I am in the process of looking for a truck to replace my current field truck a 1990 SR5 Long Bed Toyota. I am fortunate to have a field job in the mountains for half the year and that my dog can join me. Maybe I am over cautious, but it is important to me to keep my dog secure when we travel. I built a plywood platform to fit in the back of the SR5 and then I harness her into the rear seatbelts for travel. Today, I looked at a newer Toyota Tacoma (2004) today as a replacement which was in my price range, but it didn’t have an extended cab. There is a topper on the back. This would mean I would need to either rig a harness system for the back or mount a kennel back there. I don’t think she will fit very comfortably in the front seat, especially given we have a 1700 mile drive to my field sites. Are either of these methods safe? Which is safer, a harness or kennel?
My dogs have loved to ride in the back of the truck over the years, the option I preferred was to have a dog leash secured going through a rear sliding window that only allowed enough room to get their head in the wind, and no chance of getting further than their front paws on the top of the bed side.
If you really want to protect your dog then build a kennel with padded sides…
There are many trucks which will fit into your price range, don’t just limit it to one brand. And just because you can’t find an ext. cab truck today, doesn’t mean one won’t come by soon. A Ford Ranger in your price range should get you a newer vehicle for the same money, maybe even step up to an F-150.
Frankly, I doubt that EITHER is going to be significantly safer. Safety features in cars are designed for human-sized and human-shaped creatures and, frankly, belting your dog in or restricting her to a kennel is really not going to help in most crashes. Furthermore, since a dog can’t undo its own seatbelt or open the door, there’s a much wider set of crashes one can imagine where having the dog restrained might make things worse.
We don’t really know your dog, but most dogs I know would hate to be cooped up on a long trip and LOVE riding around in the back of a truck. Leash 'em in or get a topper if you think they’re going to jump out, but otherwise my emphetic vote is for let her be free.
If your dog lets you put the seat belt harness on, then it should not matter whether it is the front or back seat that you buckle her into. Otherwise, I’d look at a crew cab pickup. A Nissa Frontier will be several hundred less for a 2004. My cousin has one and loves it.