What is life insurance?
The definition of life insurance is a contract where you make regular payments — also known as premiums — to an insurance company; in return, the insurance company pays a lump sum of money to your beneficiaries if and when you die while your policy is active.
A life insurance policy can last for a predetermined period of time (as it does with term life insurance) or until you die (as whole life insurance policies do).
Either way, life insurance is an easy and affordable way to provide a financial safety net for your loved ones, since it can cover any financial obligations they're still responsible for after your death — including a mortgage or children's expenses.
Who needs life insurance?
Anyone with financial obligations that their dependents would be responsible for in the event of their death should consider buying life insurance. For instance, a family of four may struggle to continue making mortgage payments after the death of a parent — unless a life insurance payout replaced their lost income.
Many people make life insurance plans after a major life event like getting married, having children, or buying a house, in order to financially protect their dependents. Here are some common examples of the kind of people who benefit most from life insurance.
Families: If you have family members in your household for whom you provide, it’s important to have life insurance to protect their quality of life.
New parents: After growing your family, it’s smart to evaluate your life insurance coverage to make sure your children are protected.
Anyone with dependents: If you have other dependents or expect to care for an aging family member, life insurance can help make sure their care doesn’t lapse in your absence.
Stay-at-home parents: Even though stay-at-home parents don’t bring home a traditional salary, they provide significant value in the form of housekeeping, cooking, and childcare, among other activities. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, life insurance can help replace your contributions to the household in the event you pass away.
Business owners: Life insurance can help your business partners pay estate taxes, buy out a partner, or hire a replacement for you if you die.
Young adults: Even if you don’t have any dependents yet, getting life insurance while young might be a smart move because that’s when it’ll be the cheapest. You can start planning for the future now and save money by locking in the cheapest rates.
Anyone over 60 years of age: Seniors can use life insurance to cover final expenses or to complement their estate planning strategy.
→ Read more about who needs life insurance and why
What factors affect life insurance quotes?
The younger you are, the cheaper your premium payments will be. In fact, life insurance rates go up anywhere from 4.5% to 9% every year we age, since we all become riskier to insure as we grow older.
Since women often live longer than men, covering women presents less near-term risk to an insurance company. As a result, women pay an average of 24% less for life insurance than men.
Your health plays a crucial role in determining your life insurance rates. Serious health conditions can lead to high rates or denied coverage, while milder conditions may only have a small impact on the cost of your premiums. If you have a pre-existing health condition, speaking with an independent broker can help make sure you get the best rates.
Insurance companies consider some hobbies — like skydiving or scuba diving past a certain depth — risky enough to increase the cost of your life insurance premiums.
How do you get life insurance quotes online?
To get life insurance quotes, start by choosing where and how you’d like to compare quotes from different companies. Most insurers and marketplaces will ask you for a few pieces of information that affect your life insurance rates, such as your age, sex, and any health conditions. Then you’ll receive an estimate of what you can expect to pay, but your rate won’t be final until you officially apply and go through the underwriting process.
How to get life insurance quotes from Policygenius
You can compare quotes right now by using our cost calculator below to compare life insurance quotes from different companies for free — then connect with one of our licensed agents to get unbiased advice and find the best and most affordable options to fit your needs.
What type of life insurance policy do you need?
The type of life insurance you need depends on what kind of financial protection you’re looking for, as well as your budget. Below are the most popular types of life insurance.
Term life insurance
Term life insurance is the most popular type of life insurance coverage because it’s affordable and provides financial protection when you need it the most, usually during your peak earning years. Term life policies typically have a length between 10 years and 30 years, and they don't have any complex tax implications or restrictions.
How much does term life insurance cost?
On average, term life insurance will cost less than $28 per month for a healthy 35-year-old buying a policy with a term of 20 years and a death benefit coverage amount of $500,000. Here are a few more average sample term life insurance rates for non-smokers.
Average monthly term life insurance rates for non-smokers
$250,000 coverage amount
$500,000 coverage amount
$1 million coverage amount
Methodology: Sample monthly estimated rates are for male and female non-smokers with a Preferred health rating buying a 20-year, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from Corebridge Financial, Banner, Brighthouse Financial, Foresters Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, Symetra, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 04/01/2023.
Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that lasts your entire life. It’s five to 15 times more expensive than term life, but comes with a cash value account separate from the standard death benefit. The cash value grows at a low interest rate set by your insurer, and is funded in part by the premiums you pay.
How much does whole life insurance cost?
On average, whole life insurance will cost $526 per month for a healthy non-smoking 35-year-old buying a policy with a $500,000 coverage amount. Here are a few more monthly whole life insurance rates for non-smokers.
