We spent dozens of hours researching, examining policies, and analyzing over 100 different quotes, and we found that Trupanion is the best choice for reliable and affordable pet insurance for most cats and dogs. The broad coverage and unlimited benefits provide a true safety net in case your pet faces a serious accident or illness, including chronic, lifelong conditions. Pet life insurance.
Trupanion ’s straightforward coverage, with unlimited benefits, few exclusions, and fair premiums—never the highest nor the lowest—would be worth consideration on its own. But the company is our top pick because it has a long and established history of good coverage and low annual increases, and a level of transparency that we didn’t see with other companies. Trupanion is the only company that told us its annual premium increases didn’t get larger as pets aged, adding even more stability to this choice. And getting a plan with 90 percent reimbursement and a $500 to $1,000 deductible makes sense as a good starting point for most people.
We love the constant praise Healthy Paws Pet Insurance gets for its customer service, and we were impressed that the company regularly quoted the lowest premiums for benefits as good as or better than those of any other company. But if you enroll your pet after age 6, you’ll have fewer and less-generous options for deductibles and reimbursement rates.
And if you have a large (or soon-to-be large) dog, the 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia coverage could quickly wipe out any advantage of choosing this company.
Figo Pet Insurance is the only pick to include full coverage for exam fees when your pet is sick or injured, plus the same generous coverage for illnesses and treatments as our other picks, and short waiting periods. No other company with positive customer reviews and low premiums offers that combination of features. But we’re holding back on giving Figo our top spot until it has established a record of reliability. The company began issuing policies only in 2015, and in August 2017, Twitter users were noting a 52.5 percent premium increase for customers in New Jersey.
Why you should trust us
Who this is for, and when to buy pet insurance
Hamilton is a 1-year-old Maltipoo who had to be treated for heartworms in spring 2017. Photo: Jackie Reeve
If your pet is still relatively healthy, if you can afford the premiums, and if you wouldn’t be able to afford catastrophic veterinary bills, you should get pet insurance. We think a $500 to $1,000 deductible and a 90 percent reimbursement rate is a good starting point for most people. Pet insurance with good coverage saves you from having to pay huge out-of-pocket expenses—and also means that you won’t have to make the heartbreaking choice to euthanize a pet you can’t afford to care for. This guide focuses on coverage for dogs and cats, mostly because there aren’t many options for exotic animals like birds and lizards. One Wirecutter staffer has insured her bird through Nationwide for three years with good results so far. But for dogs and cats, this guide breaks down the options in detail.
“Relatively healthy” is important. You can and should still get insurance even if your pet has had a few minor vet visits, or has a chronic but manageable condition. But if your pet is older, and has already had serious health problems—cancer, surgeries, loss of mobility, and the like—you may not get much value from starting insurance now. Pet insurance offers no coverage for preexisting conditions, and you get no protection for a condition when you move from one insurer to another.
An example of lifetime premium costs
The younger your pet is when you enroll, the more value you’re likely to get from your policy. Even though well-visits, the most common costs for young pets, aren’t covered under insurance, the lower premiums at early ages make the coverage worth it anyway. In the example above, starting coverage for a cat at 6 months old instead of 3 years old costs only $28 more over the life of the cat. Even though we recommend enrolling early to get the most value, that doesn’t mean you should skip insuring an older pet. Spending over $8,000 to cover a cat from 12 to 18 may seem costly, but that’s also when expensive diagnoses like cancer or kidney failure can mean even larger treatment bills.
The idea of self-insuring—setting aside money every month for medical bills—is smart for small fees, but it’s just not realistic in a catastrophe, where fairly common treatments can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Self-insuring does you little good in the first few years compared with paying insurance premiums. During the first year of self-insuring, you might save enough to cover a $1,200 vet bill, while a single premium payment will cover unlimited vet bills. Plus, care costs and the likelihood of illness will increase as your pet ages, likely outpacing your ability to save. It’s not hard to find stories of costs that could wipe out the savings that most people can accumulate—radiation for some tumors can be $10,000, bone-marrow transplants can be upwards of $20,000, and kidney transplants can cost up to $15,000. One insurer told us that recent premium increases were in part reflecting the proliferation of stem-cell treatments available in veterinary offices.
