“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.” This is a quote from the English writer and philosopher John Ruskin.
What Ruskin is basically saying here is that there is an inherent risk associated with buying products and services ‘on-the-cheap’ and this can be true of pet insurance too.
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There are many reasons why people may consider buying low-cost pet insurance, for example:
- You may be a first-time pet owner and may not be aware of all the different types of policies available
- You may just be overwhelmed by the huge number of different policies and providers
- The premium on your current insurance policy may have increased
- You may be trying to find the best deal
- You may need to reduce your outgoings due to financial difficulties
Whatever the reason, there are a few factors to consider before signing up to a ‘cheap’ insurance policy.
First of all, can you afford to have a pet?
Each year the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) publishes a report detailing the current welfare issues facing the UK’s pet population. The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report is the largest annual assessment of pet wellbeing. In 2019 the PAW report analysed the costs of pet ownership and found that 62% of dog owners; 88% of cat owners and 80% of rabbit owners massively underestimated the costs involved in caring for their pet over their lifetime (PDSA, 2019).
The table below shows the estimated monthly and lifetime costs of owning a dog, cat and rabbit. The number factors in the cost of annual health checks and booster vaccinations, regular parasite control treatments, food, toys and enrichment and other essentials such as cat litter, poop bags and toothpaste. You may be surprised by the figures. But it is important to be fully aware of your potential expenditure especially if you are money conscious.
|Pet||Estimated average monthly cost||Estimated minimum lifetime cost|
|Dog||£70||£6,500 – £17,000 (depending on size)|
|Rabbit||£35||£6,500 – £9,000 (for a pair of rabbits)|
Be mindful that these estimates do not include the initial cost of getting your pet, they do not include vet’s fees and unfortunately, they do not include pet insurance.
Some pet insurance policies can help cover the cost of unexpected trips to the vets. However, this would mean another regular payment in addition to money you spend on your pet day-to-day that you would need to budget for.
An independent financial advisory company in the UK recently conducted some research into the cheapest insurance policies. They collected data from 24 of the most well-known pet insurance providers in the UK on how much you could expect to pay (on average each month) for low-cost pet insurance (NimbleFins, 2021).
Accident-only policies are the cheapest, but they do not cover the cost of long-term and ongoing illnesses. Time-limited policies offer a little more cover. However there are limits to how much, and for how long, you can claim. There is no time limit on illness or injury in maximum benefit policies, but there will be a financial cap for each condition. Lifetime policies give the most comprehensive but are considered the most ‘expensive’ type of pet insurance.
In reality, your pet insurance quotes are likely to be more than the ones listed, especially if you want to provide sufficient protection for your pet. The prices in the table are for the most basic insurance policies and may be limited on the support and level of cover they provide.
There are other criteria that will also influence your insurance premiums such as:
- Where you live – vets fees can vary across the country.
- The level of cover
- The age of the pet – older animals can cost more to insure because of the inevitable health problems associated with ageing
- Breed – ‘pedigree’ animals can be more susceptible to congenital diseases and hereditary conditions
Value without compromise
Here are some helpful tips to assist you in getting the best value from your pet insurance without compromising on quality and cover:
- Maintain the general health of your pet by making sure they are vaccinated, given regular parasite treatments and fed an appropriate diet, so they are less likely to need to see a veterinarian.
- Look after your pets’ teeth, again they are less likely to need dental treatment, and this is a procedure which is not usually covered by insurance.
- Neutering/desexing your pet can often lower premiums as it reduces the risk of certain illnesses developing and prevents animals from straying.
- Read the small print and make sure that you have the right level of cover for your pet.
- Compare pet insurance quotes like-for-like.
- If you have multiple pets, it may be more cost effective to go with a provider that offers multi-pet discounts.
- Some insurers will allow you to pay a higher excess to lower the cost of your monthly premium.
- See if you are entitled to free or subsidised pet care from a charity such as the RSPCA or Blue Cross.
If you are still unsure if pet insurance is worth it, consider how you would deal with an unexpected bill and how you would feel if you were unable to care for your pet due to financial constraints. However, think carefully about what level of cover you want – a ‘cheap’ policy may end up being a false economy, don’t fall into the trap of thinking some insurance is better than no insurance. Conversely, the most ‘expensive’ policy may not necessarily be appropriate for your individual pet’s needs either and you may end up paying for more cover than you really need.
As we started with a John Ruskin quote, let’s end with another . . .
“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.”