Is Pet Insurance Worth It? How the Cost and Coverage Stacks Up
Pet insurance offers a way to save on veterinary costs, but you may ask yourself, "does pet insurance make sense for my pet's needs?" Understanding pet insurance's true costs and benefits can help you decide if pet insurance is worth it.
Accidents and illnesses can happen at any time, resulting in an unexpected and expensive vet bill. When this happens, people often wonder if buying a pet insurance policy is a good idea. Many pet owners think so, with more than 3.1 million pets insured in the U.S. in 2020, an increase of 18.9% since 2016. To get pet insurance or not is a personal choice. Before you buy, let’s consider the pros and cons and discuss the costs and benefits of pet insurance.
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Per Moneygeek's calculations, the average cost of pet insurance is about $27.59 for dogs and $14.96 for cats per month.
About 500,000 pets are economically euthanized each year because their care costs more than the owner can afford.
Though routine vet care is not always covered by pet insurance, you can likely save thousands on emergency care, making pet insurance worth it to the average owner.
Pros & Cons of Buying Pet Insurance
Do I really need pet insurance? Only you can decide if pet insurance is worth the cost, but it does have its benefits.
- Peace of mind
- Financial protection against significant, unexpected expenses
- Some plans offer routine wellness care
- Choose your coverage details to align with your budget
- Can get coverage as early as six weeks
- Most companies have no upper age limit
- You can use any vet you want
- Expensive for certain breeds
- It may not pay for itself in the long run
- Policies aren't regulated and can be confusing
- Benefits are "use it or lose it" each year
- Premiums increase as your pet ages
- Often required to pay for costs upfront and wait for reimbursement
- Policies have limitations and exclusions
- Pre-existing conditions are not covered
Pet insurance offers peace of mind and financial protection against increasing vet costs and surprise bills. There are many reasons a pet owner feels pet insurance is worth it. For instance, you might own a breed predisposed to hereditary or congenital conditions, have multiple pets with high vet costs or face the possibility of a pet health emergency. Most people decide if pet insurance is worth it after comparing premium prices to the amount of savings the plan could provide.
Is Pet Insurance Worth It for You? The Costs vs. the Benefits
No one is required to purchase pet insurance, and some people are fine without it. But many who skip it find themselves in a situation where they have to pay for unexpected vet costs that cause financial strain. Instead, these owners could have offset those high costs with a pet insurance plan.
Reasons Not to Get Pet Insurance
- You can self-fund care.If you're in a good financial situation, you can probably afford to pay for your pet's health care. Some owners keep a separate fund they regularly contribute to for pet emergencies and vet care.
- You have other financing opportunities.Some vets offer financing options for large expenses that can help you save on significant health care costs.
- Your pet is in good health.If your pet is healthy and only sees the vet for routine care, pet insurance may not be worth the cost. If you opt not to buy pet insurance, consider starting a savings account for unexpected emergencies.
Pet owners with a healthy pet and strong finances may not think pet insurance is worth it. But, consider this: around 500,000 pets are economically euthanized each year because their owners cannot afford their care. You don’t know what the future holds, and if you’re ever in unfortunate financial circumstances, pet insurance could save your pet’s life.
For example, a cat suffering from megacolon requiring a colectomy could cost around $800. If you have insurance, you could save about $470 on veterinary costs, which could make it worth getting pet insurance for cats. Large and active dog breeds are prone to ACL tears, which can cost around $2,250 to repair. With a savings of roughly $1,775, you may find pet insurance is worth it for a dog as well.
Potential Savings With Pet Insurance for Common Veterinary Procedures
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- ProcedureAverage Cost Without InsuranceAverage Cost With Pet InsurancePotential Savings
- Foreign Object Removal Surgery$2,000$450$1,550
- Skin Mass Removal$500$300$200
- Tooth Extraction$500$300$200
- ACL Repair$2,250$475$1,775
- Cataract Surgery$2,000$450$1,550
- Hip Dysplasia$1,750$425$1,325
- Leg Amputation$550$305$245
One of the best ways to determine if dog or cat insurance is worth it is to consider the costs of different levels of veterinary care. Weighing the costs can help you decide if you should get pet insurance for your dog or cat.
Comparing the Costs of Routine Veterinary Care
Annual check-ups, vaccines, spay and neuter, dental cleanings and preventive medications are examples of preventive care. Routine vet care is often the cheapest veterinary cost, averaging $242 annually for dogs and $178 for cats, according to the American Pet Products Association.
