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Best Dog Crates For Cars: Protect Your Dog With These Crates & Carriers


Last Updated: April 10, 2024 | 14 min read | 2 Comments

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Are you looking for the best dog crate for your car? There are many options in every price range to help protect your furry friend. Whether traveling, moving, or taking a 20-minute trip to the dog park, driving with your dog in the car can sometimes be a bit of a hassle. It may be fun to allow your dog to roam freely about the interior of your car. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

There are even crash-tested dog crates you can get for your vehicle. Unfortunately, crash-test-approved crates are often more expensive and outside of many pet parents’ budgets. However, investing in a crate or carrier to keep your dog safe on the road is something dog owners should consider. This is especially true if you take frequent road trips or dog park visits.

Ultimately, your dog crate purchase is up to you. You know what your dog’s needs are and what can fit inside your vehicle and budget best. Our buying guide helps you choose the best car dog crate for your favorite canine.

At A Glance: Our Favorite Car Carriers & Crates

Our Rating

Best Value

Carlson Collapsible Wire Crate

Our Rating


VarioCage Dog Crate

Our Rating

Great For Small Dogs

Sleepypod Mobile Carrier

The Benefits Of Using A Car Crate

Dog in Gunner Crate
Using a dog crate in your car like the Gunner G1 (pictured) can have multiple benefits.

It might be fun to see how happy your pup gets with his head hanging out of an open car window. There are many reasons you should actually be using a crate in your car instead. Getting in any collision can be difficult enough for a human that’s fully buckled into their seat. It’s even more dangerous for a dog that’s been allowed to wander about the car unrestrained.

There are also benefits outside of safety that you’ll get by using a carrier or crate in your car. Some of these may or may not apply to you based on the size of your dog. Let’s take a look at how a crate can be beneficial when driving around town with your furry friend.

Less Mess

Anyone who owns a dog knows how quickly your personal items can be ruined in their presence. The same goes for your car. Whether it’s intentional bad behavior or accidental, there’s a good chance that your dog will eventually create a mess in your car. They scratch and bite through the fabric of your seats. They can also get into things you’d prefer they leave alone.

Additionally, whatever dirt, mud, and mess are on their paws will be all over your car. Dogs also tend to drool over everything. This means you will scrub dried dog spit from your seats after your long drive. Their noses create smudges on your window, and their shedding fur sticks to your upholstery.

There’s also the chance your dog has an accident. Double the possibility if you have a long car ride ahead. Even potty-trained dogs can only hold it for so long. On a long drive, you may not realize how much time has passed since you last stopped to let them out. Without a crate, that accident ends up – you guessed it – right on your seat or floor.

Avoiding Distractions

Some dogs behave perfectly during car rides. They look out the window the whole time or curl into a ball and go to sleep. Other dogs are a bit more rambunctious. In fact, unrestrained pets increase driver stress and distraction on the road.

An active dog in a car jumps back and forth from the front seat to the back. He might try to climb on your lap or get into things that you have with you, like your purse or luggage. When he gets to the back seat, his movement might block your view out of the rear window.

Not only can this be very distracting and uncomfortable, but it poses a safety risk. It would help if you focused on the road, not your adorable puppy. Anyone with you in the car might also prefer your dog keeps his paws to himself. Having a crate keeps everyone calm, comfortable, and distraction-free.

Dog Safety

In addition to fewer distractions, crates can protect your dog in an accident. Harnesses are great for keeping your dog in the back seat, but they won’t provide any shelter for your pup should you get into a collision.

If your dog is in a crate, it has a better chance of surviving or avoiding injury during a crash. Your dog won’t be thrown from the vehicle and will stay in one place. Rugged crates made from metal or steel may also save your dog’s life from impact or debris.

Should I Buy A Crash-Tested Dog Crate?

Crash Tested Car
Regulatory agencies can perform both vehicle and dog crate crash tests.

The Center for Pet Safety conducts tests to ensure that certain crates advertised as crash-rated safe are just that. They conduct crash tests on several different types of crates and carriers.  Individual pet carrier brands also perform their own crash tests on their products. This helps ensure that pets are safe during any vehicle-related accident.

While there is no way to guarantee that your pet walks away from an accident unharmed, it’s always a good idea to ensure that you put your dog’s safety first. Crash testing is one method to verify that a carrier or crate holds up in a collision. When crash testing, the events of a vehicle crash are simulated, using certain variables to recreate a car crash with dummy pets.

This allows manufacturers and nonprofit organizations to validate what’s considered safe. Unfortunately, these crash-tested dog crates can cost hundreds of dollars or more. This doesn’t always fit in everyone’s budget.

