Guide to Getting the Best Life Insurance Rates

Life insurance rates depend a lot on your age, your overall health and the type of policy you buy. If you’re in excellent health or younger than the average policyholder, you’ll generally qualify for the best life insurance rates possible. If you’re older or suffer from an existing medical condition, the price of your policy will increase.

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

Life insurance carriers rely on different data sets to price policies, which is why it’s crucial to shop around before buying a policy you’ll have for decades or your entire lifetime. By shopping around, you’ll learn the average cost of a policy for someone of your age and health and get closer to finding the best life insurance rates for your situation.

The best way to compare life insurance rates is by using an online marketplace tool like the one below. Enter your ZIP code below to get several quotes for policies in your area.

In this article

    Guide to getting the best life insurance rates

    • Learn about the types of life insurance you can buy
    • Find out which factors affect life insurance rates the most
    • Learn what to expect when you apply for a policy
    • Figure out the best ways to keep your life insurance rates as low as possible

    Once you’ve entered your information and secured life insurance quotes, continue reading to learn more about the types of life insurance available, the application process and steps you can take to get the best rates possible.

    Types of life insurance

    Life insurance can protect your family from wage loss due to your death and funeral expenses, so carefully consider the policies available before making a final decision. Although unique policies with riders are written all the time, most life insurance policies fall into one of these categories.

    Term life insurance

    True to its name, term life insurance is only in force for a specific period of time that begins when a policy is purchased. Most term policies are active for a period of 10 to 30 years, a time during which no cash value accrues.

    Families who purchase term life insurance policies will pay premiums for the duration of the policy and remain covered while it’s in force. Like other forms of insurance, if you don’t need to file a claim during the coverage term, a term life insurance policy doesn’t pay out any benefits.

    Term policies are generally purchased by people who want low-cost policies that will cover them during their working and earning years.

    Whole life insurance

    Unlike term life insurance, whole life insurance is meant to be in force for the remainder of the insured’s lifetime. Covered persons or their families pay a premium to start the policy, which will remain in effect until the covered person dies or cancels the policy. Whole life policies accrue monetary value that can be cashed out or borrowed against and guarantee a premium for the policyholder’s lifetime.

    Whole life policies are more expensive than term policies and are commonly purchased by individuals with large estates or who want coverage for life.

    Guaranteed universal life

    Guaranteed universal life (GUL) policies provide permanent life insurance like whole life insurance but usually cost less because the cash value grows much slower.

    Also, most GUL policies give you the option to decrease your death benefit (also decreasing the cost of coverage) if you need less later in life, such as after you retire.

    Index universal life

    Much like whole life coverage, index universal life (IUL) builds cash value and provides a lifetime death benefit. However, IUL policies link the growth of the policy’s cash value to changes in one or more of the widely-followed financial indices, such as the S&P 500, Nasdaq-100 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

    Like whole life and guaranteed universal life, these policies are typically purchased by individuals who want a lifetime death benefit and a policy that builds cash value over time.

    What is the average cost of life insurance coverage types?

    Life insurance rates will vary based on factors unique to you — like your age and health — and the type of policy you buy.

    If you want cheap life insurance, look for a term policy. Term life insurance rates are lower than other life insurance policies because if your policy expires before you pass away, your insurer keeps the premiums you paid.

    A 20-year term policy with a face value of $250,000 costs a healthy 30-year-old about $150 a year. That’s less than most people expect, so if you’re worried about the cost of coverage, shop around. You might be able to find cheap life insurance below what you expected to pay.

    If you want a permanent life insurance policy, you’ll pay more. Annual premiums range from $1,745 and $6,390 for healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 55.

    Because the cost of life insurance depends so heavily on your age and health, the best way to know what you can expect to pay is to gather life insurance quotes.

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    What factors affect life insurance rates?

    Life insurance rates can vary dramatically based on personal health, the age of the policyholder and personal behavior. The following factors play the biggest role in how life insurance carriers price policies.

    Demographic definers

    Simple factors like your age and gender play a big role in the cost of your coverage. Your insurer uses these benchmarks to assume certain things about you, like how much longer you’ll live.

