Why should I compare pet insurance?
A trip to the vet isn't cheap - but getting your cat or dog insured can also be pricey.
Here we explain how to compare pet insurance and find the right policy for your pet at a price you can afford. We've also got guides to the best and worst pet insurance and in-depth pet insurer reviews.
How to compare pet insurance quotes on price comparison websites
Price comparison sites can help you understand the costs associated with different types of policies.
Once you're on the insurer's website, check that the policy details match what you're expecting, and that the insurer has received the correct details about you and you're pet, so the quote is accurate.
What do I need to get a pet insurance quote?
To get an insurance quote for your pet you'll need these details:
- The age of your pet
- Its breed and size
- Its current health and medical history
- Its behavioural history
- How much you paid for it, if you purchased rather than adopted it
Finding out the needs of your particular breed of pet could really help you find a cheaper premium. Certain breeds are prone to particular injuries and are more expensive to insure.
For example, Labrador retrievers can be prone to cruciate ligament problems and dachshunds to back problems, both of which can set you back thousands of pounds in treatment costs.
On the whole, cats tend to be in better health than their canine counterparts, so it's reasonable to consider a lower level of cover, although they can still be prone to chronic conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, later in life.
It’s also worth speaking to your vet about common conditions or hereditary problems. They should be able to estimate how much insurance you should get for your pet.
Check pet insurers that aren't on comparison sites
It's worth also getting a quote from insurers that don't feature on some or all comparison sites. Click on the links to read our reviews:
Use cashback sites to get even cheaper pet insurance
Another variety of comparison site is the cashback site. As the name suggests, these sites – such as Quidco and TopCashback – pay you a cash reward when you click through from them to buy products and services, including insurance.
These are worth checking out while you shop around for deals but they won't necessarily offer you the best value deals, even with cashback included.
A £1,000 insurance policy with £200 cashback is far from a bargain if you can get the same cover elsewhere for £700.
- Find out more: the best pet insurers and pet insurance policies
What sort of pet insurance do I need?
There are three main types of pet insurance:
- Lifetime cover pet insurance - the most popular and comprehensive type, which pay out indefinitely for treatment over your pet's lifetime, subject to annual limits.
- Non-lifetime cover pet insurance - less comprehensive, with some exclusions, this cover may limit claims per condition, or limit claims over a time limit, even if you renew
- Accident-only pet insurance - the cheapest type of insurance, which doesn't cover illnesses - it pays a fixed sum of money to pay for treatment of injuries
Our guide 'pet insurance explained' provides more details on the differences between policies.
How much cover do I need?
According to the Association of British Insurers, the average pet insurance claim paid in 2020 was £817.
Factoring in the possibility that you may need to make multiple claims (which isn't uncommon), as a rough starting point, we'd recommend:
- Cover that pays out for both injuries and illness
- Steering clear of policies from which you can claim less than £2,000 a year
Bear in mind these are minimum recommendations and any treatment cost above your chosen cover amount will come from your own pocket - see below for why your pet's breed could affect costs.
Is pet insurance worth buying?
The chance of claiming depends on your pet. But a survey of Which? members who'd held pet insurance in 2021 found that of those who'd held pet insurance for 10 or more or more years, only 16% had never claimed.
If you're not convinced about the value of pet insurance, there are alternatives.
You could self insure, by saving a set amount of money to pay for potential vet bills. The benefit of this approach is that you have the money available for other emergencies and it can earn interest (though inflation may sap its value over the years).
This fund may need to be substantial - the cost of operations can run into thousands of pounds - so it makes sense to start saving early.
There are several charities that offer free treatment to pets, though help is usually means tested and intended for people on a low income, retired, or receiving certain state benefits.
- Find out more: alternatives to pet insurance
Cheap pet insurance if you've got multiple pets
If you have multiple pets it’s worth seeing if you can get a discount by insuring all of them with the same pet insurance provider.
A number of pet insurers on the market will offer you a discount – sometimes as much as 10% - so check a multi-pet policy to see if you can cut your costs even further.
Cheap pet insurance for unusual pets
While cats and dogs are the most popular pets, many animal lovers have snakes, spiders and lizards.
More exotic pets, and animals with vastly different needs such as horses, birds and rabbits, may not be adequately covered under traditional policies.
Speak to pet insurance specialists to find the cover you need and, if you are still struggling, use the British Insurance Broker’s Association find a broker service for further help.
- Find out more: read our reviews of the leading pet insurers
More ways to get cheap pet insurance
Given the substantial cost of pet insurance, even small changes can pay off:
1.Buy pet insurance when your pet is healthy
It might seem counterintuitive but it's much better to buy pet insurance when your pets are in good health. This is because pre-existing conditions are usually excluded from new pet insurance policies.
So, if you buy pet insurance before your pet falls ill you’re maximising the number of illnesses your pet will be covered for.
2. Pay annually, if you can afford it
Monthly payments may seem convenient, but a monthly plan is essentially a high-interest loan and can add significantly to your costs.
You might be able to save a significant amount if you pay annually. You may be able to use an interest-free purchase credit card to spread payments.
3. Make sure you are up to date on your jabs
Keeping your pet as healthy as possible can really help you save money on your pet insurance. This can be done by making sure your pet gets the appropriate inoculations and injections - including boosters, regularly.
This could make all the difference, because if your pet falls ill and you need to claim, your pet insurance premium could rise sharply in subsequent years.
4. Don't forget to microchip your pet
Microchipping your dog has been a legal requirement since April 6th 2016.
In December 2021 it was announced that cat owners will be required to microchip their cats by the time they reach 20 years of age - with a £500 fine for those that don't.
Some pet insurance companies offer a discount if your cat is microchipped so be sure to ask when you’re getting quotes.
5. Haggle on renewal
If you believe your pet insurer has raised premiums without a good reason - or is claiming your pet has conditions it doesn't have - be ready to complain. Getting advice from your pet's vet can help here.