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How much does life insurance cost?

What you pay for life insurance may depend on your age, health and more.
Updated Feb 21, 2024

How much does life insurance cost?

The cost of life insurance depends on several factors, including your age, gender, overall health, the type and length of the policy and the amount of coverage you purchase. The average cost of life insurance largely depends on your risk of mortality. This usually means that younger and healthier individuals pay lower rates. Typically, adult women are cheaper to insure, as well, since they tend to have a longer life expectancy than adult men, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

You may notice that we don’t have actual life insurance rates on our page, and there is a reason for that. Whether you are looking for the average term life insurance cost, whole life insurance cost or the cost of any other life coverage, aggregated rates are not available. While some companies might publish how much life insurance costs, on average, for a specific policy type, they may not be accurate to you. Life insurance is such a highly individualized product — more so than car or home insurance — with premiums varying widely based on age, health, gender and policy types.

Generally, life insurance companies do not report premium data (other than the total amount of premium they write in a year), which may be to protect the privacy of their policyholders. The process of pricing life insurance involves gathering private health data; revealing average rates could mean jeopardizing the privacy of a company’s insureds. For example, a company with higher average life insurance rates may insure older policyholders, policyholders in poor health or a combination of the two.

If you want to know how much life insurance costs you, you might want to collect a few quotes to get a general sense of how much to budget for it. When collecting quotes from multiple companies, make sure that you’re getting quotes for the same policy type and coverage amount. That way, you can ensure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison.

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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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What factors impact your life insurance cost?

When considering coverage, you might wonder how much life insurance is per month. There is no one answer (or even a range of answers), as the cost can vary widely. Life insurance providers assess several factors to determine coverage eligibility and to estimate premiums. 

Gaining an understanding of how life insurance providers price premiums can offer valuable insight into what your rate might be.

Life insurance rates are based on the risk of a company paying out the death benefit. This means that anything that increases your risk of mortality will likely increase your rates. Through medical exams, health questionnaires and other underwriting processes, insurance companies are able to determine how much of a risk you present. Always be honest when you fill out this information. If you lie about your health status, you run the risk of your policy being canceled, your death benefit payout being denied when you pass away or being held accountable for life insurance fraud.

Here are some factors that determine your life insurance rates:

  • Health: Your health plays a huge role in the cost of life insurance. If you have chronic health issues that increase your risk of mortality, you’re likely to pay a higher life insurance rate. However, guaranteed-issue life policies may be an option for customers with more severe health problems who want to forgo a medical exam.
  • Gender: Men statistically have a lower life expectancy than women, which means they represent a higher risk to life insurance companies. Based on this, life insurance costs are typically more expensive for males than females of the same age and health.
  • Age: Age is one of the strongest indicators of mortality, so the older you are, the more you’ll likely pay for life insurance. This is why many financial experts recommend that you buy coverage when you are young, so you can potentially secure a cheaper life insurance rate.
  • Death benefit amount: Another factor affecting the cost of life insurance is the amount of coverage you need. A higher death benefit will cost more to purchase since the life insurance company is agreeing to pay out more upon your death. If you aren’t sure how much coverage you need, working with a licensed insurance agent or using a life insurance calculator may be helpful.
  • Job: What you do for a living can also impact how much you pay for life insurance. If you are in a dangerous profession, such as piloting, war reporting or law enforcement, you could have a greater mortality risk. Because of this, you might pay a bit more for life insurance.
  • Lifestyle: Your lifestyle can also impact your life insurance cost. You will likely pay more for life insurance if you drink alcohol regularly or participate in high-risk activities such as skydiving due to the increased risk of death associated with these activities. Additionally, traveling to war zones is considered a major risk by most life insurers and could lead to your policy application being denied.
  • Type of life insurance: There are several types of life insurance you can choose from. Term life insurance provides coverage for a set period of time. Because of this, rates are generally cheaper than other types of policies. Permanent life insurance, including whole life and universal life, is designed to last your entire life. This means that the insurance company is far more likely to pay out the death benefit than it would with a term policy. Permanent life policy rates are typically higher to compensate for this.
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Bankrate's take: When to shop for life insurance

Many people may not consider purchasing life insurance until they are older or have children, but there are many potential advantages to locking in a life insurance rate at a younger age. Carriers typically extend lower premiums to younger applicants as they may be in better health and are expected to pay premiums for many years before they pass away.

Shopping around when you are younger may be especially useful if you’re looking to purchase a permanent life insurance policy. In addition to a death benefit, permanent policies include a savings component that can accrue value over time. The earlier you open your life insurance policy, the lower your premium will likely be and the more time you give the cash value component to grow.

If you're unsure whether you're ready to purchase life insurance, it may be helpful to think about your current financial situation, current and potential future dependents and long-term financial goals. The right time to purchase coverage may depend on your personal circumstances and the type of policy you want. Speaking with a licensed insurance agent may help you determine when to buy coverage based on your unique life insurance needs.

What doesn’t impact your life insurance premium?

Although there are many factors that contribute to your life insurance premium, there are also some criteria that don’t impact costs.

