Advertiser Disclosure

The Best Life Insurance Companies for 2021

Northwestern Mutual, Guardian, Haven, MassMutual and USAA are among the best life insurance companies we scored.
Jan. 4, 2021
Insurance, Life Insurance
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
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.

Finding the best life insurance company involves weighing customer service data and the insurer’s financial strength. Hundreds of life insurance companies compete for your business, often selling very similar products, so it’s smart to get life insurance quotes from at least a few before making a decision.


To help you evaluate your options, NerdWallet scores companies that sell life insurance policies to individuals.

Based on our calculations, here are the best life insurance companies in the U.S. You can learn more about each company by clicking on the NerdWallet reviews below.

The best life insurance companies

CompanyNerdWallet rating
Northwestern Mutual
5.0 NerdWallet rating
Guardian
5.0 NerdWallet rating
Haven Life
5.0 NerdWallet rating
MassMutual
5.0 NerdWallet rating
USAA
5.0 NerdWallet rating
AARP
4.5 NerdWallet rating
New York Life
4.5 NerdWallet rating
State Farm
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Country Financial
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Pacific Life
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Penn Mutual
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Amica
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Auto-Owners
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Principal Financial
4.0 NerdWallet rating
RiverSource
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Banner
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Ethos
4.0 NerdWallet rating
John Hancock
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Lincoln Financial Group
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Nationwide
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Prudential
4.0 NerdWallet rating
Securian
4.0 NerdWallet rating

How to choose the best life insurance company for you

Look at customer satisfaction scores: Other customers’ experiences can help you decide whether you want to do business with a company. You can get clues about an insurer’s reputation through complaints filed with state regulators, which are visible on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website.

Consider financial strength: It’s especially important to look into life insurance companies’ financial strength because you’ll want a company that can pay claims many years down the road. Financial strength ratings for life insurance companies are available through ratings agencies like A.M. Best. We don’t recommend considering insurers with an A.M. Best rating of B or lower.

Get prices: The cost of coverage varies among companies, so it’s smart to compare prices. You can use NerdWallet’s tool to compare life insurance quotes from multiple insurers.

Evaluate product selections: There are two main types of life insurance, term and permanent.

Although many companies sell similar policies, some focus on certain products, such as whole life, or on particular customers, such as seniors who need life insurance. You can narrow down your options by focusing on the companies that specialize in the type of insurance you’re looking for.

More about the best life insurance companies

An insurer’s customer complaint ratio is one of the metrics NerdWallet uses to rate a company’s offerings. All of the companies listed below have drawn fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for insurers of their size, according to three years’ worth of data from the NAIC.

Northwestern Mutual

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Northwestern Mutual is the largest life insurance company in the U.S. The company offers a wide range of products, such as term life, universal life and whole life insurance. Universal life policyholders have flexible payment and coverage options, while term life customers have the opportunity to convert their policy to permanent coverage without taking a medical exam.

» MORE: Northwestern Mutual life insurance review

Guardian

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Guardian offers both term and permanent life insurance policies, including whole life and universal life. One of the perks of Guardian’s universal coverage is the ability to increase or decrease your premiums to fit your needs.

The company also offers whole life insurance for individuals living with HIV. Applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for coverage, such as being between the ages of 20 and 60 and free from AIDS-defining illnesses.

» MORE: Guardian life insurance review

Haven Life

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Haven Life offers term life insurance with accelerated underwriting, a process that uses algorithms and big data to quickly assess your insurability. The entire application process is conducted online and can be completed in about 25 minutes. Coverage amounts can reach as high as $3 million. All of Haven Life’s policies are issued by MassMutual.

» MORE: Haven Life insurance review

MassMutual

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., often shortened to MassMutual, is one of the largest life insurers in the country. The company offers a wide range of products, from online term life insurance to variable universal life — a type of permanent policy with flexible premiums and investment opportunities. Other policies include universal life, whole life and standard term life.

» MORE: MassMutual life insurance review

USAA

5.0 NerdWallet rating

USAA offers both permanent and term life insurance specifically designed for military members and their families, and its life insurance products are available to nonmilitary customers as well.

USAA policies can be used to supplement the government-provided Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, which is automatically issued to eligible military personnel. USAA’s term life insurance policies typically cover you during wartime, including acts of terrorism. Policyholders between 18 and 35 years old can also increase their coverage amount if they get married, buy a house or have a baby.

