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Animal Friends offers pet insurance for some of the cheapest premiums in the UK. With Lifetime policies available for dogs from around £130 and cats from around £110 per year, Animal Friends uses lower per condition annual limits to keep premiums affordable, as discussed in our article Best Pet Insurance. With a full range of 12 different plans covering each type of insurance, there may be a good Animal Friends plan for you if premium price is a priority, so long as the per condition limits are acceptable to you.
In This Review
- Overall Review
- Policy and Coverage Options
- Customer Experience Ratings
- Comparing Animal Friends to Competitors
Choosing the right cat or dog insurance policy for you will depend upon the individual needs of you and your pet. Use the information in this guide to help you understand which features are important to you in order to make the best buying decision. We also advise reading through the policy wording before you buy.
Animal Friends Pet Insurance Review
Animal Friends offers a wide selection of dog and cat insurance plans at lower-than-average prices for budget-conscious pet owners. You have your choice of a large ranges of pet insurance options to provide financial protection in case the unexpected happens to your pet, with 4 Lifetime products, 3 Max Benefit products, 4 Time Limited products and an Accident Only product. If it fits in your budget, the Prestige plan offers the highest level of cover (£6,000) for a competitive price in a Lifetime pet insurance plan.
Extra Limits Keep Prices Lower: Animal Friends helps keep prices low by imposing per condition annual limits on their Lifetime plans—this setup is not typical for Lifetime pet insurance but may suit you if price is paramount. Data from our quote gathering exercise showed that Animal Friends' average premiums are noticeably lower than average. In addition to imposing per condition limits each year, even on Max Benefit and Lifetime plans, Animal Friends may limit reimbursement to "vet fees deemed reasonable and essential by their vet advisor". This could unexpectedly reduce the amount you receive back should you need to claim.
Rising Premiums? Apparently, Animal Friends policyholders should not see premiums rise as a result of claims. The Animal Friends website states they don't penalize for claims by increasing premiums upon renewal. (Some other insurers state the opposite—that premiums may rise as a result of claims.) This does not mean your premium won't rise, however—multiple factors may cause pricing changes, such as your location, the average cost of vet treatment, changes in tax rates, etc. In fact, we've noticed that pet insurance premiums have risen noticeably across a wide selection of insurers in the past 6 months alone.
Where to Buy: You can buy Animal Friends plans from a comparison site like Compare Cover or direct from the Animal Friends website. When we checked, prices were the same from both websites across the range of Animal Friends pet insurance plans.
Out of Hour Trips to the Vet: Should you need to visit the vet out of hours, you are advised to first call Animal Friends (0344 557 0300, option 2) if possible. Be aware of the policy exclusion stating that costs for house calls, out-of-hours fees, hospitalization and ambulance costs (where covered) are not reimbursable, unless the vet confirms it was necessary to prevent a life endangering condition. Some other pet insurance providers such as Agria Pet Insurance have more lenient out-of-hours reimbursement rules.
Waiting Period: The waiting period on new policies is a bit longer for Animal Friends than average, when it comes to accident or injury cover. In rough summary, costs associated with the following are NOT covered:
- Illnesses within 14 days of the commencement date
- Accident or injury that occurs within 5 days of the commencement date
- Accident or injury affecting the Cruciate ligament within 14 days of the commencement date
Excess: For all Animal Friends policies (except Max Benefit) the policyholder pays the £99 excess once per condition per policy year. That is, you pay the excess upon a condition's first claim, and if the claim continues past the annual renewal then you pay the excess again. On a Max Benefit policy, you only pay an excess once per condition.
|Your Contribution to Vet Bills (Excess/Copay)|
|Older Pets (dogs aged 8+, cats aged 10+)||£99 plus 20% of remaining vet bills|
For older pets, owners pay an additional amount towards vet bills in the form of a 20% co-payment (so the older pet owner's contribution becomes £99 + 20% of the remaining vet bills). Your pet counts as "older" when you renew your policy after you dog’s 8th birthday or cat's 10th birthday.
Claims, When to Submit and Payment Process Timeline: Animal Friends tries to process claims within 5-7 working days of receipt. This, of course, assumes the claim form and all necessary documents and signatures are included. If your vet is signed up with the Pawtal claims system, they may be able to collect payment directly from Animal Friends—currently thousands of vets have signed up with Pawtal, so it may be worth asking your vet. Reimbursement time via Pawtal can be as quick as the same day. If you decide upon an Animal Friends policy, keep in mind that claims MUST be submitted within 90 days of the first date of treatment or else they won't be paid. And if vet fees are likely to exceed £1,000 you must notify Animal Friends immediately for pre-authorization.
