Every life insurance shopper has unique needs, and more than 800 companies issue policies.
Through helping thousands of customers each year, we’ve noticed the same life insurance companies appear over and over as the right fit for different customers’ needs.
To help you find the right insurance provider for your special circumstances, we’ve listed the top 15 companies that we recommend regularly. For most shoppers, these insurers consistently provide quality coverage, quickly and affordably.
Let’s explore why these insurers excel and whether they could meet your life insurance needs.
Best Life Insurance Companies in the USA
Here are the top 15 life insurance providers in the U.S. for 2020:
Best for Term Life
- Haven Life
Best for Online Shoppers
- Banner Life
Best for Health Conditions
- Mutual of Omaha
Best for Accidental Death
Best for No Exam
Best for Smokers
Best for Universal Life
Best for Permanent Life
Best for Customized Policies
Best for Estate Planning
- Lincoln Financial
Best for Cash Value Investing
Best for High Death Benefit
- New York Life
Best for Online Tools
Best for Younger Shoppers
- Northwestern Mutual
Best for Conversions
Best for Term Life
More than 5 million people trust AIG for life insurance protection.
You could find companies with more specialized policy options, but if you’re looking for simple coverage at a low price, AIG offers a great place to start.
Yes, life insurance increases in price as you age, but AIG’s policies for applicants in their 50s and even into their 60s stay more competitively priced.
Mix in a simple and easy-to-use application, and you get a solid, simple, affordable option for a lot of people.
2. Haven Life
Best for Online Shoppers
Five years ago, this list would not have included Haven Life. Specializing in easy-to-access term life coverage purchased online, Haven has revolutionized the way people shop for coverage.
Qualified buyers 45 and younger can even get affordable, medically underwritten coverage with no medical exam. Until recently, this was impossible.
Other applicants will need the exam, but the application process and the quality of coverage — it’s underwritten by MassMutual — still make this a company worth considering.
Haven Life makes the most sense for younger shoppers who need a lot of term coverage. Haven does not sell whole life insurance.
3. Banner Life
Best for Individuals with Complicated Health Conditions
Life insurance applicants with health problems often struggle to find affordable coverage. We often direct these shoppers to Banner Life, especially if they have only one health condition.
Banner has affordable term and universal policies, and shoppers find the company more flexible than most with its underwriting guidelines.
For example, even if you have a health condition such as diabetes, Banner Life will look at the broader picture of your life: Do you care for your health by getting regular physicals? Do you have healthy cholesterol levels? Have you smoked in the past 10 years?
Answers to questions such as these can help Banner’s underwriters place your condition within a larger context of overall health rather than labeling you as too risky an applicant.
4. Mutual of Omaha
Best for Accidental Death Policies
A familiar name, more than a century of solid service — these are the reasons many people choose Mutual of Omaha for life insurance.
That’s all well and good, but we recommend the company for a different reason: It’s accidental death insurance which can pay up to $1 million without a medical exam.
MofO has other quality products, too, such as whole, universal, and term life policies at competitive rates. The company has a broader-than-usual range of universal policy options.
Unlike many of the other insurers on this list, you’d have to buy a Mutual of Omaha product from an agent, and while you can apply online, you’ll still have some old-fashioned paperwork to sign.
Best for High-Value No Exam Policies
Here’s another big name that could generate business with its brand name alone. MetLife belongs in any conversation about insurance.
We recommend MetLife because of its wide range of options that include a no-exam term policy with up to $500,000 in coverage if you’re younger than 50.
If you’ve spent much time shopping for no-exam coverage, you already know how hard it is to buy simplified issue, no-exam coverage with face values more than $350,000.
MetLife has competitive rates on these policies, too, though shoppers should remember simplified issue coverage will cost more than medically underwritten policies. If you’re worried about the medical exam, this option could be for you.
Best for Smokers
Transamerica Life Insurance is first-stop shopping for many smokers because the company won’t automatically charge smokers the highest rates.
Yes, smokers will pay more for life insurance even with Transamerica, but the price increase often won’t be as huge.
We also like Transamerica’s policy not to require medical exams for smaller policies — $100,000 or below, in most cases.
Transamerica doesn’t do much online, so you’ll do best to work with an independent agent. The company does have competitive rates across the board.
Best for Affordable Universal Life
Clients who want a permanent life insurance policy such as universal life, without the higher rates, like Protective Life’s Custom Choice program.
Custom Choice offers a universal policy that emulates a term life. You’ll get more coverage in the initial years of the policy — usually 10 years or 30 years.
After this period ends, your payment will stay the same, but your coverage will decrease. This set-up imitates the coverage you’d have with buying a term policy followed by a permanent policy later in life.
The benefit? You go through underwriting only once and can keep the coverage for the rest of your life as long as you pay the premiums.