Saving money is the prudent move for the predictable expenses in life, but you pay for insurance because so much of life is unpredictable. If you never have to make a claim, your premiums weren’t wasted—they were the cost of predictability, and of sleeping easier with a pet at your feet.
Choosing a deductible
How we picked
On this visit to the vet, the beatific Jemson was diagnosed with kidney disease at just 7 years old. His family spent a few thousand dollars on his care before he passed away less than a year later. Photo: Casey Johnston
Pet insurance plans have so many variables and so much fine print that it can seem impossible to compare one company against another. To some extent, it is. Each company has slight differences in the three main aspects of its policies: coverages,benefits, and premiums.
Coverage can include labs, treatments, medications, and fees, or it can be limited to just certain interventions. And that coverage can be limited further, excluding certain conditions as well. Perfect coverage would include any condition and any treatment. When we talk about benefits, we’re discussing the actual amount of money you receive for a covered incident or in a given time period, compared with how much you’ve paid for coverage. Good benefits pay as much as possible for a covered incident, and are reduced by however much you have to pay out of pocket. Lastly, premiums are how much you pay every month for the combination of coverage and benefits you receive. Generally, the better the coverage and benefits, the higher the premium.
We looked into the details of each of those three parts in plans from the top nine pet insurers (based on ratings and popularity at Pet Insurance Review, Consumer Affairs, ConsumersAdvocate.org, Consumer Reports, and Canine Journal ), and compared them head-to-head as closely as we could for all sorts of pet households to find the best deal on the most peace of mind. We paid specific attention to:
Covered conditions and exclusions
Because premiums differ based on the breed and age of the pet, how many pets you’re seeking to insure, and your location, we gathered quotes for eight different fictional pet households.
Our fictional pet households
We compared 64 quotes for this step alone. Because of the differences in benefits across companies, it was impossible for us to get a perfect comparison of benefits—but we chose options to make them as close as possible. We chose deductibles around $250, the maximum annual benefit (unlimited when possible), and reimbursement rates of 90 percent after the deductible.
Policy value: We seriously considered only those policies with unlimited annual benefits, flexible deductibles, and reimbursement rates of 70 percent or more. Although unlimited annual and lifetime benefits drive up premium prices, that option is the only way to make sure you’re never faced with the decision to put down a pet because you can’t afford treatment—one of the main reasons to get pet insurance in the first place. Policies with annual limits around $15,000 are more than sufficient for the most common problems—a cat eating a toxic plant costs $1,800, for instance, while a torn ACL costs $3,300—but they won’t always do the trick when cancer strikes.
Covered costs: Just like health insurance for people, pet health insurance often has coverage restrictions. More than half the insurers we considered offered multiple plans, with the cheaper options generally limiting coverage for some illnesses or some treatments. We eliminated those skinnier plans, as they’re more likely to stick you with the bill when you need them most. In many cases, only treatments and procedures are covered but the exam fee for bringing your sick or injured animal to the vet is not. Even though exam fees rarely break the bank ( they were around $50 in 2009 ), they’re charged every time you walk in the vet’s door. Because most people are better off paying a $50 to $75 exam fee once or twice a year, rather than an extra $20 or more every month in premiums, we didn’t consider this a dealbreaker. In case your pet needs rehab, comprehensive policies include coverage for alternative treatments such as physical therapy and acupuncture. Even though all the plans we considered covered dental trauma—generally, pulling a tooth that gets damaged through injury—dental diseases are more rarely covered. You’ll pay a premium if you want your plan to shell out for periodontal treatments or restorative work due to nonaccident causes, and in at least some instances onerous annual exam requirements are a precondition of coverage.
