If you say this is not your primary vehicle why an SUV? Much better for just a few dog is an extended cab pickup with a 4 hole topper. Tundra, Ford, Chevy all similar if not the same as SUV versions up front. With a topper all of the dog junk and smells and training gear are separated from the passenger cabin. Way nicer. Plus it's not a good idea to have a dog in one of those seatbelt harnesses in an accident. I just saw a video of crash dog dummies in various seat restraints and it wasn't pretty. Far better to have them in a hole.
edit: Plus you can't leave your dogs in a closed locked SUV but you can lock the doors on their kennel holes, crack or close the vents and run fans if you want. Never need to worry about heat or cold in a topper.
Here's a 4 hole topper on a Ford
on a Chevy
on a GMC
This is what a 4 hole topper looks like from the back. Water Tank, Electric, Drawers
I have a mini-van, which I'm not recommending, 'cause it would be nice to have an SUV on some of those roads you encounter at hunt tests. I don't have any SUV recommendations (wish I could buy one myself, but will have to save my pennies for a while).
However, I do have some advice about space: Measure the total width of your crates when they are sitting side-by-side. Add an extra half-inch or inch, because you'll want enough wiggle room that you don't have to wedge them in with a crowbar. Also measure the length and height of the crates and write it all done. Take your notes and a tape measure when you go vehicle shopping.
If you're using the vehicle primarily for transporting dogs and hunt tests, look for one in which the seats can be completely removed, not just folded up. The volume occupied by the folded seats is volume you could use for all the junk you need to haul to a test. All of the seats behind the front row in my van where removed the day I drove it home and stashed upstairs under a dust cover. If I don't beat the van to death on bad roads, the seats will be reinstalled when I sell the vehicle.
When you're doing your vehicle measurements, look for anything jutting out that might interfere with the crates. Look for available (sturdy!) locations to attach tie-downs. (Because all crates in a vehicle must be tied down securely.) Measure the open space when the side doors are open. If you have to put anything bulky in through the side doors, an extra few inches can make a big difference.
Look for a vehicle with lots of air flow vents in the back for the dogs. Tinted windows make a huge difference in how warm the vehicle gets, too.
Recently went from Suburban to Ford Expedition. If my Suburban EVER got anywhere NEAR 20 -21 mpg. I may have kept it.
The Expedition is doing us very well. Dog crates, gun box, decoys etc. 4 WD.
Ford Motor Co. handled their own financial business without a hand out from U.S.
Chrysler Town & Country works for us. Good mileage and a comfy ride for dogs and us. Two crates facing the rear and two more facing the sliding doors (one left facing and one right facing) with the captain chairs folded down.
I'm with Breck on the truck. You can just get a cap and put the crates in the back. Some 2X8s or 10s and some plywood and you can add a platform for the crates with storage underneath. Or, you can go with an aluminum and stainless drawer unit for the platform.
A.R.E. makes a cap with "windoors" on the sides that have a screened slider window, and can open like the door in the back. Lock the truck and open the back to keep the dogs cool.
I have a Nissan Xtrail diesel - very economic and fits three crates and two two shot bumper boys behind the front seats just!
I have a hyundai santa fe and its really roomy but still "mid size " I can fit two intermediate crates side by side in the back with all 4 passengers also. Or 3 crates easily with seats folded. The 3rd crate is a large. The back is wide enough for the large crates side by side but the seats have to be at least part way forward since its about 3 inches short at the top where the seats lean back. The cool thing is the seats lock into about 5 different places and I can leave them up but just click them forward. Anyway... its been a very flexible suv. I live on a mtn and drive off 2x a day get 21 mpg. O trips i average 24-25. I have 149,000 miles so far and counting....
Not sure if this would fit your crates. I rented a GMC Acadia in Texas last winter and loved it! From the outside, it doesn't look like it has a ton of room, but when you start opening doors, it is very cool. Great on mileage, not sure exactly what it was but I think good.
Folks who want trucks should have them. I don't like the bad rear and side visibility. Without a dog box, crawling in a topper is not my preference. I have an old Sequoia with the back seats removed holding 2 intermediate and 2 large crates that can be removed one at a time when I want decoys middle seats, etc. I had a Dodge AWD Caravan that had more space, but not as much clearance and not as durable.
Originally Posted by Breck
The Toyota FJ cruiser would be worth a look if you could see out of it.
[QUOTE=Keith Stroyan;1024425]Folks who want trucks should have them. I don't like the bad rear and side visibility. Without a dog box, crawling in a topper is not my preference. I have an old Sequoia with the back seats removed holding 2 intermediate and 2 large crates that can be removed one at a time when I want decoys middle seats, etc. I had a Dodge AWD Caravan that had more space, but not as much clearance and not as durable.
The Toyota FJ cruiser would be worth a look if you could see out of it.[/QUOTE]
I have only had to drive the FJ Backwards down the interstate at speed ONCE since I've owned it..
I have heard folks complain about the fJ bad rear blind spot.
I dont noticeit though. I am so use to driving pick ups with toppers on them... Talk about blind!!
As long as you pay attention to the GPS gal ,,, and dont get yourself in a situation where shes gotta recompute,, and then tells Ya to turn around on the interstate,, I dont see much of an issue,,,