Best life insurance companies in 2021

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Life insurance gives you the power to protect your loved ones financially if the unthinkable happens. Once you decide to purchase a life insurance policy, you may wonder how to choose the best policy or insurer to meet your needs. To help you figure out which carrier might be best, we compiled our picks for the top eight life insurers in the U.S. by examining customer service scores, financial strength ratings, coverage options and discounts.

According to Bankrate’s analysis of the best life insurance companies, State Farm offers the best term life insurance coverage, Mass Mutual offers the best whole life insurance program and Nationwide offers the best universal life insurance package. However, everyone has different needs, so another life insurance company may be best for you. We’ve included a few other life insurers that also ranked highly in other areas, such as customer service and accessibility.

Key takeaways
  • How much you pay for life insurance will depend on several rating factors, such as your age and medical conditions. If you’re looking for affordable life insurance coverage, you may want to get quotes from multiple carriers before deciding on a policy.
  • Bankrate’s research determined State Farm to be best for term life insurance, Mass Mutual to be best for whole life insurance and Nationwide to be best for universal life insurance.
  • Prudential Financial and Northwestern Mutual also ranked highly for accessibility and customer satisfaction in Bankrate’s study.

The best life insurance companies

When you start your search for life insurance, you’ll be able to choose between various policy types, including universal life insurance, term life insurance and whole life insurance. The Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) recommends you discuss your needs with a financial planner or insurance agent to determine what type of policy is best for you and what carriers fit your criteria.

The table below outlines our picks for the top affordable life insurance companies, based on our research into customer satisfaction and financial strength ratings from trusted sources of unbiased information, including J.D. Power and AM Best.

We also looked at whether or not each insurer offers a mobile app, online portal, 24/7 customer service and local agents to determine each company’s accessibility. We then factored in each company’s coverage capacity (the maximum dollar amount of each company’s death benefit), the number of riders for optional coverage and the availability of a no-medical exam underwriting option. More information about each carrier is available below to help you learn about their benefits and drawbacks.

Bankrate’s best life insurance companies (listed alphabetically)
Life insurance company J.D. Power customer satisfaction scores
Guardian 743 out of 1,000
MassMutual 769 out of 1,000
Mutual of Omaha 789 out of 1,000
Northwestern Mutual 790 out of 1,000
Nationwide 803 out of 1,000
Prudential 759 out of 1,000
State Farm 838 out of 1,000

Guardian

Why we picked this company: The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America ranks highly in customer satisfaction and financial strength and offers the most term life insurance riders on our list. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the company also has fewer than average policyholder complaints and offers multiple no-medical exam policy options.

Guardian is one of the largest life insurers in the U.S., with a network of more than 3,000 financial representatives across the nation. Guardian carries an A++ financial strength rating from A.M. Best.

Guardian offers multiple coverage options, depending on your life stage, goals, needs and budget. It also offers relatively inexpensive life insurance for millennials. Policyholders can choose term life insurance from 10 to 30 years or permanent life insurance. You can also obtain a quote online from Guardian to estimate how much your premium will be. Guardian offers online account management, making it easy for you to manage your policy electronically.

Pros Cons
Dividends on some policies
Easy online management
Policies for HIV-positive applicants
Multiple no-medical exam policy options
Must purchase coverage through an agent
Rider details limited online

Learn more: Guardian Life Insurance review

MassMutual

Why we picked this company: MassMutual ranked highest on Bankrate’s list in terms of best whole life insurance companies for having an A++ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best and for offering 13 whole life insurance riders, the most of any company we analyzed.

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 insurance. Coverage takes effect immediately upon application approval, and applicants must complete medical exams for all term and universal life policies.

Pros Cons
Dividends on some policies
Easy online management
Policies for HIV-positive applicants
Multiple no-medical exam policy options
Must purchase coverage through an agent
Rider details limited online

Learn more: MassMutual Life Insurance review

Mutual of Omaha

Why we picked this company: 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+ (Excellent) from AM Best. The company offers no-medical exam life insurance options, and its digital features make managing your life insurance policy easy.

In terms of accessibility, Mutual of Omaha offers a top-of-the-line digital app, an online portal, local insurance agents and a 24/7 phone line for accepting your payments.

Pros Cons
Provides mutual fund options
Easy online quote process
Offers digital money management app
High J.D. Power customer satisfaction scores
Does not provide dividends
Not all life insurance can be quoted online

Learn more: Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance review

Nationwide

Why we picked this company: Nationwide proved to be the best company for universal life insurance coverage for its accessibility and numerous riders.

In terms of accessibility, Nationwide offers a user-friendly mobile app, streamlined online portal and a network of independent agents across the U.S. The multi-lines insurer offers seven riders for universal life, the second-most of any company on our list. Nationwide also received the second-highest customer satisfaction score on our list and a financial strength rating of A+ (Excellent) from AM Best, making it one of the most competitive life insurance companies in the marketplace.

