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Cheap Pet Insurance

Top comparisons & hot deals

Tony | Edited by Dan

Updated June 2018

Pet insurance for cats, dogs and more

If Tiddles or Rover suffers illness or injury it can cost £100s or £1,000s in vet bills – leaving some owners with the horrid choice of either paying out or putting their pet down.

With an average claim hitting £757, this guide reveals how to speedily compare and find the cheapest pet insurance for pets regardless of their species, breed or age.

Pet insurance need-to-knows

    It's estimated that 12 million homes had pets in 2017, with eight million risking hefty bills by not having insurance, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Even if you've got plenty of cash stashed away for emergencies, in many cases insurance can work out cheaper (in the event you need to claim), so before you buy, here are 10 things you should know...

  • Insurance is about covering the unpredictable

  • "Why should I get insurance for Fido? I might not even use it", you may ask. But the whole point of pet insurance is to cover you for the unforeseen – ie, unpredictable events that may (or may not) occur. You need to accept that, and as it's impossible to predict the future, all you can do is give it your best shot. To sum up...

    Insurance is about making unpredictable events predictable in case the unpredictable happens.

  • Should I insure my pet?

  • Vet fees are already expensive, and rising year by year – with the average claim hitting a whopping £757 in 2017. Plus, complicated surgery could saddle you with bills of up to £30,000, according to the ABI.

    If you're lucky, you won't have faced fees for out-of-the ordinary treatments, so here are some examples of what you could be looking at:

    My cat has had £10,000 worth of treatment in the past two years, all paid for by insurance. He would be dead now if I hadn't had insurance. - Debbie, via Facebook
    When our cat fell ill last summer the bill shot up to £3,000 in less than 48 hours. Every penny (aside from the excess) was reimbursed by our insurance. - Ruth, via Facebook

    The question is – could you afford to pay for vet fees at the drop of a hat by not having insurance? If not, it's something you should strongly consider.

    Quick questions

    What does pet insurance usually cover?

    What does pet insurance usually exclude?

    Accidental damage – am I covered?


  • Is self-insurance worth it?

    Self-insurance is where, instead of paying premiums, you regularly put money away yourself, so if your moggie or doggie gets poorly, there's money to pay for it.

    To earn some interest, put money in an easy-access savings account each month to pay for any potential pet emergency. Of course, if there are no problems, you get to keep the cash. However, there are two big dangers to consider:

    • The problem strikes before you've built up cash: Self-insurance relies on having enough cash to hand when the vet needs paying. The risk here is if your pet needs expensive treatment before you've saved enough, it could mean you get into debt or face the sad choice of putting your companion down. Another option is to go for a policy with a high excess and ensure you save enough money to cover it should you have to make a claim.

    • You get sued: Dogs aren't covered for public liability without insurance, so if Rex causes a car accident, and the drivers sue, you'll be liable for the cost. This may be covered on your home insurance but quadruple check this before taking the risk. Cats are considered 'free spirits' by law and so, as an owner, you're not legally responsible for their actions.

    Consider 'third-party only' cover


  • You MAY be able to get free vet treatment

    Pet insurance, or putting money aside in a savings account, could prove expensive if you're short on cash. However, charities such as the PDSA, Blue Cross and the RSPCA may be able to help.

    These charities offer free or subsidised vet care for pets whose owners are on certain means-tested benefits, among other criteria. As charities, though, they rely on donations to continue their work and some, such as Blue Cross, actively ask for a contribution towards costs.

    To see if you could benefit from charity help, check eligibility criteria from the PDSA, Blue Cross and the RSPCA. And for more on this, see our Vet care 'fur' free blog.

    Quick questions

    How can I find my nearest centre?

    Are all pets covered?

  • Always declare medical conditions – if not, your claim may be rejected

    Pricing radically changes depending on your pet so it's important to disclose everything. Thanks to a rule change around disclosure, insurers are unable to unfairly reject customers' claims if they've given the wrong information about a part of their policy that is irrelevant to their claim (see the news story: New insurance laws will stop insurers wriggling out of claims). You will still need to ...

    Disclose everything; all of your pet's past conditions and any risks. If not, your insurer may use 'non-disclosure' as an excuse not to pay out.

    It may well push up your premiums in the short term, but will save you big money in the long term as providers won't pay if they suspect your pet's problem already existed.

