Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

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Pet insurance is pretty straight forward, you pay a monthly premium and in the event that your pet needs medical attention, your insurance will cover it. Of course it’s never this simple; costs can differ depending on the breed, and in most cases there’s a deductible to be paid. So many people ask: Is pet insurance worth it?

Let’s be clear, if you’re going to get a pet, you need to be in a position to provide proper care for it. Skipping pet insurance is fine if you have a “pet savings account” in place, but no pet should be put down just because their owner didn’t budget properly.

What pet insurance covers

Coverage can be incredibly confusing, we’re talking about insurance after all. Coverage differs depending on the breed; It shouldn’t surprise you that Bulldogs have respiratory problems or that Pugs have eye problems. When you decide on a breed, look into their health history as it could save you thousands in medical bills.

Generally speaking, pet insurance covers diagnostic tests, surgery, and medication. Annual check-ups and vaccinations are not covered by per insurance, nor is micro-chipping and teeth cleaning. Pre-existing conditions are almost never covered so if you’re thinking about getting pet insurance, do it when your pet is at a young age and relatively healthy.

Is pet insurance worth it

What pet insurance costs

Everything is insurable for a cost; even your pet lizard can be insured if you really wanted. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume we’re talking strictly about cats and dogs.

Pet insurance can be had for as low as $8 a month or as high as $100. Premiums increase for various reasons including; what city you live in, the medical history of the breed, and if you require illness coverage. Dental work is usually not included with pet insurance, but generally speaking, the higher the premium, the more coverage you’ll get.

Is pet insurance worth it or should I save?

Set up a pet savings account

What most people don’t realize is that pet insurance doesn’t usually cover the entire amount of any services required. Some plans cover up to a certain percentage while others will require a deductible. When you add that to the regular monthly costs you’re paying, it’s no wonder many people ask themselves: Is pet insurance worth it?

An alternative to pet insurance is setting up a pet savings account. That money you would have spent on insurance goes into a savings account, which pays for any medical bills that come up.  The advantage of this is that, if your pet is relatively healthy, you still have the money. If your pet requires any medical attention in its early years, you may not have enough funds saved up yet.

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Final word

Well, is pet insurance worth it? In my opinion no. With so many exclusions and the fact that policies don’t cover all the costs; having a pet savings account seems to be the better solution. Pet insurance does have its benefits, but usually, it’s better suited for owners who don’t want to put aside money every month, or those who prefer the peace of mind that comes with insurance.

If you decide to purchase pet insurance, check out ConsumerAffair’s pet insurance guide where you can compare brands, features, and options available to you. Every policy is different so take the time to get multiple quotes and read the fine print to find out what exactly is covered before committing to an insurer. Don’t forget to check out petinsurancereview.com to read reviews of the different pet insurance providers.

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About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

20 Comments

  1. Chonce on April 27, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    Eventually we would like to get a pet but I agree that it’s important to factor in medical costs like shots and routine checkups. I’m iffy with insurance but if it’s only around $10/month I’d definitely do it but a pet savings account would be a must.

    • Barry Choi on April 27, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      Chonce,

      Yeah I don’t have a pet yet either, but if I do get one it seems like putting the money aside every month is the better deal. Pet insurance seems to be much more expensive than human insurance and you end up paying for so many things out of pocket.

  2. Tonya@Budget and the Beach on April 27, 2015 at 9:41 PM

    I think there is so much pet insurance doesn’t cover that it makes the most sense to me to set up a savings fund for emergencies. Man the costs add up quickly though! I know for me in my current financial situation, I wouldn’t get another pet for some time after Pepe crosses over. I love the cat to death, but they definitely can add a bit of a financial burden.

    • Barry Choi on April 27, 2015 at 9:44 PM

      Tonya,

      While researching this article I couldn’t believe how much wasn’t covered. Pets are definitely a financial burden so hopefully potentially pet owners consider all the costs.

  3. Michelle on April 27, 2015 at 10:14 PM

    We don’t have pet insurance but we have thought about it. There just seems like there are so many exclusions and I would hate to pay for it for years only for something to not be covered, which would be a waste. That being said though, both of our dogs are getting old so it is something to think about.

    • Barry Choi on April 27, 2015 at 10:18 PM

      Michelle,

      It really does seem to pay for pet insurance and then have to pay more when you actually need to use it.

  4. Our Big Fat Wallet on April 28, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    Good timing, we just got our dogs teeth cleaned this weekend and it wouldn’t have been covered through insurance if we had it. The procedure was a cosmetic cleaning and was $200 but a full cleaning at a vet would have been $1050. I think I’m in the wrong industry

    • Barry Choi on April 28, 2015 at 3:20 PM

      Our Big Fat Wallet,

      It’s simply amazing how many things aren’t covered by pet insurance. Is it too late for the both of us to change careers?