Covered conditions and exclusions: The best plans cover the most conditions and don’t exclude common ailments. We eliminated the plans that had a labyrinth of exclusions, whether for ailments common to different breeds, such as cruciate ligament problems, or for congenital-condition exclusions applied to the breeds most prone to them, such as some cardiac problems or hip dysplasia. In some cases, long waiting periods were as bad as blanket exclusions. Once your pet is enrolled, coverage for different conditions won’t kick in until a waiting period ends. Generally, the waiting period for injuries is only a week or two, but some companies exclude certain major conditions for six or even 12 months. Any claims during that waiting period will be treated like preexisting conditions, and related claims will be denied for the life of the pet.
Also, because purebred cats and dogs are more prone to congenital conditions, they’re more likely to have the kinds of problems that lead to claims that can be subject to extra exclusions or waiting periods. But mixed-breed pets, especially when their breed history is identifiable, may also be at a high risk for the same conditions.
Reviews, ratings, and expectations for a lifetime: We can’t know for sure how each company’s policies might change over the life of your pet, but we did gather the information we needed to set a realistic expectation. We used a combination of online reviews from pet owners on two different sites ( Pet Insurance Review and Consumer Affairs ), messages in pet forums, and feedback from Wirecutter staffers to get an idea of the customer service and claim management at each company. After all, if every claim results in a hassle and denial from your insurer, there’s not much point to the policy. We also looked at the financial strength of the companies behind the policies, and we directly verified some long-term policies with company representatives—because in an industry with little regulation, having a known and reliable history is a good way of judging how the company will act in the future. We noted common complaints or lines of praise to help inform our opinion, so your insurance will be as helpful and affordable in five years as it will be today.
Life insurance for children
At 12 years old, Cookie the chihuahua has figured out the important things in life. Photo: Elisabeth Chambry
What nobody will cover: Some companies offer wellness benefits to cover the cost of annual checkups and booster shots, and in some cases, the cost of spaying or neutering an animal. But most of the time this coverage won’t actually save you money, and missing a checkup will quickly lead to wasted funds. Insurance makes sense for the things you can’t predict. For predictable wellness care, set aside money every month in your own bank account instead of giving it to an insurance company.
None of the plans we considered will cover “professional” animals like those used in racing, protection, law enforcement, or guard duties. And though some companies cover, or offer options to cover, breeding activities, we didn’t consider that when making our choice.
Every plan excluded preexisting conditions, as well as treatment for animals suffering from abuse or neglect, including for preventable diseases if you skipped the vaccine for that disease. That is, if your dog gets bordetella (kennel cough), and you didn’t keep the bordetella shot up to date, insurers won’t cover the cost of treatment. If you really dig into the fine print, you’ll find all the other exclusions present in most personal insurance policies, such as the effects of war, radiation from nuclear weapons, biological attacks, mutant flu, and zombie outbreak.
Our pick: Trupanion
Trupanion has the best track record and longest history of the well-rated companies that offer comprehensive coverage at affordable rates. The policies are straightforward, offering unlimited benefits with as few catches as possible, and they cover all illnesses after just a 30-day waiting period. Trupanion doesn’t reduce coverage or benefits as your pet ages, nor does it increase premiums faster for older pets than younger ones.
Deductibles are available from $0 to $1,000, though we recommend choosing one as high as you could afford in an emergency in order to keep your premiums down. After the deductible, all claims are paid at 90 percent, either reimbursed to you or paid directly if you use one of 1,400 participating clinics and animal hospitals—the latter option is especially useful if you’re on a tighter budget, because it means you don’t have to pay what could be thousands of dollars up front. Trupanion is the only company to use a per-incident/per-condition deductible—which means if you’re seeing the vet for a long-term condition, you won’t have to meet the deductible each year, but if you have to come in with a variety of issues in a short time period, you’ll have to pay repeatedly. And while Trupanion is good for not increasing prices markedly on older animals, if you have pets younger than 6 that you don’t expect to have congenital hip problems, you’ll save by going with Healthy Paws.
