Find out what impacts the price of pet insurance and how to reduce what you pay for cover
If you’re the proud owner of a dog or cat, chances are you’ve probably felt the pain of hugely expensive vet bills at some stage in the past. An unexpected illness, broken bones, snake bites and a whole lot of other problems can not only be very stressful for you as an owner, but they can also put significant pressure on your hip pocket.
Pet insurance is designed to help you pay for your pet’s healthcare costs, ensuring that you can afford to give your pooch or feline friend the best care possible. Rather than having to compromise on treatment or forego it altogether, pet insurance allows you to take all the necessary steps to look after your pet’s health. There are pet insurance plans available to suit a variety of needs and budgets, and you can choose from an accident only plan, an accident and illness plan or a comprehensive plan.
This article will provide a breakdown of how much pet insurance costs and what you can do to reduce what you pay for cover.
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What impacts pet insurance costs?
There are many factors that influence how much pet insurance cost. These include:
- The type of animal. In some cases, cats may be cheaper to insure than their canine counterparts. However, this can be influenced by factors including the animal’s breed, age and health status.
- The animal’s gender. Your pet may be more prone to certain medical conditions depending on their gender, so expect this to be reflected in your premiums.
- The animal’s age. Just as is the case for older humans, older animals are more prone to suffer from illness than younger animals. In addition, older pets take longer to recover from illnesses and injuries.
- Whether your pet is a crossbreed or purebred. As crossbred pets generally suffer from fewer health problems, they typically cost less to insure than purebred animals.
- Whether your pet has been desexed. Pets that have not been desexed have an increased risk of suffering from certain medical conditions, so desexed pets will be cheaper to cover in most cases.
- What you paid for your pet. Rarer breeds of dog and cat, or those from specific bloodlines, may have cost you more to purchase than some other animals. Expect this to be reflected in your insurance premiums.
- The size of your pet. As a general rule, the larger your pet is, the more expensive its veterinary treatment will be. For example, the medication needed to treat a Great Dane as compared to a Chihuahua will obviously be more expensive, not to mention it’ll cost more to house and feed a large breed in a veterinary facility than it would a smaller pooch.
- The type of policy you choose. You have three policy options to choose from: accident only cover, accident and illness cover, and comprehensive cover. Accident only cover only offers protection against accidental injuries and is the cheapest of the three, while you can expect to pay more for the increased level of cover offered by the final two options.
- Your premium payment frequency. Many insurers will give you the option to pay your premiums either fortnightly, monthly or annually. This gives you the freedom to choose a payment plan that suits your budget.
How much does pet insurance cost on average?
When CHOICE magazine compared the premiums from a range of insurance providers, the average premiums for cats were around $200 per year for accident cover, and $410 per year for accident and illness cover. This gives you a good indication of just how much you can expect to pay for an increased level of cover.
For dogs, however, the study showed that accident and illness insurance costs around $390 per year for most breeds, though this rises above the $500 mark for breeds such as bulldogs, which are more at risk of illness.
While these are the average costs across the board, it’s interesting to note that there are policies available that cost as little as $150 or as much as $1,300 per year. With this in mind, it pays to shop around for a policy that offers the right level of cover at the right price.Back to top
What is the risk of not having pet insurance?
As we continue to make advances in the field of human medicine, some of these developments are passed on to the veterinary world. From an increased knowledge of illnesses and injuries, to vastly improved imaging technologies and treatment options, vets have more options at their disposal than ever before to look after your pet. While this means our pets are living longer and healthier lives, the unfortunate side effect is that vet bills are becoming increasingly costly.
While we can rely on Medicare to help cover the cost of our visits to the doctor, there’s no such system in place for our pets. So if you don’t have pet insurance cover in place, you could end up paying a whole lot of money to treat your pet’s illnesses and injuries.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spend in excess of $2 billion on their pets’ health each year. To give you a better idea of the costs that owners might face, Hollard Insurance Company detailed the claims it received across a one-year period between 2010 and 2011. The average claim for a pet who had suffered multiple fractures during this period was $2,564, while the highest claim during the same time was in excess of $11,000. For cancer, the average claim was $1,354 but the highest claim totalled more than $25,000.
Other notable average claim costs include $573 for gastroenteritis, $1,619 for snake bite, $1,626 for diabetes and $2,178 for cataracts. These figures include medicines, vet fees and all other related expenses.
If you didn’t have pet insurance in place, would you be able to afford to pay such bills if they were to pop up unexpectedly? Would you be able to give your pet the treatment and care it deserves?Back to top
What to look for when reviewing pet insurance costs
- Types of cover available. As mentioned, you can generally choose between three types of policies. Accident only cover protects you against fees resulting from your pet’s accidental injuries (for example a car accident or a fall), while an accident and illness cover also adds protection for the treatment of a wide range of illnesses. A comprehensive policy features extra benefits to provide a higher level of cover, so you can expect each policy type to attract different costs.
