Best Life Insurance Companies: Top Term and Whole Life Insurers in 2019

Choosing a life insurance policy is a critical component of financial planning. We've reviewed the twenty largest life insurance companies so you can choose the one that best fits your needs.

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Life Insurance Companies With the Best Ratings

Life insurance offers financial protection to your family and is a product you typically keep for decades, so it's important to find a top-rated insurer. Below, we've listed the companies with the best financial strength ratings and fewest customer complaints.

MassMutual

Consider this if competitive prices, wide range of products and some of the highest ratings.

If you're looking for the best-rated insurer with competitive prices, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., known as MassMutual, is our top choice. It holds the top A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating and has a disproportionately low number of consumer complaints registered with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Given it's one of the 10 largest life insurance companies in the United States, that's an impressive feat. MassMutual is a mutual life insurance company, meaning it's owned by its policyholders and consistently distributes dividends to those with whole life insurance policies.

MassMutual offers a wide range of life insurance policies, such as term, whole, universal and variable universal. In addition, its no-medical-exam and guaranteed-acceptance policies make it easier to qualify for life insurance when you have medical problems. While MassMutual's rates aren't the absolute lowest for term life insurance, they're below-average compared to the largest insurers.

  • A++ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.04 NAIC Complaint Ratio (1.00 is the median score; 0 means no complaints)
  • Products: term life insurance, whole life insurance, universal life insurance, variable universal life insurance, no-medical-exam term life insurance, guaranteed-acceptance whole life insurance
Northwestern Mutual

Consider this if you value financial strength and outstanding consumer reviews.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. is the largest mutual life insurance company in the U.S. The company has some of the best consumer reviews and holds the top financial strength rating. Northwestern Mutual offers standard term, whole and universal life insurance policies, but it also has its own policy called CompLife. CompLife is a permanent life insurance policy to which you can add term coverage if you just need the additional financial protection for a short period of time.

The one downside to Northwestern Mutual is that it has comparably higher rates for simple products, like term life insurance. However, if you're primarily concerned with the company's financial stability and how you'll be treated as a customer, you'll find few insurers that rank as well.

  • A++ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.03 NAIC Complaint Ratio (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Products: term life insurance, whole life insurance, universal life insurance, CompLife

Companies with the Best Term Life Insurance Rates

We often recommend term life insurance because policies can be customized to nearly any situation and often have the lowest rates for coverage. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't shop around. Term quotes can vary by more than 100% for the same person, depending on the company. We compared quotes across multiple shopper profiles to find the companies that consistently offer the best prices and coverage.

Protective

Consider this if you want the cheap term life insurance from a financially stable company.

Protective Life Insurance Co. is known for its strong financial stability and low-cost term life insurance rates. Furthermore, it offers an online claims center where you can file a claim and even ask questions to customer service representatives. The Protective Classic Choice Term life insurance policy is offered for 10- to 30-year periods with coverage amounts that range from $100,000 to $10 million. Term policies can be further customized with riders such as the income provider option. The rider allows the death benefit to be spread out as a payment to the beneficiary over a set number of years instead of a lump-sum payment.

Although Protective has the best term life insurance rates for most people, smokers will find their term quotes to be high when compared with other life insurance companies. For this reason, we would recommend finding coverage through a different insurer, such as Pacific Life, if you smoke.

If you are not certain you want term insurance, Protective also offers a variety of permanent insurance policies. You can also convert your term policy to a permanent one without the need for additional underwriting.

  • A+ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.47 NAIC Complaint Ratio (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Products: term life insurance, survivorship life insurance, whole life insurance, universal life insurance, indexed universal life insurance, variable universal life insurance
Pacific Life Insurance

Consider this if you want low-cost level term life insurance from a company with outstanding consumer reviews.

Pacific Life Insurance Co. is not only one of the best companies for term life insurance; it also boasts incredible customer service. Of all the companies we compared, Pacific Life had the lowest complaint ratio and is highly rated for its customer satisfaction. Considering it also has some of the lowest premiums, even if you're older or a smoker, Pacific Life is a top choice for term life insurance.

Pacific Life offers coverage for 10-, 15-, 20- and 30-year durations with guaranteed fixed premiums. In addition, you can convert your policy to permanent coverage without additional medical exams or underwriting.

  • A+ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.02 NAIC Complaint Ratio (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Products: term life insurance, universal life insurance, indexed universal life insurance, variable life insurance

Best Online Life Insurance Companies

Until recently, you could get quoted for life insurance online, but if you wanted to purchase a policy, you had to complete forms and speak to an agent offline. Now, a number of startups allow you to handle the entire application process online, and in many cases, get a near-immediate approval decision.

Haven Life

Consider this if you want to buy life insurance entirely online from a trusted company with the best rates.

Haven Life Insurance Agency provides the best term life insurance quotes for a wide variety of customer profiles and allows you to complete the entire quote and application experience online. You can even pay for your policy with a credit card, which is a rarity in life insurance. In addition, Haven Life offers some of the fastest approvals for coverage purchased. Though some are fully underwritten with a medical exam, many customers will get a same-day determination.

