For most people, pets are part of the family, but they’re not cheap—vet bills for dogs, cats, and small animals can easily go into the thousands, and yet, pet insurance is very often forgotten.

We asked Jonathan, the Editor-in-Chief of Everything Reptiles, to share their six top tips on how you can avoid common mistakes with pet insurance.

Accidents happen—it’s part of life, but the effects and distress of these accidents can be reduced with pet insurance, helping us feel more comfortable about our animals, ranging from small, inexpensive lizards, all the way to expensive, rare breeds of dogs. If this is something of concern to you, then you have come to the right place, because in this article, we will be going over 6 common mistakes people make with pet insurance

1. Not knowing what your policy covers

Insurance is complicated. If you were to ask a number of people what their car insurance covers, many of them wouldn’t be able to give you an exact answer, because insurance policies are different, each with their own complications and rules—this applies to any kind of insurance, pets included. Before purchasing pet insurance, or insurance of any kind for that matter, make sure you do enough research so that you actually know what you’re paying for and what’s covered. If you are not sure, don’t hesitate to check the insurance company’s website or give them a call—they should have answers to any questions you might have.

2. Paying too much

This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked. At the end of the day, insurance companies are still companies, and they must make money in order to continue operating. Some insurance companies may charge more than others for the exact same coverage. They will of course, rarely notify you of this, unless they are the less expensive insurance option. Think of the car insurance adverts you see and hear on the television or radio, always advertising and explaining why they are the best, and why their rates are better. Make sure to compare different insurance companies before purchasing, to ensure that you are receiving the best price for the correct coverage for your pet(s). There are plenty of websites and services online that allow you to compare different rates for comparable (or identical) coverage. We all want to save money, so why pay more for the same thing, when you can pay less? 

3. Paying too little

Unfortunately, insurance is a complicated thing—typically, the best option for you is not going to be highlighted and outlined in a premade package, because each pet, pet owner, and insurance policy is different. Although we surely would like to pay as little as possible, it’s important to make sure that the insurance you get is enough for our own personal situation. No one wants to have a pet emergency, and then find out that the insurance won’t pay as much as they thought. If you get a policy that is too cheap, then you might unfortunately be put in this situation. Speak with your insurance provider, ask questions, and explain your own situation to them, so that your pets are adequately covered. You may be paying more each month, but you’ll be glad to do so, if it means the insurance provider is going to help more on expensive vet bills. 

4. Misinterpreting your excess

By definition, an excess is the amount you have to pay yourself before the insurance company starts paying. Understanding this is critical, as it has a direct effect on how much you’re going to be paying. A low excess can be great, but with a lower excess often comes a higher monthly payment—similarly, a higher excess can reduce your monthly payment. Working out which level of excess is right for you depends on your situation. Speak with your insurance company, and describe the pet you’re insuring, what you want to be covered, and how much you can afford both monthly, and up front in the case of an accident. There is often a ‘sweet spot’, so that you can balance your excess and monthly payment in a way that is right for you.

5. Misunderstanding exclusions 

Knowing what your insurance excludes under your policy is just as vital as knowing what the policy includes—this can lead to a major headache if you don’t know beforehand. The following are some common things that insurance companies won’t cover. Keep in mind, however, that these may vary depending on the pet species, monthly payment, and insurance provider.

  • Pre-existing conditions: (anything on your pet’s medical record that is documented before you begin the insurance policy).
  • Day-to-day pet care: this involves procedures that help to prevent illness in your pet, including:
    • Spaying/neutering, checkups, vaccinations, parasite control, heartworm medication, dental cleaning, ear cleaning, and microchipping.
  • Visits to the vet: At most vets you will pay a flat consultation fee, regardless of the procedures that may occur—for most policies, the insurance company will not cover this fee.

Make sure you understand what exclusions are a part of your pet’s policy, so that there is no confusion, causing you to pay out of pocket for something you thought was covered by your policy. 

6. Insuring already sick pets

This is, in a sense, a continuation of the first bullet point in the above section, but it is worth elaborating and emphasizing. You can’t purchase insurance for a pet that’s already sick, and expect the insurance company to cover it—this is simply not how insurance works. You should purchase pet insurance to cover potential future problems that your pet may have. If your pet becomes sick, or has a problem of any kind, it’s already too late to have the insurance company cover this issue—for this reason, you should insure your pet as soon as possible, if you choose to do so. Not surprisingly, insurance policies typically have waiting periods, where cover will not start for certain amount of time after the policy starts, so that the insurance company can prevent paying for pre-existing conditions.

With these common mistakes in mind, you should feel much more confident about insuring your furry, feathery, or scaly friend. As always, though, do your research before buying a pet, or pet insurance, so that you get what you pay for and only pay for what you need. Do not hesitate to contact several insurance companies to learn as much as you can before purchasing coverage.

With these tips under your bet, you should feel much more confident when looking for pet insurance. Make sure you check out what Smart Money People’s reviewers think of their pet insurance provider by visiting our leaderboard, or why not leave a review on the company you use at the moment?