How to Buy Term Life Insurance

You can buy term life online, from an agent or broker, or directly from the insurer.
Georgia Rose
By Georgia Rose 
Edited by Lisa Green

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You can buy term life insurance in a variety of ways: directly from an insurance company, through an agent or 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 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.

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

Many insurers, brokerage firms and agencies allow you to shop for and buy term life policies online.

Some of these companies use accelerated underwriting, which employs algorithms to calculate your life expectancy instead of traditional medical exams. This means qualifying healthy applicants can skip the exam and get instant life insurance coverage.

Nerdy tip: Buying coverage online may take just a day, so use 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 broker to buy term life

If you’re not sure which type of life insurance you need, a life insurance agent or broker can help you find the right policy.

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 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 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 if they’re licensed on your state’s department of insurance website.

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 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 if other customers had difficult experiences.

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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. Keep in mind that your quote may be different from the final price. The rule of thumb 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.

In many cases, term life coverage can 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.

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