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Best Life Insurance Companies

Selecting the best life insurance policy can be a daunting task. Here's everything you need to know, plus our top picks.

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The best life insurance policy can help protect your family and financial assets in the event of an untimely death. Along with creating a will, securing the right plan is among the best ways to enhance your family’s wellbeing and financial security.

We selected our list of the best insurance companies by analyzing their coverage plans, customer service ratings, corporate track record and plan pricing. Though each provider offers an array of plans, all of the companies highlighted here offer 20-year policies with a $500,000 death benefit for between $23 and $32 per month -- within a few dollars of the industry average of $25.80 per month. And every company on this list offers policies to residents of every US state. 

Read on for a rundown of our top picks for insurance companies.   

Principal Financial Group

Principal Financial Group

Best overall life insurance

Principal Financial Group offers the best combination of affordable coverage and customer satisfaction, topping our list of the best life insurance companies. It received a middling score in J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study, but had fewer customer complaints than the industry average, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Principal offers a lower monthly premium than most of our other picks, offering a 20-year, $500,000 term life policy for $23 per month (for a healthy 35-year-old). The competitive pricing combined with an A+ financial strength rating from AM Best makes Principal a good choice for just about anyone.

Principal offers life insurance plan term lengths of 10, 15, 20 and 30 years, with death benefits ranging from $200,000 to $5,000,000. Though the $200,000 coverage minimum is a bit higher than average, most people will be best served by a policy with at least $250,000 of coverage.

State Farm

State Farm

Best for customer satisfaction

State Farm is known for providing a superior customer experience, ranking first for overall customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s 2022 study. State Farm’s premiums are similar to Northwestern Mutual’s, but its higher-end policies earn superior marks and offer significant flexibility in term length.

You can apply for life insurance coverage on State Farm’s website, though you may need to speak with a State Farm representative to finalize your application. Like Haven Life, State Farm offers add-on riders that let a policyholder access a living benefit subtracted from the death benefit cash value in the case of a terminal illness or disability.

Haven Life (MassMutual)

Haven Life (MassMutual)

Cheapest and fastest coverage

Haven Life Insurance Agency’s policies are backed by MassMutual, one of the biggest and oldest insurance companies in the US. But some modern touches distinguish it from the rest of the field.

Though most insurers require an in-person meeting with a financial advisor or a product agent before approving a policy, Haven Life will kickstart your coverage immediately once you’re approved online. You’ll then have 120 days to complete a medical exam. And as long as you can provide a reasonably comprehensive overview of your family’s health history (and your own), the application should take less than 20 minutes to complete.

Haven Life offers the lowest term life price quote of our top picks. A 20-year, $500,000 policy for a healthy 35-year-old costs $22.34, compared with an average of $25.80. Haven Life offers term life policies ranging from 10 to 30 years, with term insurance coverage benefits ranging from $100,000 to $3 million. And MassMutual has a solid reputation for customer service and financial stability -- enough to earn an A++ (Superior) rating from AM Best for financial strength.

Banner Life/Legal and General America

Banner Life/Legal and General America

Best for longer term policies

Banner Life’s insurance policies are issued by Legal and General America, the American branch of a British multinational financial services company. Legal and General wasn’t included in J.D. Power’s most recent customer satisfaction survey -- but the life insurance company has been around since 1836 and has an excellent reputation for customer service and affordability. This insurance company provides both term life insurance and universal life insurance, a type of permanent insurance. And it’s one of the few companies that offers 35- and 40-year terms.

Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual

Best for earning dividends

The largest life insurer in the US, Northwestern Mutual ranked fourth in J.D. Power’s 2022 customer satisfaction survey.

Most of its term insurance policies fall between 10 and 20 years, with benefits ranging from $100,000 to $5 million. That noted, a company representative said that the company regularly adds new products and that prospective customers can speak with a company representative to identify the best life insurance product for them.

Northwestern Mutual offers term life insurance, whole life insurance and universal life insurance -- but they are more expensive on average -- roughly 20% higher than the industry average. The bottom line: There are plenty of more affordable life insurance plan options.

Best life insurance companies, compared

CompanyPrincipal Financial GroupState FarmHaven Life (MassMutual)Banner Life / Legal and General AmericaNorthwestern Mutual
Best forBest overallBest in customer satisfactionCheapest and fastestLongest termsBest for earning dividends
JD Power Customer Satisfaction Rank1517*N/A3
Monthly premium*$23.00$30.44$22.34$23.89$31.75
Coverage terms10, 15, 20 or 30 years10, 20 or 30 years10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 or 40 years10 or 20 years
Death benefits$200,000 to $5 millionStarting at $100,000$100,000 to $3 million$100,000 to $10 million$100,000 to $5 million
Can you buy a policy online?NoYesYesNoNo

*This score is for MassMutual, which owns Haven Life.

