If you’re having difficulty making ends meet, or operating on a tight budget, the question of whether to purchase pet insurance can be a tough one. Insurance, whether it’s for your car, home or life is there just in case something happens.
It’s easy to dismiss pet insurance as something you might get at some point, or disregard completely. We all hope our pet won’t become ill and it’s easy to think that the cost of a policy (say £300 per year), does not equate to the possibility of one or two major outlays in your pet’s life.
If your pet lives for 10 years and needed no treatment whatsoever – unlikely but not unheard of -, you could think that you had spent £3,000 on a safety net you never needed. But if things go wrong, you could be paying out £3,000 in one hit and if you’ve no insurance, you may be unable to save your beloved animal – and that’s a situation nobody wants to find themselves in.
Research shows that many people have no cover at all, some have reasonable policies and some have taken expensive insurance cover out, particularly on higher risk, older pets. More than half the nation’s pooches are uninsured while two thirds of cats have no cover.
If you’re planning to play it safe – or play roulette with your pet’s health, here are some important things to consider.
Some insurance policies are designed to cover the basic costs of the vet fees you’ll incur for treating illness or injury while there are others, if you can afford it, that can cover everything from lost and found posters to a reward for the safe return of your pet. You can also buy cover that will ensure that your pet is safely cared for in the event of you having to spend time in hospital and there’s nobody to look after it – imagine the stress and worry you could save yourself?
So let’s look at what’s on offer – there is something to suit every pocket on the market so while cost obviously comes into the equation, it needn’t be the deciding factor.
The categories generally fall into the following four areas:
The same cover each year which will include yearly vet fees (usually capped) and is the best option for long-term care cover for conditions such as diabetes which can prove to be very expensive. These policies generally cost more, but they can also save a lot of money in the long run
This can be tricky – this will offer you an agreed limit of vet fees per condition, but when the limit is breached, the condition is classed as pre-existing and cannot be claimed for again.
Not dissimilar from the maximum benefit policy but limited to 12 months and each condition will only be reimbursed once before it become excluded from cover.
This does what it says on the tin and will only cover you for an accidental injury, though you can find variations that cover costs of illnesses that occur as a direct result of the accident.
Getting the best deals
Treat pet insurance as you would for your car or home and scour the price comparison websites. The cost of a policy can fluctuate depending on the carrier but chances are you’ll find exactly what you need with a price that suits your pocket. Plus, there are incentives offered, too. Compare the Market.com have an offer (as of July 2015) of two cinema tickets every week for a year if you buy a policy from them. That’s a pretty good deal!
Not all policies can be found on comparison sites so shop around – there are plenty of other sites where consumers swap tales such as Mumsnet.com and MoneySavingExpert.com.
Many things come into play when working out the policy and age, breed and postcode all have implications of varying degrees. Like motor cover, living in the centre of a large city will cost you more than some idyllic rural village. Cover inevitably increases with the age of your pet, too – for obvious reasons.
And check the details carefully – a cheap-looking policy may actually carry a sizeable excess and this is a fee you’ll have to cough up towards the total cost of the claim, so beware. And if you have a dog or cat that is prone to certain conditions, this is all factored in as well – pedigree toy dogs come with an array of potentially expensive conditions that can affect eyes, skin and breathing, so don’t expect a Pug to come out cheaper than a Jack Russell.
Also be sure to check what is/isn’t included as you won’t get your money back for preventative and routine treatments such as neutering, spaying, flea and tick medication, vaccines and anything to do with birth or pregnancy.
So our advice is, shop around, do your research and read the small print. The right cover at the right time could be worth its weight in gold and if you are protecting your treasured pet, even if you never need to use it, the policy will give you peace of mind and will never be a waste of your money.