Watson the Bernese mountain dog is the most perfect puppy ever, and nothing bad will ever happen to him. Photo: Mark Smirniotis
Trupanion insured its first pet in 2000, giving it years more experience than Healthy Paws Pet Insurance (2009) or Figo Pet Insurance (2015). Because there is so little regulation of the pet insurance business, looking at a company’s past performance and behavior is perhaps the best way to figure out what it will do in the future—especially for annual premium increases. Since going public in 2014, Trupanion ( TRUP ) has been one of the most transparent pet insurance companies, too. Representatives told us that over the past five years, premiums have increased roughly 6 percent per year across all the pets the company covers, and that Trupanion expects rates to climb at 5 to 6 percent per year going forward. Few other companies were willing to give us exact numbers, citing either “single-digit” increases or expected increases higher than what Trupanion disclosed.
We like that Trupanion covers all illnesses after just a 30-day waiting period, with no extended wait to cover serious or chronic conditions. Because conditions that arise during the waiting period will be treated like preexisting conditions for the life of your pet—that is, claims will be denied—the longer the waiting periods and the more serious the conditions are, the worse off you and your pet will be. We saw in our research that waits of six months to a year were common with other carriers in situations involving coverage for cruciate ligament injuries or joint problems like hip dysplasia. In fact, the 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia coverage with Healthy Paws was one reason we decided not to make that company our top pick—it’s an easy exclusion to miss, and it’s important to many pet owners, especially if you have a large dog. In our research, few companies matched Trupanion’s short, all-inclusive waiting periods, and the ones that did, such as ASPCA Pet Insurance, had other drawbacks that outweighed that one benefit. Short waiting periods are more common for accident and injury claims, both of which Trupanion covers just five days after enrollment.
No company will cover preexisting conditions, and unclear policies leading to rejected claims were often the sticking point in the negative reviews we found for all the companies. Trupanion clearly states that any condition diagnosed or suspected in the 18 months before starting coverage will be treated as preexisting. While that can be a letdown for pets having problems, it’s a clear policy, and being aware of it should avoid any surprises.
Someone tried to take away the claws of 5-year-old Hobbes, but he is so determined, one of them is growing back. His vet needs to check on it regularly. Photo: Signe Brewster
We wouldn’t recommend a pet insurance company on just reputation and waiting-period technicalities alone. Trupanion also offers a good value in its benefits and premiums. All its policies always provide for unlimited lifetime and annual benefits, the best way to insure yourself against catastrophic vet bills. Two companies we considered early in our research offered only limited annual benefits of up to roughly $15,000, and four companies offered unlimited annual benefits as an option with higher-premium plans. But only Trupanion and two others—Healthy Paws and Nationwide—come with unlimited benefits as standard. Considering how little the increase in premiums is, often just a few dollars a month when available, going unlimited is a sensible choice, not a fantastic splurge.
Though the options for reimbursement rates with other companies are nice, Trupanion’s choice to set all reimbursements at 90 percent is straightforward, and probably the right choice for the vast majority of people and pets anyway. Higher premiums for 100 percent reimbursements would rarely pay off, and lower reimbursements of 70 to 80 percent can still leave you on the hook for a large balance to be paid out of pocket.
Trupanion lets you choose a deductible between $0 and $1,000, which can drastically affect your premium.
When we looked for the premium sweet spot, Trupanion had the most flexible deductible options of any plan we considered. Three other companies allowed us to choose varying options between $100 and $1,000, but Trupanion was the only company that let us pick $0, or any amount from $50 to $1,000 in $5 increments.
Monthly premiums by age
When it comes to enrolling older pets, Trupanion offers one of the best values around. Unlike our other pick, Healthy Paws, which limits the benefits available if you enroll an older pet, Trupanion offers the same benefits to all eligible pets. In some cases, such as in our quotes for a senior cat, the premiums for Trupanion and Figo were about the same, and up to 30 percent lower than competitors’. In other cases, such as our quote for a senior dog, Trupanion was the lowest by far, beating even Figo by 30 percent. The trend in our quotes points to Trupanion not penalizing senior pets as harshly as some other companies. That said, only pets under 14 are eligible to begin coverage, so you’ll have to look at our other picks if your pet has crossed that line. (To be clear, no pets get kicked off plans for age or the number of claims, so pets enrolled before 14 won’t be kicked off as they get older.)
