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While undoubtedly a complicated process, choosing the right life insurance company to fit your needs is one of the most important decisions you will make. Among the reasons to compare different companies is that your choice will cover your funeral arrangements and other financial obligations, including tuition, mortgage, and cost of living. Permanent life policies also build cash value over time, which may provide added financial stability during your life.
The best life insurance companies are those that are financially sound, provide robust customer service, make the application process easy, and offer a wide range of features. To choose the best life insurance companies, we measured 91 insurers in these categories, collected more than 50 points of data for each insurer, and considered third-party ratings.
Read on to discover the best life insurance companies for 2022 and why each made our list.
Best Life Insurance Companies of 2022
Our ratings take into account NAIC complaint index scores and AM Best ratings. The NAIC complaint index indicates how many complaints a company receives relative to its size. AM Best assesses a company's ability to pay its claims on a graded scale, with A++ being the highest. All our best life insurance companies have at least an A rating.
Best Overall and Best for Whole Life Insurance : Nationwide
Ranked second in J.D. Power’s 2021 customer satisfaction study
Drew few customer complaints
No-medical-exam coverage available for up to $5 million
Living benefits included on most policies
Allows credit card payments
No live online chat available
Nationwide garnered an A+ financial stability rating from AM Best, received very few customer complaints over the past three years, and was the second-ranked out of 21 life insurers for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study. Plus, it boasts a wide range of policy types and riders, no-exam applications for up to $5 million in coverage, and generous living benefits. This host of exceptional features puts it squarely at the top of our best life insurance companies list.
Nationwide has been in business for nearly a century and offers term, whole life, universal life (UL), variable (VUL), indexed (IUL), and final expense policies. Many of these policies can be opened with no medical exam, and applications may be approved the same day. The company also includes three accelerated death benefit riders on most of its policies at no cost. This allows policyholders to access part of their death benefit while still alive if they are diagnosed with a chronic, critical, or terminal illness.
For more information, check out Investopedia’s full Nationwide review.
Best for Term Life Insurance : Protective
Tied with Banner for least expensive term policies
Offers term coverage for up to 40 years
Allows credit card payments
Ranked 16 out of 21 companies for customer satisfaction
Relatively low no-exam coverage amounts
Protective ties with Banner for the cheapest term life insurance of all the companies we reviewed. Plus, it offers 40-year term policies, which is uncommon in the industry—most companies cap terms at 30 years.
Founded in 1907, Protective backs its coverage with an A+ rating from AM Best for financial stability. It also received fewer complaints than expected for a company of its size over the past three years. But Protective ranked lower than the industry average in J.D. Power’s life insurance survey, coming in at #16 out of 21 companies studied. And its no-medical-exam life insurance policies are capped at $1 million in coverage—which you’re only eligible for up to age 45. This is much lower than some competitors that offer coverage up to $5 million for applicants up to age 50, or $3 million for applicants up to age 60.
For more details, see Investopedia’s Protective review.
Best for Financial Stability : MassMutual
Rated A++ for financial stability
Long history of paying dividends
Very few complaints
Liberal term conversion options
Few accelerated benefit riders included at no cost
Doesn’t accept credit card payments
MassMutual stands out for a number of reasons. One of the most impressive is its A++ financial rating from AM Best. This is the highest rating a company can receive and indicates a “superior” ability to pay claims. MassMutual’s dividend-paying history also adds to its clout: Every year since 1869, eligible policyholders have received life insurance dividends. Plus, the company has gotten extremely few complaints, according to the NAIC complaint index, over the past three years.
It’s worth noting that owners of MassMutual term policies can convert to any of MassMutual’s permanent policies. This is important because some companies limit the types of policies you can convert your term policy into. (Convertible term life insurance allows you to exchange some or all of your term coverage for permanent without having to re-qualify for life insurance.)
But unlike some competitors, the company doesn’t include many accelerated benefit riders free of charge on most of its policies and doesn’t accept credit card payments.
Get more details in Investopedia’s MassMutual company review.
Best for Living Benefits : Mutual of Omaha
Many policies include at least two living benefits
Wide range of riders available
Received an “expected” number of complaints
Online applications unavailable for term policies
Mutual of Omaha is our pick for best life insurance company for living benefits. At no upfront cost, it includes three accelerated benefit riders on its term policies (for critical, chronic, and terminal illnesses), and two (for chronic and terminal illnesses) on its UL policies. Accelerated benefit riders add flexibility to a life insurance policy by letting you tap the death benefit early if you have a qualifying illness. They can generally be used to pay for whatever you want, but will reduce the benefit your beneficiaries receive.
Mutual of Omaha also offers a disability income rider, which is uncommon in the industry—only one of the other winners on this list make one available. Mutual of Omaha’s disability income rider provides a monthly income benefit if you become disabled and can’t work.
