Shopping for pet insurance can be a real pain so we wanted to help breakdown the key steps in find the perfect plan for your four-legged family member. We believe these are the five most important steps you should consider when shopping for pet insurance and our friends at the Insurance Information Institute and NAPHIA agree.
1. Read Customer Reviews
You’re already here so that’s a good start.
You obviously want excellent coverage at a fair price, but if the plan doesn’t provide excellent customer service it will be more of a headache than it’s worth And, when your pet needs expensive veterinary treatment, you need an insurance provider to be responsive and helpful.
The top pet insurance plans offer 24/7 customer service while others leave you with a static “Contact Us” page. Some plans have mobile claims apps that are super easy to use and other companies require you to fax your vet records.
The best ways to see if a plan truly is the “best” it’s important to understand what current and past policyholders have to say about their experience. In an effort to single out the good from the bad we’ve collected thousands of pet insurance reviews from dog and cat owners.
2. Explore Coverage Options
Coverage is the most important criteria when shopping for pet insurance. Bar none. The entire reason you purchase pet insurance is to get reimbursed when your dog or cat needs veterinary care. Whether you’re shopping for pet insurance, auto insurance or life insurance, coverage is what differentiates plans.
When considering pet insurance for your dog or cat there are three levels of coverage to choose from. The most common plans are accident and illness plans, which cover unexpected accidents and illnesses. Wellness are rapidly gaining popularity as pet owners seek comprehensive coverage. Accident only plans aren’t as popular but worth mentioning for older pets who may not be eligible for standard coverage.
When shopping for a pet insurance plan there are three different levels of coverage to choose from:
- Accident and Illness Coverage – These are by far the most popular plans. They account for over 90% of all purchases. These plans cover everything but routine care.
- Wellness Care Coverage – You can add a routine care or wellness plan to a regular pet insurance policy. These plans cover annual visits, spay/neuter, vaccinations, etc. We do not recommend these plans because there isn’t much benefit.
- Accident-Only Coverage – These plans are cheaper but only cover vet bills related to accidents. We don’t recommend these plans because illnesses are more likely and more expensive to treat.
Each plan has different terms and conditions that you should know about. The best plans don’t have a lot of “gotchas” or “fine print” but you should still educate yourself about key terms. The key to a great pet insurance experience is to know exactly what you’re buying. Here are the four most important characteristics to keep an eye on.
- Annual Limit – This is one of the most important factors when choosing a plan. Make sure the policy has at least a $10,000 annual limit. This will ensure you have enough coverage for major health issues.
- Coverage – As previously mentioned, we recommend you select an accident & illness policy. Every plan offers this type of policy as the default option. They are the most popular, highest rated and provide you the most coverage and best bang for your buck.
- Waiting Period – Every plan has a waiting period, which is the time from the day you enroll to when your coverage period starts.
- Exclusions – The higher rated plans have very few exclusions (mostly just pre-existing conditions) but not every plan is created equal. That is why you want to evaluate ratings first before selecting a plan. It’s never a good idea to pick the cheapest policy, but there are ways to get the right policy and not overpay.
Vet Care is More Common than You Think
Far too many pet owners think their pet will never get sick or injured. In fact, the most common objection to pet insurance is, “I don’t need it, my pet is healthy.”
This mentality is flawed because every six seconds a pet owner is faced with a vet bill over $3,000 (Pet Insurance Facts). And if you read through enough pet insurance reviews you’ll see how common these expensive veterinary treatments can be if your pet is unlucky.
We get requests every day from pet owners who want to enroll in a plan because their furry friend needs expensive surgery or long-term medications. Unfortunately if your pet is in need of expensive treatment it’s already too late because pet insurance plans do not cover pre-existing conditions.
This is why we’re so adamant that pet owners enroll in a plan while your dog or cat is young and healthy!
Health Issues and Costs
The most common and most expensive health issues are hereditary disorders, chronic conditions, orthopedic conditions and emergency care. To give you a sense of how expensive veterinary care actually costs we created a sample list of common pet health conditions and the average cost of treatment.
As you can see from the chart veterinary costs can really add up! The good news is that all of the highly rated plans provide complete, comprehensive coverage for these health issues without exclusions or hidden payout limits.
Sample Conditions and Avg. Costs of Treatment
- Canine Cancer: $5,000 to $20,000
- Hip Dysplasia: $4,000 to $6,000
- Elbow Dysplasia: $3,000 to $5,000
- Cataracts: $2,000 to $3,000
- Foreign Body Ingestion: $200 to $5,000
Source: Dog Health Conditions
3. Get Quotes and Compare Prices
Let’s face it, if a plan is too expensive for your monthly budget then you’re not going to buy it!