When we called Trupanion’s customer service to ask questions about enrollment and preexisting conditions, our call was answered in seconds, without any long prompts and phone mazes. The representative we spoke to was friendly, helpful, and obviously comfortable working without a script, providing detailed answers to our questions. With few exceptions, Trupanion receives high marks from other customers too. At Pet Insurance Review, throughout our research period, Trupanion regularly ranked in the top spots, always maintaining a score of 9 or better out of 10. Healthy Paws was the only company with competitive coverage and pricing that ranked better, averaging closer to 9.8 out of 10 and featuring as the number one carrier. In comparison, Nationwide pet insurance, long the leader in terms of size and the number of enrolled pets, averaged around 7 out of 10. Lastly, Trupanion inspired some added confidence as the most transparent company of any we reached out to: Not only were the representatives candid about historical or projected premium increases, but as Trupanion is a publicly traded company with no other business lines, we were also able to see its size and financial strength in public filings.
Moshe has had no health problems in 15 years. He’s just here to look adorable and break up all the boring details of insurance. Photo: Tim Heffernan
We didn’t consider Trupanion’s Express feature when making our pick, but it’s an undeniably nice perk. Rolled out in 2016, Express offers direct payment to about 1,400 clinics and hospitals, making it a great choice for anyone who can’t cover a large vet bill with savings or credit. Instead of paying a $5,000 vet bill and then waiting for your reimbursement, opting for direct payment allows you to pay your deductible and 10 percent coinsurance and then leave the rest to Trupanion—just make sure your vet is in the program, or encourage them to sign up.
This feature is convenient for everyone, but a real boon to anyone who lacks access to credit or a substantial savings account. Trupanion told us there’s no cost for offices to sign up for the service, and that the company continues to add new locations to the program.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
For smaller dogs and younger cats: Healthy Paws
In every direct comparison of benefits, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance had the lowest premiums of any insurer we considered, despite having among the most generous coverages and the best reviews from customers of any company. It also covers alternative treatments, such as physical therapy, that Trupanion doesn’t without an additional cost. Two flaws held Healthy Paws back from claiming our top spot: Benefit limitations when you enroll pets after age 6 lower the value for older pets in some instances, and a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia makes this insurer a risky bet for larger dogs of any breed. Any symptoms or diagnoses of hip problems in the first year of coverage would likely mean a lifetime exclusion for one of the most common, most costly conditions that many breeds face. If those two drawbacks don’t affect you or your pet, Healthy Paws should be at the top of your list.
Though Healthy Paws is owned by the public consulting giant Aon, the details of its pet insurance business aren’t outlined in its public filings as they are with the fully independent company Trupanion. So instead, we reached out to the company to get a sense of its size and its history of premium increases. Co-founder and CEO Rob Jackson told us over email that, in the past five years, “annual percentage rate increases for Healthy Paws pet parents have been in the single digits,” and that the company stands at roughly 270,000 enrolled pets. For comparison, Trupanion told us the “average increase has been 6 percent in constant currency,” and its enrollment stands at roughly 380,000, according to public filings. Given how much less Healthy Paws premiums are today—other insurers often quoted us 30 to 100 percent more—the company’s offerings should continue to be a great deal even if premium increases speed up as your pet gets older.
Boots is 12 years old, and is too freaking cute to handle. Staff writer Sabrina Imbler swears this is her real, live cat. Photo: Stephen Imbler
Aside from the low premiums given the coverage, the standout feature of Healthy Paws is the reputation the company has maintained with its customers and experts alike. Healthy Paws constantly ends up with top ratings on customer-review sites like Pet Insurance Review and Pet Insurance Quotes. A reporter at The Seattle Times did a four-part series on pet insurance in 2012 and chose Healthy Paws for her pets then. And this year Canine Journal picked it as the top choice for pet insurance. When we asked a question about preexisting conditions via the company’s contact form, we received a detailed, helpful response a few hours later. On the phone, hold times on a weekday afternoon were less than four minutes to reach a helpful rep—not the instant response we got at Trupanion, but satisfying nonetheless.
