13 Best Life Insurance Companies of 2020

According to LIMRA’s 2018 Insurance Barometer, about 60% of Americans are covered by some form of life insurance. That leaves about 2 in 5 with no coverage at all. Are these people playing fast and loose with their surviving heirs’ finances?

The short answer is: possibly. How much life insurance you should have — and what type of life insurance is most cost-effective for your family’s needs – depends on your age, income, family size, stage of life, and long-term financial goals.

Many financial professionals recommend forgoing permanent (whole) or universal life insurance in favor of term life insurance. Term life insurance provides a fixed term – typically, 5 to 20 years – after which the policy expires and the death benefit drops to zero. In exchange, it has lower premiums than universal life insurance.

To ensure adequate coverage for the duration of their working lives, younger policyholders may wish to “ladder” term life policies of varying lengths. Such a ladder might look like this:

  • Year 0: The policyholder takes out three life insurance policies with respective terms of 5, 10, and 20 years. If they die within five years, all three policies will pay out to their named heirs.
  • Year 5: The 5-year term policy expires, leaving the 10- and 20-year policies in force. If the policyholder dies between now and Year 10, their heirs will receive two death benefits.
  • Year 10: The 10-year term policy expires, leaving just the 20-year policy in force. For the next 10 years, the policyholder’s heirs will receive one death benefit.
  • Year 20: The 20-year term policy expires, leaving the policyholder without life insurance.

In practice, a younger policyholder might replace the first expiring policy with another five-year policy, or purchase additional life insurance at some point during or after the 20-year laddering period. That said, life insurance premiums may impact your cash flow, and it’s important to ensure adequate – but not excessive – coverage. As a result, it’s always best to speak with a financial advisor before purchasing a policy or building a ladder.

Best Life Insurance Companies

Hundreds of reputable life insurance companies serve U.S. consumers today, supporting a trillion-dollar (or more) market.

You can, and should, use an aggregator like Policygenius to quickly find providers and policies that fit your needs. But look out for these companies in particular – they’re among the best.

Unless otherwise noted, all companies listed here offer term, permanent, and universal life insurance policies for individuals. They may also offer group or employer-sponsored policies, but our analysis doesn’t cover those. Our evaluation incorporates:

  • Financial strength ratings from AM Best, a measure of insurers’ capacity to pay promised benefits
  • J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings, covering the claims process and general customer service
  • Consumer complaints filed with state consumer protection authorities and compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (note that larger insurers may have higher raw complaint totals)

1. Bestow

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (policies offered by Bestow are provided by North American Company for Life and Health Insurance®, an insurance carrier rated Superior by A.M. Best)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: Not rated
  • Life Insurance Complaints: Not available
  • Great For: Cost-conscious policyholders with lower coverage requirements who hate medical exams

Bestow is another technology-driven term life solution for cost-conscious policyholders keen on avoiding a medical exam at all costs.

The one-two punch of fully algorithmic underwriting and extremely competitive premiums is enough to land Bestow in our top 10 best companies for U.S. life insurance policyholders. But there’s more to love here, from the five-minute application process to Bestow’s association with two established, financially stable companies. You can apply for your policy offered by Bestow while you’re waiting in line for your morning latte.

Bestow has some notable drawbacks, including a maximum 20-year term and an apparent maximum benefit of $1 million, the industry-standard maximum for algorithmic underwriting. Bestow pushes its two-year term policies, which may not be appropriate for policyholders with long-term needs.

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2. Ladder

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A – Excellent (Policies offered by Ladder are provided through Fidelity Security Life Insurance Company, a company rated Excellent by A.M Best)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: Not rated
  • Life Insurance Complaints: Not available
  • Great For: Fast term life insurance approval; highly competitive rates

Ladder is a technology-driven term life insurance solution that does away with traditional insurance trappings. The underwriting process is seamless. You can complete the written application on your laptop or phone in about five minutes, and the health check – if you’re even required to get one – takes place in the comfort of your own home.

When you apply for a policy with Ladder, you won’t have to work through a commissioned agent or sales associate. You’ll get an underwriting decision within minutes and a final premium almost as soon as the results of your health check are in. The premium will be extremely cost-competitive, thanks to Ladder’s lean corporate structure. And Ladder allows policyholders to scale down their policy’s face value over time without taking out a new policy – a sort of on-the-fly insurance ladder.

