The best life insurance companies in 2020

Learn what makes a good life insurance company for every situation.

Colin Lalley 1600Nupur Gambhir

Colin Lalley & Nupur Gambhir

Published July 24, 2020

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When you’re shopping for life insurance, you might be concerned about the policy more than the carrier. But choosing the best life insurance company for your needs is just as important as choosing the right policy.

The best life insurance companies are affordable, have strong financial stability, are rated highly by financial and consumer institutions, guaranteed they'll pay out death benefits, and provide features and services you need to build a financial safety net.

The best life insurance companies overall

When selecting a life insurance policy, you want to make sure you’re getting coverage that is competitively priced and also offered by a life insurance company with a strong financial standing and reputable customer service and claims handling.

To make things easier for you, we’ve ranked the best life insurance companies out there, taking into account each insurer’s financial standing with credit agencies like A.M. Best, customer service and claims ratings with J.D. Power, and how much you’re paying for coverage.

The table below looks at the top insurers with respective A.M. Best ratings, J.D. Power ratings, and Policygenius full-scale company ratings.

LIFE INSURANCE COMPANYPOLICYGENIUS RATING (OUT OF 10)J.D. POWER RATINGBBB RATINGA.M. BEST RATING
AAA6.7n/aA+A
AIG8722A-A
Banner Life (Legal & General America)8.2n/aA+A++
Brighthouse7.9729A+A
Fidelity Life6.2n/aA+A-
Gerber5.9n/aA+A
Globe Life5.9n/aA+A+
Guardian Life6.0770A+A++
John Hancock7.7739A+A+
Liberty Mutual6.2788AA
Lincoln Financial7750A+A+
MassMutual6.7751B-A++
Mutual of Omaha7795A+A+
Pacific Life8765A-A+
Principal Financial8.3789A+A+
Protective7.7754A+A++
Prudential7.5754AA+
SBLI7.4n/aA+A+
State Farm7.2808A+A
Transamerica7.3732A+A+

Though these rankings are important when choosing a life insurance company to trust with your family's protection, the coverage you'll actually get will vary depending on your individual circumstance. Life insurance companies take a holistic look at every application, evaluating your medical history, family history, career, and more.

Not sure where to start? We've done some of the heavy lifting for you. Check out our reviews of the best life insurance companies for each individual situation:

The best term life insurance companies

Term life insurance lasts for a set number of years, known as the term. If you die during the term, your beneficiaries will receive the policy’s death benefit.

For most people, the best term life insurance company is the one that is the most affordable. Below are sample quotes for a healthy male applying for a 20-year, $750,000 term life insurance policy at ages 25, 35, and 45 years old.

LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY25 YEARS OLD35 YEARS OLD45 YEARS OLD
AIG$35.09$38.11$84.08
Banner Life (Legal & General America)$34.39$37.54$83.19
Brighthouse$16.17$28.58$52.80
Globe Lifen/an/an/a
Lincoln Financial$44.63$38.11$89.51
Mutual of Omaha$39.56$42.14$93.74
Pacific Life$34.61$37.80$83.24
Principal$38.06$38.46$86.36
Protective$34.65$37.80$83.45
Prudential$53.38$59.28$94.06
SBLI$35.18$38.64$85.19
Transamerica$36.12$39.34$85.14

Sample quotes. Actual costs will vary.

A denotation of n/a is listed for life insurance companies that do not offer coverage amount.

How your coverage amount & term length affect your policy

The coverage amount is the size of the death benefit (reminder: the amount of money your family will get if you die) and the term length is how long the policy lasts before it expires. This calculator can help you find the ideal benefit and term.

The higher the coverage amount and longer the term, the more expensive the policy. Most people choose a term and benefit that will cover their biggest and longest debt; for many, that’s their mortgage. Also consider the cost of sending kids to college, caring for aging parents, and retirement for your partner.

➞ Want more? Read our full guide on how much life insurance you need.

How life insurance riders affect your policy

Finally, while term life insurance is simple, it can be customized with life insurance riders, which are optional, additional terms and conditions that you can add to your policy. For example:

Customizing a policy helps it fit your needs, but some life insurance riders are unnecessary and others come at an additional cost. Know what riders you need, what riders a particular company offers and what, if anything, it costs before you settle on a policy.

➞ Want more? Read our full guide on life insurance riders.

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How to choose the best whole life insurance company

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance. It doesn’t expire, and it has an investment-style cash value, which is a tax-deferred savings component that grows over time at a rate specified by your policy and insurer.

Whole life can be a good option for people with complex financial situations, so you should know how to pick the best company and policy.

