In Search of a Dog-Friendly Vehicle

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she has to accept certain inevitable truths. For me, this week’s inevitable truth was that my beloved Sebring convertible isn’t going to make it another year.

Now, I’ve never understood the suburban fascination with SUVs, being neither a soccer Mom nor a person who drives on rough terrain (unless you count the potholes on the Long Island Expressway). In my world, “the outback” is a steakhouse, not a place you drive; and while “all weather driving” is a lovely concept, I’m more of a “nice weather driver” who would more likely be home drinking hot chocolate during the kind of weather these “all-weather” vehicles are purportedly built for.

Also, I LIKE small cars and hate those gas-guzzling monstrosities that sit 10 feet above everyone else in traffic so you can’t see past them or even read your exit sign until it’s too late.

So why am I suddenly looking at SUVs?

The same reason I gave up my luxurious rain shower for the convenient but not nearly as luxurious handshower. The dogs, of course!

While I’ve tried to make due, the truth is, two large dogs don’t really fit in a convertible. And certainly two large dogs with dog accessories do not fit in a convertible. As that my dogs have a LOT of accessories — and neither one is particularly amenable to being left home when a trip is being planned — I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to upsize. Running Canine Camp Getaway of NY, my dog vacation business, means the dogs and I spend a lot of time on the road. So here I am, doing what I never thought I’d do — looking at SUVs and soccer-Mom-mobiles.

Now I know some people love car shopping. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. I’ve been riding in a friend’s car for the past five years and still can’t tell you what he drives, except that it’s white, and big enough to stuff two dogs in the back seat. So wading through car reviews, auto comparison Web sites, Consumer Reports and crash test ratings is about as appealing as watching the Guatemala news network. In Guatemalan.

I tried googling “dog-friendly cars” but I keep coming up with the Nissan cube, which is quite possibly the second ugliest car ever made, right after the PT Cruiser, and the Range Rover Supercharged, which has a base price that’s only slightly less than that of my house. Unless the dogs are planning their own reality series on a major network in which they can win a million dollars by beating out all the other reality-dog-star-wannabes, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

I did find an interesting site that focuses on dog-friendly cars. DogCars.com

The Nissan Cube is supposed to be a great vehicle for dogs -- but it's also one of the ugliest cars I've ever seen. I suspect even my less-than-fashion-conscious dogs would be embarrassed to be seen in this! (Photo courtesy of GAYOT.com)

looks at a variety of vehicles from the dog-friendliness perspective. They seemed hot on the Honda Element and the Toyota Venza. Unfortunately, the former could be confused with a hearse and the latter is pricey.

Expanding my search to friends who have dogs, I’ve gotten recommendations for the Ford Edge (cool looking, but lousy gas mileage), the Subaru Forester (which used to be a nice crossover SUV/Wagon/Drives More Like a Car Than a Monster Truck, but which has since been redesigned to be larger, which means I’d probably never ever be able to park it) and the Kia Rondo (which they don’t make anymore, replaced by another square, boxy looking SUV or a model which appears to only be available in a color called “alien.” While I’m not married to the idea of buying American, I certainly would like to keep my options to the known planet!).

I thought maybe I should consider a nice used car, but people keep warning me about getting stuck with “flood cars” which apparently are flooding the market, disguised so you don’t know you’ve bought a disaster until 30 seconds the warranty runs out.

Then there’s the whole insurance thing, which I didn’t even think about until a friend told me I’m better off with something classified as a “wagon” if I don’t want my car insurance to go up by $500 a year or so. And of course with gas at $3.79 a gallon, I have to worry about what kind of mileage per gallon I’ll be getting.

Honestly, I’ve barely started my search and I’m sick of car shopping already. I don’t want to keep looking at cars online, which does nothing but confuse me. I certainly don’t want to walk into a dealership, where they’ll smell my uncertainty like sharks sniffing out blood and move in for the kill.

I just want a nice, affordable vehicle that drives like a car, doesn’t guzzle gas and fits one girl, two dogs and luggage for three. Is that too much to ask for?

If you have any suggestions for dog-friendly vehicles, please feel free to share them!

And for more info about dog-friendly vehicles, check out this great article:

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8 Responses to “In Search of a Dog-Friendly Vehicle”

  1. Amy says:

    It’s not very popular in the US, but the Volkswagon Jetta wagon TDI (diesel) is a roomy vehicle and very good on fuel. I believe the new ones are at nearly 60 mpg. Small enough to park and easy to drive. My co-worker practically lives in hers with her two big dogs and calls it cozy!

  2. Lisa says:

    Have you looked at the Santa Fe or the Honda CR-V? They both have space for dogs and aren’t that expensive.

  3. Do you write something besides this? I mean, it’s actually good.

  4. ako webmail says:

    Straight to the point and written well, I appreciate for the info

  5. admin says:

    Thanks, Cameron. I’m an author and editor by trade, so blogging about dogs is my “fun writing.” Do you blog as well? I’m always looking to chat with other writers and exchange ideas about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing and promoting blogs, as well as all things pet related.

    Best,
    Janice

  6. admin says:

    Lisa, I’m actually considering both of these, having heard good things about these, as well as the Nissan Rogue. I think the problem is that there are too many choices!

  7. mytega says:

    I love my Honda CR-V as a dog vehicle. I have three 40 lb dogs and they fit in the cargo area easily. The CR-V is Forrester size. If you want smaller, I had a Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix that was a great small wagon. It got 30+ mpg and the trunk was easily large enough for my dogs. Pontiac is no longer in business for a new vehicle, and the redesign of the Matrix may not offer enough cargo space. Toyota is coming out with a wagon version of the hybrid Prius soon. Mazda makes a small wagon, 3 Series, and a “mini” mini van, the Mazda5, which Consumer Reports loves. Subaru also makes a smaller wagon, the Impreza, but again the cargo area may not be enough. The new look is for super slanted back cargo door, and that means for us, no dog head room. That was my opinion of the Nissan Rogue as well.

  8. admin says:

    Thanks — this is really helpful! I feel more comfortable driving something on the small size, yet some of the smaller SUVs or crossovers have such slanted backs, I worry they won’t fit a crate. Tough to find something small with really good dog space AND decent gas mileage, so I appreciate the suggestions! –Janice

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