In a rush and just want my recommendation? I think the SportPet Designs Plastic Kennel is a great choice.
The safest way to transport your dog in the car is to have them in a crate. But not just any old crate. There are several important factors to consider before you actually buy one. Good crates are not cheap, so we need to make sure the one we choose is the right crate for our dog, our vehicle, and our travel plans and habits.
In this article, I’m reviewing the following dog crates for safe car travel.
- 4×4 North America MIM Safe VarioCage
- SportPet Designs Plastic Kennel
- Diggs Revol Dog Crate
- Aspen Pet Porter Travel Kennel
- Ferplast Atlas Scenic SUV & Car Dog Crate
Why Should I Crate My Dog in The Car?
An unrestrained dog in a car can be very distracting, if not downright dangerous. If you have to apply the brakes suddenly, or you hit something which halts your car, your dog becomes a projectile and you risk serious injury to yourself as well as your hound. Even just a bend in the road can cause an unrestrained dog to fall off the seat and potentially injure themselves.
If your dog moves around a lot in the car, or jumps on you when you’re driving, you could potentially be committing an offense. Some states prohibit driving with an unrestrained dog in the car, while others will use ‘driver distraction’ and ‘animal cruelty’ laws if they find you are not in full control of your vehicle, or that you are putting your dog in danger of injury.
Rule 57 of the UK highway code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
What To Look For In A Dog Car Crate
A travel crate has to be easy for you to lift and move, able to withstand impacts and crushing, and have enough room for your hound to be comfortable. If your dog likes to escape confinement, you will need to be mindful of this, and ensure you select a crate which can’t be destroyed by chewing. The crate must have good fittings, catches and locks. Before choosing a dog travel crate it’s important to think about your budget.
As with any safety equipment, you should consider buying the best you can afford. That said, whatever you choose should also be appropriate for your needs. Travel crates are designed specifically for temporary enclosure during travel, so be aware, they may be less roomy than a sleeping or training crate you would use at home.
Some of the key features to consider are:
The four main materials used for travel crates are metal, wood, plastic and fabric.
These are generally aluminum or steel, and can be solid or wire. Aluminum is popular and widely available, while steel is much more durable. Solid crates are heavier, and usually more expensive. The bottom line is that dogs rarely escape from a solid metal crate, provided the catches are of good quality.
Wired crates are much lighter to handle, and are more open for your dog. This may be good for many dogs, but nervous or reactive hounds may feel more comfortable in a solid crate.
Wired crates tend to be more affordable, since less material is used in the construction. The downside is that they aren’t as sturdy as a solid metal crate.
Crates made from wood, or plywood, can be custom built for airline travel. They’re particularly appropriate for very large dogs who are too big for commercially available crates.
Wooden crates aren’t particularly suitable for use in the car, for a few reasons.
They are heavy, and difficult to slide over upholstery without causing scuffing. Dogs have been known to chew out of wooden crates. There are many anecdotes of airline staff finding dogs running loose in the cargo hold. They are also prone to wear and tear over time, especially if they get wet, and they are difficult to keep clean.
Plastic crates are lighter, easier to move and clean, and usually built with a sturdy material. They can be rapidly put into use, ready for a trip anywhere. On top of this, if style is important to you, there are many colors, shapes and designs to choose from.
A plastic crate may not last as long as a metal crate, but the cheaper price tag means you could replace it after a few years use, if necessary.
Plastic may become smelly if it’s not cleaned properly, and if your dog is a heavy chewer, they may be able to escape if left to their own devices for too long.
Soft-sided crates are only really suitable for a quick journey to the park, or the vet. They are cheap, easy to move and can be squashed into a tight space. They don’t offer any real impact protection for your dog, but are certainly better than an uncontrolled dog on your lap.
Other Features To Consider
Size and Fit
Your dog should be able to stand up and lie down comfortably. They should also be able to turn round in the crate. If you plan to put a thick pad or bedding on the floor of the crate, remember to account for that.
