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You can buy term life insurance in a variety of ways: directly from an insurance company, through an agent or a broker, or online.
Term life is a relatively simple form of coverage. It lasts for a set period of time, such as 10 or 20 years, and pays out a death benefit to your life insurance beneficiaries if you die within the term.
This type of coverage is generally cheaper and easier to apply for than permanent life insurance like whole life, which usually pays out regardless of when you die and typically includes a cash value account.
Learn more about how and where to buy term life before you start shopping.
» MORE: Term life insurance definition
Where to buy term life insurance
The simplicity of term life means it can be sold from a variety of sources. Depending on your coverage needs and personal preferences, one method may appeal more than the others.
Buying term life online or through an app
Many insurers, brokerage firms and agencies allow you to shop for and buy term life policies online or with an app.
Some of these companies use accelerated underwriting, which employs algorithms to calculate your life expectancy instead of relying on traditional medical exams. This means qualifying healthy applicants can skip the exam and get instant life insurance coverage.
Buying coverage online may take just minutes. Take the time to read through the terms of the policy before finalizing your purchase, and reach out to the seller if you have questions.
Using an agent or a broker to buy term life
A captive life insurance agent sells policies from one company only, which is useful if you want coverage from a particular insurer. In contrast, a broker or an independent agent can sell policies from various companies, so you can compare life insurance quotes from a range of insurers.
If you decide to work with a broker or an agent, you’ll want to find someone who’ll take the time to help you understand what kind of term policy you’re buying and answer any questions you have.
Insurance agents and brokers must be licensed by the state they do business in. You can check whether they’re licensed on your state’s department of insurance website.
Consider working with an agent or a broker who has the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation. This means they have demonstrated expertise with life insurance.
Buying term life directly from the insurer
In many cases, you can go straight to an insurer and buy coverage through the company’s website, over the phone or in person. When choosing a company, check its financial strength rating. This rating indicates the insurer’s ability to pay out claims in the future. You can look up financial strength ratings through agencies like AM Best, Fitch, Moody's and S&P Global. All of the insurers on our best life insurance companies list have an AM Best rating of A+ or higher.
Some companies sell products that are underwritten by other insurers. You'll want to check the financial strength of the company that issues the policy, not just the company that sells the coverage.
You can also check an insurer’s complaint history through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The NAIC keeps a record of complaints filed with state regulators, so you can see whether other customers had difficult experiences.
Things to consider when shopping for term life
When comparing insurers, provide thorough, updated information — particularly about your health — to get the most accurate term life quotes. Note that your quote may be different from the final price. The rule for life insurance is: The younger and healthier you are, the lower your premium. When you complete a life insurance application, you may have to get a medical exam to see the final price.
Term life coverage will usually lapse if you miss a payment. So once you get a quote, make sure the insurance premiums fit in your budget.
If you’re not sure how much life insurance you need, you can use online calculators to help you determine the best coverage amount for you and your family.
More about term life insurance
Learn more about term life insurance with these useful resources: