Vet bills can be surprisingly hefty, because they’re not subsidised by the government. Before the days of pet insurance, people confronted with unaffordable vet charges had no option but to have their beloved furry friend humanely put down. Today, we have more options and many New Zealanders now see the cost of pet insurance as a responsible part of pet ownership.
This article is written to help you get some idea of what pet insurance might cost. But before we dive into some price examples, it’s important to understand why they vary so much.
What affects the cost of pet insurance?
Type of pet
In general, pet insurance is more expensive for dogs than cats. Premiums also depend on a pet’s age, gender and whether they’re de-sexed. And one of the biggest factors can be the pet’s breed.
- Age – older pets cost more to insure, as they gradually lose strength and health, making them more likely to have an accident or become ill.
- Gender – male cats and dogs are more expensive to insure than female.
- De-sexing – animals that aren’t de-sexed have higher premiums, mainly due to differences in behaviour and being more prone to certain health issues.
- Breed – history has shown that some breeds come with higher and more frequent vet bills than others, so insurers need to fairly distribute their costs. That’s why it’s a good idea to check the cost of pet insurance before you choose a new pet.
Type of policy
Broadly speaking, there are three main types of pet insurance policy to choose from. Here’s a quick summary of each one.
- Accident-only pet insurance – this is the cheapest type of cover. As the name suggests, it doesn’t pay vet bills arising from an illness. It only covers injuries from a sudden unforeseen event. This means your pet is covered for things like a broken bone or being hit by a vehicle.
- Standard pet insurance – this type of pet insurance covers vet bills arising from injuries and most short-term illnesses. As you’d expect, it costs more than accident-only. The premium can often be adjusted by choosing different levels of cover.
- Comprehensive pet insurance – this type of cover is the most expensive. It contributes to vet bills related to accidents, a wider range of illnesses and everyday visits for things like routine check-ups, vaccinations, de-sexing and flea treatment. Dental cover may also be included or available as an optional add-on.
Pet insurance co-payment and excess
These terms refer to how much you agree to contribute towards a vet bill. The more you agree to contribute, the lower your premium is likely to be.
- Co-payment – this means you pay a fixed percentage of any claimable vet bill. It can be as high as 40%, but is usually around 20%. Some policies have no co-payment or let you choose no co-payment in return for a higher premium.
- Excess – this is a fixed amount that the insurer will deduct from what they agree to pay out. It can vary from no excess to around $1,000, but is often about $150 or so. It typically depends on whether there’s also a co-payment and how low or high it is. Some policies only apply the excess once a year.
Examples of pet insurance costs
Example of pet insurance costs for a dog
Here are some estimated premiums for a young de-sexed male dog that’s a lower-risk breed, such as a Chihuahua or Jack Russell Terrier.
- Accident only policy premium – $20 a month with a 10% or 20% co-payment, no excess and a $5,000 annual pay-out limit
- Standard policy premium – $50 a month with a 20% co-payment or $150 excess instead and a $10,000 annual pay-out limit
- Comprehensive policy premium – $70 a month with a 20% co-payment or $150 excess instead and a $15,000 annual pay-out limit
Example of pet insurance costs for a cat
Here are some estimated premiums for young de-sexed male cat that’s a lower-risk breed, such as a Ragdoll, tortoiseshell or tabby.
- Accident only policy premium – $12 a month with a 10% or 20% co-payment, no excess and a $5,000 annual pay-out limit
- Standard policy premium – $40 a month with a 20% co-payment or $150 excess instead and a $10,000 annual pay-out limit
- Comprehensive policy premium – $50 a month with a 20% co-payment or $150 excess instead and a $15,000 annual pay-out limit
Talk to your vet, breeders, friends and family to get an idea of vet costs and insurance experiences.
Once you’ve decided on the type of policy you’d like and the features that would suit your needs, it’s easier to start narrowing down your preferred insurers. You can usually get quick quotes online, simply based on your pet’s breed (or size) and age. You’ll need to provide more detail about your pet and its medical history if you sign up for a policy.
Another option is to talk with an insurance broker who represents most of the main pet insurance providers. Brokers are paid by the insurer you choose to insure with, so there’s normally no extra charge to you.
In the meantime, you’ll find more information in our complete guide to pet insurance.