The Best Life Insurance Companies of 2021

Thinking about how you’ll pass away and when is an awkward topic — unless you’re partial to zombies, The Addams Family and Beetlejuice. But planning your legacy and how you can provide for your loved ones after you’re gone is a serious matter. Life insurance is an excellent way to make sure your loved ones aren’t saddled with your funeral expenses and benefit from some income after you’re gone. But the question is, what’s the best life insurance?

We analyzed over a dozen life insurance companies to rate the best life insurance providers by SimpleScore. By examining customer ratings, products offered and the number of riders available, you can feel confident of choosing the life insurance best product.

Use this calculator to compare quotes from multiple life insurance companies.

In this article

    The 6 best life insurance companies of 2021

    The best life insurance companies at a glance

    CompanyRidersJ.D. PowerSimpleScore
    New York LifeAccidental death and dismemberment
    Automatic benefit increase
    Chronic care
    Waiver of premium
    4/54.4/5
    MetLifeAcceleration of death benefit
    Accidental death
    Critical illness
    Disability waiver of premium
    Term rider
    Waiver of premium
    3/5 4.4/5
    TransamericaAccelerated death
    Disability income
    Return of premium
    2/5 4/5
    GuardianAcceleration of death benefit [editor – called for most not listed online]
    Accidental death
    Child or spouse
    Extended conversion
    Guaranteed insurability
    Long-term care
    Waiver of premium
    4/54.8/5 
    State FarmAcceleration of death benefit
    Children’s benefit
    Guaranteed insurability
    Payor insurance benefit
    Term life
    Waiver of monthly deduction
    Waiver of premium
    5/54.6/5 
    USAAIncrease coverage with no medical exam
    Military future insurability
    Military severe injury benefit
    Term life event option
    Term life for children
    N/R 5/5

    Best for customized plans – New York Life

    Indecisive buyer beware — we don’t recommend New York Life to anyone who breaks out in a sweat when confronted with options.

    J.D. Power Rating
    4/5
    AM Best Rating
    A++
    Standard & Poor’s
    AA+
    SimpleScore
    4.4 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore New York Life 4.4
    Riders 4
    Coverage Options 5
    Customer Service 4
    Support Options 4
    Accessibility 5

    New York Life shines when it comes to life insurance options. The insurer has something for nearly everyone and it’s a good thing. You never know where life will take you, so it’s good to work with a life insurance company that can adapt to your changing needs.

    Whether you choose term or whole life insurance, New York Life provides clients with flexibility. This is good news in particular for single people or growing families. Set when and how you’d like to pay your premiums according to your financial situation, add riders and coverage as your family expands and decide how much risk you’re willing to take when investing your whole life policy’s cash value.

    Best employer-sponsored policies – MetLife

    If you’re in Snoopy’s exclusive club of employees who qualify for a workplace MetLife life insurance policy, jump on the opportunity to buy one.

    J.D. Power Rating
    N/A
    AM Best Rating
    A+
    Standard & Poor’s
    AA-
    SimpleScore
    4.4 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore MetLife 4.4
    Riders 5
    Coverage Options 5
    Customer Service 3
    Support Options 4
    Accesibility 5

    MetLife is one of the oldest and most reputable insurance companies in the country. Featuring Snoopy and Woodstock from Peanuts in the commercials, the insurer has a strong financial history. The trouble is, MetLife life insurance policies are only available through employers. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a life insurance policy through your workplace, don’t miss out.

    MetLife’s term life insurance policies are some of the most affordable on the market. For expanded benefits, choose a permanent insurance product — they’re best when you want to leave loved ones with a death benefit and set aside an additional amount of your paycheck towards a savings account. If you max out your employer-sponsored 401(k), contributing money to a permanent insurance policy with a cash value account can supplement your retirement savings.

    Best for high-value coverage – Transamerica

    If you’re planning on going out with a bang, a multi-million-dollar life insurance policy from Transamerica is the way to do it.

