How we ranked the top life insurers
NerdWallet’s life insurance ratings are based on consumer experience, complaint index scores from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for individual life insurance, and weighted averages of financial strength ratings, which indicate a company’s ability to pay future claims. Within the consumer experience category, we consider ease of communication and website transparency, which looks at the depth of policy details available online. To calculate each insurer’s rating, we adjusted the scores to a curved 5-point scale.
These ratings are a guide, but we encourage you to shop around and compare several insurance quotes to find the best rate for you. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for any reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.
Best life insurance companies: Pros and cons
Learn more about our top life insurance companies in August 2022 by reading the brief summaries below and checking out our comprehensive reviews.
- MassMutual: Best overall
- Haven Life: Best for instant coverage
- Guardian Life: Best for applicants with a history of HIV
- AARP: Best for those who want to skip the medical exam
- Fabric: Best online experience
- New York Life: Best for high coverage amounts
- Pacific Life: Best range of permanent life insurance
- State Farm: Best for customer satisfaction
- Lincoln Financial: Best for over-the-phone applications
- Northwestern Mutual: Best for consumer experience
- USAA: Best for members of the military
MassMutual: Best overall
Policy types: Term, whole, universal and variable universal.
Pros: MassMutual offers free coverage for eligible parents and legal guardians via its LifeBridge program.
Cons: Online quotes are available only for term life. You have to contact MassMutual for whole, universal and variable universal quotes.
Company overview: Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., often shortened to MassMutual, is one of the largest life insurers in the country. Founded in 1851, it offers a wide range of products, from term life to variable universal life insurance — a type of permanent policy with flexible premiums and investment opportunities. MassMutual is a mutual company, which means it’s owned in part by its policyholders and pays out dividends to qualifying members. Its 2022 dividend payout is the highest yet at almost $1.85 billion.
» Read the full review: MassMutual life insurance
Haven Life: Best for instant coverage
Policy types: Term.
Pros: You can apply for up to $1 million in term coverage online. If approved, you don’t have to take a medical exam and your coverage begins the same day.
Cons: The company does not sell permanent life insurance, though this is common for an insurtech.
Company overview: Haven Life offers term life insurance with accelerated underwriting, a process that uses algorithms and data to quickly assess your insurability. The entire application process is conducted online and the company says it can be completed in about 25 minutes. While Haven specializes in one type of life insurance, it offers choices for its customers. Depending on the policy you pick, you could buy $25,000 to $3 million in coverage, and choose a term lasting from 5 to 30 years. Haven Life’s policies are issued by MassMutual, which drew significantly fewer than expected customer complaints for a company of its size.
» Read the full review: Haven Life insurance
Guardian: Best for applicants with a history of HIV
Policy types: Term, whole and universal. Guardian not only sells a range of standard policies but also offers term and whole life insurance for people living with HIV.
Pros: You can get a quote online without entering your contact details and toggle between different coverage amounts to see your estimated premium.
Cons: Guardian scored slightly below average in J.D. Power’s 2021 customer satisfaction study for life insurance.
Company overview: Guardian was founded in 1860 and has paid dividends to its eligible policyholders since 1868. The 2022 payout of $1.13 billion is the largest in the company’s history. The insurer drew significantly fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company its size. Aside from life insurance, Guardian also sells a range of products including dental, vision and cancer insurance.
» Read the full review: Guardian life insurance
AARP: Best for those who want to skip the medical exam
Policy types: Term and whole.
Pros: If you’re an AARP member from 50 to 80 years old (50 to 75 in New York), you can qualify for the company’s guaranteed acceptance life insurance policy regardless of your health. Coverage amounts can reach $25,000 and premiums stay the same throughout the length of the policy.
Cons: AARP’s term life premiums are not level, which means they increase over time.
Company overview: AARP doesn’t require a medical exam to qualify for any of its life insurance policies, which is rare for a company that offers both term and whole life insurance. AARP life insurance policies are available to members who are 50 or older. One of the company’s biggest draws is its simplified underwriting, which means you don’t have to take a life insurance medical exam to qualify for coverage. That said, acceptance for some policies may be based on information about your health. All policies are issued by New York Life.