Average monthly whole life insurance rates for non-smokers
$250,000 coverage amount
$500,000 coverage amount
$1 million coverage amount
Methodology: Sample monthly rates for male and female non-smokers obtaining a $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy fully paid up at age 100 through MassMutual. Not all policies available in all states. Rates will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer’s rate. Rate illustration valid as of 04/01/2023.
Why you can trust our rates
At Policygenius, our sample rates are based on internal actuarial rate tables for life insurance companies that offer policies through the Policygenius marketplace. Our life insurance prices represent the average monthly life insurance premium for each sample customer profile (age, gender) and policy type (term or whole, and coverage amount) as of the date reflected on each table's methodology. Rates for those products may vary by state, and not all products are available in all states. Individual rates may vary, depending on age, gender, state, health profile, and other eligibility criteria.
Universal life insurance
Universal life insurance is a flexible type of permanent life insurance that allows you to increase or decrease how much you pay toward premiums. If you decrease how much you spend, the difference is withdrawn from your policy’s cash value. It’s best for high earners trying to build a nest egg without entering a higher income bracket.
No-medical-exam life insurance
No-medical-exam life insurance refers to policies that don’t require a medical exam for approval — you complete a health interview online or over the phone instead. Most no-medical-exam life insurance options are term policies that offer a faster application process for people with minor health conditions.
The most common types of life insurance, at a glance
Where to buy a life insurance policy
Once you’ve compared multiple quotes for life insurance, the next step is to buy your policy. You can buy a life insurance policy directly from a company, affiliated agents, or an independent broker.
Through an independent broker like Policygenius: We work for you, offer unbiased advice, and provide a wider array of quotes from many of the best life insurance companies on the market instead of just a single insurer. At Policygenius, we work with more than 10 different insurance companies and can help you easily compare and buy a policy online. If you want to get a full picture of all the coverage options available to you, we recommend this option.
Directly from the insurer: You can also work with a specific insurance company and apply through one of their agents. They’ll be familiar with that company’s products, but you’ll only be able to compare policies from that particular insurer.
Through an affiliated agent: Finally, you can work with an agent who is affiliated with one or more insurance companies. They’ll have access to those insurers’ product guides, but they might work on commission, which could influence their advice and the policies they offer you.
Life insurance news
Life insurance rates remain steady in March
Life insurance rates remained steady in March according to the Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index (PLIPI). While rates saw a slight increase of 1% in February, the average monthly cost of life insurance went up just 0.09% — or 3 cents — this month, essentially remaining unchanged.
Sandwich generation 'stressed' about providing financial support
Roughly 66% of the sandwich generation — Americans with at least one living parent age 65 or older who are also raising or financially supporting children — feel “very stressed” or “somewhat stressed” about affording their financial obligations over the next 10 years, according to the Policygenius Sandwich Generation Survey.
An in-depth look into infinite banking life insurance’s social media frenzy
A wealth-building strategy involving borrowing from the cash value of permanent life insurance products called infinite banking became a viral trend on TikTok. However, this personal finance hack has a few more caveats and potential downsides than social media posts will reveal.
Life insurance FAQs
What is the best type of life insurance?
The best type of life insurance will depend on your financial and coverage needs, but in general you'll likely have to choose between term life and whole life insurance.
Term life is one of the most affordable coverage options on the market, only lasts for a set term, and comes with few rules and tax restrictions. Term life is the best option for most people looking to protect their income and provide their family with a financial safety net to cover any debts — including a mortgage or any other types of personal loans.
Whole life and other types of permanent life insurance, on the other hand, are good options for people looking to use life insurance to diversify their investment portfolio or those with long-term financial obligations or coverage needs, like dependents who require lifelong care. Whole life never expires and comes with a cash value that earns interest in addition to the death benefit payout. Because of that, it’s usually five to 15 times more expensive than traditional term policies. If you’re already maximizing your contributions to tax-advantaged accounts like a Roth IRA or a 401(k) and are seeking another investment option, whole life might work for you.
What is the difference between term and whole life insurance?
Term life insurance lasts for a specific period of time — usually 10 years to 30 years. Whole life insurance lasts your entire life, as long as you continue to pay the premiums. Whole life is also five to 15 times more expensive than term life, on average.
Where can I compare multiple life insurance quotes in one place?
At Policygenius you can compare multiple life insurance quotes online and for free. Policygenius is an independent broker that works with more than 10 different insurance companies, including many top insurers on the market.
At what age is life insurance worth it?
Anyone who has dependents that rely on their income should consider getting life insurance, regardless of age. The best age to buy life insurance, however, is when you're young and in good health. This will allow you to lock in the cheapest rates for the duration of your policy even if you still don't have dependents or financial obligations to cover in your absence.
What are the three main types of life insurance?
The three main types of life insurance are term life, whole life, and universal life insurance.