Ladder does have some downsides. Though it offers terms up to 30 years, term life insurance is the only product it offers. If you’re interested in permanent or universal life, you’ll need another provider.

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3. Fabric

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ Superior (Policies offered by Fabric are provided through Vantis Life Insurance Company, a company rated Superior by A.M Best)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: Not rated
  • Life Insurance Complaints: Not available
  • Great For: Very competitive rates; user-friendly mobile app; high insurance limits

Fabric is another technology-driven life insurance solution with two distinct products: an accidental death policy called Fabric Instant and a term life policy called Fabric Premium.

Fabric Instant is an extremely affordable option for applicants who don’t need comprehensive term life coverage right away, but Fabric Premium is the undisputed star of the show here. With terms ranging from 10 to 20 years and death benefits up to $5 million per policy, it’s a fantastic choice for affluent (and upwardly mobile) policyholders with moderate to high insurance needs.

Fabric is also great for the paperwork-averse among us. The platform’s user-friendly mobile app has a slew of features missing from old-fashioned competitors’ digital dashboards, including the ability to share policy details with beneficiaries. And, if that’s not enough, Fabric has an affordable will-making solution that’s useful for anyone getting down to the nitty-gritty of estate planning.

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4. State Farm

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 5 out of 5 (Among the Best)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 47
  • Great For: Comprehensive range of solutions; above-and-beyond service

State Farm is an insurance juggernaut, offering pretty much every common type of consumer insurance under the sun. With near-flawless financial strength and an excellent reputation for above-and-beyond customer service, its life insurance vertical is particularly well-received by policyholders and beneficiaries alike.

State Farm offers term, whole, and universal life policies, plus some lower-cost niche products, such as final expenses insurance, which is suitable for older policyholders who’ve managed to build healthy-sized estates.

State Farm’s 10- to 30-year level term policies are relatively standard fare, with competitive – though not rock-bottom – pricing. Two other term products bear mention:

  • Return of premium coverage, a 20- or 30-year level term policy that eventually repays all premiums paid by policyholders who outlive the policy’s initial term
  • Instant Answer term insurance, a $50,000 policy that provides coverage for 10 years or up to age 50, whichever is longer, without traditional underwriting requirements (such as a medical exam)

Both of these term products cost more than State Farm’s standard level term policies – substantially more for return of premium coverage. But they may offer added peace of mind, and for return of premium policyholders who beat the odds, a nice financial benefit to boot. A return of premium policy returns premium payments to policyholders who outlive the policy’s term. If the policyholder does not outlive the policy’s term, their beneficiaries may receive a portion of premiums paid in addition to the death benefit.

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5. Pacific Life

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 3 out of 5 (About Average)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 17
  • Great For: Variety of permanent life insurance options; quality service

Pacific Life offers an above-average variety of permanent life insurance products, plus standard-fare term life insurance. The permanent products are worth a closer look:

  • Indexed Universal Life Insurance indexes the policy’s cash value to market instruments while offering guaranteed loss protection, increasing upside while limiting downside
  • Variable Universal Life Insurance provides a wider (though potentially riskier) variety of cash-value investing options
  • Standard Universal Life Insurance provides flexible premiums for more control over cash-value growth

On the term front, the PL Promise Term product offers level 10- to 30-year options with fluidless (abbreviated medical exam) underwriting for older policyholders. You can also convert it to a permanent policy. The Pacific Term ART is an annual-renewing policy with low starting premiums that increase every year – appropriate for short-term policyholders with more modest needs.

Pacific Life’s product mix alone makes it an excellent choice for life insurance customers, but the extremely low complaint ratio is worth calling out as well. If nothing else, you can expect to be treated fairly here.

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6. Lincoln Financial (Lincoln National)

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 3 out of 5 (About Average)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 55
  • Great For: Hands-on guidance during underwriting; multiple policy options

Lincoln Financial offers three distinct classes of life insurance: term, universal, and variable universal. More so than most life insurers, the company really seems to care about helping prospective policyholders make the right choice. Its website is rich with detail about policy types and does well to match common life and legacy goals with the appropriate coverage.

Lincoln Financial’s sales team is there if you need them, but you might not. The website is among the best corporate insurance research resources I’ve ever encountered.

As for the coverage itself, Lincoln Financial has a solid reputation for superior service and a legacy of financial stability. The Lincoln TermAccel® Level Term product, which may waive the medical exam requirement, is appropriate for younger policyholders with moderate insurance needs of less than $1 million.