Know that whole life insurance is more expensive

It’s important to note that a whole life policy is five to 15 times as expensive as a comparable term life policy, so be sure whole life insuranceit fits into your budget.

When choosing the best life insurance company, take cost into account, especially if you're considering whole life insurance, which is five to 15 times as expensive as term life.

As you can see, whole life insurance costs considerably more for less coverage compared to term life insurance.

Understand the company’s financial strength

Consider the financial strength of whole life insurance carriers. This is important to keep in mind regardless, but unlike term life, you can own a whole life policy for as long as you need it. That means it’s even more important to know that a company will still be around for a long time when you’re talking about whole life insurance.

Understand the cash value & dividends

Be sure to know the terms of the cash value component. Every whole life policy has a guaranteed interest rate; know what it is with the company you’re considering.

Also, take dividends into account. The strongest whole life policies are usually from mutual companies (like MassMutual, Guardian or Northwestern Mutual) that pay dividends, that can then be used to increase the cash value, pay for the policy, or for retirement.

Make sure your policy won't lapse

Finally, ask how the policy handles lapse prevention. A whole life insurance policy can automatically pay premiums using the cash value. This keeps the policy from expiring, but also lowers the cash value amount available to you, so it’s important to know how your policy handles a lapse.

The best life insurance companies for your individual needs

Depending on the insurer, your age, health, and lifestyle can all have a significant impact on the type of life insurance coverage you get. While some insurers may give someone with a history of depression competitive premiums, another may charge you an exceptionally high amount for the same coverage. This is why it's important to shop around and find an insurer that will work with your individual circumstances.

We've put together some of the best insurers to consider depending on your unqiue situation:

Best life insurance companies by age & life milestones

Best life insurance companies for specific health conditions

Best life insurance companies for your lifestyle

Best life insurance companies for other situations

Life insurers will take into account pre-existing conditions and whether or not you’re a marijuana user. These factors can lead to higher premiums, so finding the best life insurance company for you is key. Use our guides above to find which companies offer the cheapest and most accommodating policies for you.

How to choose the best life insurance company for you

When selecting a life insurance company, take into account:

  • The policy details
  • Their cost
  • Their features
  • The individual policies they sell

Understanding the policy details

What is the right policy for you? Most people will need to decide between term and whole life insurance (and choose term) but there are other options like return of premium, no-medical exam, and variable policies. A licensed agent can help you decipher your options.

Companies also offer different riders. Every carrier won’t offer every rider, and riders aren’t always necessary and may increase the cost of your policy. If you’re just looking to care for your family or cover funeral expenses, a basic policy will work.

Weigh life insurance policy costs

Term life insurance is typically very affordable — less than $40 a month for many people. Other types of life insurance, like whole life, cost considerably more.

Be sure to get life insurance quotes for multiple companies. Captive agents work for only one insurance company and have limited options available. An independent agent or broker, like Policygenius, who works with multiple life insurers instead of just one, can help you with this. Comparing insurance policies to find the best price can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the policy.

And remember, your age, health, and hobbies affect your cost, so use our guides above to find the companies that work best for your individual situation.

Understand the features of different companies

Not all life insurance companies operate the same way. It’s important to find one that fits your needs so dealing with them isn’t a hassle. Depending on the carrier, some steps in applying for or updating policies are only done via paper mail or on the phone, while some are done online. Be sure to find a life insurance company that works the way you do. This might mean deciding between a more modern, younger company or an established old-school carrier.

Besides the paper versus phone versus electronic consideration, shoppers should take into account the carrier’s:

  • Average application time— From application to in-force policy, the process can take up to eight weeks, but many carriers often complete the process much quicker. Knowing if a particular company is typically faster or slower than other companies helps set your expectations.
  • Accepted payment methods— Most carriers accept paper checks, while some allow bank drafts (but only if you’re paying monthly), and some allow you to use a credit card only on your first premium payment. Plus, certain forms of payment may not be available in all states.

Life insurance company ratings & reviews

There are many third-party groups that provide ratings and reviews based on different criteria. Some provide customer service-related ratings, like J.D. Power scores and Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings.

Other groups, like A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Weiss Ratings are judges of financial strength.

The most common life insurance ratings come from:

  • J.D. Power: J.D. Power ranks some (but not all) of the top life insurance companies on customer satisfaction on a scale from 1 - 1,000.
  • BBB: Customer satisfaction score ranging from A+ to F based on BBB’s own formula of 17 factors.
  • A.M. Best: Financial health rating, with A++ and A+ being “superior” and A being “excellent”. Learn more about A.M. Best here.

