The best cheap pet insurance offers comprehensive coverage, no annual limits, and top-notch customer service. To help you compare your options, we took a deep dive into our top picks’ premiums, deductibles, and reimbursement options. But because your premium is unique to your pet, you’ll want to compare quotes from all three.
Our top pick is the only provider that will reimburse 100% of your vet bill and waive your deductible for lifesaving care. We liked that prescription drug costs and vet visits are covered, too.
Even better: Its industry-leading customer service and cloud-based record storage will make stressful times with your pet a little easier.
It offers unlimited coverage and low premiums with one major exclusion for hip dysplasia, a common problem in older dogs.
Its per-condition deductible plans are consistently more expensive, but ideal for pets genetically prone to chronic illnesses.
The 3 Best Cheap Pet Insurance Providers
- Figo Pet Insurance -
Our Top Pick
- Healthy Paws -
Good for Cats, and Dogs Not Prone to Hip Dysplasia
- Trupanion -
Good for Young or Purebred Cats and Dogs
Figo Pet Insurance first won our accolades in our review of the best pet insurance for its broad coverage, responsive customer service, and helpful extras like cloud-based record storage. Of our three finalists, Figo is the only one that covers exam fees, waives coinsurance and deductibles if your pet needs lifesaving care, and offers a 100% reimbursement plan option. That means once you’ve paid your annual deductible, all your pet's medical costs are fully covered. After diving deeper into Figo’s policies, we’re confident its coverage is a good value, too. Its premiums are neck-and-neck with Healthy Paws — and consistently cheaper than Trupanion.
Like Figo, Healthy Paws offers an unlimited plan with generous coverage and a variety of deductible and reimbursement options. If your quoted price is cheaper with Healthy Paws than with Figo, it’s a solid choice. But there’s a catch for owners of big dogs: A long waiting period before hip dysplasia coverage kicks in, and no coverage for the condition at all if you enroll your pup after age six.
If have a young pet who’s at risk of developing a chronic illness, Trupanion's per-condition deductible structure could make it the best choice for you. Its waiting periods before coverage kicks in are the longest of our top picks, but if your vet says your purebred pup hasn’t shown signs of hip dysplasia or your kitten hasn’t let on that she’ll one day need ongoing treatment for kidney issues, you’ll only pay the deductible for chronic conditions once in your pet’s lifetime. Plus, Trupanion’s the only one of our top picks that pays some vets directly, so you don’t have to pay the whole bill at the time of your appointment and wait for reimbursement.
How We Found the Best Cheap Pet Insurance
In our review of the best pet insurance, we explored policies, talked to experts, and identified three companies with the most valuable plans. The best providers — Figo, Trupanion, and Healthy Paws — all offer broad coverage with no annual limits, short waiting periods before coverage kicks in, timely reimbursement, and responsive customer service. But you’ll still need to get quotes from each provider. So, we took a deeper dive into premiums and deductibles to help you navigate plans and find the one that could be the most valuable to you.
First, we found out what affects your premium.
According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the average annual premium payments for accident and illness plans totaled about $518 for dog owners and $321 for cat owners in 2016. Monthly, you can expect to pay between $30 and $50 in premiums. Before quoting your monthly payment, providers will take note of several factors to estimate how much your pet might cost to insure. Here’s what we found to have the largest impact after running multiple quote scenarios through our top picks.
Breed and Size
Certain breeds of dogs and cats are more vulnerable to genetic disorders and chronic illnesses than others. For example, a purebred English Bulldog is prone to develop chronic respiratory issues, and Persian cats are at-risk of inheriting polycystic kidney disease. A higher likelihood of illness means a higher likelihood of recurring, high costs, and the insurer takes this into account when calculating your premium.
If your dog is a mixed breed, the insurance company calculates that risk based on their size: “small,” “medium,” or “large.” Larger dogs are more likely to have health issues like hip dysplasia, so they’re more expensive to insure.
Age and Location
Like people, pets tend to run into more health issues as they age and become more expensive to enroll. Similarly, vet care costs more in cities than in rural areas because expensive specialists, advanced technology, and alternative therapies are more accessible.
Then, we looked into our top picks’ deductible structures and reimbursement options.
As with human health insurance, you’re responsible for more than a just monthly premium. How much you pay in any given year is also based on your deductible and reimbursement percentage.
Your deductible is what you have to pay out-of-pocket before your pet insurance coverage kicks in. Typically, that’ll take one of two forms in pet insurance:
- Annual deductibles: Your payments go toward one deductible for all care; once that’s met, all treatments are covered at your rate of reimbursement for the rest of the year (Figo and Healthy Paws).
- Per-condition/incident deductibles: You pay a deductible for each illness or injury; once that’s met, all treatment for that condition is covered (Trupanion).
