If you’re in the process of researching airline-approved pet carriers, you’re likely deciding between purchasing online or at a brick-and-mortar retailer. Pet store owners are split on the issue, but the fact remains that both options have several benefits and detriments. Inevitably, the decision will rely on a variety of factors. To supplement your choice, we have explored each retail option in detail. Both possibilities include thorough considerations and extensive “Pro/Con” tables to guide your purchase.

When reviewing this guide, remember that your purchasing venue will determine the experience you have in selecting the product; it won’t necessarily impact the quality of the item (unless, of course, you go with an untested off-brand carrier). The decision to shop online or in a store will influence your confidence in the purchase, the money you spend, and the convenience.


The Case for Online Shopping

Online shopping is an explosive trend that shows no signs of slowing down. The convenience of online product browsing allows customers to quickly and efficiently view, compare, and review items from the comfort of home. Users can conduct side-by-side comparisons with necessary specifications (height, weight, and material are essential considerations for pet carriers), and the range of options is seemingly endless. Coupon codes and free shipping bundles are widely available, and customer reviews are invaluable in deciding which product works best.

However, online shopping is not always the perfect purchasing venue for certain products; airline-approved pet carriers may fall into that category. When buying a carrier, you will need to experience the product’s quality and durability to feel comfortable with the purchase. Unless you plan to order and return several options, this is an impossible test to complete through online shopping. To that end, you cannot test the product with your pet before ordering, and fake, seller-written reviews may steer you in the wrong direction. Shipping may take several days, and returning unsatisfactory products is often inconvenient.





Range of options

Access to customer reviews

Ability to compare product specifications



No quality assurance

Unable to test size and comfort with animal

Fake customer reviews

Shipping time/expenses

Inconvenient return


In-Store Purchases are Tried and True

Though online shopping is a convenient and cost-effective option, certain items continue to remain popular for in-store purchases. Though there is no data on airline-approved pet carrier purchasing, we suspect that most pet parents prefer to buy these containers at brick-and-mortar locations. The experience of visiting a shop allows customers to test the quality and durability of products, compare material, and test sizing and comfort with their pets. Additionally, sales associates are able to provide in-depth and knowledgeable advice for those struggling to decide between several options.

However, visiting a store comes with its own set of disadvantages. You may live in an area that does not have a pet store, and driving to visit a location may prove to be too inconvenient. Additionally, your range of options will be more limited; a store may not have a certain brand you like, or they could be sold out of a specific color or material you want. In-store purchases are also, in general, more expensive than online shopping, and you will not have access to customer reviews.


Quality assurance

Customer service

Ability for side-by-side inspection/comparison

Possible pet testing

No wait period, as one might experience with shipping




Limited options

Often more expensive

No access to customer reviews

Sales associates may upsell products


The Verdict

As you’ve likely guessed, the process of purchasing an airline-approved pet carrier is more complicated than picking online vs. in-store shopping. Your decision process should depend on a variety of factors—from budget and time to quality and location. Below, we have detailed various aspects to consider when making your decision. Take your time; finding a sturdy, airline-approved carrier is not a task you want to rush.


Location—Not all of us live close to a pet store. If visiting the pet store requires a long drive, you should opt for an online purchase. When testing out a carrier, you will want to bring Fido along to ensure the container is not too small. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing your pet on a multi-hours-long pet store trip, purchasing a carrier online is a perfectly fine solution. This will allow Fido to test it out in the comfort of your living room, and you’ll be able to return the container if you find anything you don’t like.


Time—If your flight is in a few days, shopping in-store is the best choice. Sure, Amazon Prime might get a carrier to your door in less than 48 hours, but what if it’s not what you need? What if it’s too large, or perhaps too small? If you are on a tight deadline, you won’t have time to return the parcel and order another carrier.


Direction—If this is your first time purchasing a travel carrier, you may not know what to look for. Our Travel Shop can help, but nothing beats talking to a sales associate at a store. A pet store employee will help you determine which details to prioritize in a travel carrier, and they may also be able to tell you about recent trends and popular items. In contrast, online reviews are helpful, but fake reviews written by the seller tend to upsell an item’s quality and durability.


Budget—Though time, location, and direction are important factors to consider, your budget should guide the decision. In most cases, large, online pet stores, such as Chewy.com, are less expensive than brick-and-mortar stores, such as PetSmart. If you’re looking to save a few dollars on an item, shopping online will nearly always guarantee an additional discount. Smart buyers can also save money by shopping at PetSmart.com and selecting in-store pick-up; in most cases, this can save you between $3 and $15, depending on the item.


However, pet parents should also reflect on the quality of merchandise. If you feel comfortable spending $200 on a durable, airline-approved pet carrier, you might want to see just how durable it is. Most pet owners will treat this purchase as an investment—something you will use for travel, trips to the vet, and various excursions for several years. If you’re comfortable with ordering, testing, and potentially returning carriers via online venues, it is the more convenient choice. However, if you want to see what your money gets before making the purchase, visiting a pet store will provide the peace of mind you need.

When making your decision, consider the above factors and prioritize accordingly. In most cases, purchasing online or in-store will result in a perfectly suitable product. With enough research, pet parents can deduce the exact size and material they need in a pet carrier. The vehicle for the purchase will, ultimately, depend on individual circumstance and comfort.