Best life insurance companies in California (2024)

Depending on your needs, the best life insurance companies in California are Legal & General America, Lincoln Financial, MassMutual, Prudential, and Pacific Life.

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Andrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Edited by

Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.
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Reviewed by

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®Certified Financial PlannerIan Bloom, CFP®, RLP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, he was a financial advisor at MetLife and MassMutual.

Updated|5 min read

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Where you live doesn’t actually affect which life insurance companies are the best (or cheapest) for you. What really matters when it comes to life insurance quotes is the amount of coverage you get and your personal details, like your health and age.

That’s why some of our recommendations for the best life insurance companies in California are similar to our overall best companies for the same categories. But laws for grace periods, contestability, and company and product availability can vary by state, so it’s still important to learn about your options in California.

Policygenius rating

Best for …

AM Best score

Number of complaints

Cost

Banner Life

4.9/5 ★

Overall, cheapest, term life, young adults, smokers

A+

Lower than average

$

Lincoln Financial

4.8/5 ★

Marijuana users

A

Lower than average

$

MassMutual

4.9/5 ★

Whole life

A++

Much lower than average

$$$

Prudential

4.1/5 ★

Seniors

A+

Lower than average

$$

Pacific Life

4.8/5★

Guaranteed universal

A+

Much lower than average

$

Methodology

Why you can trust our picks

Our recommendations are based on internal and external expert analysis, as well as our Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, which uses real-time data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. When reviewing a life insurance company, our editorial team uses a proprietary scoring rubric with five factors — price, policy details, financial strength, transparency, and customer experience — to assign an unbiased rating between one and five stars. These ratings are also taken into consideration as part of our company recommendations. We don’t get paid for our reviews.

Our reviews and recommendations can help you find a reliable insurer for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you depends on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can support you during the application process to ensure you get the right coverage for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

Read more about our reviews methodology

Legal & General America, which also does business as Banner Life and William Penn, is our pick for the best overall life insurance in California because of its cheaper-than-average rates and flexible term options. Legal & General America even offers affordable rates for smokers or some applicants with medical conditions that usually make finding cheap life insurance hard.

Legal & General America also offers no-medical-exam life insurance to qualifying applicants in California, which is a type of coverage that doesn’t require a medical exam. If you don’t have any significant health conditions and can qualify for no-med coverage, this can make getting life insurance much faster.

Cheapest life insurance company in California: Legal & General America

Our pick for cheapest life insurance company is Legal & General America, but it’s worth remembering that where you live doesn’t affect the cost of life insurance. Legal & General America can also be a cheap option for people with diabetes, bipolar disorder, and other medical conditions.

The best way to find cheap life insurance for your age, health, and policy needs in any state is by comparing quotes from different companies and getting coverage while you’re still relatively young and rates are lower.

Best term life insurance in California: Legal & General America

Legal & General America has the best term life insurance in California. That’s because Legal & General America offers term options that range from 10 to 40 years — one of the widest ranges on the market. Applicants between 20 and 75 years old may be able to qualify for up to $65 million in coverage.

You might want to consider a term life policy if you’re looking for straightforward life insurance protection. Here’s how it works: You buy life insurance that lasts for a set amount of time (usually between 10 and 30 years) and your loved ones will collect a payment if you die while the policy is active.

Best whole life insurance in California: MassMutual

The best whole life insurance company in California is MassMutual. We like that MassMutual has strong financial strength ratings (an A++ from AM Best). Whole life insurance is a permanent policy, meaning it’s guaranteed to pay out no matter when you die, so financial stability is very important.

In addition to the payment your family collects when you die, a whole life policy also gains interest (and can even pay out dividends) over time. The policy pays out when you die, but you can also use the money — your policy’s cash value — while you’re alive.

Best guaranteed universal life insurance in California: Pacific Life

Pacific Life has the best guaranteed life insurance in California, thanks in part to its affordable rates (even for smokers). Pacific Life also receives a fewer-than-average number of complaints from policyholders, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

A guaranteed universal life policy is a type of permanent life insurance, so it’s guaranteed to pay out when you die. And while universal life insurance can gain some cash value, it won’t gain as much as other types of permanent life insurance.

Best life insurance for seniors in California: Prudential

The best life insurance company for seniors in California is Prudential. That’s because Prudential has the best rates for people over 60, including those with age-related health problems like osteoporosis and arthritis.

The older you are when you apply for life insurance coverage, the harder time you’ll have finding an affordable policy, so it’s a good idea to start with companies like Prudential and compare quotes to make sure you’re getting the best rates.

Best life insurance for young adults in California: Legal & General America

The best life insurance in California for young adults is Legal & General America. Besides the affordable rates, Legal & General America also offers young adults without any health issues no-medical-exam life insurance, which makes getting covered much quicker.