    J.D. Power Rating
    2/5
    AM Best Rating
    A
    Standard & Poor’s
    A+
    SimpleScore
    4 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Transamerica 4
    Riders 3
    Coverage Options 5
    Customer Service 2
    Support Options 5
    Accessibility 5

    Transamerica is well known for using the famous Transamerica building in San Francisco in its advertising. The company is no longer headquartered there but the pyramid-shaped building is still iconic. The life insurer provides the expected variety of term, whole life and universal life policies. What sets the insurer apart is the high death benefit values available.

    The Trendsetter Super term life policy has coverage of up to $10 million and can be underwritten for higher amounts under certain conditions. In addition, Transamerica’s whole life insurance has a death benefit amount of up to $2 million. Interestingly enough, you can also pick up a small policy of a few thousand dollars to cover funeral expenses. The sky’s the limit with Transamerica Life.

    Best for married couples – Guardian

    Married couples can share a life insurance policy “for better or for worse and until death do us part.

    J.D. Power Rating
    4/5
    AM Best Rating
    A++
    Standard & Poor’s
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    4.8 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Guardian 4.8
    Riders 5
    Coverage Options 5
    Customer Service 4
    Support Options 5
    Accessibility 5

    Guardian Life may offer the most unique life insurance policies around. The mutual insures HIV patients, as long as they’re regularly seen by a medical specialist and experiencing favorable results from HIV medication. But what makes Guardian most attractive is the company’s joint whole life insurance policy for married couples or partners.

    Guardian EstateGuard is a survivorship life insurance, it’s one policy with two owners. After the first policy owner passes, the cash value increases for the use of the joint owner. The death benefit will only be paid when both owners have died. The EstateGuard option is a simple way for a married couple to provide for each other and their kids or loved ones without needing to make changes or underwrite multiple policies.

    Best customer service – State Farm

    If you like holding hands, State Farm will hold your hand the whole way from start to finish when you buy life insurance with the company.

    J.D. Power Rating
    5/5
    AM Best Rating
    A++
    Standard & Poor’s
    N/A
    SimpleScore
    4.6 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore State Farm 4.6
    Riders 5
    Coverage Options 5
    Customer Service 5
    Support Options 3
    Accessibility 5

    State Farm is well-known for customer service that goes above and beyond. You’ll have access to more than 18,000 agents at State Farm offices nationwide. Chances are there’s one near you. Additionally, State Farm’s phone customer support for questions, billing and claims is one of the best of all life insurance companies.

    State Farm comes in second place in the J.D. Power Overall Customer Satisfaction Study of life insurance companies with a perfect five out of five stars. Besides the high level of customer support, the State Farm website is easy to navigate and offers plenty of information and resources to learn more about the products they offer and how life insurance works. For example, you can change your beneficiary yourself by following the simple steps provided on the website, call to speak with a State Farm customer representative or contact your local agent for help.

    Best for military members – USAA

    March yourself right over to a life insurance policy from USAA. You’ll have access to low prices and excellent customer service.

    J.D. Power Rating
    N/A
    AM Best Rating
    A++
    Standard & Poor’s
    AA+
    SimpleScore
    5 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore USAA 5
    Riders 5
    Coverage Options 5
    Customer Service N/A
    Support Options 5
    Accessibility 5

    USAA specializes in underwriting insurance products for the military and understands the risk factors associated with their career. That’s why anyone who’s in the military (or related to one) should keep USAA on the shortlist when comparing life insurance companies. Regardless where in the world you may be stationed, you can get a life insurance quote or manage your life insurance through the USAA website or mobile app.

    USAA offers life insurance riders designed for military members. You’ll be able to increase your coverage up to $100,000 without the need for a medical exam. This is a great convenience for members stationed overseas. You’ll need to be a member of USAA to buy insurance products, but the process can be handled while buying a policy and membership is free.

    Find the Best Life Insurance

    Save money on life insurance with our simple comparison tool.

    Matching you with providers.
    We found results in
    Click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

      What is a life insurance policy?

