12 Best Life Insurance Companies of 2023

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Life insurance can replace lost income, cover funeral expenses and medical bills, or pay ongoing costs like a mortgage while your estate is sorted out. But costs and benefits vary widely, depending on the company you go with, the riders that are included, and the type of policy you get. Term life insurance is often the easiest to buy: If you’re healthy and under 50, you could get a policy online in minutes. But if you need a permanent policy, are 50 or above, or are in poor health, be prepared to speak to an agent and for a longer application process (which may include a medical exam).

To choose the best life insurance companies, we evaluated dozens of life insurance providers in the following categories, giving each category a specific weight percentage based on its importance: policy types and features (21%), financial stability (17%), application process (16%), customer satisfaction (15%), customer service (14%), riders and living benefits (9%), and cost (8%). Analyzing these key categories helps us identify which life insurance companies could be the best fit for your particular life insurance needs.

12 Best Life Insurance Companies of 2023


Why We Chose It

Protective’s term policies are the most affordable of all insurers we reviewed (tied with two others), and it offers terms up to 40 years, which is uncommon.

Pros & Cons

  • Lowest pricing along with Banner and Haven among 91 companies
  • Offers term coverage for up to 40 years
  • Allows credit card payments
  • Offers no-medical-exam coverage

  • Ranked 15th out of 22 companies for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s life insurance study

Haven Life

Why We Chose It

Haven Life offers a smooth online quote, application, and buying experience. Plus, it’s backed by the A++ (Superior) financial strength rating of MassMutual.

Pros & Cons

  • Easy-to-navigate website
  • Online application
  • Same-day decision
  • A++ financial strength
  • 10th best pricing among 91 companies

  • Only term life insurance is available
  • Term policies are non-convertible
  • Limited riders


Why We Chose It

MassMutual is top-ranked for financial strength, has paid dividends every year since 1869, has few complaints, and has a wide selection of policies.

Pros & Cons

  • Rated A++ for financial stability
  • Long history of paying dividends
  • Low NAIC complaint index
  • Liberal term conversion options

  • Few accelerated benefit riders included at no cost
  • Doesn’t accept credit card payments


For the most personalized quote experience, call Nationwide directly at 844-457-7984. And if you’re over 50 or in poor health, it’s best to work with an agent.

Why We Chose It

Three living benefits included with most policies, generous no-exam requirements, strong financials, and satisfied customers make Nationwide a great option.

Pros & Cons

  • No-exam life insurance available to very healthy applicants
  • Low NAIC complaint index
  • Living benefits included on most policies
  • Allows credit card payments

  • No live chat available

Mutual of Omaha

Why We Chose It

Mutual of Omaha offers return-of-premium (ROP) term life insurance, a wide range of riders, and most policies include at least two living benefits.

Pros & Cons

  • Many plans with living benefits
  • Wide range of riders available
  • Guaranteed issue options
  • Return of premium term available

  • Online applications unavailable for term policies


    Why We Chose It

    Guardian received an exceptionally low number of customer complaints, has an A++ (Superior) financial strength rating, and pays dividends to eligible policyholders.

    Pros & Cons

    • Low NAIC complaint index
    • Receives an A++ for financial stability
    • Whole life policies are eligible for dividends

    • Online application and claim filing not available
    • Credit card payments not accepted


    Why We Chose It

    USAA offers military-specific benefits that pay out if you become injured in the line of duty and cover you during war.

    Pros & Cons

    • Severe injury benefits
    • Add to your term coverage without taking another exam
    • Included term conversion rider
    • A++ AM Best rating

    • Doesn’t take credit card payments
    • No-exam coverage options are limited

    Penn Mutual

    Why We Chose It

    Penn Mutual has paid dividends for nearly 175 years and offers up to $7.5 million in coverage for no-medical-exam life insurance to eligible applicants—the highest limit we’ve seen.

    Pros & Cons

    • Strong dividend-paying history
    • High coverage no-medical-exam life insurance
    • 5th-lowest pricing among 91 companies
    • Excellent NAIC customer complaint index

    • Limited website information
    • Quotes not available on the website


    Why We Chose It

    Banner’s term premiums were tied for the lowest with Protective and Haven Life, and Banner offers terms up to 40 years.

