Cost & Coverage
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How cigarettes, vaping and more affect your rates.
If you smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, or even use a Juul, you’ll probably pay more for life insurance.
Each insurer weighs smoking habits differently when setting premiums, so it’s important to get quotes from a number of different insurance companies to find the one that will give you the best rates.
In this article:
Life insurance companies set your rates by evaluating your risk. And — as you’re well aware — smoking is a risky behavior. Life insurers see it as having such an effect on risk that they divide health ratings into two classes: smoker (or tobacco) and nonsmoker (or non-tobacco).
If you smoke cigarettes, then you’re a smoker as far as life insurance is concerned. Even just at parties, even socially, even on occasion — you’ll still get smoker rates.
Other tobacco and nicotine products are less clear cut. If you Juul, use e-cigarettes, chew tobacco, or occasionally smoke a pipe, some insurance companies will automatically give you smoker rates — but some might consider you a nonsmoker.
Read more about life insurance and vaping.
Smoker/tobacco rates can be up to 2x to 3x more than nonsmoker/non-tobacco rates. Here’s what that looks like in practice.
We pulled sample rates for a male in California at three ages in two health classes: preferred and standard. The following quotes are for a $500,000 policy and a 20-year term.
|Age||Preferred nonsmoker||Preferred smoker||Percent increase|
|Age||Standard nonsmoker||Standard smoker||Percent increase|
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When you fill out an online life insurance application or speak to an agent, it’s important to be honest about your smoking habits. Lying on your application is insurance fraud, and it could result in your application being cancelled.
But even if you aren’t forthright about your smoking habits, the insurer can still find out one of three ways:
During your life insurance medical exam, which is required for most policies, the insurance company will test your urine and/or blood for contnine, which is a byproduct of your body metabolizing nicotine.
As part of underwriting, the insurer can request APS, which are attending physician statement. These include copies of your medical records and letters from your physician, and these documents are likely to disclose your smoking status.
If your policy goes in-force listing you as a non-smoker and you die within the first two years of the policy (the contestability period, the insurer has a right to go over everything on your application again before they make a claim. If at that point they discover you lied about smoking, they can cancel your policy, leaving your family unprotected.
Honesty is the best policy, but especially when it comes to life insurance, when anything less is life insurance fraud.
As long as you’re using tobacco or nicotine products, your life insurance rates are going to stay where they are (or get higher) when you reapply. But a year after you quit, you can start to be eligible for non-smoker rates with many insurance companies.
Once you’re a year smoke-free, you become a nonsmoker in the eyes of many insurance companies, and the further you get from your quit date, the lower your rates can be.
You generally need to be at least a year out from your quit date to qualify for nonsmoker rates. If you’ve quit more recently, let our advisors know the details and we can help you find a plan that works for you.
Some companies are better for former smokers than others — and will give you lower rates faster.
We recommend that smokers and recent former smokers apply now and get a policy in place, even if higher premiums mean you need to go with a lower coverage amount for now. Then, if you quit smoking, you can either reapply when you’ve been smoke-free a year or you can ask your current insurance company to reconsider your application at non-smoker rates.
Our advisors can work with you to adjust your coverage and term to get to a premium you can afford. And when you’re ready to reapply as a nonsmoker or ask for reconsideration from your carrier, we can help you get the best rates then, too.
Understanding how life insurance rates change by age
The cost of life insurance can increase by as much as 12% each year you put it off. See real life examples here.Read
Should you pay my life insurance premiums annually or monthly?
How often you pay your life insurance premiums can have a big impact on how much you spend on your policy.Read
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Yes, we have to include some legalese down here. Read it larger on our legal page. Policygenius Inc. (“Policygenius”) is a licensed independent insurance broker. Policygenius does not underwrite any insurance policy described on this website. The information provided on this site has been developed by Policygenius for general informational and educational purposes. We do our best efforts to ensure that this information is up-to-date and accurate. Any insurance policy premium quotes or ranges displayed are non-binding. The final insurance policy premium for any policy is determined by the underwriting insurance company following application. Savings are estimated by comparing the highest and lowest price for a shopper in a given health class. For example: for a 30-year old non-smoker male in South Carolina with excellent health and a preferred plus health class, comparing quotes for a $500,000, 20-year term life policy, the price difference between the lowest and highest quotes is 60%. For that same shopper in New York, the price difference is 40%. Rates are subject to change and are valid as of 2/17/17.
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