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Is pet insurance worth it?

It’s easy to get value for your money with pet insurance but is it better than a savings account?

We get it – pet insurance isn't cheap. Why pay $50 to $100 a month for something you’re not even sure you’ll use? It’s a fair question, but also one that ignores the unpredictability of life – and of our furry friends. That $50 soon becomes worth it when you consider that a trip to the vet could cost you $13,000 – or the life of your best mate.

dog playing

When is pet insurance worth it?

Worth itProbably not worth it
  • Pets under the age of 9
  • Purebreds (they're more pre-disposed to congenital conditions)
  • If you can’t afford a huge unexpected bill
  • If you’ve got an adventurous pet that ventures outdoors
  • If your pet is like your child
  • Pets over the age of 9 years (unless you can get a specific senior pet policy)
  • Mutts and mixed breeds
  • If your pet already has a lot of pre-existing conditions
  • If you’ve got enough savings to cover an accident tomorrow
  • If you’re willing to put down your pet rather than forking out for the cost for treatment

Compare pet insurance policies in Australia

Name Product Accidental Injury Illness Maximum Yearly Benefit Paralysis Tick Yearly Sub-Limit Reimbursement rate Reimbursement Rate Bonuses
Medibank Pet Max Cover with Extra Care
tick
tick
$30,000
$30,000
90%
90%
Medibank and ahm health members save 10% on premiums.
Get your first month free if you sign-up by 19 August 2024. Use promocode 1FREE. T&Cs Apply.
PIA Major Medical Cover
tick
tick
$30,145
$3,000
80%
80%
First 2 months free
Covers specified accidents and illnesses, with Routine Care Cover included. Get 2 months free when you sign up using the code PIA202. T&Cs apply.
Budget Direct Pet Insurance
tick
tick
$12,000
$1,500
80%
80%
15% off first year’s premium online
Apply online and get 15% off your first year's premium. T&Cs apply.
Coles Premium Cover
tick
tick
$15,000
$2,500
80% or 100%
80% or 100%
5% multi pet discount
Earn 10x Flybuys points per $1 spent on pet food at Coles Supermarkets. T&Cs apply.
PD Deluxe Plan
tick
tick
$20,000
$15,000
100%
100%
First month free
Apply online and get your first 1 month free. T&Cs apply.
Fetch Pet Insurance
tick
tick
$30,000
$30,000
80% or 90% or 100%
80% or 90% or 100%
Get free 24/7 vet support
Get dental, physio and behaviour cover included and skip wait periods by following our in-app journey.
Pet Circle Dog Cover
tick
tick
$10K or $17.5K or $30K
$10K or $17.5K or $30K
70% or 80% or 90%
70% or 80% or 90%
Get 2 months free
Get 2 months free when you sign up using the code PCI2FREE. T&Cs apply.
Vets Choice Elite Cover
tick
tick
$15,000
$2,500
80% or 100%
80% or 100%
5% multi pet discount
Get a 5% discount when you insure more than one pet.
Guardian Platinum Accident & Illness Cover
tick
tick
$12,000
$1,200
80%
80%
No offers currently
Lifetime cover for cats and dogs, up to 80% covered.
Petsy Custom Cover
tick
tick
$25,000 or $10,000
$5000 or $10,000 or $25,000
80% or 90%
80% or 90%
5% multi pet discount
⭐ Finder Exclusive: Enjoy 30% off your first month of pet insurance, plus receive a custom pet tag. Sign up using the code FINDER. T&Cs apply.
Real Premium Accident & Illness Cover
tick
tick
$12,000
$1,200
80%
80%
Get 10% of your premiums back after 12 months
Claim up to a maximum of $12k per year, with no excess to pay.
RSPCA Ultimate Plus Accident and Illness Cover
tick
tick
$20,000
$20,000
80%
80%
First month free
Comprehensive cover for your pet, including the option of routine care. Get 1 month free for the first year of new policies. T&C's apply.
Australian Seniors Top Accident & Illness Cover
tick
tick
$12,000
$1,200
80%
80%
10% off if you're over 50
Benefits include overseas cover when in NZ or Norfolk Island for your pet, plus an optional routine care add-on.
Knose Pet Insurance
Finder AwardExclusive
Knose Pet Insurance
tick
tick
$25,000
$25,000
90%
90%
10% off your first year
⭐Finder Exclusive: Get 10% off your first year. Sign up using promo code FINDER10. T&C's apply.
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Why compare pet insurance with Finder?

