Direct term life insurance

Direct term life insurance refers to a life policy you buy directly from the insurance company instead of working with an agent or broker.

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Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an editor and a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

Updated December 9, 2021 | 3 min read

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When you begin the process of buying life insurance, it can be overwhelming to decide what type of life insurance to buy and where to get your policy. You’ll generally get the most affordable policy by comparing different term life insurance quotes.

However, if you don’t want to work with a go-between like an insurance agent or broker, you might consider direct term life insurance. You can apply for direct term coverage with a single provider, often online. 

Direct term can offer speed and simplicity to some applicants, but you may sacrifice value by not shopping around. Here’s how to decide if a direct term policy is right for you.

What is direct term life insurance?

Direct term life insurance is a term life insurance policy you buy directly from one insurance provider. Term is the simplest and most cost-effective life insurance for most people. It provides coverage for 10-30 years and pays a death benefit if you die while the policy is active. If you outlive your policy, it expires.

Most direct term life insurance companies allow you to apply for a policy online. You’ll begin by entering basic information about how much coverage you want, then share health and lifestyle information. 

An underwriter will evaluate your health information, and you may need to schedule a medical exam. Once underwriting is complete, you’ll receive an insurance offer. You’ll sign your policy and pay your first premium to activate your coverage.

→ Learn more about the process of buying life insurance

Who should get direct term life insurance?

If your top priorities for buying a life insurance policy are being able to shop at your own speed, applying online, or working with a specific insurer, then you might prefer direct term life insurance. 

Most people will find a policy better suited to their needs by working with an independent agent or broker. Independent brokers and agents work with multiple life insurance companies and know which providers are more flexible toward certain health conditions and lifestyle choices. They can offer unbiased advice on the best provider and coverage for your family’s financial needs.

Pros and cons of direct term life insurance


  • Company representatives know their products well

  • Many direct term applications are self-paced 

  • No back-and-forth with a sales agent 

  • You may be able to complete most of the process online


  • Advice from company representatives may not be impartial

  • Direct term doesn’t always mean the fastest policy approval

  • It’s harder to compare multiple providers at once

  • You may miss out on lower rates from another insurer

→ Learn why where you buy your life insurance matters

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How much does direct term life insurance cost?

Life insurance premiums reflect how risky you are in the eyes of an underwriter and are based on several factors:

  • Your health history

  • Family medical history

  • Prescription history

  • Lifestyle risks like smoking 

The younger and healthier you are, the lower your premiums will be. Policygenius data from 2021 shows that a healthy 35-year-old woman could pay as little as $25.45 per month for a $500,000, 20-year term policy.

Every life insurance company has its own systems to evaluate risk, so some treat certain health conditions with less flexibility than others. Buying a direct term policy means you might pay higher premiums with your chosen insurer than you would have elsewhere. 

→ Learn more about how insurers set term life insurance rates

Alternatives to direct term life insurance

You might think buying life insurance without an agent or broker will be simpler, but that isn’t a good way to find the best possible coverage for your family. A good agent can help you tailor your coverage to your family’s needs and suggest the best provider for any health concerns you may have.

  • Traditional term life insurance: Since every provider will evaluate your application differently, you could get lower quotes by considering multiple term life insurers. Take the extra time to compare quotes and find the best match for your situation.

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Direct term life insurance simplifies the application process for those who want to buy coverage at their own pace without interacting with sales agents. For most people, the potential savings you’d get from shopping around for a policy outweigh the benefits of buying direct. If you want to feel sure that you’re getting the best rates and unbiased advice, it’s still best to shop with the help of a professional.

Frequently asked questions

How does direct term life insurance work?

Direct term works like traditional term life insurance—you receive coverage for a set period that pays out if you die while it’s active or expires if you outlive it—except you buy your policy directly from the insurer.

Should I buy direct term life insurance?

If you want to work with a specific insurer, you can buy direct term. Most people will benefit more from working with an agent to compare providers and plans.

What is covered by a direct term life insurance policy?

The payout from direct term life insurance can be used for anything, including daily expenses and outstanding debts.