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A life insurance policy can present your family with the financial support necessary to settle your debts, pay for funeral arrangements or care, and even set up a future inheritance. That way, your loved ones can more easily focus on healing and celebrating your life.

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Get a life insurance quote from one of these reputable companies

Name Product Issue Ages Coverage Range Medical Exam Required State Availability
LadderLife™ Life Insurance
20 - 60 years old
$100,000 to $8,000,000
Not available in New York
Term life insurance with no policy fees and the freedom to cancel anytime. Simple application process that can get you approved for coverage instantly.
21 - 54 years old
$50,000 to $1,000,000
Not available in New York
Affordable 2-, 10- and 20-year term life insurance policies. Instant quotes and no medical exams.
18 - 80 years old
$50,000 to $25,000,000
Depends on provider and policy
All 50 states and D.C.
Get a quote within minutes from more than a dozen insurers.
18 - 100 years old
$50,000 to $3,000,000
This life insurance broker combines technology and the human touch to match you with a policy tailored to your needs.
20 - 85 years old
$100,000 to $2,000,000
Depends on policy.
Products and product features may not be available in all states.
This well-established life insurance provider could offer you $250,000 worth of coverage for as low as $14 per month.

Compare up to 4 providers

Just some of the brands we’ve reviewed

Our editorial team researches, analyzes and fact-checks hard-to-find details for the life insurance companies we review. Click a company logo to read accurate, unbiased information that can help you narrow down insurers that meet your needs, lifestyle and budget.

AIGBanner LifeBrighthouse FinancialGlobe LifeUSAAState FarmJohn HancockLincoln FinancialSBLI

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a financial safety-net for your loved ones in the event of your passing. Think of life insurance as a contract between you and your insurance company. You pay a premium to maintain your coverage and when you die, your insurer pays out your policy to your beneficiaries. This payment is known as a death benefit.

Key terms

How to get a life insurance policy

1. Compare policies

Get quotes from a range of insurers to find a policy that suits your budget and needs. Once you’ve settled on a policy, choose your coverage amount and select riders.

Find the best life insurance companies

2. Apply for coverage

Submit your personal and contact details, as well as information about your income and employment. You might have to fill out a health questionnaire or take a medical exam, too.

What to expect when applying for coverage

3. Pay your premium

Your insurer will charge a monthly or annual premium to keep your policy active. Try to make timely payments to avoid a policy lapse.

Find the cheapest life insurance companies

The process of purchasing life insurance is pretty straightforward, but if you’d like to learn more please consider reading our guide to buying life insurance.

How much does life insurance cost?

It depends on a range of factors, like your age, gender, health, occupation, lifestyle and whether you’re a smoker. The coverage amount, term length, and type of policy you’re applying for comes into play, too. Insurers weigh up these factors differently, which is why it’s important to compare quotes from more than one company.

While rates can vary wildly, we can give you an idea of how much you might pay. A 20-year term life insurance policy – worth $500,000 – for someone between the ages of 25 and 40, and in good health, would average around $28 a month.

Life insurance types

When deciding how to narrow down your life insurance needs, start by choosing from its two main types: term life and whole life. Term life covers you for a specified period of five to 30 years or more, depending on the provider. After your coverage expires, you can typically renew or convert your policy to another term. Whole life insurance is a type of permanent policy, providing lifelong coverage and often a cash value component and dividends supported by an investment account.

Term life insurance

Easily the most practical and affordable life insurance option, term life insurance offers coverage for a predetermined period of time.

Whole life insurance

Whole life insurance provides lifelong coverage at a fixed rate, while building in cash value.

Universal life insurance

Universal life insurance offers both lifelong coverage and an investment component that tracks the major indexes.

Variable life insurance

This investment focused life insurance policy is for experienced investors looking to grow and use the cash value component of their policy later in life, tax deferred.

Joint life insurance

Joint life insurance is a single policy, term or whole, that aims to meet the needs of two people, usually married.

Disability insurance

This type of insurance provides a necessary income should you become afflicted with a debilitating injury or illness and are unable to work.

Every type of life insurance, explained

Features of the different types of life insurance

Feature Term life Whole life Universal life Variable life Simplified life Guaranteed issue Final expense Group life
Coverage for a set period of time X X
Lifelong coverage X X X
Guaranteed death benefit X X X X X X X X
Typically requires health questionnaire X X X X X
Typically requires medical exam X X X X
Fixed premiums X X X X X X
Flexible premiums X X
Builds cash value X X X
Offers tax free loans X X X

Who needs life insurance?

Here’s the golden rule. If you have loved ones who depend on you financially, you most likely need life insurance. Your policy can help to provide for them when you’re gone.

These people have the greatest need for life insurance:

  • Parents with children or other dependents
  • Breadwinners
  • Those with co-signed debt
  • Business owners
  • Homeowners
  • Those with medical expenses
  • Wealthy individuals planning their estate
  • Stay-at-home parents and/or partners
  • Those who may be in need of future long-term care

Take our quiz: Do you need life insurance?

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How is life insurance paid out?

