One in five pet owners have had a problem with soaring insurance premiums – with dog and cat lovers being charged as much as £2,000 to protect their precious animals, a Which? survey has found.
In a survey of over 1,300 Which? members, the average price for an annual lifetime policy has reached £472 for a dog and £285 for a cat.
Six in 10 (60%) policyholders saw a rise since their last renewal – on average £123 for dogs and £57 for cats.
One in three (32%) people with insurance for a dog or cat have put the policy to use – making at least one claim over the past year.
In 2014, Which? found the average cost of an annual lifetime policy for dogs aged seven to 10 years-old was £456. In the most recent survey, the average amount pet owners shelled out for dogs aged seven to 10 was £526.
In Which?’s survey on how happy pet owners are with their insurers, LV and Direct Line top the table with a customer score of 66% and 64%. Both received four stars for transparency of charges and penalties.
Sainsbury’s (43%) and Marks & Spencer Bank (36%) came last, with just two stars for value for money.
Which? found the breed of pet you own and where you live can make a difference to how much it costs to insure a cat or dog. It averaged the five cheapest quotes for eight popular dog and seven cat breeds on a comparison site for lifetime policies with a Cambridge postcode.
French Bulldogs (£358) were the most expensive of eight popular breeds of dogs compared – costing hundreds of pounds more to cover than a Jack Russell Terrier (£133). For cats, a Maine Coon (£114) was the most costly followed by Bengal (£105) and Domestic Long-haired cats (£86).
In the survey, pet lovers in the East of England had the highest average premium for insuring a single dog (£565) on a lifetime policy, followed by:
East Midlands – £535
South East England – £517
London – £493
South West England – £470
North West England – £427
West Midlands – £424
Harry Rose, Which? Money Editor, said:
“While rising premiums have left many feeling squeezed, there are a few things you can do to help rein in the cost of insuring your pets. The earlier you get cover the better. Not only will premiums be cheaper, a younger animal will have fewer pre-existing conditions, making for fewer exclusions and greater choice between policies.
“Always shop around for insurance, and if you want to switch check which conditions the new insurer will and won’t cover. Unfortunately, it’s likely that the new insurer will exclude all of your pet’s current and pre-existing conditions, which could make switching for a lower premium a false economy.”
With premiums increasing for pet owners, rival insurers become less interested in offering a better price. If insurance isn’t an option, people can consider these backup plans:
Self-insurance: Put aside savings to cover future vet costs has the benefit of greater flexibility and no small print to contend with – and any unspent money is yours to keep. However, you also take on all the risk.
Assistance with paying: If you don’t have pet insurance and can’t afford a steep vet bill, you may still be able to access treatment. Some animal charities, such as PDSA and the RSPCA, provide vet services either free or at a reduced cost.
Notes to editors:
When her two border collies, Briar and Rowan, were puppies, Which? member Gwen Weston took out a Sainsbury’s pet insurance policy. Price increases were gradual until around three years ago, when they began to shoot up. With the dogs now aged 11, Gwen’s renewal quote last November came in at an unmanageable £1,692.
She called Sainsbury’s but, while it was sympathetic, it refused to budge. Gwen has reluctantly had to cancel her policy, and is doing her best to set aside provision for future veterinary expenses.
Sainsbury’s told Which? that pets’ insurance premiums increase with age because the likelihood of needing treatment also increases, and that the costs of vet fees have been rising over time.
Research: In January 2018 Which? surveyed 1,343 pet insurance customers who are Which? members about how satisfied they were with their provider, and how likely they’d be to recommend it to a friend.
Research: Pet breeds – Which? averaged the five cheapest quotes for eight popular dog and seven cat breeds on a comparison site for lifetime policies – the most popular type – with a Cambridge postcode.
Regional averages of premiums reported from 459 Which? members in the survey with a single dog insured on a lifetime policy. Regions not included where fewer than 30 responses received.
2014 research: Which? 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. Which? asked respondents to tell them 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.