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Best Life Insurance Companies for 2021

Northwestern Mutual, Guardian, Haven and MassMutual are among the best life insurance companies we scored.
Oct. 18, 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.

Finding the best life insurance company involves weighing customer service data and the insurer’s financial strength. To help you evaluate your options, NerdWallet scores companies based on those factors. Check out our top life insurance companies for 2021 below.

Best life insurance companies for 2021

All of the companies listed below scored at least 4.5 out of 5 stars. 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.

Insurance companyNerdWallet ratingPolicy typesLearn more
Northwestern Mutual
Term, whole and universal.Northwestern Mutual full review
Guardian
Term, whole and universal.Guardian full review
Haven Life
Term.Haven Life full review
MassMutual
Term, whole, universal and variable universal.MassMutual full review
AARP
Term and whole.AARP full review
Auto-Owners
Term, whole and universal.Auto-Owners full review
New York Life
Term, whole, universal and variable universal.New York Life full review
State Farm
Term, whole and universal.State Farm full review
USAA
Term, whole and universal.USAA full review
Pacific Life
Term, whole, universal, variable universal and indexed universal.Pacific Life full review

How we ranked the top life insurers

NerdWallet’s life insurance ratings are determined by our editorial team. Star 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.

Best life insurance companies: Pros and cons

Learn more about each company in our top 10 list by reading the brief summaries below and checking out the NerdWallet review links.


Northwestern Mutual

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Great for consumer experience: Northwestern Mutual received significantly fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company of its size, making it a trustworthy choice for shoppers.

Policy types: Term, whole and universal.

Pros: Northwestern Mutual has a top-tier financial strength rating, and the company ranked high for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Life Insurance Study.

Cons: It’s hard to find coverage specifics like issue age ranges, coverage limits and available riders for whole and universal life policies on Northwestern Mutual’s website.

Company overview: Founded in 1857, Northwestern Mutual is the largest seller of individual life insurance in the United States, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. 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. The company expects to pay $6.2 billion in dividends to qualifying policyholders in 2021.

» Read the full review: Northwestern Mutual life insurance


Guardian

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Great for applicants with a history of HIV: Guardian not only sells a range of standard policies but also offers term and whole life insurance for people living with HIV. Applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for this coverage.

Policy types: Term, whole and universal.

Pros: You can get a quote online without entering your contact details and toggle between different coverage amounts to see your estimated premium.

Cons: Guardian scored below average in J.D. Power’s 2021 customer satisfaction study for life insurance.

Company overview: Guardian was founded in 1860 and has continued to pay dividends to its eligible policyholders since 1868. The insurer drew significantly fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company its size. Aside from life insurance, Guardian also sells a range of products including dental, vision and cancer insurance.

» Read the full review: Guardian life insurance


Haven Life

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Great for instant coverage: You can apply for a policy online and if approved, coverage can start the same day.   

Policy types: Term.

Pros: You may be able to get up to $1 million in term coverage on the same day, and it can reach as high as $3 million with standard applications.

Cons: The company does not sell permanent life insurance.

Company overview: Haven Life offers term life insurance with accelerated underwriting, a process that uses algorithms and data to quickly assess your insurability. The entire application process is conducted online and can be completed in about 25 minutes. Haven Life’s policies are issued by MassMutual, which drew significantly fewer than expected customer complaints for a company of its size.

» Read the full review: Haven Life insurance


MassMutual

5.0 NerdWallet rating

Great for seniors: The issue age for whole life policies can reach 90, making it a great option for older applicants.

Policy types: Term, whole, universal and variable universal.

Pros: You can apply online for coverage. If you need to complete a medical exam, MassMutual provides temporary coverage while the process is completed.

Cons: Online quotes are available only for term life. You have to contact MassMutual for whole, universal and variable universal quotes.

Company overview: Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., often shortened to MassMutual, is one of the largest life insurers in the country. Founded in 1851, it offers a wide range of products, from term life insurance to variable universal life — a type of permanent policy with flexible premiums and investment opportunities. MassMutual is a mutual company, which means it’s owned in part by its policyholders and pays out dividends to qualifying members.

» Read the full review: MassMutual life insurance


AARP

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Great for skipping the medical exam: AARP doesn’t require you to take a medical exam to qualify for its life insurance policies, which makes it a great choice for members who want to skip the physical.

Policy types: Term and whole.

Pros: If you’re an AARP member from 50 to 74 years old, you can qualify for the company’s guaranteed acceptance life insurance policy regardless of your health. Coverage amounts can reach $25,000 and premiums stay the same throughout the length of the policy.

