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Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Group portrait of adorable puppies

Maybe. Maybe not. Pet health insurance works similarly to human health insurance in that you make a monthly premium payment and the insurance helps cover the cost of medical costs should you become sick or injured. However, pets typically don’t need medical attention as often as humans, making that monthly premium seem awfully unattractive — especially to folks on a budget. Let’s take a look at how much pet insurance is going to cost you, situations when pet insurance is and isn’t worth it, and why you might use a savings account as a pet insurance alternative.

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

After you shop around and choose a pet insurance policy, your experience with pet insurance mostly will go like this:

  • You’ll work with the insurance company on choosing a premium, deductible, reimbursement percentage or co-pay, and annual maximum.
  • You’ll make regular premium payments; usually monthly.
  • When your pet becomes injured or sick, you’ll bring him to a licensed veterinarian.
    • Typically, pet insurance companies allow you to use any licensed vet; unlike health insurance companies which often require an “in network” doctor.
  • You’ll pay the vet bill in full, then file a reimbursement claim with your insurance company. Your provider will send you payment for the reimbursement percentage.

Head over to How Does Pet Insurance Work? for more details.

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?

Many pet owners are looking at anywhere from $30 to $50 a month, though some policies can go as low as $20 or as high as over $100 a month. Factors that affect your monthly pet insurance premiums include:

  • Your pet’s species, breed, and age. 
    • Typically dogs, purebreds, and older pets are more expensive to insure.
  • Where you live.
  • The pet insurance coverage package.

So, let’s say you live in Los Angeles and have a purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who’s a little older. You’d definitely pay a higher premium than someone who lives in Farmville, Virginia with a mixed breed tabby cat they estimate is around two years old.

Additional pet insurance costs include deductibles and annual maximum payouts. Common pet insurance deductibles are $250 and $500, though some can be as high as $1,000 or more. Usually the higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium. You’ll also be responsible for paying anything leftover after you’ve tapped out your annual maximum payout (which can be per incident or per year).

Check out How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost? for a more detailed breakdown of pet insurance costs as well as how certain pet insurance companies stack up against one another with premium quotes, deductibles, and coverage options.

>>MORE: Pet Insurance that Covers Preventative Care

What’s Your Primary Reason for Buying Pet Insurance?

For many, whether or not pet insurance is worth it depends on the reason for buying it. Pet insurance doesn’t cover everything, and what it does cover might not be worth the monthly premium.

Let’s look at some common reasons people look at pet health insurance.

ReasonYesNoMaybe
Routine & Wellness✔ (*)
Accidents & Illnesses
Chronic Conditions
Pre-Existing Conditions
Elective Procedures

(*)Most pet insurance policies don’t cover this kind of care; however, some cover certain elements of it, and others let you purchase a policy rider or add-on coverage for it.

Additional reasons for pet insurance include things that usually aren’t offered in the main policy but can be added as a policy rider (depending on the insurance company). Therefore, these things alone might not make a pet insurance policy worth it, but if you need everything else the policy offers, it’s probably worth it:

  • Prescription medication.
  • Liability coverage for bodily harm or property damage your pet causes.
  • Alternative treatments (e.g. homeopathic, herbal, etc.).
  • Obedience training or behavioral therapy.
  • Boarding or other caregiving costs if you’re hospitalized.
  • Costs to advertise a reward for your lost or stolen pet; possibly a certain amount of the reward.
  • Treatment during out-of-country traveling.

Learn more at What Pet Insurance Does and Doesn’t Cover.

Does a Pet Savings Account Make More Sense?

For people who need help covering care that pet insurance doesn’t typically cover, or who just don’t want to pay a monthly pet insurance premium, maybe a pet savings account makes more sense. 

With a pet savings account:

  • You don’t have to make a monthly payment, which means if you need to skip a month you’re not going to risk losing coverage.
  • You can pay for treatment directly from your savings account without waiting on reimbursement from the insurance company.
  • Your pet might never need expensive care, leaving you with a nice savings account when they pass away.

However, keep in mind that with a pet savings account:

  • You must practice self-discipline. The more you skip regular deposits, the more you hurt the account (and the less you have for pet care costs).
  • You won’t have a large savings from the beginning. It takes time to accumulate adequate funds, especially for major medical procedures. 
  • You could run out of savings mid-treatment.

>>MORE: The Best Pet Insurance that Covers Pre-Existing Conditions

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that pet health insurance will be worth it for some folks and a waste of money for others. You need to consider your budget and the reasons you want pet insurance, determine whether those factors mean a savings account would make more sense, then either open an account or begin shopping for a pet insurance policy.

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