The cost of owning dogs, cats, and other pets can be high, but is paying for pet insurance worth it? How much will it cost and what are the alternatives?
Prices vary depending on the type of policy and pet you own, but, for example, you can expect to pay upwards of $300 in annual premiums for a decent policy for a dog — unexpected vet bills, however, can be considerably higher than this.
In general, you may spend more on pet insurance or break even if your pet is extremely healthy during his life. On the other hand, if a pet has many injuries or illnesses, pet insurance can mean major savings for owners.
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
There are numerous companies that offer pet insurance and they all offer different plans at different costs. Various factors are used to determine the cost of your specific pet's insurance policy but include the species of animal, breed, age, where you live, and pre-existing conditions.
Costs will be higher for older pets and those with chronic conditions, as well as in certain parts of the country where veterinary care is more expensive. Finally, the more coverage your plan offers and the higher the deductible, the more costly it will be.
Pet insurance premiums start as low as about $5 to 10 per month and can go as high as $100 to $150 or more monthly. Lower-cost plans typically have higher deductibles and may cover fewer procedures or pay a lower percentage of vet costs. Higher-cost plans often have lower deductibles and may cover as much as 80-90% of your vet bill.
There are three main costs to consider when determining whether pet insurance is worth it for you - the monthly premium, the deductible, and the reimbursement percentage.
In order to know what the monthly premium for insurance will cost for your specific pet, you'll need to get a quote directly from the pet insurance company. Rates can vary dramatically from company to company so it is possible to get a quote from one company that is twice as much as the quote from another. You'll want to compare not only prices but also coverage.
Young and healthy adult dogs typically cost less to insure on a monthly basis than it takes to get an oil change for your car. On the other hand, older pets and those with chronic conditions may have higher premiums. This is also true of pets that live in areas with higher veterinary care costs.
Taking this all into consideration, monthly premiums for dogs will usually fall between $25 and $50 a month. Monthly premiums for cats typically range from only $10 to $25 a month.
Just because you have pet insurance you still have to be prepared for some additional costs. Like human health insurance, there is usually a yearly deductible that must be met before your insurance starts paying out.
Many pet insurance companies offer various deductible options for you to choose from with higher deductible plans typically having lower monthly premiums. This means you may pay for the first $100, $500 or $1000 of your pet's vet bills before the insurance reimburses you for anything.
Choose your deductible wisely based on what you can afford to pay out of pocket while still keeping your monthly premium at a reasonable rate.
You pay your monthly premium and you've met your yearly deductible. Now your pet insurance begins reimbursing you for covered costs. Some policies may reimburse 100% of all costs up to a certain dollar amount while others may only reimburse 70% or 80%.
This means that you may still be responsible for a percentage of your pet's vet bills, even after meeting your yearly deductible. Higher reimbursement percentage plans usually have lower monthly premiums or higher deductibles. Like deductibles, you may be able to choose a reimbursement percentage to adjust how much your monthly premium costs.
Alternatives to Pet Insurance
If pet insurance is not something you can afford or you don't feel is beneficial, you should be prepared to pay several hundred, if not thousands of dollars, to treat your pet if it gets sick or injured. Routine, preventative care is easier to budget than emergencies and major illnesses but that doesn't mean you can't financially plan for them.
There are a variety of options to help you handle vet bills when you don't have insurance.
Personal Savings or Money Market Accounts
Instead of paying a monthly premium to a pet insurance company, many people instead opt to save this money in one of these accounts.
If you can find one with a high interest rate, you can even save a little extra money if you don't need to dip into it. This is really the best option for vet cost planning because it will not limit which vet you can see and it will not cost you any extra money.
Choose a veterinarian that offers wellness plans. These plans usually require a down payment and then a monthly payment so you can spread out the cost of your pet's routine care over time. However, know that you will be limited to that vet/chain to get services under the plan. In addition, these plans are not created to cover illnesses or injuries, although some may offer a discount for unexpected expenses.
Payment Plans From Your Vet
Finally, payment services like CareCredit or payment plans may be offered by your vet. These accounts usually require an application to check your credit and may have a fee associated with them like a loan or credit card would have.