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For many of us who call our dogs part of the family, traveling with our pups becomes a part of life. Whether it’s heading to the dog park, going on a weekend trip, just running errands, or going to the dreaded veterinarian, chances are your dog spends a decent amount of time in the back seat of your car.
Traveling with a dog isn’t always easy. Some dogs have anxiety or get carsick, and sometimes they can get a little overexcited. However, choosing the right dog crate for the back seat of your car can make traveling with your pup easier…and a lot safer! A crate can also reduce anxiety for some dogs as it turns your car into a secure dog den on wheels!
We’ve compiled a list of the top car-friendly dog crates on the market, along with a review of each but if you want to just ahead and see which back seat crates made the list you can check them out here:
- Best Overall: LIOOPET Portable Folding Dog Crate
- Best on a Budget: JESPET Travel Crate
- Best Back Seat Fit: K&H Travel Carrier
- Alternative Option: Bushwhacker Deluxe Dog Barrier
- Best for Puppies: Diggs Collapsible Dog Crate
- Best Crash-Tested Crate For Big Dogs: Gunner G1 Kennel
- Best Crash-Tested Crate for Small Dogs: Sleepypod Air
Before we get into the reviews for each, let’s cover everything you need to know about finding the perfect crate for your backseat.
Why Do I Need A Dog Crate In The Back Seat?
Without the use of a crate, your dog is free to roam about the car. Not only could this potentially cause a distraction to you, but it’s also very dangerous to have your dog loose if you were to get in an accident. In a crash, crates will offer some protection for your dog, a lot more than they’d get when they’re free-roaming and not strapped in.
According to the folks at Outside, “In a car crash at 35 miles per hour, an unrestrained 60-pound dog becomes a 2,700-pound projectile. The force of that impact could kill both the dog and the car’s human occupants.” While it’s completely normal for people to drive around with their pups unrestrained and unsecured when you consider the worst-case scenarios it’s surprising just how common it is.
Safety is the biggest benefit of a crate but it’s not the only one. If your dog is crate trained, the crate will help reduce any anxiety your dog may experience in the car. Your dog should see the crate as a comforting, home-like environment, which will help calm them if they feel stressed.
Finally, keeping your dog in a crate will help protect your car as well. Your dog won’t be able to track in mud or dirt, and if your dog is a shedder, you won’t have a hair-covered back seat by the end of the trip.
What Should I Look For When Buying A Dog Crate For The Back Seat?
There are a few common features you should look for when investing in a car-friendly dog crate that will work well for the back seat:
Safety is, of course, going to be the number one factor. The best crates typically have some sort of metal frame, which will offer the most protection. Some crates will also have straps that can attach to your seat or seat belt to help “bolt” the crate down in the car which can make a huge difference in an accident.
You also want to make sure the actual entrance to the crate is secure. If your dog is an escape artist (like mine) then this especially important because having your dog suddenly show up in the front seat is quite a distraction!
Most of the crates below are designed of tough material to give them a rigid frame or they improve safety with a design that allows them to securely attach to the seat belts in your back seat. The majority of crates designed for bigger dogs while go the route of a rigid frame while most of the small dog options opt for a softer frame.
Crates can be expensive, so you want whatever you buy to last. It should be able to withstand normal wear and tear from your dog, as well as the wear and tear from getting hauled in and out of the car since you probably won’t be keeping the crate in your vehicle full time.
Keep in mind your dog’s size and activity level, as both factors will have an impact on how long a crate will last. If your dog is anything like mine (large and extremely active), choose a crate that’s made of more solid material, rather than a soft-sided one.
Obviously, if your dog is spending a significant amount of time in the car, you want them to feel comfortable. Some car crates will be hard and plastic on the inside, while others may offer padding or plush cushions on the sides and floor of the crate. If comfort is a top choice for you, look for a crate that comes with that padding built-in.
While not all of the crates listed below come with that padding, you can easily add a few things to make the travel crate more comfortable for your dog.
If they experience anxiety in the car, a crate cover could help block out some of the stimulation and allow them to relax. Your dog also may do well with a comfort item, like a bed, toy, or blanket, in the crate as well.
When you’re investing in a travel crate, think about some of the places you’ll be going with your dog. Going on outdoor adventures a lot? Choose one that will be easily washable. Does your pup love to swim? Get a waterproof crate. Will you need to take it in or out of your car? Pay attention to whether or not it can be removed easily and stored elsewhere.
