You can still buy life insurance if you’re considered overweight. Many people who have bigger bodies can qualify for an affordable life insurance policy, especially if they don’t have many underlying health conditions. Your height-to-weight ratio is just one of the factors that may impact your life insurance premiums, including your age, gender, medical history, family history, and lifestyle factors.
How does your weight affect life insurance rates?
Life insurance companies use a variety of health and lifestyle factors to assess how risky you are to insure and determine the cost of your policy.
Each insurer has its own height-to-weight table, also called a build chart, which is similar to a Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. Some insurance companies rely solely on standard BMI charts, as opposed to creating their own build chart. Based on where you fall on that table or chart, as well as your health history, the insurance company will assign you a health classification.
Health classifications — also called risk classifications — are categories meant to depict different levels of insurance risk. They also determine how much you’ll pay for your policy.
People with fewer or milder health conditions and height-to-weight ratios that fall within the company’s guidelines for what is considered a normal weight are usually assigned better health classifications — and lower rates.
People with more complex health conditions or a height-to-weight ratio that might fall within the company’s guidelines for what is considered underweight or overweight might be assigned a lower health classification — and higher rates.
The minimum and maximum weight for each health class can vary between insurers, which can cause the same person to receive different classifications with different insurers. This means that one insurance company may offer you better rates than another one.
Below is an example of how different companies can have different thresholds for each health class based on your build.
Insurance Company A
Insurance Company B
Insurance Company C
125 to 190 lbs
125 to 203 lbs
122 to 203 lbs
191 to 204 lbs
125 to 216 lbs
122 to 223 lbs
205 to 219 lbs
220 to 257 lbs
216 to 240 lbs
223 to 236 lbs
For instance, let’s say you’re 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 200 pounds — which is typically labeled overweight under traditional BMI standards — and have no chronic health conditions.
In this example, Company A would put you in the Preferred class (the health class with the second-lowest rates), but Company B and Company C have less stringent guidelines around weight and would assign you a Preferred Plus classification (the health class with the lowest rates). So you might pay less for the same coverage with companies B and C than you would with Company A.
Now let’s say you’re the same height, 5 feet 9 inches, but weigh 219 pounds. In this case, Company A would classify you as Standard Plus, which is a health class slightly more expensive than Preferred. But Company B and Company C don’t offer a Standard Plus class. Company B would assign you to Standard, a health classification that’s meant to depict an average level of insurance risk, for people who might have one moderate health condition. Meanwhile Company C would assign you to Preferred.
Some insurers have different height-to-weight charts based on gender or age — for instance, one table for people age 18 to 59 and another for people age 60 or 65 and up. This means that two people of the same height and weight but different ages or genders could receive different health classifications.
Average life insurance rates by age and BMI
Below are approximations of rates you might see based on your BMI. Note that if your BMI is over 40, you’ll likely pay more expensive rates than the ones below. If your BMI is under 18.5, you could pay more in rates, too, since being underweight can also be associated with health risks.
The rates below are meant to give you an idea of what you might pay, but the best way to get quotes personalized for your situation is to connect with a Policygenius expert.
BMI 30 and under (Preferred health class)
BMI 31 and over (Standard health class)
Your weight and the life insurance application process
Applying for life insurance is a fairly standard process, regardless of your weight.
First, you’ll connect with a licensed agent, who will ask some initial questions about your health in order to get an estimate of how much you’ll pay for your policy. We recommend working with an agent at an independent broker, because they’ll be able to help you compare quotes from different insurance companies in one spot.
Next, you’ll fill out your application. The agent you’re working with will help you fill out basic information about personal and family health history, as well as lifestyle, hobbies, and financial details.
After that, you’ll take an in-person medical exam or complete a health questionnaire over the phone. A standard medical exam is a common part of the application process, but your agent will be able to tell you if you have any no-exam options available based on your profile. Being considered overweight by traditional BMI standards doesn’t automatically disqualify you from no-exam policies.