What is life insurance and how does it work?

A life insurance insurance policy is like a contract, wherein you pay a monthly or annual premium in exchange for a payment, called a death benefit, that is made to a beneficiary in the event of your death. 

Types of life insurance policies

There are two major kinds of life insurance. A term life policy covers a predetermined amount of time -- typically 10, 20 or 30 years. Permanent life insurance, of which there are a few varieties, covers you until the end of your life. 

Term life

This type of life insurance, which covers a set number of years, is ideal if you’re looking for coverage for a discrete period of time -- while your children are dependents or you’re paying off a mortgage, for example. One benefit of term life insurance is that it’s typically much cheaper than permanent life insurance, so you may be able to get coverage at a lower price.

Once the term is up, the policyholder can walk away or sign up for a policy with new terms and conditions. Term insurance generally provides the highest level of financial protection at the lowest cost.

“If I need to make sure my family or business is protected in the case of my passing prematurely, I want to focus on term insurance,” says David Gastwirth, an insurance strategist with American Business. “It’s the fundamental cornerstone of one’s insurance plan.”

Death benefits for term life insurance typically range from $100,000 to $3 million, though some providers offer coverage up to $5 million. Gastwirth recommends erring on the side of more coverage since the cost of a life insurance policy increases as you age. It’s also worth noting that it could be more difficult to get approved for coverage if you develop a health issue later in life.

Permanent life

Permanent life insurance covers you until you die -- as long as you pay your premiums. The type of insurance includes whole life, universal life or a combination of policies designed to provide protection for the entire life of the policyholder. Most of these policies include an insurance portion and an investment portion.

  • Whole life insurance offers a death benefit as well as a “cash value account” that increases in value at a set rate over time. Your premiums and death benefit are fixed and do not change throughout the length of the policy.
  • Universal life insurance has a cash value account that may accumulate over time. You can withdraw money or borrow against its value. With many universal life policies, your premiums are flexible and you can adjust the death benefit. 
  • Variable life insurance also has a cash value account that is typically invested in funds similar to mutual funds. With variable life insurance, the returns are determined by how well the investments perform. As such, these policies are riskier than whole or term life insurance policies. 

How much does life insurance cost?

The cost of a life insurance policy -- and the pricing of your monthly or annual premium -- is primarily determined by your age, your health, the term length and the amount of the death benefit. Other factors that may come into play include gender, whether you’re a smoker and where you live. Adults in good health under the age of 40 can expect to pay between $25 and $50 per month for a 20- or 30-year term life insurance plan with a death benefit of approximately $500,000.

Some experts recommend buying a policy with a death benefit equal to 10 to 12 times your annual income and a term long enough to cover living expenses and future financial liabilities, such as mortgage payments and college tuition.  

What does life insurance cover?

Life insurance policies have a predetermined “death benefit” -- a sum of money that’s paid out when the policyholder passes away. The beneficiaries of that money can use it for any purpose. Often, this may include funeral costs, unpaid financial obligations like a mortgage or a child’s college tuition or medical bills. 

Some companies sell hybrid life insurance policies that bundle long-term care insurance. If the long-term care isn’t used, the unused value of that portion of the insurance shifts to the death benefit. 

Who should get life insurance?

If anyone relies on you for financial support -- children, spouse or parent -- you should have life insurance.  

Many people buy a policy around the time of a major life milestone. When you take on debt to buy a house or send a child to college, a policy can help ensure that your obligations are paid even if you die. A life insurance policy can also help your dependents manage living expenses as well as include final expense insurance for burial and funeral costs. 

The best time to buy life insurance is when you’re young and healthy, as it becomes more expensive as you age.

How to find the best life insurance policy and choose a carrier

The following steps can help you find the right life insurance carrier and policy for you.

1. Consider how much coverage you need -- and how long you’d like to be covered. An insurance agent can help you add up the financial expenses you’d like taken care of in the event of your death. 

2. Decide whether you’d like to earn dividends and interest on your policy. If you do, you may want a whole life insurance policy.

3. Explore other special considerations. If you have a preexisting condition such as diabetes, you may want to look into options like guaranteed life insurance. Or, if you’d like coverage for medical bills in the event that you ever need long-term care, you may want to look into a long-term care rider.

4. Choose a policy type and carrier. First, make sure a carrier offers what you need. Then, consider your priorities: Do you want the best customer service, the most bang for your buck or a financially secure company? 


A rider is an optional feature that you can add to a standard policy. They can be especially useful to folks who need personalized coverage for a specific need. A chronic illness rider, for example, provides the insured with a portion of their death benefit if they’re diagnosed with a terminal illness. A disability rider waives or reduces the monthly premium if the policyholder becomes incapacitated.

