An Expert's Guide to Buying Pet Insurance
We sat down with Michelle, cofounder of Canine Journal, to get her take on the best way to start researching pet insurance options.
It’s no secret that shopping for pet insurance can be an overwhelming task. There are so many facets to research, a multitude of options, and it can be difficult to narrow down just what features are the most important to focus on. We spoke to Michelle Schenker, co-founder of Canine Journal, to get her take on how to make shopping for pet insurance less painful, and why Figo is ultimately her pet insurance company of choice.
Q: Hi Michelle – thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me! As a pet owner myself, I will admit that even beginning the dive into the research process for pet insurance was a daunting task. Where do you recommend pet parents start the initial search for pet insurance?
A: So true. It is a very complex topic to consider! Doing your homework before making this significant financial decision is crucial, especially when it comes to your furry family member’s health.
Begin by reading our comprehensive pet insurance guide, which covers all the preliminary questions you may have about pet insurance, including what it is, how it works, what it covers, how much it costs, and more. Knowing all of this information will help you choose the best pet insurance company for your pet.
After you know how pet insurance works, we recommend asking your friends, family, and vet for recommendations. Their experiences may be helpful to you in making your decision.
Next, we suggest reading the best pet insurance reviews. At CanineJournal.com, we have spent nearly ten years examining the pet insurance industry to arm pet parents with the knowledge needed to make a fully informed buying decision. Our team of experts, including me, a licensed insurance agent, spend every day researching the industry and staying on top of the latest trends to give our readers the most accurate information.
When choosing which company and product to go with, seeking unbiased information and reviews is key to finding the best fit for you. Our reviews and content are entirely unbiased. You can feel confident that the companies we recommend are truly the best based on countless real customer experiences, pricing quotes, coverage details, and plan flexibility to fit any budget. For 2021, CanineJournal.com proudly placed Figo at the top of the pack as the best pet insurance company (find out more in question #6 below).
Once you have narrowed it down to a few companies, we recommend getting pet insurance quotes. Then, call your top pick (or two) to ask any particular questions you have, including coverage and exclusions, as well as any specific health concerns you have for your pet. This can also help you get a sense of hold times, helpfulness and friendliness of staff, etc.
Now, you’re ready to sign on the dotted line and pay your first premium. You can also rest assured that your pet is covered for any unexpected medical expenses so that you can focus on their health instead of the strength of your wallet. Congratulations on taking this step toward peace of mind and responsible pet ownership.
Q: In your opinion, what are a few of the most important deciding factors when it comes to selecting the pet insurance company for you?
A: Too often, consumers use the lowest price as the primary reason to pick one product over another. But if you pay the least amount of money for the lowest coverage and service quality, you will be very disappointed when counting on your policy. For that reason, we have five criteria that we rank pet insurance companies on: Policy Coverage, Customer Service & Reputation, Claim Repayment, Plan Customization, and Price. Each factor plays a crucial part in determining how a plan will fit into your needs and budget - today and when you need it to pay for an emergency.
Further, pet insurance premiums increase every year, primarily due to the rising costs of vet care. And newer companies tend to have more significant price hikes due to a desire to gain market share with low prices paired with a lack of experience in the marketplace.
We advise going with a trusted, experienced company with the reputation to back them up. Don't be fooled by price tags. You get what you pay for, and you shouldn't compromise on care for your beloved dog or cat in times of need. Our top-ranked companies have reliable, easy-to-reach customer service, timely reimbursement, and a wide range of coverage options.
On that note, make sure you pick a company that best suits your dog's unique health needs. Is your dog's breed predisposed to a specific condition? Do their siblings have issues that you want to cover too? Read the fine print and make sure that you know what you're signing up for before committing.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges that pet parents face when shopping for pet insurance?
A: One of the biggest challenges is the overwhelming number of options available! Not only picking a provider, but also deciding what type of coverage (accident-only, accident and illness, and wellness), your ideal reimbursement percentage, deductible, and payout, plus other add ons to include.
Another possible issue is waiting until it's too late to get insured. Either the pet already has a pre-existing condition (no pet insurance company offers coverage for pre-existing conditions) or is no longer eligible for coverage with several companies due to age restrictions. We highly encourage pet parents to sign up as early in a pet's life as financially possible to ensure that they receive the most comprehensive coverage and can lock in the lowest possible pricing over the lifetime of your pet.
Q: What do you see as the greatest benefits of getting pet insurance? Why would you recommend that a friend consider purchasing a policy?
A: The most significant benefit by far is the peace of mind it provides in a medical emergency, knowing that you don't have to decide between your wallet and your dog's well-being. You can give your loved ones the treatment and care they deserve without having to worry about how to pay for it. Even something that seems minor, like an upset stomach (the number one health concern reported by dog owners), could end up costing $20,000 or more over the lifetime of your pet. Pet insurance is a relatively small monthly expense, but if you budget for it, the investment could ultimately pay for itself (and then some) in the long run. And, like all insurance, you hope your pet stays healthy, and you never have to use it, but if you do, it provides a safety net to catch you.
Q: Do you have pets yourself? If so, tell me one sentence about what your pet means to you.
A: Yes, we have two adorable rescue mutts that we adopted from our local Forsyth Humane Society in Winston-Salem, NC. Lily, 12 years old, and Barley, 2.5, bring so much joy and laughter to our home. Despite their age difference, they keep one another on their toes, and Lily teaches Barley how to be a better canine citizen. Lily teaches us all to be better with her unlimited love and desire to snuggle.
Q: Last question – we'd love to know why Figo is your #1 pick for pet insurance.
A: CanineJournal.com puts a significant amount of thought and research into finding the best pet insurance coverage available in the U.S. In our ongoing effort to keep our content updated for readers, we consider policy updates, pricing changes over time, new features, consumer reviews, underwriter shifts, and more. With that said, Figo offers the best on all criteria -- some of the lowest prices without sacrificing coverage or service. We love that Figo offers customizable and comprehensive plans so you can find a policy that fits into almost any budget. Figo also has an excellent customer service reputation and is one of the only pet insurance companies with a 100% reimbursement option.
Michelle Schenker is the proud co-founder of Canine Journal and a dog lover through and through. Michelle is also a licensed insurance professional and holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University. With over two decades of corporate business experience, her expert advice and opinions have appeared in outstanding media outlets, including Newsweek, The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, and more.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.