The 6 Best Dog Car Seats and Restraints of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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The Spruce Pets / Lecia Landis

From road trips to running errands, your dog needs well-fitting protection to stay safe when you hit the road. While unsettling to think about, pets can be injured or ejected from a vehicle during a traffic incident. But even a turn that's too sharp or a sudden stop can result in injury for an unsecured dog.

According to Dr. Jamie Richardson of Small Door Veterinary, keeping your dog “secure and as immobile as possible” is essential for keeping it safe in a car.

While harnesses, carriers, and crates often make safety claims, there is no official standard or test requirements in place to verify protection for dogs in car collisions. For our real-world testing of car seats, we consulted with Lindsey Wolko, founder of the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety (CPS), which conducts independent crash tests on travel products designed for dogs.

All of the dog car seats and restraints that we recommend were independently evaluated and certified by the CPS, with the exception of our favorite harness, which was independently crash tested by Automotive Safety Engineering, an Australian testing and engineering company recognized in the United States and Europe.

We tested 13 different dog car seats, harnesses, and carriers, sending each to a volunteer tester to try out with their dog over several weeks and through variable driving conditions. Following a testing methodology written in advance, our testers evaluated each safety product for its ease of use, ease of cleaning, security, size, and overall value.

Our overall favorite is the Away Pet Carrier, which is easily secured using a seatbelt. It's designed to keep your dog fully enclosed, but there's a zippered mesh panel on top for a quick check-in with your furry friend. It works best for smaller dogs, so one of the other crash-tested and certified products we recommend may work even better for your dog.

Get ready to buckle up with your pup. Here are the best dog car seats and restraints.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

Away The Pet Carrier

4.5
dog peeking out of all black with swirls pet carrier

Courtesy of Away

What We Like
  • Interior tether clip

  • Exterior latches for attachment to seatbelt

  • Crash tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety

  • Meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements

  • Water-resistant lining and exterior

  • Removable and washable sherpa bed included

  • Retractable privacy screens

  • Zippered top and side openings for easy access to your pet

  • Mesh panels on three sides for ventilation

  • Interior and exterior pockets

What We Don't Like
  • Sherpa bed isn't machine washable

  • Not suitable for dogs over 18 pounds

The Pet Carrier from Away received a 5 star rating from the Center for Pet Safety, and our tester's 6-pound dog hopped right in, the moment the carrier was introduced. "She felt safe in this carrier and slept in it almost the entire car ride," remarked our tester, who took the carrier on a 12-hour roadtrip.

For proper use in a car, there are three essential connection points. Latches on the front position a seatbelt securely around the carrier, the shoulder strap is wrapped around a carseat's headrest, and an interior clip is attached to a harness or collar to keep a dog safely inside. A zippered top and side opening—both made of mesh—allow for you and your dog to keep tabs on each other with the ability to easily unzip for a quick scratch behind the ears. There are also retractable privacy screens, which can help to minimize potential distractions.

The Away Pet Carrier also has useful storage features, including a full-length side zip pocket with a key holder. There's also a side zip pocket with a waterproof lining and drainage holes where you can keep your dog's collapsible travel water bowl. There's even an included name tag slot for displaying easily visible emergency contact information.

One of our tester dog's favorite features was the plush sherpa bedding. "It must be comfortable because my dog loves to go in and sleep in it at home," our human tester said. While the bedding can be hand washed and dried, it is not machine washable.

The Away Pet Carrier bag also meets the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for bringing a pet inside the cabin of a commercial flight, but you should always confirm size restrictions with your flight provider before flying with a pet. Of course, FAA size restrictions do have a downside: the Away Pet Carrier is likely to be too small for dogs over 18 pounds.

The Away Pet Carrier comes in black or "Coast" blue.

Price at the time of publish: $225

Certification: The Center for Pet Safety | Dimensions: 18.7 x 10.8 x 10.75 inches | Size Recommendation: Dogs up to 18 lbs | Colors: Black, Blue | Materials: Nylon, leather

Best for Overnights

Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed

4.6
Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed

Amazon

What We Like
  • Functions as pet carrier, bed, and car seat

  • Crash tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety

  • Interior tether clip

  • Great for dogs that like to curl up to sleep

  • Removable and machine-washable liner included

  • Removable mesh dome

  • Shoulder strap

  • Hook and loop latches for proper seatbelt positioning

  • Available in a variety of colors

  • Easy to wipe clean

What We Don't Like
  • Our tester found that the bulky design of bed made it difficult to use as a carrier

If your dog likes to curl up while sleeping, then the distinct round shape of the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed car seat should be very inviting.