Best for Permanent Policies
We mentioned MassMutual above in the entry about Haven Life, which sells MassMutual term policies.
MassMutual itself offers the same top-quality coverage with a much wider variety of products, including whole, variable, and universal permanent policies and easy-to-access term life policies.
In fact, the company has eight different varieties of whole life coverage. Some enhance your policy’s ability to earn cash value; others emphasize lower premiums.
When you’re shopping for permanent life insurance, MassMutual is a great place to start. And, the insurer is owned by its policyholders, so you could receive a dividend each year depending on how the company performs.
Best for Customizing Policies
When we meet shoppers who like to tinker with almost every detail of their coverage, we tend to suggest they try Nationwide Insurance.
Nationwide — the company known across the country for its auto, home, and renters coverage — has so many options, you can easily customize your life insurance coverage.
For example, if you’d like a 20-year term convertible to whole life with a rider to cover your children and a death benefit paid in monthly installments, Nationwide can probably help.
The downside? You’ll need to work with a Nationwide agent or an independent agent who sells Nationwide products. You can’t complete an application online.
Best for Estate Planning
Principal Life Insurance specializes in coverage for people who want to use their policy as an investment vehicle.
Any permanent life insurance policy accumulates a cash value, and the policyholder can usually invest this policy with a universal or variable policy.
Over time this value can help you save for retirement or finance your grandchildren’s higher education.
Principal stands out because the company offers so many strategies for investing your funds. Principal can also help couples who want to buy a single policy to cover both partners.
11. Lincoln Financial
Best for Cash Value Investing
Lincoln Financial features a wide range of universal policies that invest your insurance’s cash value for added flexibility and savings over time.
As with most insurers, your invested policy value can be connected to a stock index to take advantage of growth within the economy.
Unlike many other insurers, however, Lincoln’s cap on your annual gains is fairly generous at 8.75 percent during the first 10 years.
Customers in their 40s or 50s who want to use a universal policy to enhance their retirement planning often like this feature.
We always recommend working with a financial advisor before buying a universal or variable life insurance policy.
Best for Larger Death Benefits
By many measures, Prudential is the biggest life insurance company in the nation. Naturally, this giant has a wide range of policy options.
Slowly, Prudential has embraced online sales through its SimplyTerm program, which has an online application process. The company also has more sophisticated products, including a wide range of universal and variable policies.
Across the board, you can find larger death benefits with Prudential policies. The company even has a $75 million term policy available. And, the company has been known to go even higher on a case-by-case basis.
For best results, work with an agent authorized to sell Prudential’s products.
13. New York Life
Best for Online Tools
The success of startups like Haven Life and Bestow Life is showing the classic life insurance brands the importance of online tools and policy access.
New York Life has answered this bell. The company has 175 years of history and a fresh approach for the 21st century.
New York Life has simplified its web site and created a portal so customers can manage their policies, make payments, and share documents online.
Someone looking for age-old stability with a new approach should like working with New York Life.
14. Bestow Life
Best for Younger Shoppers
Bestow Life is the newest company on this list, but the startup has already given thousands of millennials and other young adults access to simple, term policies online.
The company’s claim that you could be covered within five minutes may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Younger and healthier customers really can get connected with quality, medically underwritten coverage without a medical exam.
Bestow’s process works a lot like Haven Life’s — a series of algorithms can measure your health instead of a battery of blood and urine tests.
Bestow isn’t for more complicated clients who have health conditions or want a wide variety of policy options. If you want good term life coverage quickly, give Bestow a close look.
15. Northwestern Mutual
Best for Policy Conversions
With solid coverage all-around — term, whole, or universal — and award-winning customer service, Northwestern Mutual belongs on just about any customer’s shortlist.
Northwestern also has a full selection of riders so you can customize any kind of policy. Permanent life insurance policyholders can also earn dividends.
We also like Northwestern Mutual’s convertible policy, which provides one of the easiest ways to change a term policy into a universal policy with no fees or medical exam required.
How to Find the Best Life Insurance Company
To find the best life insurance company for you, identify your needs and then see which company can best provide this need.
First, match your type of policy with a good provider:
- Best Options for Simple Term Policies: Consider Haven Life, Bestow Life, Banner Life, MetLife.
- Best Options for Whole Life Policies: Consider MassMutual, Prudential, New York Life, Nationwide.
- Best Options for Universal or Variable: Consider Lincoln Financial, Prudential, Northwestern Mutual.
Then consider how you’d like to access coverage:
- Best Options for Online Access: Bestow Life, Haven Life, New York Life, Banner Life.
- Best Options for Working with an Agent: Nationwide, Prudential, Lincoln Financial, Principal.
An independent life insurance agent can usually give you the best of both worlds: access to a wide variety of brands along with advice when you’d rather shop for coverage online.
