Best Dog Crates For Cars: Crash Tested Crates & Carriers

Last Updated: March 23, 2020 | 18 min read

Whether you’re 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. As much as you love your furry friend, it’s not always safe to have them jumping from the front seat to the back seat, all while trying to stick their head out of the window or sit on your lap.

The best thing you can do for both you and your pup is to find a crash tested dog crate for your vehicle.  Investing in a crate or carrier that’s specifically designed to withstand crash tests is something every dog owners should consider, especially if you frequent trips to the dog park with your pup.

We would recommend against using traditional crates and carriers in your car, because doing so may put your pet at risk in the event of an accident.  There are lots of options available out there, so we have created this buying guide to help you choose the best one for you and man’s best friend.

Our Favorite Crash Tested Carriers & Crates:

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How Crash Testing Works

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

While there is no way to guarantee that your pet will come away from an accident unharmed, it’s always a good idea to ensure that you put your dog’s safety first.  Crash testing is the best method to ensure a carrier or crate will hold up in the event of a collision.  When crash testing, the events of a vehicle crash are simluated against certain variables that simulate a car crash with dummy pets.

This allows manufacturers and non profit organizations to validate what’s considered safe for a pet to travel in and what’s not.  If you have a larger dog, there’s one crate we recommend in particular that will ensure your pup is safe no matter where you go.  Let’s look at some of the benefits of using a car crate as well as our buyer’s guide on the important points you should be considering & researching.

Benefits of Using A Car Crate

As fun as it can be to see how happy your pup gets with his head hanging out of the open window, there are many reasons you should use a crate in your car instead.  Getting in any type of collision can be difficult enough for a human that’s fully buckled into their seats, let alone a pet that’s been allowed to wander about the car unrestrained.

There are many benefits outside of safety that you’ll get by employing the use of a carrier or crate in your car.  While some may or may not apply to you based on the size of your dog, overall there are other reasons why using crash-tested crate or carrier is beneficial, so let’s take a look at them next.

Less Mess

Anyone who owns a dog knows how quickly their 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 quite the mess in your backseat.

Not only can they scratch and bite through the fabric of your seats, but they can get into whatever you have lying around back there. Additionally, whatever dirt, mud, and mess are on their paws will be all over your car.

Dogs also tend to drool over everything, which means you’ll be scrubbing 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.

Not to mention, there’s a chance your dog could have an accident – especially during a long car ride. 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 are perfectly fine during car rides. They look out the window the whole time or curl into a ball a go to sleep. Other dogs are a bit more rambunctious.

In the latter case, this can pose a great distraction for you, i.e., the driver. In fact, three out of ten drivers admit to being distracted by their pup when they’re driving.

An active dog in a car will jump 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 back window.

Not only can this be very distracting and uncomfortable, but it poses a safety risk. You should be focused on the road, not your adorable puppy. And anyone who’s 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

Aside from the safety of fewer distractions, crates can also serve to protect your dog in case of 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 it will stay in one place. Tough crates made from metal or steel may also save your dog’s life from impact or debris.

Buyer’s Guide

You already know why you need a crate if you’ve stopped off to read this article.  Below are some of the considerations most dog owners take into account when buying a crate to put in their car for their dog.  While things like comfort and cleaning ability are important, safety obviously comes first.

Let’s take a look at the six different objectives that you should be considering when buying a crate or carrier to transport your pup.  Not all of these will 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.

When thinking through your crate or carrier purchase, you want to make sure you are getting something that’s specifically designed for car travel.  There are other crates you can look at if you are looking for a budget-friendly crate to use with your dog at home.


Most pet owners would probably agree that they would do anything they could to make sure 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 metals sides. While these features have their benefits, they may not be the most comfortable thing for your pup. Look for a car crate that’s made of polyester or has soft, padded siding.

Many crates made for the car will have padded bottoms and soft edges that make it comfortable for your dog to lay down in. At the very least, make sure your crate is 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 some 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 is going to 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 be able to move around freely with enough room to sit, standing, 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 of these movements, they will start to stress out and become very sad and possibly aggressive. The proper size will also increase the amount of airflow and visibility your dog gets, which will also help keep them comfortable and stress-free.

A crate should be at least 6 inches longer than your dog and 6 inches taller than their shoulder height. You can follow this chart for more information. 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

Since dogs tend to create messes wherever they go, it’s a good idea to get a crate that’s easy to clean. Pay close attention to the descriptions of the crates you look into. Many will advertise washable features or removable padding. Look for crates that are labeled as waterproof.

If you want to avoid all kinds of cleaning hassle, you can also go with a crate that has a plastic bottom. The lack of fabric will eliminate all questions of how to wash it or if you have to follow a special process. Plastic or composite bottoms are easy to wipe down.

In addition, since this crate will likely be used solely for travel purposes, it’s a good idea to find one that folds well for storage rather than taking up unnecessary space. Many quality crates break down or fold down flat, making them easy to transport and put away.

Safety & Security

To avoid further distractions while driving, you want to make sure you get a quality crate that closes and stays close – 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 completely out of reach of your pup. Some crates even have key locks, which are not always necessary, but they provide an additional level of security.

You should also look for a crate that attaches to your car in some way, like strapping to the headrest or attaching to the seatbelts. These types of crates prevent movement, so your dog isn’t sliding around in the backseat or falling into the gap.

Bonus: Crash-Tested

Not many crates on the market today are completely crash-tested, but there are the 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.

Crash Tested Dog Crates

While there are a number of crates that have been crash tested, below are our favorites.  These are best for medium to large breeds, and if you have an XL breed, you’ll have to look at custom solutions or harnesses that strap your pup in and treat them like a human.

