Pet insurance plans can be hard to compare in an apples-to-apples way. Coverage, exclusions and pricing variations make it hard to calculate the potential value of each plan. Here’s how to find the best pet insurance for you.
Choose the best pet insurance plan type for you
Do you want a pet insurance that goes the extra mile every time, or do you want to hold down costs with an accident-only plan that won’t pay anything for pet illnesses? Or something in between?
Comprehensive pet insurance plans that cover a wide range of health-related problems plus wellness are typically the most expensive, but it might be worth considering if you want complete coverage.
Pet insurance can generally be broken down into these plan types:
- Comprehensive coverage. Sometimes called a “nose-to-tail” policy, this typically provides coverage for accidents and injuries, including serious or chronic illness, hereditary conditions, diagnostic tests, surgeries, treatments, and wellness, such as routine veterinary checkups and vaccinations.
- Accident and illness coverage. This type of policy typically covers vet bills for accidents (like an ACL rupture) and illnesses, including common illnesses, hereditary conditions and serious illness (like cancer). You won’t be covered for wellness exams such as routine veterinary visits, flea and heartworm prevention, or vaccinations, but you can often add a wellness plan in order to get comprehensive coverage.
- Accident-only coverage. This type of policy covers vet bills only if your pet is injured in an accident, and you won’t be covered for illness-related medical bills.
- Pet wellness coverage. This type of plan covers wellness-related medical expenses, like routine veterinary checkups, flea and heartworm prevention, and vaccinations. You can often add wellness benefits to an accident and illness plan.
Find the coverage level you’re comfortable with
When you purchase a pet insurance policy, you’ll usually select an annual maximum, a deductible and a reimbursement level.
- Annual maximum coverage: You’ll usually have a choice of an annual maximum payout level. This is the cap on how much the pet insurance plan will pay for the year. Many pet insurance plans offer choices between $5,000 and an unlimited payout. Choosing an unlimited payout will raise the premium price but you won’t have to worry about exceeding your annual maximum if your pet needs very expensive treatment.
- Deductible: Choosing a higher deductible will lower your monthly pet insurance bill. Typical deductible choices are $100, $250 and $500. Once your deductible is met, you can submit vet bills to your pet insurance company for reimbursement. Trupanion offers a unique lifetime per-condition deductible: You’ll pay a deductible once for every new condition, without a reset every year.
- Reimbursement percentage: You’ll choose a reimbursement level when you buy the plan, and the lower the reimbursement level, the less you’ll pay in pet insurance premiums. The most common reimbursement choices are 70%, 80% or 90%.
Check the pet insurance waiting periods
A waiting period is the time between the policy purchase date and when the coverage begins. Every pet insurance company has waiting periods. Make sure you find one you’re comfortable with. For example, Embrace has a waiting period of only two days for accident coverage. Other plans, like ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, have 14 days.
Also, be careful about special waiting periods for certain conditions, such as cruciate ligament issues. For example, Embrace has a six-month waiting period for orthopedic conditions for dogs but ASPCA’s plan does not have a waiting period for orthopedic conditions or any other specific issues.
Pet insurance discounts
Pet insurance discounts are a good way to save. Here are some common discounts:
- Multipet discount. Many insurers offer a discount if you insure more than one pet.
- Spay/neuter discount. Some insurers offer discounts to pet owners who have their pet spayed or neutered.
- Annual pay discount. You can often reduce costs if you pay your annual premium in one lump sum.
- Military discount. Some insurers offer discounts for military members and veterans.
- Group discount at work. Some employers offer pet insurance as a voluntary benefit, which could get you a 5% to 10% discount.
- Bundle discount. You can get up to a 10% discount when you bundle Lemonade pet insurance with a Lemonade renters or homeowners insurance policy.
Other pet insurance comparison factors
Here are two more factors to consider when buying a pet insurance plan:
- Exam fees. When you take your pet to the veterinarian for an accident or illness, you pay an exam fee, costing $100 or more depending on your veterinarian and visit type. Make sure the policy covers these exam fees because not all do.
- Benefits. Look for extra benefits like a 24-hour vet helpline in case your pet gets sick at night. As another example, Nationwide pet insurance members have access to preferred pricing on pet prescriptions at any Walmart pharmacy.