Pet Insurance Review Methodology
How we reviewed and rated each pet insurance provider
Anyone who has pets knows that at some point they’ll get sick or injured, sometimes more than once. When that happens, you want to make sure you can pay for the care your pets need to keep them happy and healthy.
One of the best to do this is with a comprehensive pet insurance policy. The best pet insurance companies offer policies with low deductibles and reimbursement for up to 90% of your vet bills due to accidents and illnesses. Many also offer add-on riders that will help you pay for preventive care and other emergency expenses, such as boarding your pet if they have to spend the night in recovery.
To help you sort through the overwhelming number of choices of pet insurance policies, we reviewed nearly two dozen providers and put them through a rigorous review process to help you find the best coverage for your pet family.
Our Review Process
To be objective and thorough in choosing the best pet insurance, we reviewed over 20 providers and assigned each one a grade based on the following categories:
- Company strength
- Covered treatments
- Types of pets
- Customer service
We assigned a rating of one (lowest) to five (highest) for each category and then weighted and totaled them in order to establish an overall composite rating of one to five stars for each pet insurance company.
We measured each company’s strength based on the years in business and consumer ratings. Combined, these factors accounted for 5% of each company’s overall score.
Years in Business
We looked at the total number of years each company had been in business since this can reflect industry experience and the ability to adapt to changing economic conditions and insurance industry trends. We also found that longevity often translated to better customer service and claims processing.
We awarded the highest ratings for companies that had been providing insurance policies for 51 years or longer. Conversely, companies with a history shorter than five years received the lowest rating.
AM Best Rating
AM Best specializes in rating insurance companies for financial strength and stability. As a result, we looked closely at the ratings the organization gave to the companies we reviewed.
We gave the highest marks to pet insurers that earned an Excellent (A+ rating or higher) with AM Best. Conversely, those that receive a rating of Poor (C or lower) scored the lowest.
In addition to customer service, the quality of a pet insurance company comes down to how much coverage a policy or plan offers as well as how many or how few restrictions come with it.
Because we were specifically rating pet insurance providers, companies that only offered discounts or wellness programs scored lower. We also awarded more points to companies that offered accident-only plans in addition to the standard accident and illness policies since they offered more coverage options. These factors combined made up just 6% of a company’s total score.
We also considered the following categories when assessing a company’s plans:
- Waiting periods
- Enrollment age limit
- Exam grace period
- Trial period
All pet insurance companies require you to wait for a set period of time after your policy is activated before you can file a claim. If you file before this waiting period is up, your claim will be automatically denied.
Because injury claims can usually be filed sooner, we awarded higher points to companies with an injury waiting period of three days or less and the least points for waiting periods over 10 days. Illness waiting periods of 10 days or less scored highest and those 21 days or more scored the lowest.
Enrollment Age Limit
As with life insurance for people, pet insurance tends to be more expensive for older pets and comes with more restrictions. Some providers, however, won’t insure pets under or over a certain age to mitigate their risks.
We gave the most points to companies with no minimum or maximum enrollment age. The lowest scores went to companies that wouldn’t insure pets under nine months of age or over 10 years old.
Exam Grace Period
Most pet insurance companies require you to either submit records of a recent pet exam or get a new exam before any claims are approved. The time you have from the start of your policy to when you need to get your pet an exam is called the exam grace period.
We awarded the most points to companies that offered a generous exam waiting period over 30 days and the least to companies with waiting periods of 15 days or less.
Many pet insurance companies offer a trial period that allows you to cancel your policy if you’re unhappy with the insurance company. Many will also reimburse you for any premium payments provided you didn’t get reimbursed for any claims during your trial. Companies that offered trial periods between 16 and 30 days scored highest while those with no trial period scored the lowest.
Most pet health insurance policies are accepted by any licensed veterinary practice. Some, however, only work with participating practices or a small network of company locations. Companies with policies accepted by any licensed vet received the highest rating while those with fewer than 1,000 locations received the lowest.
With pet insurance, you can expect to be reimbursed for a standard set of services provided they are related to an accident or illness (or just an accident in an accident-only policy). Covered treatments made up 35% of each company’s score.
We awarded companies five points for each of the following services automatically covered in their plans, three points if they offered them for an additional fee, and only one point if they didn’t offer them at all:
- Lab tests
- Continued treatment
- Genetic conditions
- Medical boarding
Pet insurance only covers vet services related to accidents and illnesses, which means most won’t reimburse you for routine care, including annual checkups, teeth cleanings, vaccinations, and flea or tick medications.
However, many pet insurance providers offer a wellness plan that covers these services for an additional fee. Companies received five points if they covered preventive care in their policies, three points if they offered it as a paid add-on rider, and one point if they didn’t offer it at all.
More and more pet owners are embracing alternative treatments to help their pets recover from injuries and illnesses. As a result, many pet insurers cover acupuncture and chiropractic treatments and sometimes include hydrotherapy and laser therapy as well.