All of our top picks offer deductibles ranging from $50 to $1,000. The lower the deductible you choose, the higher your monthly premium. So what deductible should you choose? When we pulled quotes for a year-old, mixed-breed dog living in the suburbs of New York, we found that all of our top picks had a different deductible sweet spot.
In the example above, we pulled quotes from each provider for plans with a 90% reimbursement. Then we adjusted our deductible and recorded each deductible’s coinciding monthly premium. To estimate our potential annual cost, we multiplied each monthly premium by 12 and added the coinciding deductible. In this scenario, Figo’s $200 deductible and Healthy Paw’s $100 deductible offer the best potential value. Trupanion is noticeably an outlier, since its deductible is per-condition. For this exercise, we acted as if one condition’s deductible was met in the year. But that cost is more variable than the other two providers, since you may never meet a given condition’s deductible, or you may meet several in a year.
But while those monthly costs are certain, accidents and illnesses are not. There’s no guarantee you’ll meet your deductible — but that’s a good thing. If your pet doesn’t face many costly illnesses and injuries in its lifetime, the lowest monthly premium possible may end up being the cheapest long-term.
Regardless of the deductible you choose, you should be ready to foot any bill upfront. Pet insurers traditionally require you to pay your entire vet bill, file a claim, then wait for reimbursement (the exception being Trupanion — more on that later).
When you purchase a policy with Figo and Healthy Paws, you get to choose how much of your bill you want reimbursed. Reimbursements trade off in a way that’s similar to deductibles: The more you’re reimbursed per claim, the higher your monthly premium will be.
A low or high rate of reimbursement might pay off in a given year, depending on what health issues your pet faces.
Let’s say you and your 1-year-old Labrador Retriever live in the suburbs of New York and you enroll her in Figo’s “Ultimate Plan” with unlimited annual benefits and the $200 deductible we found to be the most cost-efficient in our research above.
- If you choose the 70% reimbursement option, your premium will be $34 per month, or $408 per year. That’s relatively low, but if the dog gets hit by a car and needs a $3,000 surgery, you’ll pay $900 of that final bill.
- Alternatively, if you choose the 100% reimbursement option, your monthly premium will be $18 more per month, or $624 per year, but the entire cost of that surgery will be reimbursed.
In the first situation, once you’ve paid off your deductible, you end up paying $1,308 for the year. In the second, you end up paying only $624 for that surgery plus any additional expenses throughout the year.
What you end up paying in coinsurance (the amount you pay per bill that’s not reimbursed) will depend on how high those bills are. If your cat develops cancer and needs ongoing treatment, having 90% to 100% of every costly chemotherapy bill covered could pay off in a big way.
But if that same cat remains healthy, your high monthly premiums may feel like they’re adding up fast and not paying off. When choosing both your deductible and reimbursement, we recommend asking your vet about your specific pet’s risk and weighing your options based on the likelihood you might face high costs over time. If your vet anticipates that your pet will develop expensive conditions over its lifetime, the higher rate of reimbursement is more likely to pay off.
Our Picks for the Best Cheap Pet Insurance
Figo’s unlimited coverage extends to exam fees, and even waives coinsurance and deductibles if your pet needs lifesaving care — features no other provider offers. Its broad coverage doesn’t hide any massive exclusions or long coverage waiting periods, either. That makes it more likely to be a fit for any pet, in comparison to a provider like Healthy Paws, which doesn’t always cover hip dysplasia — a common (and costly) issue for big dogs.
If your vet says your particular dog or cat is likely to face expensive illnesses throughout its life (more purebred animals are), you’re going to need more coverage than someone who owns a pet with little risk (like an indoor cat). Figo enables you to tailor your coverage and monthly premium in a few different ways, to find the most valuable plan for you.
First, you can choose one of three base plans that offer different scopes of coverage and different maximum amounts Figo will pay in benefits each year — we recommend the unlimited “Ultimate” plan. The Essential and Preferred plan come with a lower premium, but they cap out at $10,000 and $14,000 in yearly benefits, respectively.
From there, you can choose among four annual deductibles ranging from $50 to $500 per year, and four reimbursement options ranging from 70% to 100%. It’s the only one of our top picks that offers 100% reimbursement — an option that might pay off if you know your pet is liable to rack up several big bills over his or her lifetime.
Figo’s website makes it easy for you to get a quote and adjust it based on any of these factors; just by adjusting plans, deductibles, and reimbursements, we found premiums ranging from $17 to $77 per month for the same pet.
Figo’s generosity shines through in its customer service, too. When we called with questions, a confident, assuring customer service representative picked up immediately and patiently answered our questions in full. It also offers a cloud-based storage system for you to file and track claims and upload your pet’s medical records all in one place. That’s valuable anytime, but in an emergency it’s invaluable. Say you’re out of town and your cat swallows her toy, you can use the app on your smartphone to find the nearest vet and quickly pull up her history so the doctor can provide the best possible treatment.