Thinking about these factors before you buy will save you lots of headaches later on! It can be difficult to find a crate that fits all of these qualifications perfectly, but which factor is most important to you and your pup?
If you do lots of activities with your dog, you may value practicality and durability right up there with safety.
Searching for a good dog crate for your back seat can be overwhelming, so make sure you know what you want out of the crate before you take on the task of finding one.
Pay attention to how your dog will enter the crate. Are there multiple entrances? Does your dog have to enter from just the front? Can your dog enter from the side?
Side-loading crates are definitely the most convenient for your dog since your pup can just jump into the back seat as usual. Most likely, there will be very little room between the crate and the front seat, so it’s much easier for your dog to be able to enter the crate from the side.
Fastens to Head Rest or Seat Belt
In the best of all worlds, it’s safest for the crate to somehow connect to the seat. This will prevent the crate from sliding or rolling around in the event of a crash. Some crates fasten to the headrest with a strap or bolt in order to help keep the crate stable. This will greatly add to the safety of the crate and no surprise that many of the crates that pass crash testing have this feature.
Some crates clip into the seat belt with a strap or a built-in loop on the exterior of the crate. Again, this will prevent the crate from moving around too much if you have to hit the breaks quickly.
What you’re really looking for is some mechanism that will help keep the crate in place.
Should I Worry About Crash Testing?
Did you know that some travel crates are actually crash-tested?
In 2015, the Center for Pet Safety ran some extensive testing to see which crates survive well in a crash. They used a variety of crates at a variety of price levels, giving pet owners lots of options.
During the tests, crates were put through simulations similar to different kinds of car crashes. The researchers also used dummy dogs in order to assess injuries that a real dog may acquire in the accidents. While this video doesn’t give us much detail into the exact aspects of the test, it does highlight how the tests were done:
This is valuable research. Not only can this help pet owners know which crates to buy, but it also shows manufacturers what is necessary in crate design in order to best protect the animal. Some manufacturers like PetEgo actually took the information from the test and made modifications to their carriers in order to improve safety.
Throughout the testing, researchers found a few commonalities among the crates that were consistently ranking either at the top or the bottom of the list. Crates ranking at the top are typically made of extremely tough material but even more important was the ability for crates to be strapped to the car.
Your first thought might be that any crate can be strapped to the car but the reality is, some crates will actually collapse under the pressure of the seat belt if they weren’t specifically designed to be strapped in. That means that using a seat belt can actually make a poorly designed crate more dangerous instead of safer.
While crash-tested crates are a little more pricey, they’re objectively some of the safest crates on the market.
If you can’t find a crash-tested crate for the back seat, it’s not the end of the world. Crash-tested crates are sometimes difficult to find, especially if you’re on a budget.
Many dog crates can be safe, even if they aren’t crash-tested and it’s important to realize that only a handful of crates were actually tested. If you want to play it safe and just stick with crates that have been crash-tested by the Center for Pet Safety then you can check out the G1 Gunner for large dogs and the SleepPod Air for small dogs.
Both of those crates were included in the tests and recommended by the Center for Pet Safety research.
What Should I Avoid?
Typically, any kind of “normal” crate isn’t going to work well as a car crate- especially when you try to fit it in the back seat. In most cases, they’re bigger, bulkier, and more difficult to handle. Crates that are made of wire are an especially poor choice for the car, as your dog could be injured in an accident. The sometimes sharp edges can also tear up the interior of your car as you try to get them to fit in the backseat so it’s best to avoid wire crates altogether.
Also, in order to make a crate work well for the back seat, you’ll need to pay attention to the dimensions and logistics of the crate. If a crate is too long, it most likely won’t fit in your back seat. (This is where you’ll need to do some measuring.)
Additionally, take a look at how a dog enters or exits the crate. If there’s only one way to get in or out, or if the crate is front-loading only, it will probably be difficult to get your pup in and out.
How To Choose A Size?
Dog crates obviously come in a lot of different sizes! You want to choose a crate that fits in your back seat, as well as a crate that fits your pup.
Start with doing some measuring. Set your seats up in your car exactly as they will be whenever you have the crate, and measure how much space you’ll have. You’ll need to compare those to the dimensions of whatever dog crate you’re looking at purchasing.
