“What kind of car should I buy?” is like asking “What kind of dog should I get?” Answers will vary, opinions are mixed, and really, both answers depend on what you want and need in your life. The answers come a bit easier when asking what vehicles are best for dogs. We asked around (professionals, not dogs) to find you a few vehicles that are best for dog lovers.
With over three decades working around dogs, Dr. Troy Acree, a veterinarian at Midwest Veterinary Hospital, has seen it all.
“One gal had a Mazda Miata and a Great Dane,” said Acree. “One-hundred-twenty pounds of dog squeezed in there somehow.” The MX-5 Miata is a lot of fun to drive with a furry pal, but some dogs find the lack of treat storage to be disconcerting. In that case, a sporty four-seat convertible, like the Chevrolet Camaro, may be more your dog’s style.
“If you have lots of dogs, obviously bigger is better,” said Acree. “However, you might consider something lower to the ground for small dogs or older dogs.” The mini-van is perfect here, with sliding rear doors and a low point of entry. The Honda Odyssey drives like a car but has 148.5 cubic feet in the cargo area, and a low point of entry for a low price. Weiner dogs rejoice!
Dr. Acree appreciates mini-van utility, but his personal ride is a Toyota Tundra. While he is a vet and regularly transports his own dogs, Acree bought the Tundra because it had the options he wanted at the right price. “And it’ll haul my little dogs just fine.”
John Randall doesn’t haul small dogs while performing search and rescue operations.
“I need space for my stuff and my dog,” said Randall, who also owns an obedience training academy. His Rottweiler and German Shepherd accepted single cab pickups, but Randall found the interior lacked space for critical equipment. Previously working with a K9 unit, the police force upgraded him with a Ford Explorer. Traditionally a GM guy, Randall was impressed with the Explorer enough to buy his own.
“It’s all about function and bang for the buck,” said Randall. He said he would buy it again due to the utilitarian space, plus “the ultimate cooling package is great for the dogs in back.”
If he were to buy today, he would be looking at an all-wheel drive crossover. Randall said AWD is superior to old school four-wheel drive in most situations, and you can’t get by without it when you find yourself needing to traverse rough terrain. If an Explorer isn’t your style, the Dodge Durango and Toyota Highlander can get the job done, too.
Kimberly Kindell, founder and president of a Boston Terrier rescue, has a Honda Element, but recommends anything with a hatchback.
“The hatch accepts larger dog crates than a sedan, but doesn’t scare the rescued dogs like an open truck bed would,” said Kindell. Look to the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Focus deliver a fun drive with a convenient hatchback cargo space.
Kindell noted that larger animal rescues usually use panel vans. While a little awkward to drive, panel vans offer unrivaled cargo space, and an interior that can be cleaned by turning on the garden hose.
“I just took my back seats out,” said Kindell. “Now I have a flat vinyl floor. I love it!”
While quick and easy, not too many manufacturers offer the vinyl or rubber interior anymore. Basic work trucks aside, the only vehicle with an easy to clean interior is the Jeep Wrangler. No matter how dirty those dogs were, cleanup is as easy as opening the drain plugs and turning on the garden hose.
Kindell notes that if you are interested in rescuing or fostering dogs, pretty much any vehicle will work with some creativity, patience, and “the right seat covers.”