Watch this video for a good demonstration on how to measure your dog. You’ll notice that you only have to measure the height and length of your dog. You don’t need to measure for the width, as this is based on the length and height measurements of your dog.
If you’re opting for a solid metal, or plastic crate, the ventilation holes or gaps will usually be adequate. As a rule of thumb, your dog needs as much air-space as possible, without compromising the integrity of the crate.
Having a way to tie-down your crate in the car is essential, to keep you and your dog safe. If you brake suddenly, you don’t want an unsecured object flying off the seat.
Non-abrasive handles help you to move the crate around and lift it safely in and out of the car. Bigger, heavier crates may still require two people to lift it safely to avoid back injuries.
Affordability is a significant consideration. There has to be a balance between the type of crate that will keep your dog safe, your expected usage of the crate, and the types of journeys you will make while using it. You could potentially spend many hundreds of dollars on a crash-tested metal crate of the highest quality, but do you actually need something that can withstand huge impacts?
Of course, you can always have a rear-end collision on your way to the grocery store, but it would be more likely on long road-trips using high-speed highways, or even during rough terrain driving.
This video shows the crash-test study carried out by Subaru of America, Inc. and Center for Pet Safety (CPS). It’s a good illustration of what actually happens to a crate in a collision situation.
Fit For Your Car
If you can’t try a crate for size, you need to accurately measure your vehicle. The cargo area of a car is rarely square, and if you have a door with a steep angle, it may not close properly with the crate inside. If you’re planning to have the crate on the back-seat, it needs to be fitted and secured properly, without altering your driving position.
What Is The Best Dog Crate For Safe Car Travel?
Predicting every scenario is impossible, and depending on your vehicle, speed and circumstances, each accident will have it’s own outcomes. So I’m taking a look at five crates, to choose one which fits all my safety criteria, is fit for my usual purposes, and which doesn’t cost the earth. I want something which is sturdy, and will keep my dog as safe as possible, so I won’t be reviewing any fabric or soft-sided crates.
The first thing you notice about this cage is that it is extremely tough and durable. And that’s because it is! Weighing 37lb for the small, and 67lb for the largest crates, these are heavy-duty and built to last.
Each of the six standard models are adjustable, giving you 14 possible dimensions. The adjustable lengths range from 29 inches to 39 inches. That means you can find the perfect fit for your particular dog, and your vehicle. These crates undergo rigorous crash-testing and are rated using Government Safety Standards.
Originally developed in Sweden, the Variocage includes a built-in key lock for security. In the event of an accident, a trapped dog can be released via the unique escape hatch. All Variocages are equipped with a rubber carpet for added comfort and easy cleaning.
As you can see by the shape, this crate is designed to fit in the hatch of a vehicle with a drop-down door, but of course it will be suitable for most vehicle types. It is constructed from powder-coated steel and has a built-in crumple zone which absorbs any impact, so your dog doesn’t have to. The locking doors operate smoothly, with hydraulic motion springs.
Watch this video for a closer look at the Variocage features.
- Excellent safety rating
- Flexible sizing
- Good shape for all vehicles
- Extremely durable
- High-quality materials and design
- Great features, especially the lock
- Not designed for air travel
- Higher price point
- Difficult to assemble
These crates are International Air Travel Association (IATA) approved, so good for any travel, anywhere. A sturdy and durable plastic construction, with metal fittings and snap on or off wheels. That’s a great feature, since you definitely don’t want a wheeled crate in the car, but they are excellent for moving the crate around.
There are tie-down holes for bungees, which is an essential part of securing the crate in the car. Take a look at this video to see the SportPet kennel features and sizing guide. There are five sizes, the XX-Large weighing 26lb, which makes these crates extremely easy to maneuver.
These crates are easy to assemble. Locking snaps simply hold the kennel halves together. Metal slats are used round the ventilation areas to stop chewers from escaping. The moat round the bottom of the floor pulls moisture away in case your dog has to pee, which happens often on a long trip. All this, plus a mesh metal door with a smooth, easy latch mechanism plus a thick impact resistant shell make the SportPet a really good option.