If you have a young and healthy pet, the average yearly cost of pet insurance — $594.15 for accident and illness coverage for dogs and $341.81 for cats — may be higher than simply paying for routine care out of your pocket. Most pet insurers don’t include routine care as part of the pet insurance package. Instead, routine care coverage is sometimes available as an add-on option or standalone policy, which can cost anywhere from $5–$30 more per month.
Comparing the Costs of Pet Medical Emergencies
Pet emergencies are often the most expensive type of vet care, usually accompanied by large vet bills. The average cost for foreign object removal surgery is $2,000, but you can save about $1,550 with pet insurance. Emergency surgery could run as much as $7,000, with pet insurance standing to save you thousands, depending on the policy coverages. For medical emergencies, pet insurance may be worth the cost.
Veterinary costs vary widely by location, and medical emergencies can cost thousands, especially if your pet is hospitalized. Most vets won’t finance in-house, putting many pet owners in a difficult financial position without insurance.
Comparing the Costs of Chronic Pet Illness
Chronic illnesses are usually not curable and last for a year or more. For instance, kidney failure can happen in both dogs and cats. The cost of an uncomplicated kidney transplant ranges from $12,000–$15,000. With pet insurance, pet owners could save thousands of dollars on this expensive operation, making pet insurance worth it for this chronic illness.
The Average Cost of Pet Insurance
The price you pay for pet insurance could add up to significant savings on veterinary care throughout the year. Each company has different coverage options, exclusions and limitations, with varying premium costs. Use the information below to help you decide if pet insurance is worth it for you and your pet.
The Cost of Pet Insurance Plans
The more coverage you want, the more you’ll pay for a pet insurance plan. MoneyGeek found that the average monthly cost for a low level of coverage with a $5,000 annual limit is $27.59 for dogs and $14.96 for cats. Cats are usually kept indoors and visit the vet less than dogs, so they are less risky to insure. On the other hand, dogs are more energetic and adventurous, so they are more prone to injuries and illnesses. The table below shows the average cost of pet insurance plans for dogs and cats with the most popular pet insurance companies.
Monthly Cost of Pet Insurance by Plan
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- Pet Insurance PlanOverall Average Cost Per Month (Dog)Overall Average Cost Per Month (Cat)
- 24 Pet Watch$45.49$22.51
Common Pet Insurance Coverage Options
While pet insurance coverages vary by company, there are generally three levels of coverage to choose from.
Though buying more coverage means you’ll pay more in premiums, your pet will also have more protection. A lower level of coverage may be ideal for a cat, but a dog that is always with you may benefit more from an unlimited plan. The deductible you choose also affects your pet insurance premium, with $250 and $500 being the most common deductibles. The lower your deductible, the less you pay out-of-pocket, but the more you pay for premiums.
What Pet Insurance Typically Covers
The pet insurance industry is not currently regulated, so there is no standard of coverage like you’ll find with human health insurance. Pet insurance coverage varies by company, so what one policy covers, another may not. Typically, there are three coverage types: accident and illness, accident-only and wellness plans. Accident and illness plans cover both types of vet care, while accident-only coverage excludes illnesses. Wellness plans cover routine and preventive maintenance, like vaccines and exam fees.
Comparing Pet Insurance Coverage Options
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- Coverage for...Accident and IllnessAccident-OnlyWellness
- Pre-Existing Conditions
- Spay and Neuter✓
- Broken Bones✓✓
- Hip Dysplasia✓
- Diagnostic Testing✓✓
- Prescribed Medications✓
- Fecal and Urine Tests✓
Certain breeds are more susceptible to some conditions than others. For instance, Labradors are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and cancer. Siamese cats tend to have respiratory problems, which can cause upper respiratory infections (URI).
Pet Insurance Frequently Asked Questions
MoneyGeek answers common questions about pet insurance plans that cover accidents, illnesses, emergencies and more. By understanding the answers to these frequently asked questions, you can make a more informed choice about pet insurance for your cat or dog.
About the Author
- AAHA. "Is a Kidney Transplant Right for My Pet?." Accessed January 14, 2022.
- American Pet Products Association. "Pet Industry Market Size, Trends & Ownership Statistics." Accessed December 16, 2021.
- North American Pet Health Insurance Association. "Section #2: Total Pets Insured." Accessed December 1, 2021.
- North American Pet Health Insurance Association. "Section #3: Average Premiums." Accessed December 1, 2021.
- Spots.com. "Animal Euthenasia Statistics." Accessed December 17, 2021.
- Yelp Cost Guide. "How much do veterinarians cost?." Accessed December 1, 2021.