» Read the full review: AARP life insurance
Fabric: Best for online experience
Policy types: Term.
Pros: Fabric says its application can be completed online in 10 minutes. The company uses advanced algorithms to determine eligibility and cost, which means medical exams may not be necessary for all applicants.
Cons: Fabric doesn’t sell permanent life insurance, which is fairly standard for insurtechs. Term coverage is available only for those ages 60 and younger.
Company overview: Fabric life insurance policies are issued by Vantis Life, a subsidiary of Penn Mutual. Term policies are available for 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years, and coverage amounts range from $100,000 to $5 million. The company also offers accidental death insurance to applicants 25 to 50 years old. This coverage is guaranteed issue, which means you can buy a policy regardless of your health. Accidental death insurance policies are not available in Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia or Washington. Fabric’s website is easy to use, with a variety of ways to contact the company, including live chat.
» Read the full review: Fabric life insurance
New York Life: Best for high coverage amounts
Policy types: Term, whole, universal and variable universal. The company’s Million Plus Level Term 10 policy has a minimum death benefit of $1 million.
Pros: New York Life offers a wide range of coverage types, from annual term policies to variable universal life insurance.
Cons: You can’t get a quote online without entering your contact details. Premiums for New York Life’s term life policies are level for a set period of time, after which they gradually increase.
Company overview: New York Life is a mutual company, which means it’s owned by its policyholders. As such, you may be eligible to vote in board elections if you buy certain policies and earn dividends — the insurer is paying out $1.9 billion in 2022. The company is one of the largest life insurance companies in the U.S. and drew fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company of its size. It ranked about average in J.D. Power’s 2021 customer satisfaction study for life insurance. One of its whole life policies includes a flexible payment option, allowing you to pay off your premiums early.
» Read the full review: New York Life insurance
Pacific Life: Best range of permanent life insurance
Policy types: Term, whole, universal, variable universal and indexed universal.
Pros: The company’s website provides detailed brochures on each type of policy it sells.
Cons: Some policies are not available in New York.
Company overview: Pacific Life has been in business for more than 150 years. It has drawn significantly fewer complaints than expected for a company of its size over the past three years. Among Pacific Life’s range of policies is the company’s indexed universal life insurance. These policies typically grow investments based on stock market indexes like the S&P 500. They also have a guaranteed floor, which means your life insurance cash value won’t fall below a certain value if the stock market dives.
» Read the full review: Pacific Life insurance
State Farm: Best for customer satisfaction
Policy types: Term, whole and universal.
Cons: Some policies are not available in Massachusetts. You have to contact a State Farm agent to get a quote.
Company overview: When you think of State Farm, you probably think of its auto insurance products. But it also offers a decent range of life insurance policies, including return-of-premium life insurance — if you outlive the term, you get a refund of the premiums you paid into the policy. State Farm also offers a single premium option for its whole life policy and a final expense policy that can help cover funeral costs.
State Farm ranked first out of 21 companies in J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Life Insurance Study for customer satisfaction, and has consistently topped this list in recent years — pointing to its positive reputation among policyholders.
» Read the full review: State Farm life insurance
Lincoln Financial: Best for over-the-phone applications
Policy types: Term, universal, variable universal and indexed universal.
Pros: Lincoln Financial offers a range of coverage options with comprehensive policy details available on its website, including available riders, policy fees, issue age ranges and more.
Cons: Ranked below average for customer satisfaction in the 2021 J.D. Power life insurance study.
Company overview: Founded in 1905, Lincoln Financial sells a variety of products including life insurance, annuities, long-term care and workplace benefits. Within the company’s variable universal life catalog is survivorship life insurance. This type of insurance covers two people, typically a couple, and pays out after the second person dies. In some cases, survivorship insurance can be cheaper than buying two separate permanent policies. Lincoln Financial promotes a speedy application process over the phone for customers who’d rather buy coverage through an advisor, which is an option most companies don’t promote.
