre-cool your car before you even reach the parking lot, thanks to the VolvoOnCall app.

If you’re interested in leasing or buying the Volvo V60, its MSRP starts at $40,950

Honda Fit

  • Flat-folding seats
  • Large cargo area
  • Low vehicle loading height
  • Rear lift gate: Not powered
  • Pet-friendly seat material: Leather is optional, but cloth is standard
  • MSRP: Started at $16,190 (2020 model)

If you’re alright with buying an older model year – or would prefer a deal on a used vehicle – the Honda Fit might be the perfect, well, fit for you.

Honda has officially discontinued the Fit with the 2020 model year, but don’t expect this vehicle to disappear off the roads anytime soon. In fact, the Honda Fit has somewhat of a cult following among pet owners, offering a variety of awesome features makes  it a great car for both human passengers and their furry companions.

The Honda Fit boasts 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than enough for your pup, a carrier or kennel, accessories, and even snacks for the day. It’s a hatchback with a low ground clearance, easy for loading small and large dogs alike.

Perhaps one of the coolest features of the Honda Fit, though, is the magic seat. This rear seat feature allows drivers to choose between four versatile seat configurations (including totally fold-flat rear seats), no matter how you prefer to transport your pup.
As mentioned, the Honda Fit is no longer in production and stopped with the 2020 model year.

However, this just means you may be able to find an excellent deal on a gently used vehicle that’s only a year or two old.

Subaru Crosstrek

  • Flat-folding seats
  • Large cargo area
  • Low vehicle loading height
  • Rear lift gate: Not powered
  • Pet-friendly seat material: Leather is optional, but cloth is standard
  • MSRP: Started at $22,245

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 many of their commercials! It’s no wonder 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 a whopping 55.3 cu. ft. of space when the 60/40-split rear seats are folded down. Those seats also fold flat, making it easy to load a kennel or crate. Subaru also has an easy-to-use mobile app, which allows you to prep your vehicle’s climate before you reach the car… so no more loading your pup (and yourself) into a sweltering car after your hike.

Optional cargo mats, covers, cargo mats/mattresses, 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 2021 Crosstrek starts at only $22,245, but this vehicle has also been around for a few years. You’ll probably have good luck finding a great used option in your area if you’d prefer to save a bit on the price.

Tesla Model Y

  • Flat-folding seats
  • Large cargo area
  • Low vehicle loading height
  • Rear lift gate: Not powered
  • Pet-friendly seat material: Durable, faux (vegan) leather comes standard
  • MSRP: Started at $39,990

Tesla has developed quite the reputation within the electric-vehicle community as well as with the techies. So it might be surprising to see one of these cutting-edge vehicles on our list of the best cars for dogs…

But believe us, the Model Y belongs here.

With 68 cubic feet of cargo space, a fold-flat third row, independent-fold second row seats, a low trunk floor, and a power liftgate, this all-electric midsize SUV is a great choice for dog owners. Oh, and did I mention the pet tech features?

While we don’t recommend leaving your pooches in the car unattended, there are times you may need to run into a shop and can’t bring pets inside. Tesla makes this easy: simply turn on Pet Mode, which keeps the vehicle climate-controlled while still allowing you to secure the doors. It also displays a message on the vehicle’s 15” screen, letting passersby know your dogs are safe, secure, and enjoying heat or A/C until you return.

The 2021 Tesla Model Y starts at $39,990 MSRP.

Hyundai Kona

  • Flat-folding seats
  • Large cargo area
  • Rear lift gate
  • Pet-friendly seat material: Leather is optional, but cloth is standard
  • MSRP: Started at $20,500

It’s said big things come in small packages. And with 14.3% of American car-buyers choosing small SUVs in 2020 – the second-most-often purchased vehicle type – it would seem   the average driver agrees.

This is exactly the case with the Hyundai Kona. This subcompact SUV has a surprising amount of cargo room and a slew of standard features, without taking up the whole driveway. We aren’t alone in loving the Hyundai Kona, either: It was even named one of Autotrader’s 10 best cars for dog lovers.

The Kona has fold-flat rear seats that allow for up to 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space. This is more than enough for most kennels or dog beds, plus extra room for toys, an overnight bag, your tent, or whatever else you need to bring along. Plus, it has a wide-opening rear hatch, making it easy to load your pup and gear inside.

The Kona has a starting MSRP of $20,500, with optional packages for all-weather mats, cargo area accessories, and more. This makes it the most budget-friendly 2021 vehicle on this list.

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 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 dog 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’re still paying off your current vehicle, or if your dog is perfectly content with what you have now, just make sure your auto loan is the best you can get.

This might mean considering refinancing your auto loan, 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).