Buyer’s Guide

small white dog in carier in backseat of car
When buying a crate or carrier to use on the road, ensure you get something specifically designed for car travel.

Here are some of the considerations most dog owners consider when buying a crate for their car.

Let’s take a look at the six different decision points that you should consider when buying a crate or carrier to transport your pup. Not all of these apply. But as a general rule, the better you can get at hitting all six objectives, the better prepared and comfortable your pup will be.

We also have more basic everyday dog crates for home use.


Most pet owners would probably agree that they would do anything they could to ensure their dog was happy and comfortable. If this is one of your top priorities for your furry friend, then you should look for a comfortable crate for car rides.

Some crates have hard composite or rubber bottoms with plastic or metal sides. While these features have benefits, they may not be the most comfortable for your pup. Look for a car crate that’s made of polyester or has soft, padded siding.

Many car crates have padded bottoms and soft edges, making them more comfortable for laying down. At the very least, ensure it’s big enough to fit blankets or a bed pad inside to keep your pet cozy.


Anything that a dog comes in contact with is subject to wear and tear, so it’s important for him (and your bank account) that you invest in something that can take a bit of a beating. Soft crates are best used with small or medium dogs, while larger dogs do better in composite, heavy-duty plastic, or metal crates.

Consider how your dog does when he’s caged up. If he’s fussy and not the biggest fan, your crate will take on more scratching, biting, and movement. That being said, it’s probably not the greatest idea to put your fussy pup in a polyester crate.

If your dog doesn’t mind being crated for a long drive, you shouldn’t have an issue with the softer crate. Just be sure to fold it properly when you put it away, clean it regularly, and look it over for tears or rips now and then.

Crate & Carrier Size

The size of your crate is possibly the most important factor to consider. Your dog shouldn’t have any major constraints while in the crate. They should have room to sit, stand, lay down, and turn around completely. If you have an escape artist on your hands, traveling with a crate may be a challenge. You’ll want a heavy-duty crate for your pup at home as well.

This range of movement lets your pup feel safe and comfortable. If they don’t have enough room to do all these movements, they start to stress out and become very sad and possibly aggressive. The proper size also increases the airflow and visibility your dog gets, which helps keep them comfortable and stress-free.

A crate should be at least six inches longer than your dog and six inches taller than their shoulder height. When in doubt, always go with the larger size. If your pup is between medium and large, get the large crate. They’ll always do better with more space than less.

Cleaning & Storage

Dogs tend to create messes wherever they go. You’ll want to get a crate that’s easy to clean. Pay close attention to the descriptions of each crate. Many advertise washable features or removable padding. Look for crates that are labeled as waterproof.

If you want to avoid all kinds of cleaning hassle, look for crates with removable pans. The lack of fabric eliminates all questions of how to wash and clean up after your pup. Plastic or composite bottoms are easy to wipe down.

Safety & Security

To avoid further distractions while driving, you want to make sure you get a quality crate that closes and stays closed – especially if you have an escape artist on your hands. We do not recommend crates with simple, one-latch closures. Excited dogs plus the movements from the car ride can shake these loose, ultimately freeing your dog while you’re cruising down the highway.

Look for crates with two latches or solid zippers. It’s best when these features are out of reach of your pup. Some crates have locking mechanisms. While not always necessary, they can provide an additional level of security.

You should also seek a crate that attaches with a strap to the headrest or seatbelt. These types prevent movement, so your dog doesn’t slide around in the backseat or fall into any gaps.

Bonus: Crash-Tested

Not many crates on the market today are completely crash-tested, but there are a rare few. This simply means that before they went up for sale, these products went through and successfully passed a series of crash tests.

Crash-tested crates give you a much higher level of safety for your pets, and better protection should you find yourself in a collision. They are usually more expensive than those that are not tested, but it’s worth it to keep your dog safe in the worst-case scenarios.

Best Dog Crates For Cars

woman petting large dog in back of car in crate
Keep your car size in mind when looking at different crate models.

While many crates have been crash-tested, below are our favorites. These are best for medium to large breeds. If you have an XL breed, Gunner Kennels has a great model, or you may want to research a custom option.

You’ll need to have a larger vehicle, preferably an SUV.  Smaller cars lack the space to install a crate. Budget plays a factor, too, and may impact your purchase decision.

Carlson Collapsible Wire Crate

  • Can be used in the car, in the home, and outdoors.
  • More affordable than crash-tested crates.
  • Multi-point door locking system.
  • Folds to become nearly flat.
  • Bottom pan is removable and easily cleaned.
  • 90-day warranty.
  • Comes in 3 different sizes.

