Many pet owners frequently drive with their animals, and while we might know the safest ways for pets to travel in vehicles, crates and other restrictive means are often not practical, and they don’t always prevent injury. Some salvation: a handful of car insurance companies recognize that animals often go along for the ride and offer auto insurance coverage for pets.
Which Car Insurance Companies Offer Pet Coverage?
If your pet is injured and needs veterinary care, an auto insurance policy that includes your pet will cover the medical expenses–and you don’t need to list them ahead of time on your policy. A few national insurance companies offer pet coverage (usually just for dogs and cats), but be sure to check regional insurers in your area, too. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some options to consider:
Progressive includes Pet Injury Protection in their Collision coverage plans (not to be confused with their pet insurance policies). The coverage pays for any expenses incurred if your pet is injured in a car crash—up to $1,000 for vet bills to treat injuries, and up to $1,000 if your pet is killed in a wreck. The coverage extends to cohabiting relatives’ pets, too. In two states, New Hampshire and North Carolina, Progressive doesn’t yet offer Pet Injury Protection.
Metromile, which offers pay-per-mile auto insurance, also offers up to $1,000 of coverage for pet injuries or deaths stemming from traffic incidents covered by their comprehensive and collision insurance. Metromile is currently operating in seven states, and only four (California, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington) offer pet injury coverage.
Note that for both Progressive and Metromile, pet injury coverage is included in optional comprehension and collision coverage offered by these insurers: a policy with either insurer that only covers your state minimum won’t include pet coverage.
Erie Insurance, licensed in 12 states, offers pet injury and death coverage to customers in Washington, D.C. and 11 states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Pet coverage is built into all policies and will cover up to $500 of vet bills for up to two dogs or cats injured in the vehicle, and up to $1,000 if the pets are killed.
Chubb Insurance offers up to $2,000 to cover pet injury and replacement expenses for all domestic pets—even those pulled in trailers (like horses). In 28 states, coverage is included in Chubb’s Masterpiece Auto Preference policy.
We asked Neil Richardson, resident insurance expert and licensed agent at The Zebra, why insurers offer pet injury protection in some states and not others, and the reason has to do with the insurance companies’ licensing with the states or the states’ unique insurance requirements. It could be just a matter of time, however, before these companies do offer pet injury protection in all states.
Richardson also speculated that some auto insurance companies may avoid offering pet injury protection altogether due to fraudulent practices. For example, someone may have a pet which is already injured from an unrelated circumstance, and then might get into a wreck and and try to claim that the animal was injured in the collision in order to receive a payout from an insurance company. Shocking, but Richardson says people have been known to do such unsavory things, so no surprise that some insurance companies want to avoid that hassle.
Should Pet Owners Purchase Pet Injury Protection?
Richardson advises considering auto insurance that covers your pet if you often drive with them in the car. But, he says, keep in mind that if your pet is injured in a car crash and the other party is at fault, their liability insurance will cover your pet’s injuries as “property,” so you wouldn’t need to rely on your insurance. However, it’s risky to bet on never causing a crash yourself, as is expecting the other party to be properly insured. Keep in mind, notes Richardson, the pet must be injured in the course of a crash for pet injury auto insurance coverage to kick in—if you leave your pet in a hot car and they’re injured, all expenses (and infinite guilt) is on you.
We spoke with Elizabeth Butler of Austin, Texas, who has been in two car crashes with her seven-pound Pekingese-Chihuahua mix, Troy. Neither crash required medical attention for Troy, but once he was thrown into the lower dash and once he hit the windshield, and both times he was visibly shaken.
Though in neither crash was Butler at fault, she was left with the vehicle repair bills both times. The first time, she was rear-ended by an uninsured, underage driver, and the second time she was T-boned by an intoxicated driver who fled the scene. If Troy had needed veterinary care, Butler also would have either had to pay the bills out of pocket or turn to her own insurer that offered pet coverage.
Butler says she wasn’t aware auto insurance for pets existed, but she’s now interested in obtaining a policy that includes it, since she travels by car with Troy four to five times a week.
Pet Insurance and Auto Insurance for Animals: An Important Distinction
Pet insurance is something any owner can purchase for their furry (or not so furry) friends to cover costs like vet bills for any injuries (including those sustained in a car crash) or illnesses and routine care. Confusingly, some national insurers (like Progressive and Nationwide) that offer auto insurance also offer pet insurance, which is different from their car insurance policies that include pet injury coverage. While pet insurance would pay for injuries an animal received in a car crash, as we’ve seen, pet owners don’t need separate pet insurance to cover their animals in the event of a car wreck if their auto insurance policy covers animals.
An important note: because pet injury protection as part of an auto insurance policy is different from pet insurance, prior medical history isn’t taken into account (a bonus for pet owners with complicated medical histories).