Animal Friends Insurance for Older Pets: Good news for owners of older pets looking for a new policy—Animal Friends has no upper age limit for new applicants, even for Lifetime policies. Be aware that any pre-existing conditions are likely to be excluded from coverage, as usual. Owners of older pets are expected to contribute more towards vet bills, which normally rise as your pet ages—this is quite common. The amount you pay will increase to a fixed £99 excess PLUS 20% of the remaining vet bills. Without the addition of this copay contribution, premiums would likely be even higher.
Pre-Existing Conditions: We spoke to an Animal Friends customer service representative who informed us that they may provide cover for some pre-existing conditions, subject to conditions. For example, if your pet had an ear infection years ago with no sign of recurrence, they may grant coverage for ear infections going forward. Exceptions would be on a case-by-case basis and need to be agreed upon ahead of time.
Animal Friends Quote Comparison
In order to give you a general idea of how prices vary across the wide array of Animal Friends pet insurance products, we gathered dog insurance and cat insurance quotes across the gamut. Use this to help understand what type of policy and premium fits in your budget.
Keep in mind that some breeds (e.g., Bulldogs) and older pets will cost more to insure. For more information on how prices are affected by breed and age, please read our article on the Average Cost of Pet Insurance in the UK, or for more specific detail, the average cost of dog insurance or the average cost of cat insurance.
Cheap Animal Friends Premiums vs. Market Averages
It can be difficult to compare quotes across insurers, as coverage and excess amounts vary considerable. However, we think it is still useful to compare the average cost of various Animal Friends policies to the average of many other quotes in our study, comparing by policy type (i.e., Accident Only, Time Limited, Max Benefit, Lifetime). Keeping in mind that cover amounts and excesses differ, you can see that Animal Friends polices come in cheaper than average for those very conscious of their outgoings.
Differences between cover can contribute to premium differences. Below we detail the average excess and vet cover amounts for better comparison. When looking for pet insurance, consider a plan that fits in your budget, but that also provides a level of vet cover that's acceptable to you.
|Policy Type||Average Annual Premium||Average Vet Cover||Average Excess|
|Accident Only||Animal Friends Accident Only||£45||£2,500 per accident (£15,000 lifetime)||£99|
|Time Limited||Basic||£71||£500 per condition (£3,000 annual)||£99|
|Basic Plus||£106||£1,000 per condition (£4,000 annual)||£99|
|Prime||£152||£2,000 per condition (£7,000 annual)||£99|
|Prime Plus||£211||£4,000 per condition (£10,000 annual)||£99|
|Market Average||£189||£2,357 per condition||£101|
|Max Benefit||Max Value||£134||£1,000 per condition (unlimited annual)||£99|
|Max Plus||£202||£2,000 per condition (unlimited annual)||£99|
|Max Extra||£338||£4,000 per condition (unlimited annual)||£99|
|Market Average||£147||£5,088 per condition||£108|
|Lifetime||Super||£133||£1,000 per condition (unlimited annual)||£99|
|Superior||£213||£2,000 per condition (unlimited annual)||£99|
|Superior Plus||£355||£4,000 per condition (unlimited annual)||£99|
|Prestige||£451||£6,000 per condition (unlimited annual)||£99|
|Market Average||£419||£6,924 annual||£135|
Animal Friends Notable Features
Here is a brief overview of the notable features of Animal Friends dog and cat insurance. For a complete rundown of the details and exclusions, please refer to the policy documents.