If anyone relies on you for financial support -- children, spouse or parent -- you should have life insurance.

Many people buy a policy around the time of a major life milestone. When you take on debt to buy a house or send a child to college, a policy can help ensure that your obligations are paid even if you die. A life insurance policy can also help your dependents manage living expenses as well as include final expense insurance for burial and funeral costs.

It’s worth shopping around to see if any life insurer offers a policy designed for your specific situation. Health insurance companies generally classify clients in one of four categories: Preferred Best (sometimes called “Super Preferred”), Second Best Preferred (or simply “Preferred”), Standard Plus and Standard. Current or recent smokers are classified as either Preferred Smoker or Standard Smoker.

Each insurance company has its own approach to classifying customers; some may categorize you as a smoker even if you quit three years ago. Your categorization will help determine your life insurance coverage premium. After you complete an application and a medical exam, you’ll be able to see what policies are available to you.

If you’re having trouble finding a company that will write you the life insurance policy you want, you may want to consider guaranteed issue life insurance, which does not require a medical exam. However, it will come with a low death benefit and high premiums.

There are a few ways to find an appropriate coverage amount. An “income replacement” strategy provides your family with a payout that’s sufficient to support them for 15 to 20 years, through a combination of principal and interest. An appropriate amount of coverage is roughly 10 to 12 times your current annual income.

Another option is “expense calculation,” which correlates the size of the policy with your present and future financial obligations -- such as a mortgage or college tuition (which currently comes to around $175,000 on average for a private four-year institution). Both factors can help you when determining the size of your policy.

Life is unpredictable, and when your financial situation changes, you’ll need to reassess your insurance coverage. If you no longer need insurance, you can always cancel your policy. If your obligations increase significantly -- you take on a mortgage or have kids, for example -- you can always purchase additional insurance. Even though life insurance is designed for the long term, there are plenty of supplemental options for when circumstances change.

Despite the name, life insurance is really more income insurance. It ensures uninterrupted financial support for your family. Once your children can support themselves, your mortgage is paid off and you’ve saved enough to cover retirement, you’ll have less need for life insurance.

Some life insurance policies allow policyholders to earn dividends on their whole life insurance policies when the company does well.

Yes, typically those diagnosed with cancer can still get life insurance. If a person’s cancer is in remission, they may be able to qualify for a term or whole life insurance policy. However, typically those with cancer may only have the option of getting a guaranteed issue life insurance policy. Guaranteed issue policies usually do not require a medical exam and accept most applicants. However, the death benefit is typically low -- around $25,000 -- and premiums are typically quite high.

Yes. The best time to buy life insurance is when you’re young and healthy, because it becomes more expensive as you get older.

You want a policy that covers the period of your greatest financial liabilities. If you’re buying insurance today to ensure that you can pay college tuition for a 12-year-old child, for example, a 10-year policy would make sense. It’s generally better to err on the side of a longer-term policy, since the cost and availability of products will change as you get older.

For most people, the answer is no. Guaranteed life insurance policies are easy to get, even for older or less healthy people who may not need to take a medical exam. But the death benefit is typically very low and the premiums are high. Also, most guaranteed policies have a two-year waiting period: If you die during the first two years of coverage, the insurer will refund the cash value of the premiums you paid -- but not provide the death benefit.

How we chose the best life insurance companies

All the providers profiled here satisfy the minimum requirements for a life insurance company. Our analysis prioritized customer service, financial standing and price -- but each of these companies has earned respectable customer service grades from J.D. Power, a low complaint index from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and an A++ or A+ rating for financial strength from A.M. Best. 

Though some of their policies are less expensive than others, all of these insurance product companies offer competitive premium rates. Note that the exact price of your life insurance policy will depend on your health, location, sex and age. The bottom line: You can confidently choose any of these insurance company options for a reasonably priced, comprehensive term life insurance policy. 

More financial advice

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Joe Van Brussel is a freelance writer for CNET Money, where he deciphers obfuscatory credit card offers and breaks them down so consumers actually know what belongs in their wallet. He also covers other aspects of personal finance, from life insurance and loans to tax software and the impact of broader economic trends on individuals. Joe believes the United States will win the World Cup in his lifetime, and wishes New York City apartments came standard with thick, noise-reducing windows.
Lizzie Nealon is a contributor for CNET and Bankrate. Lizzie earned her bachelor's degree in political science from Clemson University. At Clemson, she co-founded a campus publication called the Sensible Tiger that made news and politics digestible to college students. This experience instilled her passion for helping audiences navigate complex personal finance topics. She enjoys partially completing New Yorker crosswords, finding the best local restaurants and reading biographies in her free time.
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