    Pros & Cons

    • Tied with Protective and Haven for lowest pricing
    • 40-year terms available
    • Generous term conversion period
    • Online application available
    • Excellent NAIC customer complaint index

    • Few policy types available
    • Limited riders

    State Farm Life Insurance

    Why We Chose It

    State Farm has earned the #1 spot in J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction rankings for life insurance for the past three years.

    Pros & Cons

    • Superior financial stability
    • Scored first for customer service by J. D. Power
    • Whole life policies can earn dividends
    • Bundling discounts may be available

    • Fourth-worst for pricing
    • Limited coverage for no-medical-exam life insurance

    New York Life

    Why We Chose It

    New York Life is the second-largest life insurance company, according to the latest available NAIC data, and has been paying dividends to eligible policyholders every year for the past 169 years.

    Pros & Cons

    • A++ (Superior) AM Best rating
    • Long history of paying dividends
    • Some policies available to applicants up to 90 years old
    • Broad selection of riders

    • Can’t get too many policy details online without contacting an agent
    • Online quotes and applications not available

    Northwestern Mutual

    Why We Chose It

    Northwestern Mutual is the largest life insurance company in the country with 7.49% market share, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).9 It has stellar financial ratings across multiple rating agencies and offers a wide selection of policies.

    Pros & Cons

    • Highest financial strength ratings
    • Long dividend-paying history
    • One of the best NAIC complaint indexes
    • Largest insurance company, nationwide

    • Must work with a financial advisor to buy a policy
    • Poor digital experience that lacks details about policies

    Life Insurance Glossary

    • Free-look period: This is an amount of time after purchasing the policy during which you can cancel for any reason and receive a full refund. Free-look periods typically last 10 to 30 days, depending on your state and age.
    • Face value: This is the amount of death benefit you purchased with the policy.
    • Death benefit: The amount of money your beneficiaries receive when you die. In some cases, the death benefit may differ from the policy’s face value, such as if your policy has an outstanding loan when you die (this would reduce the death benefit).
    • Beneficiary: The individual or individuals you choose to receive the death benefit when you die.
    • Policyholder: This is the person who owns the policy and is responsible for paying premiums. They are often, but not necessarily, the same person as the insured.
    • Insured: This is the person whose life is insured by the life insurance policy.
    • Cash value: This refers to a cash account within a permanent life insurance policy. A sufficient cash value keeps the policy from lapsing as the cost of insurance increases. You may be able, however, to withdraw or take loans from the cash value during life.
    • Dividends: These are profit-sharing payments that are made, usually on an annual basis, to certain whole life policyholders. The company must be a mutual life insurance company and dividends are not guaranteed.
    • Surrender charge: Most permanent life insurance policies have a surrender period. This period may last from a few to as many as 20 years. During this time, withdrawals from the cash value (in excess of a certain amount) are assessed a penalty fee, known as the surrender charge.
    • Rider: A life insurance rider is an add-on benefit or feature on the underlying policy. Common riders include guaranteed insurability, child term, automatic premium loan (APL), and living benefit riders.
    • Living benefitsLiving benefits are types of riders that allow you to use part of the death benefit while still alive. Many companies offer (or include) living benefits for chronic, critical, and terminal illnesses, and long-term care.
    • Contestable period: A two-year period during which time the life insurance company may closely investigate any cause of death and review your application for fraud. Death by suicide is not covered during the contestable period.
    • Policy loan: Cash-value life insurance policies typically allow you to borrow from the policy’s cash value. This negates any surrender charges associated with a withdrawal as well as potential tax implications (as long as the loan is paid back and the policy doesn’t lapse). If you die before the loan is repaid, the death benefit will be reduced in order to cover it.
    • Lapse: This is when your policy is cancelled and coverage ends as a result of insufficient payment. The life insurance company will contact you to tell you the amount you must pay to avoid a lapse in coverage.
    • Grace period: Once your policy has lapsed, your grace period is the amount of time you have to pay the necessary amount to reinstate your policy.

