Vet bills can set you back hundreds or even thousands of pounds, but pet insurance isn’t a guarantee that your provider will cover the cost of all treatments. With that in mind, some pet owners are choosing to self-insure instead; here’s how it works so you can decide if it’s right for you and your furry, feathered or reptilian friend.
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What does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance covers the cost of treatment if your pet becomes ill or is injured. You can buy different types of policy depending on what you want covered and how much you want to spend, for example:
- Accident only – this only covers accidents and is often the cheapest type of policy you can buy.
- Annual (time-limited) – these policies cover accidents and illnesses but only for a limited amount of time (usually 12-months).
- Maximum benefit – policies cover accidents and illnesses up to a fixed value.
- Lifetime – this is the most comprehensive (and expensive) type of pet insurance you can buy. It covers both accident and illness up to a certain value each year, but the good news is the limit resets each time you renew.
Policies also typically cover liability which compensates other people if your pet causes damage or injury. Theft of your pet is usually covered too, and you may be given the option to add on dental care. Policies can also cover the cost of euthanasia should you need to put your pet down.
What isn’t covered by pet insurance?
As with other types of insurance, pet cover also has exclusions which aren’t covered by your policy. These will vary by insurer, but common exclusions include:
- Necessities essential for your pet’s health such as vaccinations, flea and tick treatments.
- Pre-existing conditions which are illnesses or conditions that your pet has had in the past or received treatment for.
- Pregnancy or birth.
How much does pet insurance cost?
The more comprehensive the policy, the more you can expect to pay. The average premium in the UK stands at £271 but cost comes down to the type of pet you have, its age and the policy you choose.
Cheaper policies can start from as little as £8 per month but levels of cover will be limited and might not cover the full cost of particularly expensive treatments or procedures.
At the top-end of the scale, lifetime policies could set you back around £20 per month. Remember that these figures will also increase as your pet ages.
Is it better to get pet insurance or save money?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this but before you make a decision either way, it’s worth doing some research and working out the cost of self-insuring versus buying pet insurance.
Data from the ABI (Association of British Insurers) revealed that in 2021, the average pet insurance claim came to £848. Compared to the average cost of a policy (£271) this represents good value for money but only if you’re making regular claims like this. Of course, the more claims you make, the higher your premium is likely to be at renewal.
It’s also worth remembering that while the average claim is over £800, some injuries or illnesses can cost considerably more to treat. on_current="true" url="https://www.animalfriends.co.uk/dog/dog-advice/vet-fees-for-dogs/" title="Animal Friends cost vet treatments" nofollow="true"Figures gathered by insurer Animal Friends, found that the average cost to treat a medium-sized dog’s broken leg was more than £3,000 in 2022. Dealing with seizures, vomiting and skin complaints would also set dog owners back more than £550 per condition. Those figures are also likely to increase the larger your pet.
And our own vet recently told me about a dachshund whose back surgery was costing his owner £8,000.
So, while pet insurance isn’t a guarantee to cover all your pet’s ailments in full, a policy can help cover treatment costs for unexpected injuries and illnesses that might otherwise be unaffordable.
What are the pros and cons of self-insuring a pet?
If you’re trying to weigh up what’s best for your budget and your pet, here’s a summary of some of the pros and cons of self-insuring compared to buying pet insurance:
Pros of self-insuring
- The money is yours to use as you need, whereas insurance excludes everyday necessities such as vaccinations and flea treatments.
- If your pet doesn’t need treatment, you’ll be left with a good bank of savings.
- You can decide how the money can be spent without waiting for approval from an insurance company.
Cons of self-insuring
- It takes discipline to self-insure, and you’ll need to save consistently over the life of your pet.
- Depending on how much you can put away each month, you might not save enough money to pay for expensive treatment, particularly in the first year.
- Self-insuring might not provide you with enough money to cover third-party injury or damage claims.
At what point is pet insurance not worth it?
Pet insurance gets increasingly more expensive as your pet ages and becomes more prone to injury and illness. For example, insuring an older dog with a lifetime policy, could set you back over £900 per year, even if you’ve rarely made a claim. Not only that, when your pet reaches their senior years, many insurers will ask you to pay a share of vet bills (usually around 20%). This amount (known as co-payment) is normally in addition to your excess. At this point, the cost of a policy can become prohibitive.
Similarly, if your pet is unfortunate enough to have developed a long-term illness, the cost to insure each year, might simply be too high no matter how much you want to protect them.
The unfortunate reality is that pet insurance isn’t always down to what you want but what you can afford.
Is it ok to not have pet insurance?
Pet insurance is not compulsory so you’re under no obligation to buy cover.
However, if you choose not to have insurance, vet bills will be your responsibility. Plus, if your pet causes damage to other people or their property, it’ll be up to you to cover the cost of compensation for injury or paying for repairs.
How do I get good value pet insurance?
As with most types of insurance, it’s important to compare policies by looking at features and not just the price. Cheaper policies might seem like a good deal, but they may have lower limits, higher excesses and only cover accidents rather than illnesses or conditions for a limited period of time.
On the other hand, lifetime policies typically cover both accident and illness. Claim limits also generally reset each year. So, while these policies look expensive they may actually offer greater value for money in the long term.