How To Compare Pet Insurance Plans, Evaluate Top Providers, & Find The Best Policy At The Best Price

by Woody Mawhinney
Pawlicy Advisor
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Pet Insurance Blog
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How To Compare & Find The Right Pet Insurance
pet insurance comparison showcase

Struggling to compare pet insurance plans? Not sure which coverage you really need or what’s a good price? Too many providers to choose from? We understand - and we’ve partnered with several top providers to finally bring transparency to pet parents and make the pet insurance comparison process 100-times easier.

Let’s break this down in a way that everyone can understand (because our pet’s health may depend on it).

Below you’ll find:

Types of Pet Insurance

There are three central pet health insurance types you can consider:

  • Accident-Only Plans
  • Accident and Illness Plans
  • Pet Wellness Plans

The cheapest plans only cover accidents. But a comprehensive pet insurance plan usually covers accidents, illnesses, breed-specific conditions, dental needs, and prescribed medications.

Most plans also provide the option to add a wellness or preventive care component for an extra cost. This typically covers routine veterinary care like tests and exams up to a certain amount.

Companies That Offer Pet Insurance For Dogs and Cats

There are over 12+ companies offering pet insurance in North America according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). You might already be familiar with companies like the ASPCA and Trupanion.

You can find extensive guides detailing everything you need to know about the top pet insurance companies list below:

NOTE: We also have detailed reviews for Lemonade Pet Insurance and Walmart Pet Insurance.

Some major employers even offer pet insurance to their employees. About 15% of employers now offer this benefit, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management cited by Employee Benefit News. This might seem like a small number, but it’s quite an increase considering just 9% of companies did in 2015. HR managers across the country are now starting to offer pet insurance as a perk of employment.

Choosing the Best Pet Insurance

There’s a lot to think about when shopping for a pet insurance plan. You don’t want to pay a high average cost for coverage you don’t need, but you don’t want to pay too little and find yourself in a tough spot financially when your pet gets sick.

Costs and Coverage

The cost of your plan directly impacts your coverage. In terms of costs, there are four factors you need to pay attention to:

  • Annual Deductible
  • Reimbursement Percentage
  • Annual Coverage
  • Monthly Premium

Your annual deductible is the amount you must pay out of pocket before your pet insurance kicks in. So, if your first vet bill of the year is $500 and your annual deductible is $500, you’ll have to pay the full $500. You’ll be reimbursed for a percentage of every other covered expense for the rest of the year.

Your reimbursement percentage is how much of your vet bill your provider will reimburse you for once you reach your deductible. So, if your vet bill is $1,000 and you have a reimbursement percentage of 80%, you’ll be reimbursed for $800 for covered treatment after you hit your deductible.

Annual coverage is a cap on the amount you’ll receive in reimbursements from your insurance provider each year. Many pet insurance plans have unlimited annual coverage, so there is no cap. But some plans will only provide reimbursement up to a certain amount, such as $15,000 per year.

Finally, your monthly premium is how much you pay each month to keep your plan active. Most pet parents want a low monthly premium because it won’t add as much to their monthly bills. Keep in mind that lower insurance premiums usually means lower rates of coverage.

NOTE: Premiums will increase over time as your pet ages so understanding how much you can expect the premium to increase is an important factor in total cost. You can use Pawlicy Advisor to scan the fineprint in policy variations across top providers to more clearly understand which plan is best in terms of lifetime costs vs coverage value.

why pawlicy advisor is the best pet insurance comparison tool

Other Factors

Of course, there are other factors to look at when selecting insurance. You can read customer reviews of specific insurance companies to find out if their customer service is top-notch. Though keep in mind that reviews can skew your perception as many negative reviews may simply be the result of a bad fit rather than a bad product (which is why the Pawlicy Advisor comparison tool personalizes recommendations based on breed and cost data, not random reviews).

If you want to be sure you’ll get reimbursed quickly, you can shop providers based on their average reimbursement speeds. You may also want to consider the pet insurance company’s history, or even what initiatives they have in place to help animals in need.