All of the companies on our list have earned high ratings for quality. If you go with another carrier, be sure to check its A.M. Best ratings. Companies with As or better are best positioned to thrive in the coming decades.
How Are Companies Rated?
Life insurance ratings agencies such as A.M. Best and Moody’s measure insurers’ financial stability and issue grades. Higher grades — A, A+, AAA, Aaa, etc. — indicate more stable financial pictures.
Stay away from companies with Bs or lower.
To measure customer satisfaction, check sites like TrustPilot and ConsumersAdvocate. Keep in mind reviews tend to skew to the negative — upset customers are far more likely to write a review.
If you see trends of the same issues arising in various reviews, however, you may want to pay attention.
Why Do I Need Life Insurance?
Life insurance is personal. Most insurance shoppers want coverage in case they die unexpectedly.
With a policy in force, your spouse and children could have an easier financial life after you died; your policy would pay them your death benefit.
Your family could use this tax-free death benefit to pay off bills, pay off the mortgage, pay for the kids’ college, or any other need.
Other shoppers need coverage for collateral on a business loan or to cover their burial expenses.
And, life insurance can enhance your larger financial plans. A variable or universal policy, for example, can accrue cash over the years, becoming a source of financial flexibility later in life.
How Does Life Insurance Work?
Life insurance works differently depending on the type of policy you buy.
Term Life Coverage
Term policies offer the simplest coverage. You trade regular premiums paid to your insurer for access to your death benefit paid to your survivors.
Essentially, you’re renting this coverage while you need it. When your term runs out — and terms usually last 10, 20, or 30 years — this agreement expires.
You could then renew coverage at a higher and ever-increasing price, convert your policy to permanent coverage, or cancel your policy and buy a new term policy.
Permanent Life Coverage
Permanent life insurance is designed to cover you for life. When you first buy a policy your coverage resembles term life — you’re exchanging premiums for coverage.
Over time, as you make regular payments, you gain ownership in the policy. After a few decades, you own a large portion of the coverage. Many insurers call this your cash value.
Permanent policies such as universal life and variable life let you invest this cash, allowing it to grow with the markets. Whole life treats your cash more like a savings account with slow and steady growth.
Later in life, when you own a sizable chunk of your coverage, you can surrender the policy and claim the cash, borrow against the cash value, or continue paying premiums so your loved ones can access your death benefit when you die.
What Type of Life Insurance Do I Need?
Younger adults just starting out in life should consider term life coverage first. Term costs less for more coverage.
Applicants in their 40s or older often need less coverage and start to think about the flexibility a permanent policy can offer.
These generalities may not reflect your individual needs.
How Much Insurance Coverage Should I Buy?
Many advisors recommend a life insurance policy with coverage equaling 7 to 10 times your annual income. This logic calls for a policy of $700,000 to $1 million if you earn $100,000 a year.
This rule applies mainly if you depend on your income for most or all of your needs. If you have investments, savings, or other forms of revenue, you can depend less on life insurance.
We encourage shoppers to imagine the worst, their untimely death, and then consider how their loved ones would survive financially.
Could they pay off the house? Could they stay in college? Could they start that business?
If the answer to these and similar questions is no, life insurance with the right coverage amount could help turn that around.
Should I Use Life Insurance as an Investment?
Permanent life insurance creates opportunities for investment over time. Life insurance shouldn’t replace your 401(k) or IRAs, but it can enhance your future planning and your estate planning.
Life insurance can also have tax advantages. Work with a certified financial planner to strategize your individual needs.
Where Do I Buy Life Insurance?
More and more providers sell coverage online. If you need a simple term life policy, you could have one in force today.
When you have more complicated needs — or if you’d rather work with someone face-to-face — an independent life insurance agent can help you access the best coverage available.
Independent agents sell many different types of policies from multiple carriers; they aren’t limited to one or two product lines.
When Should I Get Rid of My Life Insurance?
Your life insurance policy should provide a sense of security. It should help answer your “what-if” and “worst-case-scenario” financial questions if the unexpected happened and your family had to rebuild a new life without you.
Life insurance tends to be a good value, especially if you buy the policy when you’re young and healthy.
So many people want to keep their coverage indefinitely.
You could consider going without coverage if you have other ways to create this peace of mind — savings, investments, pensions, and the like.
When Should I Buy Life Insurance?
Life insurance — especially term coverage — costs less when you’re younger and healthier.
If you don’t have coverage in place, now is most likely the time to buy it.
Let us know if you have any questions.*While we make every effort to keep our site updated, please be aware that "timely" information on this page, such as quote estimates, or pertinent details about companies, may only be accurate as of its last edit day. Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services and its representatives do not give legal or tax advice. Please consult your own legal or tax adviser.