Help My Dog Sitter/Walker Choose A Replacement For His Volvo Wagon

When I picked up Cooper this afternoon, I noticed a small puddle of oil and kitty litter in front of my dog sitter’s driveway. Apparently, his 940 Turbo wagon has been hemorrhaging oil. After numerous repairs last year and with a booming business, he is ready for a larger, more reliable replacement. He has a few candidates. Make the jump to see what they are and let us know what you think.
1. Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter. This is my personal favorite. My friend Peter has this blue one. It has a hangar-sized interior and it’s thrifty with fuel. I’ve seen a few mobile dog groomers with these. The only downside is the height. Smaller and arthritic dogs will have a hard time climbing in and out of them.
2. Random limousine. These are definitely roomy but I imagine it would be a pain in the butt to clean the acres of upholstery. Plus, how is the structural integrity of these stretch jobs after ten, fifteen years? Are there any mechanical issues to look out for? Are the brakes heavy duty? Are there any limo experts out there?
3. Ford Flex. I am not well versed in contemporary cars, but I have heard these Flexes are quite roomy. Is there any reason why these aren’t selling, other than its awkward styling?
4. Your Suggestion. Are we missing any other potential options? Please let us know in the Comments. Thank you!
Yes, my dog sitter fit all of these dogs in his Volvo.

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  1. slirt Avatar

    1. Sprinter
    Honda Element

    1. MrDPR Avatar

      The Sprinter is an excellent choice. A doggy ramp would be easy enough to find
      Other alternatives might include old airport shuttle vans, handicap transporters, short bus … all are likely to come with dog-proof interiors that may be easily sprayed out, unlike anything with carpet or fabric.

      1. Vairship Avatar

        Some dogs refuse to use a doggy ramp, though…

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    I vote for the Sprinter, or a new Ford Transit. What's his budget? I'm guessing it's not for something new, like the Transit.

  3. skitter Avatar

    In order of decreasing helpfulness:
    – I like the Flex.
    – Garden variety minivan
    – Six door limousine or, better yet, Checker Aerobus
    See the next article for more suggestions.

  4. dukeisduke Avatar

    I can hear my daughters now, in unison: "Awwwwwwwww, look at the doggies!"

  5. Marc Avatar

    How about a Ram Pro master? Gives you about the same interior space as a Sprinter, but because it's fwd, it's lower to the ground. It should be better on fuel and easier/cheaper to repair. Or are they looking for something used?

    1. Maxichamp Avatar

      Ideally, used to slightly used.

  6. Kamil_K Avatar

    Treat dogs like they're your children. Minivan is the way to go:
    – Low floor
    – spacious
    – car-size
    – interior resistant to spills and scratches
    – Bonus – advertising space on the side
    Alternately, I often see a school bus around Boston that's converted into a Doggie Bus:
    <img src="; width="600">
    <img src="; width="600">

    1. Maxichamp Avatar

      Then I can say my dog rides in the short bus!

  7. njhoon Avatar

    I think the Flex isn't selling is because while they are awesome, they are pricey. It would be cheaper to get a minivan. I would vote for a minivan as a replacement for the Volvo. I would suggest a used Toyota or Honda minivan.
    On a side note the dog on the far right in the first picture could be my dogs brother/sister/twin. (the black and white Springer)

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      If it wouldn't be so forbiddingly expensive, I'd be all over importing a nice CPO Flex to my neck of the woods.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      I don't think the pricing is the problem, the pricier Explorer (which is the exact same thing, with a couple extra inches ground clearance) outsells the Flex close to tenfold.

  8. Devin Avatar

    You could probably fit a lot of dogs in one of these:
    <img src="–_08-25-2009.jpg&quot; width="500">

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Even better if you get the long wheel base version with windows <img src="; width=600>

  9. Drzhivago138 Avatar

    The Flex is great, but probably too plush for dogs. The Element, when it was built, was voted most Dog-Friendly vehicle at one point. It even had a Dog Friendly Package in 2010. As per Autoblog:
    "Honda's $995 Dog Friendly package consists of the following:
    A custom-fitted, soft-sided crate with a built-in, spill-resistant water bowl
    An electric cooling fan mounted in the cargo bay
    A portable ramp to give dogs access to the crate
    Dog-patterned rear seat covers
    Dog bone-patterned heavy-duty floormats
    A swag bag with accessories like a collar, leash, poop-bag dispenser and ID tag
    Prerequisite exterior vehicle badges for the tailgate and front fenders declaring you a dog lover"
    Only thing is that it wouldn't fit all the dogs. Probably be best to go with a used minivan.

    1. Kamil_K Avatar

      That's just marketing and you're buying into it. All of these can easily be fitted into any vehcile, except the god patterned floor mats.