      A life insurance policy provides you with coverage for a certain amount and a set period of time known as a term as long as you continue to pay the monthly or quarterly premium. Term lengths are as long as 30 years. If you die during your term, the person or persons you named as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy will receive a preset amount, known as a death benefit.

      [Read more: Best Life Insurance for Veterans]

      What does life insurance cover?

      Leaving money to your loved ones if you die helps them make a smoother financial transition after your loss. Life insurance may cover:

      • Your funeral costs
      • Any outstanding medical expenses you left
      • Living expenses
      • College tuition or debt

      What is the average cost of life insurance?

      Life insurance can vary in cost depending on your age, health, coverage amount and type of policy. A term life insurance policy is cheaper than a whole life insurance policiy. CNN ballparks a 20-year level term policy with a $500,000 death benefit purchased by a 35-year-old man at $430 per year. The same policy for a healthy 50-year-old man would cost $1,300 a year. The same man would pay $7,300 per year if he purchased the policy at 65.

      [More: How Much Does Life Insurance Cost?]

      Health and age

      The formulas the best life insurance companies use to set premiums are incredibly sophisticated, but they’re designed to gauge life expectancy, and your age and physical health are the primary factors. But your physical health is only measured once, via the medical exam when you first apply for coverage. The insurance company then uses population data to project your average risk of dying over the course of the policy, and sets your premiums accordingly.

      This means that the younger and healthier you are at the start of the policy, the lower your premiums will be. It’s also why guaranteed renewability and a guaranteed conversion option are so important, because they also rely on that initial health picture. Premiums tend to increase as you get older.

      Another factor that plays a big role in your premium costs? Smoking. Your premium may be twice as high as it would be otherwise if you’re a smoker. There’s never a better time to quit than before you apply for life insurance.

      Medical exams

      At the onset of most life insurance policies, the company has you take a brief medical exam to see what kind of shape you’re in. If you’re fairly young, they might give you the option to bypass the pokes and prods and just fill out a medical questionnaire. But what the company probably won’t tell you is that your choice could result in higher premiums. Without hard medical data to prove your health, you could be regarded as a riskier — and therefore more expensive — bet for the company.

      Full underwriting (with the use of a medical exam) takes more time, but it’s likely to result in significantly lower premiums.

      –Tony Steuer, CLU, LA, CPFFE
      Founder, The Insurance Literacy Institute
      Creator, The Insurance Consumer Bill of Rights

      Driving record and occupation

      While age and health make up the lion’s share of your premium value, there are other significant risk factors that companies weigh. If you have poor credit or a history of traffic violations, those can drive up your premiums. Likewise, if you’re in a job that consistently takes you to dangerous locales or requires a lot of flying, you might be perceived as a bigger risk and find yourself with higher premiums.

      How life insurance works

      Term life insurance vs. whole life insurance

      The fundamental difference is right there in the name: Term life insurance is only in force during a set period or “term,” while permanent life insurance (also called whole life or ordinary life insurance) is yours for your entire life.

      So why doesn’t everyone just get permanent? Because it’s much more expensive — 10 times more than term life insurance, on average. The higher cost makes sense, since the insurance company knows it will be paying out eventually, whereas with term, there’s a good chance you’ll outlive the policy and cost the company next to nothing.

      Another difference between term and permanent is that with the latter, the considerably higher premiums build up a cash reserve which helps pay for the policy in later years and may grant you a rebate if you surrender the policy. You may also be able to take out a loan against the cash value of your policy, although any that is not paid back at your death will reduce the death benefit to your heirs.

      Why should I choose term life insurance over whole?

      Term life insurance is way more simple than whole life insurance. You pay a much lower premium for a set period of protection, which typically coincides with your prime working years, when you are more likely to have children or other dependents. You can think of it as insurance on the income you haven’t yet earned.