After watching an instructional video on proper car seat use, our tester found it easy to use the hook and loop positioning points on the carrier to secure a seatbelt in place. The bed is recommended for dogs up to 15 pounds. The top is made of mesh to facilitate airflow and can also be unzipped and removed for use as a bed outside of car. It's available in a variety of colors and comes with a removable pad that can be cleaned in a washing machine.

The one downside our testers noted is that the bulky design—which makes it nice and roomy for your dog—made the Sleepypod unwieldy as a carrier, even with the use of the included shoulder strap.

All Sleepypod pet carriers have been tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety.

Price at time of publish: $230

Certification: The Center for Pet Safety | Dimensions: 17 x 13.5 inches | Size Recommendation: Dogs up to 15 pounds | Colors: Arctic White, Glacier Silver, Robin Egg Blue, Blossom Pink, Strawberry Red, Dark Chocolate, Jet Black, First Blush, Olive | Materials: Nylon, mesh, foam

Best Harness

EzyDog Drive Dog Car Harness

4.3
The EzyDog Drive Dog Car Harness

Amazon

What We Like
  • Crash tested and certified by the Automotive Safety Engineering in Australia (recognized in the USA and Europe)

  • Functions as a walking harness with D-ring attachments

  • Hand wash, air dry

  • "Mag-Lok" magnetic clasp closure

What We Don't Like
  • Only available in black

A harness can provide a more minimal way of securing your dog while on car rides. The EzyDog Drive Dog Car Harness enables you to secure your dog with a standard car seatbelt.

"Although my dog didn't like having the harness on and being restrained, having her securely attached to a seatbelt gave me peace of mind," our tester said.

The EzyDog Drive Dog Car Harness is available in three sizes (small, medium, large) and has four adjustable points to fit most dogs. Size selection should be based on your dog's girth measurement. Our tester found the initial setup of the harness to be intricate, with a few rounds of trial and error required, to find the proper fit for their 35-pound Blue Heeler. "My dog's chest measurement was a lot bigger than her neck size, so I had to find the correct fit for her chest first, and then adjust the neck accordingly," she commented.

Once the harness is properly fit, each webbing strap can be locked into place, so you only need to adjust the harness again if your dog's weight changes. A magnetic clasp makes it easy to put on and take off, and a seatbelt is easily threaded through handles on the harness.

The EzyDog harness was independently crash tested and certified by the Automotive Safety Engineering in Australia. It also surpasses the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that the Department of Transportation established for child-restraint systems.

Price at the time of publish: $125

Certification: The Automotive Safety Engineering in Australia (recognized in the USA and Europe) | Dimensions: 18.7 x 10.8 x 10.75 inches | Size Recommendation: 11-25 inches girth for Small, 15-34 inches girth for Medium, 19-42 inches girth for Large | Colors: Black | Materials: Nylon, synthetic fabric

Best for Very Small Dogs

Sleepypod Atom Pet Carrier

4.6
Sleepypod Atom

Sleepypod

What We Like
  • Crash tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety

  • Large pockets on front and back for pet travel essentials

  • Fits beneath a wide range of airline seats

  • Folds flat for easy storage

  • Mesh panels on 3 sides for airflow and viewability

  • Interior tether clip

  • Easy to insert seatbelt

  • Adjustable, padded shoulder strap

  • Trolly pocket for suitcase attachment

  • Available in a variety of colors

  • Removable privacy panels

What We Don't Like
  • The durable nylon isn't as well-ventilated as some carriers

This carseat and carrier for very small dogs is easy to secure in a car by placing a seatbelt through the built-in buckles located on each side. And like the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed, the Sleepyod Atom Carrier is tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety.

