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The Best Life Insurance Companies for 2020

Northwestern Mutual, Haven, MassMutual and Guardian are the best life insurance companies among those we scored.
Sept. 10, 2020
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.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, not all companies are accepting new life insurance 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
*USAA is available only to active military, veterans and their families.
Northwestern Mutual
5.0 NerdWallet rating
Haven
5.0 NerdWallet rating
MassMutual
5.0 NerdWallet rating
Guardian
5.0 NerdWallet rating
AARP
4.5 NerdWallet rating
New York Life
4.5 NerdWallet rating
State Farm
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Pacific Life
4.5 NerdWallet rating
Penn Mutual
4.5 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
USAA*
5.0 NerdWallet rating

» MORE: Compare life insurance quotes

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: Financial strength is especially important for life insurance companies because you’ll want a company that can pay claims many years down the road. Financial strength ratings 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 get term life insurance quotes from multiple insurers.

Evaluate product selections: There are two main types of life insurance, term and permanent. Term life insurance lasts a set number of years and is typically sufficient for most families. Permanent life insurance lasts your entire life and often includes an investment component. Under the umbrella of permanent life insurance, there are several different types of policies, such as whole life and universal life. Although many companies sell similar policies, some focus on certain products, such as whole life insurance, or on particular customers, such as seniors. 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., with 10.3% of market share in 2019. The company offers a wide range of products, such as term life, universal life and whole life insurance. Perks enjoyed by Northwestern Mutual customers include flexible payment and coverage options, as well as the opportunity to convert a term life policy to permanent coverage without taking a medical exam.

» MORE: Northwestern Mutual 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 just 25 minutes. Coverage amounts can reach as high as $3 million, making Haven Life a great choice if you’re looking for fast, comprehensive coverage. 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 with 6.4% of market share in 2019. The company offers an impressive 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

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

AARP

4.5 NerdWallet rating

AARP life insurance policies are available only to the group’s members, but the good news is 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 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., with 7% of the market share in 2019. 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 before it expires. State Farm’s permanent policies include whole life, universal life and variable universal life insurance.

» MORE: State Farm 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 and indexed 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. But don’t worry if the stock market takes a dip, because Pacific Life’s insurance policy has a guaranteed floor. This means your cash value won’t go below a certain value if the 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 in buying a term life insurance policy from Penn Mutual is the option to convert it to permanent coverage without needing to provide proof of good health.

» MORE: Penn Mutual life 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, universal life and whole life, as well as a range of life insurance riders, such as a children’s term and a waiver of premium. 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. But unlike Banner, Ethos focuses on term life insurance only. The company says its speedy online application process means you can apply for coverage in just 10 minutes. If you have any questions about your application, you can reach out to representatives by phone, text or email. The company’s underwriting process uses data to calculate rates, such as your driving record, medical history and drug prescriptions. Depending on the results, you may not be required to take a medical exam. In addition, all policies include an accelerated death benefit, which allows you to access 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 term 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 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 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 nine 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 policy, you may be able to add a child rider, waiver of premium rider or an accelerated death benefits rider to your coverage.

» MORE: Securian Financial insurance review

USAA

5.0 NerdWallet rating

USAA offers both permanent and term life insurance products to military members and their families. NerdWallet doesn’t rank USAA alongside other insurers because it isn’t available to everyone.

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. Members can also increase their coverage amount if they get married, buy a house or have a baby.

» MORE: USAA insurance review

METHODOLOGY: LIFE INSURANCE RATINGS

NerdWallet’s life insurance ratings are based on weighted averages of complaint index scores from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) for individual life insurance, and financial strength ratings from A.M. Best. NAIC ratings measure each company’s share of complaints to state regulators relative to its share of total market premiums. We calculated each insurer’s complaint index, weighted for the market share of its subsidiaries, over a three-year period (2016-2018). We then adjusted those scores to a curved 5-point scale. A.M. Best ratings indicate a company’s ability to pay future claims. We scored companies within the range of 0 to 2.51 against 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.