Pros Cons
Best universal life insurance
No-medical exam options available for universal, whole and term life insurance programs, depending on the customer’s eligibility
Flexible coverage options
Easy online claims and bill payment system
High J.D. Power customer service scores
Plentiful rider options
National network of local independent agents
Easy-to-use mobile app
Limited online quotes
Policy acceptance not guaranteed
Premiums can be more expensive for some people
No 24/7 help line

Learn more: Nationwide insurance review

Northwestern Mutual

Why we picked this company: Northwestern Mutual received top-tier customer satisfaction scores and financial ratings, scoring just behind the overall winners of Bankrate’s study on best life insurance companies. It also offers the best universal life insurance coverage among the companies on our list.

Earning an A++ 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. The carrier offers a variety of term, whole and universal life insurance policies. The company 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 Cons
Dividends on whole life insurance policies
Flexible policy options
Wide range of riders
Easy-to-use online portal and mobile app
Must buy coverage through an agent
Limited information available online

Learn more: Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance review

Prudential

Why we picked this company: Prudential Financial ranked just behind our overall best life insurance company winners in customer satisfaction and accessibility. With 5.8% of the nation’s life insurance market share, Prudential has a national footprint with the resources to offer plentiful rider options, easy-to-use online tools and live agent support.

Prudential has fewer policyholder complaints than average, according to the NAIC’s complaint index. 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 Cons
Live agent support available
Online tools
Plentiful rider options
Variety of term and universal life policies
Medical history required for quotes
Limited online quotes
Selective policy options
Below-average J.D. Power customer satisfaction scores

Learn more: Prudential Life Insurance review

State Farm

Why we picked this company: State Farm ranked first in Bankrate’s study of best term life insurance companies for its top-notch customer service and accessibility tools. The company also received the highest customer satisfaction scores from J.D. Power on our list.

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

Pros Cons
Financially stable
Numerous policy options
No exams required for some policies
Multiple rider options
Best J.D. Power customer satisfaction rating on our list
Top term life insurance company
$10,000 maximum for final expenses insurance
Age-dependent exam plans
Can only purchase from an agent; no online option

Learn more: State Farm insurance review

How to choose the best life insurance company

Everyone has different wants and needs in a life insurance provider. Here are some things to look for when choosing the best life insurance company for you:

  • Ask for recommendations: Often, the best reference is word of mouth. Ask your friends and family for their recommendations for the top life insurance companies they have had positive experiences with.
  • Review customer satisfaction ratings: You can visit the J.D. Power website to review its customer satisfaction ratings for life insurance companies. 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 or Moody’s. A company with a low financial stability rating 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’s probably a good approach 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, 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 and compare prices to help you find the best cheap life insurance policy. The Triple-I recommends getting at least three comparable quotes from different affordable life insurance companies before making your final choice.
  • Seek professional counsel: When in doubt, talk to a licensed life insurance agent or financial advisor about your needs. Do not hesitate to ask detailed questions about the coverage you have been quoted. It will likely be important to you and your agent that you thoroughly understand your coverage and obligations.

Frequently asked questions

What are the different types of life insurance?

There are three main types of life insurance: term, universal and whole life plans. A term policy operates for a pre-established number of years. In contrast, universal and whole life insurance are permanent policies, meaning they remain in effect as long as you pay your premium. Each of these life insurance types can offer many variables. It’s a good idea to speak with a licensed insurance agent to determine which types you are eligible for and which companies provide the best affordable life insurance to meet your needs.

How do you buy life insurance?

Once you have selected a life insurance company and policy, you can buy your life insurance policy. The first step in the policy purchasing process is to complete an application with the company you select. Many insurance companies offer online quotes. Depending on the company and your situation, you may be asked to get a medical exam or participate in a phone interview to discuss your medical history. Once approved, you will review and sign the policy and pay the premium. After that, your life insurance coverage will be active.

How much does life insurance cost?

Like millions of other Americans, you may be looking for affordable life insurance. The cost of life insurance depends on several rating factors like age, general health, medical conditions and the type of policy selected. In general, the younger and healthier you are, the cheaper your life insurance rates will be. If you smoke, are overweight or have pre-existing or chronic medical conditions, you may be quoted higher premiums. For generally healthy people, life insurance premiums are relatively low with a term life insurance policy. If you select a whole life policy, you will often pay a higher premium than if you choose a term life policy.

Do I need life insurance if I’m single?

Many people choose to get life insurance to financially protect their spouse or children if they pass away. However, single people may also want to consider getting life insurance. If you have a differently-abled sibling who relies on you financially, a parent you care for or a business partner who would fail without you, you may want to consider life insurance to provide them with financial protection. Your policy’s death benefit may be able to help you take care of these people after your death. If you’re still unsure whether to purchase life insurance, speaking with an insurance agent or financial advisor could help.

Methodology

Choosing the best life insurance policy is not a decision to take lightly. The insurance company’s history, as well as its reputation for customer service, financial stability and death benefit payouts, are just a few of the things that can impact both your experience and policy value. We assessed NAIC ratings based on market share, financial stability ratings from sources like AM Best and customer satisfaction scores from J.D. Power. We also examined the number of riders available, general accessibility, coverage capacity and whether medical exams were required as part of the underwriting process in order to make our picks.

Written by
Lizzie Nealon
Insurance Writer
Lizzie Nealon is an insurance writer for Bankrate. Her favorite part of the job is making home, auto and life insurance digestible for readers so they can prepare for the future.
Edited by
Insurance Editor
Reviewed by
Director of corporate communications, Insurance Information Institute