    Your age is a crucial variable for life insurance carriers pricing a policy, and that’s true no matter which type of life insurance you buy. The older you are, the higher risk you pose to the insurer. When you buy a policy when you’re young, your insurers will likely get premiums for a few decades. If you purchase a policy when you’re older, there’s a higher likelihood you’ll pass away without paying a significant amount in premiums. Therefore, older consumers tend to pay higher life insurance rates.

    Your gender also matters more than you might think when it comes to life insurance. Because women tend to live longer, healthier lives, women tend to pay lower life insurance rates on all policies.

    Health

    Insurers want you to live as long as possible. The longer you live, the longer you’ll pay premiums. The provider is also less likely to have to pay out on a term policy. One of the most effective tools they have for determining your life expectancy is your health. Many life insurance policies require a medical exam as part of the underwriting process.

    Your health history is a big consideration for insurers that write life insurance policies. If you have a history of health problems, a recurring medical condition or a chronic disease, insurers are more likely to decide that you pose too great a risk or charge much higher life insurance rates to offset that risk.

    Your current health is as important as your health history. If you had health issues in the past but solved them, you’ll be in a better position to secure affordable life insurance rates.

    Your weight is another health-indicating factor that life insurers consider. If you’re overweight, you’re more susceptible to lifestyle illnesses such as strained joints or Type 2 diabetes. These issues make you tougher to insure and could lead to higher premiums.

    Daily activities

    Your insurer wants to know how long you’re going to live to maintain a policy, so it cares what you do as it relates to your longevity.

    Your lifestyle matters when you’re ready to purchase a life insurance policy. If you drink or smoke, for example, you’ll pay much higher rates than if you abstain. Lifestyle factors that negatively impact your health make you a greater risk.

    Your occupation plays a role in life insurance rates as well. If you work in a dangerous field where your life and health are at risk, you’ll generally pay higher premiums on any type of policy you buy.

    Similarly, insurers look at your hobbies, driving record and criminal record to determine if you’re risky. If you regularly skydive or have several speeding tickets, insurers might determine you’re high-risk and deny you coverage. If you’re lucky enough to still get a policy, you can expect to pay more than someone leading a lower-risk life.

    Coverage options

    Certain types of life insurance cost more than others. The more benefits you get from your policy, the more you’ll pay for it.

    Your policy type matters. Term life insurance is generally less expensive than whole life or universal life policies. The type – and length – of policy you choose will play a role in how much you’ll pay over time.

    Your policy amount – or, how much life insurance you buy – will influence your monthly life insurance premiums. The higher your coverage amount, the more you’ll need to pay each month or year to keep it up-to-date.

    Applying for life insurance: what to expect

    Once you decide which type of life insurance is best for your situation, you’ll need to decide how much coverage to buy. Meanwhile, you’ll also need to make a decision on who to name as the beneficiary on your policy.

    To apply for a life insurance policy, you’ll need to fill out a formal application. Not only will you need to list your name, age and employer, but you’ll also need to provide accurate details regarding your overall health and lifestyle. Most life insurance applications will need to know your:

    • Date of birth
    • Height
    • Weight
    • Lifestyle details, such as whether you smoke or drink
    • Financial information, including your income
    • Net worth
    • Occupation

    Most life insurance carriers require applicants to undergo a full medical examination before a life insurance policy can be put in place. This exam verifies the information you provided in your application and determines if any additional tests are required.

    This part of the application typically requires a trip to a local clinic or insurance office, although some life insurance companies will send a medical professional to your home to conduct the examination. Most of the time, the paramedical assigned to your case will:

    • Verify your medical history by reviewing the medical history you submitted on your application and asking for additional details, if required.
    • Take your blood pressure to ensure it is within normal limits.
    • Listen to your heartbeat, and check for abnormalities.
    • Verify your height and weight with a scale and measure.
    • Check bodily fluids, including drawing blood and collecting a urine sample.
    • Ask about lifestyle factors that could put your health at risk, such as drinking, smoking or occupational hazards.

    Depending on your health, you may be subject to additional tests which could include X-rays, physical fitness tests, additional blood work or an EKG. Either way, an insurance underwriter will study your case and determine your risk.