We certainly don’t suggest that you should choose the cheapest plan, but when there is an apples-to-apples comparison, we do suggest you choose the better priced plan. It’s all about finding the best value from the best insurance plan possible. The price you pay should be commensurate with the coverage you receive in return.
That’s why we created a free, custom quote system so you can compare plans and prices side-by-side.
Dogs are more expensive to insure than cats. English Bulldogs are more expensive to insure than Mixed Breed Dogs. In other words, the more prone to health issues your pet is, the more you plan will cost.
To give an example, purebred English Bulldogs are much more susceptible to hereditary disorders than Mixed Breed dogs. It’s just a fact of breeding and genetic predisposition. So if you have an English Bulldog then there is a higher likelihood that your dog will need expensive veterinary care vs. a pet owner who has a mixed breed dog.
The bottom line is that each plan rates each breed differently so it’s important to compare plans from multiple plans to find the best price. Here is a sample of average costs for dogs and cats, respectively.
Dog Breeds | Avg. Cost
- Mixed Breed Dog | $38/mo.
- Labrador Retriever | $44/mo.
- Yorkshire Terrier | $41/mo.
- Golden Retriever | $46/mo.
- Dachshund | $50/mo.
Note: Avg. prices for accident & illness plans for three year-old dogs with $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement
Cat Breeds | Cost
- Mixed Breed Cat | $32/mo.
- Domestic Shorthair | $34/mo.
- American Shorthair | $34/mo.
- Siamese | $36/mo.
- Maine Coon | $38/mo.
Note: Avg. prices for accident & illness plans for three year-old cats with $250 deductible and 90% reimbursement
Adjusting the Price of a Plan
Every pet insurance plan allows you to adjust the price of your plan by choosing a custom deductible and custom reimbursement percentage. This is nice because you can get the plan and coverage you want that fits in your budget.
- Deductible – If you choose a higher deductible you will pay less for pet insurance. Conversely, if you choose a lower deductible you will get more back when you file a claim, but your monthly rates will be higher. Deductibles range from $100 to $1,000 (we recommend $200 to $500 to maximize value).
- Reimbursement – If you choose a lower reimbursement rate you will pay less each month for a policy because the plan will pay less when you claim. And, as common sense will tell you, if you choose a higher reimbursement rate you’ll pay more each month. Reimbursement rates range from 60-100% of your actual vet bills (we recommend 80% to 90% reimbursement rates to maximize value).
4. Company Overview and Background
The longer they’ve been around, the better. The bigger they are, the better. History, leadership and financial stability all matter.
These attributes are very important, and often forgotten when evaluating the best. For example, some plans like Healthy Paws and Embrace are built on a passion for the well-being of companion animals. So when you interact with their customer service and claims reps you will be talking to a fellow “pet parent.” Other plans like Nationwide and ASPCA are trusted, household brands, so you know they will deliver the goods.
High-level evaluations also include an in-depth review of leadership team and staff. How experienced are they? How long have they been in the pet insurance business? Are they qualified?
Finally, and perhaps the most importantly, part of our high-level evaluations are A.M. Best Ratings. A.M. Best is the premier insurance credit ratings service in the world. They evaluate the financial stability and rating for every pet insurer. We take the A.M. Best ratings very seriously because if you enroll in a plan and the entity dissolves that is not a good thing!
5. Enroll While Your Pet is Young and Healthy
After you read pet insurance reviews it’s important to do your homework and educate yourself about pet insurance. Take your time and evaluate your options. However, with that being said, it’s vitally important to purchase a plan while your pet is healthy to avoid pre-existing conditions exclusions. Ready to get the best insurance quotes and compare the best pet insurance?
What is the Best Pet Insurance for Dogs?
Your pooch is one of a kind, but he or she likely shares certain health risks with others of his breed. Every dog breed has unique characteristics. Some breeds are more susceptible to hereditary and congenital health issues than others. Once you know what health conditions to look out for, you can match the best dog insurance plan to meet your dog’s specific needs.
Learn More: Dog Health Insurance
What is the Best Pet Insurance for Cats?
Your feline is one of a kind, but she likely shares certain health risks with others of her breed. It’s important to know what health issues are specific to your cat’s breed so you can prepare. Once you know what health conditions to look out for, you can match the best cat insurance plan to meet your cat’s specific needs.
Learn More: Cat Health Insurance