Hitting the road with your pup as a passenger? Whether you’re heading out on a big road trip or just taking your pal along for errands, keeping your dog comfortable and safe in the car is paramount. As many dog owners know, our furry friends would prefer to ride shotgun — or right in our laps. However, a dog should never ride in your lap while driving and should always be restrained while in the car (it’s even the law in some places). Some dog car seats or restraints can be used in the front passenger seat, but according to Dr. Gina Rendon, Medical Director of Williamsburg Veterinary Clinic in Brooklyn, New York, “for harnesses and car seats, you would want something to keep the pet secured and out of the way of airbags.”
We considered each dog car seat or restraint in terms of how it can make traveling with your pet more rewarding, easier, and smarter. The Kurgo Heather Dog Booster Seat came in as our overall best dog car seat pick for its simple installation and collapsibility, and because it’s easy to clean, gives your dog a boosted view (which can help with motion sickness and nerves), and has multiple stability points. However, we’ve also got top picks for seats in different styles, for specific size dogs, that cater to various needs, and sport travel-friendly features.
Here are the best dog car seats to keep your dog happy while you get the show on the road.
Kurgo Heather Dog Booster Seat
Why We Love It: The thoughtful design keeps things simple, secure, and accessible and the price won’t break the bank.
What to Consider: This dog seat has not been crash-tested and does not support large dogs.
The Kurgo Dog Car Seat has a sturdy, high-sided box design that hangs from the backseat headrest and keeps your pup and their excitable paws contained to prevent unwanted side door scratches and automatic door unlocking. The seat’s elevated position boosts dogs up so they can snag a window view, which can help with motion sickness, nerves, and boredom. The interior of the basket has a soft removable liner and pad that is machine-washable for easy cleaning, while the waterproof exterior features side pockets for storing treats, pee pads, and other travel essentials.
Installation is quick thanks to anchor straps that loop over the headrest and base of a bucket seat. Dogs are secured via an adjustable harness tether that loops around the crossbody seat belt, so there’s no fidgeting with seat clips. This dog car seat is not crash-tested, so we recommend using it with a crash-tested harness.
Weight limit: Up to 30 pounds | Dimensions: 12 x 16 x 8 inches | Material: Polyester
Best for Small Dogs:
Diggs Passenger Travel Carrier
Why We Love It: It received a five-star crash-test safety rating and features a smart, removable pee pad bed that’s ideal for travel.
What to Consider: Some dogs may find the traditional travel bag design claustrophobic on long car rides.
This traditional dog travel carrier transforms into a doggie car seat via the front-facing seat belt loops. We love this bag because it received a five-star car crash test rating from the Center for Pet Safety on its first try and is designed for more than just car travel. Two handle straps and a crossbody strap make for easy transport when you reach your destination. Three zippered pockets have thoughtful features to give easy-access storage to all your essentials like keys, tickets, treats, and cell phone. Zippered entry points are on the top and all sides, and a side panel opens to the removable pet bed that can be covered with pee pads for easy accident clean-up. Note that the mesh windows are limited to the top and half of one side, which can either calm a nervous dog or make some feel claustrophobic on long rides.
Weight limit: Up to 18 pounds | Dimensions: 20 x 10.8 x 11.5 inches | Material: Not listed
Best for Big Dogs:
Bochao Dog Car Seat Bed for Large/Medium Dogs
Why We Love It: It’s a soft-sided, bed-like car seat with a removable, washable cover that can accommodate large dogs — a rare find.
What to Consider: The two harness straps have an unusually high placement on the seat’s headrest loops.
This dog car seat is designed to be used in the backseat cargo area and is secured via a stability strap that loops over the backseat headrests. If placed in the backseat, three iron seat belt tabs click into seat belt receivers for extra stability. If you’re looking for a roomier dog car seat, this is it — it covers two-thirds of the back seat, making it one of the larger dog car seats on the market. It can fit one medium or large dog or two small dogs. The easy zip-around design consists of a one-piece removable cover (it’s washable, too). There’s no padding on the bottom liner, but you can DIY it. Something that stands out is that the detachable harness tethers are designed to clip into both sides of the headrest straps, which is a much higher placement than most car seats we’ve seen.
Weight limit: Up to 55 pounds | Dimensions: 33.5 x 21 x 7.9 inches | Material: Cotton and sponge interior with composite exterior
Best for Nervous Travelers:
Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed
Why We Love It: It functions as a regular pet bed at home and has a five-star crash-test rating in the car.