We awarded five points to providers offering alternative and holistic care coverage in their policies, three points if it was offered for an extra fee, and just one if it was not offered at all.
The point of pet insurance is to make it more affordable to care for your pets during an emergency than if you had to pay out of pocket. That cost is reflected in how much you pay each month for your policy, and is commonly known as a premium.
Many factors go into determining your monthly premium including what deductible, annual limit, and reimbursement you choose as well as the type and age of your pet and where you live. Combined, pricing accounted for 10% of a company’s total score.
To make evaluating this category simpler, we sorted companies by whether their premiums were below, on par with, or above the industry average.
Companies on the low end that offered premiums under $10 per month for both cats and dogs scored the highest, while companies with premiums over $30 scored the lowest. Mid-range companies with premiums under $20 for dogs and $15 for cats scored the highest, while those with premiums over $40 for dogs and $35 for cats scored the lowest. Finally, on the high end, we award the most points for companies with premiums under $40 for dogs and $20 for cats and the lowest points for premiums over $70 for dogs and $40 for cats.
A deductible is the total amount you have to pay out of pocket in covered vet fees for the year before your pet insurance company starts to reimburse you. In general, the lower your deductible, the higher your premium.
As with premiums, we sorted companies by whether the choice of deductibles they offered was below, on par with, or above the industry average.
Companies that offered a $0 deductible option scored the highest, while those with deductibles of $1,000 or higher scored the lowest. The companies offering deductibles $200 or higher were awarded more points than those offering $500 or higher deductibles, but all were scored lower than the companies with a $0 deductible.
Reimbursement represents the percentage of your total vet bill for covered services your pet insurance will cover. It’s called reimbursement because you will have to pay the full bill upfront, submit your claim, and wait for your insurance to reimburse you for your percentage by check or direct deposit.
By and large, most pet insurance providers offer a choice of 70%, 80%, or 90% reimbursement amounts. As with deductibles, the higher the reimbursement the higher your premium.
In a few rare cases, we came across a company that offered a 100% reimbursement, and we awarded them the most points for that option. Even rarer were companies that offered a reimbursement of only $25, and we awarded them the lowest number of points.
The annual limit represents the total dollar amount your pet insurance will reimburse you for claims in one year. Again, we broke this down into companies with annual limits below, at, or above the industry standard.
In all cases, companies who offered unlimited annual coverage scored the highest. Those with an annual limit under $5,000 and up scored the lowest. Companies with an annual limit under $10,000 and up scored the lowest. We awarded the lowest points for annual limits under $20,000.
By default, most pet insurance companies require you to pay your premium month after month. A few, however, offer more flexible payment terms.
We awarded the most points to companies that offered customers the option to pay their premiums monthly, quarterly, or annually. Those that only offered a monthly payment option scored the lowest.
Many pet insurance companies offer some kind of discount to encourage pet owners to choose them above their competitors. The most common is a discount for insuring multiple pets which can range from 10% for insuring more than one animal to 10% off each animal insured.
Other savings offered include discounts for paying annually, microchipping your pet, for military service members, and for enrolling in a policy online. We awarded the highest points for each discount offered by the companies we reviewed.
Types of Pets
The majority of pet insurance available covers dogs and cats only. However, we did come across a few providers that also offered coverage for birds, small mammals, reptiles, horses, and exotic pets. The types of animals covered accounted for 10% of a company’s overall review, and we awarded higher point levels for each additional type of animal covered by each company.
Some would say there’s no point getting pet insurance if filing or getting help with your claim from a live person is a nightmare. That’s why our assessment of a company’s customer service made up 10% of its total rating.
Instant Online Quote
Because there are so many ways to combine deductibles, annual limits, and reimbursements, getting on the phone with a pet insurance agent to review your options can be stressful and confusing. For that reason, we awarded the highest points to companies that let customers quickly and easily build a policy online and get accurate price quotes.
Unfortunately, some companies are behind the curve in terms of technology and require policyholders to either fax or mail claim forms, which can slow down the reimbursement process. As a result, we awarded high points for companies that made it easy to file a claim online, whether through a website, email, or a mobile app.
Online Account Management
You shouldn’t have to pick up the phone every time you have questions about your policy, need to add or remove pets, or even adjust your coverage. Companies that offered easy-to-use online portals that let customers review and make changes to their policies any time of day or night received high points from us.
Customer Service Channels
Sometimes you just can’t find an answer to your question online and you need to speak to a real person. While we expected every pet insurer to offer phone support, we also award high points to companies that also offered email and live chat support.
Choosing the Right Pet Insurance for You
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into determining the right pet insurance for your budget and needs. In our review of over 20 pet insurance providers, we created a rigorous scoring system heavily weighted on the factors that we felt consumers cared the most about. This included company strength, coverage options, pricing, and customer service.
To see which companies ranked the best in our reviews, be sure to check out our list of the best pet insurance companies.