The Lincoln LifeElements® Level Term product is designed for policyholders with higher insurance needs  — over $1 million for those under age 55 – though young, healthy applicants may also qualify for an exam waiver.

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7. Northwestern Mutual

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 4 out of 5 (Better Than Most)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 36
  • Great For: Stellar customer service; nice product variety

Northwestern Mutual underwrites term, whole, and universal life policies. Its universal options are worth a closer look – especially the single-premium product, which allows policyholders to pay a single one-time premium for a cash value policy that may grow over time. With no ongoing premiums to factor into your household budget, the concept is intriguing for those who’ve recently received or expect to receive a windfall. Then again, your windfall may perform better in a diversified securities portfolio, so consult a financial advisor before purchasing a single-premium policy.

Northwestern Mutual’s term options can be structured to last 10, 20, or 30 years or until a specified age, such as 70 or 80. All policies come with a conversion option.

Northwestern Mutual has a reputation for consistency and stability. The company has been in business for 160 years, so it’s fair to assume it’ll be around when it’s time to pay out your beneficiaries.

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8. MassMutual

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 3 out of 5 (About Average)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 32
  • Great For: Wide range of insurance options; cost-competitive policies through MassMutual Direct

With solid consumer satisfaction ratings, a paltry complaint-to-size ratio, and impeccable financial strength, MassMutual is a full-service insurer that’s easy to have confidence in. With term, permanent, universal, and variable life insurance options, it has something to offer any prospective policyholder.

As a traditional insurer, MassMutual makes it easy to buy life insurance through a licensed agent. But it’s even easier – and probably cheaper – to pick up term coverage through MassMutual Direct, the company’s middleman-free vertical. The MassMutual Direct simulations I ran were eye-opening, with premiums at or near the bottom of the pack.

MassMutual isn’t just a cost-competitive life insurance provider. It’s also a company you can feel good about doing business with. Ethisphere named MassMutual one of the world’s most ethical companies of 2019, and the organization scored a perfect 100 on the 2019 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.

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9. Haven Life

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior, via MassMutual)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: Not rated
  • Life Insurance Complaints: Not available
  • Great For: Fast term life underwriting; competitive premiums; big-company backup

Haven Life is a technology-driven life insurance startup backed by MassMutual, with all the heft and stability that entails.

Haven Life offers super-affordable term life insurance policies ranging from 10 to 30 years. The underwriting process is fast, with a digital application that takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. It’s also transparent – the intake screen shows actual premiums paid by real (anonymized) customers. Applicants under age 59 may be eligible to apply for up to $1 million in coverage without a medical exam, depending on health history and lifestyle.

Haven Life Plus, an optional policy rider, entitles participating policyholders to free or discounted perks like:

  • Aaptiv, a fitness app with thousands of original workouts and an impressive digital music library
  • Timeshifter, an app designed to fight jet lag – a lifesaver for frequent international travelers
  • A customizable, legally binding will that you can create and keep (securely) online
  • Lifesuite, a secure digital storage vault
  • Discounted services at MinuteClinic locations inside thousands of CVS and Target stores

Haven Life Plus is available in most states. Check the fine print on Haven’s website to confirm that you qualify.

As a subsidiary of MassMutual, Haven Life enjoys its parent company’s reputation as a corporate equity and diversity trailblazer. If you’re looking for a new way to do life insurance but don’t want to compromise your principles, Haven could be the provider you seek.

Since term life is its sole product, Haven Life isn’t appropriate for prospective policyholders seeking longer-term cash-value solutions. Fortunately, MassMutual is just around the digital corner.

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10. New York Life

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A++ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 4 out of 5 (Better Than Most)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 119
  • Great For: Stellar corporate reputation; quality service; wide range of products

New York Life offers term, whole, universal, and variable universal life insurance policies. The company’s reputation precedes it, and its excellent financial strength rating suggests policyholders have little to fear from its balance sheet. If the elevated complaint total gives you pause, remember that New York Life is one of the bigger underwriters on this list, and it’s tough to please every policyholder every time.

New York Life’s term policies include a standard 10- or 20-year level term convertible and an annual renewal policy that’s ideal for policyholders planning to convert to permanent life coverage within a few years.