What Each Pet Insurance Policy Covers

It can be a bit confusing to understand the differences between “accident” coverage, “illness” coverage, and “wellness” coverage. Here’s an explanation of what each type of coverage means so you can select the best plan for your pet.

Accident-Only Coverage

Accident coverage will reimburse you for every type of treatment associated with the physical injury of your pet, including certain exam fees. If your vet needs to determine whether your pet’s leg is broken, they may need to do an x-ray. If you have accident coverage, it will cover at least part of the cost of the x-ray as well as other costs related to treating the injury.

As an example, here’s what ASPCA Pet Health Insurance covers in its accident plan:

ASPCA accident coverage list

As you can see, the ASPCA plan covers costs associated with surgery and hospitalization, as well as several other accident-related treatments.

Accident and Illness Coverage

Accident/Illness coverage will reimburse you not only for treatments associated with physical injuries, but also most infections, cancers, and other non-genetic illnesses. For example, if your pet is diagnosed with cancer or certain chronic conditions, they may need expensive regular treatment that won’t be covered by an accident-only plan.

Some plans also cover congenital conditions (conditions your pet is born with) and hereditary or genetic conditions that are common to specific breeds, such as hip dysplasia in large dog breeds.

Wellness and Preventive Care Coverage

Wellness coverage usually comes in the form of an addon option. For an extra cost, your insurer will cover costs associated with routine care: wellness exams, deworming, heartworm tests, blood tests, and other preventive care tests.

While this type of coverage isn’t necessary, it could be a good option if you plan to bring your pet in for routine vet visits every year. This is particularly useful for new puppy parents.

Dental Coverage

Tooth and mouth cleanings are usually covered as part of a wellness addon, but you can also obtain dental coverage as part of an accident/illness plan. Dental coverage will cover costs associated with tooth extractions and cleanings related to dental illnesses like periodontal disease and others.

Prescribed Medication Coverage

Prescription medication coverage covers some of the costs of any medicines your vet prescribes. It may also cover the costs of prescription foods if your pet needs it because of a health condition.

Top Pet Insurance Providers

The leading providers may have different histories, but they all have one thing in common that makes them worth it: They are dedicated to the welfare of animals and the well-being of their customers.

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance®

The ASPCA is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a non-profit organization founded in 1866. It was the first humane society established in North America.

aspca full logo

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance covers accidents, illnesses, and other health issues in dogs and cats through its Complete Coverage℠ plan. You can also include preventive care coverage as an addon feature.

Pets Best Pet Health Insurance®

Pets Best Insurance Services was founded in 2005 by Dr. Jack Stephens, who launched the first pet insurance company in North America. Many of the people who work at Pets Best Insurance have a veterinary background and are involved in animal rescue.

pets best logo

Pets Best offers fast claim reimbursement, typically in five days or less, as well as the option to pay your vet directly. The company offers plans for dogs and cats that cover unexpected vet bills and treatment costs for injuries, illnesses, and other health issues.

Petplan® Pet Insurance

Petplan is the largest pet health insurance provider in the world and has operated in the U.S. since 2006. The company offers flexible pet insurance policies that cover the cost of medical treatment for unexpected illnesses and injuries.

petplan logo

All domestic dogs and cats in the U.S. and Canada are eligible for coverage through Petplan.

Hartville Pet Insurance®

Founded in 1997, Hartville is one of the longest-operating insurance companies in the U.S. The brand has a long history of prioritizing community outreach and supporting animal charity organizations.

hartville full logo

Hartville provides insurance plans for cats and dogs, covering your pet’s unexpected veterinary bills and treatment costs. All domestic dogs and cats in the U.S. (aside from exotic pets) are eligible for the Hartville Complete Coverage plan.

PetFirst Pet Insurance

Founded in 2004, PetFirst is one of the fastest-growing administrators of pet health insurance in North America. In addition to providing great pet insurance coverage, Petfirst also hosts adoption events every year.

petfirst logo

PetFirst offers health insurance coverage for all pet parents, including insurance plans for dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, and senior pets.

How to Compare Plans and Sign Up for Pet Insurance

Comparing pet insurance the smart way will require extensive research into the coverage and pricing you need for your unique breed, location, and financial situation. You can create a special spreadsheet to manage all your research, filling out the quote form for each and every provider you’re interested in. OR just use Pawlicy Advisor's free comparison charts.