    While you await a decision, the underwriter assigned to your case will:

    • Examine your application to check for accuracy.
    • Receive lab results and mark them in your application.
    • Order medical records from your family doctor, if needed.
    • Ask physicians and doctors to examine your records and inquire about potential risks.
    • Determine what level of risk you pose to the insurer, and make a recommendation based on research data.

    Because applying for life insurance is a complex endeavor, it shouldn’t surprise you that approval doesn’t happen overnight. Most of the time, it will take a few weeks for an underwriter to thoroughly examine your application and medical details and recommend you for denial or approval.

    If you’re denied, you can reapply when your circumstances change. Furthermore, you can work to make healthy changes, like quitting smoking or losing excess weight. Life insurance rates tend to drop considerably once you reach a certain level of health.

    Some large employers, alumni networks, credit unions and other organizations may offer employees or members the option to buy group life insurance, often without a medical exam. Some life insurance companies also offer policies that don’t require medical screening. However, these policies generally cost more because they require more risk on the part of the insurer. Before you purchase a policy with a “no medical screening” option, shop around to see how much more you’ll pay.

    How to keep life insurance rates as low as possible

    If you want to secure the best life insurance rates possible, you’ll need to prove that you’re in optimum health. Unfortunately, that can be difficult if you have bad lifestyle habits or a medical condition.

    While the total picture of your health may not be in your control, there are plenty of ways to improve your chances for approval and cheap life insurance rates. Here’s what you should do.

    Make healthy changes

    The healthier you are, the less you’ll pay for your health insurance. To score cheap life insurance:

    • Stop smoking. Taking part in a smoking cessation program or quitting cold turkey are your best options if you want to improve your health over time and save money. To qualify for the best life insurance rates, you’ll generally need to have been smoke-free for at least two years.
    • Drink alcohol less often. If your life insurance carrier sees you drink alcohol fairly often, you may pay higher life insurance rates as a consequence. Conversely, drinking less often can help you qualify for lower life insurance rates and a policy with more generous terms.
    • Lose weight. Being overweight can lead to a slew of costly medical conditions, some of which may contribute to an early death. Insurers know this and price life insurance policies accordingly. If you want to save money on life insurance premiums, losing weight will help.

    These changes can help you live longer and save money.

    Eliminate risky behavior

    Insurers may charge higher rates if you work in a dangerous profession or have a poor driving record or criminal record. Changing your behavior so you present a lower risk is one way to keep insurance rates as low as possible.

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      Review your policy options

      To make sure you’re getting cheap life insurance, look at the type of coverage you choose and the insurer from who you purchase it. Don’t wait to start this process. No matter your health, life insurance rates increase as you age. The best way to save money – whether you’re buying term life insurance or some variation of whole life – is to start shopping now.

      For cheap life insurance, consider term life insurance. Because whole life provides coverage for your lifetime, rates are generally more expensive. Term life insurance is almost always a less expensive proposition, and worth considering if your goal is to save money while still protecting your family from lost income if you were to die during your prime earning years.

      As you’re reviewing your policy options, review your options for insurers too. If you’re paying too much, switching insurers and perhaps types of coverage could help you save. Using an online life insurance quote tool is the quickest way to get quotes from several reputable insurers at once.

      Adjust your policy

      If you already have life insurance, look for ways to save. Ask your insurer about discounts. Depending on the provider, you may be able to secure a discount for paying your annual premium upfront or choosing to receive your statements online.

      You can bundle policies too. If you have homeowners insurance, auto insurance or any other type of policy with another company, it makes sense to see if they also offer life insurance. By bundling policies with the same insurer, you could score deep discounts on all types of insurance your life requires.

      Also, if cheap life insurance is your top priority, avoid riders and additional insurance. Riders are à la carte options you can purchase to improve the value of your policy upon your death. Riders cover numerous circumstances, and they almost always cost more money. If the purpose of your life insurance policy is simply to provide for your family in the event of your death, these add-ons may not be necessary.

      Kacie Goff

      Contributing Writer

      Kacie Goff is a personal finance and insurance writer with over five years of experience covering personal and commercial coverage options. Kacie founded Jot Content, a full-service content agency, in 2018. She lives in Ventura, CA, with her husband and dingo-look alike dog, Babou. When she’s not writing, you can find Kacie practicing yoga, working in her garden or scoping out a new happy hour.

      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.