    How to Choose the Best Life Insurance Company

    To find the best life insurance companies, consider financial strength, customer complaints, customer satisfaction, available policy types, available and included riders, and ease of application. Then, collect quotes among your top picks. Doing this homework will ensure you choose a company that offers a policy that suits your needs and will be there when your family needs it.

    • Financial strength: Check AM Best ratings for financial stability. A++ and A+ ratings are considered “Superior,” while A and A- are considered “Excellent.” Other agencies also rate insurance companies, including Moody’s, Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, and Demotech.
    • Customer complaints: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) uses customer complaints to create the NAIC complaint index, which indicates whether a company received more or fewer complaints than expected, based on its market share. An index lower than 1 indicates the company received fewer complaints than expected, while a number over 1 means it got more than expected. The higher the index, the more customers complain, and vice versa.
    • Customer satisfaction: Not all companies are ranked for customer satisfaction, but check sources like J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Individual Life Insurance and Individual Annuities studies to see if companies you’re considering are. At a glance, you can see how a company ranks compared to others when it comes to customer satisfaction.
    • Available policy types: If you know which type of insurance you need, make sure each company you’re considering offers it. But note that a whole life policy with one company can be very different from a whole life policy with another. Though policies between companies might have the same name, each company tries to make its product stand out. Make sure their efforts suit your needs.
    • Available and included riders: This is a major way that same-named policies can differ. For example, a universal life policy with one company might include a generous accelerated death benefit rider at no cost, while a UL policy with another company may not. Or a term policy with one company may allow you to convert it to permanent coverage, while a term policy with another company may not. Research riders to know what you’re paying for.
    • Ease of application: Sometimes the biggest barrier to getting a life insurance policy is the application process. And often, it’s better to get some coverage in place—especially if you have dependents—than it is to find the absolute best coverage you can. If you’re too busy for a medical exam, look for companies that don’t require one.

    Sometimes the biggest barrier to getting a life insurance policy is the application process. And often, it’s better to get some coverage in place—especially if you have dependents—than it is to find the absolute best coverage you can. If you’re too busy for an exam, look for companies that don’t require one.

    If you’re healthy, choose a company that requires a medical exam or offers an accelerated underwriting process. This means the insurance company will take your health into consideration, which could significantly reduce your rate.

    Types of Life Insurance

    Life insurance can be divided into two main types: term and permanent, or cash value life insurance. Term life insurance policies only provide coverage for a certain period of time, such as 30 years. Permanent policies are sold primarily as either universal or whole life insurance; they’re designed to offer coverage for the duration of your natural life.

    Term Life Insurance

    Term life insurance is the most affordable type of life insurance coverage because it isn’t designed to last into old age. Most term life policies last between 10 and 30 years.

    The best term life insurance policies offer affordable coverage that can be converted into permanent coverage before the term policy expires. This is called convertible term life insurance. The advantage of buying convertible term is that you can lock in the health classification the insurance company gave you when you first applied for the term policy. (This is important if you develop a health issue that could increase you rate, or make you ineligible for coverage.)

    Most term life insurance policies also allow you to renew coverage on an annual basis once the term expires. But the premium will increase annually based on your current age; if you want coverage longer than the duration of your term policy, it’s best to convert to whole life instead of renew. Most companies offer term life insurance for terms up to 30 years, but some, such as Protective, offer terms up to 40 years.

    Whole Life Insurance

    Whole life insurance is more expensive than term life insurance and even universal life insurance (another form of permanent coverage). This is because whole life insurance has strong contract guarantees that ensure your coverage won’t lapse: As long as you pay premiums as scheduled in the contract, the insurance company guarantees the death benefit and cash values for life. This is why it’s an ideal solution when you need rock-solid permanent coverage and can afford the premiums. Some whole life insurance policies offered by mutual life insurance companies also pay dividends.

    Universal life insurance, on the other hand, is more flexible (you can skip premium payments as needed), but could lapse in later years if you don’t build up the cash value sufficiently.

