Cheap pet insurance – 5 reasons why it’s not always the best

8 min Read Published: 14 Mar 2024

5 reasons why the cheapest pet insurance isnt always the best

Pet insurance is designed to pay out for veterinary bills should your pet require treatment for illness or injury. If your pet is healthy, pet insurance can be seen as an unnecessary expense, but without it, you could be left out of pocket if your pet develops an illness or has an accident.

As well as veterinary bills, pet insurance can also cover your pet against additional costs such as loss and theft, death due to illness and injury and holiday cancellation should your pet require emergency treatment before you are due to travel. Pet insurance does not cover the cost of routine treatment such as vaccinations and worming and a standard policy does not usually cover pregnancy and birth. When looking for pet insurance you want to ensure you are getting a good deal whilst still getting the right amount of cover for your pet.

In this article, we explain why the cheapest pet insurance policies are not always the best option for your pet and how they could leave you out of pocket or unable to claim. For more information on pet insurance and how it works read our 'Complete guide to pet insurance'.

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1. Cheap pet insurance usually means less comprehensive cover

Typically, the more you pay for your pet insurance, the more extensive the cover. There are four main types of pet insurance; lifetime, maximum benefit, time-limited and accident-only. Lifetime pet insurance is the most comprehensive so the premiums are usually more expensive than other types of pet insurance. Accident-only pet insurance is generally the cheapest, however, it does not cover the cost of treatment for illness. You should always shop around for the best pet insurance deal and look at the different policies available for each type of cover as you may be able to get more for your money with another provider. In the below comparison table, we explain the difference between the four main types of pet insurance. If you would like a more detailed explanation of pet insurance types, read our article 'What are the different types of pet insurance?'

The different types of pet insurance

The below comparison table compares the levels of cover you can expect between the different types of pet insurance policies.

  Lifetime pet insurance Maximum benefit pet insurance Time-limited pet insurance Accident-only pet insurance
Vet fee cover for illness
Vet fee cover for injury
Vet fee cover amount renews annually
Vet fee cover per condition Policy dependent
Vet fee cover for a set time period (usually 12 months) Policy dependent

Pet insurance policy cost comparison

The following comparison table highlights how much you can expect to pay for each type of pet insurance. The ranges were obtained by running a comparison through Quotezone* and are based on a 1-year-old mixed breed dog and cat. The ranges will vary depending on the type, age and breed of your pet and you could end up paying more than the suggested range in the table. Pet insurance premiums typically increase as your pet ages and pedigree breeds are usually more expensive than non-pedigree pets as they are more susceptible to certain illnesses.

Lifetime pet insurance Maximum benefit pet insurance Time-limited pet insurance Accident-only pet insurance
Dog (Estimated monthly cost range) £5-£50 £5-£20 £5-£25 £4-£19
Cat (Estimated monthly cost range) £5-£36 £5-£33 £5-£19 £3-£12

The cost of pet insurance varies based on a number of factors such as breed, age and location. It also depends on the level of cover you choose. To highlight the difference in cover between the same types of pet insurance policy we have compared two lifetime pet insurance policies in the below comparison table.

The Animal Friends pet insurance policy is the cheapest of the two policies and is an annual condition limit lifetime policy.  This means that each condition is covered up to £1,000 per policy year and then renews again the following policy year. The ManyPets* pet insurance policy is an annual limit lifetime policy which means that you can claim for numerous conditions up to the total limit of £7,000 each year, there is no restriction on how much you can claim for each condition as long as the total amount claimed in any one policy year does not exceed the total limit. The annual limit then renews the following policy year.

Lifetime pet insurance policy cost comparison

Annual condition limit lifetime policy  Annual limit lifetime policy
Provider Animal Friends ManyPets*
Monthly Cost (1-year-old dog) £8.31 £33.65
Monthly Cost (1-year-old cat) £8.34 £24.73
Excess £99 per condition per year £99 per year
Vet fee limit £1,000 per condition per year £7,000 per year

(Quotes correct as of 06/03/24) 

As you can see in the above comparison table, Animal Friends offer a lifetime pet insurance policy for under £10 a month but it does restrict how much you can claim for each condition and you may reach the limit fairly quickly. The ManyPets policy on the other hand provides a total benefit limit of £7,000 each year, meaning you are less likely to reach the policy limit when you claim, but this does come at a greater cost. It is important that when comparing pet insurance quotes you look carefully at the type of pet insurance you are buying as well as the benefits and level of cover stated on the policy documents.

2. You may pay more towards claims

When comparing the cost of pet insurance it is important to consider how much you are paying towards the cost of a claim, often referred to as a policy excess. Most pet insurance policies have a compulsory excess which is payable when you make a claim and is usually around £100 but insurers often have more than one excess amount to choose from. This means that when you make a claim on your pet insurance you will have to pay the excess which is a contribution towards the cost of the veterinary fee treatment. Usually, the higher the excess on your pet insurance policy, the cheaper the premium. Some pet insurance providers such as Waggel* have the option of not paying an excess.