You’ll need to have a larger vehicle, preferably an SUV where you can put your crate inside of.  Smaller cars lack the space to install one of the two larger crash tested crates, so keep that in mind when looking at the different models we’ve picked as our favorites.  Let’s look at our two sturdy favorites.

North America Variocage Dog Cage

MIM Variocage Single L - Crash Tested Dog...
  • The ONLY Dog Transport Cage to Pass Front, Rear & Roll-Over Crash...
  • Proven Performance in Europe for Nearly a Decade
  • 14 Adjustable Sizes to Best Fit Most Cats, Dogs and Vehicles
  • Locking Doors with Gas Hydraulic Motion Springs

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If safety is your main concern, we highly recommend that you go with the 4×4 North America Variocage. This tough, durable cage has been crash tested on all sides and through front, rear, and roll-over crashes. With its proven performance, there is absolutely no need to worry about your four-legged friend in the car.

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 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 rollover crash test safety standards.  There’s also various sizing options if you are serious about keeping your pet completely safe.  It has durable construction, including a secure easy open door and lock.  The only drawback is the cost, but you really can’t put a price on your pup’s safety!

4Pets ProLine Crash Tested Dog Crate

4pets ProLine Crash Tested Dog Crate with...
  • The ProLine Dog Crate is the world's safest, most rugged crate,...
  • Outstanding results in independent crash tests by TUV-SUD, world...
  • Maintenance-free, with anodized aluminum bars, reinforced back...
  • Created by Swiss engineers in consultation with professional dog...

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The ProLine is cheaper than the Variocage.  It’s been around for a shorter period of time than the Variocage as well, but the budget-friendly price tag helps make it easier to stomach for the average consumer.  It was created by Swiss engineers in consultation with pet trainers and other animal experts.

The crate is maintenance-free and it’s made from anodized aluminum with a reinforced back wall.  4Pets makes a few different sizes which range from medium to large.  The large crate can fit 2 medium-large sized dogs such as German Shepherds.

The panel divider can be removed as well, making it an option for a slightly larger dog, although it may get a little tighter if you have a Giant Breed like a mastiff.  The lower price tag makes this option appealing, even with having less history than other brands.

Crash Tested Dog Carriers

Carriers are different than crates, as carriers are typically something you can also take out of your vehicle once stopped.  You aren’t going to be taking 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 advancements in recent years, with some manufacturers like Sleepypod coming out with smaller crash-tested dog carriers that fit on your back seat of your car.  Below you’ll find our favorite options you can use that keep your pup safe.

SleepyPod Mobile Pet Carrier

Sleepypod Medium Mobile Pet Bed, Arctic White
  • Mobile pet bed, carrier, and car seat lets you travel anywhere...
  • Made from luggage-grade nylon outside and ultra-plush polyester...
  • Contoured to fit pets up to 15 pounds
  • No assembly required

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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 on the inside.  It comes equipped with a padded shoulder strap with a carrier handle as well 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 crash tested pet crate, like the ones we’ve given you a thumbs up on above.  For smaller pets, this carrier is a great fit.

There’s no assembly required, making this carrier grab and go.  It’s not recommended for air travel, so you if you plan to travel by plane, you’ll want to check out some different in-cabin carriers that are air travel approved.

Gen7Pets Commuter Safety Seat

Gen7Pets Commuter Buckle In Car Safety Seat...
  • APPROVED FOR USE ON MOST MAJOR AIRLINES. Review your airlines...

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The Gen7Pets Commuter safety seat has been rated 5 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-cabin.

For cars however, 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 the shoulder straps and arm straps.

The heavy duty hardware that it’s equipped with will ensure that it stands up to extreme abuse for many years to come.  It also comes equipped with a comfort pad that’s easily removed and machine washable.  If you are looking for a budget friendly crash-tested carrier, it’s hard to go wrong with this pick.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dogs are very common pets to have, so it’s no surprise that there are tons of people out there who have the same questions that you might have. Read through some of our frequently asked questions to find some answers that you might still be looking for.

Q: Why can’t I just use a hardness in my car?
A: 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. While you probably want to avoid getting into any trouble with the police, it’s also 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.

Q: What accessories should I give my dog in his crate during a car ride?
A: 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.

If it fits, put his bed or favorite blanket in his crate as well. Treats are always welcome, especially if you don’t want to feed or water him during the car ride. If your pup gets stressed out in the car, consider using a crate cover to keep him from seeing his surroundings.

Q: Are non-crash-tested crates okay to use?
A: 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. If you don’t feel strongly about the issue, you can go ahead and factor other products as you search to find the perfect crate.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to our dogs, we pet owners want only the best products. Our pups are a part of our family, and that’s why we have strived to give you top choices for crates for your car. In terms of comfort level, sizing options, durability, and ease of use, these are some of the greatest options on the market.

If you can afford to dish out the extra cost, the 4×4 North America Variocage is a high-quality option that delivers excellence across safety, sizing, durability, and security. It’s made to fit virtually any dog, and any vehicle and its crash-test standards exceed most pet parents’ expectations.

However, we understand that the cost can be a bit of a deterrent, so we recommend the other options with just as much confidence. The K&H Pet Products Travel Carrier is awesome because it really hooks into your car’s seats to prevent movement, and it still puts strong efforts towards comfort for your pup.

The AmazonBasics metal dog crate delivers classic convenience that anyone can rely on. With one-door and two-door options alike, you’re free to choose your style and size based on your needs. Its ability to fold down flat for storage is great for anyone who’s on the go.

Whichever dog car crate you go with, know that these five options are all excellent choices to get you started. Use the information we have offered you here today to get started in your search and make the best purchase for your furry friend. Happy shopping!

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