      [Read: The 4 Most Common Life Insurance Mistakes to Avoid]

      The advantage is obvious: You can guard against uncertainty by securing a large death benefit for relatively little money. And if you invest the money you save by not going with the higher premiums charged for a permanent insurance policy, you wind up with more cash at the end of your life than a permanent policy would’ve paid.

      But even if you don’t invest the balance of what you’d pay for a permanent policy, term life insurance still offers lots of value by safeguarding your dependents when they’re most vulnerable. You can buy a 20- or 30-year term policy with the expectation that your kids will be able to provide for themselves by its end, and when you and your partner will also hopefully be reaping the rewards of prudent investing, not to mention Social Security or pensions. Sure, your term policy has no value once it expires, but that’s OK — you were only paying for the protection for a set period of time.

      Why choose whole life insurance over term?

      Life insurance is all about covering needs, and in some cases the need for it lasts your entire life. One example is for those with special needs children who will always require care. To ensure their care continues after your death, a whole life insurance policy may make sense.

      Whole life insurance is also worth considering if you’ve built up enough wealth that your heirs will need to pay an estate tax — in 2016, the lifetime exemption amount was set at $5.45 million. Life insurance death benefits are not subject to income tax, so if you get a permanent policy, you’ll know that your heirs will have cash-on-hand to pay the estate tax if your total assets exceed $5.45 million.

      Find the Best Life Insurance

      Save money on life insurance with our simple comparison tool.

      Matching you with providers.
      We found results in
      Click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

        [Read: Coronavirus and Your Life Insurance: A Practical Guide]

        This makes even more sense if the majority of your wealth is in property or other non-liquid assets that won’t be quickly and readily accessible to your heirs, unlike your life insurance death benefit.

        Permanent life insurance as an investment

        Permanent life policies come with a cash-savings feature that you can access during your lifetime. A portion of each premium you pay goes into the cash value, which earns interest over time based on how the company invests it.

        [Related: 6 Things to Look For In a Life Insurance Policy]

        Although the value of life insurance is in the death benefit, life insurance companies realized they could sell more of it (and justify higher prices) if people believed it was a sound investment not only for their dependents, but for themselves as well. However, the investment returns on a whole-life policy are generally low because insurance companies are obligated to invest mostly in safe, low-yield securities like bonds.

        There are also limits on how you can use the cash value in your policy. You can apply it to future premiums or use it to purchase more death benefits, but you can never allow it to run out completely — that will cancel your policy. And while you can take out a loan against your policy’s cash value, it’s hardly ever a good idea, and you’ll need to repay it with interest.

        As a rough example, imagine you buy a permanent life insurance policy at age 55 with a $500,000 death benefit. If you leave the cash value untouched, after 30 years it might be worth in the neighborhood of $250,000. You could cash that out (and cancel the policy), but your investment wouldn’t have generated as much return as it would have in, say, an index fund. However, if you keep the policy active, the death benefit for your heirs might be double what you put in.

        Permanent life insurance is rarely a good investment for the policyholder. However, it can be a very good investment for their heirs.

        Paul Puckett – Independent Life Insurance Agent & Investment Advisor Representative

        Coverage through work

        You may have life insurance through your job, but take a close look at the fine print on the policy. Most employer plans carry a death benefit of far less than you would want your dependents to have, and they’re also not portable if you switch jobs. It’s great if you have employer-sponsored life insurance, but you should probably supplement it with a policy of your own.

        Working with a life insurance broker

        Insurance brokers (people who sell insurance for multiple carriers) sometimes get a bad rap because they work on commission, and they could push an expensive policy that you don’t need just to get a heftier cut of the action. But most brokers are well-trained and operate under a code of ethics, and they can be a huge help.

        Brokers can quickly sift through hundreds of options to find the policies that best fit your needs. They also know which companies are likely to offer you the lowest premium. How? They review insurance policies every day, so they’re familiar with the specific underwriting criteria of various companies — which ones are more generous on height and weight tables, or which ones are particularly strict about driving records.

