Although it’s only risen to prominence in more recent years, you can now find pet insurance policies from a wide range of providers. The rise in popularity has, for the most part, come out of necessity. As more and more Aussies have become pet owners, they’ve also realised just how much of a financial burden pets can be. If you’ve got a pet or you’re considering getting one, pet insurance is something worth looking into. That’s not to say it’s for everyone. Here are some of the key factors you should consider when deciding – is pet insurance worth it for me?
Pros vs cons
To kick things off, here are some of the key pros and cons of pet insurance:
|Financial relief||Usually paid upfront|
|You can visit any licensed vet or specialist you wish||You can only claim a certain percentage back|
|Customisable coverage||Exclusions will apply|
|Peace of mind||Limited options for older pets|
A lot of these are quite self-explanatory, but we’ll dive into some of the more complex ones below. Bear in mind, this list can also change depending on your relationship with your pet and your financial situation. So, it might be worth putting together your own list of pros and cons when tossing up whether to get pet insurance.
How much does pet insurance cost?
According to MoneySmart, pet insurance generally costs Aussies about $20 to $60 a month. However, a review of pet insurance policies by CHOICE found it can cost you up to $2,120 per year. Why the big difference? Well, exact pricing varies a lot depending on the level of insurance you choose (e.g. accident-only, comprehensive) as well as the type of animal you’re insuring, its breed, gender, and age. Premiums will also usually go up as your pet ages and its risk of injury or illness increases.
Cost is a big factor when you’re deciding whether or not pet insurance might be worth it for you. To put your premiums into perspective though, you really need to understand just how much a policy can save you on a trip to the vet.
What does pet insurance cover?
First-time pet owners are often shocked when they find out just how expensive vet bills can be. Even more basic treatments, like fractured bones, can attract a hefty fee.
To give you an idea of just how hefty, here are the average claims for some common procedures based on RSPCA’s 2019 insurance data:
- Diabetes - $1,952.39
- Cancer - $3,503.74
- Tick paralysis - $1,156.87
- Snake bites - $2,133.31
Of course, these are just averages, actual vet fees may be higher or lower depending on a range of factors. Most pet insurance policies only cover a percentage of your vet bills as well, not the whole cost. So, while having that financial buffer can help soften the blow to your bank account, you’ll likely still have to pay for some of it out of pocket.
Pet insurance exclusions
It’s important to note that most generic pet insurance policies won’t cover you for everything. There are several exclusions that often apply. Some of the common ones mean you won’t be covered for:
- Elective treatments (e.g. desexing)
- Any illnesses or injuries that occur during the policy’s waiting period
- Treatment relating to pre-existing conditions
- Diseases that have a known vaccine (e.g. kennel cough in dogs)
- Vet costs associated with pregnancy
- Dental procedures
Of course, pet insurance can be customised. So, you may be able to find providers that include some of these treatments in their policies.
Are there any alternatives?
Some veterinary clinics offer their own financial assistance programs to coincide with their services. For example, Green Cross Vets have their Healthy Pet Plus program which you can join to gain a range of benefits including free vaccinations and emergency consultations at partner hospitals. These programs are usually limited though, and obviously specific to locations. So, you’d need to look into your options locally.
Beside this, there is one key alternative to pet insurance. Instead of taking out a policy, a lot of pet owners opt to regularly put money into a dedicated savings account and use this to fund any vet bills that pop up. In opening up a high-interest savings account you could potentially build a balance a lot bigger than what you’ve contributed.
However, the downside is that you don’t know when you might have to pay for an expensive trip to the vet. So, there may not be enough money in your account to cover the needed treatment when the time comes.
So, when is pet insurance worth it?
Ultimately, it comes down to personal opinion. Pets aren’t cheap to own and pet insurance can be a great way to mitigate some of their expenses over time. Chances are, there’ll come a time where you need to pay for major veterinary treatment for your furry friend. The biggest question to ask is whether you could afford to pay these vet bills – and what you’d do if you couldn’t.
Pet insurance may not be financially viable based on your animal’s age, breed, etc. but if it gives you peace of mind then that may prove invaluable. If in the end you do decide to take out a policy then there are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine what cover you’ll need.
- Is your pet purebred?
- Is your pet older?
- Does your pet have any pre-existing conditions?
- Do you live in a tick-prone area?
- What’s your budget?
Once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking for – research, research, research! Since policies can really differ between providers you’ll want to read up on potential candidates as much as possible. Make sure to check out some of our other guides for more helpful tips on pet insurance.
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