Healthy Paws’s policy met our requirement for unlimited annual and lifetime benefits, so you have no need to ration care or to fret about whether upping the benefit amount is worth the premium adjustment. Since we think pet insurance is best for major accidents or illnesses, it makes sense to stick with companies that don’t limit how much they’ll pay out if the worst happens.
Though the annual benefit is always unlimited, the annual deductibles and reimbursement options can vary. For pets under 6 years old, you can choose deductibles of $100, $250, or $500, and reimbursement rates of 70, 80, or 90 percent. As we explained earlier, most people should choose the highest deductible that they could afford in an emergency, and the premium savings will often work out in your favor if you can afford a $750 or $1,000 deductible. But even with Healthy Paws’s maximum deductible of $500, the premiums are surprisingly affordable. Given how the company’s premiums adjusted for our survey of quotes, we recommend that $500 deductible and the 90 percent reimbursement rate as the starting point for most people.
Once you enroll, you lock in your pet’s benefits for life (so long as you keep up to date on your premiums). But if your pets are 6 or older when you begin coverage, the choice is murkier, because at that age, the company starts limiting the benefits available. The three reimbursement options for new signups each drop 10 percentage points (to 60, 70, and 80 percent), and deductibles rise to $250, $500, and $750. The benefit options decrease further if you sign up a pet at 8 years old. Don’t rule out Healthy Paws for older pets—but we suggest looking more closely at our other pick if that’s your situation.
Moon is a 7-year-old redtick coonhound who likes yoga and mid-century modern furniture. Photo: Erin Price
The company also covers alternative treatments, such as physical therapy, that Trupanion leaves out of its core coverage. The biggest gap in coverage with Healthy Paws is at least one you can predict: Like Trupanion, Healthy Paws won’t cover the actual exam fee at your vet’s office. Every other company covers these $50 to $75 charges, and we almost considered the lack of such coverage to be worth a dismissal. But the reality is that every other company has bigger downsides, like drastically higher premiums, poor customer ratings, or condition exclusions. Paying out of pocket for exam fees is a bummer, but it’s at least a predictable and affordable one.
For the most part, congenital and hereditary conditions will be reimbursed just like other claims, so long as they aren’t suspected, symptomatic, or preexisting before you enroll. This approach is becoming the standard, but some companies still require extra riders for hereditary coverage, or have tiered plans with differences that are hard to parse. Healthy Paws is straightforward, covering all conditions equally after a 15-day waiting period—with one exception. Coverage relating to hip dysplasia requires a 12-month waiting period, and isn’t available at all for dogs enrolled after age 6. Though the condition can happen to dogs and cats alike, it most commonly hits large-breed dogs, and both purebred and mixed-breed dogs are at risk (PDF). Considering that the early signs can show up before a puppy’s first birthday (PDF), a 12-month waiting period should be a no-go if you expect your dog to be on the large side.
Though we didn’t consider this when choosing our pick, Healthy Paws does offer a direct payment option for those who can’t afford to pay with cash or a card on the spot. While Trupanion’s Express option is limited to about 1,400 pet clinics and hospitals, Healthy Paws’s option works with any licensed vet in the United States.
If it weren’t for restricted benefits for pets enrolled after age 6, and the onerous waiting period on hip dysplasia coverage that rules out many large dogs, Healthy Paws would land squarely in our top-pick spot. If those two drawbacks don’t apply to you, Healthy Paws should be your first and last stop.
Also great: Figo Pet Insurance
Figo Pet Insurance launched just two years ago and has managed to put together a compelling set of benefits and coverages for the money. It has kept high ratings and good reviews rolling in from its early customers, too. But the peace of mind from insurance partly stems from a company’s stable reputation, and Figo is so young that it’s still building its reputation. It didn’t have much history to help us guess how much premiums would increase in the future, and the company didn’t respond to our inquiries on the topic. If you’re willing to climb aboard, it offers flexible benefit options, low premiums, and extensive coverage for every condition including hip dysplasia, and it even covers exam fees, which our two top picks exclude.
