Pet ownership continues at record highs in the U.S. with an estimated 70 million pet dogs and 74.1 million pet cats owned, according to the latest edition of the American Veterinary Medical Association Pet Demographic Sourcebook. With so many people owning pets today, it’s a sure thing that lots of people are traveling with their pets. Whether you simply take your dog to the vet or you plan longer trips with your pets, it’s important to choose a vehicle that’s pet-friendly.
SUVs (sport utility vehicles) are often an excellent choice for anyone who has pets. They have several advantages over cars:
- More interior cargo space – especially important if you have more than one dog or if you travel with multiple cats in carriers. The comfort and safety of your pets is important and an SUV gives you more room than a car.
- SUVs are durable. Your dog’s nails or muddy paws can quickly make a mess of your nice car upholstery but SUVs are built to be tough.
- It’s easier to keep dogs in the back, where they cannot bother you while you drive; and it’s easy to install a barrier so dogs cannot climb over the seats.
- They can have a flat floor in the back for dogs to lie down or so you can use dog crates for safety; this typically means the SUV will have back seats that fold down flat.
In addition to these obvious advantages, you can look for other features when choosing an SUV such as a low bumper or tailgate height so it will be easy for your dog to jump up into the back of the vehicle. This can be particularly important if you have an older dog. Most SUVs will also have various hooks and places where you can hang leashes or secure crates, but you can keep this need in mind when you look for a vehicle. If you prefer to use harnesses instead of crates to keep your dogs safe when you travel, be sure there are enough seatbelts to attach the harnesses for your dogs. You should also look for an SUV that has side curtain airbags to provide protection for your pets in case of an accident.
Which SUVs Are Best For Pet Owners?
With these things in mind, here are some of the best SUVs and Crossovers for pet owners:
Honda discontinued the Element in 2011 but it was extremely popular with dog owners and if you can find one as a used (“pre-owned) vehicle, it can be a good choice. The Element was one of AAA’s top choice’s as a pet-friendly vehicle when they made their choices in 2010. This SUV has a large cargo area that is lined in durable urethane, making it easy to clean up mud and messes. The upholstery is also stain-resistant. The Element has four doors and the rear doors open out in French door fashion. There is lots of room for cat carriers and big dogs to load from the side of the vehicle. Accessories include a ramp which is ideal for older dogs, second row seat covers, and a soft-sided kennel that can be secured to the vehicle. It even has a spill-resistant water dish and an electric ventilating fan.
Land Rover Range Rover
The Land Rover Range Rover is one of the most expensive SUVs around but Land Rover has a great reputation and they can make a perfect choice for pet owners. If a new Range Rover would bust your budget, you might consider a pre-owned model. The vehicle has durable upholstery and carpeting that are designed for rugged use, making them ideal for pets. The Range Rover also has a number of comfort features such as climate control and a smooth ride which keep pets (and you) comfortable on long trips.
The Subaru Forester was also chosen by AAA as one of the best vehicles for pet owners. The Forester is roomy for both people and pets. According to AAA, this crossover SUV has a stable and comfortable ride with predictable handling and reassuring traction under all conditions. The rear seats fold and it has impressive and inviting cargo capacity for pets – 68 cubic feet. The floor is just 27 inches off the ground making it lower than many SUVs and easier for dogs to get in and out. There are also ample tie-down points to secure a kennel.
GMC Yukon XL
Another favorite with pet owners is the GMC Yukon XL. Pet owners say they like the Yukon because it’s easy to rearrange the seats in several different configurations which is great if you have multiple dog crates or cat carriers. The Yukon XL also has side curtain airbags in all three seating rows to protect your pets and more cargo room than most other vehicles in its class.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
The Toyota FJ Cruiser is also popular with pet owners. The vehicle has a rubber-lined cargo compartment making clean-ups easy, and water-resistant seats. The surfaces in this vehicle can handle even big dogs. The Cruiser also features a wide rear tailgate so you can easily load large crates. It also has French door style side doors to make it easier to load things from the side. The cost of a new FJ Cruiser is not too bad and you can find used ones that will fit many budgets.
More Pet-Friendly Options
Also recommended as pet-friendly vehicles by AAA are the Toyota Venza and the Ford Escape Hybrid. Ford discontinued the hybrid version of the Escape in 2012 but you can still find pre-owned vehicles if you would like to drive a hybrid SUV. However, the Ford Escape currently uses a technology that gets better gas mileage than the hybrid version of the vehicle.
It’s always a good idea to test drive any vehicle you are thinking about driving. Dealers and private sellers probably aren’t going to allow you to put your pets in a vehicle when you take a test drive but you should certainly consider your pets when you take a test drive and try out all of the features that would affect your pets.