Optional riders include Living Benefits, which facilitates the payout of a portion of the death benefit during the end stages of a terminal illness, and Spouse’s Paid-Up, which allows a policyholder’s spouse to use their policy’s benefits to open a new, no-exam-required policy with New York Life. Before purchasing either rider, consult a financial advisor or tax professional to talk through the implications, as these options may not be appropriate for all situations.

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11. Nationwide

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 4 out of 5 (Better Than Most)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 34
  • Great For: Wide variety of universal and variable universal products

Nationwide offers term, whole, universal, and variable universal life insurance policies. Its term life offerings are limited to a single level term product with terms ranging from 10 to 30 years – a fine choice for prospective policyholders with straightforward needs, if not particularly innovative. Its whole life offerings include a level-premium product with coverage through age 100 and a “20-pay” product, which requires 20 years of correspondingly higher premiums, after which no further payment is required.

Nationwide’s wheelhouse appears to be universal and variable universal life insurance. Between the two, Nationwide offers roughly 10 different products, some of which appear relatively novel. There’s a ton of detail about these products on the company’s website – check out the universal and variable universal pages for yourself.

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12. Brighthouse Financial

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A (Excellent)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 2 out of 5 (The Rest)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 61
  • Great For: Higher coverage limits; deluxe products with long-term care components

Brighthouse Financial is not the most affordable insurer on this list. But it makes up for that deficit with high coverage limits  — term benefits begin at $1 million, the upper limit for algorithmic underwriting – and deluxe policy options.

Brighthouse’s most cost-effective product is a guaranteed level term policy with terms ranging from 10 to 30 years. Available only through a financial professional, such as a certified financial planner or wealth manager, it’s designed for relatively affluent policyholders with complex financial needs. The required middleman may increase policy costs, but the opportunity to talk through your insurance needs with someone who knows the business better than you could be invaluable in the long run.

Younger policyholders seeking coverage for life can take advantage of Brighthouse’s flexible permanent life solution, though you’ll want to discuss its advantages and drawbacks with your financial professional. The cash value component may be overkill if you’re able to accumulate an ample nest egg as you age.

If you’re concerned about the potential financial strain of a long, slow decline, consider Brighthouse’s SmartCare product. It’s a permanent life product that covers the cost of long-term care if and when you need it – and if you don’t, your heirs will enjoy a correspondingly larger death benefit.

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13. Mutual of Omaha

  • A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating: A+ (Superior)
  • J.D. Power Overall Satisfaction Rating: 4 out of 5 (Better Than Most)
  • Life Insurance Complaints: 56
  • Great For: A wide range of options beyond term life

Mutual of Omaha offers term, whole, and universal life policies in a variety of configurations. With four distinct products, the universal side is worth a closer look.

Policyholders prioritizing growth above death benefit protection can take advantage of the Income Advantage product, which offers long-term indexed growth with downside protection. Those seeking a predictable lifetime death benefit should check out the Guaranteed Universal Life option, which guarantees a set benefit and may accumulate cash value over time. The AccumUL product takes a hybrid approach, blending the opportunity for real growth with a guaranteed minimum earning rate.

Don’t sleep on Mutual of Omaha’s term life policies, though. With terms ranging from 10 to 30 years, issues up to age 80 in some states, and conversion potential, they’re unusually versatile. Coverage begins at $100,000, and a medical exam may not be required for policies under $1 million, though the final determination depends on your age, lifestyle, and medical history.

Mutual of Omaha is a good company to do business with. Customers surveyed by J.D. Power give it high marks, and the moderate number of complaints is tempered by the company’s size and reach. Like other blue-chip insurers on this list, its strong financial position and long operating history bode well for current and prospective policyholders.

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Final Word

Even by the insurance industry’s staid standards, life insurance is a low-key business. Although some of the companies on this list are massive entities with household-name status, their high public profiles belie a quiet determination to do right by their customers. Each life insurance giant on this list employs thousands of dedicated professionals who, by and large, come to work each day prepared to deliver value for policyholders.

They’re joined in spirit by peers at a growing number of smaller, nimbler life insurance enterprises, such as Haven Life, Bestow, and Ladder. If none of these companies are committed to entirely breaking the life insurance mold, each is certainly doing its part to reshape it.

Whether you’re inclined to go with a recognized incumbent or a technology-driven mold-shaper, one thing is for sure: You’ve got plenty of high-quality life insurance options to choose from.

Who is your life insurance carrier? What do you like about them?

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