The death benefit is paid out when you die. Most life insurance providers pay out claims within 60 days, with most states allowing your insurer up to 30 days to investigate your claim, if necessary. It’s typically paid out in a lump sum — but you can instruct your insurer to pay the death benefit in installments or annuities.

Your beneficiaries can then use the money however they wish. These are some of the most common ways people spend the cash:

  • Mortgage payments
  • Living expenses — like utility bills, groceries, rent, health and car insurance
  • Cosigned debts — such as student loans or credit cards
  • End-of-life expenses — including funeral costs and unpaid medical bills
  • Child care
  • Long-term care — like a nursing home or medical expenses for ailing parents
    College tuition

Can I access the money before I die?

Maybe. There are two ways you can tap into your policy while you’re still alive:

1. Living benefits riders.

Some insurers offer living benefits riders, which pay out your policy early in certain circumstances. These include:

  • Accelerated death benefit rider. If you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness, this rider pays out a portion of the death benefit.
  • Critical illness rider. If you’re diagnosed with a critical — but not terminal — illness, this rider kicks in to pay a lump sum. Heart disease, cancer, stroke and kidney failure are some of the most common covered illnesses.
  • Disability income rider. If you become totally disabled and can no longer work, this rider will pay a monthly cash benefit for a specific period of time.
2. Cash value in permanent policies.

More on this in a minute, but these policies accumulate cash value over time. Once you’ve built up enough cash value, you can begin to borrow against your policy.

How to compare life insurance policies

To find a comprehensive life insurance policy at the best rates, look into how coverage amounts affect your premiums, the flexibility of your policy options and additional riders or features specific to the providers you’re interested in.

To simplify the process of comparing different policies, ask yourself:

How much coverage should I get?

Given the general unpredictability of life, there’s no one universal answer for how much coverage you should buy. Experts will tell you to start with a multiple of your annual income — up to 10 times your salary. Generally, you want to determine an amount that will cover immediate and ongoing costs after you die, so that your family and other dependents can support their current way of life.

4 ways to work out how much coverage you need

When determining how much coverage is enough to protect your family, consider your debts, living expenses and lifestyle. Also plan for how your loved ones will pay for your funeral, burial and related expenses.

1. What types of debt will you leave behind?

Think about how much of your salary goes to pay down debt and how much you pay monthly or annually toward:

  • Outstanding mortgage payments.
  • Rented properties.
  • Personal debt like personal loans, car loans or credit card balances.
2. How much do you already have for your family to fall back on?

Think about the number of years you might need to cover your family’s living expenses and whether savings or assets can offset those costs after your death, including:

  • Accumulated savings.
  • Assets that your family can sell.
  • Investments like property or stock.
  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans or a 401(k).
3. What are your family’s ongoing living expenses?

Factor into your life insurance coverage everyday and even irregular expenses, like:

  • Transportation costs, including car maintenance and gas.
  • Property and income taxes.
  • Food, clothing and utilities.
  • Future education and childcare costs.
  • Car, health and homeowners insurance.
  • Entertainment and vacations.
4. How long will your family need coverage?

At some point, your family will be able to rely on Social Security benefits and other investments. But until then, think about:

  • Your age.
  • The ages of your partner and children.
  • The earning capacity of your partner today and in the future.
  • Anticipated funeral expenses.

What affects my life insurance premiums?

To calculate your policy’s premiums, life insurance providers engage a complicated review of your age, health and lifestyle called underwriting. They often run these details through proprietary algorithms and analytical tools to determine the level of risk in taking you on as a policyholder.
How a life insurance provider rates you within each category varies, but most consider:

  • Your age. Age is the No. 1 factor that determines your premiums. Generally, the younger you are, the less of a risk you present to the insurer — and the lower premiums you’ll pay.
  • Your gender. Women generally live longer than men. Because this means a policy will likely be longer, they tend to have lower premiums than men.
  • Your health history. If you have a history of medical conditions, an insurer might consider you a risk for future, more serious issues, bumping up your premium accordingly. If you can prove to the insurer that you’re managing any existing condition, it might help you lock in a lower rate.
  • Your occupation and lifestyle. If you work in a dangerous field or embrace life like a daredevil, potential insurers may consider you a person with high potential for death. Because most insurers will assume an inevitable policy payout, your premium will undoubtedly be high.
  • Your relationship with alcohol and nicotine. Drinking and smoking are risks to your health, and you could end up paying double the life insurance premium for those with less risky habits.
  • Your family’s medical history. If you come from a line of relatives with serous health issues, especially hereditary conditions, insurers might conclude that you will too, resulting in higher premiums.
  • Your driving record. Today, many insurers consider your actions behind the wheel when determining costs. If you’ve racked up driving violations or serious convictions, you might pay higher rates.

Buying through a broker or agent?

You have options when shopping for a life insurance policy. Today, you’ll find brokers that work with a range of companies to help you find the best prices in their network on the coverage you need, but they may not offer the personalized service you’ll find with a direct agent.

Both broker and agents work on behalf of providers to sell you a life insurance policy. It all comes down weighing each against what you’re looking for.

Frequently asked questions

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