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Katherine MurbachKatherine MurbachEditor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertKatherine Murbach is an editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Edited by

Antonio Ruiz-CamachoAntonio Ruiz-CamachoAssociate Content DirectorAntonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.
Expert reviewedExpert reviewedThis article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.Learn more about oureditorial review process.

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Kristi Sullivan, CFP®Kristi Sullivan, CFP®Certified Financial PlannerKristi Sullivan, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, she was a regional consultant at Fidelity Investments for nine years.

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Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a contract between you and an insurance company: You agree to make payments toward your policy, and the insurance company agrees to pay a sum of money to your beneficiaries if you die while your policy is active.

Do I need life insurance?

If you have people who depend on you and your income for their livelihoods, you probably need life insurance. Many people find themselves shopping for life insurance following a major life event, like getting married, having children, or buying a house. Below are some common examples of people who benefit from life insurance.

  • Families: If you have family members in your household for whom you provide, it’s important to have life insurance to protect their quality of life.

  • New parents: After growing your family, it’s smart to evaluate your life insurance coverage to make sure your children are protected.

  • Anyone with dependents: If you have other dependents or expect to care for an aging family member, life insurance can help make sure their care doesn’t lapse in your absence. 

  • Stay-at-home parents: Even though stay-at-home parents don’t bring home a traditional salary, they provide significant value in the form of housekeeping, cooking, and childcare, among other activities. Life insurance can help replace their contributions to the household in the event they pass away.

  • Business owners: Life insurance can help business partners pay estate taxes, buy out a partner, or hire a replacement for the deceased owner.

  • Young adults: Even if you don’t have any dependents yet, getting life insurance while young might be a smart move because that's when it'll be cheapest for you — you can start planning for the future and save money by locking in the cheapest rates early on. 

  • Anyone over 60 years of age: Seniors can use life insurance to cover final expenses or to complement their estate planning strategy.

→ Read more about who needs life insurance and why

How do I get a life insurance quote online?

To get a life insurance quote online, you’ll need to start by providing a few pieces of information that will affect your rates — for instance, your age, gender, and any health conditions you may have. You’ll then get an estimate or a range of what you can expect to pay, but your rate won’t be final until you apply and go through underwriting, which is when the insurance company reviews your application.

Use our cost calculator below to get a life insurance quote online for free — then connect with one of our licensed agents to get unbiased advice and find the best and most affordable options from multiple insurers to fit your financial and coverage needs.

What type of life insurance policy do I need?

The type of life insurance you need depends on what kind of financial protection you’re looking for, as well as your budget. Below are the most popular types of life insurance.

Term life insurance

Term life insurance is the most popular type of life insurance coverage because it’s affordable and provides financial protection when you need it the most, usually during your peak earning years. Term life policies typically have a length between 10 years and 30 years. They don't have complex tax implications or restrictions.

Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that lasts your entire life. It’s five to 15 times more expensive than term, but comes with a cash value account separate from the standard death benefit. The cash value grows at a low interest rate set by your insurer, and is funded by part of the premiums you pay.

Universal life insurance

Universal life insurance is a flexible type of permanent life insurance that allows you to increase or decrease how much you pay toward premiums. If you decrease how much you spend, the difference is withdrawn from your policy’s cash value. It’s best for high earners trying to build a nest egg without entering a higher income bracket.

No-medical-exam life insurance

No-medical-exam life insurance refers to policies that don’t require a medical exam for approval — you complete a health interview online or over the phone instead. Most no-medical-exam life insurance options are term policies that offer a faster application process for people with minor health conditions.

What is the difference between term and whole life insurance?

Term life insurance lasts for a specific period of time — usually 10 years to 30 years. Whole life insurance lasts your entire life, as long as you continue to pay the premiums. Whole life is also five to 15 times more expensive than term life, on average.