The company compares poorly to our other top picks when it comes to customer complaints, however. It received what is considered an expected number of complaints for a company of its size, while all our other picks received fewer. And though many of our other favorite companies let you at least start your application for term life insurance online, you’ll have to contact an agent to get a term policy from Mutual of Omaha.
Read our full review of Mutual of Omaha life insurance to learn more.
Fewest Complaints : Guardian
Fewest complaints among top companies
No medical exam necessary for coverage up to $3 million
Receives an A++ for financial stability
Whole life policies are eligible for dividends
Online application and claim filing not available
Credit card payments not permitted
Guardian drew fewer complaints than any of our other top-rated companies and received the fifth-fewest complaints of the 91 companies we reviewed. This is a strong indicator that Guardian policyholders have little to complain about. Complaints are measured by the NAIC on an annual basis; we looked at each company’s complaint history over the past three years.
Like MassMutual, Guardian earns a top rating of A++ from AM Best, reflecting superior financial stability, and it offers dividends to eligible policyholders. The company also earns top marks for no-medical-exam life insurance applications—up to $3 million in coverage is available to healthy applicants up to age 50.
But if you’re seeking a streamlined online experience, Guardian falls short. It doesn’t offer an online application process (without an agent), online claim filing, or credit card payments, and information on its individual product offerings is hard to find.
For more information, read our full review of Guardian life insurance.
Best for Military : USAA
Severe injury benefits
No-cost guaranteed insurability available
“Anytime conversion” rider for term policies
A++ AM Best rating
Benefits only offered to military families
Doesn’t take credit card payments
Originally incorporated as the United States Automobile Association, USAA will celebrate its 100th year in business in 2022. It boasts AM Best’s top A++ rating for financial stability, and strong customer satisfaction as measured by NAIC’s complaint index.
What makes USAA a solid choice for military families are its military-specific riders. Level Term V policies include a severe injury rider that pays out $25,000 for specific injuries incurred during military service. They also offer guaranteed insurability riders at no additional cost that give you the option to increase coverage after leaving the military (and without having to prove insurability) or if you experience certain life events, like having a child. Plus, you can add an anytime-conversion rider that lets you convert your term policy to a whole life policy up until the very end of the term. Most companies only allow conversions within five or 10 years of policy issue.
The major drawback is that USAA life insurance is only available to members of the military and their spouses and children. Find our more in Investopedia’s USAA life insurance review.
Best for Seniors : New York Life
A++ AM Best rating
Long history of paying dividends
Policies available to applicants over 85 years old
Broad selection of riders
Information difficult to find on website
Can’t get information without contacting an agent
Online quotes and applications not available
Maximum term period of 20 years
New York Life, founded in 1845, is the oldest company in this list and has paid dividends for 168 consecutive years. It earns an A++ AM Best rating and receives very few customer complaints. Its stellar reputation and financial stability are two reasons it won best life insurance for seniors. Another is that it issues policies to 90-year-old applicants (many companies won’t issue policies to anyone over 85).
New York Life offers term, whole life, and universal life policies, including VUL, plus a diverse mix of riders and options for plan customization. Among these is a disability income rider (only offered by one of our other top picks for best life insurance company) and a Spouse’s Paid-Up Purchase Option (SPPO). The SPPO lets your spouse buy a paid-up policy with your policy’s death benefit without having to provide evidence of insurability if, or when, you die.
If you’re looking for term coverage, note that the longest term available from New York Life is 20 years. Most other companies we reviewed offer 30-year policies as well. And unfortunately, it’s difficult to locate policy-specific information on the website. If you have questions or want a quote, you’ll need to provide your name and number and wait for an agent to contact you. (In our experience, the goal of customer service for non-policyholders was to immediately route you to an agent.)
Want more information? Read Investopedia’s New York Life review.
When choosing a life insurance company, it’d be hard to go wrong with any of the companies on this list. But if you’re not sure which type of policy you want, start with Nationwide since it offers the most policy types of the group. Nationwide is also a top pick if you’re seeking a high-coverage no-exam policy, along with Guardian.
All companies on this list have received at least an A+ rating by AM Best for financial stability. But if only the absolute best will do, MassMutual, Guardian, USAA, and New York Life have A++ AM Best ratings. And, except USAA, all are solid choices for dividend-paying policies as well.
If you want term life insurance, Protective is your go-to for the most affordable coverage. It’s also one of only two companies of the 91 we reviewed offering term coverage for 40 years (Banner is the other).
And for a policy packed with no-cost living benefits, start with Mutual of Omaha, Nationwide, or USAA (if you’re in the military).
How Does Life Insurance Work?
In exchange for premium payments, an insurance company will pay a death benefit to your beneficiaries if you pass away while the policy is “in force.” (“In force” just means that the policy is active and hasn’t been canceled). The money is received tax-free, and beneficiaries can use it for whatever purpose they choose.
