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Best Dog Crates For Cars: Crash Tested Crates & Carriers

We break down the best crash-tested dog crates for your car, as well as several carriers. We compare brands by analyzing durability, budget, & more.

Last Updated: August 28, 2020 | 14 min read

Best Dog Crates For Crash Tested Car Travel

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Looking for the best crash-tested dog crate for your car? The good news is, there are a few options in every price range to help protect your furry friend! 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. 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.

The best thing you can do for 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. This is especially true if you frequent trips to the dog park with your pup.

We would recommend against using traditional crates and carriers in your car. Doing so may put your dog at risk in the event of an accident.  With only a few real crash-tested crates available, we’ve created this buying guide to help you choose the best one for your favorite canine.

Our Favorite Crash Tested Carriers & Crates

Gunner Kennels Crate
Our Rating

Best Overall

Gunner Kennels G1

View at Gunner.com
Variocage Crash Tested Crate
Our Rating

Non-Portable Crate

VarioCage Dog Crate

View at Amazon.com
Sleepypod Dog Enclosure
Our Rating

Great For Small Dogs

Sleepypod Mobile Carrier

View at Amazon.com

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to Gunner.com and Amazon.com, where you can get additional product information and customer reviews. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

How Crash Testing Works

Crash Tested Car
Not only can regulatory agencies crash test cars, they also test dog crates.

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. This helps 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 simulated against certain variables that simulate a car crash with dummy pets.

This allows manufacturers and nonprofit organizations to validate what’s considered safe. 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.


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 type of collision can be difficult enough for a human that’s fully buckled into their seats. 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 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 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’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.

There’s also the chance your dog has an accident. Double the chances 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 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

Gunner Kennel with Dog
Durability should be a primary focus when buying a crate. Gunner crates (pictured) are highly durable.

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 for their car.  While things like comfort and cleaning ability are important, safety obviously comes first.

Let’s take a look at the six different decision points 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.

Comfort

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.

Durability

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

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 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, look for crates with removable pans. The lack of fabric will eliminate all questions of how to wash clean up after your pup. Plastic or composite bottoms are easy to wipe down.

If you are looking for portability, look for a crate that doesn’t get bolted down to your car. Gunner Kennels makes one of our favorite options, that’s easy to pull out and store. Foldable crates won’t give you the security that your pup needs when traveling.

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. You’ll find the Gunner G1 is the primary model that’s aced a 5-star crash test rating from the Center for Pet Safety in the United States.


Crash Tested Dog Crates

Gunner Crate in Truck
Gunner is our top pick when it comes to 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. If you have an XL breed, Gunner Kennels has a great model, or you may want to go with a custom setup.

You’ll need to have a larger vehicle, preferably an SUV.  Smaller cars lack the space to install a crate that needs to be affixed to your car. You’ll need to keep that in mind when looking at different models. Budget does play a factor, and you’ll see that one crate, in particular, has a lower price point.


Gunner Kennels G1 Dog Crate

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

Gunner Kennels crash-tested dog crate is our favorite combination of price, portability, and security. This crash-tested dog crate comes from a newer crate manufacturer out of Nashville Tennessee and has been making a name for itself ever since. These crates were created by Founder Addison Edmonds, who is a hunter and 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.

One of our favorite things about Gunner Kennels is their budget-friendly price point. Many crash-tested dog crates require the owner to anchor them into 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 other models.

We love the Gunner Kennels crash-tested dog crate for their combination of quality, safety, and budget-friendly price point.


North America Variocage Dog Cage

Variocage Dog Crate
  • 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.
View at Amazon.com

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!


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 Dog Crate
  • Perfect for smaller dogs.
  • Mobile crash-tested dog carrier.
  • No assembly required.
  • Made from luggage grade nylon.
  • Includes shoulder strap for carrying.
  • Fits dogs up to 15 pounds.
  • Interior foam liner.
View at Amazon.com

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

Gen 7 Crash Tested Carrier
  • 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.
View at Amazon.com

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

When it comes to crash-tested dog crates, we’ve field several common questions. 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 harness 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. 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.

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.

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. 


Final Thoughts

When it comes to our dogs, we pet owners want only the best products. Our pups are a part of our family. Protecting them is of the utmost importance. This is why it’s important to consider the top choices for crates for your car. In terms of comfort level, sizing options, durability, and ease of use, each crate on our list serves a different dog owner.

If you can afford a slightly higher price point, Gunner Kennels offers the highest quality option that delivers excellence across safety, sizing, durability, and security. It comes in multiple sizes that will fit almost any dog. It’s crash test standards are some of the best in the business.

We understand that cost can be a bit of a deterrent. But when it comes to the safety of your dog, can you really put a price point on a member of your family?

Whichever dog car crate you go with, know that these four 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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