  • Some pets can't get insurance

    Dogs bred for their aggressive nature often can't be insured, such as pit bulls, Japanese Tosas and Brazilian mastiffs. If your dog's own breeding has been crossed with any of these, it won't qualify. If you know of any insurers that will cover these breeds, please email us.

    It's also difficult to get standard pet insurance for pets used for commercial purposes such as racing, hunting, or sheep dogs.

    Posh pets might not be covered

  • Pet insurance for cats, dogs and more
  • You won't always lose by switching

    When it comes to switching policies, it can be hard to save with pet insurance. This is because most insurers won't cover your pet for pre-existing conditions or anything they've already been treated for, such as cancer or arthritis, and switching carries the risk of additional exclusions.

    But as long as you accept that your pet won't be covered for the ailment it's already been treated for, then you could still switch and save.

    For example, say your dog suffers cataracts in both eyes and is cured by your existing insurer. The cost of the cataract treatment may well have reached a specified limit but this won't stop you from switching away to a cheaper policy with the same T&Cs as your existing insurer – just be aware that your new policy will now treat the cataracts as a pre-existing condition, and will exclude it.

    The all-important exceptions to the switching rule is if...

    • You are still claiming for a particular treatment on your current insurance policy, and haven't yet hit the maximum amount or 'length of time' payout, or...

    • You have a top-end 'lifetime' policy which does not have these exclusions.


  • Your pet might be too old to be insured

    The older your pet, the pricier your policy, as an ageing animal is more likely to suffer illness or injury. Some policies impose an upper age limit as well as additional contribution costs (known as 'co-payment' in the insurance world) should you make a claim, so always check the small print first.

    For example, many pet policies say you must pay 20% of any treatment cost – beyond the excess – once your dog or cat reaches a set age. The AA says it applies from the age of six, Churchill from seven. When your pet is aged nine or over, M&S* will impose an excess of up to £250.

    If your pet is less than eight weeks old, you'll have to wait before getting full cover as a rule. Some insurers do provide full cover for dogs or cats from five weeks old, but this may come with restrictions.


  • The higher the excess, the smaller the monthly cost

    Changing the excess you pay – the amount you immediately contribute towards any claim – can cut the cost. Pay a higher excess, and your willingness to foot a greater part of the bill means the insurer will reward you with a lower premium.

    To decide on your excess, consider this: "How much would it have to cost me before I was happy to claim on the policy?" If you wouldn't bother claiming for less than £200, for example, then paying a £50 excess is pointless.

    Beware of policies where you pay a share of any claim rather than a fixed limit – if your pet gets seriously ill, this can turn very costly very quickly. Some policies also charge you a share of the claim beyond the excess once your pet reaches a certain age.

  • Multi-pet policies could increase the savings

    Many insurers will often offer a 5%-10% discount if you take two or more policies out at the same time. However, don't let it stop you shopping around for a better, cheaper policy elsewhere. After all, 10% off is no good if you can get a rival policy elsewhere for 12% less.

    Our top comparison sites below don't do this yet, but try Confused.com* and MoneySupermarket* which will let you get quotes for multiple pets. It allows you to combine cats and dogs on to one policy, and includes any multi-pet discounts. You won't be guaranteed the cheapest premium doing this, but it'll help make life easier.

    Others to try – that give multi-pet discounts – are Argos*, Aviva*, Direct Line*, MoreThan and Petplan*. Then use the full comparison system for each pet to contrast the overall cost.

What cover do I need?

Before getting a policy, first decide what you want it to cover.

WARNING! The old "read the small print" adage really applies here. If you buy the wrong policy that doesn't provide the cover you thought it did, you could be faced with the awful decision of losing a pet or getting into expensive debt if you can't afford it.

Pick your policy type

Pet cover can be broken down into three different types depending on the amount of cover you want. To get past the hideously complex names and policy types, we've divided the types of insurance up as follows:

Basic annual cover: 'per condition, with time limit'

Best for one-off injuries, small surgery after accident or a short-term illness

Mid level cover: 'per condition, no time limit'

Best for one-off injuries, surgery, short/medium-term illness

High level cover: 'lifetime policies'

Best for long-term illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis or some cancers that require constant regular treatment.

Dog in sunglasses

Compare and find the cheapest policy

What you'll pay as a premium will vary hugely, depending on variables including your pet's age, its pedigree and where you live (vet bills are higher in London and the south east of England). Once you've decided which cover suits you and your pet, you're ready to compare prices.

