Whilst there's no universal best pet insurance policy in Australia that's right for everyone, there are a few tips and tricks you can take on to make sure you're getting a policy that suits your needs, and your furry friends!
Read on to find out what to look for in a policy, and how to make sure your pet is getting the right coverage for their needs.
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Compare some pet insurance policies for 2018
|Policy||Percentage of Bills Covered||Maximum Annual Limit|
|RSPCA Ultimate Cover||80%||$11,000|
|Guide Dogs Premium Care||85%||$20,000|
|Pet Insurance Australia Major Medical Cover||80%||$15,000|
|Bow Wow Meow Comprehensive Plan||80%||$12,000|
What cover should the best policy provide?
A quick way to determine how good a policy is is to have a look at its reimbursement rate (or the maximum amount of vet bills you'll be covered for), and the annual benefit limit (the maximum cash amount that you're covered for). A high reimbursement rate and benefit limit will mean that generally, you'll probably be less likely to be out of pocket if your pet has a particularly bad year.
The reimbursement rate for comprehensive policies will generally sit at around 80%. We have one provider, Guide Dogs, who offers a higher rate of 85%.
The maximum yearly benefit for comprehensive policies varies pretty widely, but it's usually between $10,000 and $15,000. Once again, Guide Dogs exceeds this with a higher limit of $20,000. Pet Insurance Australia comes in at second place, with an annual limit of $15,145.
What else should the best policy be covering me for?
There are some other things you should definitely be considering if you've got the budget for it.
If you want to give your pet the highest protection money can buy, you may want to consider a comprehensive pet insurance policy. While the exact cover offered under such a policy differs between providers, a comprehensive plan will typically include cover for:
- Accidental injury. Your insurer will pay a percentage (usually around 80%) of the vet expenses you incur when treating an accidental injury to your pet. Injuries include those sustained in car accidents, from snake bites, allergic reactions to insect bites, injuries from falls, bone fractures, ligament and tendon injuries and more. You’ll be able to claim up to a certain amount each year, for example up to a limit of $10,000.
- Illness. If your pet suffers a specified illness, your policy will cover up to 80% of the veterinary costs you incur as a result. This can include cover for imaging services, cancer treatments, and treatment for a range of common illnesses. However, you will not be covered if your pet contracts an illness which it could have been vaccinated for, or if its illness is related to a pre-existing condition.
- Emergency boarding. If you are your pet’s sole carer and you are hospitalised for more than five consecutive days, a comprehensive policy usually provides cover for the cost of finding emergency boarding for your pet.
- Essential euthanasia. In cases where euthanasia is deemed as the most humane option and an essential course of action by your vet, the cost of having your pet euthanised is usually covered.
- Paralysis tick benefit. If your pet requires treatment for tick paralysis, this policy option will ensure that the cost of this treatment is covered up to a certain amount. Comprehensive policies will usually cover around $1,000 of this.
- Overseas travel insurance. Your policy may offer cover if your pet requires veterinary treatment while travelling with you overseas, usually up to 60 days.
- Routine care. This optional benefit can be added on to comprehensive policies and provides benefits to help you pay for preventative health care procedures for your pet, such as vet check-ups and vaccinations. However, be sure to check how much it will cost you per month as the payoff isn't always as good as you may think.
How do brands compare on maximum cover?
The next two sections use four brands listed on finder.com.au to show how maximum cover can compare between brands.
The total benefit limits are important. These are the total amounts you can claim in a 12-month period. Vet bills can often exceed $1,000 in a year, and one-off costs for injury can quickly exceed this amount if something goes wrong. Pet insurance is designed to prevent the risk of being faced with unaffordable costs, and higher total limits do more to reduce this risk.
Our research reveals the average annual cost of pet insurance for a 5-year old labrador:
|Accident only policy||$443|
|Accident & illness policy||$929|
As mentioned, you can choose from a variety of policy options that are designed to meet the needs and budgets of a range of pet owners. If you opt for a no-frills policy, you’ll obviously have to pay less than you will if you take out a comprehensive plan.
On top of this, there are other factors that will influence how much you have to pay for your premiums. These include:
- Your location. Your premium is based on the risk your pet poses to an insurer, something which can obviously be influenced by your location. For example, your pet may be more likely to be bitten by a snake or by certain insects in specific areas of the country.
- Your pet’s age. Just like with humans, older pets tend to pose more of a risk than their younger counterparts. Our pets experience more health issues as they age and also take longer to recover from injuries and illnesses.
