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Average Life Insurance Rates for 2021

Jan. 28, 2021
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If you’re looking for life insurance, there are dozens of companies, term lengths and coverage amounts to choose from.

Price will no doubt factor into your decision and may even determine what type of policy you choose. For a snapshot of those prices, NerdWallet compared average life insurance rates for men and women at different ages and health tiers, across multiple coverage options.

How much is life insurance?

The average cost of life insurance is $26 a month. This is based on data provided by Quotacy for a 40-year-old buying a 20-year term life policy, which is the most common term length sold. But life insurance rates can vary dramatically among applicants, insurers and policy types.

» COMPARE: Life insurance quotes

How life insurance rates are determined

Life insurance premiums are based primarily on life expectancy, so many factors help determine rates, including gender, age, health and whether you smoke.

In general, the healthier you are, the cheaper your premiums. Insurers typically class applicants using terms like super preferred, preferred and standard, with super preferred being the healthiest category. Insurers then calculate premiums based on your risk class.

The type of life insurance you choose also affects your rates:

  • Term life insurance is the least expensive because it lasts a set number of years and all you’re getting is insurance. 
  • Permanent life insurance lasts a lifetime and includes an investment portion that can be used later in life. Because of this extra cash component, you’ll pay substantially more for permanent policies than for term life policies.

» MORE: Key differences between term and whole life insurance

Our life insurance cost calculator can help you estimate how much a term life policy could cost, based on national averages. For permanent policies such as whole life insurance, contact an independent financial advisor.

Your age can also significantly affect premium costs. The older you are, the more likely you are to die soon, which means life insurers view you as a bigger risk. That’s why it’s wise to buy life insurance as early as possible; the longer you wait, the more your rates will increase based solely on age.

You’ll also find differences in pricing based on gender, though these are often reflections of age. Because they have longer life expectancies, women will almost always pay less than men of the same age and health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy in the U.S. is 81.2 years for women and 76.2 years for men. 

Waiting to buy a policy will always be more expensive. For example, consider a 30-year-old who waits to buy a policy:

  • At age 40, a 20-year, $500,000 term life insurance policy will cost about $100 more per year.
  • By age 50, annual rates for a 20-year, $500,000 term life policy will more than triple.

Average cost of life insurance by age and gender

These annual life insurance rates are based on a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy for super preferred applicants.

AgeAverage annual rate for menAverage annual rate for women
Source: Quotacy

Average cost of life insurance by policy type

These annual life insurance rates are based on a $500,000 policy for super preferred applicants.

 20-year term lifeWhole life
AgeAverage annual rate for menAverage annual rate for womenAverage annual rate for menAverage annual rate for women
Source: Quotacy

Average cost of life insurance by health

These annual life insurance rates are based on a $500,000, 20-year term life policy.

GenderAgeSuper preferredPreferredStandard
Source: Quotacy 

Average cost of life insurance by term length

These annual life insurance rates are based on a $500,000 term life policy for a 40-year-old applicant in the super preferred class.

Term lengthAverage annual rate for menAverage annual rate for women
10 years$211$185
20 years$341$289
30 years$595$478
Source: Quotacy
Shopping for life insurance during the pandemic? Be aware that insurers may have changed their products and policy applications. For the latest information on how to cope with financial stress during this emergency, see NerdWallet’s financial guide to COVID-19.

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