You’ll also need to keep your dog’s size in mind. Since your dog will probably spend fewer hours in this travel crate than in their normal crate, this crate can be a little smaller. However, your dog will still need enough space to lay down, sit and turn around comfortably, especially if you’re going on a long road trip.
You’ll also want to consider anything else you’re going to add to the crate like toys or comfort items. If you’re going on a longer trip, you may want to add a KONG or other toy to keep your dog busy. Bigger crates will leave more room for toys and accessories.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to give yourself about 6 inches of extra room on either side of your dog. Most crates come with charts or recommendations for sizing purposes. Make sure to check those out. If you’re still unsure, always go with the bigger size. It’s better to give your dog a little extra space rather than not enough.
Last but not least, in addition to size, also check out how much ventilation this crate will get, as well as how much visibility it can offer. A crate that has a lot of ventilation and a lot of visibility will feel much roomier than a crate that has none.
Best Dog Crates for Your Back Seat
Now that we know a little more about the ins and outs of purchasing a travel crate for the back seat of your car, let’s take a look at a few of the best on the market.
Best Overall: LIOOPET Portable Folding Dog Crate
- LIOOPET Patented Quick Collapsible: unique frame design with strong yet lightweight steel tube with...
- Mesh Mat: Comes with mesh isolation for bed mat and avoiding dogs to urinate in an emergency....
Our best overall pick does everything well but doesn’t specialize in any one particular area. That makes it a solid option for just about any dog and any size of vehicle.
It has a sturdy steel tube frame with an easy-to-clean mesh exterior that also allows your pup to get a view of what’s going on around them. That can be great for social pups but possibly a downside for dogs who easily get overstimulated.
The entire crate can fold down which means it can easily be kept in the trunk of the car full time and simply extended when it’s time to hit the road. There’s also a handle that not only makes the entire crate easy to move around but even more importantly it can be used, in conjunction with the seatbelt, to secure the crate in the back seat.
This crate is also very versatile, and it can be used for travel but it wouldn’t look out of place in your living room either.
Finally, it works great for the back seat with three different points of entry so your dog shouldn’t have any trouble getting in it. This crate is also very wide, meaning it will stretch across your back seat rather than being cramped up against the back of the driver’s seat.
You can read more reviews and check out the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love: The mesh on this crate is easy to remove and machine-washable, so it’s super easy to clean if your dog has to get in it while they’re muddy or dirty. If you do a lot of outdoor activities with your dog, like hiking or swimming, that’s definitely a plus.
What I’m Not a Fan Of: For dogs who experience anxiety in cars, this crate most likely won’t help the situation. It offers a full view from all sides, with no ability to limit external stimulation.
Best on a Budget: Jespet Travel Crate
- Size: 26”L*20”W*20”H; Foldable and Lightweight Pet Crate make it easier for outdoor travel. All...
- Three Entrances Door (Top, front and side) for convenience sunlight and breathability; Ample Ventilation...
Our budget option has everything you need in a crate for your back seat without breaking the bank.
Just like our best overall pick, you’ll find a sturdy steel frame that could help improve the overall safety potential. You’ll also find comfortable, breathable mesh sides to help keep pups comfortable. The folks at Jespet also throw in a nice fleece bottom to help keep your dog extra comfy.
It’s easy to put together and does fold down but it’s not quite as easy to break down and build out compared to our best overall. Instead of folding into one piece, it works best when you separate the fabric exterior from the steel frame and fold from there. For some folks, that’s a deal-breaker. For others, it might not be a big deal at all which just makes this budget-friendly option more appealing.
As with our other back seat-friendly crates, we’ve got 3 different ways to enter which make it easy for dogs to hop inside.
This crate is also missing a dedicated mechanism for attaching it to the seatbelt or headrest. While that is a downside, it’s one of the compromises you’ll need to consider in just about any budget-friendly option.
You can check the latest price and learn more on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love: Even though this crate is made of mesh, its frame has steel bars that can increase the safety potential.
What I’m Not a Fan Of: I’d love to see an option for attaching this crate to the seatbelt or headrest in the back seat.
Best Back Seat Fit: K&H Travel Carrier
- TRAVEL SAFETY CARRIER: Pet carrier provides a comfortable, safe and secure location for your pet to ride,...
- SAFETY FIRST: Straps loop around headrest and straps for any car seat belt to securely tethers to carrier
You can tell with just one look that this simple crate from K&H is designed to fit perfectly in the back seat. The rounded front gives your dog plenty of room without pushing into the passenger or driver seat while the flat back will lean nicely against the back seat.