Life insurance can be divided into two main types: term and permanent. Permanent policies are sold as either universal or whole life insurance; they’re designed to offer coverage for the duration of your natural life. Term policies only provide coverage for a certain period of time, such as 30 years.
What Is Underwriting?
Underwriting is the process insurance companies use to determine how much to charge you for coverage. There are four categories of underwriting:
- Traditional or full underwriting (FUW): The most rigorous type, full underwriting includes a comprehensive application, a medical or paramedical exam, and a review of your motor vehicle record and prescription drug history. You can potentially pay the least for coverage by submitting to a full underwriting application process.
- Accelerated underwriting (AUW): Less exhaustive than FUW, accelerated underwriting includes a comprehensive application with thorough health questions followed by a tele-interview with drill-down questions regarding your medical history. It does not require a medical exam, and you may be eligible for coverage amounts up to or over $1 million, depending on the company. Policy pricing is competitive with full underwriting.
- Simplified issue (SI): Simplified issue policies ask a short list of medical questions and have no exam. These policies tend to be more expensive than either accelerated issue or fully underwritten policies.
- Guaranteed issue (GI): No health questions are asked and no exam is required. Guaranteed issue life insurance policies are usually only available to applicants who are at least 45 years old. And maximum coverage amounts are typically well under $50,000.
Guaranteed issue policies cost the most per death benefit dollar and the death benefit is often “graded” or limited to a return of premiums for the first two to three years, depending on the company.
Types of Life Insurance
A term life policy provides coverage for a limited period of time, usually between 10 and 30 years (but as noted above, some companies offer longer terms). Most often, premium payments remain “level,” or the same, for the duration of the term. Term policies don’t build a cash value like permanent policies, and are designed to expire at the end of the term. Term life insurance can be much less expensive than permanent policies because they lack that cash value and because permanent insurance may cover you late in life when coverage gets much more costly. Many term policies give you the option to renew your term coverage on an annual basis (and at a higher rate) after the term is up.
Insurance companies often allow you to convert your term coverage to a permanent policy before the term expires without having to prove that you’re still insurable. But premiums will increase when recalculated according to your age at the time you convert.
Whole life is a type of permanent life insurance coverage that remains in force until the death of the person insured—as long as premiums are paid. Unlike term, permanent policies build a tax-deferred cash value. As long as you don’t take withdrawals worth more than what you’ve paid into the policy, you won’t pay taxes on any gains.
With whole life policies, the premiums and cash value amounts are determined at policy issue, which means you generally can’t change or skip a premium payment and you’ll know how much the cash value will be in any given policy year.
One potential perk to owning cash-value life insurance is that you can access the money in it. You can do this by withdrawing directly from the cash value or by taking a loan against it. But the cash value is there to keep policy costs manageable, so if you withdraw or borrow too much, the policy could lapse. And if loans against the policy are not repaid before death, the amount of the death benefit will be decreased proportionately.
Universal life (UL) insurance is similar to whole life insurance with a couple of important distinctions. The premiums and death benefit can be changed after the policy has been issued, and interest is credited to the cash value based on current interest rates. So you don’t know in advance how much the cash value will be worth in the future.
For this reason, universal life policies can be a way to get permanent coverage at a fixed premium that is often much lower than that of an equivalent whole life policy, at least in its early years.
When cash value performance in a universal life policy is tied to a stock market index, it is said to be indexed. The cash value in an indexed universal life insurance (IUL) policy is credited interest based on the index selected (for example, the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq composite). It’s important to note that the cash value is not invested directly in the index.
IUL policies usually have at least a 0% floor, which means the cash value will not see a negative return even when the index performs poorly. Conversely, gains are limited as well. In fact, insurance companies are innovative when it comes to the complexity of calculations they employ to limit gains. For example, an IUL policy may be subject to one or more (usually “more”) of the following:
- Participation rate: This is the percentage of index gains that will be credited to the policy. For example, if the index returns 10% and the participation rate is 60%, 6% would be credited).
- Spread: This rate is deducted from the index’s gains. If the index returns 10% and the spread is 4%, your policy would be credited 6%.
- Cap: This limits the amount of interest your policy can be credited. If the cap is 6% and the index returns 10%, 6% will be credited to the cash value.
IUL policies can be an attractive proposition if you want the potential for stock market gains but want to avoid losses. Just be aware that if the index doesn’t perform well enough, interest credited could be insufficient to keep up with policy expenses and your premium could increase.
In a variable universal life (VUL) insurance policy you can invest the cash value directly in the stock market. VUL policies typically offer a variety of mutual-fund-like subaccounts from which to choose; subaccounts available represent a range of investment objectives and risk profiles, from conservative to aggressive, and all can potentially lose value. This makes VUL the riskiest type of life insurance and generally inappropriate for someone who doesn’t have other life insurance coverage in place. It’s only available through an agent that is also licensed to sell securities.
