Pet insurance plans: accident only versus comprehensive

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Pet insurance plans: accident only versus comprehensive

So, you’re thinking about buying pet insurance for your lovely cat or dog. Awesome! You are making the right choice!

But as you’re shopping around, you may be confused by what type of pet insurance you should buy. Pet insurers typically offer multiple tiers of coverage, and every insurer uses different names for those tiers. Lots of shoppers get overwhelmed by the options available and give up.

Since you’re here, let’s take this opportunity to clear the air about the different types of pet insurance plans.

Pet insurance in 2 minutes

Two major types of pet insurance: accident only and comprehensive

It’s easy to identify accident only pet insurance plans – there’s one thing pet insurance companies agree on, and it’s naming their accident only plans "Accident Only."

Pretty much every other type of pet insurance plan falls into the comprehensive category, whether the plan is called "Basic," "Silver," "Elite," or "Creme de la Creme."

What’s the difference between accident only plans and the rest of a company’s offering? It’s as straightforward as you think: accident only plans only cover accidents. Your dog gets hit by a car and breaks a leg? Accident only covers it. Your cat has kidney issues? Not covered.

Comprehensive plans are, well, more comprehensive. They will cover illnesses such as cancer or allergies, and some plans cover congenital and hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia.

Check out this chart for a quick comparison between the two types of plans:

pet-insurance-plans-accident-v-comprehensive

What's good about accident only pet insurance plans?

Like all other pet insurance plans, an accident only plan can be used at any licensed vet, and it will protect you from getting stuck with a large, unexpected vet bill – so long as that bill is due to an accident.

Because they represent the "bottom tier" of pet insurance plans, accident only plans are typically much cheaper than comprehensive plans from the same company. You may be able to get an accident only plan for as little as five bucks per month, which is affordable for a lot of different kinds of shoppers.

What’s bad about accident only pet insurance plans?

But being cheap comes at a huge price: your pet is not covered when it comes to illnesses or other diseases. A lot of people underestimate just how expensive those vet bills can get – and how much they’ll be willing to pay when it comes to saving their dog or cat’s life. More times than not, paying the slightly higher monthly premium for comprehensive pet insurance is the better option.

What’s good about comprehensive pet insurance plans?

A lot of the same stuff that’s good about accident only pet insurance plans are good about their comprehensive siblings. You can use comprehensive plans at any licensed vet, and they protect you from large, unexpected bills. Comprehensive plans cover more of those bills than accident only plans, however, because they cover illnesses in addition to accidents. Some of the more expensive plans may even cover congenital and hereditary diseases.

What's bad about comprehensive pet insurance plans?

Most comprehensive pet insurance plans don’t come with any coverage for wellness and preventative care – basically, most of your normal vet bills, like your annual office call, vaccine boosters, and heartworm tests. A lot of shoppers are turned off by that. They want an insurance policy that covers all of their vet bills, not just the crazy expensive and unexpected ones. Wellness and preventative care can be added to some comprehensive plans for an additional fee.

Comprehensive plans are also more expensive. Most insurers offer multiple tiers of comprehensive plans, however, which means that most families can probably afford some level of comprehensive pet insurance.


No matter what plan you end up buying, you’re doing yourself and your pets a great service by buying pet insurance. However, we do strongly suggest taking a look at the various comprehensive plans available before turning to accident only. We believe that accident only pet insurance plans should be seen as a sort of "last resort" – if you can’t afford any other pet insurance plan, accident only is a good option, but we think you’ll be able to find an affordable comprehensive plan that does more to cover your pet.

Image: Mark Patterson