How to choose the right pet insurance

PET INSURANCE! What a minefield it can be. If you’re like us, things like this can often feel pretty laborious to research BUT pet insurance can be a big outgoing each month and this is our dogs health we are talking about so we should know what we are signing ourselves up to right?

We asked personal finance journalist Kara Gammell @yourbestfriendsguidetocash who’s written for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times and the Metro, to let us know how she thinks you can get the most from your money and what to look for when it comes to picking the right policy.

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Chances are that when you made the decision to become a pet owner, insurance wasn’t the first thing that crossed your mind. I’m willing to bet that you spent most of the time looking at pics of potential pooches online, or creating a list of the cutest names for your new dog. And who can blame you? Most of us don’t open our homes and hearts to a new pet with the thought of them getting seriously ill.

But burying your head in the sand can be a costly mistake. After all, there is no NHS safety net for the furry members of our families – according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) the average pet insurance claim is £750. Ouch.

So, it makes financial sense to opt for cover to help with costly treatment. And, like anything you buy, getting value for money is a no brainer.

Lucky for you, I know how you can cut the cost of pet insurance, so you needn’t trawl the internet for the latest ways to grab a deal without signing up for a dud policy.

Here are eight excellent ways to reduce your premiums, without compromising on the quality of cover.

1. GET IN THERE EARLY

The early bird gets the worm, or so the old saying goes – and this is definitely the case with pet insurance.

Always shop around for a policy as soon as you get a new pet because you won’t be able to find insurance to cover the cost of treating an injury once it’s happened, and most insurers won’t cover the cost of treating pre-existing medical conditions.

2. COMPARE, COMPARE, COMPARE

First check comparison sites such as moneysupermarket.comconfused.com and comparethemarket.com. Then have a go at larger insurers which are not listed on these aggregators, such as aviva.co.uk and DirectLine.com.

3. CHEAPEST IS NOT ALWAYS BEST

My father always says: “Buying cheap is false economy.” And, as usual, he is right – especially when it comes to insurance.

When it comes to choosing a pet insurance policy, there are three main types of cover for vet fees: time and benefit limited; benefit limited; and cover for life.

The most basic level – which is often the cheapest – is a time and benefit limited policy. This means that it will provide up to a certain amount for vets’ fees for each condition, say £1,000, with a 12-month time limit on the condition.

In other words, you’ll be covered up to the financial limit or for a year, whichever comes first. If the treatment is ongoing, for instance, a condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you’ll have to fork out the cover the fees from then on.

What’s more, after you make a claim on a pet insurance policy for the illness, it will then be considered a pre-existing condition. This means that not only will you not be covered by that policy, but you will be stuffed should you try to get new policy elsewhere.

The second type of policy will pay veterinary fee claims on a “per year” basis up to the fee limit. Provided that the policy is renewed each year, the veterinary fee limit also rolls over, which means that the pet will continue to receive treatment under the policy.

Benefit-limited means there is still a financial limit per condition, but no time limit. In other words, with this type of cover the insurer will pay vets’ fees up to the fee limit, which is often several thousand pounds. Plus, provided that the policy is renewed each year, the insurer will continue to provide cover for the treatment. Phew.

Obviously, these premiums are a bit more expensive, but even if they cost more than a pretty penny, this type of policy offers the best value over your pet’s lifetime. Trust me on this one, I learnt this first hand with our two elderly cats. They cost us a fortune!

Bear in mind that with all policies, certain factors will pump up the price – for instance, where you live, the pedigree and age of your pet.

4. LOOK AT THE QUALITY OF COVER

An easy way to ensure that you aren’t signing up for a poor-value policy is to check out Defaqto, which has a star rating system that reflects its assessment of the quality of a cover.

To compare dog insurance policies, visit https://www.defaqto.com/star-ratings/pet/dog-insurance/# or https://www.defaqto.com/star-ratings/pet/cat-insurance/ for cat cover. Here you can search via insurer to compare the quality of cover before you sign on the dotted line.

5. DON’T OVERLOOK THE EXCESS

Just like your car insurance, a pet policy will include a compulsory excess charge. If you are prepared to increase this slightly, you can get a reduced premium. However, bear in mind that you must set your excess at an affordable level, or you may come up short in the event of a claim. Each illness or injury, some apply once and others apply to the treatment received each year.

6. PAY PART OF THE CLAIMS YOURSELF

Another way to cut costs is to opt for a co-insurance policy. This means that in the event of a claim, you’ll be charged a percentage of the remaining vet fees after the excess has been deducted.

While this may seem to slightly defeat the purpose of taking out a policy, it can help to make insurance more affordable, especially for older pets.

7. BE PREPARED TO PAY MORE FOR A PEDIGREE

If you’re looking into insurance for a dog or cat that you don’t yet own, you might want to consider adopting or buying a crossbreed rather than a pedigree.

Certain pedigree breeds are more likely to develop hereditary conditions like weak joints or hips due to inter-breeding, meaning an insurance policy may be costly.

Check what the policy covers, as some providers may exclude treatment for hereditary conditions suffered by pedigree pets.

What’s more, insurance providers may also charge more for a pedigree pet due to an increased risk of it being stolen.

8. BE VIGILANT WITH VACCINATIONS

Don’t drop the ball when it comes to the health of your pet and ensure that you keep up to date with their vaccinations – and whatever you do, hang on to those certificates.

Doing this might make you eligible for cheaper premiums, as some insurers take this into consideration. But, there is also a chance that if their jabs have expired that you may void your policy, meaning that you have been paying monthly for a policy that would never pay out.

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