Best life insurance companies in California

Find the best life insurance companies in California to fit your needs and budget, and learn how state regulations can affect your policy.

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By

Brian ActonBrian ActonContributing WriterBrian Acton is a contributing writer at Policygenius, where he covers insurance and finance. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, TIME, USA Today, MarketWatch, Inc. Magazine, and HuffPost. 

Edited by

Logan SachonLogan SachonSenior Managing Editor, Life Insurance & ResearchLogan Sachon is the senior managing editor of life insurance and research at Policygenius, where she edits life insurance content and leads life insurance surveys and data studies. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Guardian, Business Insider, CNN Money, BuzzFeed, Money Under 30, VICE, New York Magazine, and elsewhere.

Updated|5 min read

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Life insurance is a crucial safety net no matter where you are, but it’s especially important when you live in California. The high cost of living in some areas means many families will need financial relief if a loved one dies. 

We’ve identified the best life insurance companies doing business in California, figured the average cost of life insurance for residents, and explained the most important state regulations that affect your policy.

Best life insurance companies in California

Methodology: How we chose the best life insurance companies in California

We don't get paid for our company reviews and use an extensive rubric of criteria covering policy details, price, financial confidence, third-party ratings, and customer experience to assign unbiased ratings out of five stars. Any recommendations we make are based on internal and external expert opinions and data from our Policygenius Price Index, which uses real-time rate data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. Our ratings and reviews can help point you to an insurer you can rely on for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you is dependent on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can work with you through the application process so you’re getting coverage from the best insurer for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

→ Read more about our reviews methodology here

Best Best overall life insurance

Banner Life offers California residents competitive rates and a variety of term lengths, meaning that most life insurance shoppers in the state will be able to find a policy that works for them, for a price that does, too. Banner Life also has fast no-medical-exam option available to qualified applicants, giving some people with no significant health conditions the possibility of getting covered quicker.

Cheapest

The best life insurance company for you is the one that can offer you the best rates based on your unique health history. Banner Life has the most competitive rates in the Policygenius marketplace for most applicants with most health conditions. People in California with a variety of health conditions, including diabetes and bipolar disorder, can find their best rates with Banner Life.

Best term life insurance

Term life insurance, which lasts for a set period of time and then expires, is the best life insurance option for most people. Banner Life is the best term life insurance option for most people in California, as it offers a variety of policy term lengths, including 40-year term policies, and has affordable rates for most applicants.

Best whole life insurance

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2023 Policygenius award winner

MassMutual

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.9

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A++

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

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All 50 states

Why we chose it

MassMutual’s whole life insurance plan provides a lifetime coverage option that builds cash value with the potential to earn dividends.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Strong financial stability ratings

  • Higher potential for dividends for whole life policyholders than many competitors

  • Good customer experience ratings

Cons

  • High term life premiums

  • Term life not available through Policygenius

Whole life insurance is permanent life insurance with a cash value. It's not for everyone — it's five to 15 times more expensive than term life — but for people who need lifelong coverage or who have maxed out other tax-deferred savings vehicles, it can be a good option. For California residents who want a whole life insurance policy with cash value pays dividends, MassMutual is a great option that pays higher dividends to its policyholders than many competitors.

Best guaranteed universal life insurance

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2023 Policygenius award winner

Pacific Life

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.8

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A+

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

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$

$

$

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All 50 states

No-med-exam option

Why we chose it

Pacific Life offers some of the lowest rates for term life insurance across age brackets. It also has the most competitive rates for many health conditions and builds.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Extremely affordable across age brackets

  • Affordable guaranteed universal life insurance option for people who need lifetime coverage

  • Favorable underwriting for many health conditions

Cons

  • Traditional term life not available in NY

  • There are better carriers for active duty military, people who have a history of alcohol abuse, and people who have been through bankruptcy

Guaranteed universal life insurance is a permanent policy with a small cash value, and it's one of the most affordable ways to get lifelong life insurance coverage. Pacific Life has the best guaranteed universal life insurance for Californians, in part due to its high levels of customer satisfaction.

Best for seniors

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2023 Policygenius award winner

Prudential

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starEmpty gray star

4.1

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A+

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

No-med-exam option

All 50 states

Why we chose it

With nearly four million policyholders and 150 years to its name, Prudential offers competitive coverage options for seniors, as well as people with some of the most common medical conditions, including asthma, depression, and fibromyalgia.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Good for people over 60

  • More flexible income requirements than some other insurers

  • Considers applicants with a variety of immigration statuses (visas and green cards)

Cons

  • Younger applicants will likely find better prices elsewhere

  • No-med option can end up requiring a medical exam most of the time

Californians age 60 and above can get competitive rates with Prudential. Retirees can also qualify for more coverage with Prudential than with some other companies thanks to their flexible income requirements.