» Read the full review: Lincoln Financial life insurance
Northwestern Mutual: Best for consumer experience
Policy types: Term, whole and universal.
Pros: Northwestern Mutual has a top-tier financial strength rating, and the company ranked high for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Life Insurance Study.
Cons: It’s hard to find coverage specifics like issue age ranges, coverage limits and available riders for whole and universal life policies on Northwestern Mutual’s website.
Company overview: Founded in 1857, Northwestern Mutual is the largest seller of individual life insurance in the United States, according to the latest data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Universal life policyholders have flexible payment and coverage options, while term life customers have the opportunity to convert their policy to permanent coverage without taking a medical exam. The company is paying $6.5 billion in dividends to qualifying policyholders in 2022. Northwestern Mutual received significantly fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company of its size, making it a trustworthy choice for shoppers.
» Read the full review: Northwestern Mutual life insurance
USAA: Best for members of the military
Policy types: Term, whole and universal.
Pros: Unlike most life insurance products, USAA’s term life covers active military members during wartime, including acts of terrorism.
Cons: Some coverage options are not available in New York or Montana.
Company overview: USAA was founded in 1922 to provide life insurance for veterans and active military members. It now offers coverage to civilians as well. Its policies can be used to supplement the government-provided Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, which is automatically issued to eligible military personnel. Policyholders ages 18 to 35 may have the option to increase their coverage amount if they get married, buy a house or have a baby.
» Read the full review: USAA life insurance
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How to choose the best life insurance company
Follow these four steps to find the best life insurance company for your family.
1. Look at customer satisfaction scores
Other customers’ experiences can help you decide whether you want to do business with a company. You can get clues about an insurer’s reputation through complaints filed with state regulators, which are visible on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website. All of the companies listed above have had fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for insurers of their size, according to three years’ worth of data from the NAIC.
2. Consider financial strength
It’s especially important to look into life insurance companies’ financial strength because you’ll want a company that can pay claims many years down the road. NerdWallet’s insurance reviews use weighted averages of financial strength ratings. For additional information about life insurance companies, try a ratings agency like AM Best. We don’t recommend considering insurers with an AM Best rating of B or lower.
3. Evaluate the policy options
Term and permanent are the two main types of life insurance.
- Term life insurance lasts a set number of years and is typically sufficient for most families.
- Permanent life insurance lasts your entire life and often includes an investment component. Under the umbrella of permanent life insurance, there are several different types of policies, such as whole life and universal life.
4. Get prices from a handful of companies
The cost of coverage varies among companies, so it’s smart to compare life insurance quotes from multiple insurers.
Although many companies sell similar policies, some focus on certain products — such as whole life — or on particular customers, such as seniors who need life insurance. You can narrow down your options by focusing on the companies that specialize in the type of insurance you’re looking for.
Insurer complaints methodology
NerdWallet examined complaints received by state insurance regulators and reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2018-2020. To assess how insurers compare to one another, the NAIC calculates a complaint index each year for each subsidiary, measuring its share of total complaints relative to its size, or share of total premiums in the industry. To evaluate a company’s complaint history, NerdWallet calculated a similar index for each insurer, weighted by market shares of each subsidiary, over the three-year period. Ratios are determined separately for auto, home (including renters and condo) and life insurance.
- 1.MassMutual. MassMutual Approves Estimated 2022 Policyowner Dividend Payout of Nearly $1.85 Billion. Accessed 1 Aug 2022.
- 2.J.D. Power. 2021 U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. Accessed 1 Aug 2022.
- 3.Guardian. Guardian Life Announces $1.13 Billion Dividend Payment to Policyholders. Accessed 1 Aug 2022.
- 4.New York Life. New York Life Declares Largest Dividend in Company’s History. Accessed 1 Aug 2022.
- 5.Northwestern Mutual. Northwestern Mutual’s 2022 Dividend Payout to Policyowners To Be Largest Ever – $6.5 Billion. Accessed 1 Aug 2022.