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Best cars for dog owners

Your guide to finding a car that loves your dog as much as you do (or at least comes close…)

It’s no secret that dogs love cars. Tell a dog they’re going for a ride and watch the excitement happen. But not every vehicle is as dog-friendly as the next. From pet hair to lax safety features, the wrong car could make for some uncomfortable trips for you and your dog. If you’re in the market for a car or want some tips on making your car more dog-friendly, this guide is for you.

Features you want in a dog-friendly car

What makes a dog-friendly vehicle? Keep a lookout for the following features:

  • A pet barrier. Some cars come with a built-in pet barrier, but you can also buy it on its own. The barrier keeps your pet in the back seat of the car so they can’t clamber over the seats. (See the section below on legal restrictions for restraining your dog.)
  • A spacious cargo-style boot. This is a flat boot where your pet can sit. This can prevent pet hair building up in the back seat and works especially well for larger dogs.
  • Waterproof pet seat cover and pet barrier. You can purchase seat covers that spread across your entire back seat and also create a barrier between the front and back seats. It’s best to get ones that are waterproof and washable.
  • Rear air conditioning. This is especially useful on hot summer days or when you’re heading home from the beach. If you have a pet seat cover or barrier, make sure it doesn’t block the air conditioning.
  • Childproof window and door locks. It’s easy for dogs to step on door handles and window controls, so this is a handy safety feature to have.


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Best cars for small or medium-sized dogs

Travelling with a small or medium-sized dog can be a lot easier than a larger dog, but you still want your pet to be as comfortable as possible for the ride. Here are the cars to consider:

Cars for small dogs

french bulldogBMW 3 Series
This luxury vehicle, while on the pricier end of the spectrum, comes with rubber mats for the back cargo area and built-in dividers. The car also comes with a sunroof with a shade cover – perfect for those summer days. The rear seats can fold down to provide extra space and the boot window can also be opened to provide extra ventilation when needed. Medium-sized breeds such as French Bulldogs will feel right at home in this car.beagle-car

Kia Rio Sport
Zip around the city with your pup in tow. Split-fold rear seats (60/40) come standard to make the boot more accommodating for a small-sized dog. This zippy car comes with plenty of storage and is ideal for a pair of Dachshunds or even a Beagle.

bullmastiffToyota Prius
This innovative vehicle is ideal for dogs of any size – from Chihuahuas to Bullmastiffs. The solar ventilation system can cool your car when parked in direct sunlight, and the air conditioning system provides bursts of air when you drive. Accessories such as the boot liner and scuffguard protect your new Prius if you want to keep your dog in the back.

bull terrierMazda CX-5 Grand Touring
A spacious SUV for all kinds of trips, you and your pup will be comfortable with dual-zone climate control, a tilt glass sunroof for those long drives and plenty of space with a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat. Accessories include a boot lip protector so your dog won’t scratch the paint getting in and out, a cargo barrier and tray and also rear seat covers to catch pet hair. Bull Terrier pups will feel right at home in this Mazda.

The cars that will accommodate your large dog

Your pup may have started off small, but it won’t be long before they will be outgrowing everything – including your car. Here are the cars that your big friend will be the happiest in:

Cars for large dogs
labrador dogVolvo XC90
As the 2015 Auto Express Car of the Year, you know you’re getting a winning vehicle. The car comes with four-zone climate control, a roomy cargo area and third-row air-conditioning to keep you and your dog happy. Leather seats also make for easy cleaning of dog hair if you have a dog that sheds, like a Labrador. Notable accessories include a dog gate for the rear of the car that keeps your pup in place, even when the boot is open.
german shepherdFord Territory
The Territory is roomy and comes with many features to keep you and your dog happy on short or long drives. Accessories include luggage compartment rubber mats, waterproof seat covers, safety barriers and even an in-car fridge to keep water chilled for your pooch. Perfect for larger breeds like German Shepherds.
Rhodesian Ridge BackGMC Acadia
This car, while currently only available in the US, will be released by Holden in Australia in 2017. What US dog owners love about it is its ability to seat up to eight passengers, which means plenty of room for big dogs like Rhodesian Ridgebacks or Dobermans. It comes with touch-activated climate control and the 60/40 split bench-style seats in the third-row feature storage underneath.
border collieToyota RAV4
The popular RAV4 comes with leather seats to keep the pet hair under control as well as a power back door so there’s no need to do any more heavy lifting than you need to. There’s also a cargo barrier available as an accessory if your dog likes to sit in the boot. A tilt and slide sunroof comes with the car as does dual-climate control.

Cooper Sitting in carOn the road – know the laws about restraining your pet

Not every dog owner realises that there are state laws regarding the restraint of your pet in a vehicle and there are some common misconceptions as to what these laws are. In NSW, you can be fined and lose demerit points if police determine that an unrestrained pet is causing you to not to be in control of your vehicle or if you have a dog on your lap.

The RSPCA has powers as well. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, if you haven’t restrained your pet and it’s injured as a result, you can be fined and face up to six months in jail. It’s best to familiarise yourself with the laws in your state and to secure your furry best friend as best as possible to ensure their safety. Limiting distractions in the car, such as an unrestrained pet moving around, is in the best interests of you and your dog.

Dogs aren’t necessarily picky, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be. Choosing the right car or even making your existing vehicle more dog-friendly can make your next car trip a lot easier and safer.


Elizabeth Barry

Elizabeth is a senior writer for finder.com.au specialising in personal finance. She enjoys reading PDSs so you don’t have to.

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