In covered treatments, conditions, and waiting periods, Figo has the most permissive policy of all our picks. Accidents are covered after just five days, the same as with Trupanion, and illnesses are covered after 14 days—half the wait with Trupanion. The only exception is cruciate ligament and patella problems, which are subject to a six-month waiting period. Though this is reminiscent of Healthy Paws’s 12-month wait for hip dysplasia, Figo will waive the wait if your vet certifies that your pet is free of knee-related preexisting conditions in the first 30 days of coverage. It’s a hurdle, but a small one that would be worth handling for pets prone to joint issues. We wish Healthy Paws would do the same for hip dysplasia.
At 9 years old, Sookie was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur, but her insurance covered 80 percent of the bill. Photo: Steve Redmond
Though all our picks offer lifetime coverage, Figo has no upper limit on the age of your pet at enrollment. That sets it apart from Trupanion and Healthy Paws, which both cap the age of new enrollment at 14. Healthy Paws also offers fewer coverage options for pets after 6 years old. Even though Figo will cover older pets, be aware that trying to get full coverage on a teenage dog or cat will be, in most cases, astronomically expensive.
Premiums for senior pets
Like our other picks, Figo offers unlimited annual benefits, but instead of including that on all plans, as Trupanion and Healthy Paws do, Figo makes it optional. The difference in premiums between the company’s lower-benefit plans—with a $14,000 or $16,000 coverage maximum per year—and unlimited benefits is generally not much. Kittens might demand just a couple of dollars more per month, while an older purebred dog might cost as much as $20 more per month for unlimited benefits. If you want to avoid catastrophic medical bills, you also want unlimited benefits, so this isn’t the place to skimp. Most pets will be best served if you ignore the limited plans and pick the one without a cap.
If you want to save a little money on premiums, it’s better to tweak the deductible and reimbursement options. In our best direct policy comparisons with the deductible set at $200 per year, Figo frequently had the second least expensive premiums behind Healthy Paws, but you can sometimes lower your premium substantially by choosing the higher $500 option. Though $100 and $50 deductibles are available, the huge jump in premiums makes them inadvisable in most cases. You can set the reimbursement rate at 70, 80, 90, or 100 percent, the last of which was available only at Figo, not the other eight companies we considered, at the time of our research. But as with deductibles, choosing the best reimbursement rates can make premiums jump, especially for larger or older pets. If you can afford the premium, 90 percent tends to be the sweet spot for value, with 80 percent reimbursement being a slightly more affordable option.
We were impressed when we tried Figo’s customer service. Aside from responsive phone support, the company also offers text-message support. We texted the number with a question about preexisting conditions and received a reply from a representative within two minutes; we then exchanged messages until we had all the details. It’s a clever option to handle quick questions and keep call times down. For the most part, Figo customers are happy with the service too, but the small customer base of a such a young company means fewer reviews available compared with our other picks. Figo customers generally like the app and customer support, but recent premium hikes have left some customers scrambling.
The premium hikes and short history of the company are drawbacks, and the main reasons we haven’t ranked Figo higher. The two-year-old policies seem to be going through some growing pains, and the company requested approval for a 52 percent rate increase for New Jersey customers. That’s the same reason that Canine Journal held off on recommending the company this year too. For now, the quotes are competitive and the coverage is excellent, but we’ll keep an eye on future increases to see if that remains the case.
A note about anecdotes
Technically, none of the companies we considered cover Shetland sheep, even when those sheep want to be your friend, like Letty here. But we felt bad saying no to Doug when he offered this photo. Photo: Doug Mahoney
We think our top picks are the best options for most people to get coverage for their pets, but we recognize that individual needs may vary. Here’s a rundown of what we liked and didn’t like about other insurers you might encounter while shopping for policies.