- Tough and durable construction
- Relatively lightweight
- IATA approved, so multi-purpose travel
- Easy assembly
- Great value for money
- Good customer support
- Some customers report sizing issues
This is a nifty, collapsible crate which is super-easy to assemble, move and lift, as well as collapse and store when it’s not in use. Take a look at this video to see the Revol crate set-up.
The crate is made of a reinforced plastic, with aluminum frame and powder coated steel wire mesh. All materials on the crate have been independently tested to meet the chemical content requirements of heavy metals like lead and phthalates. Phthalates are used to make hard plastic more soft and flexible, so commonly used on many products. These crates meet the chemical contents requirements of children and juvenile products.
The weight of the Medium crate is 31lb, and internal measurements are 32” length x 22” height x 20” width, so suitable for small and medium dogs up to around 30lb. Carry handles and wheels are included.
I like the ease with which this crate can be handled by one person, plus the storage solution and ease of cleaning. My concern would be that, if something is made to be collapsible, how safe would it be in a vehicle collision? Safety is the reason I’m putting my dog in a crate, so I need to know that there is some protection for them in the event of an accident.
- Easy assembly
- Durable materials
- Folds-in for storage
- Good door latch
- Simple to keep clean
- Good visibility for dog
- Collapsible, so have to question safety on impact
- Wheels too small
- Some quality issues with
- Not good value
The Aspen Pet Porter has a heavy-duty plastic shell which is manufactured in the USA. Available in nine sizes and 13 different colors, the Aspen crate can accommodate dogs from tea-cup size to a whopping 90lb. The largest crate weighs only 24lb.
The size of the crate you need, will determine some of the features included. Only the larger crates seem to have tie-down holes, which for me, is a mistake. I want to secure my dog crate regardless of the size.
The screws and other hardware are metal, which is better than plastic fittings. This crate also meets most airline cargo specifications, but always check with your specific carrier on their rules. This crate is a much more affordable option.
- Easy to clean
- Many size options
- Color choices
- Not sturdy
- Plastic a little thin
- Poor rear ventilation on some sizes
- Poor quality all round
The Ferplast is shaped to perfectly fit in a hatch or SUV vehicle. Unlike most crates, the door is on the long side, meaning that the crate can go into the vehicle width-ways, if you need. The front door opens by sliding it sideways on its track, which is a great space-saver in a vehicle full of other items.
There are two sizes available, one for smaller dogs, and this model which is for medium dog breeds weighing up to 65 pounds, so perfect for my Border Collie. The dimensions given are always taken on the outer crate, but the actual inside measurements of the Ferplast are:
38″ x 22″ at the bottom, and 17″ x 31″ at the top. The height at center is 24″.
The ventilation is good on the Ferplast, with metal mesh front and back, and vents in the plastic side walls. Molded handles in the top of the crate make it easy to move around and lift, and this crate comes with a 1-year warranty from the manufacturer.
- Value for money
- Easy to assemble
- Fits hatch vehicles well
- Great ventilation
- Collapses down
- Simple to use
- Not suitable for escape artists
- Would not withstand any impact
Any one of these crates would be perfect for a quick trip to the vet, or the local park. For those of us who take our hounds on more demanding road-trips, we definitely need a crate that gives our dog some more protection and security.
For me, the SportPet Designs Plastic Kennel ticks all the boxes. It costs a little more than some crates, but durability and safety are paramount, and this crate has it. It’s also manageable for me if I’m on my own. I really like that it’s IATA approved, since I do occasionally take airline trips with my dogs. The SportPet customer support is great, so I have peace of mind if anything is wrong.
The final word must be about sizing. Measure and weigh your dog, accurately. Spend a little time checking the measurements and weight limit of any crate you’re interested in. It really pays off in the end.