- Rebates. Most pet insurance policies will only cover a maximum of 80% of your eligible vet bills, meaning you will have to pay the rest. As some policies will only cover 75% or even just 50% of your bills, you could still have to pay a whole lot of money to treat your pet.
- Sub-limits. Read the fine print to check whether any sub-limits apply to your policy. For example, while your policy may pay out up to $8,000 for claims each year, it may have a limit of $100 for the treatment of tick paralysis. As treating the effects caused by ticks can be very expensive, you can end up having to pay a large proportion of your vet bills.
- Benefits. The benefit limit is the maximum amount you can claim on your policy in one year. This limit typically ranges from around $6,000 up to $15,000, so keep an eye out for a policy that offers a higher limit.
- Additional benefits. What additional benefits are available on your policy and how much extra do they cost? For example, some policies allow you to add a benefit for emergency boarding fees when you are hospitalised, the cost of advertising to find your lost dog and more.
- Bonuses. A number of policies will offer you bonus benefit payments (usually of around $50 to $100) to cover routine care, including things like vaccinations and vet check-ups.
- Premium loading. If you make a large number of claims against your policy, your insurer may implement steep increases to your premiums and the excess you have to pay. Keep an eye out for this as it can cost you a lot of extra money, plus it can be difficult to switch to a new insurer once you’ve got a history of multiple claims.
- Existing cover under home and contents insurance. Though many people aren’t aware of it, some home and contents insurance policies offer cover for your pet’s healthcare costs. Check the fine print of your existing policy before you start looking for additional cover.
- Excess charged. In addition to the percentage of vet bills that you will have to pay, some insurers also charge an excess on every claim you make. This is usually around $50 and is deducted from the rebate amount, and it can end up costing you a lot of money if you make a large number of claims.
- Whether your policy is guaranteed renewable. Check to see if your chosen policy offers guaranteed future insurability for your pet. This can save you money and prevent you having to shop around for a new policy.
What is the difference between basic and standard pet insurance costs and features?
The most basic pet insurance cover you can take out is an accident only policy. This type of policy helps pay for the vet bills you will have to contend with when your pet suffers an accidental injury. You’ll typically receive cover for up to 80% of your eligible vet bills for treating injuries from car accidents, snake bites, falls, burns, and even allergic reactions to insect bites (excluding ticks and fleas).
The next type of policy you can choose is accident and illness insurance. As well as the accident cover detailed above, it also helps pay the resulting vet bills when your pet requires treatment for one of many illnesses. This includes cancer, gastroenteritis, skin conditions, hereditary health problems and other infectious diseases. Of course, it’s important to point out that pre-existing conditions and those that you can vaccinate your pet will be excluded from your policy.
The most expensive policy available and the one that offers the broadest level of cover is a comprehensive policy. It offers all the features of an accident and illness policy but with additional cover for routine care for your pet. This includes things like vaccinations and regular vet check-ups. You may also be covered for things like emergency boarding expenses when you are hospitalised for a certain period, or finding your dog when he is lost.Back to top
How can I reduce what I pay?
There are several steps you can take to reduce your pet insurance costs, including:
- Consider your cover requirements. Take the time to assess exactly what type and level of cover you really need. While the broad level of cover under a comprehensive policy may sound attractive, you may decide that you may only require a fairly basic policy for your pet. This can save you a great deal of money.
- Look out for discounts and coupon codes. The pet insurance market is highly competitive, so many providers will offer discounts and deals in an effort to entice new customers. Keep an eye out for these. You may also be able to enjoy decent savings by using a valid coupon code with the insurer of your choice, entitling you to a nice discount off your premium.
- Multi-policy discounts from providers. If you have more than one pet, consider taking out insurance cover for them with the same insurance provider. Many companies will offer a discount if you insure more than one pet, for example 10% off your premiums, so keep your eyes peeled for similar deals.
- Compare quotes on a range of policies. It is fast and easy to get an insurance quote online, so take advantage of this option and obtain quotes for a number of policies. However, make sure you’re not immediately seduced by the cheapest quote as you’ll also need to examine the level of cover each policy provides.
- Compare a range of different policies. Don’t sign up for the first relevant pet insurance policy you find. Instead, take the time to weigh up the pros and cons of a number of different policies. You can start by using finder.com.au’s comparison tools, and it’s also essential that you read product disclosure statements closely. This is the best way to discover the benefits and exclusions that apply to each policy.
- Check for any existing cover you may have in place. Some home and contents insurance policies actually provide some cover for your pet’s healthcare costs, check your existing policies before you go out and spend money on extra cover.
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Pet insurance is an essential consideration for every pet lover, allowing you to give your furry friend the absolute best when it comes to veterinary care. However, there are a number of factors that can influence your pet insurance cost premiums, so it’s important that you shop around to find the right level of cover at the right price.