What we liked: VPI offered the first pet health insurance plans in the 1980s, and was purchased by insurance giant Nationwide in 2008. That long history, both as an independent and as part of a major corporation, makes us confident that Nationwide policies will be around for a long time, and the company is unlikely to make huge changes to the premiums or coverage out of the blue. Nationwide also offers policies for exotic pets, like birds and lizards, which other insurers won’t cover.
What we didn’t like: It’s far easier to find negative reviews of Nationwide’s coverage than it is to find positive ones, with most complaints centering on denied claims and poor customer service. Nationwide also has the fewest policy options, with a fixed $250 deductible and 90 percent reimbursement rate. The major medical plan limits coverage for some illnesses, while the Whole Pet with Wellness plan, which has broader coverage, adds wellness care and other coverage items that unnecessarily inflate the premium. Nationwide partners extensively with employers to provide discounted plans as benefits, but be careful: Those plans often differ from retail policies, with few benefits and less coverage overall.
Term insurance rates comparison
What we liked: Embrace offers comprehensive coverage with few exclusions. The six-month waiting period for orthopedic coverage can be waived if you have your vet certify your pet’s health with an exam. The company gets high marks on Pet Insurance Review too.
What we didn’t like: Embrace doesn’t offer an unlimited annual benefits plan, instead capping payouts at $15,000 per year. Given that the premiums were almost always the most expensive in our apples-to-apples comparisons, we didn’t think it was a good value overall.
What we liked: AKC plans have short waiting periods—just two days for injury coverage or 14 days for illnesses.
What we didn’t like: The cheaper CompanionSelect plan excludes some conditions and treatments, such as for cancer and allergies. And coverage for inheritable conditions is available only with a rider purchased before age 2. Though we’ve seen positive reviews, the average review scores for these plans are lower than those for our top picks. Annual benefits are limited to $16,000, and each incident is eligible for only $10,000 in coverage. Given the restrictions and reviews, the high premiums aren’t worth it for most people.
What we liked: ASPCA plans are more flexible than most, offering a range of benefits from $5,000 up to unlimited payouts per year. They also offer 70, 80, or 90 percent reimbursement rates to help tailor the right premium. The Complete Coverage option for injury, illness, and hereditary diseases includes reimbursement for exam fees in addition to treatments and medications.
What we didn’t like: Despite the good coverage, customers don’t rate ASPCA plans very highly, and during our research, the premiums were generally more than those of roughly half the companies we looked at.
What we liked: Petplan offers comprehensive coverage that includes exam fees, with many options for annual benefits, deductibles, and reimbursement rates. The waiting periods for all conditions except cruciate ligaments and patellas are short—five days for injuries and 15 days for illnesses. The six-month wait for cruciate ligament and patella coverage can be waived if your pet is examined and cleared by a vet within 30 days of enrollment.
What we didn’t like: If your pet hasn’t been to the vet in the past year, anything diagnosed at the next visit will be treated as a preexisting condition. Skipping annual wellness exams can cause coverage to be reduced or lost as well. During our research, Petplan’s premium costs were often the third highest of any plan we considered.
What we liked: The Elite plan includes unlimited annual benefits and multiple choices for deductibles and reimbursement rates. Cruciate ligament problems constitute the only condition with an extended wait. In our research, we found that premiums were in line with those of our top picks, with quotes for some animals slightly lower.
What we didn’t like: Customer ratings for Pets Best on Pet Insurance Review were among the lowest of the companies we compared. The Essential and Plus plans have severely limited annual benefits of just $5,000.
Carrie Waite, Pets Best, email interviews, August 24, 2017
TJ Houk, chief data officer, Trupanion, email interview, August 24, 2017
Marissa Villegas, Trupanion, phone interview, August 24, 2017
Adam Fell, Nationwide, email interview, August 24, 2017
Dawn Pyne, Embrace Pet Insurance, email interview, August 24, 2017
Rob Jackson, CEO, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, email interview, August 24, 2017
Dennis Rushovich, SVP, Crum & Forster Pet Insurance (ASPCA), email interview, August 24, 2017