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Best life insurance companies in 2024

Bankrate’s in-depth analysis identified MassMutual, Northwestern Mutual and State Farm as some of the best life insurance companies.

Updated Feb 14, 2024
Key takeaways

Life insurance should fit your needs, whether you need top-notch customer service, short-term coverage or high limits. Here are Bankrate's picks for the best life insurance companies based on various financial and consumer needs.

Selecting the right life insurance policy is a crucial step toward ensuring the financial security of your loved ones. With a myriad of options available, it's essential to find a provider that aligns with your unique requirements, be it exceptional customer support, flexibility in coverage or the option to personalize your policy. To assist you in navigating this landscape, Bankrate has conducted extensive research on numerous life insurance companies. Our evaluation focused on key factors such as customer feedback, financial stability, the diversity of coverage solutions, additional features and digital services. This comprehensive approach aims to streamline your decision-making process, helping enable you to choose a life insurance plan that best suits your circumstances and provides peace of mind for the future.

Top life insurance companies

Company Best for J.D. Power Score in 2023 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study AM Best Financial Strength Rating
Guardian Life insurance coverage without a medical exam 784/1,000 A++ (Superior)
Mass Mutual Whole life insurance 809/1,000 A++ (Superior)
Mutual of Omaha Digital accessibility 805/1,000 A+ (Superior)
Nationwide Customer satisfaction 840/1,000 A+ (Superior)
Northwestern Mutual Universal life insurance 790/1,000 A++ (Superior)
Prudential Policy personalization 779/1,000 A+ (Superior)
State Farm Term life insurance 843/1,000 A++ (Superior)
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This advertising widget is powered by HomeInsurance.com, a licensed insurance producer (NPN: 8781838) and a corporate affiliate of Bankrate. HomeInsurance.com LLC services are only available in states where it is licensed and insurance coverage through HomeInsurance.com may not be available in all states. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy, and all related decisions (such as approval for coverage, premiums, commissions and fees) and policy obligations are the sole responsibility of the underwriting insurer. The information on this site does not modify any insurance policy terms in any way.

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How Bankrate picked the best life insurance companies for 2024

To find the best life insurance companies, Bankrate’s editorial team started by researching the largest life insurance carriers on the market. We analyzed life insurance company ratings,  including customer satisfaction scores and financial strength ratings from trusted, unbiased sources, including J.D. Power and AM Best. We also assessed ratings based on market share from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

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Compare the best life insurance companies

Shopping for life insurance can be intimidating, but Bankrate is here to make the process easier. When studying the largest life insurance carriers, there are some metrics that you can rely on to help effectively compare your options. Does one company offer a wide range of life insurance policy types, as well as riders to personalize your policy, compared to another? What does the qualification process look like, and what might your estimated life insurance premium be?

From there, you can also compare companies’ financial strength ratings and customer service scores from trusted third-party agencies, such as AM Best and J.D. Power, for an unbiased view of which providers may excel in these areas and give you the best experience.

Guardian

Guardian

Best for

Life insurance coverage without a medical exam

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America ranks well in customer satisfaction and financial strength and offers the most term life insurance riders on our list. According to the NAIC, the company also has fewer than baseline policyholder complaints and offers multiple no-medical exam policy options.

Guardian provides easy policy management through its network of more than 3,000 financial representatives across the nation and online account management. Guardian carries an A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from A.M. Best and offers multiple coverage options depending on your life stage, goals, needs and budget.

PROS

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    Dividends available on some policies

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    Easy online management

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    Policies available for HIV-positive applicants

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    Multiple no-medical exam policy options

CONS

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    Must purchase coverage through an agent

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    Rider details limited online

MassMutual

MassMutual

Best for

Whole life insurance

MassMutual won Bankrate’s 2024 Award for best whole life insurance thanks to its A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best and for offering 13 whole life insurance riders, the most of any company we analyzed. This is the third year in a row MassMutual has secured this honor.

