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21 Feb 2019

Pet insurance versus car insurance: which policy will cost you more?

Find out whether a Dachshund costs more than a Datsun to insure

Insuring your pet could be more expensivethan insuring your car, according to figures from the AA. So, is taking out pet cover worth the cost?

Most people will think seriously about the cost of owing a car, but overlook the long-term cost of pet ownership. A new report from the AA highlights just how much more expensive pet insurance premiums can be compared with car insurance.

Read on to find out if you'd have to pay more to protect your Rhodesian Ridgeback than you would your hatchback.

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How does insurance for dogs compare to their 'similar' four-wheeled counterparts?

To demonstrate the sometimes steep price gap between insuring cars and canines, the AA compared premiums for dogs and vehicles with 'similar characteristics'. For example, aGreat Dane (a large German dog) is compared with a BMW X5 (a large German car).

The graphic below shows the AA's annual price for the three dogs, with the most expensive insurance premiumsand the cars which resemble them.

The example represents the costs of AA cover for a one-year-old spayed male dog compared with a car owned by a 38-year old with a no-claims bonus.

It's worth keeping in mind that pedigree dogs tend to be more expensive to insure: non-pedigree dogs will generally have less costly cover, and cats cheaper still.

How does pet and car insurance compare in general?

Even looking beyond the rarer breeds of pooch, pet insurance can still come at a surprisingly hefty cost.

To make an 'average' comparison, we compared the premiums on the most common dog breed and car model in the UK.

According to Statista, there were more registered Labrador Retrievers in the UK than any other breed in 2017, and the Ford Fiesta was the best-selling car of 2018.

Based on generating a quote with the AA, insuring a Labrador with would cost £691 a year, while insuring a Fiesta would be £216.

There are, of course, other insurance providers to choose from, so it's worth shopping around to make sure you're getting the best possible deal.

If you're a Which? member, you can find out the best and worst pet insurance companies, based on how their customers rate them and our expert analysis - find out more inour guide.

Pet insurance: what are your options?

While you're unlikely to buy a pet based on insurance costs alone, the comparison does highlight just how much of a financial commitment responsible pet ownership is.

Someoperations on pets can cost thousands of pounds. A double hip replacement on a dog, for example, could set you back around £7,000. This is where pet insurance can be a financial lifeline.

Most insurance policies will cover the following:

  • treatment for accidents, illnesses, and injuries
  • death by accident or illness
  • overseas travel
  • kennel and cattery fees
  • euthanasia, cremation, and burial
  • dental work.

Pre-existing conditions, such as chronic health problems or previous injuries, are normally excluded from new insurance cover, as are routine treatments such as vaccinations, spaying, and worming.

One alternative is self-insuring by putting money aside to spend on veterinary emergencies. If you and your pet are lucky, this could work out cheaper, but there's much more risk involved. A serious illness or injury could quickly exceed your savings.

Another alternative is help from animal charities. This is usually means tested, and more likely to be available to you if you are on a low income or retired.

Finding the best pet insurance

If your four-legged friend does need treatment, pet insurance can be more cost-effective than paying for operations yourself. But it all depends on the policy you have, and how healthy your pet is before and during the coverage period.

You could pay less for a lower level of cover, but it may not be sufficient to address your pet's medical emergencies. As a general rule, Which? recommends the following cover levels:

  • pedigree dog - at least £7,000 of annual cover
  • non-pedigree dog - at least £4,000 annual cover
  • cats - at least £3,000 of annual cover

It helps to buy your insurance policy when your pet is healthy, as insuring an unhealthy animal can be far pricier. You may also save costs by taking good care of your pet.

A few general pointers to help you keep your pet insurance costs down include:

  • keep up to date with jabs
  • get your pet microchipped
  • pay annually (if you can afford it).

With dozens of policies to choose from, deciding which provider to go with can be tricky. Our dog insurance reviewsand cat insurance reviewsmake that choice easier.

We've measured the satisfaction of thousands of policy holders, and created scores for each policy based on a number of important factors.