Best for young adults

Young adults shopping for life insurance in California will find great rates with Banner Life. Many young adults without significant health issues will also qualify for Banner Life's no-medical-exam life insurance option, which forgoes the medical exam and can lead to quicker coverage.

Best for marijuana users

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2023 Policygenius award winner

Lincoln Financial

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.8

AM Best rating 

A.M. Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

No-med-exam option

Why we chose it

Lincoln Financial offers a diverse array of life insurance policies, including competitive no-med and high-net-worth options.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Affordable rates

  • Good for many existing health conditions, including depression, stroke, and heart conditions

  • Good for marijuana users, including daily users

Cons

  • Term life not available in New York

For Californians who are marijuana users, whether daily or occasional, Lincoln Financial offers competitive non-smoker/non-tobacco rates (many insurers only offer marijuana users smoker/tobacco rates, which can be many times more expensive).

Best for smokers

Banner Life offers Californians who smoke or use tobacco the most affordable rates. Another reason Banner Life is great for people who smoke or use tobacco: policyholders can apply for lower premiums just one year — not two like other insurers — after they quit smoking.

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Comparing the best life insurance companies in California

Company 

Policygenius rating

Best for

Banner Life

4.7 / 5

Affordability, term life, young adults, smokers

Lincoln Financial

4.7 / 5

Marijuana users

MassMutual

3.8 / 5

Whole life

Pacific Life

4.6 / 5

Guaranteed universal

Prudential

3.4 / 5

Seniors

What is the average cost of life insurance in California?

Life insurance rates depend on many individual factors, including your age, health, and the length and benefit amount of your policy. Where you live, however, is not one of the factors that affects your rates, except for policy availability.

Based on Policygenius data from February 2023, the average monthly premium for a relatively healthy 35-year-old in California buying a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy is $25.66 for women and $30.44 for men.

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

The California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association protects policyholders in the rare case a life insurance company in California goes bankrupt. As long as policyholders continue to pay their premiums or cash value exists, the association will provide coverage.

If a life insurance company is liquidated, policyholders will receive notice from the court-appointed receiver that oversees the liquidation of the company, along with instructions on how to move forward with claims. 

In California, owners of life insurance policies are covered for up to 80% of their death benefit (up to $300,000) or 80% of the net cash surrender and net cash withdrawal value (up to $100,000) if their life insurance company becomes insolvent.  

Only state residents can receive coverage through California’s guaranty association. If a policyholder moves to another state, they will need to get coverage through the guaranty association where they currently live. 

How to find a lost life insurance policy in California

Authorized parties (like a family member or executor) can search the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Life Insurance Policy Locator Service to find life insurance policies of a deceased person.

They can also search the State Controller’s Life Insurance Settlement Property Search or call their office at 800-992-4647. Life insurance companies are required to report and deliver property to the State Controller’s Office when there has been no activity on the account or contact with the owner for three years or more.

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California life insurance laws

California state laws provide protections to policyholders and regulate how life insurance companies operate in the state.

Free look period

Within 10 days of receiving their new policy, policyholders can cancel their life insurance and get a full refund of their premium payments.

Guaranty Fund protection

The California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association covers up to 80% of the life insurance death benefit (up to $300,000) and 80% of the net cash surrender and net cash withdrawal value (up to $100,000) if their life insurance company is unable to satisfy its financial obligations.

Contestable period

In California, the contestable period lasts for the first two years of the life insurance policy. During this time period, life insurance companies can reject a claim if they find fraud on the policyholder’s application.

Time allowable to settle a claim

In California, companies have 85 days to pay a claim after it's been filed. Additionally, claims that aren’t paid within 30 days from the date of death accrue interest.

Grace period for missed payments

Policyholders in California have a 60-day grace period to make up a missed payment before the life insurance company can cancel their policy. 

Frequently asked questions

What is the number one life insurance company in California?

Banner Life is the best life insurance company in California for most people. Banner Life 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.

Author

Brian Acton is a contributing writer at Policygenius, where he covers insurance and finance. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, TIME, USA Today, MarketWatch, Inc. Magazine, and HuffPost. 

Editor

Logan Sachon is the senior managing editor of life insurance and research at Policygenius, where she edits life insurance content and leads life insurance surveys and data studies. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Guardian, Business Insider, CNN Money, BuzzFeed, Money Under 30, VICE, New York Magazine, and elsewhere.

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