For the most part, dogs love car rides. They love seeing new places, sticking their head out the window, and just generally tagging along with you wherever you go. Most dogs have an inexhaustible sense of adventure and there’s no better promise of adventure than the car.
Sometimes, though, car rides can be traumatic. Especially for small dogs, who don’t always feel secure in the car. Depending on your ride, they might not be able to see out the window, so the car is really just a loud, terrifying room they’re subjected to until you arrive at your destination.
Fortunately for those dogs, dog car seats allow them to ride safely in comfort. They also boost small dogs up enough so they can see out the window, while keeping them in one place so they don’t jump all over you while you drive. While larger dogs usually do a okay with hammocks and seat covers, the car seat is the way to go for smaller pups.
If you neglected to cover your seat before you let your dog into your car, check out our list of the top 30 best car cleaning kits, which includes some interior cleaning products to help you clean up after your pooch.
If your dog hates the car, consider our list of the top five best dog car seats to make rides more comfortable for them and you.
1. Kurgo Skybox Dog Booster Seat
This Kurgo unit is designed for elevation. Latching to the headrest in either the front or the back seat, this is meant to lift your dog well off the seat bottom for maximum height. The exterior is waterproof, while the liner is removable and machine washable. When not in use, the metal-supported structure can be folded down for storage. This is a bit on the smaller side, but can still support a relatively weighty pup.
- Side storage pockets
- Dogs up to 25 pounds
- Reversible and washable liner
- Collapsible for easy storage
- Dog may get tangled in the harness hook
- No color options
- Tricky installation means some users found that it constantly tilts
- Harness clip problematic for some
2. American Kennel Club Pet Booster Seat
For less than one-third the price of the one above, you can try this very simple dog car seat. It offers a single zippered pouch in the front, as well as a memory foam cushion, which is covered in synthetic lamb’s wool. Like the one above, this will sit high off the seat, giving your dog the best view. It’s also available in at least three colors (black, gray, and red), with a fourth possibly available (tan was not available at the time of this writing). Though it says it’s good for 20 pound dogs, this is a very small unit, so we’d keep it to ten pounds or less.
- Easy to clean
- Dogs up to 20 pounds
- Folds for easy storage
- Very small — weight limit may be optimistic
- Plastic clips on the cheap side
- Difficult to level
- Not much bottom support
3. K&H Manufacturing Bucket Booster Pet Seat
If you don’t like the idea of your dog being suspended off the seat, consider this booster-style option. It comes in two sizes — 16 inches square or 18 inches by 13 inches by 16 inches — and sits directly on the seat, removing the worry about your dog being too heavy. Obviously, you can’t put a 60-pound lab in it, but for small dogs of almost any breed, this should do the job. The back is contoured to fit snugly in most cars, and the interior is lined with quilted fleece for maximum comfort. The opening at the front makes it easy for your dog to get in and out. You can choose from gray or tan in both sizes. The included security leashes give you a place to attach your dog’s harness during travel. A solid option that should serve a wider range of dogs than the first two.
Price: $48.99 – 80.96 (19-52 percent off MSRP)
- Available in two sizes and two colors
- Washable cover
- Includes one or two adjustable leashes
- Weight not as much of a concern
- Not collapsible
- May not boost very small dogs quite enough
- Chewing dogs may eat through straps
- Seatbelt attachment could be sturdier
4. Snoozer Lookout II Pet Car Seat
If you’re looking for something with a bit of a higher-end design, the Lookout II might be the one for you. Available in a number of colors from blue to gray to hot pink, you can also get different textures like quilted and denim. The inside is lined with synthetic lamb’s wool sherpa for comfort, and the front flap hides a slide-out storage tray. This is also among the larger booster seats at 28 inches by 22 inches, and an overall height of 15 inches. (The smaller version measures 15 inches by 19 inches, while the medium size measures 22 inches by 19 inches.) It’s definitely pricier than the others, but if you have two dogs or a medium-sized breed, this might be the one for you.