    Most permanent policies have a surrender period, during which time you’ll pay a surrender charge for withdrawing from the cash value or canceling the policy. Ask how long the surrender period is on any cash value life insurance you might buy.

    Universal Life Insurance

    Universal life (UL) insurance is similar to whole life insurance with a couple of important distinctions. The premiums and death benefit can be changed after the policy has been issued, and interest is credited to the cash value based on current interest rates. So, unlike whole life insurance, you don’t know in advance how much the cash value will be worth in the future.

    Universal life insurance is more affordable than whole life insurance, but you may need to increase your premium payment in the future if the cash value doesn’t perform as expected and/or you don’t make sufficient premium payments.

    Indexed Universal Life (IUL) Insurance

    Indexed universal life insurance (IUL) policies are a hybrid type of UL coverage that provide an opportunity to profit from upward swings in a variety of popular stock market indexes, such as the S&P 500. Positive index performance results in the cash value being credited, while negative performance does not result in a cash value loss. The least amount the cash value will be credited is referred to as the floor (for example, when the index experiences a negative return). Most IUL policies have a 0% floor.

    Conversely, gains are limited as well. In fact, insurance companies are innovative when it comes to the complexity of calculations they employ to limit gains. For example, an IUL policy may be subject to one or more (usually “more”) of the following:

    • Participation rate: This is the percentage of index gains that will be credited to the policy. For example, if the index returns 10% and the participation rate is 60%, 6% would be credited).
    • Spread: This rate is deducted from the index’s gains. If the index returns 10% and the spread is 4%, your policy would be credited 6%.
    • Cap: This limits the amount of interest your policy can be credited. If the cap is 6% and the index returns 10%, 6% will be credited to the cash value.

    IUL policies can be an attractive proposition if you want the potential for stock market gains but want to avoid losses. Just be aware that if the index doesn’t perform well enough, interest credited could be insufficient to keep up with policy expenses and your premium could increase.

    Variable Life Insurance

    Variable universal life insurance (VUL) is the most risky type of coverage. Like IUL, it’s typically designed on the chassis of a regular universal life insurance policy. But instead, the cash value is invested directly in the stock market via subaccounts, which are very similar to mutual funds.

    While variable life insurance can be a tax-advantaged way to invest in the stock market, the cash value is not protected from market losses. This means if your investments underperform, you could be required to increase premium payments or the policy could lapse. What’s more is that VUL policies that lapse may result in severe tax consequences.

    Most people should only invest in variable life insurance if they have sufficient life insurance coverage in place via another policy. Since this is considered an investment product, it can only be sold by life insurance agents that are also licensed to sell securities. Always ask for a prospectus before investing in VUL. It’s best to speak with a financial advisor to be sure an investment in variable life insurance makes sense.

    Burial Insurance (a.k.a. Final Expense and Guaranteed Issue)

    Burial insurance policies are whole life policies designed for older applicants in poor health and don’t require a medical exam. Some policies have a handful of health questions, while others are considered guaranteed issue and do not consider your health at all when determining your rate or approving your application. As a result, these policies are the most expensive, relative to the amount of coverage.

    They also carry a “graded benefit” for two to three years. If you die from natural causes during this time, your beneficiaries will only receive a return of the premiums you paid (usually plus a percentage like 10%). They will not receive the full death benefit unless you die after the graded period is over.

    The minimum age for burial insurance may be as low as 40 years old, but some companies have higher minimum age limits. Final expense policies also have low coverage amounts (typically not more than $35,000) as they are intended to cover the insured person’s final expenses.

    Average Life Insurance Cost

    Term life insurance can cost as little as $13 per month, on average, for a $250,000 30-year policy for a healthy 25-year-old. Or, the same policy could cost around $400 for a 65-year-old smoker. The monthly cost of whole life insurance for the same amount of coverage is over $100 per month for a healthy 25-year-old, and almost $1,000 for a 65-year-old smoker.

    Life insurance companies determine how much you’ll pay through the application process, during which they consider factors such as your age, health, occupation, and location. Older applicants and those in poor health pay the most for life insurance, which is why it often makes sense to apply while you’re young and healthy.

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