We recommend any pet owner get a quote from Figo and adjust its specific features to find a plan that makes sense for you. However, if you have a young animal that’s prone to chronic or genetic conditions, a cat, or a small dog, it’s also worth looking into one of our other top picks.
Healthy Paws offers one comprehensive plan with no benefit payout limits and monthly premium customizability in the form of three reimbursement options (70–90%) and three annual deductibles to choose from ($100–$500). The plan offers a 15-day waiting period for illness and injury coverage (besides hip dysplasia), the shortest of our top picks. But keep in mind that, unlike Figo, Healthy Paws won’t cover exam fees.
We also liked its quick reimbursement turnaround times (a customer service rep said it’s usually about 10 days) and useful app that — while it doesn’t let you store your records online for easy access like Figo’s — lets you file claims with a photo of your bill.
When we requested quotes, we found that on average, Healthy Paws offered the lowest monthly premiums for older dogs. However, while you might pay less every month, Healthy Paws’ has strict limits on hip dysplasia coverage. It’s an expensive genetic disorder that’s common in older dogs — statistics from the Canine Health Information center show that 72% of Bulldogs and 70% of Pugs are dysplastic.
If you choose a plan with Healthy Paws, coverage for hip dysplasia isn’t covered at all if your pet is enrolled after they turn six. And there’s a year-long waiting period for that coverage to kick in if your pet is under six years old. Before enrolling, check with your vet to see how likely your dog is to develop hip dysplasia in its lifetime. If your pet isn’t at risk, Healthy Paws is still a solid choice.
Trupanion offers one plan with broad, transparent coverage, and a range of deductible options. Admittedly, Trupanion’s consistently higher monthly premiums may be off-putting at a glance. But its unique structure makes it worth considering if your young pet is likely to develop expensive, chronic conditions over its lifetime.
Rather than paying one deductible each year, you’ll pay one deductible for each condition or illness your pet faces in its lifetime. That may just pay off, depending on your pet. Let’s say you’re insuring a Rottweiler — a breed that’s particularly vulnerable to cancer. Chemotherapy alone can cost up to $10,000.
All Trupanion plans have a 90% reimbursement, so you may end up paying $1,000–2,000 (depending on the deductible you choose) total. After that, any cancer-related issues are covered at 90% for the rest of your dog’s lifetime, regardless of how many years of follow-up treatments are required. With an annual deductible, you’d have to pay off a new deductible every year your dog requires follow-up care.
On the other hand, that value doesn’t hold up if your pet has several accidents, but never develops a chronic illness. If your German Shepherd needs to be de-wormed one year, eats chocolate and has to get his stomach pumped the next, then develops hip dysplasia later in life, you might dip into several condition-specific deductibles. Each illness or accident will require a separate deductible on top of its already high premium.
Trupanion’s 30-day waiting period before illnesses are covered could be its downfall for older animals; if a costly condition like hip dysplasia crops up within 30 days of enrolling, it’ll be considered pre-existing. If you recently adopted a puppy or kitten, your vet can tell you the risks your pet carries so you can determine whether or not Trupanion’s deductible structure might be worth it.
Did You Know?
Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered.
It may not come as a surprise that no pet insurance policy covers pre-existing conditions. But every provider defines “pre-existing condition” differently. It’s important to look at that section of every policy you’re considering for language that might exclude coverage for your specific pet. Your pet doesn’t need to be diagnosed with an illness for any of our top picks, he or she just has to show “clinical signs.” Here are some common examples from Trupanion:
Cat develops a sarcoma on its back during the policy waiting period.
Dog sprains it knee before enrolling in the policy. Later, it develops hip dysplasia.
You should still read the fine print.
The fine print of your contract might have hidden gems that’ll help your pet avoid the label of “pre-existing condition” in some instances, like this language in the Exclusions section of Figo’s sample policy:
|“Costs or fees for the treatment associated with damage or rupture of cruciate ligaments, luxation of the patellas or other soft tissue disorders of the knee where clinical sign(s) occur during the first six (6) months that the policy is in effect; provided, however, that this exclusion does not apply if your pet is examined by a vet within the first thirty (30) days of the policy and the medical record specifically notes your pet does not have any pre-existing conditions relating to its knees.”|
Without reading that statement, a pet owner might miss their chance to bypass a six-month waiting period for coverage of a common injury in common dog breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Golden Retrievers. But with that knowledge, a clean bill-of-health from the vet within 30 days means that Figo will cover costs of that injury in the future.
More and more employers are offering pet insurance as a benefit.
Only about 1.6 million out of 179 million North American pets are insured — that doesn’t sound like very many. But the scene is changing. In June 2017, The New York Times reported that 5,000 companies now offer pet insurance as a benefit alongside human health and dental insurance. If your company decides to start offering it as a perk, it’ll be among the likes of big tech companies like Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Yahoo.