The most common types of life insurance, at a glance

Life insurance type

Coverage length

Best for ages

Medical exam required

Death benefit payout

Builds cash value

Premiums

Term

10 years to 40 years

18-65

Not always

$100,000+

No

Fixed

Whole

Life

18-65

Yes

$50,000+

Yes

Fixed

Universal

Life

18-65

Yes

$50,000+

Yes

Flexible

No-medical exam (term)

10 years to 40 years

18-60

No

$100,000+

No

Fixed

→ Read more about the differences between term and whole life insurance

How much does life insurance cost?

The cost of your life insurance will depend on your age, gender, and health, as well as the specific policy you’re looking to buy. Interested in getting a free online quote for your particular situation? Give our cost calculator a try.

  • A healthy 35-year-old non-smoker, for example, will pay less than $26 per month for a term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit payout and a duration of 20 years. Term is the most affordable and convenient type of life insurance for most people.

  • The same 35-year-old would pay around $526 per month for a whole life insurance policy with the same $500,000 payout. Whole life is the most popular type of permanent life insurance because it never expires, but is five to 15 times more expensive than term.

How much does term life insurance cost?

Term life insurance will cost less than $28 per month on average to a healthy 35-year-old buying a policy with a duration of 20 years and a death benefit coverage amount of $500,000. Below are more average sample term life insurance rates for non-smokers and smokers.

Average monthly term life insurance rates for non-smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$14.10

$20.89

$33.27

Male

$17.03

$26.69

$44.40

35

Female

$16.32

$25.43

$42.60

Male

$18.48

$30.15

$51.70

45

Female

$28.19

$47.62

$86.69

Male

$34.95

$60.54

$112.95

55

Female

$59.69

$108.31

$207.24

Male

$82.46

$150.12

$283.12

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Methodology: Sample monthly estimated rates are for male and female non-smokers with a Preferred health rating buying a 20-year, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse Financial, Foresters Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 02/01/2023.

Average monthly term life insurance rates for smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$34.18

$57.76

$106.59

Male

$42.39

$73.08

$135.21

35

Female

$44.06

$77.89

$142.11

Male

$52.76

$93.15

$175.87

45

Female

$89.24

$163.94

$313.16

Male

$119.97

$223.19

$429.97

55

Female

$195.77

$363.81

$704.34

Male

$282.83

$523.94

$1,018.13

Collapse table

Methodology: Sample monthly estimated rates are for male and female smokers with a Preferred Smoker health rating buying a 20-year, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse Financial, Foresters Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 02/01/2023.

How much does whole life insurance cost?

Whole life insurance will cost on average $526 per month to a healthy non-smoker 35-year-old buying a policy with a $500,000 coverage amount. Below are more monthly whole life insurance rates for non-smokers and smokers.

Average monthly whole life insurance rates for non-smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$175

$346

$660

Male

$199

$393

$765

35

Female

$243

$481

$947

Male

$288

$571

$1,121

45

Female

$360

$716

$1,417

Male

$435

$866

$1,690

55

Female

$589

$1,173

$2,332

Male

$692

$1,380

$2,173

Collapse table

Methodology: Sample monthly rates for male and female non-smokers obtaining a $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy fully paid up at age 100 through MassMutual. Not all policies available in all states. Rates will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer’s rate. Rate illustration valid as of 02/01/2023.

Average monthly whole life insurance rates for smokers

Age

Sex

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

25

Female

$216

$427

$833

Male

$251

$496

$972

35

Female

$301

$597

$1,177

Male

$371

$735

$1,452

45

Female

$467

$928

$1,838

Male

$574

$1,142

$2,230

55

Female

$762

$1,519

$3,020

Male

$930

$1,854

$3,645

Collapse table

Methodology: Sample monthly rates for male and female smokers obtaining a $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy fully paid up at age 100 through MassMutual. Not all policies available in all states. Rates will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer’s rate. Rate illustration valid as of 02/01/2023.

Why you can trust our rates

At Policygenius, our sample rates are based on internal actuarial rate tables for life insurance companies that offer policies through the Policygenius marketplace. Our life insurance prices represent the average monthly life insurance premium for each sample customer profile (age, gender) and policy type (term or whole, and coverage amount) as of the date reflected on each table's methodology. Rates for those products may vary by state, and not all products are available in all states. Individual rates may vary, depending on age, gender, state, health profile, and other eligibility criteria.