  5. Abigail @ipickuppennies on April 28, 2015 at 2:57 PM

    We have the Banfield (the vet in PetSmart) protection plan — which still isn’t a great option for most people. But it fits our needs, especially since we want our cat’s teeth cleaned each year. (I neglected this with my previous cat and caused some major dental issues.) The cost of that, vaccines and semi-annual exams more than pay for the yearly cost.

    That said, unless you’re adamant about teeth cleaning, I tell people not to get it unless you’re in a situation where it makes financial sense. We didn’t put our second cat on a plan until she needed a bunch of tests. The discounts on those plus making the exam free pretty much made it worthwhile. You can join at checkout, so there’s no reason to sign up until you really need it.

  6. anumyoon on April 30, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    We have a pet savings account precisely for the reasons you’ve highlighted. We’re looking to adopt a rescue dog, and we’ve already been vetted and approved. But I’m not going to start the adoption process until we have $1000 saved in the account. I don’t want to be slapped with a crazy bill that I can’t afford!

    • Barry Choi on April 30, 2015 at 12:53 PM

      Anum,

      Smart move, a pet savings account seems to be a much better use of your money.

  7. Unless you have a breed of dog with a high likelihood of getting ill, you’re better off putting the pet insurance premiums in a savings account. People love their pets and are sometimes willing to pay anything to make them better.

    • Barry Choi on May 1, 2015 at 8:10 PM

      Sean,

      That definitely seems to be the consensus.

  8. Aleksandra Sagan on May 5, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    I would love to get a dog and have even crash tested our budgets to see if G and I could afford one. Unfortunately, we want the type of dog that really isn’t suited to an apartment, so we’ll have to wait a bit before we can get one.

    However, pet insurance is definitely one of the costs I factored in during the crash test… I’m not sold on it being 100% worth it, but I’ve heard some horror stories. We had a friend who bought a dog and maybe two weeks into living with her, the puppy fractured a bone in the park… She was out a couple thousand dollars because she had neglected to buy pet insurance before bringing him home… I would be so scared of something similar happening to us.

    • Barry Choi on May 5, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      Aleks,

      My wife and I are in a similar situation, although she’s the one that wants a dog.

      I don’t think I’ll buy pet insurance at all, but by hearing stories I may put aside some money in advance.

  9. Tanya on July 4, 2015 at 12:25 PM

    I just wanted to express my appreciation on your opinion about improper budgeting where pets are concerned. It just astounds me that some people have that disposable mentality when it comes to their pets. We have an outdoor cat, and we have pet insurance for him. So far it’s been quite worth it, but can certainly see why it may not be for other cases. Either way, as long as our pets are being well taken care of, I’m happy!

    • Barry Choi on July 4, 2015 at 3:05 PM

      Hey Tanya,

      Thanks for the feedback. Yes it’s sad that some people think that if their pet gets sick, they’ll get rid of it. As you said, as long as your pet is well taken care of it doesn’t matter if you have insurance or a pet savings account.

  10. Susan on December 18, 2016 at 5:17 PM

    I had the same idea (just out the money in an account so I would have it if nothing happened) since we didn’t use it with our first dog. Then our new puppy had a seizure. Since he was less than a year old we could still sign him up without exclusions. We use trupanion (which was vetinsure). No preventative coverage. Well this adorable dog turned out to be a sockeater. 3 surgeries later we have had over $30k in expenses covered. But here is the important message. His first incident required us to go to the emergency vet. They won’t even look at him without a credit card. I asked the vet what happens if someone doesn’t have the money but the dog is young and healthy other than having eaten something. Well they don’t save him. At the time it happened I would not have saved enough to cover that surgery and would have gone $15k into debt. So like any non-mandatory insurance (life, disability, etc) while it would be better to be self-insured, most of us can’t do that until later in life. So is insurance a waste of money. Yes. But if you’re lucky it will be the best money you ever wasted.

  11. Victoria on August 4, 2018 at 6:05 PM

    I’m a huge advocate for Pet Insurance I’m on a fixed income my cats are my family… for my kitty I did not use the insurance for the first 4 years then he had some issues so over the 15 years he was alive the insurance covered over $23, 000 something I would not have managed to save in a savings account. We all have to pay for home and car insurance (sometimes we never use it but its there just in case) I treat it the same way. I chose to have my beloved pets in my life its my responsibility to ensure they are covered for the best healthcare when needed. So no it is definitely not a waste of money I have peace of mind knowing I have it formy beloved pets.

  12. Jeff on August 5, 2018 at 9:10 PM

    Being in the financial industry, I find most are not disciplined in putting enough money away for retirement or a rainy day, let alone potential costs to care for a pet. We have always had pet insurance, when time came to use it we were extremely thankful. It gave us peace of mind to run all the tests and take the necessary steps to ensure that we have done everything we possible could have done before making the difficult decision to put our dog down. End of the day, having pet insurance allowed us to be financially comfortable in making some very difficult decisions.

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