Our tester enjoyed the ease of use and peace of mind this carrier provided and found themselves taking their petite dog with them everywhere. A padded, adjustable shoulder strap makes it easy to carry, and the zippered mesh panel at the top offers convenient access to your furry friend. The bag is designed for dogs (and cats!) up to 12 pounds. It's easy to wipe clean and can be used in the main cabin on most commercial flights.

Price at the time of publish: $140

Certification: The Center for Pet Safety | Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.5 x 17 inches | Size Recommendation: Dogs up to 12 pounds | Colors: Robin Egg Blue, Blossom Pink, Strawberry Red, Dark Chocolate, Jet Black, First Blush, Olive, Charcoal | Materials: Nylon, polyester

Best for Nervous Travelers

Diggs Passenger Travel Carrier

4.8
Diggs Passenger Travel Carrier

Amazon

What We Like
  • Crash tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety

  • Available in four colors

  • Suitable for dogs and cats

  • Detachable cross-body strap

  • Three pockets

  • Interior tether clip

  • Seat belt clips and a buckle strap keep your pet secure

  • Easy to wipe clean

  • Ability to easily insert pee pad

  • Space for dog to lay and sit

  • Functions as pet carrier and car seat

What We Don't Like
  • Bulky design might not work for daily carrier use

Seat belt clips and a buckle strap strongly contributed to this pet carrier's five-star-rating from the Center for Pet Safety. "The bag is structured and sturdy, which makes it feel safe," remarked our tester. Their 14-pound dog was comfortable, with space to sit and lay down, while tethered to the bag via the interior clip and enclosed during a long car ride.

The carrier is equipped with three pockets, a detachable cross-body strap, and a highly convenient side panel that makes it easy to insert a 20.8 x 11.6 inch pee pad without disrupting your pet inside. Mesh side panels and a zippered mesh panel on top make it easy for you and your pet to quickly check-in on each other as needed. The design of the bag is also suitable for airline travel, but it may feel too bulky for daily carrier use.

Price at the time of publish: $195

Certification: The Center for Pet Safety | Dimensions: 20 x 10.8 x 11.5 inches | Size Recommendation: Dogs up to 18 pounds | Colors: Blush, Navy, Charcoal, Slate | Materials: Nylon, polyester

Best Large Dogs

Rock Creek Crates Aluminum Dog Crate

4.4
Rock Creek Crates

Rock Creek Crates

What We Like
  • Crash-tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety

  • No assembly required

  • Soft and removable pad included

  • Lock and key to keep crate securely closed

  • Easy to wipe clean

  • Padded handles

  • Available in various colors, or you can select a customize color for an additional cost

  • Appropriate for daily crate use

  • Made in the USA

  • Non-slip feet

  • Does not rattle

  • Ten-year guarantee from manufacturer

What We Don't Like
  • Very heavy, and most humans will require an extra set of hands to move

  • Does not fit in all cars

  • Our tester found the unpacking process laborious

If you have a large doggo, this CPS-certified crate made from aircraft-grade aluminum can be used to transport your precious canine cargo.

"I love all of the colors this comes in, and it's clear they're thinking about what dog owners want and made a very secure crate," expressed our tester. "This fits my extremely tall dog, and he seems super comfortable in it."

The Aluminum Dog Crate from Rock Creek Crates is made in the USA and comes in three sizes. The manufacturer recommends measuring your dog's height and length to find the right size for your dog. Our tester used the crate for daily use in their home as well as for safety in their SUV. The size of the crate is too large for some vehicles (e.g., smaller SUVs, hatchbacks), so double-check the measurements for your car before purchasing.

The crate arrives fully assembled with a removable pad inside and padded handles on the outside. It's easy to wipe clean and has non-slip feet. To ensure that your dog stays safely inside the crate at all times, the front door has a lock and key, making it escape-proof. Our tester's dog tried and wore itself out. It's expensive, but it does comes with a 10-year guarantee from the manufacturer.