To compare and shop for pet insurance easily in a single location, use the Pawlicy Advisor comparison tool to enter a few details about your pet, such as their age and breed.

Pawlicy Advisor will instantly analyze hundreds of options for you across top providers simultaneously.

pawlicy-advisor-pet-insurance-analysis-report

You’ll receive a data-driven recommendation based on your pet’s breed risks, location, lifetime cost expectations, and more.

pawlicy advisor recommended pet insurance plan example

Below your top recommended plan, you’ll see a long list of additional quotes to browse through in a matter of seconds, and you’ll be able to choose the best plan for your pet based on monthly cost, reimbursement percentage, annual coverage rate, and more.

There’s several options to sort your results, too. You can sort quotes by best recommendation, lowest cost, best lifetime cost, and/or best coverage.

List Of Pet Insurance Quotes By Lifetime Costs Across Providers

You can filter your results by annual deductible, reimbursement percentage, and rate of coverage. If you have a specific provider brand in mind, you can search for their plans exclusively.

Once you see a plan you like, just click on the quote to get more details. You can see what is covered and what isn’t, as well as the Pawlicy Advisor "Coverage Score” and "Lifetime Price Score" (which ranks plans based off how comprehsive their coverage is for your specific pet and how much we expect each plan to increase in price over your pet's lifetime).

Create a custom comparison chart, the smart way

After talking to many pet parents, it's clear that people wanted a solution to quickly and easily compare their recommended plan and other interesting options from within a comparison chart.

This makes a lot of sense. There's just so much information to digest, the easiest way to simplify the comparison process to view plans sided by side - highlighting key differences in pricing and coverage.

So we upgraded the Pawlicy Advisor tool to help pet parents generate custom comparison charts on the fly.

Here's an example comparing a Pets Best plan to an ASPCA option:

Pawlicy Advisor pet insurance comparison chart example - Pets Best vs ASPCA

The above screenshot is just a fraction of what Pawlicy Advisor' comparison charts show.

In total, you'll be able to compare the following policy details side-by-side: costs, illnesses, cancer, accidents, breed-specific conditions, dental, alternative therapies, behavioral issues, prescribed foods and medications, exam fees, poison consultation, supplements, stem cell therapy, LASER therapy, lost pet advertising, cremation or burial, and more.

Purchasing your ideal plan

Once you're confident that the plan is the best fit for you at the right price, you'll want to purchase your pet insurance through Pawlicy Advisor.

Why Pawlicy Advisor?

  1. It's free.
  2. You'll gain peace of mind that you've made the right choice by comparing real-time quotes from top providers simultaneously.
  3. You'll see important alerts about breed-specific coverage needs, ensuring your chosen plan is indeed the best plan for your unique pet.
  4. You can customize the plan and see actual price changes instantly (see video below).
  5. You'll receive personalized reminders throughout the year to make sure you don't leave any value already paid for on the table.
  6. You'll receive breed-specific health tips/advice.
  7. Did I mention it's free? $0 extra. All perks above are included as a bonus for Pawlicy Advisor customers.

When to Sign Up for Pet Insurance

You can purchase and cancel pet insurance at any time. There are no open enrollment periods.

New puppies and kittens are prime candidates for pet insurance as they tend to need the more vet visits. Also, you'll want to lock in coverage before any illnesses or injuries are flagged as "pre-existing conditions".

While no pet insurance plan covers pre-existing conditions, some providers will cover curable conditions after a certain waiting period.

NOTE: Pet parents can access a special offer from Pet Assure that can reduce vet cost by 25%. This offer is not available publicly, so you’ll need to use Pawlicy Advisor’s comparison tool to access!

Requirements for Getting a Pet Insurance Policy

There are very few barriers to acquiring pet insurance. In most cases, the only requirement is that you have an insurable pet and that you live in a territory where the provider operates.

Some pet insurers won’t provide coverage to pets over or under a certain age, but not all. For example, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance has no age limit for coverage.