Then, you’ll wait for the insurance company to review your application. This can take four to six weeks on average, but if you have no-exam options available, you could get approval within a week or less.
Last, you’ll sign your policy and pay your first premium. This is when your coverage will become active.
Should you lose or gain weight before you apply for life insurance?
If you need life insurance, it’s best to apply and get the coverage you need as soon as possible. Waiting until you reach a weight that might give you access to lower rates is rarely a good option because it leaves your family unprotected.
Similarly, if your BMI falls into the underweight category but you don’t have a history of health conditions, you should still qualify for a policy. If you have a history of a health condition that affects your weight, some insurers will want to make sure your weight has been stable for the past six to 12 months, so they may request an attending physician statement (APS) from your doctor.
No matter what you weigh, or whether you’re in the process of losing or gaining weight, you shouldn’t lie about your height or weight on your application. Intentionally providing false information counts as life insurance fraud, and could cause problems for your beneficiaries down the line.
Editorial note: This article is not intended to offer health or weight loss advice. The information here is meant to offer guidance on navigating the life insurance application process if you’re concerned about how your weight could affect your rates, coverage, or application experience.
How do life insurance companies treat recent weight loss?
How and when you lose weight affects how much you’ll pay for life insurance.
If you’ve lost less than 10 pounds in the last year, insurers generally don’t consider it significant enough to factor into your premiums, and you won’t need to report it on your application.
If you lost more than 10 pounds in the 12 months before you apply for life insurance, you’ll get credit for 50% of that weight loss until you’ve maintained it for at least a year. So, if you used to weigh 300 pounds and lost 50 pounds in the last year, you’ll be rated at 275 pounds rather than 250.
If you lost weight through a procedure like gastric bypass surgery, similar guidelines apply, but you’ll likely face a longer wait to get lower premiums. Due to health risks associated with gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries,  your coverage could be declined or postponed if you apply within the first six to 12 months after the procedure. In the two years post-procedure, you may still receive a less favorable classification than someone who lost weight without surgery.
If you’ve gained weight recently, the insurer will typically use your most recent weight on your application in order to set your rates — even if your weight was lower six or 12 months ago.
As a life insurance agent, when working directly with clients who had undergone weight loss procedures, I would typically advise them to be prepared for their application to be postponed several months from their recovery.
Sometimes, the insurer’s decision will come down to individual factors — including type of procedure, recovery plan, and any medications prescribed — that are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, weight loss as a result of diet and exercise won’t result in a postponed application.
Reapplication or reconsideration after losing weight
If you’ve lost weight but still have higher rates than you’d like, or if you lose weight in the future, you may be able to lower your life insurance rates even after you’ve purchased a policy.
If the policy you were approved for is unaffordable due to your weight, you can also look into annual renewable life insurance. This type of policy is renewed with the insurer every year.
Rates start on the lower end — often lower than they would be through a more traditional term life policy — but they increase every year.
If you plan to lose — or gain — weight in the next few years, an annual renewable policy could lock you into a lower rate in the short term.
Once you lose — or gain — the weight you can apply for a traditional level term life policy.
Life insurance options if you’re denied coverage due to your weight
Being declined for life insurance due solely to your weight is rare. But if this happens to you, there are other options.
Group life insurance: Many employers offer group life insurance coverage at a subsidized rate, and there are often few health restrictions in order to apply. Coverage amounts are lower — for example, $50,000 or one to two times your annual salary — but this can be an option to get some coverage in place if you don’t qualify for an independent policy.
Final expense life insurance: This type of policy, also known as burial insurance, offers a small amount of permanent coverage, usually between $25,000 and $50,000. It’s intended to help cover end-of-life expenses, but can be a way to secure a small amount of coverage because there are fewer health requirements to apply.
Other health concerns that can affect your life insurance
Certain pre-existing conditions and other health-related concerns can affect your life insurance options or costs. A Policygenius expert can help you find the right policy for your needs.
Mental health issues such as depression or anxiety