MassMutual, also known as Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., is a U.S. life insurance company owned by its policyholders, allowing select policyholders to earn dividends when the company does well. MassMutual offers an online application process for term life policies. Coverage takes effect immediately upon application approval, and applicants must usually complete medical exams for all term and universal life policies.

PROS

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    Free coverage for qualifying low-income families

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    Convenient mobile app

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    Numerous riders

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    Superior financial strength

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    High coverage capacity (the maximum dollar amount of a policy’s death benefit)

CONS

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    Limited online quotes

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    Medical exams required for term and universal life policies

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    No final expense policies

Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha

Best for

Digital accessibility

Mutual of Omaha ranked just behind the overall winners of Bankrate’s best life insurance study. The company ranks well above average in J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction survey and earned a financial strength rating of A+ (Superior) from AM Best. Mutual of Omaha offers no-medical-exam life insurance options, and its digital features could make managing your life insurance policy easy.

Some people may be looking for the best online life insurance experience. In terms of accessibility, Mutual of Omaha offers a robust digital app, an online portal, local insurance agents and a 24/7 phone line for accepting your payments.

PROS

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    Easy online quote process

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    Offers digital money management app

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    High J.D. Power customer satisfaction score

CONS

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    Does not provide dividends

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    Not all life insurance can be quoted online

Nationwide

Nationwide

Best for

Customer satisfaction

Nationwide offers a user-friendly mobile app, streamlined online portal and a network of independent agents across the U.S. Combine those features with an above-average J.D. Power customer satisfaction rating, and Nationwide could be a great choice for customer satisfaction.

The multi-line insurer offers seven riders for universal life, the second-highest number of riders of any company on our list. Nationwide also received an A+ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best, making it possibly one of the best life insurance companies in the marketplace in terms of third-party ratings.

PROS

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    No-medical exam options available for universal, whole and term life insurance programs, depending on eligibility

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    Above-average J.D. Power customer service score

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    Plentiful rider options

CONS

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    Limited online quotes

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    Policy acceptance not guaranteed

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    No 24/7 help line

Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual

Best for

Customer service

Northwestern Mutual won the 2023 Bankrate Award for Best Universal Life Insurance Company due to its high financial strength rating, highly-rated customer satisfaction and available financial planning services. Northwestern Mutual sells coverage through agents, which could be a good fit for those who prefer face-to-face interactions over a digital purchase process.

Earning an A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best, Northwestern Mutual shows a strong history of being able to pay claims. As a mutual company, it is owned by its policyholders. Northwestern Mutual offers a variety of term, whole and universal life insurance policies. Because universal life coverage is flexible, you may be contacting your agent more often. Northwestern Mutual ranks highly in Bankrate’s internal study of accessibility for providing a mobile app, online portal, local agents and a 24/7 customer service phone line that accepts premium payments.

PROS

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    Dividends available on whole life insurance policies

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    Flexible policy options

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    Wide range of riders

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    Easy-to-use online portal and mobile app

CONS

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    Must buy coverage through an agent

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    Limited information available online

Prudential

Prudential

Best for

Policy personalization

Prudential is the fifth-largest U.S. life insurer based on market share rankings from the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). In our study, Prudential Financial ranked just behind our overall best life insurance company winners in customer satisfaction and accessibility. It offers plentiful rider options, easy-to-use online tools and live agent support.

The company has nine universal life insurance riders — more than any other carrier on our list. It offers a variety of term life and universal life insurance policies, giving customers a greater level of flexibility than some of its competitors. However, keep in mind that Prudential does not offer whole life insurance or no-medical-exam policy options.

PROS

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    Live agent support available

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    Online tools

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    Plentiful rider options

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    Variety of term and universal life policies

CONS

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    Medical history required for quotes

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    Limited online quotes

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    Selective policy options

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    Below-average J.D. Power customer satisfaction score

State Farm

State Farm

Best for

Term life insurance

State Farm is a three-time Bankrate Award winner for Best Term Life Insurer in 2022, 2023 and 2024, thanks to its top-notch customer service and accessibility tools. As one of the top life insurance companies, State Farm also received the highest customer satisfaction score from J.D. Power.

