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Pet Insurance: Here's How a Variable Excess Works

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Pet cover can help with vet bills. Protect your dog or cat today.

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The excess on a pet insurance policy is the amount you pay towards a claim. Most pet insurance polices impose a fixed (£) excess as standard, but occasionally there will be a variable excess as well. This can also be referred to as a "copay".

At times a variable excess is optional (and can help to reduce your premium) but with other companies it is mandatory (e.g., for older pets). Below we explain how a variable excess works and when you might opt for one.

What is a Variable Excess?

A variable excess is a percentage that you agree to pay towards valid claims. This amount is calculated as a percentage of the remaining balance after any fixed excess is taken into account. For example, Agria's standard online pet insurance plans include a fixed excess and a 10% variable excess. Here's how a claim might work when you have a variable excess:

Agria Pet Insurance Excess/Copay Example
Vet Fees£500
Fixed Excess£95
10% Copay10% of £405 = £40.50
You Pay£95 + £40.50 = £135.50
Agria Pays£364.50

While a variable excess means you, as pet owner, pay more towards vet bills, as you can see in the example Agria would still end up reimbursing you for the majority of the vet bills (in this case, Agria would pay 73% of a £500 claim). For a £1,000 claim, Agria would cover £815 or 82% of the vet bills.

As with any policy, before committing to a policy excess be sure you'd have funds available to cover your portion of potential vet bills. A plan with a variable excess will require a larger contribution from the pet owner towards claims. To get an idea of how much you'd be responsible for paying (and how much the insurance company would pay), see the chart below for a breakdown payment obligations for various claim amounts.

chart showing how much Agria would pay, and how much the pet owner would pay towards a valid vet claim
Here's how much Agria would pay, and how much the pet owner would pay towards a valid vet claim

Why Have a Variable Excess?

There are a few reasons for a variable excess. First, many pet insurers will move older pets onto a fixed + variable excess scheme once the pet reaches a certain age—typically 9 years of age for dogs and 10/11 years of age for cats—but this can vary from insurer to insurer.

Why do pet insurance companies impost a variable excess on older pets? As a pet ages, the rate of age-related health claims rises. Having a variable excess is a way for insurance companies to keep premiums down, as they will naturally rise with pet age.

Some insurers give the option for the pet owner to choose a variable excess (in addition to the fixed excess). If you have a younger pet, you may prefer this setup in order to pay less out of pocket towards premiums.

If you don't mind paying a percentage of vet bills, should they arise, then a variable excess can be a good way to lower the cost of your premiums. The trade off is a personal decision and the right option for you will depend upon your individual situation—you can either pay less in premiums or pay less when you claim.

For more information on pet insurance excess please read Pet Insurance Excess Explained or our related article Should You Choose a Higher Fixed Excess on Your Pet Insurance?

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.