If budget, size options, cleaning and storage, and security play a factor in your purchase decision, this Carlson Wire Crate is an excellent option. This crate features a multi-point locking system to provide a secure environment for your pup.

The crate is available in three sizes ranging from small to x-large. It can easily fold flat for storage and be transferred in and out of your vehicle effortlessly. While your pet is home with you, you can use this crate indoors.

If your dog has an accident, you can remove the plastic bottom pan and wipe it clean. To make the crate more comfortable for your pup, you can add his favorite blanket as a soft bed.

We love that this crate can serve multiple uses in your car or home. The various size options allow you to choose the best fit for your dog too. The bottom pan makes for easy clean-up if your dog drools in the car, and the wire structure allows him to see, reducing anxiousness.

North America Variocage Dog Cage

  • Proven safety track record.
  • Widely used in Europe.
  • Locking doors with hydraulic springs.
  • Emergency escape hatch.
  • Mimic’s vehicle crumple zones.
  • Protects against rear end collisions.
  • Meets European crash test standards.

If safety is your main concern, we highly recommend the 4×4 North America Variocage. This tough, durable cage has been tested for front, rear, and roll-over crashes. There is no need to worry about your four-legged friend riding along with its proven performance.

This crate comes in four sizes ranging from small to max, but it is also adjustable to 14 different sizes to fit not only your pup but also your vehicle.

The easy-open handle is designed to let you pop open the cage with ease while still maintaining a secure closure. In addition, the gas hydraulic motion springs keep the door from swinging and damaging your car. A key lock adds to security for your peace of mind.

In the case of an accident, you can utilize the emergency hatch on the back of the crate to release your dog. The bottom houses a rubber carpet made for comfort, ease in cleaning, and quiet; you no longer have to listen to your pup’s nails scratching a composite surface.

We love that this is certified to meet or exceed various front, rear, and roll-over crash test safety standards. There are various size options, and it has durable construction, including a secure, easy-open door and lock. The only drawback is the cost, but can you put a price on your fur baby’s safety?

Gunner Kennels G1 Dog Crate

  • Crash-tested.
  • Made in the United States.
  • Carries a 5-star crash test rating.
  • Double steel-walled.
  • Reversible door.
  • Lifetime warranty.
  • Comes in 4 different sizes.
  • Optional all-weather kit.

Gunner Kennels’ crash-tested dog crate is our favorite combination of portability and security. This crash-tested dog crate comes from a crate manufacturer out of Nashville, Tennessee. These crates were created by Founder Addison Edmonds, a hunter who grew tired of replacing plastic crates after heavy use.

Gunner is one of the few brands that actually have customer testimonials directly from pet owners whose dogs were saved during a car crash. Gunner Kennels owns a 5-star crash test rating and is one of the only dog crates certified by the Center for Pet Safety.

Many crash-tested dog crates require the owner to anchor them in the back of their SUV. While you’ll want to secure your Gunner Kennel, you don’t necessarily need to build it into the frame of your car like many other models.

We love Gunner for its combination of quality, safety, and more affordable price compared to other crash test dog crates.

Diggs Revol

  • Made with high-grade aluminum, steel mesh wire, and reinforced plastic.
  • More sturdy than wire or soft-sided crates.
  • Has two wheels for portability.
  • Solid escape-proof doors.
  • Includes an adjustable puppy divider.
  • Can collapse in seconds.
  • Comes in 4 different sizes.

Diggs Revol is made of high-quality materials, including high-grade aluminum, steel mesh wire, and reinforced plastic. The diamond-shaped mesh lets your dog peek out the window during your trip. Thanks to its ergonomic handles and two wheels, it’s easily transported and can collapse flat in seconds.

The doors are escape-proof to prevent any unexpected visitors in your front seat. The garage-style door helps pups feel more comfortable getting into the crate, especially injured or older dogs. It also features an adjustable puppy divider which allows this crate to grow with your dog.

We love the rounded frame on this crate to prevent paws from getting pinched. It’s also easy to clean if your puppy has an accident. There’s even a ceiling hatch for easy access if you want to give your dog a treat or a quick pet.

Best Dog Carriers

Carriers are different from crates, as carriers are typically something you can take out of your vehicle once stopped. You will not take your Variocage out of the car unless you plan to stay somewhere for a while. Dog carriers are typically used for small and toy-breed pups.

There have been advances in recent years, with some manufacturers like Sleepypod coming out with smaller crash-tested dog carriers that fit in the back seat of your car.

Below find our favorite options you can use that keep your pup safe.

SleepyPod Mobile Pet Carrier

  • Perfect for smaller dogs (up to 15 lbs).
  • Mobile crash-tested dog carrier.
  • No assembly required.
  • Made from luggage-grade nylon.
  • Includes shoulder strap for carrying.
  • Interior foam liner.

