Pet insurance is about the same thing that all insurance is about: predictability. People buy insurance to make sure they don’t get surprised with a major expense that they can’t afford. Pet insurance companies set prices in much the same way that all insurance companies do. They charge less for animals that are not likely to need expensive veterinary care (young animals, healthier breeds) than for animals that are more likely to need expensive care. Policy prices also vary according to what are and aren’t covered and coverage limits.
More consumers are opting for pet insurance as more advanced and expensive medical procedures become available for pets. When conducting your comparison of pet insurance companies and policies, here are some things you need to take into consideration.
Contents at a Glance
- Your Pet
- What’s Covered
- Deductibles, Caps and Other Limitations
- The reputation of the Insurance Company
- Low-Cost Pet Insurance
- VIP Pet Insurance
- Pet Insurance Comparison
- Pet Insurance Comparison Criteria
In general, the purebreds cost more to insure than mixed breeds, and dogs cost more than cats. Some insurance companies won’t insure a pet over a certain age. Others will ensure the older pet, but the cost will be higher. Most exclude pre-existing conditions, so if you’re going to buy insurance, it’s a good idea to buy it before your pet has a problem. Many policies exclude treatments for hereditary conditions in certain breeds. If you are planning to get a pet soon, get a comparison quotes on those types of pet ahead of time. It may affect your decision about which type of pet to get.
Some policies cover routine care and vaccinations, while others do not. The policy that you choose will depend on your financial situation. Do you want to pay a larger monthly premium and have more expenses covered, or do you just want insurance to protect you from catastrophic expenses? Whatever you decide, make sure that your comparison is apples to apples.
Deductibles, Caps and Other Limitations
Most policies have co-pays and deductibles, just like health insurance for humans. The higher the deductible and co-pay amounts, the lower the premiums. There may be maximum amounts that a policy will pay annually or for a given issue. The insurance company may only reimburse you for the reasonable and customary amount for a given procedure. Find out what those amounts are and ask your vet if the fees he charges are in line with what insurance will pay. Do a comparison of policies with different deductibles and see which saves you more money with the expenses you expect to incur.
The reputation of the Insurance Company
Pet insurers should be registered with your state regulators. Also check the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against them, and if so, how they’ve been resolved. Ask your vet about the companies you’re considering buying a policy from.
Low-Cost Pet Insurance
Choose the lowest priced policy for the features you want. If you’re comparing two policies and they cover slightly different things or have different deductibles or caps, take that into consideration when looking at premiums. Your comparison should take price and benefits into consideration in order to save you money in the long run.
VIP Pet Insurance
Your pet is a valued member of your family. Just like when anyone else needs medical care, you want your pet to get the care they need without having to worry about the price tag. If you prefer predictable (as much as possible) veterinary expenses, then a VIP Plan is for you.
Pet Insurance companies offer a variety of plans for each type of pet. Some offer a standard and a premium plan, with riders that can beef up the coverage for certain situations. Others offer plan packages, from economical to deluxe.
Here are the things you should look for in a VIP Pet Insurance Plan:
- Benefit Amounts. Pet insurance companies have a standard allowable amount for each procedure. Some companies offer a higher allowable amount on their premium plans. Compare their allowable amounts with your veterinarian’s fees for those procedures. A higher allowable amount means that more of the expense is covered by the insurance.
- Percentage Covered. Along with benefit amounts, most insurance companies cover a percent of the cost after the deductible. Take this number into consideration along with the allowable benefit amount for each procedure. 80% of $113 is more than 90% of $100.
- Deductibles. Deductibles can be per incident or per plan year. Lower deductibles mean fewer out-of-pocket costs for you when your pet needs to go to the vet.
- Co-Pays. A lower co-pay means more predictability for you. Also look to see whether you only pay one co-pay for each incident or each office visit.
- Well Care. Less expensive policies only cover you when your pet gets sick or injured. You also have the option of adding well care to your policy. They usually cover items like vaccinations and routine tests. Some also cover spay and neuter services. Look over the list of covered items. Since this is more predictable, it should be fairly easy to determine if the premium is worth it to you.
- Chronic Conditions. Some insurance companies treat a condition that carries over from one year to the next as a pre-existing condition. Make sure the plan you choose covers an ongoing condition since expenses for such conditions can add up over time.
- Maximum Benefits. Most plans have per incident and annual benefit maximums. Higher maximums are especially important when that terrible accident or devastating illness happens. And that’s really why you’re buying coverage in the first place.
- Pre-existing Conditions & Waiting Periods. Most, if not all insurance companies exclude pre-existing conditions and do not cover your pet’s expenses until after a specified waiting period. The answer to this is to get insurance for your pet as soon as possible before he or she gets sick.
- Hereditary Conditions. Most insurance companies exclude conditions which are hereditary in your pet’s breed. If you want to make sure these are covered, look for a company that doesn’t exclude these issues.
Pet Insurance Comparison
Comparing pet insurance policies is like comparing apples to oranges. No two companies offer the same plan, so how do you get a valid comparison? We’ve put together a pet insurance comparison so you can see how pet insurance companies stack up against each other. Each of these companies offers a variety of plans. See below for details about what we were looking for in a policy. The comparison below is for a 7-year-old Labrador Retriever and the prices were obtained from the pet insurance companies’ websites. When you are ready to price out a policy for your pet, please go to the websites of the pet insurance companies that you are interested in and get a current quote for your pet and your geographical location.
% Covered / Basis
Per Incident Max
Hereditary Conditions Covered
Multiple Pet Discount
|ASPCA||80% / R&C*||$100||$1,500||No||$27.50||10%|
|Pet Plan||80% / Actual||$100||$8,000||Yes||$59.05||10%|
|80% / R&C*||$100||$7,000||$200||$42.97||7-15%|
|VPI||90% / Benefit Schedule**||$50||$2,500||No||$33.67||5%|
*R&C = Reasonable & Customary
**VPI publishes it’s reimbursement schedules on its website. Different levels apply to different policies.
All of the pet insurance companies have a waiting period, usually 14 to 30 days. Also, none of them covered pre-existing conditions. Some have annual and/or lifetime maximums.
Many pet insurance companies put an age limit on new enrollees. For example, VPI will not take any new dogs over the age of 10. However, if you have your pet insured from before they reach that age, most companies will allow you to renew the policy when your pet gets older.
Pet Insurance Comparison Criteria
Each of these companies offers a variety of plans. Some plans have very low premiums, but when you research them, you find out that they don’t cover much. We looked for a plan that covered unexpected expenses due to illness or injury. We did not look at plans that included well pet care. See why here. We looked for plans that covered at least $5,000 per incident. Here’s why. Some pet insurance companies don’t offer such plans, and others offer them only when you buy a policy that includes well care.
Overall, the policies we looked at offered very similar values. The least expensive policies have a low per incident maximum. This means that on average, they’ll pay out less in claims. If you want to make sure that surprises are covered, the price goes up. One of the most important differences we found was whether hereditary problems are covered. If you have a purebred dog, the chance that they will have a hereditary condition is higher. If you have an alley cat, you probably aren’t worried about this.