the 6 best life insurance companies of 2024

For many people, life insurance is a necessary part of their financial plan. It can protect your loved ones by replacing lost income or paying off debt if you pass away. It can also help you leave a financial legacy.

However, life insurance can be complicated. There are several different types and finding the right one for your needs is important: Term life insurance, in which coverage expires after a certain number of years, is popular with people looking to keep premiums down. Permanent insurance, like whole and universal life insurance policies, keeps coverage in place for as long as you live and can even build cash value.

To help you choose the best policy, CNBC Select compared dozens of life insurance companies and ranked them based on factors like customer satisfaction, financial stability, online usability and whether or not a medical exam was required. (See our methodology for more information on how we chose the best life insurance companies.)

Best life insurance companies

Best from a big-name insurer

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    Yes

  • Policy highlights

    As the largest life insurer by market share in the U.S., Northwestern Mutual is an established choice with a proven record. And, it offers a number of types of policies across the country.

Pros

  • Variety of life insurance products available
  • Highly rated for customer satisfaction

Cons

  • Policies must be purchased through a financial professional

Founded in 1857, Northwestern Mutual is now the largest issuer of life insurance policies in the U.S., according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioner. It earned an A++ from AM Best, a measure of its financial health and ability to pay out claims.

Best for customer satisfaction

State Farm Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    Yes

  • Policy highlights

    State Farm offers a variety of term, whole, and universal life insurance products to choose from, alongside other types of insurance. It’s rated highly for both financial stability and customer service.

Pros

  • A++ AM Best financial strength rating
  • Highest rated for customer satisfaction
  • No medical exam option available

Cons

  • Low coverage limit for no medical exam option

State Farm received an impressive score of 843 out of 1,000 on JD Power’s life insurance customer satisfaction survey, the highest of any company on this list. If you want a policy without a medical exam, however, State Farm only offers up to $50,000 worth of coverage for those up to age 50 or a 10-year term, whichever comes first.

Best for seniors

Mutual of Omaha Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    No

  • Policy highlights

    Mutual of Omaha offers term, whole, indexed universal life and universal life policies, giving lots of options.

Pros

  • Policies available up to age 85
  • No medical exam options available

Cons

  • Limited to $25,000 for Guaranteed whole life policies

Mutual of Omaha’s relatively high age limits can help seniors overcome challenges with buying life insurance. Term life products are available up to age 80, while whole life products are available up to age 85. While Mutual of Omaha’s whole life policies are limited to $25,000 worth of coverage, they don’t require a medical exam.

Best for term life insurance

Guardian Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    Yes

  • Policy highlights

    Guardian offers a variety of policies, including term, whole and universal. Guardian offers term policies that can be converted into whole or universal life policies.

Pros

  • A++ AM Best financial strength rating

Cons

  • Ranks slightly below other top picks for customer satisfaction
  • Policies must be purchased through a financial professional

Guardian shines with a top-tier A++ rating for financial strength from AM Best and a website that provides estimates of how much a term life policy would cost. If your needs change, Guardian’s level term insurance offers the option of conversion to a whole life policy in the first five years for free, a perk that generally costs extra as a rider on other policies.

Best for whole life insurance

MassMutual Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    Yes

  • Policy highlights

    MassMutual has been in business for over 170 years, and carries the highest ratings for financial security from AM Best.

Pros

  • Offers a number of policies to choose from

Cons

  • No online quotes available
  • Policies must be purchased through a financial professional

MassMutual offers a variety of competitively priced whole life policies that can be adjusted to your needs. It’s also noted for its solid history of paying out dividends to policyholders — which it’s done every year since 1869. MassMutual has set a 6.1% dividend interest rate for 2024, when it estimates it will issue $2.2 billion to customers, the largest payout in its history.

Best universal life insurance

Pacific Life Life Insurance

  • Cost

    The best way to estimate your costs is to request a quote

  • App available

    No

  • Policy highlights

    Pacific Life offers permanent life insurance policies in addition to term insurance. A number of riders make it possible to customize the policy to fit your needs.

Pros

  • Offers specialized products that tailor the coverage to your needs

Cons

  • Must be purchased through an advisor
  • No online quotes available

Pacific Life stands out for its affordable universal, indexed universal and variable universal life insurance policies. Individualized plans are available to help policyholders with specific concerns, like supplementing retirement income.

How does life insurance work?

Life insurance functions differently depending on what type of coverage you choose.

Generally, you first receive your life insurance quotes and then you apply for a policy. After applying, your information is sent through underwriting, a process that determines your life insurance rates, and the amount of coverage you’re eligible for. This is also where you’ll undergo a medical exam if required. From there, your application will be approved or denied.

For term life insurance, you’ll make monthly payments for a set number of years. If you survive to the end of the term, there’s no payout. If you die before the end of the term, your loved ones receive a payout from the policy.

With whole or permanent life insurance policies, such as universal life insurance, you’ll pay into the account, and the coverage will follow you for your entire life. With whole life insurance, the premiums and death benefit are fixed from the beginning of the policy. With universal life insurance, the premium and death benefit can both change throughout the life of the policy. At the end of your life, as long as there’s value in the policy, there will be a payout to your family and loved ones.

Different policy options, called riders, can be added to personalize your coverage. Things like accelerated death benefit riders or long-term care provisions can be added to your policy to make it a better fit for your needs.

Types of life insurance

Here’s what you need to know about several common types of life insurance:

  • Term insurance: This coverage generally has the cheapest premiums and offers coverage for a set number of years. After that term expires, there’s no coverage or death benefit.
  • Whole life insurance: Whole life insurance policies follow you for your whole life, building a cash value. The family or organizations you choose, also called beneficiaries, will receive money when you die.
  • Indexed universal life insurance: Like whole life insurance, this policy also lasts a lifetime and builds cash value, earning value based on index funds.
  • Guaranteed universal life insurance: Like term policies, this type of permanent life insurance generally has a very high age as an end date where the policy will remain active, usually between ages 90 and 100. But, this policy generally doesn’t accumulate much cash value, if any.
  • Variable universal life insurance: A type of life insurance where you control how the account is invested. This type of life insurance generally doesn’t have a guaranteed death benefit.

If you’re not sure which type of life insurance coverage is best for you, speaking with a financial advisor or insurance agent could help you decide.

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