State Farm boasts a 24/7 customer helpline, an easy-to-use mobile app and online portal and more than 19,000 exclusive local agents across the U.S. With an A++ (Superior) rating from AM Best, State Farm has a history of financial stability, as well. The carrier offers a variety of term life insurance options, plus whole, universal and variable universal options.

PROS

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    Numerous policy and rider options

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    No medical exams required for some policies

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    Highest J.D. Power customer satisfaction rating

CONS

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    $10,000 maximum for final expenses insurance

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    Age-dependent exam plans

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    Can only purchase from an agent; no online option

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is like a financial safety net for your family that helps them pay for certain expenses in the event of your death. In exchange for regular payments, the life insurance company pays out a sum of money known as a death benefit, which can help cover expenses such as funeral costs and unpaid medical bills.

Death benefits can be used for anything, though; there are no restrictions. Your beneficiaries can use the money to pay down debt, fund your children's education or pay everyday bills. Depending on the type of policy, this sum can also be paid out after specific life events while you are still alive, such as upon diagnosis of a terminal or critical illness or after you reach a certain age.

What does life insurance cover?

Life insurance covers the financial risk associated with the policyholder's death. Depending on the type of policy, the life insurance payout usually provides a death benefit for payment toward funeral expenses and final medical bills. It can also be used as income replacement for the policyholder’s family. Usually, life insurance covers a range of causes of death, but there can also be some exclusions.

Here are some causes of death covered by life insurance:

  • Accidental deaths, such as car accidents and unforeseen injuries, are typically covered.
  • Natural causes of death, such as old age, diseases and illness, are usually covered.
  • Death from terminal illness is covered; however, in this situation, the life insurance policy may allow the policyholder to access the funds while they are still alive.
  • Suicide, if it occurs after the contestability period, may be covered.

What does life insurance not cover?

There are exceptions and exclusions where some causes of death do not afford coverage. Here are a few examples:

  • Criminal activities are a common exclusion, so if a policyholder dies while doing something illegal, the insurance company may deny the claim.
  • Hazardous activities, such as skydiving, extreme sports or other high-risk activities are common exclusions in life insurance policies.
  • Material misrepresentation is when a policyholder lies or withholds information from an insurance company to secure a policy. If this is discovered, the insurance company has grounds to void the policy or deny the claim.
  • Suicide is not covered by life insurance if it occurs within the contestability period, which is usually two or three years from the start of the policy. However, death by suicide may be covered after this timeframe, but it will depend on the insurance provider. 

How to choose the best life insurance company

When you are ready to buy life insurance, taking a few extra steps can ensure you find the best policy based on your wants and needs. Here are some things to look for when choosing the best life insurance company for you:

  • Ask for recommendations: Your friends and family may have life insurance with a company they love. You may want to ask them about their experiences with customer service at these companies.
  • Review customer satisfaction ratings: You can visit the J.D. Power website or check the carrier reviews in this article to review each insurance company’s customer satisfaction ratings. J.D. Power assigns each company a score out of 1,000 possible points.
  • Assess financial stability: We recommend looking at a company’s financial strength rating from a third-party agency such as AM Best, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) or Moody’s. A company with a low financial stability rating may have a poor history of being able to meet financial obligations and may struggle to pay life insurance death benefits to policyholders if a high volume of claims are filed simultaneously. It is important to have the assurance that your insurer has a history of strong financial stability.
  • Look at customer reviews: Dozens of consumer-oriented sites such as Google, Yelp and Consumer Affairs provide reviews from insurance companies’ customers. It may be most helpful to ignore the outlier reviews and focus on the overall average instead. What did the average customer say about the company you are considering? Are the items they complained about important to you? For example, if someone complained that the company does not offer a mobile app, but a mobile app is unimportant for your needs, you may not need to consider that review in your assessment.
  • Get multiple life insurance quotes: It can be beneficial to compare life insurance quotes from multiple carriers to help you find the best cheap life insurance policy. Keep in mind that prices will vary more widely for different policy types, although additional policy features could be another cost-influencing factor.
  • Seek professional counsel: While a life insurance calculator can be useful, you may be better able to determine your needs by talking with a financial advisor or a licensed life insurance agent if you have more complex needs or questions. A life insurance agent can help you decide what type of life insurance coverage is right for you and how much life insurance you need. When choosing between the many types of life insurance, it may help to get a second opinion from a professional.