» MORE: USAA life insurance review

AARP

4.5 NerdWallet rating

AARP life insurance policies are available only to the group’s members, but anyone 50 or older can join. One of the company’s biggest draws is its simplified underwriting, which means you don’t have to take a life insurance medical exam to qualify for coverage. Instead, acceptance is based on your application and information about your health. Both term and whole life products are available. All policies are issued by New York Life.

» MORE: AARP life insurance review

New York Life

4.5 NerdWallet rating

New York Life is a mutual company, which means it’s owned by its policyholders. As such, you may be eligible to vote in board elections if you buy certain policies. The company is one of the largest insurers in the U.S. It offers both term and permanent life insurance policies, such as whole life, universal life and variable universal life. One of its whole life policies includes a flexible payment option, allowing you to pay off your premiums early. You can also convert your term life policy to a permanent one if you want lifelong coverage.

» MORE: New York Life insurance review

State Farm

4.5 NerdWallet rating

When you think of State Farm, you probably think of its auto insurance products, but it also offers a wide range of life insurance policies and riders. For example, its instant life insurance policy is available for people ages 16 to 45, includes $50,000 of coverage and doesn’t require a medical exam. Furthermore, you may be able to convert your term policy to a permanent product when it expires. State Farm’s permanent policies include whole life and universal life insurance.

» MORE: State Farm life insurance review

Country Financial

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Started by Illinois farmers, Country Financial sells a broad range of insurance products, including term, whole and universal life. Its term life amounts range from $50,000 to more than $1 million and you can add extras to your policy, such as $50,000 of coverage for a child or a return-of-premium rider. This rider means you get back any paid premiums on a 20- or 30-year policy if you’re still around after it expires. The company’s whole life product gives you five payment options, such as paying your premiums in one lump sum or stretching them out over the length of the policy.

» MORE: Country Financial insurance review

Pacific Life

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Pacific Life was founded in 1868 and offers a wide range of term and permanent products, including term life, universal life, indexed universal life and variable universal life insurance. In fact, Pacific Life is a top seller of indexed universal life insurance, which grows investments based on stock market indexes like the S&P 500. Pacific Life’s policy has a guaranteed floor, which means your life insurance cash value won’t go below a certain value if the stock market dives.

» MORE: Pacific Life insurance review

Penn Mutual

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Similar to other mutual companies, Penn Mutual is owned by its policyholders, which means customers who purchase whole life insurance can receive dividends when the company performs well. Founded in 1847, Penn Mutual sells both term and permanent life insurance. One of the perks of buying Penn Mutual’s Guaranteed Convertible Term policy is the option to convert it to permanent coverage without needing to provide proof of good health.

» MORE: Penn Mutual life insurance review

Amica

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Chartered in 1969, Amica Life Insurance Company sells term and whole life policies in all U.S. states except Hawaii. Its term life policy comes in 10-, 15-, 20-, 25- and 30-year terms and can be converted to a whole life policy regardless of changes to your health. In addition, healthy applicants may not need to take a medical exam to qualify for coverage. Amica’s whole life policy ranges from $25,000 to $1 million and includes a terminal illness rider free of charge. This rider allows you to withdraw part of the death benefit early if you become terminally ill.

» MORE: Amica insurance review

Auto-Owners

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Auto-Owners’ 48,000 licensed agents offer a range of insurance products across 26 states. Its life insurance products include term, whole and universal life, as well as long-term care policies. For term policies, you can choose among 10-, 20- or 30-year term lengths. The company’s whole life insurance covers you until you’re 110 and has flexible payment options. Multiple family members can be insured under Auto-Owners’ universal policy, which can then be converted to an individual policy if needed.

» MORE: Auto-Owners insurance review

Principal Financial

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Principal Financial offers both term and permanent life insurance, including survivorship insurance, which is a type of life insurance for married couples. The company’s term life policies come in a variety of lengths, ranging from one to 30 years. In addition, you can convert your term life policy to permanent coverage without providing additional proof of good health.