  • You pay the same price as buying directly from the pet insurer.

  • We're not owned by an insurer (unlike other comparison sites).

  • We don't ask for your phone or email.

  • We've reviewed over 35 policies on the market, so you don't have to.

The pros and cons of pet insurance

The worst-case scenario is having to put down an animal that could have been treated if not for the cost involved. With the cost of some pet treatments going up into the tens of thousands, you could end up with a hefty bill if your pet is not adequately insured.

You can’t put a price on the peace of mind that comes from knowing you will never have to choose between your furry friend and your financial security, but that’s not the only advantage of obtaining pet insurance. Of course, there are a lot of expenses that aren't covered by insurance, so it's a good idea to understand exactly what you're getting into.

ProsCons
  • You could save thousands. A serious illness or injury can take a huge chunk out of your budget if you don't have pet insurance. Cruciate ligament damage, for example, is the most common reason why a dog may develop a lame hind leg, and the surgery for this can cost up to $8,500.
  • You'll probably have to pay up front. Although some vets agree to defer payment until your claim is finalised, it's more common that you will have to settle the full account up front. You may be required to provide evidence about the cause of your pet's condition, and this can also delay reimbursement.
  • You don't have to see your pet suffer. Many policies include cover for regular visits to the vet. This means that you can go to the vet if you think something is wrong, instead of hoping that everything will sort itself out.
  • Exclusions will always apply. Any pre-existing condition your pet might have suffered from prior to being insured is unlikely to be covered. The fine print varies from policy to policy, so be sure to check the product disclosure statement (PDS), but the definition often extends to any condition your pet has ever been treated for.
  • Your pet will be in good hands if you're unwell. Many policies include cover for emergency boarding if you are hospitalised and there is nobody to look after your pet.
  • You can only claim a certain percentage back. Reimbursement is often on a co-payment structure, meaning you are responsible for about 20% of treatment costs on average and the insurer pays the rest. Some insurers do offer a 100% refund, but this tends to expire after your pet reaches a certain age.
  • You usually won't get a full refund. Reimbursement is often on a co-payment structure, meaning you are responsible for about 20% of treatment costs on average and the insurer pays the rest. Some insurers do offer a 100% refund, but this tends to expire after your pet reaches a certain age.
  • Older pets can be hard to insure. It's best to insure your pets earlier rather than later because most insurers stipulate a maximum age for a new policy (usually 9 years). There are some policies that cover senior pets, but they're rare. Another benefit of getting in early is that you're less likely to have claims refused on the basis of pre-existing conditions.

Is pet insurance worth it in the long run?

The most efficient way to find the best cover for your needs is to start with a general overview and narrow down your options. Then read independent reviews of the policies you’ve shortlisted. Avoid glazing over from information overload by making notes of which specific features are important to you, and learn what to look for in a policy.

Chances are, you will probably need to pay for major veterinary treatment for your pet at some point. Even if you don’t, choosing a policy that covers regular check-ups in addition to unexpected health problems means you will receive guaranteed value for your premiums.

Ultimately, the decision about whether pet insurance is worth it is a very personal one. Domestic animals are not cheap to look after and pet insurance can be a good way to mitigate your expenses over the lifetime of your furry friend.

Should I just set up a savings account?

One alternative to pet insurance is to set up an emergency fund to cover any unexpected vet bills. By opening a high-interest savings account and regularly setting aside a small portion of your pay each week, you could potentially build a balance big enough to pay for your pet’s treatment if it gets sick or suffers an injury.

But what happens if your buddy suddenly gets sick just 2 months after you started the account? Even allergy treatment has set some people back as much as $2,500. What about if your pet has an illness that needs to be treated on an ongoing basis? Regular treatments could quickly drain whatever money you had saved.

Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance broke down some of its claims data and found that half of common vet costs could reach more than $1,000 a pop. A handful cost more than $2,000 on average. Some individual claims went well outside the average, costing $5,000 or more for some treatments, all the way up to $13,000. Could you afford to fork that kind of money out suddenly?

When should you set up a savings account to cover your pet’s vet bills?

  • If your pet is too old to qualify for accident and illness cover (new policies are usually only offered to pets under 8 or 9 years of age)
  • If your pet suffers from pre-existing conditions that won’t be covered by your pet insurance policy
  • If you’re struggling to find an insurer willing to cover your pet

When should you consider buying pet insurance?