Cons: Term life premiums are not level, which means they increase over time.

Company overview: AARP life insurance policies are available to the group’s members 50 and older. 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. Acceptance for some policies may be based on information about your health. All policies are issued by New York Life.

» Read the full review: AARP life insurance


Auto-Owners

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Great for term riders: Auto-Owners’ term life policy comes with the option of adding a disability premium waiver rider, accidental death benefit rider, child term rider and guaranteed renewability benefit rider.

Policy types: Term, whole and universal.

Pros: Multiple family members can be insured under Auto-Owners’ universal policy, which can be converted to individual policies without requiring proof of good health.

Cons: The website has limited information about Auto-Owners’ life insurance policies, and the company sells coverage in only 26 states.

Company overview: Auto-Owners’ 48,000 licensed agents offer a range of insurance products including term, whole and universal life. For term policies, you can choose among 10-, 20- or 30-year lengths. The company’s whole life insurance covers you until you’re 110 and has flexible payment options.

» Read the full review: Auto-Owners insurance


New York Life

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Great for high coverage amounts: The company’s Million Plus Level Term 10 policy has a minimum death benefit of $1 million. 

Policy types: Term, whole, universal and variable universal.

Pros: New York Life offers a wide range of coverage types, from annual term policies to variable universal life insurance. It also ranked above average in J.D. Power’s 2021 customer satisfaction study for life insurance.

Cons: You can’t get a quote online without entering your contact details. Premiums for New York Life’s term life policies are level for a set period of time, after which they gradually increase.

Company overview: 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. and drew fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company of its size. One of its whole life policies includes a flexible payment option, allowing you to pay off your premiums early.

» Read the full review: New York Life insurance


State Farm

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Great for customer satisfaction: State Farm ranked first out of 23 companies in J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Life Insurance Study for customer satisfaction.

Policy types: Term, whole and universal.

Pros: The company offers multiple life insurance riders on select policies. The company’s universal life insurance is available to applicants up to 85 years old.

Cons: Some policies are not available in Massachusetts. You have to contact a State Farm agent to get a quote.

Company overview: When you think of State Farm, you probably think of its auto insurance products. But it also offers a decent range of life insurance policies, including return of premium term life — if you outlive the term, you get a refund of the premiums you paid into the policy. State Farm also offers a single-premium option for its whole life policy, and a final expense policy that can help cover funeral costs.

» Read the full review: State Farm life insurance


USAA

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Great for members of the military: USAA specializes in coverage for active-duty military personnel and veterans. 

Policy types: Term, whole and universal.

Pros: Unlike most life insurance products, USAA’s term life covers active military members during wartime, including acts of terrorism.

Cons: Some coverage options are not available in New York or Montana.

Company overview: USAA was founded in 1922 and offers life insurance for veterans, active military and civilians. Its policies can be used to supplement the government-provided Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, which is automatically issued to eligible military personnel. Policyholders ages 18 to 35 can increase their coverage amount if they get married, buy a house or have a baby.

» Read the full review: USAA life insurance


Pacific Life

4.5 NerdWallet rating

Great for choice: Pacific Life offers a wide selection of coverage types including term, whole, universal, variable universal and indexed universal. 

Policy types: Term, whole, universal, variable universal and indexed universal.

Pros: The company’s website provides detailed brochures on each type of policy it sells.

Cons: Some policies are not available in New York.

Company overview: Pacific Life has been in business for more than 150 years. It has drawn significantly fewer complaints than expected for a company of its size over the past three years. Among Pacific Life’s range of policies is the company’s indexed universal life insurance. These policies grow investments based on stock market indexes like the S&P 500. They also have a guaranteed floor, which means your life insurance cash value won’t fall below a certain value if the stock market dives.

» Read the full review: Pacific Life insurance


How to choose the best life insurance company

Follow these four steps to find the best life insurance company for your family.

1. 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. All of the companies listed above have had fewer complaints to state regulators than expected for insurers of their size, according to three years’ worth of data from the NAIC.

2. 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. NerdWallet’s insurance reviews use weighted averages of financial strength ratings. For additional information about life insurance companies, try a ratings agency like A.M. Best — we don’t recommend considering insurers with an A.M. Best rating of B or lower.

3. Evaluate product selections: Term and permanent are the two main types of life insurance.

  • 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.

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

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.

Methodology: Insurer complaints

NerdWallet examined complaints received by state insurance regulators and reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2018-2020. 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.

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