Parents always make sure their kids are either in an appropriate car seat or booster or are wearing their seat belts in the car, right? Of course; even if sometimes your kids get on your nerves you love them, and (most importantly) it’s the law. So why on Earth aren’t you putting your dog in a safety harness or restraint whenever he or she rides along with you? This is especially surprising since everyone knows the dog is the most loved member of the family. (Don’t deny it, they don’t talk back.)
There are many ways to keep your pet safe in the car. The first is to always have them riding in the back of the car because a front airbag detonation would most likely prove deadly in a frontal impact. The second is to use an appropriate safety harness or carrier for your pet's size and weight. And if you're the type to hold your small dog, cat, or parrot in your hands as you drive (which is against the law, by the way) then you are worse than someone who texts behind the wheel, not to mention putting your friend at the greatest risk for a painful death in even a minor collision (lap riders count too!). If you want to learn all about the science of pet crash test safety, check out the centerforpetsafety.org, which is sponsored in part by Subaru.
And while you can buy restraints just about anywhere, we recommend PetAutoSafety.com for their wide variety of restraints, harnesses and securable carriers for dogs (and other pets) of all shapes and sizes. But beyond doing your part to keep your pet happy and healthy on car rides, which are the best cars for pets in 2014, and what the heck does that even mean?
A pet friendly vehicle is one that has interior materials made with durability and the possibility of extreme abuse in mind. Roominess and the number of easy-to-locate car seat or general use latches, which are the best way to secure any restraint, are also big factors. We think rear seat air conditioning vents are a must for any new car shopper, too. The following are all models that our current canine road tester Roxy (a female boxer who was adopted from Los Angeles Boxer Rescue) has personally given her paw stamp of approval.
Best Cars for Pets for 2014
2014 Subaru Outback— This stalwart favorite of dog lovers everywhere has a rough and tumble interior, plenty of room, and a terrific crash test rating. Also, every Outback has full-time all-wheel drive so you can bring Fido to the snow. A Forester would work just as well but we think the Outback is more stylish, and you wouldn’t want to embarrass your dog, would you?
Image: James Hamel
2014 Mazda3— A hugely roomy back seat and an interior that is the definition of minimalism means this car is a snap to clean - even after a big slobbering dog invasion. We do recommend the fine leather as it doesn’t add much to the very tempting price point. Oh yeah, this car is also a hoot and a half to drive.
2014 Honda Accord— There is a dog, who we'll call Peyton ('cause that's his name), who is terribly destructive with car interiors. We're talking claw marks in dashboards and slobber everywhere imaginable. Yet now that his ride of choice is a new Accord his owner can just go to the car wash and all of his sins vanish. Pretty tempting, isn't it?
2014 Lexus GS— Solid, fun to drive, ample rear seat room for two large breed dogs to be comfortably secured and, if you select the light gray interior, you will never notice any dog fur.
2014 Ford F-150— We always love the F-150 because it does everything so well. Just don't make your dog ride in the bed... it's not fun or safe. The backseat is plenty big enough for a crate. The F-150 is great for non-dog pets, too - especially farm animals in trailers.
2014 Acura MDX— Simply the best luxury SUV for your dogs. Period.
2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen— For dog owners, station wagons make a lot of practical sense and none is more practical and affordable than the Jetta Sportwagen. Not only is the interior practically bombproof, it is one of the few lower cost vehicles to have rear AC vents. We also love that you can order one with VW’s excellent TDI diesel engine, which, in our road tests, often returns 50 miles per gallon and above on freeway jaunts. For the dog with a far off destination.
2014 Honda CR-V— As it’s a Honda, the interior is naturally a bombproof vault but, more importantly, compared to other compact SUVs is its ride height. Designed to be easier for humans to get in and out of, the CR-V is also low enough that even if your dog is older and maybe has arthritis they will still be able to hop in back like a pup. And if that's not the gift that keeps on giving we don't know what is.
Image: James Hamel
2014 Kia Soul— The car of choice for hamsters, we think the latest Soul deserves a round of applause due to its affordable price and perfect interior packaging for hauling around your hounds.
2014 Mazda CX-9— Not only is the CX-9 quite fast for its segment, but it also miraculously has a light colored leather interior option that somehow does not show dirt or paw prints. Usually tan interiors are a no-no for pet owners, but not so with the CX-9. Not sure how Mazda pulled that one off.
Do you drive a car that's just perfect for your pet that we didn't list here? Let us know why you and your pet love it so much! We're also not ones to turn down photos of pets in cars, either.
James Hamel is a freelance road tester, auto journalist, and Motor Press Guild full member. But perhaps most importantly, James loves driving around with his pup Roxy (safely) in the back seat. Find past work at Autobytel.com and current work at iSeeCars.com. Contact James at [email protected].