For many other owners, it could be worth factoring pet insurance into the cost of pet ownership. There are several situations when pet insurance could be worth it, including the following:

  • If you live in a tick-prone area and your pet spends a lot of time outdoors (treatment for tick paralysis can be very expensive if not covered by your insurance)
  • If you own a breed of dog or cat that is prone to suffering from potentially expensive health conditions
  • If you want to avoid the heartbreaking decision of having your pet put down because you can’t afford treatment

The cost of pet insurance vs the cost of a vet visit

Many first-time pet owners are shocked to find just how expensive vet bills can be, even for something relatively straightforward like a fractured leg. The simple truth is that there’s no such thing as Medicare for pets, so it’s up to owners to cover the full cost of treatment.

A finder.com.au survey of 2,033 Australian pet owners revealed that the average dog owner is willing to spend up to $4,128 on their dog in one vet visit to ensure that their pet doesn’t have to be put down. On the other hand, the average cat owner was happy to fork out $2,127 – $2,001 less than their dog-loving counterparts.

Taking these figures into account, does it work out cheaper to pay for pet insurance or does the cost of premiums outweigh the benefits your policy provides?

It depends. Not only does the cost of cover vary between insurers, but so does the level of cover provided. Your veterinary bills can also vary greatly depending on the illness or injury your pet suffers, so it’s impossible to say for certain whether cover will work out to be worth the expense.

The cost of pet insurance

PolicyCost per weekCost per monthCost per yearCost of cover over 5 yearsCost of cover over 10 years
Accident-only cover$4.62$20$240$1,200$2,400
Accident and illness cover$8.08 - $12.69$35 - $55$420 - $660$2,100 - $3,300$4,200 - $6,600
Accident and illness cover plus routine and preventative care$13.85+$60+$720+$3,600+$7,200+

How much would pet insurance cover for common vet bills?

Most pet insurance policies are designed to cover a portion of your vet bills, usually between 75% and 85% per claim. Let’s take a look at how much pet insurance could cover and how much you would have to pay out of your own pocket for a range of common health conditions.

Illness or injuryTotal cost of treatmentAmount covered by pet insurance (80% of bill)Remaining amount you would need to pay
Cruciate ligament surgery$2,500$2,000$500
Vomiting/diarrhoea$200 - $3,000$160 - $2,400$40 - $600
Tick paralysis$5,000$4,000$1,000
Snake bite$2,000$1,600$400
Bone fractures$2,500$2,000$500
Ingesting a foreign body$2,000$1,600$400
Cancer$2,000$1,600$400

*Disclaimer: Please note that the costs quoted in the above table are guides only. Costs can vary greatly based on the severity of your pet’s condition, the treatment it requires and the fees charged by your vet – for example, while the cost quoted for snake bite is $2,000, treatment could cost upwards of $20,000 in severe cases.

It’s also important to be aware that annual benefit limits apply to your policy. These limits vary depending on the type and level of cover you select, but they usually range from $10,000 to $15,000. So if your policy has already covered one expensive vet bill during the period of insurance, it may not provide sufficient protection to help pay your bill if your pet suffers another serious injury or illness in the same year.

Are some breeds more likely to need pet insurance cover?

If your cat loves getting up to mischief or your dog seems especially accident-prone, you may see pet insurance as an essential consideration for your pet. However, there are also some specific breeds of dogs and cats that have a higher risk of certain health conditions and therefore may benefit more from pet insurance cover.

These include the following:

  • Short-nosed (brachycephalic) dog breeds such as Bulldogs and Pugs are prone to breathing and digestive problems
  • Labradors can be prone to hip dysplasia
  • Persian cats can contract polycystic kidney disease
  • Maine Coons can be prone to heart disease
  • Pedigree cats and dogs are more likely to suffer from specific health problems

However, be aware that some insurers will simply refuse to cover specific breeds, and if cover is available, your pet’s breed may result in higher premiums.

Why you can trust Finder's pet insurance experts

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independentYou can trust us. We say it like it is. We aren't owned by an insurer and our opinions are our own.

Questions to ask yourself when considering if pet insurance is right for you

To make sure you get accurate and helpful information, this guide has been edited by David Gregory as part of our fact-checking process.
Alexandra Koster's headshot
Publisher

Alexandra Koster was Finder's publisher for car, home and pet insurance. She has a Tier 1 certification in General Insurance, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Cultural Studies from the University of Sydney. Her hobbies include reading Product Disclosure Statements and deciphering complicated insurance lingo to help people save on their insurance so that they can spend their money on better things – like dogs. See full bio

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