Best life insurance for marijuana users in California: Lincoln Financial

Lincoln Financial has the best life insurance in California if you use marijuana — which is legal for both recreational and medicinal use. That’s because Lincoln Financial doesn’t group marijuana users with tobacco users, which leads to cheaper rates.

Best life insurance for smokers in California: Legal & General America

Legal & General America is the best life insurance company for smokers in California. Life insurance is always more expensive if you’re a smoker, but you can find cheaper-than-average rates at Legal & General America. Also, you can re-apply for lower premiums after you’re at least one year off smoking.

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How is life insurance different in California

While living in California won’t affect your life insurance rates, California has life insurance laws and regulations to be aware of. Here are a few things to know about how life insurance works in the Golden State.

  • Contestable period: California has a contestable or contestability period of up to two years. That means that your insurance company has two years to take back your coverage or deny a claim if it discovers you lied when you applied for coverage.

  • Free look period: The “free look period” in California is 30 days. That’s the amount of time you have after buying to cancel your policy and still get a full refund. 

  • Grace period for missed payments: In California you have 60 days to make a payment before a life insurance company can cancel your policy for nonpayment.

  • Guaranty Fund protection: A guaranty fund provides some help if a life insurance company becomes financially unstable and can’t pay out claims. California’s guaranty fund covers you for up to 80% of your policy’s benefit (up to $240,000).

  • Time to settle a claim: Life insurance companies in California have to settle a claim no more than 40 days after you file it, otherwise they have to give you an explanation for the extra time.

Largest life insurance companies in California

Many of the largest life insurance companies in the country operate in the state of California. Here are the 15 largest life insurance companies in California by market share.

Company

Market share in California

New York Life

8.78%

Transamerica

5.19%

MassMutual

5.14%

Northwestern

5.08%

Prudential

4.85%

MetLife

4.31%

Nationwide

3.30%

National Life

3.21%

AIG

2.80%

State Farm

2.64%

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What happens if a life insurance company goes bankrupt in California?

Although it’s rare for a life insurance company to go bankrupt, California does have protections just in case this happens. 

The California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association protects 80% of your life benefits after a bankruptcy, up to $260,000. You’re also protected for up to 80% of your net cash surrender and withdrawal values, up to $100,000. This is the amount you’d get if you cancel a permanent life policy before your death.

How to find a lost life insurance policy in California

If you’re a family member or the executor of someone’s estate, you can search the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Life Insurance Policy Locator to find a life insurance policy.

You can also search the California State Controller’s Life Insurance Settlement Property search or call the office at 800-992-4647. Life insurance companies have to report to the State Controller’s Office when there has been no activity on someone’s account or contact with the owner for three years or more.

Average life insurance rates in California

Based on Policygenius data from 2023, the average premium for a relatively healthy 35-year-old in California looking for a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy is $27 per month ($307 per year) for women and $32 per month ($373 per year) for men.

Your location doesn’t matter for life insurance, but your rates do depend on many other factors, including your age, health, and the length, and your policy's benefit amount. 

Here’s what people pay, on average, for life insurance based on age, gender, and coverage type and amount:

Age

Gender

$250,000 coverage amount

$500,000 coverage amount

$1 million coverage amount

20

Female

$15.01

$22.65

$33.63

Male

$19.18

$30.20

$47.51

30

Female

$15.17

$22.98

$36.90

Male

$18.19

$29.32

$48.89

40

Female

$21.66

$35.27

$60.65

Male

$25.39

$42.94

$75.24

50

Female

$43.92

$78.29

$139.50

Male

$56.69

$102.50

$188.29

60

Female

$107.83

$194.16

$354.51

Male

$149.38

$268.04

$499.98

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Methodology: Average monthly rates are calculated for male and female non-smokers in a Preferred health classification obtaining a 20-year $250,000, $500,000, or $1,000,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from Brighthouse Financial, Corebridge Financial, Foresters Financial, Legal & General America, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica, and the Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, which uses real-time data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. Rates may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 04/01/2024.

Frequently asked questions

What is the number one life insurance company in California?

Legal & General America is the best life insurance company in California for most people. Legal & General America offers Californians competitive rates across health classifications, a no-medical-exam option that means that qualified applicants can get covered in days, and a variety of term lengths up to 40 years.

What is the life insurance free look period and grace period in California?

In California, you can cancel a new life insurance policy within 10 days and get a full refund of all premium payments. You have 60 days to make up a missed payment before you lose your coverage.

What types of life insurance are available in California?

Available life insurance policies in California include the two most common types, term and permanent. Californians can also access no medical exam policies, including accelerated underwriting and final expense insurance, which is used to cover funeral expenses.

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Author

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Editor

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Expert reviewer

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, he was a financial advisor at MetLife and MassMutual.

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