The Sleepypod mobile pet bed is a new entrant to the market and is a crash-tested option that’s perfect for smaller dogs. This carrier is made from luggage-grade nylon and is both plush and comfortable inside. It comes equipped with a padded shoulder strap and a handle, making transporting your pet on the go very easy.

Because this is smaller, it’s only recommended to fit pets up to 15 pounds. If you have a larger pup, you should consider getting a larger pet crate, like the ones we’ve given you a thumbs up on above.  For smaller pets, this carrier is a great fit.

We love that it requires no assembly, making this carrier grab-and-go. If you have a flight planned, this product is not recommended. Instead, check out some in-cabin carriers that are air travel approved.

Gen7Pets Commuter Safety Seat

  • Approved for airline travel on most carriers.
  • Crash tested with seat belt use.
  • Great carrier for smaller dogs.
  • Padded shoulder strap.
  • Machine washable.
  • Made with heavy-duty hardware.
  • Utilizes seat belt latch in car.

The Gen7Pets Commuter safety seat has been rated five stars for safety by the center for pet safety.  This carrier is approved for use on most airlines, but we’d still recommend getting one specifically for air travel if you plan on boarding a plane and transporting your dog in the cabin.

However, for cars, the Gen7Pets Commuter Safety Seat is a great pick, and it’s perfect for pets under 15 pounds. It’s specifically made for smaller breeds and toy breeds, similar to the Sleepypod mobile pet carrier. This carrier is also easy to grab and go, with shoulder and arm straps.

We love that the heavy-duty hardware ensures it withstands extreme abuse for years to come. It is equipped with a removable and machine-washable comfort pad. If you are looking for a budget-friendly crash-tested carrier, it’s hard to go wrong with this pick.

Frisco Kennel

  • Features 2 doors for loading the pet.
  • Hard-sided carrier.
  • Made from 95% pre-consumer recycled plastic.
  • Eco-friendly and easy to clean.
  • Sturdy handle for easy carrying
  • Comes in 2 different sizes.

The Frisco Two Door Top Load Plastic Dog & Cat Kennel comes in two sizes and two colors. It features a top-loading door, allowing access to your pet during your trip for comfort or treats.

The structure is made of two halves that lock together. While it’s not in use, you can store the halves inside one another to reduce the amount of space it takes up.

We love that the hard plastic shell makes cleaning easy. Your pet’s paws can stay drier with the moat-like structure inside. You can even add your dog’s favorite bed or blanket inside to provide a more cozy feeling for him.

Frequently Asked Questions

Regarding crash-tested dog crates, we’ve answered several common questions. Read through some of our frequently asked questions to find the answers you might still be looking for.

Why can’t I just use a harness in my car?

The short answer to this question is safety. In some states, it’s actually illegal to have your dog roam free in your vehicle while you’re driving. It’s much safer to have your dog in a crate rather than using something like a seatbelt leash, which leaves your pup exposed and unprotected in the case of an accident.

Should all dogs be in a crate every time they get in the car?

It is always best and safest for dogs to be crated or in a carrier in the car, regardless of size. The safest place for the crate is in the backseat, buckled in. If you cannot do that, you can anchor it in the trunk or cargo area, as long as it is not an enclosed trunk. Make sure the crate cannot slide or move around. Always pick a well-ventilated crate and make sure your dog gets fresh air, even if you need to roll down the window.

What accessories should I give my dog in his crate during a car ride?

You should make your dog feel as comfortable as possible in his crate during your car ride. Give him a couple of his favorite toys to keep him occupied. If you know you’re going to be driving for a long period without stopping, you should give him some food and water as well. You can even find special dispensers to attach to a wire crate with anti-spill features.

Are non-crash-tested crates okay to use?

While crash-tested crates are certainly the best and have proof that they are safe, this doesn’t mean that non-tested crates are unsafe. They’re just untested. Crates that haven’t been crash-tested are still okay to use, but it all depends on your comfort level. If you prefer to feel 100% confident that your dog will be okay in a crash, you may want to consider looking into only crash-tested products.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to our dogs, we want only the best products. Our pups are a part of our family, and protecting them is of the utmost importance. This is why it’s important to find the best crate for your budget to put into your car. Each crate on our list serves a different dog owner in terms of price, comfort level, available sizes, durability, and ease of use.

Whichever dog car crate you go with, know that these options are all excellent choices to get you started. Use this information to start your search and make the best purchase for your furry friend. Happy shopping, and let us know in the comments if you have a favorite car crate or carrier we missed.

Black dog pulling on a leash lunging towards water.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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