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23 Oct 2019

Are you paying the £450 pet insurance premium?

You can pay hundreds of pounds extra to insure certain cat and dog breeds

If your pet falls ill or has an accident, you could find yourself staring down a vet's bill running into the thousands, which is where pet insurance comes in handy.

But as an ongoing expense, pet cover isn't cheap.

In a recent survey of 3,614 animal-owning Which? members, around half don't own insurance, with many citing costs and value as the reason.

Age and medical history can make your four-legged friend more expensive to insure - but, as we found, your pet's breed can also make a huge difference.

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Which breeds are most expensive to insure?

The Which? members surveyed paid on average £496 for a 'lifetime' policy to cover a single dog, and £278 for the same type of cover for a cat.

Lifetime policies (the most popular among our members) cover any condition the pet develops for an indefinite period, with annual vet fee limits that renew each year.

Other types of policy permanently exclude cover for conditions once a fixed financial or time limit has been reached.

The type of pet you have and its medical history can make a significant difference to what you'll need to fork out - but in separate research we also found that the breed of pet can make as much as a £450 difference to your premium.

Dearest dogs

In a snapshot exercise, we sought pet insurance prices for several popular breeds of dog and cat via a comparison site.

French Bulldogs yielded the costliest insurance quotes.
A french bulldog, one of the costliest breeds to i

The five cheapest quotes we collected averaged £614 - more than twice the amount for the second most expensive dog (Golden Retriever - £283), and 278% more than insuring a Jack Russell Terrier (£162).

Costly cats

For cats, prices varied less drastically - although Maine Coons (most expensive at £183) were still £60 more to insure annually than Domestic Long-haired cats, domestic shorthairs and Moggies (each £128).
A maine coon cat, the most expensive cat breed to

Here are all averaged quotes for the most popular dog and cat breeds:

Pet insurance price, by breed

Claims settled during period diary kept9
Golden retriever£283
Labrador retriever£271
Cocker Spaniel£233
Border Collie£204
Jack Russell Terrier£162

Premiums are the average of cheapest five quotes on a comparison site for lifetime policies with a minimum of £2,000 per condition or £4,000 per year. Sourced in Sept 2019. Pets are male and 3 years old, living in a property in South London.

How premiums change as your pet ages

The age of your pet can also make a marked difference to what you pay, with premiums tending to rise the older your pet is.

As our chart shows, pets aged over 12 are almost twice as expensive as those aged between four and six.

How pet insurance premiums increase with pet's age

Is pet insurance worth it?

Premiums were the biggest grumble among Which? members with pet insurance, with around one in five flagging increasing premiums as a problem.

However, when we asked members how satisfied they were with their provider, most (74%) were positive, and likewise, a majority (73%) said they would recommend their pet insurer if asked.

When choosing a policy, though, it's important to pick carefully - as if you later switch provider, you won't necessarily be able to retain cover for any conditions your pet has already had.

Pet insurers - rated

We've rated 14 insurance firms, including Petplan, Sainsbury's Bank, More Than and Animal Friends, based on how satisfied and likely to recommend them their customers were. Scores ranged from an impressive 84% to a mediocre 54%.

You can read all of our reviews and the latest customer scores today with a Which? Money subscription.

How to save on pet insurance

  • Buy cover early - The earlier you get your pet covered the better. Not only will premiums be cheaper, a younger animal will have fewer pre-existing conditions, making for fewer exclusions and greater choice between policies.

  • Ensure your pet is up to date with its vaccinations - These can affect how much of a risk it is in the insurer's eyes and therefore how much it charges in premiums. Some insurers offer a discount if your pet is microchipped.

  • Choose appropriate cover - The most comprehensive (and expensive) policy isn't necessarily your best choice. You might not need overseas cover, for example. Similarly, £3,000 of annual vet cover would arguably meet the needs of most cats, though you can get up to £12,000 of cover.

For more tips, see our guide on how to find cheap pet insurance.