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

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

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Best life insurance companies of 2019

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 provided our analysis of the best life insurance companies based on your coverage preferences.

Best term life insurance

Best online life insurance

Best whole life insurance

Best term life insurance companies

Term life insurance is the simplest and often cheapest life insurance available to purchase. A term policy will have a designated term length after which the policy will expire and cease to exist. During the term length, if you were to pass away, then your designated beneficiaries would receive the full value of the death benefit.

Below we have provided our rankings of the best term life insurance companies for 2019. We suggest evaluating the complete list of rankings since the "best" life insurance company for you may change. Factors such as pricing may be the most important feature of your financial decision making and thus could change your own best life insurance company rankings.

CompanyValuePenguin Life Insurance ScoreA.M. Best ratingNAIC complaint indexTerm life insurance quote
1. Massachusetts Mutual139A++0.12$124
2. Lincoln Financial133A+0.16$126
3. John Hancock131A+0.31$115
4. New York Life128A++0.29$137
5. Guardian Life128A++0.08$162
6. Protective Life127A+0.54$110
7. Northwestern Mutual126A++0.08$165
8. Principal Life125A+0.21$142
9. Minnesota Life122A+0.21$147
10. Brighthouse Financial125A0.59$118
Term life insurance rates are for a 35-year-old applicant in excellent health. Sample policies have a term length of 20 years and $100,000 face value.

Best online life insurance companies

Until recently, you could get life insurance rates 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, with near-immediate approval or rejection in many cases.

Haven Life

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

Haven Life Insurance 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 that the company will be there when needed.

  • A++ (Superior) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.04 NAIC complaint index (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.

Ladder Life Insurance is an 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 Ladder Life 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 Ladder Life'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

Best 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 off 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.

Best whole life insurance overall

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
  • 0.08 NAIC complaint index (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Minimum coverage: $25,000

Best whole life insurance for policy options

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 for 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
  • 0.29 NAIC complaint index (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Minimum coverage: $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the policy and health

Best guaranteed whole life insurance

Consider this if you want a small face value guaranteed whole life policy

Mutual of Omaha is a life insurance company that offers guaranteed whole life policies. These life insurance plans are similar to standard whole life but instead do not require you to take a medical exam. However, the policies will have much smaller death benefits — Mutual of Omaha offers coverage amounts of less than $25,000. For this reason, guaranteed whole life is often used as a final expense policy for older individuals.

Compared to other guaranteed life insurance quotes, Mutual of Omaha has some of the best rates available in the industry. This, coupled with above an above-average complaint ratio and financial strength rating, make the life insurance provider a great option for any final expense insurance needs.

  • A+ (Excellent) A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating
  • 0.58 NAIC complaint index (1.00 is the median; 0 means no complaints)
  • Guaranteed minimum coverage: $2,000 to $25,000

Life insurance company ratings

Life insurance companies are given grades by many rating agencies on different factors including financial strength and customer reviews. These metrics are extremely useful for analyzing the best life insurance company. Some of the most common third-party ratings used to compare life insurance providers include:

  • J.D. Power: J.D. Power is a global marketing information services company that ranks some of the best insurance companies on their customer satisfaction. Its rankings give each insurer a number between 0 and 1,000 and use rating factors like price, customer satisfaction, policy offerings and interaction.
  • A.M. Best: A.M. Best is a credit rating agency that gives life insurance companies a financial health score. A++ or "Superior" is the top grade available and usually any company above A- is in an above-average financial situation.
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB rating system is a grade given to a company between A+ and F, which is determined by the complaint history and how responsive the company is to complaints.

By reviewing all these ratings, you can get an excellent picture of the inner workings of many life insurance companies. Then, looking at policy prices, you can determine the best life insurance company for you.

Best life insurance companies by ratings

CompanyBBBA.M. BestJ.D. Power
State FarmA-A++825
Northwestern MutualA+A++812
NationwideA+A+810
MetLifeB-A+793
Mutual of OmahaA+A+792
New York LifeA+A++791
PrudentialAA+784
Pacific LifeA+A+783
MassMutualAA++781
Lincoln FinancialA+A+778
Guardian LifeA+A++776
Principal FinancialA+A+773
John HancockA+A+759
Midland National LifeA+A+758
AXA FinancialA+A755
TransamericaBA+751
Voya FinancialA-A744
PrimericaA+A+743
AIGA-A741

How to choose the best life insurance company

When trying to choose between life insurance companies, you should consider customer reviews, company features and costs — get several quotes from each provider — so you can find the best provider for your needs.