  • Location: Unlike with auto or home insurance, your location will not affect the cost of your life insurance. You will need to provide your address on the life insurance application, but it has no impact on the cost.
  • Credit score: While auto and home insurance rates often factor in your credit tier (if the law allows it in your state), your life insurance policy does not.
  • Marital status: In almost every state, your insurance company can factor in your marital status when determining your auto and homeowners insurance premiums. However, marital status is not a rating factor for life insurance.
  • Race or sexual orientation: Insurance companies do not factor race or sexual orientation to calculate rates, no matter the type of coverage.
  • The number of beneficiaries you name: The number of life insurance beneficiaries you choose does not impact your premium. Still, you will have to decide how much of the death payout each beneficiary receives (and how they receive it). You can elect that your beneficiaries receive equal portions of your death benefit or grant each a specific percentage. Some life insurance policyholders may prefer their death benefit be paid as a lump sum, while others opt for installments. Regardless, these choices will not impact your rate.
  • The number of life insurance policies you have: There are no laws that say you can’t carry multiple life insurance policies, and some people choose to have more than one. You will, of course, be paying more combined premiums if you carry multiple life insurance policies, but each policy does not affect the other.

Life insurance companies care most about factors that impact your life expectancy, such as your current health and family medical history, which could contribute to health issues in the future. If an insurance company believes you have an increased risk of passing away prematurely, you’ll see a higher rate that reflects that risk.

How much life insurance do I need?

To figure out how much life insurance coverage you need, you should look at your unique circumstances. Specifically, some of the things to think about are your dependents, your lifestyle, your current financial situation and your goals for the future.

For example, if you have several young children and are the sole income provider for your household, you may need a significant amount of coverage to protect your family in case something happens to you. On the other hand, if you are single, have a healthy savings account and no outstanding debt, you may require considerably less coverage.

At what age should I buy life insurance?

The right age to purchase a life insurance policy is different for everyone. However, the younger you are when you start your policy, the cheaper it usually is. If you have a family history of health problems, taking out life insurance early helps protect your insurability and potentially secures a lower policy premium and more options than you may have available later in life.

While you can’t take a life insurance policy out on anyone, parents can usually buy policies for their children if they are too young to own the policy themselves. If you purchase a term policy when you are younger, though, there’s a possibility that you’ll outlive your life insurance coverage and may need to change policy types (or buy a new one altogether) to secure continued financial protection.

How do I get a life insurance quote?

To find out how much you’ll pay for life insurance, start by figuring out how much coverage you need and what type of policy is best for you. You can do independent research for this, or you can work with a licensed life insurance agent. Once you’ve chosen your coverage amount and policy type, you can get a life insurance quote.

For most policies, a quote is just a preliminary estimate of your premium. Quotes can change, especially after you’ve undergone a medical exam and the insurer reviews the results. Not all policy types require a medical exam, though, and if you’re applying for a no-medical-exam life insurance policy, your quoted premium may be the premium you’re offered when you opt to buy the coverage.

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Bankrate's take: Reviewing life insurance quotes

Insurance is a very personalized product, so you may pay a different premium than your sibling, friend or neighbor for the same coverage. It's worth noting that life insurance quotes work rather differently than home and auto. Home and auto quotes and rates tend to vary more from company to company, while life insurance is generally more stable.

While it is still considered good practice to compare life insurance quotes, you may want to focus your research efforts more on the types of policies, customer service ratings, financial strength and digital tools a potential provider offers.

Differences between term and permanent life insurance

Life insurance policies fall into two main categories, term and permanent, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Term policies are active for a pre-set number of years, which is usually somewhere in the 10 to 30-year range. Term policies are a fairly straightforward type of life insurance: you pay a fixed premium in exchange for a death benefit for your named beneficiaries. If you pass away during your policy’s term and have kept up with your regular payments, your beneficiaries receive the death benefit payout.

Because there is a good chance you will outlive your policy, term premiums tend to be affordable for most budgets. Term policies are more advantageous if you only need coverage for a short period of time, like when your children are young or if you are paying off your home loan.

Permanent policies, on the other hand, are more complex. As the name implies, they last for an entire lifetime as long as premiums are paid. In addition to the death benefit, most permanent policies also have a cash value component that acts like a savings vehicle. There are five main types of permanent life insurance policies — whole, universal, variable, variable universal and indexed universal — and each offers different ways to grow the cash value.

Permanent life insurance policies are more customizable, and depending on the policy type you choose, you could leave a larger estate for your family than what is possible with a term policy. Those with lifelong dependents, like a family member with a disability, may like the extra assurance a permanent policy can provide.

How to lower your life insurance rates

Your age, coverage amount and health status are some of the most important factors in determining the cost of your life insurance, but that does not mean you are helpless in lowering your rate. While life insurance companies are legally barred from offering policy discounts, the following strategies could help you lock in a more affordable rate:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Regular exercise, a balanced diet and routine medical check-ups may earn you cheaper life insurance by promoting better health. If you’re a smoker, taking steps to quit could also help you get a lower life insurance price.
  • Manage medical conditions: Chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, typically increase the price you pay for life insurance. However, if you demonstrate to your insurer that you are being proactive about managing any health conditions, you may see a less severe surcharge.
  • Avoid high-risk hobbies: Participating in potentially life-threatening hobbies like skydiving, bungee jumping or scuba diving usually causes your premium to increase.
  • Apply for a policy early: Life expectancy in the U.S. currently hovers around 76 years. Applying for a policy while you're still young typically yields the lowest rates, as carriers do not anticipate having to pay out a death benefit for a longer period of time.

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Ashlyn Brooks

Ashlyn Brooks is a finance writer with more than half a decade of experience, known for her knowledge in areas such as taxes, insurance, investing, retirement, finance news, and banking products.

Edited by Editor II, Insurance
Reviewed by Expert Reviewer, CFA, CPA