In some cases, cheaper insurance premiums mean you may also have to pay a co-payment on top of the compulsory excess. A co-payment is a percentage contribution towards the cost of the remaining vet fee claim minus the excess amount. For example, if the claim was £1,000 and there was a £90 excess and a 20% co-payment, you would pay £272 towards the cost of the treatment and the insurer will pay £728. As pets age, most pet insurance providers add a compulsory co-payment onto the pet insurance policy to try and keep the cost of premiums as low as possible. Make sure you look at your policy documents carefully so you understand how much you are expected to pay when you claim and from what age this is enforced. Most pet insurers deem dogs 'old' from the age of 8 and cats from the age of 10.

Searching for pet insurance via a comparison site usually highlights some of the cheapest pet insurance policies on the market, however, the quote often includes a co-payment in addition to the policy excess. Look out for this when comparing pet insurance and make sure you read any policy documents carefully so you understand exactly what you are expected to pay when you make a claim.

3. Most comparison sites are not whole of market

Comparison sites are designed to find you the best deal for your pet insurance policy but could you get better cover elsewhere?

It is worth considering that in most cases, comparison sites do not cover the whole market and therefore do not include pet insurance comparisons from companies such as Direct Line. Comparison sites also show quotes for companies that they have agreements with and are paid a commission fee for should you decide to take out a policy via the comparison site. In addition, in order to show you the cheapest pet insurance policies, comparison sites show you quotes with co-payments. This means that whilst you may be paying less for your premium, when it comes to making a claim, you end up contributing more towards the cost of the treatment cost.

Additionally, comparison sites may not always offer you the best deal and you may be able to get different options when visiting the insurer directly. For example, Sainsbury's Bank offers up to £10,000 annual veterinary fee cover with its lifetime pet insurance policies, however, it wasn't possible to see this amount of cover on one of the comparison sites we checked. So in this instance, you would be better off getting a quote directly on the Sainsbury's Bank website or comparing quotes on multiple comparison sites if you wanted more veterinary fee cover.

4. Getting a multi-pet discount may not be as cheap as you think

Pet insurance companies that offer multi-pet discounts often encourage you to take out a multi-pet policy if you want to insure more than one pet, but is a multi-pet insurance policy cheaper? Whilst you may be getting a discount with the provider when choosing a multi-pet policy, you may be able to take out separate policies elsewhere, which can often be cheaper than taking out a multi-pet policy.

In the below comparison table, we have compared the cost of a Petplan lifetime multi-pet policy with separate Animal Friends cat and dog policies. The Petplan Classic premium (with £4,000 of veterinary fee cover) totals at £60.01 a month for both a cat and dog on its multi-pet policy and the Animal Friends combined monthly cost is £44.88 for a separate dog and cat policy (with £4,000 of veterinary fee cover). The quotes are based on a 1-year-old mixed breed cat and dog living at the same address in the South East and with no underlying health conditions. Interestingly, the comparison also shows that the Animal Friends policy offers more vet fee cover each policy year (as it is £4,000 per condition per year) at a lower cost.

To find out more information about the policies compared in the below table read our independent reviews:

Multi-pet pet insurance plan vs Buying separate pet insurance policies

Petplan (Multi-Pet plan) Animal Friends (Separate policies)
Pet insurance policy name Covered for Life (Classic) Superior Plus
Pet insurance policy type Annual limit lifetime Condition limit lifetime
Multi pet discount  tick
Vet fee cover £4,000 per policy year £4,000 per condition per policy year
Excess £95 per illness/injury per policy year £99 per condition per policy year
Monthly cost for a cat £21.50 £20.84
Monthly cost for a dog £38.51 £24.04
Combined monthly cost £60.01 £44.88

(Quotes correct as of 07/03/24) 

5. Switching to a cheaper pet insurance policy could leave your pet unprotected

Pet insurance covers your pet for any treatment due to illness or injury and it is essential that you pick the right policy when your pet is young to ensure you are covered should you need to claim at a later date. This is because when your pet needs veterinary treatment or if you need to make a claim, the condition is then deemed as pre-existing and will not be covered under any new policy you take out at a later date.

If you have already claimed on an existing pet insurance policy and choose to switch your pet insurance provider or switch to a cheaper premium, your pet may not be covered for that particular condition on the new policy. This is why it is better to thoroughly research pet insurance prior to opening a policy for the first time as you could be out of pocket later down the line if you need to claim and cannot manage the increase in the pet insurance premium.

How to find the best pet insurance policy

There are numerous things to consider when opening a pet insurance policy and how much you pay will depend on the type, age and breed of your pet. It is important to do your research before opening a policy because if your pet is treated for a condition this may be later considered as a pre-existing condition and therefore no longer covered by the policy or under a new policy. We have written 'A complete guide to pet insurance' that explains the different types of pet insurance, what you can get cover for and how much you can expect to pay for veterinary treatment. You may also find these articles useful:



If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. But as you can clearly see this has in no way influenced this independent and balanced review of the product. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses or take advantage of any exclusive offers - ManyPets, Waggel