What to Consider: The 15-pound weight restriction is limiting.
Nervous dogs can escape into their own private pod with the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed. Passenger pups can ride inside on the soft shearling bedding with or without the detachable mesh dome. This pet seat does double-duty and is meant to be used at home (without the dome) as a pet bed, so your pet associates it with relaxing. That way, when it’s time to travel, you just have to zip the dome on, strap the Sleepypod into your car, and go. If the circular design has got you raising your eyebrows, don’t fret. This mobile pet bed has a five-star crash test safety rating for pets under 15 pounds from the Center for Pet Safety. We just wish they made a bigger version so bigger dogs can experience pod life on the road.
Weight limit: Up to 15 pounds | Dimensions: 17 (diameter) x 5 inches | Material: Luggage-grade ballistic nylon
Best with Harness:
Kurgo Enhanced Strength Tru-fit Dog Car Harness
Why We Love It: The harness-only design goes from leash to car seat in two quick clicks.
What to Consider: There is no seat component to this option, so it’s not ideal for long car rides.
Kurgo’s Enhanced Strength Tru-fit Dog Car Harness keeps your pet put in the backseat of your car or truck without you worrying about whether a dog car seat will fit. Dogs are secured via a carabiner clip seat belt tether — which has been crash-tested using child restraint standards for up to 75 pounds traveling at 30 miles per hour. Five metal nesting buckles ensure that your furry friend gets the right fit, and the front and back leash D-rings mean you can go from dog hikes and walks straight into the car in a cinch. This is a great option for bigger dogs that fall over the weight and size limits for other types of dog car seats. However, since there is no actual seat or bed component, it’s best suited for shorter drives.
Weight limit: Up to 75 pounds | Dimensions: 0.25 x 4 x 3 inches (XS) to 0.25 x 8 x 9 inches (XL) | Material: Nylon and metal
Best Seat Cover:
Vailge Waterproof Dog Seat Cover With Mesh Window
Why We Love It: The mesh section of the hammock allows for airflow from car vents and non-slip padding prevents it from sliding while driving or braking.
What to Consider: The dog seat belt tether could accidentally become unclipped if stepped on by your dog.
The Valiage Waterproof Dog Seat Cover ticks a ton of boxes, including being waterproof and machine-washable. The XL size is specifically for large trucks and SUVs. The cover’s four-sided flap design provides full backseat and side door coverage without blocking your pup’s window or front seat view. Seat anchors, non-slip padding, and a clip-in seat belt tether keep the car seat cover and your pup secure. The hammock’s mesh window is key for keeping eyes on your pet (and vice versa), can stop your dog from falling forward during an accident, and allows air from the car vents to reach your pet. The only cause for pause is the possibility that the dog seat belt tether may accidentally release if the release button is stepped on by your dog.
Weight limit: N/A | Dimensions: 56 x 60 inches (standard) | Material: 600D Oxford and TPU
Snoozer Luxury High Back Console Pet Car Seat
Why We Love It: It offers a less risky way for anxious dogs to ride up in the front with their owners, and the high back design provides back support during braking.
What to Consider: Dogs that sit in the console area may be more likely to become injured during a crash.
Some dogs and owners just prefer to ride side-by-side. Since it is not recommended to drive with your pet in your lap, securing them in a comfortable seat on the console can be the next best thing. This plush car seat has a pillowy sherpa lining and a soft, machine-washable microsuede cover. Thick exterior cushions can help absorb a bit of shock on bouncy roads, and the high-back design gives dog backs a padded bumper during braking. While this may be the most desired seat in the car, pets riding in the center console area may be more susceptible to injury during a crash. Although not crash-tested, this console seat attaches securely to the lid of the console and includes a dog seat belt tether.
Weight limit: Up to 20 pounds | Dimensions: 18 x 9 x 7 inches (small); 18 x 16 x 7 inches (XL) | Material: Microsuede exterior and sherpa lining
K&H Heated Bucket Booster Pet Seat
Why We Love It: It’s plush, collapsible, and comes with a removable USB-powered heating pad to keep your pet toasty in cold climates.
What to Consider: The removable cover is machine-washable but needs to be air dried instead of thrown in the dryer.