Term policies can be purchased from Haven Life for periods ranging from 10 years to 30 years, and the company offers up to $2 million in coverage. Though Haven Life's set of riders is somewhat limited, it has all the standards you'd expect from an insurer, such as an accelerated death benefit rider and waiver of premium rider.

And, while Haven Life is a relatively new insurer, the company is backed by MassMutual (our pick for overall best life insurer), meaning you can be rest assured the company will be there when needed.

  • A++ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.04 NAIC Complaint Ratio (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Payment options: Credit card, electronic funds transfer (EFT), direct bill
Ladder Life

Consider this if you want to purchase life insurance online and expect your needs to change over time.

LadderLife is a new insurer focused on simplifying the process of purchasing coverage and addressing people's changing financial situations. The amount of life insurance you need changes over time, so LadderLife allows you to easily increase or decrease your policy limits. This means you don't have to pay for unnecessary coverage now if you expect your financial situation to change later, for example, when you have kids or buy a house.

Though LadderLife's rates aren't the absolute lowest, the company is quite competitive, often with below-average premiums. Its term life policies can be purchased for periods of 10 to 30 years, and Ladder lets you purchase up to $8 million in coverage. This is the highest coverage limit we came across for a completely online insurer.

  • A- (Excellent) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • Payment options: electronic funds transfer (EFT), direct bill

Largest Whole Life Insurance Companies

Whole life insurance is the most popular form of lifelong coverage, as it provides a death benefit plus a cash value that grows consistently over time. The cash value can be borrowed against if you want to cover an expense, such as buying a car or paying medical expenses. It can also be returned to you if you decide you no longer want coverage. Since whole life insurance needs to provide coverage for decades, we analyzed insurers to find the largest companies with the highest possible financial strength ratings.

Northwestern Mutual

Consider this if you need a flexible payment schedule, and prefer a company with outstanding consumer reviews.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. has some of the best consumer reviews, and as a mutual insurance company, it has consistently issued dividends to whole life insurance policyholders for decades. When the company issues annual dividends, you can choose whether you want to receive the payment as cash, use it to pay premiums or purchase additional coverage. Northwestern Mutual's whole life insurance payments are flexible, as you choose to pay for coverage until age 65, age 90 or for a certain period of time (such as 20 years). Paying over a limited time means you can invest a greater amount in the cash value portion of the policy early on, which gives you higher returns over the length of coverage.

In addition, Northwestern Mutual offers a fairly unique rider called an accelerated care benefit. While most insurers only allow you to receive a portion of your death benefit early if diagnosed with a terminal illness, Northwestern Mutual lets you accelerate funds to pay for long-term care.

Northwestern Mutual's life insurance policies come with some restrictions. They aren't available with small death benefits (the minimum is $25,000), and the company doesn't offer policies with limited underwriting. If you have a pre-existing medical condition or certain health problems, for example, you would have to apply with a different insurer.

  • A++ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.03 NAIC Complaint Ratio (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Minimum coverage: $25,000
New York Life

Consider this if you want a customized whole life insurance policy.

New York Life Insurance Co. is also a mutual insurance company with the highest attainable financial strength rating from A.M. Best, and dividends can be used to pay premiums or increase coverage. New York Life also offers a wider variety of structures for whole life insurance policies. For example, say you want the benefits of paying whole life insurance premiums over a shorter time period but can only afford a particular dollar amount per year. New York Life offers the ability to choose exactly how long you pay premiums.

Couples can also choose a joint second-to-die whole life insurance policy, which is typically used to leave an inheritance or help dependents cover estate taxes. While New York Life doesn't have first-to-die whole life insurance, it does have a Spouse's Paid-Up Insurance Purchase Option (SPPO). This is a fairly unique rider, as it allows your spouse to purchase single premium whole life insurance upon your death without demonstrating insurability. While a portion of your policy's death benefit would go toward the cost of the SPPO, this can be a valuable benefit because it can provide your spouse coverage even if they would otherwise be uninsurable.

  • A++ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.20 NAIC Complaint Ratio (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Minimum coverage: $25,000 to $100,000, depending on policy and health

How We Picked the Best Life Insurance Companies

We compared the 20 largest life insurance companies in the United States that offer individual life insurance coverage. Our comparison of each company took into account:

  • Cost: The cost of life insurance can vary significantly from one person to another, as each insurer weighs health factors differently. For example, some insurers cater to seniors while others won't offer them coverage over 10 years. We looked for the companies that consistently offered some of the best rates, whether you're young, old or high-risk.
  • Reviews and complaints: How a company interacts with its clients is incredibly important when it comes to life insurance. You'll need to ensure you purchase the right coverage for your situation, not just a high-cost product. In addition, you need to trust that the company will do its part for your beneficiaries when you pass away, paying out claims quickly and without hassle.
  • Financial strength: A company's financial strength indicates its ability to pay future claims and remain in business for the foreseeable future. Considering many life insurance policies last for 20 or 30 years, this is important when determining which insurer to choose.
Maxime Croll

Maxime is a Product Manager at ValuePenguin focusing on insurance. Previously she was the Director of Product Marketing at CoverWallet.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.