|Animal Friends Pet Insurance Features|
|Unlimited Annual Cover||On max benefit and lifetime policies there is no annual policy cap on vet bill reimbursement; There are per condition caps, however—a lifetime condition limit for max benefit and an annual condition limit for lifetime policies; This sounds confusing at first, but means that the per condition cap resets each year on a lifetime policy, giving you a fresh pot of money from which to claim each year for each condition|
|Complementary Therapy||Acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, Chiropractic manipulation, osteopathy, physiotherapy, laser therapy and hydrotherapy (performed by a recognised party)|
|Pawtal||Reimbursement times can be sped up if your vet is signed up with Animal Friends and can bill the insurance company directly|
|Cover for Holiday Cut Short||Cover if you have to cancel or curtail your holiday because your pet needs emergency life-saving surgery within 14 days of departure; trips booked last minute, within 28 days of departure, are excluded.|
|Emergency Boarding||Cover for boarding costs if you need to spend more than 4 days in the hospital|
|Travel||Vet fee cover for up to three trips of 30 days each for all policies except Accident Only|
Types of Animal Friends Policies
Animal Friends, through underwriter Red Sands, offers pet owners a vast array of policies from which to choose. In an attempt to simplify the presentation of cover amounts by policy, we've broken them out according to type of policy (listed in order of least to most cover): Accident Only, Time Limited, Max Benefit and Lifetime. If you'd like to learn more about pet insurance in general, please read our article What Does Pet Insurance Cover in the UK.
Accident Only Cover: The simplest and least expensive cover, Accident Only policies will not reimburse for vet bills related to illnesses (e.g., tumours, ear infections, digestive trouble, rashes, etc.). Additionally, you'll notice in the table below that there is no provision for public liability, personal accident, accidental damage or many other types of cover. Accident Only is a very basic level of pet insurance.
|Policy Name:||Accident Only Cover Amounts|
|Annual Condition Limit||£2,500|
|Lifetime Condition Limit||£15,000|
|Theft & Straying||n/a|
|Advertising & Reward||n/a|
|Boarding Kennel / Cattery||n/a|
|Death Of Pet||n/a|
|Overseas Travel Cover||n/a|
Time Limited Cover: Animal Friends sells four Time Limited pet insurance products to cover vet bills for injuries and illnesses for up to one year per condition. Cover ranges from £500 up to £4,000 of vet bills (per condition, for up to one year of cover). The annual policy limits (which you'll notice are higher) enable you to claim on multiple conditions within the same year.
It's very important to note a significant limitation of all Time Limited pet insurance—bilateral conditions start the 12-month clock ticking for BOTH sides of the body. For example, if your pet has an ear infection in the left year, you only have one year to claim for ear infections on BOTH ears. After a year is up, you will not be reimbursed for ear infections again, in either ear.
|Policy Name:||Basic Limits||Basic Plus Limits||Prime Limits||Prime Plus Limits|
|Annual Condition Limit||£500||£1,000||£2,000||£4,000|
|Annual Policy Limit||£3,000||£4,000||£7,000||£10,000|
|Theft & Straying||£350||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Advertising & Reward||£200||£200||£200||£200|
|Boarding Kennel / Cattery||£100||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Death Of Pet||£350||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Overseas Travel Cover||£500||£750||£1,000||£1,500|
Max Benefit Cover: Animal Friends offers three levels of Maximum Benefit pet insurance cover, with your choice of per condition limit of £1,000, £2,000 or £4,000. You're able to claim this amount for a given condition over the course of your pet's life (so long as the policy remains in force)—there is no time limit after which you cannot claim for reimbursement.
Like with a Time Limited policy, it's important to be aware of the concept of bilateral conditions. For example, let's say you have the £1,000 max benefit policy and your pet has a complicated ear infection requiring multiple trips to the vet and prescriptions, costing £150 in total. This ear infection depletes your "ear infection pot" by £150, leaving you with £850 for future ear conditions. As your pet has two ears, ear infections are considered a bilateral condition and this remaining £850 is the amount available for treatment of both ears. An ear infection in the other ear would further reduce the £850.
|Policy Name:||Max Value Limits||Max Plus Limits||Max Extra Limits|
|Annual Condition Limit||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Lifetime Condition Limit||£1,000||£2,000||£4,000|
|Theft & Straying||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Advertising & Reward||£200||£200||£200|
|Boarding Kennel / Cattery||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Death Of Pet||£500||£750||£1,000|
|Overseas Travel Cover||£1,500||£2,000||£2,000|
Lifetime Cover: Broadly speaking, Lifetime policies offer the most comprehensive level of cover, with the Prestige policy being Animal Friend's most premium product. The Lifetime policies by Animal Friends work a bit differently than Lifetime products you might consider from other insurers—specifically, there is an annual condition limit, but no annual policy limit. In other words, each year you have a certain amount (£1,000, £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000) to use for a given condition. When you renew the limits reset, even if you have claimed. You are covered if your pet has a particularly unfortunate year and you need to make claims for many ailments, as there is no overall annual maximum.