        [More: 5 Things Your Life Insurance Agent May Not Tell You]

        And you may save money by working with a broker. Insurance companies assume a broker fee when they set their premiums, so even if you buy your policy through a website like PolicyGenius, your premiums will be the same as if you worked with a broker. The only difference is where that commission money goes.

        Maybe you’ve heard that you should talk to a fee-only financial planner instead of a broker. While it’s true that fee-only advisors don’t receive commissions from insurance companies or other financial products, that doesn’t mean they don’t have some other arrangement that encourages them to suggest certain policies. Plus, a fee-only adviser only makes recommendations, leaving you to purchase the policy yourself (and pay the built-in commission).

        Even though brokers are paid on commission, that doesn’t mean they won’t give you good advice. Just make sure they’re licensed to sell life insurance in your state, and they don’t have a disciplinary record. Both of these pieces of info are publicly available from your state’s department of insurance.

        Insurers are constantly adjusting their underwriting criteria to take advantage of trends or make themselves more competitive in a particular demographic. A good broker will be aware of recent changes that could save you money on your policy.

        Shannah Compton Game, CFP, MBA
        Chief Millennial Money Strategist at Your Millennial Money

        How much life insurance do I need?

        Maybe you’ve heard that you should multiply your annual income by 10 to get your life insurance face value, but you might want to take a little more time than that to calculate something so important.
        First, consider your long-term debts. Do you have a mortgage that will require payments for the next 25 or 30 years? What about student loans, medical expenses and credit card balances? If you have children, are you planning to pay their college costs?

        Then ask yourself how much it takes to sustain your household at your current spending habits. You may also want to consider a larger death benefit than your beneficiaries will need, if you can afford it, because life insurance benefits are paid out in a tax-free lump sum. If invested, it can reap a significant amount of interest even in the very first year. For example, a $2 million death benefit, if invested at a 5% annual rate of return, would earn $100,000 a year if left untouched.

        Take the cost of inflation into account, too. We appreciated Amica Life’s rider for that; it automatically increases the death benefit to keep its purchasing power consistent with inflation.

        Life insurance FAQs

        You can’t predict the future to know when your time is up. The best time to buy life insurance is when you’re younger and healthy. Insurers will see you as row-risk, meaning you’ll pay far less for a policy in your 20s than you would in your 40s and beyond.

        When you name beneficiaries to receive your life insurance payout (known as a death benefit), they will receive it after you pass away. If you purchased term life insurance, the potential to leave a death benefit behind for your beneficiaries is only possible if you die within the term of the policy. If you pass after your contract term is over, your beneficiaries will not receive a payout.

        Choosing from the life insurance companies out there can get overwhelming. Your best bet is to narrow it down to four or five companies and get quotes to compare costs. Once you’re down to a couple of providers, research their customer satisfaction ratings and reviews through websites like J.D. Power.

        If you’re the primary breadwinner in your family, with a spouse who takes care of the home, you might not have considered the real cost of replacing the work he or she does. It may be more than you think. For the past few years, Salary.com has surveyed more than 15,000 stay-at-home parents. In 2018, it found that the 10 most frequent responsibilities (things like daycare, driving, tutoring, and cooking) totaled up to a market value of $162,581 a year. This could be what you’d have to pay outside help in their absence — reason enough to buy a separate term policy.

        We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the life insurance companies we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

        Cynthia Paez Bowman

        Contributing Writer

        Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance, real estate and international business journalist. Her work has been featured in Business Jet Traveler, MSN, CheatSheet.com, Bankrate.com and Freshome.com.

        She owns and operates a small digital marketing and public relations firm that works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility. Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, California, and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women’s NGOs about small business development

        Reviewed by

        • Aylea Wilkins
          Aylea Wilkins
          Insurance Editor

          Aylea Wilkins is an editor specializing in insurance for The Simple Dollar. After getting a degree in European studies and editing from Brigham Young University, she worked as a writer and editor for a variety of small websites before transitioning to the insurance field.

        • Courtney Mihocik
          Courtney Mihocik
          Loans Editor

          Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.