The high sides, removable boostered base, and plush interior are already big comfort wins for this bucket-style dog car seat, but it earns extra points for its removable USB-powered heating pad. Plus, it can be used as your pet’s regular bed, giving them that extra bit of comfort and familiarity while in the car. It installs via a hidden seat belt loop that works with all lap belts and has knock-down collapsibility for easy storage. We also love that this seat comes with two attached harness tethers, so it can accommodate more than one dog, depending on size. This car seat comes with a removable and machine-washable cover to help with minor spills and accidents, though you can’t toss it in the dryer because it may shrink.
Weight limit: Not listed | Dimensions: 18 x 18 x 16 inches (small); 22 x 20 x 16 inches (large) | Material: Denier exterior with fleece interior
K&H Pet Products Buckle N’ Go Dog Car Seat
Why We Love It: The collapsible, fold-flat design makes it easy to pack in a suitcase.
What to Consider: It can be difficult to clean and the bottom lining is not waterproof.
The K&H Buckle ‘N Go Pet Seat acts like a dog pen for your car. The backseat-only installation is as easy as looping straps around the front and back headrests. High mesh sides keep airflow going and don’t block your pet’s window view even if they’re laying down. Available in small and large (with no weight limits), this is one of the few dog car seats on the market that is capable of accommodating some large-breed dogs. We love the fold-flat packability that makes it ideal for trips that require other forms of travel and for storing in the car until it’s needed. Dogs are secured via a harness tether that buckles into standard seat belts. Pro tip: Keep a waterproof blanket or pee pads on hand, as the wipe-clean bottom layer of this seat is non-waterproof and thin.
Weight limit: None | Dimensions: 21 x 13 x 19 inches (small) to 21 x 19 x 19 inches (large) | Material: Polyester
Snoozer Lookout II With Storage Tray
Why We Love It: The booster height allows small and medium dogs to take advantage of a window while the ultra-plush design keeps them cozy.
What to Consider: There is no size option for large dogs.
The elevated height of the Snoozer Lookout II boosts your dog’s ability to see out the window, which can help calm nervous dogs, reduce motion sickness, or just keep your pet entertained while traveling in the car. This booster seat is our top pick because its thick-padded design and soft lining make for an ultra-comfy ride. A built-in seat belt channel and harness strap work to secure the car seat and your dog while in transit. We suggest opting for the version with the storage tray so you can always make sure to have your dog’s favorite treats, bathroom baggies, and any first-aid items at the ready. The three size options are best for small to medium dogs, with the largest size maxing out with a 34-pound weight limit and 17 x 30 x 19-inch exterior dimensions.
Weight limit: Up to 34 pounds | Dimensions: From 17 x 15 x 19 inches | Material: Firm foam interior with various exterior materials
Tips for Buying a Dog Car Seat
Pick the right fit for your dog
Finding the right fit is imperative to keep your dog comfortable and safe during your trip. Anything too loose, too tight, or not designed to hold the weight of your dog is a no-go.
Make sure the dog car seat complies with applicable laws
Many destinations require dogs to be restrained while traveling in a car, sometimes even in a specific area of the car or via a certain method. Check all local laws where you intend to drive with your pup in the car, and be sure to adhere to them to avoid fines. This includes international destinations.
Look for car seats with easy setup and removal
Dogs (and people) can be nervous travelers. Make sure to buy a dog car seat that has easy installation and removal so you can start and end your trip without too many hassles or delays.
Be sure to check that the car seat is compatible with your car
Measure, measure, measure! Car interiors, shapes, and features vary between make, model, and year. Do your best to take measurements to ensure your dog’s car seat will fit in your car.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are dog car seats safe?
The safety of a dog car seat will vary with each product and design. To ensure your dog’s utmost safety during travel, be sure to check if your car seat or restraint has been crash-tested (and to what weight and speed if that information is available). It’s also a great idea to check in with your veterinarian about your planned travel method before a big trip.
How do I clean my dog’s car seat?
Not all dog car seats can be cleaned easily. Opt for products that feature machine-washable or wipe-down materials. Accidents happen, especially on long car rides.
What part of the car is the safest for a dog?
Dr. Gina Rendon says research recommends “keeping dogs in crates on the floor in the back seat or in the rear cargo” of a vehicle. She also notes that the goal is to prevent driver disruption and keep animals from flying through the air in case of an accident.
Why Trust Travel + Leisure?
Katherine Alex Beaven is a huge supporter of traveling with pets — as long as they are kept comfortable and safe. For this best-of list, she researched hundreds of products and asked for personal recommendations from dog parents who travel frequently with their pets.
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