Why should I compare pet insurance?
A trip to the vet isn’t cheap – but getting your cat or dog insured can also be pricey.
Unlike car insurance or home insurance, switching pet insurers may not save you money, as your pet will be older, and possibly less healthy compared with when you bought your previous policy.
Here we explain how to compare pet insurance and find the right policy for your pet at a price you can afford. We’ve also got guides to the best and worst pet insurance and in-depth pet insurer reviews.
How to compare pet insurance quotes on price comparison websites
Price comparison sites can help you understand the costs associated with different types of policies.
Once you’re on the insurer’s website, check that the policy details match what you’re expecting, and that the insurer has received the correct details about you and you’re pet, so the quote is accurate.
What do I need to get a pet insurance quote?
To get an insurance quote for your pet you’ll need these details:
- The age of your pet
- Its breed and size
- Its current health and medical history
- Its behavioural history
- How much you paid for it, if you purchased rather than adopted it
Finding out the needs of your particular breed of pet could really help you find a cheaper premium. Certain breeds are prone to particular injuries and are more expensive to insure.
For example, Labrador retrievers can be prone to cruciate ligament problems and dachshunds to back problems, both of which can set you back thousands of pounds in treatment costs.
On the whole, cats tend to be in better health than their canine counterparts, so it’s reasonable to consider a lower level of cover, although they can still be prone to chronic conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, later in life.
It’s also worth speaking to your vet about common conditions or hereditary problems. They should be able to estimate how much insurance you should get for your pet.
Check pet insurers that aren’t on comparison sites
It’s worth also getting a quote from insurers that don’t feature on some or all comparison sites. Click on the links to read our reviews:
Use cashback sites to get even cheaper pet insurance
Another variety of comparison site is the cashback site. As the name suggests, these sites – such as Quidco and TopCashback – pay you a cash reward when you click through from them to buy products and services, including insurance.
These are worth checking out while you shop around for deals but they won’t necessarily offer you the best value deals, even with cashback included.
A £1,000 insurance policy with £200 cashback is far from a bargain if you can get the same cover elsewhere for £700.
- Find out more: the best pet insurers and pet insurance policies
What sort of pet insurance do I need?
There are three main types of pet insurance:
- Lifetime cover pet insurance – the most popular and comprehensive type, which pay out indefinitely for treatment over your pet’s lifetime, subject to annual limits.
- Non-lifetime cover pet insurance – less comprehensive, with some exclusions, this cover may limit claims per condition, or limit claims over a time limit, even if you renew
- Accident-only pet insurance – the cheapest type of insurance, which doesn’t cover illnesses – it pays a fixed sum of money to pay for treatment of injuries
Our guide ‘pet insurance explained’provides more details on the differences between policies.
How much cover do I need?
According to the Association of British Insurers, the average pet insurance claim paid in 2021 was £848.
Factoring in the possibility that you may need to make multiple claims (which isn’t uncommon), as a rough starting point, we’d recommend:
- Cover that pays out for both injuries and illness
- Steering clear of policies from which you can claim less than £2,000 a year
Bear in mind these are minimum recommendations and any treatment cost above your chosen cover amount will come from your own pocket – see below for why your pet’s breed could affect costs.
Which? Best Buy pet insurance policies
Policies named Best Buys offer high levels of cover, as assessed by our experts.
We analysed over 150 cat and dog insurance policies, looking at minimum payouts and whether they provide dental cover for both accidents and illnesses.
The insurer offering the policy can’t have received poor scores from its customers for service (including for claims) or have a poorer than average complaints record with the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Only lifetime cover policies are eligible to be named Best Buys.
- Find out more: all of our pet insurance Best Buy policies
Is pet insurance worth buying?
The chance of claiming depends on your pet. But a survey of Which? members who’d held pet insurance in 2021 found that of those who’d held pet insurance for 10 or more or more years, only 16% had never claimed.
If you’re not convinced about the value of pet insurance, there are alternatives.
You could self insure, by saving a set amount of money to pay for potential vet bills. The benefit of this approach is that you have the money available for other emergencies and it can earn interest (though inflation may sap its value over the years).
This fund may need to be substantial – the cost of operations can run into thousands of pounds – so it makes sense to start saving early.
There are several charities that offer free treatment to pets, though help is usually means tested and intended for people on a low income, retired, or receiving certain state benefits.
- Find out more: alternatives to pet insurance
Cheap pet insurance if you’ve got multiple pets
If you have multiple pets it’s worth seeing if you can get a discount by insuring all of them with the same pet insurance provider.
A number of pet insurers on the market will offer you a discount – sometimes as much as 10% – so check a multi-pet policy to see if you can cut your costs even further.
Cheap pet insurance for unusual pets
While cats and dogs are the most popular pets, many animal lovers have snakes, spiders and lizards.
More exotic pets, and animals with vastly different needs such as horses, birds and rabbits, may not be adequately covered under traditional policies.
Speak to pet insurance specialists to find the cover you need and, if you are still struggling, use the British Insurance Broker’s Association find a broker service for further help.
- Find out more: read our reviews of the leading pet insurers
More ways to get cheap pet insurance
Given the substantial cost of pet insurance, even small changes can pay off: