Life insurance is essential if you have anyone in your life who depends on your income. Unfortunately, many people don't have the right type of coverage or the right amount. About half of all U.S. households have less life insurance than they should, according to the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association.

A separate study by employee benefits provider finds that about a third of all households will be financially strained within the first month of losing a breadwinner. The good news is that life insurance doesn’t cost as much as you might think it does. Some people even estimate that life insurance costs up to five times as much as it actually does, reports the Insurance Information Institute. We make the process of shopping for life insurance as easy as possible by doing the research for you and rating the top life insurance companies. To create our rating, we evaluated dozens of companies, scoring each on elements such as financial strength, customer service, and cost.

 #State Farm

#2 Northwestern Mutual

#3 Haven Life

#4 Banner Life

#5 Principal

#6 Pacific Life

#7 Guardian Life

#8 Nationwide

#9 Primerica

#10 MassMutual

#11 New York Life

#12 Allstate

#13 John Hancock

#14 Protective

#15 Mutual of Omaha

#16 Prudential

Northwestern Mutual: 

Our top-rated insurance company, Northwestern Mutual, has more than 160 years of experience in the financial services industry and offers a traditional approach to life insurance. Northwestern Mutual offers a variety of coverage options and a low-tech but personalized method of determining coverage needs, and its financial advisers are available to help customers through the process.


Haven Life: 

Haven Life insurance company offers only term life insurance policies and utilizes an online application process without personal interaction with a traditional agent. While a relatively new player in the insurance business, it's backed by the well-established MassMutual. Haven Life aims to offer affordable, easy-to-manage term life insurance policies online, without the usual hassles of insurance shopping.

State Farm: 

Our No. 3 life insurance company, State Farm has almost 100 years of experience and offers a wide variety of different types of insurance in addition to term, whole, and universal life insurance options. State Farm also offers discounts for customers who purchase multiple insurance policies.


How to Choose the Best Life Insurance Company:

Buying a life insurance policy is similar to buying a home in that you are paying for something that will be part of your life for many years to come. Just as you inspect a home before you buy it, you should evaluate any insurance company before buying a policy. Follow these tips to make sure the life insurance company you are considering is a sound business that will flourish decades into the future.


Financial strength: 

Get a financial strength rating from at least one of the independent agencies:  Fitch Ratings, Kroll Bond Rating Agency, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s. This rating is based on an assessment of a life insurance company's financial stability. We base a portion of our Best Life Insurance Companies ratings on the AM Best financial strength rating, and every company on our list earned AM Best's highest rating of Superior.

Policy types:

Not all life insurance companies offer every type of policy. Rather than choosing the wrong type of policy because you like the company, start with a company that sells the kind of insurance that best fits your needs. We break down the differences between the types of life insurance and give a brief definition of other terms in our section below on Types of Life Insurance Policies.


Policy options and add-ons:

Other important considerations when buying a policy include the amount of the premium, choices of premium payment arrangements, selections for term periods (for a term life policy), and the rate of return on the cash value (for a universal or whole life policy). Start off on the right foot by getting a firm understanding of what each of these terms means. See our Types of Life Insurance Policies section below for more information.

Types of Life Insurance Policies:

 One of the major barriers to understanding life insurance can be the jargon. Terms like “indexed universal life insurance” and “whole life insurance” can seem a bit unclear. To make understanding life insurance easier we define some of the topic’s unique words and phrases. We go more in-depth on these in our How Does Life Insurance Work? and How to Buy Life Insurance guides.

Permanent life insurance: 

A category of long-term coverage that includes whole life and universal life policy types. These are more expensive than term but offer more benefits. This category is sometimes called cash value life insurance because of the savings like a cash value account that's built into the policy.


Whole life insurance: 

A type of permanent policy that has consistent premiums and guaranteed accumulation of cash value. This policy type may be eligible for dividends from a mutual company and typically is expensive. See our Whole Life Insurance guide for more information.

Universal life insurance: 

A type of permanent coverage that builds cash value. It's frequently offered with flexible premiums, although those premiums affect the cash value and death benefit. Find out more in our Universal Life Insurance guide.


Indexed universal life insurance: 

A universal life policy that accumulates cash value based on the performance of a specific market index such as the S&P 500. This type of policy is typically less expensive and less risky than a variable policy because there is no actual investment in an index.


Variable life insurance: 

A type of permanent policy that ties cash value to a number of investment options. These options may be based on whole life or universal life coverage.


Term life insurance:

A life insurance policy that covers the policyholder for a predetermined length of time, typically ranging from five to 30 years. When the term ends, there is no benefit to the policy. Though no cash value accumulates, the premiums for term life policies are usually substantially lower than premiums for permanent life policies. Learn more in our Term Life Insurance guide. No-exam life insurance: a life insurance policy that doesn't require a medical exam, thus speeding up the approval process. We explain this specialized policy further in our guide on Life Insurance With No Exam.


Death benefit: 

The money that the life insurance company pays your beneficiaries after your death. This is often a tax-free payment that can be paid as a lump sum or in installments, depending on your policy, and is usually only distributed if your premiums are paid up. You typically select the amount of the death benefit, also called your coverage level, when you apply for a policy, though some policies allow you to later change this amount.

Cash value: 

A portion of your premium that the life insurance company sets aside in a separate account after paying administrative fees and other expenses. In general, this money grows tax-deferred based on a fixed rate, a market index, or other investments. Only permanent life policies have a cash value component.




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