Pet-Friendly Rides

Pet-Friendly Rides

Finding the ideal vehicle for your pooch or kitty can be a trying process. You want to find something that can weather the claws and the "presents" the creatures may leave while still providing Spike with a safe ride and enjoyable ride.

After all, as we AOL Autos have learned from our readers, some animals are huge automotive enthusiasts. Though pets are special, not all vehicles are created equal to accomodate them.

Continue on to see AAA's choices of some of the top pet vehicles. 

Luxury: BMW 3 Series Wagon

Luxury: BMW 3 Series Wagon

This wagon offers handling and agility that rival some sports cars along with a comfortable, if firm, ride and quiet cruising. Owners will find a wide range of accessories available to make the car more suitable for pet transport including rubber mats for the cargo area and sturdy dividers that can keep a dog comfortably confined to the cargo area and away from distracting the driver. Some available dividers even have an added division to transport two dogs while keeping them apart. The interior is cozy, so the BMW 3 Series wagons may be a better choice for medium to smaller breeds.

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Active Lifestyle:  Subaru Forester

Active Lifestyle: Subaru Forester

This Forester offers roomy, comfortable accommodations for people and their pets. The ride is stable and comfortable, the handling is predictable, and the all-wheel drive delivers reassuring traction under all conditions. This wagon is even up for mild off-roading treks that can get the dogs into the country. The Forester’s cargo capacity with the rear seats folded is an impressive and inviting (for pets) 68 cubic feet. The floor, at just over 27 inches off the ground, also is lower than many sports utility vehicles making it easier for many dogs to get in and out. There are ample tie-down points to secure a kennel.

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Kids, Dogs & Everything Else: Honda Element

Kids, Dogs & Everything Else: Honda Element

Originally designed for males in their late teens and early 20s, the Element seems ready to handle anything. The interior features surfaces and upholstery that can be hosed out, if necessary. The clamshell side doors also can make getting pets in and out easier. The Element offers a pet lover's accessory group that includes a ramp, which is ideal for helping older dogs get in and out, second row seat covers that are even easier to clean than the standard upholstery and a soft-sided kennel that can be secured to the vehicle. It features a spill-resistant water dish and an electric ventilating fan. Debits include a busy, choppy ride and higher than average noise levels. Handling is good, however, and the utility factor, including the height of the cargo area, makes this relatively small car suitable for larger breeds, even those dogs that like to get muddy while romping in the wild.

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Efficient and Fun: Mazda3 Hatchback

Efficient and Fun: Mazda3 Hatchback

Among compacts, the Mazda3 is a standout. Handling is sharp, the ride is very good and the interior, if on the small side, is very nicely done. The hatchback is exceptionally flexible, though its suitability for larger breeds is in doubt. Still, the wide opening rear doors, tailgate and robust interior makes this yet another vehicle that would be attractive to many pet owners. These buyers, however, will have to go to aftermarket suppliers for many pet accessories. Fortunately, there they will find a wide range of mats and kennels that both fit and enhance the Mazda3’s utility. The 2.0-liter engine is peppy and the 2.5-liter engine is even more powerful. The Mazdaspeed3, with its turbocharged motor, could well be a match for the fastest hound around, though the ride in this performance version is abrupt and noise levels are higher than average.

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Green: Ford Escape Hybrid

Green: Ford Escape Hybrid

The large and squared-off SUV cargo area is perfect for dogs of nearly all sizes, while the hybrid drivetrain delivers fuel efficiency that few SUVs are able to approach. Ford actually promotes the cargo area as being ideal for “…a big, wet dog…” and offers photographic evidence that even the largest canines fit here comfortably. The company goes on to note that the hybrid’s battery pack is completely sealed, so there is no need to worry about wet pets or wet cargo causing a problem. Accessories are available from many sources, including Ford. Floor mats and a pet divider head the list of items that make the Escape more “pet friendly.” The ride is a little choppy but, for overall practicality, the Escape Hybrid is hard to beat.

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Economical: Kia Soul

Economical: Kia Soul

It's roomier than its exterior dimensions suggest, which makes the Soul a good choice for transporting smaller and mid-size breeds. Aftermarket accessories to make the trip easier on both the pet and its owner are also easily acquired. These include thick, heavy-duty mats and pet-resistant seat covers. Some owners also have gone for vehicle-specific pet cages and dividers, often imported from Europe. The ride is decidedly firm, but the handling is good and the engine is both reasonably responsive and economical. Noise levels are higher than average, but the larger than expected windows make for a good view to the sides.

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