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The Best Life Insurance Companies for 2021

Northwestern Mutual, Guardian, Haven and MassMutual are among the best life insurance companies we scored.
July 22, 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.

The best life insurance companies

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

You can learn more about each company by reading the brief summaries below and by clicking on the NerdWallet review links.

Northwestern Mutual

5.0 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: Northwestern Mutual, the largest insurer in the nation for individual life insurance, ranked high for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Life Insurance Study. 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.

» Read the full review: Northwestern Mutual life insurance


5.0 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: Guardian offers term and permanent life insurance policies, including whole life and universal life. A perk of Guardian’s universal coverage is the ability to increase or decrease your premiums to fit your needs. The company also offers term and whole life insurance for people living with HIV. Applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for this coverage, such as being between the ages of 20 and 60 and free from AIDS-defining illnesses.

» Read the full review: Guardian life insurance

Haven Life

5.0 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: 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. Coverage amounts can reach as high as $3 million. All of Haven Life’s policies are issued by MassMutual.

» Read the full review: Haven Life insurance


5.0 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: 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 term life insurance to variable universal life — a type of permanent policy with flexible premiums and investment opportunities. Other policies include universal life and whole life.

» Read the full review: MassMutual life insurance


4.5 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: AARP life insurance policies are available to the group’s members only, 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.

» Read the full review: AARP life insurance


4.5 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: 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. 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. Multiple family members can be insured under Auto-Owners’ universal policy, which can be converted to an individual policy.

» Read the full review: Auto-Owners insurance

New York Life

4.5 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: 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 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.

» Read the full review: New York Life insurance

State Farm

4.5 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: 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 select term policy is available for people ages 18 to 75, with coverage starting at $100,000. 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.

» Read the full review: State Farm life insurance


4.5 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: USAA offers both permanent and term life insurance specifically designed for military members and their families, but 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. Unlike most life insurance, USAA’s term policies typically continue to 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.

» Read the full review: USAA life insurance

Pacific Life

4.5 NerdWallet rating

At a glance: Pacific Life offers a wide range of term and permanent products, including term life, universal life, indexed universal life and variable universal life insurance. Pacific Life’s indexed universal life insurance grows investments based on stock market indexes like the S&P 500. It also has 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 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. 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.

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.

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

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.

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: 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.

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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