Price at the time of publish: $720

Certification: The Center for Pet Safety | Dimensions: 30 x 20 x 22 inches for Medium | Size Recommendation: Medium fits most dogs under 22 inches in height, Large fits most dogs under 27 inches in height, X-Large fits most dogs under 32-inches in height | Colors: Gray Slate, Midnight Black, White Snowfall, Sand Dune, Blue Skyline, Plum Field, Navy River | Materials: Aluminum

Final Verdict

A properly fitting car seat or restraint is essential for protecting your dog every time they ride in your car. Our overall favorite is the Pet Carrier from Away, which received a five-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety, but it's only recommended for dogs up to 18 pounds. If you have a larger dog, the EzyDog Drive Dog Car Harness can be adjusted to find the right fit and attached to a seatbelt via handles. This harness has been independently crash tested by the Automotive Safety Engineering (ASE) in Australia, which is recognized in the USA and Europe.

How We Tested

We researched independently crash-tested and certified safe dog carriers, crates, and harnesses from the Center of Pet Safety in the USA and the Automotive Engineering Safety in Australia, and then selected 13 products for real-world testing in a car with a dog.

Each testing duo received a car seat or restraint designed for their dog's size. For three weeks, our canine test subjects were buckled up and taken for rides both long and short. All the while, each human counterpart observed and provided feedback within the following categories: ease of use, ease of cleaning, security, size, and overall value.

At the end of our trial period, we gathered and analyzed the data and information provided by our testing teams. We then ranked and categorized our top picks to simplify your search for the right car seat or restraint to keep your dog safe.

What to Look for in Dog Car Seats

Independent Testing

Many harness and car seat makers claim that their products have been crash tested, but there are no industry standards for car pet restraints. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for crash testing that’s been conducted by independent third-party groups.

For example, the Center for Pet Safety performed crash tests by using a dog crash test dummy, allowing it to create safety standards and requirements to evaluate pet travel items. So far, only a few products have received the center’s crash test certification, but others are working to be certified.

The safest products are typically more expensive than other car restraints, but they are well worth it, according to Center for Pet Safety founder Lindsey Wolko, who has seen the results of the crash tests and heard so many accident stories.

“We recommend that they look at this as an investment. These are going to be more expensive, because there's more due diligence conducted on the products,” she said. “Something is better than nothing to prevent distraction, which can prevent a crash in the first place. However if you are in a crash, and your pets are in the wrong products, there can be serious consequences.”

Size

Always pay attention to the size and weight guidelines to make sure that a seat or harness will fit your pet correctly. If a restraint doesn’t fit right, your pet might be able to escape, which could cause a distraction or be dangerous if you were to have an accident.

FAQ
  • What is the best way to keep a dog car seat or other car carrier clean?

    Wipe down your harness or car seat regularly. Most can be kept clean with a damp cloth, but some have linings that can be machine washed or—like the car cover—can be hosed down. Always check the manufacturer’s directions.

  • Is it safe for dogs to ride in the front seat?

    “Never, ever, never ever,” says Wolko. That’s because airbags can deploy and hurt them, and also because dogs can become a major distraction while you’re driving. Then you’re paying attention to your pet instead of the road.

  • Are dog car seats or restraints required by law?

    Most states don’t have laws that require dogs to be restrained, but some do so it’s always a good idea to check. Rhode Island, for example, requires pets to be secured with a harness or crate, or in some other way. In other states, drivers may be charged under existing distracted-driver laws if a loose pet is the reason they get into an accident.

    “Those are consistent across the country,” says Wolko. “If you've got a dog that's climbing over your shoulder while you're driving, and you get pulled over, the police officer will ticket you for distracted driving, no matter where you are.”

Why Trust The Spruce Pets?

After real-world testing, this roundup was updated by Anna Mejorada, a writer for The Spruce Pets, who shares her home with a happy Pomeranian named Gidget. Before researching and writing about pet products for a living, Anna embarked on a self-mandated, ongoing quest to find the optimal items for her dog. She is now delightfully devoted to helping humans discover and select the most favorable products for their pets.

A previous version was written by Mary Jo DiLonardo, who has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered more than three dozen dogs and puppies. Pet health and safety is very important to Mary Jo, and she’s always researching the latest products to keep the dogs in her care healthy and safe.

For this story, we consulted with respected safety expert Lindsey Wolko of the Center for Pet Safety. We also interviewed Dr. Jamie Richardson of Small Door Veterinary for background on the dog car seats she likes, what to look for in a car seat for your dog, and why dog car seats are important to own.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Staff Author. “Does Your State Require Dogs Be Harnessed in the Car?” Orvis News, The Orvis Company Inc.