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Pet insurance can protect you from large, unexpected veterinary bills. But if you’re looking for a pet insurance plan, where do you start?
Pet insurance plans are not standardized, so the exact benefits will vary from plan to plan. That’s why it’s essential to look at more than simply price when you begin shopping.
You’ll also want to look at coverage side-by-side to find the best pet insurance plans. After all, a cheap price on a plan that has skimpy coverage won’t pay off in the end. Do your best to compare pet insurance plans with a similar range of benefits.
Related: Compare Pet Insurance Quotes
Here’s what to look for when you’re shopping around for pet insurance quotes
Know the Types of Pet Insurance Policies Available
Before you start getting quotes, you’ll want to understand the different types of plans available. The policy you select will drastically impact your price quotes — and also your future happiness with the plan you have bought.
Accident and illness policies. This type of policy is the most common and provides the best coverage. It includes coverage for accidental injuries and an extensive array of health, hereditary and medical problems. Typically covered are:
- Gastric problems
- Care after an accident
- Ingesting toxins
- IVDD (spinal cord disease)
- CT scan
- Cracked or broken bones
Accident-only plans. Accident-only plans cover pet injuries. For example, if your pet gets struck by a vehicle, an accident-only plan will help cover the treatment. This type of plan won’t cover any illness-related treatment.
Wellness plans. Like people, pets require routine care, exercise and healthy food to keep them feeling their best. From vaccinations to heartworm prevention to routine check-ups, pet wellness plans will help pay for some of these costs. You can usually add wellness coverage to a pet insurance policy — it typically doesn’t come as standalone coverage.
Understand Deductibles and Reimbursement
Deductible. A deductible is how much you pay for vet costs before the insurance kicks in.
- Annual deductible. With an annual deductible, you pay one amount in vet bills and then the plan pays for the rest of the year. This is the most common type of deductible and generally costs 4% to 6% more than per-incident deductibles, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
- Per-incident deductibles. This version requires you to pay a new deductible every time you file a claim.
You can find plans that have a $0 deductible, such as Trupanion and TrustedPals.
Reimbursement percentage. Even after you meet your deductible, the pet insurance plan may not pay 100%. It pays a reimbursement percentage such as 70%, 80%, or 90%. You can find plans that pay 100% after the deductible, such as Figo and TrustedPals.
Annual coverage cap. Look at the annual coverage cap—the most the plan will pay during the policy year. For example, Pets Best has a choice of $5,000 or unlimited.
Other Details to Look For
Make sure the plan has 24/7 access to vet help. Many pet insurance companies offer 24/7 access to veterinary advice. Insurers like Embrace Pet Insurance, Pets Best and Nationwide offer this service free of charge with the policy. If you have a late-night problem, this service can help.
Note the waiting periods for coverage. There are usually waiting periods after you buy the policy before coverage will start. There may be separate waiting periods for accident claims (such as two days) and illness claims (such as 14 days). Avoid 30-day waiting periods. And look at whether there are longer waiting periods for specific conditions, such as 30 days for cruciate ligament issues.
Exam fees. Be careful because some insurers only cover costs for illness or injury treatment, not the vet visit itself. Double-check to ensure your provider covers vet exam fees, like Embrace, Spot and TrustedPals.
Discounts. Check for savings opportunities such as:
- Spay/neuter discount
- Annual pay discount
- Multi-pet discount
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
An accident and illness pet insurance plan costs an average of $49.51 a month for a dog and $28.48 a month for a cat, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Factors that affect the price include:
- The pet’s age. The younger your pet is, the less you’ll pay for coverage. You can typically purchase pet insurance for your pet as soon as they are seven weeks old.
- The pet’s breed. Breeds can affect quotes, especially among dogs. The most expensive dog breeds for pet insurance tend to be larger, heavier dogs.
- The pet’s gender. Female pets may cost slightly less (about 5%) to insure than males.
- Your location. Veterinary costs vary depending on location, so quotes reflect that.
- Policy particulars. Your annual coverage limit, deductible amount and reimbursement level will affect the quote.
How to Shop Around for Price Quotes
Pet insurance companies have made it pretty simple to get free pet insurance quotes:
Online. Just like many other tasks you do today, you can get a free pet insurance quote online—either through an insurer’s website or a comparison website that lets you look at multiple plans at once.
Phone, email or in-person. If you want to speak with an agent who can explain the different options available, many insurance companies will help you connect with someone by phone, email or in person.