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Shopping for a Dog-Friendly Car

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Are you shopping for a dog-friendly car? Follow along as we shop for our next car–from trying to find a car that meets our needs (and our budget) to finding a dog-friendly dealership for a test drive.

Our Jeep logged a lot of miles with our dogs–but it was time for a replacement.

Our Jeep has logged a lot of miles with our dogs--but we know that sooner or later we'll be looking for a replacement.

Is Your Dog a Factor in Your Choice of Cars?

Is your car dog-friendly? Will your dogs be a factor in your decision when purchasing your next car?

Well, yes. Of course.

And it looks like we’re not alone.’s recent poll showed 55 percent of the site’s visitors polled who own a dog said they actively seek out cars and trucks that can accommodate them. Of site visitors polled who have a dog, 75 percent take them in the car once per month or more, and 53 percent take them in the car at least once a week.

What Makes a Car Dog Friendly?

So what factors made a car especially dog-friendly? The list looked for cars that included multitude of comfort and convenience features that make a road trip more enjoyable for human and dog passengers including:

  • fold-flat seats
  • rear lift gate
  • low ride height
  • airy cabin
  • underfloor storage

Which Cars Are Most Dog-Friendly?

OK, which models are considered the most dog friend? The list of most dog-friendly cars included:

  • Subaru Outback
  • Nissan Juke
  • Volkswagen Tiguan
  • BMW X3
  • Volvo V60
  • Kia Soul
  • Honda Odyssey

Our Car Buying Experience

OK, let’s get one thing out before we begin this discussion: my interest in cars is pretty much limited to (1) I want the car the start when I turn the key and (2) I want everyone in the car to be comfortable and safe as we travel.

Perhaps partially because of that fact, we held onto my Jeep Cherokee for 16 years. It was comfortable for the dogs and for us, it got us where it was going–and it was long since paid for–so we saw no need to trade it in on a newer car. That is, until the electrical system caught fire and suddenly we found ourselves shopping for a replacement.

We had some specific needs that weren’t tied to the dogs:

  • We needed a car with high ground clearance so that it could make our creek crossing safely.
  • We needed a used car within our budget, aiming for under $20,000.
  • We needed a car that wasn’t too tall so that it would fit into our carport.

Of course, we love to travel with our dogs so we also had some criteria for the new car very specific to their needs:

  • We needed a car whose rear seat would fold completely flat with no voids.
  • We needed a car that was easy for the dogs to jump into, no more than three inches higher than our previous car.
  • We preferred to buy from a dealership that would let us take the car home, test the creek crossing, and give the car a test drive with the dogs.

It all sounded so simple…

Before we headed off car hunting, we measured the height of the back of our Jeep. Armed with the measurements, we headed off to start looking at used cars that might meet our needs.

Looking at CarMax for a Car for Our Dogs

Our first stop was CarMax where we checked out cars ranging from Honda Pilots to different Jeep models to FJ Cruisers.

The first step with each was a look at the back to see how well the seat would fold down.


Some were much better than others:

Unfortunately the CarMax test drive is limited to the blocks around the dealership–so we couldn’t go home and pick up the dogs for a test. We test drove several cars then headed back home for some more searching online.

Trying the Ford Flex

Next up…we tried the Ford Flex at a different dealership that let us bring it home and test drive with the dogs!

We loved the interior…but a drive across the creek showed us that this car was way too low for our needs:


The search continued.

For days, we measured and drove…and drove. The dogs never knew what car we might be driving up in for a test run. While Irie didn’t care much for the test drives, Tiki thought it was great fun!

Our search continued. For days we measured…


We Found a Car!


Finally, though, we found a car that fit all our needs: a 2012 Ford Escape.

While the newer models had changed up the way the seats folded and diminished the cargo area, the 2012 model was just what we needed. The back folded perfectly, the jump up into the car was just right for the girls, the price was right, and the ground clearance was perfect.

We’ve already taken the car on dog trips to Dallas, San Antonio, the Highland Lakes, Enchanted Rock, and Port Aransas. We’re so happy that we took the time to shop around and find a car that fit ALL of our needs!


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Paris Permenter
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