While most crates will fit in the car, there are only a handful that are specifically made to squeeze in the back seat which helps set this crate apart.
Like our best overall pick, this crate folds up which makes it perfect for keeping in the car. But unlike our best overall, it doesn’t have any steel frame support which means it lacks the same potential in terms of safety.
Even without the steel frame, it’s still surprisingly durable. Even if your dog experiences stress in the car, the nylon exterior will hold up under their pawing or scratching. This crate also comes in multiple sizes, so it will be easy to measure your dog and find the perfect fit.
As with many of the options on this list, there are three entry points that make it easy to get your dog in or out of the crate. Last, but not least, this crate is able to snap into the seat belt and the headrest. That’s two points of contact that can help keep this crate locked into the back seat.
You can read more reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love: I’m a big fan of the shape of this crate! It’s clearly designed for the car and the flat back makes it easy to use in almost any size car. I also love the fact that it easily connects to both the headrest and the seat belt in the back seat.
What I’m Not a Fan Of: I’d love to see some additional stability added to this crate. As it stands, its frame is primarily nylon with some small plastic rods in key spots.
Alternative Option: Bushwhacker Deluxe Dog Barrier
- Barrier is made with scratch and tear resistant pet screen. All mesh design allows rear AC/heater vents...
- Half inch light weight metal tubing maintains barriers shape and prevents dogs from squeezing over,...
While we’re focusing on crates for the back seat it’s still worth considering some alternative options for keeping your dog comfortable and secure in the car.
If for whatever reason your dog can’t or won’t crate in the car, you can instead use a barrier to block off the front from the back seat. This will ensure that you’ll be able to drive without distraction while your dog is contained.
The big downside is safety. In the worst-case scenario of an accident, the back seat barrier won’t protect your dog in the same way that a secure crate will. But it’s not completely useless and while it can be unsettling to think about, the barrier will stop your dog from hurtling towards the front of the car.
You’ve got a ton of options when it comes to pet barriers for the car but most of them either don’t reach the roof of the vehicle or are made exclusively of flimsy mesh. I like the Bushwhacker model because it features a frame made of metal that will keep the barrier from sinking or sagging but this also means added stability in case of an accident.
But I do want to make it clear that there’s no crash testing data to support that this dog will protect your dog in an accident, I’m just looking at it from a common-sense perspective and anything that can keep your dog from flying towards the front of the car is generally a good thing.
Many barriers are also made for the back of an SUV but the Bushwhacker easily attaches to the headrests in the front seat which makes it a great option for the back seat. It also goes straight to the roof so that bigger dogs or brave little ones can’t just jump over it.
You can check out more reviews along with the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love: This barrier is designed to be very adaptable. It’s adjustable, so it can fit pretty much any style of car and any kind of back seat.
What I’m Not a Fan Of: With this barrier (an alternative to a crate), you lose the safety value of a crate. While it’s not without its benefits, there’s a massive difference between the safety value of a back seat barrier and a crash-tested crate.
Best for Puppies: Diggs Collapsible Dog Crate
- TRAVEL FRIENDLY: Collapsible small dog crate is easy to set up, fold, store, and transport. Equipped with...
- PERFECT FOR PUPPIES: Includes removable tray for easy cleaning, ceiling hatch for easy access, and puppy...
While it’s not purpose-built to be used as some of our other options, this crate from Diggs has plenty of puppy positive benefits and will still fit nicely in most back seats.
The crate collapses down small enough that’s easy to stash in the trunk when you’re not using it. There’s also a set of wheels and handles that make moving the crate from the car to indoors easy for just about anyone.
It can also double as a crate indoors and even has a puppy divider so that puppies can grow into the crate. When a crate is too large puppies are more likely to poop in it and a puppy divider allows you to adjust the crate size so it’s appropriate for your pup.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this crate puppy-friendly! It also has an easy-to-use pullout tray that will collect any kind of mess your puppy makes. Puppies still have a lot to learn about the world around them and that includes potty training.
Not only is having a puppy potty accident on the road bad enough but if you’re using a more traditional travel crate cleaning isn’t going to be easy. The pullout tray can also come in handy if your adult dog is prone to car sickness or nervous peeing on the road.
There are also got several entrances including a top-loading option which can be very handy for puppies who may need some help getting situated.