Use the best comparison sites

The most commonly owned pets are cats and dogs – there were 17 million in 2017 according to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association – and these are also the simplest to insure, with dedicated comparison sites.

Comparison sites zip your details off to insurers' websites, scraping their data to report back the cheapest – though surprisingly few of the big names include pet insurance.

We've picked out the two that maximise the quotes based on price and quickest time possible. Combine these two – it should take five minutes for each.

  • Clear display of excesses and vet fees and other benefits included.
  • Exclusive offers available.
  • If you don't want it to contact you afterwards, ensure you click on the relevant section's link on the first and last page. Plus always check the excess quoted is correct for you.
  • You can list your quotes in order of preference, ie, accident only, lowest excess, highest vet fee or premium.
  • Clear option to opt into having marketing calls, emails, texts.
  • Very limited room to tailor your policy, eg, you can't choose how much vet fees cover you want.

More comparison sites to try

There are other big players in the comparison market who can help you find that deal you're happy with, or if you want to push the envelope a bit more. Here are extra options to try.

Confused.com

In addition to offering quotes for your cat or dog, Confused.com* also gives quotes for multiple pets in your home.


MoneySupermarket

MoneySupermarket* is another comparison to add to your list and also allow you to get quotations and buy a policy for up four cats or dogs


Quotezone

Quotezone* has good editing features and provides quotes for rabbits.



GoGetIt

GoGetIt are a recent addition with some exclusive providers. Details of any co-insurance is clearly displayed.

Discounts for multiple cats and dogs

If you have cats, dogs or a combination of both there are two comparison sites that allow you to add multiple pets to one policy and add any multi-pet discounts from the providers on its site onto your premium.

Confused.com

Confused.com* will allow you to get quotations for up to five pets. So if you have at least two, they are certainly worth a try.


MoneySupermarket

MoneySupermarket* allows you to get quotations and buy a policy for up four pets.


Remember, you aren't guaranteed the cheapest premium using these sites but it will help to make life easier.

Also try Direct Line* and Aviva*, which also offer multi-pet discounts but do not appear on comparison sites.

Always get a quotation per pet, as a separate policy. Once you have the premiums, combine the premium, making sure the cover is what you want, and see how it compares for all your pets against a multi-pet policy.

If you use this multi-pet comparison, please send us your feedback. Was it easy to use? Did it give you a competitive premium? We'd like to know how you found using it.

Special deals and the ones comparisons miss

Many competitive insurers refuse to be included by any comparison site, and sometimes offer special deals so are worth checking separately.

Direct Line

You won't find Direct Line* on comparison sites so it's worth going direct to compare quotes. Until further notice, new customers who buy online can get 12 months' cover for the price of nine for the first year.

Sainsbury

Until further notice, new customers who buy a Sainsbury's* pet insurance policy online will get 12 months cover for the price of nine. A new customer is someone who has not previously had Sainsbury's pet insurance.

LeisureGuard

Leisure Guard* is a provider not on comparison sites. It offers 20% off its pet insurance for cats and dogs as an introductory discount for the first 12 months and a 30% multi-pet discount.

Aviva

Buy online from Aviva* and you can get a 10% discount for one pet and a 10% multi-pet discount. You can insure as many pets as you want and they will each have individual policies.

Petplan

Big name pet insurer Petplan* is giving a 10% online discount if you insure your dog, cat or rabbit with it.

Rabbits, budgies, guinea pigs, chinchillas...

There are no comparison sites for all of these pets, so it's a question of elbow grease and getting the quotes yourself. We've listed a number of insurers below. Please tell us about your experiences with them or other insurers.

While it's not a pleasant thought, given the type and cost of the animals in this category, it's worth considering in the cold light of day what your attitude would be if it became ill, no insurance was in place and you had to make a decision about putting the animal down. One alternative here is self-insurance.

This is why you need to carefully consider the costs involved in ensuring a pet's welfare before taking one on.

Exotic Direct

Exotic Direct* gives quotes for a wide range of exotic, and not-so-exotic, pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, gerbils, ferrets, birds and more.


PetPlan

Big name pet insurer Petplan*, which provides cat and dog quotes, also insures rabbits – the next most popular pet – is worth a look. Buy online and you'll get a 10% discount.


Quotezone

Quotezone* has good editing features and provides comparison quotes for rabbits, cats and dogs.


There are over 900,000 horses and ponies in the UK, and an estimated £3,600 spent on each horse in 2015. Given the cost and length of their life, insurance is definitely worth considering.

