After answering the question, “Should I purchase pet insurance,” the next question pet owners wrestle with is, “Which company and which policy is the best one for my pet?” I frequently see this question asked on pet forums. Some of the answers given are good advice and some are bad advice. The better question would be, “How do I go about determining which company and policy is best for my pet?”
The first step in answering this question is to obtain a quote from every company that sells pet insurance in the U.S. There are about a dozen companies that sell pet insurance in the U.S. Your best chance at making a wise selection will come only if you have thoroughly evaluated what each and every company has to offer.
Let’s look at several ways pet owners are first introduced to pet insurance and how it can influence your choice of company and policy for your pet:
- You google "pet insurance" and see a list of pet insurance company websites and then pick out several to visit and obtain a quote. How do you know for sure that you got a quote from every company for comparison? I read negative reviews that some pet owners write about the company they bought a policy from and they bemoan the fact that they weren’t aware there were other choices available to them.
- You visit a website that has details on “the top 5 pet insurance companies” in America. My immediate question is, “Says who?” The reason I ask that question is one or more of the companies they claim are the top companies often have policies that I wouldn’t recommend to my clients. These websites usually have a link to each of these 5 companies allowing you to obtain a quote.
- You obtain a quote from a website that has a pet insurance quote engine. This is where you input all your pet’s information such as breed, age, etc. and then receive a quote, usually via email, from several pet insurance companies. Seemingly, this should save you time, but as I explain below, sometimes it becomes just an extra step to obtaining a quote. These quote engines are “lead generators” for pet insurance companies and not all the pet insurance companies pay websites for leads. Therefore, you usually won’t get a quote from every company that will insure your pet.
I’ve actually obtained quotes using these quote engines and have found the feedback I get usually isn’t very helpful. I’ve gotten emails from companies that simply gave me a link to their website to obtain a quote. Others gave me a quote, but I still had to link to their website and sometimes start all over and re-enter all my pet’s information to actually see the details of the plans they offer. I’ve gotten quotes for a policy that had a high deductible and/or copay which made the premium (quote) seem low and attractive. I suspect this may have been their “recommended” policy mainly because the premium was competitive. You should always use caution and think critically about any policy a pet insurance company recommends to you. It may be in their best interest that you buy that particular policy, but not necessarily in your best interest. When evaluating a pet insurance policy, remember the quidelines I outline for you in my book.
- You received a pet insurance company brochure from your veterinarian. If you’ve read my previous blog post and articles about this, you know this can be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on how much your veterinarian and his or her staff actually knows about pet insurance in general and the company they are recommending in particular. This is one of the primary ways that pet insurance companies market their policies. They may contact a veterinary hospital and ask if they can send their brochures for the hospital to display for their clients. Since many veterinarians aren’t particularly knowledgeable about pet insurance, this can be an easy way to introduce the subject of pet insurance to their clients or just to have something handy to give clients who ask about pet insurance.
- The company you work for offers pet insurance with a particular company as an unpaid benefit (you pays all the premium). The premium is usually discounted slightly and can be deducted from your paycheck. Some pet insurance companies market their policies through major corporations in this manner. But, how do you know if that particular pet insurance company is the best one for your pet? Be careful if the only reason you would buy a policy from that particular pet insurance company is because it is offered through your employer. Hopefully, you’d do enough research to make sure you’d purchase the same policy if you bought it on your own outside of your workplace.
- Finally, some pet insurance companies have partners that market their policies to their customers. For example, you might notice an ad for pet insurance on the back of your Kroger receipt when you check out while buying groceries. I’ve actually had clients tell me, “I’ve got that Kroger insurance” not realizing that it is actually a PetFirst policy that was marketed through Kroger Finance. Trupanion markets their policies at Petco. So, some pet owners get their first introduction to pet insurance while shopping at these stores. No doubt, some of the pet owners purchase policies from these companies without realizing that there are other options.
In reality, the best way for you to obtain a quote for pet insurance for your pet is to do it yourself. Even though your first introduction to pet insurance may be through one of the avenues mentioned above, you should research every option and that means obtaining a quote from every company that offers pet insurance for your pet. If there were a hundred companies to research, that might be problematic, but there are only about a dozen companies to evaluate at this time.
When purchasing pet insurance, you are starting a relationship that you need to be comfortable with and it’s very important to make a wise selection the first time. If you are dissatisfied with your choice later on, then any conditions your pet may have been diagnosed with or treated for will likely be considered pre-existing and not covered if you switch companies.
That’s one reason that I’ve included a step-by-step method of researching each pet insurance company in the Pet Insurance Toolkit. There are links to each company's website where you can obtain a quote for your pet, as well as links to other pages on the company's website that help you better understand what's covered or excluded and even view a sample policy. I also include a link where you can read reviews that other pet owners have written who've actually bought a policy from the company. I want you to look at all your options and understand the pros and cons of each company’s policies. The goal is to help you make a wise choice the first time.