What factors affect life insurance quotes?

Your age

Age is one of the biggest factors that determines your life insurance rates — the cost of life insurance increases an average of 4.5% to 9% every year you get older. This is because we all become riskier to insure as we age.

Your gender

Women are statistically less risky to insure than men because they have longer life expectancies. As a result, they typically see cheaper rates. If you’re transgender or nonbinary, your gender shouldn’t have a noticeable impact on your life insurance quotes — and you can use the gender that most closely aligns with your identity during the application process instead of the one assigned to you at birth.

Your health

In general, the fewer health conditions you have, the cheaper your rates will be. Each insurer has their own guidelines when it comes to health conditions and height-to-weight ratios, but following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular check-ups with a doctor can help as a starting point to secure the best rates.

Your use of tobacco products

The use of tobacco products can have a significant impact on your life insurance rates. Smokers pay at least twice as much for life insurance as non-smokers because smoking has known negative health effects. Insurers will also consider what kind of tobacco products you use and how frequently you use them when setting your premiums.

Your lifestyle

Hobbies like regularly skydiving, scuba diving, or piloting a private plane can impact your rates because life insurance companies may see you as a higher insurance risk.

Where to buy a life insurance policy

Once you’ve looked at multiple quotes, the next step is to buy your life insurance policy. You can buy a life insurance policy directly with a company or an affiliated agent, or through an independent broker. We recommend the latter option. Here's why.

  • Through an independent broker like Policygenius: We work with multiple top insurers and can offer you unbiased advice and a wider array of products. At Policygenius, we work with more than 10 different insurance companies and can help you easily compare and buy a policy online.

  • Directly from the insurer: You can work with a specific insurance company and apply through their agents. They’ll be familiar with that company’s products, but you’ll only be able to compare policies from that particular insurer.

  • Through an affiliated agent: You can work with an agent who is affiliated with one or more insurance companies. They’ll have access to those insurers’ product guides, but they might work on commission, which might influence their advice and the policies they offer you.

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What are the best life insurance companies in February 2023?

Protective, Banner Life, Lincoln Financial, Brighthouse Financial, and Pacific Life are among the best life insurance companies, according to Policygenius’s ratings. We’ve used industry data, pricing from our partners, and third-party rankings like A.M. Best and J.D. Power to select the top insurers on the market. 

It’s important to choose a life insurance company that’s financially stable since you want to be confident they can pay the death benefit on your policy if needed. At Policygenius, we only work with companies that are A-rated or higher according to A.M. Best, so you’re in good hands.

The best life insurance company for you, however, will depend on your financial needs, as well as your age, gender, and health. The best way to find the best insurer to fit you personally is to work with an independent broker and get recommendations for your specific circumstances.

Company

Policygenius rating

Best for

Protective review

4.9/5

Cheapest

Banner Life review

4.7/5

Overall, term, pre-existing conditions

Lincoln Financial review

4.7/5

Marijuana users, mental health conditions

Brighthouse Financial review

4.6/5

No medical exam, young adults

Pacific Life review

4.6/5

Customer satisfaction

AIG review

4.5

Families, sleep apnea

Collapse table

→ Policygenius’s carrier reviews: Learn more about our life insurance partners

How does life insurance work?

Life insurance works much like other types of insurance policies — it provides financial protection for your loved ones. You pay a monthly or annual premium to an insurance company, and in return, the insurance company agrees to pay out a sum of money to your beneficiary if you die while your policy is active.

What does life insurance cover?

A life insurance's death benefit payout can be used to cover all kinds of expenses or debt, including end-of-life expenses and funeral costs, estate planning costs, monthly bills and mortgage payments, child care and college tuition, and medical expenses, among other financial obligations.

How does life insurance protect my family?

Life insurance provides funds for your family to replace your income so they wouldn’t have to worry about paying bills, childcare expenses, or even burial expenses in your absence.

How does life insurance work for estate planning?

