Pet insurance can make owners barking mad

Which? research reveals that some pet insurance customers are seeing premiums double as their pet ages and being required to pay up to 20% of the costs of a claim. This could mean a significant outlay as we also found first-time treatments cost pet owners an average of £900.

We surveyed 1,675 Which? members and looked at a number of pet insurance policies on comparison websites. We found:

  • From the age of five to seven onwards, premiums show a marked increase for both cats and dogs. For dogs, the average premium increase from ages five to seven up to 13-plus years was 52%; while for cats it was a staggering 147% increase.
  • Our survey reflected the high cost of veterinary treatment, with the average first claim members made during the past year at £899; with dog owners on average making higher claims in comparison with cat owners.
  • We also found some policies requiring pet owners to pay up to a fifth of the treatment costs, over and above the excess.
  • And pet owners are having to make contributions towards claims for pets at early ages – just under a fifth (18%) of insurance policies for dogs aged just three months require additional payments beyond the excess, and one in 10 (13%) policies for cats.
  • By the time a dog is aged over 12, the average annual premium paid by Which? members is £544 for a lifetime policy. For cats at the same age, its £334.
  • A third of dog owners and a fifth of cat owners (who’ve a policy for a decade or more) cited rising premiums and a feeling of not being able to switch as the two biggest concerns with their pet insurance policies.

Editor of Which? Money, Gareth Shaw said:

“High veterinary bills can be crippling for some people and many animal lovers think pet insurance can be cost effective. But we have found premiums can give policy holders an unwelcome shock as their pet matures.

“We’d like insurers to communicate more about the factors that drive up policy costs and last year’s premium alongside the renewal quote, explaining any differences. We’d also like to see insurers doing more to explain how costs are likely to increase over the age of a pet.”

In our satisfaction survey John Lewis came out top, with a customer score of 63% and gained four stars for value for money, customer service and transparency of charges and penalties. At the bottom end of the table, E&L only managed a score of 44%.

Notes to editors:


  • · Customer satisfaction scores: We spoke to 3,158 respondents from the Which? Connect panel about their pets in November 2014. Of these 1,675 had pet insurance policies and rated their providers. Only companies with a minimum sample size of 30 included in the results, with 11 rated in total.
  • · Premiums paid at different ages: We asked respondents to our survey to tell us how old their pet was and the premium they were currently paying to calculate the average amount they pay for their pet at different ages. We received 360 responses from dog owners and 164 responses from cat owners.
  • · Cost of claims data: We asked Which? members who had made a claim in the past during the 12 months prior to their last renewal to tell us the amount they claimed for. The £899 average is based on 516 claims.
  • · Contribution to claims research: Premium analysis was run at the beginning of December 2014 based on quotes from Compare the Market. Quotes for a three month, one, five and nine year old, female Golden Retriever and Moggy, neutered and based in London.

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