Comparing Pet Insurance Prices and Policies
Taking care of your four-legged family members can be a costly endeavor. Whether it’s preventive care like vaccines or treatments for disease or accidents, it’s tough to include those items in your budget. You have two choices:
- You can pay those doggie expenses out of pocket, assuming you keep a set-aside for emergencies.
- You can look at getting some pet insurance to mitigate those costs.
Of the 78 million pet dogs in the United States, it’s estimated that 33 percent need veterinary care every year. And that care adds up to a whopping annual $45.5 billion. Consider a few more relatable numbers:
- If your dog is hit by a car, expect to pay more than $3,500, on average, to nurse your little buddy back to health.
- Hip dysplasia is common in some breeds. If your dog is stricken, you may spend more than $6,000 to get him running again.
- A urinary tract infection costs almost $3,500 to treat, and arthritis even more.
- Expect to pay nearly $8,000 to treat doggie diabetes.
It’s little wonder why you see so many veterinarians in every town and why pet insurance is becoming more popular. With so many companies jumping into the pet insurance market and so many policy choices, however, it can be confusing to try to figure out the best deal or optimum plan for you.
What Factors into Pet Insurance Prices
The price you pay for health insurance for your dog can vary greatly, and not just from company to company. Pet insurance prices — like your own health insurance costs — are determined by a long list of factors. When you know what to look for, you can often negotiate the best deal.
So, before you go shopping for health insurance for your dog, gather some information and know your priorities. For example, are you looking for the absolute cheapest policy or do you need specific coverage that will reimburse you for your pup’s annual checkups with your veterinarian? Consider these factors:
- Your physical location. Pet insurance prices are all over the map. Literally. You can’t do much about where you live, but in some areas — like New York City — you’ll pay more in pet insurance premiums than in others.
- Your dog’s breed. Not all pups are created equal in the eyes of insurance companies. Some breeds are prone to certain ailments, and bigger breeds have shorter lifespans, in general, than smaller breeds. Be prepared to pay more if you have, for example, a Rottweiler or Doberman, which are susceptible to the parvovirus.
- Your pet’s age. Just like humans, it’s more expensive to insure an elder than a child. Older dogs are likely to need more health care than a puppy. You must decide whether to insure a puppy for vaccines and accident coverage or wait to get insurance once you notice a little gray around the muzzle.
- Your dog’s health. When you apply for insurance, one question you’ll inevitably have to answer has to do with previous illnesses or injuries your pooch has suffered. A history of health-related issues will increase your premium.
- The deductible. Every policy comes with a deductible. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium, just as it is with your personal health insurance. You decide (or compromise) how much you’re willing to pay in health-related costs before the insurance kicks in.
- Per-claim or per-year deductible. For most policies, the pet insurance prices include an annual deductible period, meaning your deductible resets each year, when you renew the policy. Then you have to meet the deductible again in the new year before getting the benefits of your policy. Some policies, however, apply a deductible for each claim. These policies cost more out of pocket, but usually come with cheaper premiums.
- Reimbursement percentage. You can choose how much of your pet-related expenses you want to be reimbursed (e.g., 80 percent). The higher the reimbursement, the higher the premiums, but the more money you get back for your claims.
- Type of coverage. You can get accident-only coverage or accident-and-wellness insurance. The pet insurance prices you pay will be higher if you opt for wellness coverage. Wellness insurance often covers annual veterinarian visits and some medications. Check the policy to see what’s covered.
- Insurance limits. Some insurance policies have annual or lifetime limits on the amount of money you can get from the policy. An annual limit applies every year, but a lifetime limit applies no matter how many years you’ve had the insurance. Some policies have no limits.
- Special discounts. Some companies drop their pet insurance prices for your dog if you insure multiple dogs at the same time. Other discounts may include those for U.S. veterans. Discounts are entirely dependent on the insurance company.
Because of all these factors, your monthly fee may range from $10 to more than $100 for the same dog! So, like buying a car, you’re well advised to shop around for the best deal.
Comparing Pet Insurance Prices and Policies
Pet insurance prices by themselves don’t make for a valid comparison. You have to make sure that you’re comparing the proverbial apples to apples. That means matching policy features as closely as possible. Line items to compare includes common features like:
- A $250 deductible per year
- Reimbursement at 80 percent
- $15,000 to $20,000 limit to the policy
For comparison’s sake, consider these 2018 prices in one geographic location for a sample dog with four reputable insurers using the above features, unless otherwise noted. Even in this modest comparison, pet insurance prices vary by $34:
INSURER PER MONTH COST
4Paws Insurance: $43.69
Includes a $15,000 limit
No limit and a 90 percent reimbursement
Petplan Pet Insurance $56.87
No limit on the policy
24PetWatch Pet Protection Services $77.59
With a $20,000 limit
Do Your Research Before Deciding
There are many pet insurance carriers today. The prices above don’t reflect great customer service, quick reimbursements or hassle-free claims. Shop around; read customer reviews; and ask friends, your vet and your groomer for referrals. Remember: pet insurance prices only tell part of the story.
For all policies, it’s up to you to submit a claim for reimbursement with the bill from your veterinarian. The insurance company reimburses you the percentage of your policy after you’ve met your deductible. Most insurers let you customize the policy, and some, like 4Paws, let employers offer pet insurance as a benefit to employees.