2.10.2012

Pet Insurance - How does it work?

Our research shows that 47% of Which? members own a pet. However, of these, only 34% havepet insurance.

As vets' fees grow ever more expensive, the potential cost of getting your pet back on its feet after an illness or accident is rising.

Pet insurance is as much about peace of mind as it is about value for money, but it's vital to make sure your policy offers a sufficient level of cover for your pet's needs.

Levels of cover

There are three main types of cover available.

Premium policies

The best policies offer lifetime' cover. These policies have a maximum benefit available each year, but will continue to pay out for ongoing or recurrent conditions from one year to the next, so long as you renew the policy.

The maximum cover limit resets each year, ensuring your pet can continue to receive treatment for a long-term illness.

Mid-level policies

Next best is a policy that places a monetary limit on treatment per condition, but without a time restriction.

For example, if the policy offers a 4,000 limit per condition, cover can span a number of years, only running out once total bills for that condition reach the 4,000 ceiling.

This kind of policy can be a good compromise between price and cover, particularly for cats, as they're less likely to reach the 4,000 per-condition limit.

Basic policies

We don't recommend the most basic policies, as we don't think they offer enough cover.

Basic policies may cost less, but they put a time limit on the claim usually 12 months as well as a monetary limit. Once the 12 months are up, that particular condition is excluded from the policy.

Pre-existing conditions

Take out insurance while your pet is healthy

If you've decided pet insurance is for you, it's vitally important to choose the most suitable policy at the very beginning.

Any existing conditions or illnesses that your pet has before you take out the insurance will not be covered by the new policy it's best to take out insurance while your pet is healthy.

Excess

The excess is the part of any claim you have to pay yourself.

Most insurers have an excess per condition of between 40 and 60, although some may be higher. Others vary the excess according to the animal, its age and where you live.

What's not covered

Vaccinations and routine treatments, such as worming and flea treatments, are generally excluded from cover, as is neutering. And don't forget, you'll also have to pay in full for any treatments that cost less than your policy's excess.

Other benefits

A variety of benefits are available with different policies. Some will cover cremation costs if your pet dies, pay for a reward and advertising costs if your pet is missing or stolen, or provide compensation for a cancelled holiday if your pet falls ill.

Of course, not all these extra benefits will fit with your own circumstances and there are usually conditions applied. Make sure you read the policy documents and only pay for the cover you feel you're likely to need.

And don't forget why you're taking out the insurance in the first place a high level of cover for vets' bills is probably more important than a host of minor fringe benefits.

Cost of premiums

You should always contact more than one insurer for a quote, as premiums can vary significantly depending on your pet and postcode.

To find the best cover for your pet, check outWhich? Best Buy pet insurance policies.

When providing quotes for new customers, some insurers also set a lower maximum age for certain breeds of dog, such as the Bull Mastiff or Great Dane, so owners of these breeds should make sure they shop around.

It's always best to speak to family and friends and to hear their personal experiences. For example, they may be able to tell you about an insurer's level of customer service, or how quickly they settle claims.

Visit Cheap Pet Insurance Directory here.


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