Most of the biggest life insurance companies are financially secure, and while you should look at BBB ratings, keep in mind some reviews may be from customers who had particularly positive or negative experiences that aren’t necessarily representative of the company in general. The best-rated life insurance companies have high marks all around to provide peace of mind.

Shoppers can also see how big a company is by looking at its market share and number of policyholders. Size is typically a good indicator of how well a company is doing, but shoppers shouldn’t be afraid to go with a smaller insurer, like a regional carrier or a membership carrier (like USAA), if it fits their needs.

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How Policygenius Rates the Best Life Insurance Companies

Policygenius takes a comprehensive approach to determining the best life insurance companies out there. We don't get paid for reviews and evaluate an extensive ruberic of criteria to come up with robust (and unbiased) reviews to match you with the right life insurance company for you.

For more information on the guidelines we follow to ensure our reviews benefit you, the policyholder, check out our ratings methodology.

The different ways life insurance companies are rated

There are many third-party groups that provide ratings and reviews based on different criteria. Some provide customer service-related ratings, like J.D. Power scores and Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings.

Other groups, like A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Weiss Ratings are based on judgement of financial strength.

The most common life insurance ratings come from:

  • J.D. Power: J.D. Power ranks some (but not all) of the top life insurance companies on customer satisfaction on a scale from 1 - 1,000.
  • BBB: Customer satisfaction score ranging from A+ to F based on BBB’s own formula of 17 factors.
  • A.M. Best: Financial health rating, with A++ and A+ being “superior” and A being “excellent”. Learn more about A.M. Best here.

Most of the biggest life insurance companies are financially secure, and while you should look at BBB ratings, keep in mind some reviews may be from customers who had particularly positive or negative experiences that aren’t necessarily representative of the company in general. The best-rated life insurance companies have high marks all around to provide peace of mind.

Shoppers can also see how big a company is by looking at its market share and number of policyholders. Size is typically a good indicator of how well a company is doing, but shoppers shouldn’t be afraid to go with a smaller insurer, like a regional carrier or a membership carrier (like USAA), if it fits their needs.

Concerned about your insurance provider’s ability to pay?

Most concerns about life insurance – and insurance in general – are that a company won’t be there to pay out the death benefit when it’s needed. After all, what’s the point in having life insurance if the death benefit isn’t available?

But companies going bankrupt or not paying out are two things you don’t need to worry about.

Bankruptcy

Financial ratings are a good indicator of the likelihood of bankruptcy, but they don’t tell the whole story. Even if a company does go bankrupt, there are three safety nets in place.

  • Life insurance companies have reinsurance- insurance for insurance companies. Reinsurance spreads out risk so a company doesn’t have the entire burden alone, and if a company goes bankrupt, they aren’t fully on the hook.

  • Life insurance companies are part of guaranty associations. That means if one declares bankruptcy, other companies – also members of the guaranty association – pick up policyholders and guarantee their coverage continues and their needs are met.

  • Life insurance companies are legally required to have reserve ratios; like an emergency fund, those reserves are cash on hand to cover their financial obligations.

Companies not paying death benefits

Keep in mind that there are certain scenarios where a life insurance company doesn’t have to pay out the death benefit. During the first two years of the policy, known as the contestability period, the carrier can dispute a payout if there’s suspected fraud.

Suicide also isn’t covered in the first two years, and carriers may not have to pay out in the case of criminal activity (like murder). Learn more about when and how life insurance covers suicide.

But companies not paying the death benefit shouldn’t be your concern when you’re looking for a life insurance carrier. You should focus on the policies they provide, the cost of coverage, and customer service.

Best life insurance companies FAQ

How do I choose the best life insurance company?

For most people, the best life insurance company is the one that offers the coverage they need at the cheapest cost. After you know how long your policy should last and how big the benefit should be, use price as the starting point. You can also look at different factors like third-party financial ratings, customer reviews, and what tasks you're able to do online if you're having trouble deciding between companies.

How do I find the cheapest life insurance company?

Find the cheapest company by comparing policies from multiple companies.

Life insurance cost is based on your age, your health, and the policy's term length and death benefit amount. Some companies are more lenient than others for certain health conditions, and you can save up to 40% by making sure you're going with the right company for your individual circumstances.

What life insurance company ratings should I look at?

Third-party ratings from firms like A.M. Best and Moody's can give you peace of mind that a company is financially stable and will be around for a long time.

You can also look at customer reviews from the Better Business Bureau and J.D. Power. These should be taken with a grain of salt, but you can be on the lookout for recurring complaints.

About the authors

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness. Colin has a degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she has worked in marketing and business development for travel and tech. She has a B.A. in Economics from Ohio State University.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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