Unlike human health plans, pet insurance plans don’t require you to see a veterinarian within a network, either. You can keep going to the same vet you always have.

That’s because you use pet insurance differently than human health insurance (see "How Do I Use Pet Insurance?"). Your vet won’t process your insurance claim themselves.

Instead, you pay your vet bill as normal, then submit a claim to your pet insurance provider. Your provider will then process your claim and reimburse you for your veterinary expenses based on the specifics of your plan, such as your reimbursement percentage and your yearly deductible. Reimbursements usually have a waiting period of two weeks or less.

Find the Best Plan for Your Pet

Comparing pet insurance plans for your dog or cat doesn’t have to be difficult.

Use Pawlicy Advisor to instantly analyze hundreds of policies and create instant pet insurance comparison charts.

We help veterinarians navigate pet insurance. We're transforming the industry.

We want to help pet parents do the right thing - because no pet should have to suffer due to unaffordable treatment costs.


Frequently Asked Questions

Which pet insurance is best?

The best insurance for your pet is the one that works within your budget and provides the best coverage over their lifetime. Accident/illness plans are the most popular, as they cover the most expensive types of treatment. Pawlicy Advisor assigns each plan a “Coverage Score” and a “Lifetime Price Score.” You can even create instant comparison charts.

What is the most affordable pet insurance?

Depends on your pet's breed, location, age, and coverage. Pawlicy Advisor will provide you with a “Top Recommended Plan” based on the information you provide about your pet and your budget. This plan provides the best level of coverage and the best lifetime price at the lowest cost to you.

Is there dog or cat insurance that covers everything I would need?

Pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, pet taxes, grooming, or boarding. But if you sign up for an accident/illness plan and add a wellness plan on top of it, you’ll be covered for most expensive veterinary costs, whether they are for routine or emergency care.

What is the top-rated pet insurance?

The top rated pet insurance providers in the industry include ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, Hartville Pet Insurance, Petplan Pet Insurance, Pets Best Pet Insurance, and PetFirst Pet Insurance, all of which receive high marks from customers and industry analysts - and all are partnered with Pawlicy Advisor to make your shopping experience easier.

Does any pet insurance cover routine visits?

Yes, but only if you sign up for a wellness plan on top of your general pet insurance policy. Wellness plans are optional, but they can cover routine costs like vaccines, wellness exams, and preventive care. Most wellness plans are very affordable.

What companies offer pet health insurance?

Some traditional insurers offer pet insurance packages, but many companies were launched specifically to provide accident & illness insurance. You can currently compare and purchase plans from ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, Hartville Pet Insurance, Petplan Pet Insurance, Pets Best Pet Insurance, and PetFirst Pet Insurance through Pawlicy Advisor.

Which pet insurance companies allow enrollment at any time?

Most pet insurance companies require your pet to reach a minimum age (usually 6 to 8 weeks) before they can be insured. Otherwise, you can sign up for pet insurance at any time. Also, none of the insurance companies on Pawlicy Advisor have age limits on their pet insurance, so you can sign up even if you have an older pet.

What should you avoid in a pet insurance provider?

It helps to avoid very new providers as their premiums are likely to fluctuate while they figure out their business economics. A company’s online customer reviews can also provide helpful context into customer service experiences, but they shouldn't be the deciding factor as many poor reviews may very well be due to poor fit. Check their reimbursement speeds and compare their coverage details based on your pet's breed risks, age, and locations to find the best fit.

Pawlicy Advisor only partners with leading insurance providers, which helps you avoid the common pitfalls of shopping for pet insurance.

Woody Mawhinney and his dog Wrigley

About the author

Woody Mawhinney

CEO and Co-Founder - Pawlicy Advisor

Woody Mawhinney, CEO and Co-Founder of Pawlicy Advisor, was relieved when his pet insurance covered his Shar Pei’s monthly prescription costs. However, many veterinarians and pet parents in his community shared with him the difficulties they faced when evaluating options. As a licensed insurance producer nationally, he launched Pawlicy Advisor as the first U.S. pet insurance marketplace actively endorsed by veterinarians, aiming to improve the pet insurance experience by providing objective analysis, more thorough comparison, and a streamlined educational experience.

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