Car Search - Dog car

I currently own a 2002 Honda CRV EX with 235,000 miles. It needs repairs, and I have decided to sell and get another car. I like my Honda, but not happy with winter performance. It has been the best car for transporting dogs - 3 labrador retrievers, and sometimes 2 or 3 other big dogs. I am looking for a used car under $6,000 (maybe $7,000) I expect new car to have high mileage, so reliability is a must. I want to explore other cars - Any suggestions.

Must be Manual and AWD. Currently considering Toyota Rav4, Toyota Highlander, Toyota matrix AWD (have gotten 4 labradors in this car) Honda CRV, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Soul, Subaru Forester ( concerned about the head gaskets, ball joints, other big ticket items that go on this car after 100,000 miles). Are there certain years that are better in any of the cars above I should consider (I like the Honda CRV style from 1998 -2001). Who has what and what to they love about that car, and what has been trouble areas? Thank you

#1 dog car: Honda Element. Why isn’t it on your list?

By the way, I understand your CRV is high mileage and needs repairs, so it may be time for a new car…but poor winter performance is because of your tires, not the car itself. Evidently you don’t have winter tires, and maybe not even decent all-season tires. You’d be amazed at the difference winter tires will make. Something to think about for your next vehicle.

Some of those you’ll have a hard time finding a manual, even if it was theoretically offered, because hardly anyone bought them. Generally, this is a good list, and though there are a few similar models that could be on there, they aren’t especially compelling. As for reliability, buy the Consumer Reports guide that details reliability for all cars for over a decade. It also breaks it down by system, so if a car suffers a lot of rattles and squeaks and that doesn’t bother you, you can ignore that complaint.

Any of the listed vehicles should be able to handle your dogs.

If your finances improve – hey, someone has to win those lotteries! – I think the Prius is now or will soon be available in AWD. Prius owners say that’s a great car for highway camping as the seats fold down flat. Likely would make it good for dogs too. An better mpg than a non-hybrid, so can afford more pork chops for the dogs.

Why do you insist in manual transmission and AWD?

Manual transmission and AWD is going to be tough to find in any car in the US, new or used. If this is the OP’s main criteria just look for any car make and/or model and if you find one buy it regardless of body style. Best dog car body other than a mini van with the seats out is the Honda Element. Forget the manual trans, find an Element and buy it. It meets all your criteria and there are some with AWD.

The Soul is a good car, but it might be a bit cramped if you jam 6 big dogs into it. Same for the Forrester. From your list I’d be looking at any of the Toyotas except the Rav4 and Matrix, any of the Hondas (and would add the Element), and the Tucson.

My mother had an '06 CRV and loved it. She only got rid of it because she wanted a luxury car. With all the problems she’s had with her shiny new BMW just in the first 1500 miles, I suspect if given the choice she’d take her old CRV back.

Having driven it myself in the winter, I suspect that you are unhappy with its winter performance because you don’t have good winter tires on it. Mom only had the factory all-seasons on hers and it did very well in the snow.

A coworker has a Highlander and also loves it.

At any rate, when you’re looking for a vehicle large enough to haul 6 large dogs, I think you’re going to have to drop the manual transmission idea unless you get a Peterbilt.

The best car for big dogs is a truck, especially if you want AWD and a manual transmission. I’d consider a Toyota Tacoma or a Nissan Frontier. A good cap for the truck bed can shelter your dogs, but you’ll need to find a good way to secure either the dogs with harnesses or the crates they travel in. That might involve installing some anchor points on the floor of the truck bed.

@Whitey A friend of my wife has a dog and kids who live in the country (ranchers). She bought a Dodge Durango wagon and is very happy with it.

Personally I would get a Toyota 4Runner if I had to take my dogs somewhere.

My old '68 dodge van would have fit the bill perfectly. With all the back seats out you could have thrown a slew of dog beds back there and they’d have been in hog heaven.
With that in mind…a minivan may fit the bill these days.

A Mazda 5/MPV might fit the bill, to a point.
It’s a smaller minivan that you could get with a stick and gets decent MPGs. Don’t think they ever came with AWD, though.

@bscar2 the MPV came in a 4wd back in the 90’s but I don’t remember the later ones being offered with AWD. The 5 is closely related to the Mazda 3 (same platform with some changes) and has only been FWD.

A vehicle of this type with AWD and a manual pretty much restricts you to the Element or possibly the NIssan Xterra (not sure how many were manual) otherwise it’s the Highlander/Pilot/Pathfinder/4runner.

Manual transmission and awd with room in the back for dogs is a Forester. Personally, I’m 4 square with Whitey. 4 wd trucks with caps on the back so dogs can keep separate from drivers and confine doggy smell to the beds. Man’sbest friend can leave dreaded ticks in and around areas they co habitate with humans. All the people I know who have contracted Lyme disease…have dogs that literal share personal space with them. Safe and separate !
As far as needed awd is concerned, it is no substitute for winter or AT tires. But together, the are the ultimate in security. Awd helps you go and accelerate securely and under control which is just as important as stopping and it helps handling when used correctly. A combination of the right tires and awd provides the ultimate in security when combine with proper judgement in the use of this added capability.

Truck suggestions restrict you to part time 4wd instead of Awd which require special skills, a more active roll and greater attention while driving.

My dogs love the Toyota 4runner. The back window rolls down which is great for them. I don’t think they have an AWD model, but certainly 4wd is available. Mine is a 2004 and runs great, I havent had to do anything to it except for brakes and stuff…