5 Things You Should Know When Shopping for Pet Insurance

Colin Grubb
Mar 28, 2017
Disclosure: We receive advertising revenue from some partners. Learn more.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Pet insurance premiums can run you anywhere from $11 to $72 a month. The cost of your plan is determined by the type of pet you own, their age, their breed, your location, and the type of coverage you purchase. Additionally, your deductible and reimbursement choice will influence the price as well.

Deductibles, Reimbursement, and Limits

Pet insurance policies are structured in a wide variety of ways. In the past, many companies used to employ a benefit schedule that had per condition caps, i.e. dollar limits to how much the company would pay out depending on the accident or illness. This often resulted in a lot of bad press, as pet owners would frequently claim they weren’t aware of the limits and that the pet insurance company only paid a fraction of what it cost to address a particular malady.

These days, most of the top pet insurance providers no longer use such a system. Most plans are flexible and allow you to set your annual deductible anywhere from $100-$1,000, and your reimbursement percentage – how much of the bill the company covers – at 60%-90%. Choosing higher deductibles and lower reimbursement percentages will result in lower monthly premiums.

Annual deductibles only need to be met for the year, so choose a dollar amount that best fits in with your budget. Some companies employ a “per incident” deductible that resets at every new accident or illness. These types of plans are more cumbersome and the bills can really add up with multiple vet visits.

There are three types of limits a pet insurance company may feature: per-incident, annual, and lifetime. Per incident refers to the maximum the provider will pay out for a single illness or injury. Annual limits are how much they will pay in total for the entire year regardless of reason. Lifetime limits are the maximum they will pay over the life of the pet. As with deductibles and reimbursement, plans often let you pick the annual or lifetime limit, thereby affecting the amount of your monthly deductible. Some companies, however, offer unlimited benefits with no per incident, annual, or lifetime limits.

Pet Type, Age, and Breed

Typically, dogs are more expensive than cats to insure. Some pet insurance companies extend their coverage to other types of pets as well, i.e. birds, rabbits, reptiles, and all different types of exotic pets. For these, you’ll most likely have to call for a custom quote.

As with humans, pets become more susceptible to illness and injury as they age. Some pet insurance companies put age caps on coverage and will not allow you to enroll a pet if it has passed the maximum age. Other plans, however, set no such limitations. Just know that with these policies, you are going to have to pay more the older the pet. It’s always the best course of action to buy pet insurance while the animal is still young.

The cost of pet insurance also fluctuates wildly depending on the breed. Different breeds have different risk profiles. Some breeds are notoriously susceptible to specific illnesses. For example, Shar Peis frequently have problems with their crinkly faces. This can require extensive treatment for infections, rashes, and mold. Dachshunds, however, are quite inexpensive in comparison.

Type of Coverage

Different pet insurance companies offer different kinds of plans. Each one has it’s own stipulations and omissions so it is highly recommended you read through the terms and conditions thoroughly to find out just what exactly is and is not covered before you hand over a cent. There are, however, three major classifications of coverage offered by most companies.

Comprehensive – This is the most popular and most expensive option. Comprehensive plans cover all manner of accident, injury, surgery, hospital stays, medications, diagnostic tests, lab work, etc. With one or two exceptions these plans typically do not cover routine exams and preventative care.

Accident Only – This is a cheaper option but only covers unexpected accidents and injuries. Accident only plans do not cover diseases and illnesses like diabetes, cancer, dysplasia, etc.

Wellness – Pet insurance companies are increasingly offering a wellness component, either as an add on to the comprehensive plan, or as a stand-alone plan itself. By itself it typically costs around the same as an accident only plan. Wellness coverage includes routine exams, vaccination, flea/heartworm prevention, and other preventative measures.

The below table shows sample premiums of select plans from select companies.

Company

Plan

Premium/month

Limits

Healthy Paws

Standard

$39

None, per incident, annual, or lifetime.

Petplan

Standard

$31

Annual limit can be set $2,500 to unlimited. No lifetime limits

Embrace

Standard

$66

Annual limit can be set $2,000 to $15,000. No lifetime limit.

Nationwide

Whole Pet with Wellness

$61

None, per incident, annual, or lifetime.

Petfirst

Standard

$65

Incident limit $0 - $3,500. Annual limit $2,000 - $20,000

Pets Best

Elite

$58

Annual limit can be set $1,000 to $20,000. Lifetime limit $100,000 - $200,000

Information compiled from Pet Insurance Review and Pet Insurance Quotes.

Location

A big factor in determining your pet insurance premium is where you live. This is because procedures like surgery for pets can vary significantly by state. For example a hip replacement for dysplasia in an urban area like Los Angeles or New York City can be twice as much as it is in rural Arkansas. Most pet insurance plans pay out on percentages of the actual vet bill so the average cost of procedures in your area will be reflected in the premium.

PET INSURANCE AVERAGE PREMIUM IN SELECT STATES

State

Premium/month (dogs)

Kansas

$33

Utah

$35

Florida

$38

Oregon

$39

Ohio

$39

Colorado

$41

Texas

$42

Hawaii

$44

Massachusetts

$44

California

$46

New York

$48

Information compiled from Pet Insurance Quotes.

The six companies mentioned in the above table are licensed to sell pet insurance in all 50 states. Since the cost of pet insurance can fluctuate so much according to so many factors, we recommend you take a look at our Top Pet Insurance Providers of this year. You can get a quote in minutes from each of them and choose the company and policy that best suits you and your pet’s needs.