How much does life insurance cost?

You may notice that we don’t include average rates in our analysis. That’s because rates vary widely based on each policyholder’s age and health metrics, as well as the type of policy they choose, their death benefit level and any riders they add on. Life insurance companies don’t reveal average rates, since that information reflects the general health of its policyholders and could put privacy at risk.

Life insurance rates are incredibly personal, so average rates aren’t a helpful metric when choosing a company. Generally, insurance experts recommend that you choose a life insurance company based on the specific product you need, rather than the rate. That said, the premium will vary between providers. Comparison shopping life insurance companies can help you find coverage that works for your family at a price that fits your budget.

How much life insurance do I need?

The appropriate level of life insurance is different for everyone. Insurance experts recommend enough coverage to pay off any outstanding obligations the loss of your income might leave behind. Typical debts include mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, student loans, medical bills and funeral expenses. If you have a family with young children, consider future financial needs you may want to plan for.

For policyholders unable to afford typical life insurance, burial insurance may be a more cost-effective option. This type of policy would provide coverage for final expenses related to your funeral, such as cremation costs, a burial plot, flowers, etc. Coverage is usually available between $5,000 and $25,000 with a lower premium and fewer underwriting restrictions than standard life insurance.

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Bankrate’s take: Finding life insurance can be challenging if you have declining health or pre-existing conditions, but options are still available. Many employers offer group insurance to employees, which typically does not require a medical exam or individual underwriting. If this is not an option, guaranteed life insurance plans are another avenue worth exploring. While they can be costly, your medical status is not a qualifier for coverage.

Types of life insurance policies

There are many types of life insurance policies, but they all fall under two categories: term life insurance, which is only in force for a set time, and permanent life insurance, which is in effect as long as premiums are paid in most circumstances. Permanent life insurance comes with a cash value component. Depending on your individual needs and preferences, having one or both of these types of policies could be an integral part of your financial plan.

Term life insurance

With a term life insurance policy, you and the life insurance company enter into a contract for a specified death benefit amount for a set number of years. Unlike permanent life insurance, a term life insurance doesn’t have the savings-life component or investment potential, and because it’s only active for a set number of years, it’s possible to outlive your policy and receive no benefits. However, you may be able to convert it into a permanent life policy at the end of your term.

Permanent life insurance

In contrast to term coverage, permanent life insurance stays in place for your entire life, as long as you pay the premiums. There are many types of permanent coverage, but the two main forms are whole and universal.

Whole life insurance

A form of permanent life insurance, whole life insurance usually comes with set premiums and a cash value account. While you may not be able to change the policy after it is active, having the cash value component can be useful, although the money accumulates relatively slowly.

Universal life insurance

Another form of permanent life insurance, universal life insurance is known for its flexibility. The premium and death benefit can be adjusted as needs or lifestyles change. It also has a cash value component and can come with different investment strategies to help you grow the value of the policy.

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Bankrate’s take: The premiums paid toward a permanent life insurance policy are portioned into three groups: the insurance company's cost and profits, the death benefit payout and lastly, the policy's growing cash value. Policyholders can access the cash value of the policy when needed by making a withdrawal, loan or canceling the policy in full. When money is withdrawn or the policyholder cancels the policy during the surrender period, most companies initiate a surrender fee, typically around 10 percent of the contributed funds. The surrender period varies between providers and can last up to 15 years.

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Shannon Martin
Writer, Insurance

Shannon Martin is a licensed insurance agent and Bankrate analyst with over 15 years of experience in the industry. She enjoys helping others navigate the insurance world by cutting through complex jargon and empowering readers to make strong financial decisions independently.

Edited by Editor II, Insurance
Reviewed by Director of corporate communications, Insurance Information Institute