Guaranteed issue (GI) life insurance policies are just what they sound like. Health issues will not disqualify you from approval because no health questions are asked on the application, nor is an exam required. You usually have to be at least 40 or 45 years old to be eligible for coverage, and coverage amounts are low while premiums are relatively high compared to other underwriting methods for the same amount of coverage.
GI policies are whole life policies that have a “graded benefit” for two to three years. If you die from natural causes during this time, your beneficiaries will only receive a return of the premiums you paid (usually plus a percentage like 10%). They will not receive the full death benefit unless you die after this period. After the waiting period, the policy’s full face value will be paid.
Burial Insurance (aka, Final Expense Insurance)
These policies may be either guaranteed issue or simplified issue policies. Burial insurance, also called final expense coverage, senior insurance, or funeral insurance, is a low-coverage whole life plan. While you have to answer some medical questions and coverage is not guaranteed, it can result in lower premium payments than GI.
Burial insurance, like GI, may only be available if you’re older than 40 or 45. Face values often range from $2,000 to $50,000 and policies often have a graded death benefit period before your beneficiaries are able to receive the full death benefit.
The length of the graded benefit period can differ between companies. If you’re shopping for burial insurance, be sure to compare each company’s graded benefit period.
How To Choose the Right Life Insurance Company for You
When choosing a life insurance company, you want to do your homework. The company should be there when your family needs it and offer a policy that suits your needs. It goes without saying that cost is always important, but sometimes the cheapest coverage may not be the best.
Consider the following factors when choosing your life insurance company:
- Financial strength: Check AM Best ratings for financial stability. A++ and A+ ratings are considered “superior,” while A and A- are considered “excellent.”
- Customer complaints: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) uses customer complaints to create the NAIC complaint index, which indicates whether a company received more or fewer complaints than expected, based on its market share. An index lower than 1 indicates the company received fewer complaints than expected, while a number over 1 means it got more than expected. The higher the index, the more customers complain, and vice versa.
- Customer satisfaction: Not all companies are ranked by J.D. Power, but check J.D. Power’s U.S. Individual Life Insurance Study to see if companies you’re considering are. At a glance, you can see how a company ranks compared to others when it comes to customer satisfaction.
- Available policy types: If you know which type of insurance you need, make sure each company you’re considering offers it. But note that a whole life policy with one company can be very different from a whole life policy with another. Though policies between companies might have the same name, each company tries to make their product stand out. Make sure their efforts suit your needs.
- Available and included riders: This is a major way that same-named policies can differ. For example, a universal life policy with one company might include a generous accelerated death benefit rider at no cost, while a UL policy with another company may not. Or a term policy with one company may allow you to convert it to permanent coverage, while a term policy with another company may not. Research riders to know what you’re paying for.
- Ease of application: Sometimes the biggest barrier to getting a life insurance policy is the application process. And often, it’s better to get some coverage in place—especially if you have dependents—than it is to find the absolute best coverage you can. If you’re too busy for an exam, look for companies that don’t require one.
Once you've identified a few solid companies, compare life insurance quotes to decide which makes sense for you.
If you’re healthy, you want to choose companies that offer an accelerated underwriting process, which means they’ll ask thorough health questions on the application. Otherwise, you could end up paying more than you need to.
How We Chose the Best Life Insurance Companies
In order to compile our list of the best life insurance companies, we developed a comprehensive life insurance methodology. We started off by researching what consumers want from life insurance companies, and for that, we looked to third-party consumer studies, including J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Life Insurance New Business Study and the 2021 Insurance Barometer Study, by Life Happens and LIMRA.
With those findings in mind, we gathered more than 50 data points on 91 life insurance companies, including ratings for financial strength, customer satisfaction, and customer complaints, as well as information about years in business, cost, online tools, no-exam options, policy types and features, and available riders.
Our review process gave preference to companies with superior financial stability, few customer complaints, and a robust suite of products and resources. In particular, we valued online quoting and application tools, transparent pricing, and no-exam policy options. Companies received ratings boosts if customer service was accessible via features like live chat. We ranked each company according to the following categories and weights.
- Customer education, application, and online service features: 32%
- Policy types, features, and riders: 29%
- Financial stability: 17%
- Customer satisfaction ratings: 15%
- Cost: 8%
We compared individual offerings between companies by delving deeper into product specifics, including maximum coverage amounts, maximum issue ages, included riders, and product-specific application processes. We used this research to determine the best companies for different products and consumer groups, including term life insurance and seniors.
Of the companies we considered, those with the greatest financial stability, fewest complaints, lowest cost, and most generous no-medical-exam options scored the highest across categories, as we believe these companies are best positioned to help customers secure the life insurance coverage they need and keep it long-term.