|Policy Name:||Super Limits||Superior Limits||Superior Plus Limits||Prestige Limits|
|Annual Condition Limit||£1,000||£2,000||£4,000||£6,000|
|Annual Policy Limit||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Theft & Straying||£500||£750||£1,000||£1,500|
|Advertising & Reward||£200||£200||£200||£1,000|
|Boarding Kennel / Cattery||£500||£750||£1,000||£1,500|
|Death Of Pet||£500||£750||£1,000||£1,500|
|Overseas Travel Cover||£1,500||£2,000||£2,000||£2,000|
Customer Experience Ratings
Animal Friends is rated a very solid 8.6 out of 10 stars for customer experience, according to more than 3,400 customers surveyed on Trust Pilot.
On reviews.co.uk, Animal Friends only received 3.1 stars out of 5. Nearly half of reviewers awarded 5 stars and the other half 1 star, so customers seem to have a varied experience. Upon review it seems most complaints focus on the lack of payout for claims—hence the importance of reading through the terms and conditions to fully understand the exclusions of any insurance plan before you buy.
How does Animal Friends Insurance Compare to Competitors?
To better understand the value of Animal Friends pet insurance you need to look at it in the context of other available options. We compared it to other plans in the market so you can see which may be more suitable for you.
Animal Friends Insurance vs Agria Pet Insurance
Agria Pet Insurance offers comprehensive Lifetime plans for lower-than-average prices. Many features are offered as extras, which means that you don't need to pay for certain features if you don't want to—if you never take your pet abroad to Europe, then you don't need to buy the Travel cover. Another way that Agria keeps prices lower is through a 10% copay/variable excess so pet owners contribute more towards vet fees—the pet owner is responsible for the fixed excess (£95 or £160 for dogs, £85 or £160 for cats) than another 10% of vet bills. We like that Agria is a specialist pet insurer with a long history, offering some desirable features such as dental, euthanasia and cremation/burial, sensible out-of-hours reimbursement and cover for congenital conditions. The cost for a young, healthy crossbreed dog is around £350 per year for a plan with £6,500 of vet cover and a £95 fixed excess + 10% copay; a British shorthair with an £85 excess + 10% copay would cost around £325 for the same level of cover.
Bottom Line: If you want a relatively low annual premium, but want longer to submit claims (6+ months), higher limits and dental cover, then Agria can be a good option—but even owners of younger pets will pay a larger share of any vet bills that arise due to the standard 10% copay.
Animal Friends Insurance vs John Lewis Pet Insurance
John Lewis Pet Insurance offers solid Lifetime plans and competitive prices, good for those who value a longer time to submit claims and features like EU travel cover, dental injury (but not illness), a 24-hour vetfone, euthanasia cover, cover if your holiday is cut short due to your pet being ill and boarding cover if you are hospitalized unexpectedly. Those hoping for a lower excess can choose a fixed excess as low as £60. Like many insurers, the excess will rise for older pets, however, becoming the greater of your fixed £ excess and 20% of the vet bill for each condition each year. You can chose a Lifetime plan for which you'll pay, for instance, around £375 for £3k of cover with a £60 excess or £550 for £7.5k of cover. A higher excess can lower the premium, if that's what you want—but you'll be on the hook for the excess should you need to claim.
Bottom Line: You may have to pay a bit more for a John Lewis plan, but there are no per-condition limits, you get access to a 24-hour vetfone and you have longer (up to a year) to submit claims.
Animal Friends Insurance vs Pet Protect Pet Insurance
Pet Protect Pet Insurance is another specialist pet insurer whose low-priced plans offer a host of features such as euthanasia cover, travel cover, dental illness and injury, prescription food and cover for congenital & hereditary conditions (e.g, heart murmur or hip dysplasia), plus owners have up to 6 months to submit claims. There are no per-condition limits. Owners of older pets should be aware that new policies are not available to dogs 6+ or 8+ (breed dependent) or cats 10+, plus the fixed excess and copay amount rise steadily as your pet ages. Our price check showed a range of £180 to £210 for £4k to £6k of Lifetime cover, respectively, for a healthy, young crossbreed dog, significantly lower than average.
Bottom Line: Those looking for a lower-priced Lifetime plan might want to consider Pet Protect since there are no per-condition limits and wide-ranging features, but be sure you're comfortable with the copay (which rises with age up from 5% to 25%).