• Chris

Choosing the right pet insurance - is the biggest company always best?

As a pet owner myself, as well as running animal service businesses, I have personal experience of the value of pet insurance. The costs for seemingly non-serious illnesses can soon add up to price of a small, second hand car!

1 in 3 pets will need an unexpected visit to the vets each year and most people claim more on their pet insurance than they do on their house or car insurance. This goes to show why it is so important to get the right insurance for your beloved pet.

The aim of this article is to help take the difficulty out of knowing where to go, which insurance to use and what to consider in choosing the right insurance for you and your pets.

To keep things simple I will focus on insurance for three animals - dogs, cats and rabbits.

Where to start?

The main thing to remember is to get your insurance sorted out as soon as possible. Just like with human insurance, pre-exsisting conditions, that occurred before the start of the policy, are usually not covered. And your pet's ailments, certainly true with rabbits, tend to be ones that it lives with for life.

Where to look?

There are more companies that provide pet insurance than you think.....but probably not as many as you would like! Unlike car insurance, for example, your local, friendly insurance broker will not have a list of insurers to investigate. They will probably refer you to Pet Plan, as that is the one everybody knows. But an internet search will find you more options, like PDSA and Animal Friends for example. Some, like The Insurance Emporium, offer different policies for younger and older cats and dogs.

Your normal car and house insurance providers, like Direct Line and even Tesco, offer pet insurance. Although policy provision can be restricted as it is not their core business.

And again, just like car and house insurance, the comparison websites can also give you a good starting point. Although their comparisons tend to be very generic so make sure you fully understand the details before selecting a policy.

What to look for?

Not all pet insurance is the same so it's important to choose your policy wisely. As previously said, pre-existing conditions are not normally covered and you need to be careful with policy excess clauses, where you pay the first part of any claim. Although this means cheaper insurance in total, you can end up paying most of the bill yourself......which defeats the purpose of having the insurance!

You should also check if the policy provides cover for any hereditary conditions within the animal breed, dental problems and behavioural conditions. Also ask if the premium increases when you make a claim!

Types of cover?

The types of cover you can get fall into 3 main types:

  1. Lifetime - cover is provided up to a set amount for veterinary fees and renewed each year. There is no time limit on how long you can claim as long as you renew each year

  2. Time Limited - cover is provided up to a maximum amount per condition. Any condition is only covered for 12 months and is then excluded from the policy

  3. Maximum Benefits - cover is provided up to a maximum amount per condition. Once that limit is reached that condition is excluded from the policy

Best policies out there

In a review of more than 50 pet insurers, these are the top 3 best policies for dogs, cats and rabbits at the moment. The price you pay for any policy for a dog or cat will depend on many factors, including the age and breed of your pet. Cover for rabbits is harder to come by but is not restricted by age:

Dogs

1) New cover for dogs aged between 8 weeks and 8 years. Vet cover up to £13,000 per condition

2) New cover for dogs aged between 8 weeks and 10 years. Vet cover up to £8,000 per condition

3) New cover for dogs aged from 4 weeks. Vet cover up to £15,000 per year total

Cats

1) New cover for cats aged between 8 weeks and 8 years. Vet cover for up to £13,000 per condition

2) New cover for cats aged from 4 weeks.

Vet cover up to £15,000 per year total

3) New cover for cats aged from 8 weeks.

Vet cover up to £12,000 per year total

Rabbits

1) Vet cover up to £2,000 per year and costs £90

2) Vet cover up to £2,000 per year and costs £108

3) Vet cover up to £2,000 per year and costs £141

What should I do?

Well, that depends on what's important to you. The main thing to take from this is that you do have choice. Probably choices that you didn't know you had?

It won't have escaped you that Pet Plan does not feature in any of the top 3's. But they say that 90% of customers return to them. Is that because they are good or because people don't know about options? Probably both I think!

Exotic Direct also say that 93% of customers return. Is that because nobody else covers the animals they do, like lizards and degus as well as rabbits?

Don't get me wrong, I actually have a policy with Pet Plan........I have two rabbits and a dog so it makes life easier to get cover all in one place.

So, like with your car and house insurance, you do have the option to shop around and find a great deal out there. After doing this research, I know I will!

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