- High-end option
- Plush sherpa lining
- Variety of fabric options
- Storage tray
- Takes up a lot of seat
- Some reviewers comment that the build quality doesn’t match price
- Not as soft as it appears
5. Pet Gear Bucket Seat Booster
Perhaps the soft-sided seats aren’t inspiring enough confidence. This plastic-framed booster should help you rest a bit easier. The rugged construction is more akin to a child’s car seat, and will keep your dog safe and secure. The overall height of this one is a bit shorter, so pick this if safety is the ultimate goal over having your dog be able to look out the window. You have two sizes to choose from with this model — a larger one with interior dimensions of 20 inches by 17 inches, and a smaller one with interior dimensions of 16 inches by 12 inches. Both are brown plastic, but you can choose between chocolate swirl or jaguar print liners.
Price: $78.34 (6 percent off MSRP)
- Rugged plastic frame
- Installs easily
- Available in two sizes
- Four included tethers
- Limited color options
- Sides of the seat are hard
- Not particularly elegant-looking
- Shorter than other options
6. ASPCA Booster Car Seat for Dogs
Taking after the AKC model above, this ASPCA-branded version can be had for just a bit less, depending on what color you choose. Speaking of colors, you can choose from black, gray with orange trim, and light gray with teal trim. The bottom pad can be removed for cleaning, while the whole seat can be folded down when not in use for storage. Another cheap and cheerful option worth considering, especially for docile toy breeds.
Price: $14.99 to $17.99 (up to 17 percent off MSRP)
- Adjustable straps
- Folds down for storing or keeping in the car
- Built-in leash for safety
- Memory foam cushion and back pad
- Sits at an odd angle depending on the vehicle
- Only suitable for small dogs
- Some quality control issues
- Relatively thin fabric
7. Petsfit Booster Seat
Available in two sizes, this is a nicely-designed option. The key to this model is that the inner liner is reversible. One side is smooth and light-colored for warm days, while the other side is dark and fluffier to keep especially smaller dogs warm on cold days. The larger version is good for the back seat and measures 29 inches long by 16 inches wide, while the smaller version measures 15 inches by 16 inches. If you have a toy breed, you might use the smaller version even in the back seat. On the other hand, the larger size will work for dogs up to 45 pounds.
Price: $49.99 to $95.99 (47 percent off MSRP)
- Available in front seat and back seat sizes
- Reversible lining offers light and dark sides for warm and cold days
- Pockets for toys and treats
- Leash tether
- Not as padded as other options
- Potentially confusing installation instructions
- Backseat version may be too large
8. Solvit Tagalong Pet Booster Seat
This Solvit model is available in three different sizes, each sporting the neutral plaid design. The large size fits dogs up to 18 pounds, extra large fits up to 25 pounds, and jumbo fits up to 30 pounds. The tether that attaches to the vehicle has been tested to withstand up to 2,000 pounds of force, keeping the seat firmly in place. The rigid internal structure reinforces this safety and keeps your pup in the seat.
Price: $39.95 to $69.95
- Nine inch lift from the seat
- Installs without the need for a headrest strap
- Removable liner for washing
- Somewhat pricey
- Doesn’t collapse for storage
- Potentially difficult assembly and installation
- May need to go up a size from expected
9. Pettom Pet Car Seat Carrier
The charm of this car seat is that it’s dual-function: it easily converts into a carrier upon arriving at your destination. Though there isn’t much in the way of booster height here, you can keep your pup safely contained for an entire journey and simply lift the whole thing out once you arrive. There’s a tether inside to keep them in place, and you can also zip it closed. A solid, low-profile, multi-use option.
Price: $39.59 to $42.99 (14 to 21 percent off MSRP)
- Doubles as a carrier
- Side entrance for easy access
- Folds flat for storage
- Available in two sizes aimed at small breeds
- Not quite as structurally robust as other options
- Some dogs may not be able to see over the sides
- Some quality control issues
- Installation instructions could be vague or missing
10. PupSaver Original Dog Car Seat
If safety is your number one concern, you may consider this novel option. Taking a cue from baby car seats, this is meant to be installed facing backwards. That limits your pup’s view of the road, but significantly increases the safety. In a collision, the clamshell style frame will keep your dog safely in place. Additionally, you can use this in the front seat where the frame will deflect an airbag deployment that could otherwise seriously injure your dog. The company has more recently released the AirPupSaver 45, which will hold a dog up to 45 pounds, improves the tethering system, and includes its own dog-sized airbag that will provide more cushion during an accident.
- Backward facing for safety
- Crash-test rated
- Durable, comfortable seat pad
- Can be used in the front seat to protect from airbag deployment
- Doesn’t give your dog a chance to view the scenery
- Tricky installation
- Won’t work for everyone