      1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
        PotbellyJoe ★★★★★
      2. Drzhivago138 Avatar

        Where did I ever say or imply I was buying into the marketing? It is a fact that the Honda Element was voted Dog Car of the Year in 2007 by I've never heard of them; make of that what you will. It is a fact that the Element had a Dog Friendly Package in 2010.
        It is also a fact that I have never owned an Element and presume nothing about its actual mechanical prowess, or any lack thereof. The question here was what would be best for dogs, and the Element came first to mind.
        Next time someone asks for a dog-friendly car, I'll suggest a Fiero with a bodykit. After all, all those things can easily be fitted into it, right?

  10. XRSevin Avatar

    A StepVan, a ramp and rubber flooring. Sprinters are nice, but pricey to fix…StepVans have been the same since about 1977. Bulletproof, cheap and a rolling billboard.

  11. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
    PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    Chevy Astro cargo van.
    <img src="$_12.JPG"&gt;
    Seriously, and try to find one with the vinyl seats. fabric and dog hair is a terrible combination.
    The Cargo version has the rubber mat on the floor already, so score one, you have plenty of space for dogs, and you can sweep or hose out anything lurking when you are done. With the passenger side door and the tailgate, you can always spray, or sweep away from you. Very, very important.
    Also, cheap as hell.

  12. david42 Avatar

    Chevy Astro
    Ram Van (a.k.a. panel van version of the Grand Caravan)
    Civilian Grand Caravan w/Stow 'n' Go (don't forget to put down a tarp!!!)

  13. needthatcar Avatar

    Whichever you choose, you should get a headache rack/barrier between you and the animals. Animals should be caged or restrained whenever a vehicle is in motion so they don't interfere with or distract the driver. I'll never figure out how there aren't better laws regarding loose animals in cars.

  14. neight428 Avatar

    Commercial requirements usually end up with things unappealing from a hoon's perspective.
    I'd nominate the fleet version Ram Van or Transit Connect too. The Astro would be fantastic if you could find one that is in good shape.

  15. Hopman Avatar

    Thinking Transit Connect or Ram ProMaster. In my area (southern NH / Massachusetts) I see quite a few Rams.

  16. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    i'd imagine something with a tall roof would be ideal. tall roof and low floor. a sprinter sounds perfect, if a little big. so does a transit connect, if a little small.

  17. Maymar Avatar

    <img src="; width=500 /img>
    Since the options I would've gone with have mostly been taken, I'll just leave this here.
    Not that two inches is a big deal, but the Nissan NV200 does have a sightly lower load floor than the Transit Connect, although there wouldn't be many of them used yet.

  18. EYEB4LL5 Avatar

    Lost of dog walkers in the SF Bay Area have former USPS Ford Windstars. Terrible fucking crapcan of a vehicle, but the full caged cargo area, low price, and lack of any fabric might just make it worth it.

  19. Scout_dude Avatar

    NO, NO, NO on the Sprinter, they are money pits. I worked on a fleet of them a few years back. The annual fuel, maintenance and repair cost of them was higher than for the 80's GM step vans that they were replacing.
    A minivan is the way to go. A cargo Astro, or a Chrysler minivan with the seats pulled out is the way to go.
    The Flex is a great vehicle but they are expensive used and it would be a shame to destroy one using it in that way.
    A mild stretch Limo would be interesting and they can be had cheap though they will have a fair amount of miles on them. The quality conversions stand up well, the cheap ones fall apart. The TC is infinitely repairable and repairs are dirt cheap. However driving one around on a regular basis would probably get old quick. On the other hand the marketing potential is huge for the Doggy limo.

  20. Kirk Avatar

    The Flex (I had one with three dogs > 75 lbs) isn't a great dog car, actually. The floor, both in the rear cargo area (first time I've ever seen that) and with the 2nd row folded, slopes dramatically down to the rear tailgates. It's about 10 degrees (I measured it), which is more egregious than it sounds. Dogs can deal with it, but mine were never *comfortable*. Furthermore, the 2nd row seatbacks have a horrible surface that is very clearly some kind of wire frame covered with cheap carpet. Many have perforated under even modest dog weight.
    If cost is a concern, the direct replacement would be an older (2005?) Legacy wagon. You can fit about 8-10 large dogs in there, and the seats fold *completely* flat.

    1. Maxichamp Avatar

      Good info. Thanks!

      1. Vairship Avatar

        Also, the Flex with the seats folded down has gaps in the "floor" which are plenty big for a dog paw to get stuck in with possible injury resulting: <img src="; width=600>

  21. Y_V Avatar

    The Sprinters are nice to drive, but the reliability is questionable. I've heard of a lot of people who have had transmission problems with them, and the last one I drove (which also happened to be painted Pullman Brown with a certain gold shield on the side) didn't want to run on all 5 cylinders 100% of the time. According to the mechanic's notes, "it has always stuttered in 4th gear." Then again, it did have over 322,000 miles by the time I got my hands on it, so it had held up for that long.