SEIBIf it's more than public liability you want, SEIB is an option as it offers quotations for horses, ponies, trailers, horseboxes, tack and riding clubs.


PetPlan Equine

Petplan Equine* is a branch of the big pet insurer Petplan, focusing specifically on horses, and offers different policies for younger or 'veteran' animals.


NFU Mutual

After we published the first incarnation of this guide, we asked for your feedback on insurers. NFU Mutual inspired many MoneySavers to report good stories – it covers horses (including 'veterans') and is worth a check.


Animal Friends

As its logo suggests, Animal Friends* is another insurer focused on pet insurance, and offers cover that can be tailored to different circumstances. They also have a good comparison table of its products.


British Horse SocietyBy becoming a Gold member of The British Horse Society, you will automatically be covered for up to £20m of public liability cover and various levels of personal accident cover.


The following insurers have also been suggested by users. We haven't checked them out too deeply – though all are FCA-regulated. If you try them, let us know how you get on: KBIS, Stoneways Insurance, Shearwater Insurance.

Snakes, pot-bellied pigs, tarantulas: exotic pets

From skunks to sugar gliders and possums to pot-bellied pigs, you'll need to try a specialist operator – in particular, to protect against burglars targeting rare or valuable creatures.

If you've a python worth £2,000, for example, pay extra special attention to what gets paid out on death or theft. If you have a tarantula, and like to show it off, perhaps consider third party insurance in case it takes a chomp out of one of your guests. Or then again, ensure the tank is very secure (Martin's sister wishes she'd taken this advice!).

The insurer below is the only one we've seen so far offering to insure the more weird and wonderful varieties – please tell us about your experiences in the forum or let us know about other insurers.

Exotic Direct*

Exotic Direct* offers cover for a huge array of out-of-the-ordinary critters, including parrots, cockatoos, snakes, lizards, terrapins, vultures, pot-bellied pigs and loads more.


Always keep an eye out for some of the same policy tricks as for more mainstream pets – different levels of excess, payout limits and pre-existing conditions. Read above in the guide for more details.

Always double-check the quotes

After doing the comparisons and finding the cheapest quote that suits your requirements, it's crucial you double-check the quotes directly on the insurer's own website. To speed up searches some comparison sites can make assumptions, which may not fit your profile.

Grab cashback and haggle

Once you've found a policy for your pet, you may be able to save further by using cashback sites and haggling.

Cashback websites could knock more off

Plenty of insurers pay out cashback if you sign up via a cashback site. This means you can grab even more off the price.

These sites carry paid links from some retailers and financial services providers. In other words, if you click through them and buy a product, they get paid. They then give you some of this cash back which means you get the same product, and a cut of its revenue too.

Yet don't choose based only on cashback, see it as a bonus once you've picked the right cover...

Those new to cashback sites should ensure they read the Top Cashback Sites guide for pros and cons before using them. Otherwise use the Cashback Sites Maximiser tool to find the highest payer for each insurer.

Things you need to know before doing this...

  • Never count the cash as yours until it's in your bank account.

    This cashback is never 100% guaranteed, there can be issues with tracking and allocating the payment, plus many cashback sites are small companies with limited backing, and you've no protection if anything happens to them.

  • Withdraw the cashback as soon as you're allowed.

    Money held in your cashback site account has no protection at all if that company went bust, so always withdraw it as soon as you're eligible.

  • Clear your cookies.

    While it shouldn't be a problem, if you've used comparison sites beforehand, there is a minor risk that the cashback may not track due to cookies – so it's good practice to clear those first (read About Cookies).

For more details on these sites, read the Top Cashback Sites article.

Haggle, haggle, haggle

To tweak savings even further, you can get quotes directly from a few companies with special deals which aren't always mentioned by comparison services.

Finally, before committing to anything, and especially when you are nearing the renewal of your policy, give haggling a go. Read the full Breakdown Cover Haggling and the Car and Home Insurance Haggling guides for loads of tips to help cut the costs as well as the following Top 10 Firms To Haggle With.

Q&A

  • Can I take my pet on holiday?

  • Should I get my pet chipped?

  • Can I cancel my holiday?

  • What happens if my pet goes missing?

  • Are kennel or cattery fees included?

  • What if my pet has a life-threatening accident or illness?

  • What happens if I forget an annual injection?

  • What do I do if the insurer goes bust?

How to complain about your insurance provider

The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in the small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with it to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that's usually quicker.

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