Policy costs, details and options

Term life insurance is the cheapest life insurance option available. You will find that other forms of life insurance including whole and universal policies tend to be more expensive since these plans are designed to provide life insurance coverage for your entire life and often include extras like cash value accounts. Therefore, deciding whether to purchase term or permanent life insurance will depend on how long you need coverage. For shorter coverage lengths, term insurance will generally be a more cost-effective purchase.

To get the best life insurance quotes, you should first determine how much coverage you will need and for how long. Then once this has been determined, you should go to a variety of life insurance companies and get quotes for the policy that you want. By getting many life insurance quotes, you will be able to compare the rates from the insurers and choose a policy that fits your budget.

Customer reviews

An important aspect of life insurance is the customer experience and servicing. Life insurance is a personal product, and getting relevant information about your policy is essential so that you can understand the details of the plan. You can find information about the experience of dealing with the life insurer through customer reviews of the company.

The most important customer experience will occur once you have passed away and your loved ones try to acquire the death benefit from your life insurance policy. Many insurance companies have mixed reviews for this. For example, many have encountered an experience where the insurance company will holdout paying the death benefit until the last possible moment. For this reason, you should look carefully at other customer reviews to find the best life insurance company.

Nearly 10% of people have never reviewed their life insurance policy

It is important to review your life insurance policy at least once a year and to reevaluate your needs as life progresses. The best policy for your needs may evolve over time since your financial responsibilities will be changing. For example, you may be changing jobs in which you get a salary increase. Changing your life insurance to reflect this bump in earning power is a smart financial decision.

Yet nearly 10% of people claim to have never reviewed their policy, according to ValuePenguin’s latest survey. Further, the survey revealed that over a quarter (29%) of total respondents either were not very confident or did not understand life insurance at all. Even more startling, a third (33%) of Generation Xers (38- to 53-year-olds) are not confident at all about the nuances of life insurance. Generation X individuals are in the midst of their prime working years, and thus acquiring the proper financial protection through life insurance is necessary.

How are people shopping for a life insurance policy?

MethodGen YMillennialGen XBaby BoomerSilent Generation
Through a recommended financial adviser32%23%23%18%18%
Recommended by family or friend29%27%28%21%27%
Conducted research online23%25%22%23%9%
Cold-called by a life insurance agent3%6%4%8%0%
Saw an advertisement for life insurance10%4%5%10%36%
Added on coverage to employer-provided policy3%12%14%14%0%
Other0%4%4%6%9%

Methodology

ValuePenguin by LendingTree determined the best term life insurance rankings by first compiling a list of the largest life insurance companies. Our analysis of the best life insurance companies included:

  • AAA
  • AIG
  • American National
  • Americo
  • Assurity
  • AXA
  • Brighthouse Financial
  • Columbian
  • Farmers New World
  • Fidelity Life Association
  • Guardian Life
  • John Hancock
  • Lincoln Financial
  • MassMutual
  • Minnesota Life
  • Mutual of Omaha
  • National Life
  • New York Life
  • Northwestern Mutual
  • Pacific Life
  • Primerica Life
  • Principal Life
  • Protective Life
  • Prudential
  • Sagicor
  • SBLI USA Life
  • State Farm
  • Transamerica

Then, using three rankings factors, assigned a value to each company and finally ranked the providers. The ranking factors include:

  • A.M. Best: A score that is based on the financial health of a life insurance company. Max points (50) could be earned if the insurer had the best A.M. Best score of A++. For each step down in A.M. Best score, the ValuePenguin score would decline by 5 points. (A+=45, A=40, A-=35)
  • NAIC complaint index: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners complaint index measures a life insurer’s complaints to regulators weighted against their market share. A score of 1.00 indicates that the company is equal to the median number of complaints relative to its size. The max ValuePenguin score of 50 could be earned if the insurer has an NAIC complaint index value of less than 0.1.
  • Pricing: Using a sample application, ValuePenguin pulled a term life insurance premium for each insurer and then ranked each provider from cheapest to most expensive. The life insurance company with the cheapest term life insurance premium received the max score of 50 with each successive ranking decreasing the score by 1. Applicant was a 35-year-old in excellent health meaning they had no significant health issues and is a non-smoker.

The best whole and online life insurance companies were determined through a combination of NAIC complaint index scores, A.M. Best ratings and the variety of policies offered by each insurer.

ValuePenguin by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,029 Americans to understand their feelings towards life insurance. The survey was fielded May 24-27, 2019.

Maxime Croll

Maxime is a Director at ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry. Previously she was the Director of Product Marketing at CoverWallet, a commercial insurance startup, and helped launch NerdWallet's personal insurance business. Maxime has contributed insurance insights and analysis to Forbes, USA Today, The Hill, and many other publications.

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