Life insurance can be used as an estate planning tool — it’s an easy way to designate a lump sum to your beneficiaries so they’ll have funds to cover final expenses and any estate taxes. The life insurance death benefit doesn’t have to go through probate court like other assets, so it can provide quicker access to money in the event of death.

How does life insurance work as an investment?

Permanent life insurance products can be used as an investment tool, since many come with a cash value account that gains interest tax-free over time. Although the rate of return is typically lower than other investment vehicles like a 401k or IRA, permanent life insurance can provide an alternative investment strategy if you’re already maxing out those other accounts.

How to buy life insurance with Policygenius

Buying life insurance with Policygenius is easy and straightforward — just follow these steps.

  1. Apply online. You can fill out a simple health questionnaire with some basic information to start the application process. You’ll get some initial quotes, but your rate isn’t set in stone until later.

  2. Talk to an agent. One of our licensed life insurance agents will follow up with you to confirm your information and walk you through some additional questions to determine which insurance company will offer you the most affordable coverage.

  3. Take a medical exam — or skip it if you’re eligible. The life insurance medical exam is like a standard annual physical with your doctor. Insurance companies use it to verify your health history and determine your annual or monthly premium rate. Some insurers offer a medical questionnaire over the phone or online instead — a life insurance type known as no-medical-exam life insurance — and will verify your health history against your medical records.

  4. Sign your policy and pay your first premium. Once the insurance company offers you the final rate, you can sign your policy and we’ll help you set up payment. Your coverage is active after making your first payment, but if you need to make changes to your policy we can help with that, too.

Life insurance news

Life insurance rates remain steady in January

Life insurance rates continued their steady streak into the new year, remaining unchanged in January for a sixth consecutive month, according to the Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index.

Sandwich generation 'stressed' about providing financial support

Roughly 66% of the sandwich generation — Americans with at least one living parent age 65 or older who are also raising or financially supporting children — feel “very stressed” or “somewhat stressed” about affording their financial obligations over the next 10 years, according to the Policygenius Sandwich Generation Survey

An in-depth look into infinite banking life insurance’s social media frenzy

A wealth-building strategy involving borrowing from the cash value of permanent life insurance products called infinite banking became a viral trend on TikTok. However, this personal finance hack has a few more caveats and potential downsides than social media posts will reveal.

Life insurance FAQs

What is the best type of life insurance?

The best type of life insurance will depend on your financial and coverage needs, but in general you'll likely have to choose between term life and whole life insurance.

Term life is one of the most affordable coverage options on the market, only lasts for a set term, and comes with few rules and tax restrictions. Term life is the best option for most people looking to protect their income and provide their family with a financial safety net to cover any debts — including a mortgage or any other types of personal loans.

Whole life and other types of permanent life insurance, on the other hand, are good options for people looking to use life insurance to diversify their investment portfolio or those with long-term financial obligations or coverage needs, like dependents who require lifelong care. Whole life never expires and comes with a cash value that earns interest in addition to the death benefit payout. Because of that, it’s usually five to 15 times more expensive than traditional term policies. If you’re already maximizing your contributions to tax-advantaged accounts like a Roth IRA or a 401(k) and are seeking another investment option, whole life might work for you.

Where can I get life insurance quotes?

You can get life insurance quotes directly from an insurance company, through and affiliated agent, or an independent broker. Using the latter is one of the easiest ways to buy life insurance, as brokers usually work with multiple life insurance companies.

Where can I compare multiple life insurance quotes in one place?

At Policygenius you can compare multiple life insurance quotes online and for free. Policygenius is an independent broker that works with more than 10 different insurance companies, including many top insurers on the market.

At what age is life insurance worth it?

Anyone who has dependents that rely on their income should consider getting life insurance, regardless of age. The best age to buy life insurance, however, is when you're young and in good health. This will allow you to lock in the cheapest rates for the duration of your policy even if you still don't have dependents or financial obligations to cover in your absence.

What are the three main types of life insurance?

The three main types of life insurance are term life, whole life, and universal life insurance.

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Author

Katherine Murbach is an editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Editor

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Expert reviewer

Kristi Sullivan, CFP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, she was a regional consultant at Fidelity Investments for nine years.

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