» MORE: Principal Financial life insurance review

RiverSource

4.0 NerdWallet rating

RiverSource is an affiliate of Ameriprise Financial and sells both term and permanent life insurance to individuals. Its term life products are available in 10-, 15-, 20- and 30-year options, and premiums are guaranteed to stay the same for the length of the policy. RiverSource also offers an extensive range of permanent life insurance policies including universal, indexed universal and variable universal for anyone looking for coverage with an investment component.

» MORE: RiverSource life insurance review

Banner

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Banner life insurance is sold under the Legal & General brand and is available in Washington, D.C., and all states except New York. If you’re looking for coverage in New York, check out the company’s sister brand, William Penn. Banner’s product list includes term life and universal life, as well as a range of life insurance riders, such as children’s term coverage and a waiver of premium if you become totally disabled. While many insurers cap their term limits at around 30 years, Banner offers 35- and 40-year options.

» MORE: Banner life insurance review

Ethos

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Ethos life insurance policies are issued by Banner, under the Legal & General brand, and AAA Life Insurance Company. The company says its speedy online application process for term life policies means you can apply for coverage in about 10 minutes. If you have any questions about your application, you can reach out to representatives by phone or email. Ethos’ whole life policy is issued by AAA Life Insurance and guarantees coverage in minutes if you’re between 65 and 85, regardless of your health. All policies include an accelerated death benefit, which allows you to take part of the death benefit early if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness.

» MORE: Ethos life insurance review

John Hancock

4.0 NerdWallet rating

John Hancock is the U.S. division of Canada-based Manulife Financial Corp. It offers both term and permanent policies, as well as specific coverage for people with diabetes. One of the benefits of buying a life insurance policy through John Hancock is its Vitality Program. Policyholders get access to fitness and nutritional information through an app, as well as discounts and rewards for adopting healthy habits.

» MORE: John Hancock life insurance review

Lincoln Financial Group

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Lincoln Financial offers both term and permanent life insurance, including universal, variable universal and indexed universal policies. If you’re looking for quick coverage, the company’s TermAccel life product might be of interest. Coverage can be purchased after completing a short phone interview, and a medical exam may not be required. Fun fact: In 1905, the company got permission to use the former president’s name and image from Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln.

» MORE: Lincoln Financial Group life insurance review

Nationwide

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Nationwide is typically known for car insurance, so you may be surprised to learn it also offers a full range of life insurance products, such as term life, whole life, variable life and universal life. The company’s term life policies are available in 10-, 15-, 20- or 30-year increments, with the option to convert to a permanent policy if you want lifelong coverage. Nationwide term life products also include level premiums, which means they won’t increase over time. And if you want to extend your term life coverage, renewal options are available.

» MORE: Nationwide life insurance review

Prudential

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Prudential offers both term and universal life insurance products with options to customize coverage to fit your needs. For example, the company allows you to tailor your term policy with riders that cover accidental deaths, terminal illnesses and disabilities. Plus, Prudential offers multiple types of permanent life insurance products, with varying degrees of investment opportunities.

» MORE: Prudential life insurance review

Securian Financial

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Securian Financial, previously known as Minnesota Life Insurance Co., sells term and permanent life insurance policies, including whole and universal life. The company’s whole life policy provides a fixed premium and guaranteed death benefit, while its universal life insurance policy allows you to modify your premium and coverage amounts as your needs change. Depending on the type of term policy you buy, you may be able to convert your coverage to permanent insurance even if you have a chronic illness.

» MORE: Securian Financial insurance review

Methodology: Life insurance ratings

NerdWallet’s life insurance ratings are based on weighted averages of financial strength ratings, which indicate a company’s ability to pay future claims, and complaint index scores from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for individual life insurance. To calculate each insurer’s rating, we adjusted the scores to a curved 5-point scale.

These ratings are a guide, but we encourage you to shop around and compare several insurance quotes to find the best rate for you. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for any reviews.

Insurer complaints methodology

NerdWallet examined complaints received by state insurance regulators and reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2016-2018. To assess how insurers compare to one another, the NAIC calculates a complaint index each year for each subsidiary, measuring its share of total complaints relative to its size, or share of total premiums in the industry. To evaluate a company’s complaint history, NerdWallet calculated a similar index for each insurer, weighted by market shares of each subsidiary, over the three-year period. Ratios are determined separately for auto, home (including renters and condo) and life insurance.

About the author