- Your pet’s breed. Certain breeds are more likely to suffer from certain medical issues, as genetic predispositions may make them more likely to suffer certain injuries or illnesses. In addition, larger dog breeds generally cost more to treat and to look after than smaller dogs, so you can expect this to influence your premium costs.
- Your selected deductible/reimbursement levels. What proportion of your vet bills will your policy cover and up to what limit each year? The price of your premiums will also be affected by any optional extras you choose to add to your cover.
What should I look for when comparing policies?
When you’re doing a comparison of pet insurance policies, make sure to compare the following features:
- Cooling-off period. How long do you have from the policy commencement date to make sure that you are happy with the features of your policy? A longer cooling-off period gives you more time to change your mind about cover should you need to.
- The maximum age accepted for new applications. Some policies will not cover your pet once it reaches a certain age.
- Renewal of policy. Check whether your policy can be set up to be automatically renewed every year. This saves you the hassle of taking out a new policy every year, but remember that you’ll have to continue paying premiums to maintain cover.
- What is covered under the policy. You’ll need to read product disclosure statements closely to determine the exact level of coverage offered. Does one policy offer cover for a wider range of illness, injuries and treatments than another? Weigh up the pros and cons of each level of cover.
- What is excluded. Just like any other form of insurance, a pet insurance policy will contain a list of exclusions. These will include pre-existing conditions, illnesses which your pet can be vaccinated for, and circumstances where you have not acted reasonably to safeguard your pet’s health. Check out the list of exclusions on each policy to make sure you know exactly when cover will and will not apply.
- Excess. Excesses typically range from $0-500, so this can obviously have a big impact on the effectiveness and affordability of your policy. Knowing how much you will have to pay when you make a claim can save you from a nasty surprise in the future.
- The percentage of vet bills that will be covered. This generally ranges between 65% - 80%. It’s crucial to understand what you are liable to pay so you can assess if the veterinary treatment is affordable to you. Even if the policy appears to cover 100% of some costs, check the terms and conditions of your policy to check if the age or breed of your pet means that you are required to pay additional cover.
- Policy flexibility. Keep an eye out for a range of flexible options that can help you tailor a policy to your needs. Does a policy offer flexible premium repayment options, such as the ability to pay weekly or perhaps monthly? What about when you want to cancel your policy — do you have to pay a fee or jump through any other hoops to do so? How easy is it to lodge a claim and how quickly are claims processed?
- Other features. A range of other features you should look out for include the minimum and maximum age at which your pet can take out cover, the percentage of your vet bills that can be paid, as well as whether or not a tick paralysis benefit is provided. You can also check whether hereditary conditions are covered, how the reimbursement amount is determined, whether any limits or caps apply, and whether the policy limit is calculated on a per-claim or per-year basis.
How do I find the best pet insurance in Australia?
While there is no singular method to determine the best pet insurance policy, a good way to find the right policy for your dog or cat is to shop around and do plenty of research. To help you on your shopping adventure, consider the following steps when looking for cover.
- Consider your cover requirements. How much cover do you want for your pet? Do you want basic cover, accident and illness cover or a comprehensive policy? Think about how you would manage to pay vet bills without an insurance policy in place, as well as what cover limit would be suitable for you.
- Read reviews online. One of the most sensible things to do when looking for pet insurance is to read reviews online. There are plenty of review sites that give you the opportunity to learn about other people’s experiences with insurers and individual policies. The internet is a great resource and easy to use, but remember to use common sense when assessing the veracity and accuracy of each review.
- Receive a range of different quotes. Don’t simply sign up for the first pet insurance policy you come across. Instead, obtain multiple quotes for a range of policies to get an idea of how much you will have to pay and the value of cover. It’s quick and simple to get all the quotes you want online.
- Read the policy conditions and watch out for the fine print. Reading product disclosure statements might not be much fun, but it is a necessary step in the insurance buying process. Doing this will help give you a more accurate assessment of just how much each quote you receive is truly worth. Look at the benefits, limits and exclusions offered by each policy, as this will ensure you know exactly when you are and are not covered.
- Compare the price to the cover provided. Look for a policy that offers a good balance between an affordable price and the level of cover available. This involves taking a number of factors into account to ensure you end up with the right policy.
- Choose a reputable company. It’s important that you choose an insurance provider with a solid and upstanding reputation. In order to do so, take into account the range of policies the company offers, any rewards it has received, who the policies are underwritten by and the company’s reputation within the industry. It’s also a good idea to compare the quality of the customer service offered by different providers — for example, whether the company can be reached 24 hours a day and how fast are claims processed — and a range of reviews from previous customers.
*Disclaimer: The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your personal financial circumstances when comparing products.