When it comes to safety, the crate is made from a combination of aluminum for the frame, steel wire for the exterior, and plastic to protect any potential sharp corners. While it hasn’t been crash-tested, the material used will help it hold up in an accident.
The biggest downside is that it isn’t purpose-built for the back seat like some of the other options so you’ll need to find your own way to secure it in the car. While it can be tempting to wrap the seat belt around the crate to secure it, in some cases that can actually make things worse and the seat belt can crush the crate. I suggest positioning the crate so it’s flush with the seat in front of it to limit any potential movement of the crate.
You can check out more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love: It also takes care to make sure your pup’s paws don’t ever get caught or pinched because it’s designed with baby industry standards that live up to the hype.
What I’m Not a Fan Of: This crate only comes in a small and a medium size, which means it’s great for small dogs or puppies, but it’s not really an option for larger dogs.
Best Crash Tested Crate for Big Dogs: Gunner G1 Kennel
- HEAVY DUTY: portable dog crate built for travel and designed to fit most large dogs up to 110 lb. For...
- DOUBLE-WALL ROTOMOLDED: market's only double-wall rotomolded kennel, which helps better protect your pet...
The Gunner G1 is a truly premium dog crate and if you’re looking for a back seat crate that makes zero compromises on safety then this could be a good option.
Not only do you have the backing of the Gunner brand this is one of the crates that received a Dual 5-Star Crash Test Rating from the Center for Pet Safety. Just one look and you can tell that this crate is focused on durability without any flash. There’s no mesh or bright colors, just a simple crate that’s designed to keep dogs safe in just about any situation.
What it might be missing in style it certainly makes up for in other areas. Every Gunner kennel comes with a lifetime manufacturer warranty which is certainly a nice perk.
The crate has double-walled construction which adds extra durability and is part of what helped it achieve its 5-star rating with the Center for Pet Safety. It also has a custom welded door with an absolutely escape-proof door.
But that also leads us to one of the downsides for this crate and there is only one entry point. More entry points would create a weaker overall frame so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this safety-focused crate has only one entrance.
Overall, if you want the safest crate, even if it means giving up on budget-friendliness and convenience then you can’t go wrong with the Gunner G1. You can learn more and check out the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love: This crate focuses on safety above all else and it does a great job with it.
What I’m Not a Fan Of: While this is a great crate that is crash tested, it may not be the best option for the back seat specifically. It’s large and bulky, and you might have a tough time getting your dog into it. It would be better to put in the back cargo space of an SUV than in the back seat.
Best Crash Tested Crate for Small Dogs: Sleepypod Air
- Mobile pet bed, in-cabin airplaine carrier and car seat, fits pets up to 17-1/2-pound
- Includes padded shoulder strap, machine washable Ultra Plush bedding and an instruction card
Sleepypod has three crate variants and they’ve all passed crash tests from the Center for Pet Safety. I’ve selected the Air option for our list because it has the most traditional style and look that most folks will be familiar with but the folks at Sleepypod also make a round carrier that you can check out here.
While this has several features that are targeted toward airline travel, like attaching to the handle on your rolling luggage it also has several features that make it a great option for the back seat as well. The biggest benefit is that it’s designed to strap into the seatbelts of your car to create a sort of canine car seat.
As I’ve already mentioned, not every crate is a good candidate for being strapped in since the seat belt can actually crush the carrier but the Sleepypod Air was actually designed for it. This design is part of what allowed this carrier to pass the crash tests since it kept the crate securely in the back seat during the test.
It can also fold down into a surprisingly small roll so you can toss it in the trunk when not in use or put it in your luggage if you’re traveling.
You’ve also got 6 color styles to choose from which is a lot more than not only most travel carriers but especially ones that have actually been crash-tested.
You can read more reviews and check out today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
What I Love: The Sleepypod Air brings a combination of safety and style that’s missing in a lot of canine travel accessories. It’s also great if you’re looking for something that will work on airlines as well since this crate fits nicely under the seat.
What I’m Not a Fan Of: This carrier is designed for dogs up to 17.5 pounds and while it’s perfect for small pups, I’d love to see Sleepypod produce some larger sizes for bigger dogs.
With the right type of crate, traveling with your four-legged family member can be easy!
But finding one for the back seat isn’t always that straightforward. In most cases, you’ll need to balance budget, style, and of course safety.
Which option did you go with?