You’ll want a life insurer that’s built to last. You’ll want to know the company will still be around in a few decades, if necessary, to pay your claim.
So the best life insurance companies are often the most financially stable companies.
But there’s also customer service to think about because you may need to make changes to your policy — and you may want to buy coverage quickly and easily.
To give you a starting point as you shop we’d like to present our top life insurance companies.
Top 10 Best Life Insurance Companies in the U.S.
Our list of top life insurance companies features 10 insurers that blend financial strength and quality customer service — often in unique ways.
- Northwestern Mutual
- New York Life
- Mutual of Omaha
- State Farm
- Haven Life
- Pacific Life
- Banner Life
Massachusetts Mutual, better known as MassMutual, has top-notch financial stability ratings and a solid customer service track record.
You can find all sorts of life insurance policies including whole life, term life, universal life, and variable universal.
MassMutual has also added a 21st-century approach to customer service with its new online term policies for applicants younger than 64.
Plus, MassMutual has helped revolutionize term life through its subsidiary, Haven Life, which has earned its own spot on this list, below.
MassMutual tops our list because:
- A.M. Best grade of A++ means it’s earned the very best financial strength ratings.
- NAIC customer complaint ratio of 0.08 is low. The industry median is 1.0.
- J.D. Power 2020 Life Insurance Study for customer satisfaction ranks MassMutual 769 out of 1,000 — ahead of the industry average.
- Recent forays into online customer service make this high-quality coverage more accessible.
Northwestern Mutual is another legacy carrier, a household name, that delivers on its promise of long-term financial stability.
In fact, Northwestern Mutual ranks ahead of MassMutual, our top pick, in the leading customer service standards such as J.D. Power and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
But Northwestern hasn’t made its coverage as accessible online as MassMutual’s. You’d need to find an authorized agent to access this carrier’s top-notch term, whole, and universal policies.
If you’re the type of person who’d rather sit down and have a conversation with an agent, Northwestern may well be your best choice.
Why we rank Northwestern Mutual so high:
- A.M. Best financial rating of A++ can’t be beaten — only matched by other companies.
- NAIC customer complaint ratio is 0.03 — astronomically lower than the industry median of 1.0.
- J.D. Power 2020 Life Insurance Study score of 790 out of 1,000 — better than all but three other insurers.
New York Life
Here’s another A++ rated company that also excels with customer satisfaction.
New York Life is also the nation’s oldest life insurance company. It was writing policies and paying claims before the American Civil War.
Along with its stellar ratings, New York Life also has some of the best convertible policies in the industry. You could buy term coverage and convert them easily to whole life at the end of the term — or sooner if you choose.
New York Life also offers annuities and mutual funds.
Why we ranked New York Life so high:
- A.M. Best financial rating of A++ — once again, the credit agency’s top marks.
- NAIC customer complaint ratio of 0.02 — complaints really are rare.
- J.D. Power customer satisfaction rating of 784 / 1,000 — 21 points higher than the industry average.
Mutual of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha doesn’t have the highest possible ratings for stability or customer satisfaction, but it is more than solid — and it makes life insurance shopping easier for older applicants.
Life insurance is more difficult to find when you’re older or in less than stellar health. Mutual of Omaha sells term policies to people as old as 80.
A.M. Best places Mutual of Omaha at A+ — its next-to-highest rating class. Compared to the companies higher up on our list, MofO gets more complaints from customers. But they’re still only a fraction of the industry’s median number of complaints.
How Mutual of Omaha made this list:
- A.M. Best rating of A+ — an excellent mark even if it’s not the highest
- NAIC customer complaint ratio of 0.58, just over half the industry’s median number of complaints for a company of this size.
- J.D. Power’s 2020 study rates MofO 789 / 1,000 which is higher than the industry average for customer satisfaction.
Nationwide is our first full-service insurance company on this list. The other companies listed so far specialize in life insurance coverage options.
But unlike some other auto and home insurance providers that also add in life insurance policies, Nationwide excels with its life insurance products.
You can start the buying process online at Nationwide’s website, but you’ll soon need to get in touch with an agent in order to finalize your coverage.
Nationwide has all the standard types of life insurance policies, and it operates offices around the country. For a company its size, Nationwide gets very few complaints from customers.
Nationwide is on this list because of its:
- A.M. Best rating of A+ reflects financial stability
- NAIC customer complaint ratio is below 0.02, which is remarkable. Keep in mind this doesn’t reflect auto and home insurance policyholder complaints.
- J.D. Power concurs with the NAIC ranking Nationwide’s life insurance customer service 803 out of 1,000.
State Farm is one of the biggest insurance companies on the planet as measured by market share. Life insurance is a core product for this company with its huge network of offices around the nation.
J.D. Power named State Farm the winner of its 2020 life insurance study. The company’s score of 838 out of 1,000 was unsurpassed.
A.M. Best’s financial stability rating of A++ puts State Farm in elite company for fiscal solvency.
So why are we just now getting to this life insurance stalwart? Mainly because of the company’s NAIC complaint ratio of 0.24. While still top-notch, this ratio reveals a weakness: Your customer service will depend a lot on the State Farm agent you end up working with.
Chances are good you’ll work with an excellent agent in your neighborhood, but there’s a chance you won’t. That reality pushed State Farm down our list a little.
State Farm made our list because of its:
- A.M. Best rating of A++ — the very best possible score.
- NAIC complaint ratio of 0.24 is well below the industry median.
- J.D. Power awarded State Farm top honors in its 2020 study.
AIG is the first company on this list that won’t claim elite status in both financial stability and customer service.
Don’t get us wrong. This is still a very stable and reliable company, and it still does a great job with customer service. It’s just above average and not in the stratosphere for these measurements.
For example, AIG has earned an A rating from A.M. Best which means it is financially stable. AIG gets about half the expected number of complaints for a company its size, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
So what makes us think AIG deserves special recognition? Its line of life insurance products. As a life insurance specialist, AIG has almost 20 different types of life insurance.
You could even find a 35-year term policy which is just about unheard of anywhere else.
AIG makes our list because of its:
- A.M. Best rating of A
- NAIC complaint ratio of 0.52 — a big improvement over the past few years.
- J.D. Power score of 742, below the national average, but keep in mind only the best companies even make J.D. Power’s list of 23 insurers.
Haven Life isn’t a life insurance company. It’s an online life insurance agency. But it has revolutionized online life insurance, so we’re including it here anyway!
Haven sells only term life insurance backed by MassMutual, our No. 1 pick for life insurance. And because of its electronic underwriting, this agency can extend medically underwritten term coverage even if you don’t take a medical exam.
Not all applicants will get this special convenience. It works best if you’re younger than 45 and have a clean health history and no red flags in your family’s health history.
Haven Life made our list because:
- It sells MassMutual term coverage which earned an A++ rating from A.M. Best.
- Its seamless experience for online sales and customer service.
Pacific Life Insurance excels with customer service and financial strength — unless you live in New York State where some of Pacific’s policies aren’t available.
This lack of nationwide availability knocked Pacific Life down a few spots on our list, but it’s still an elite company. If your state offers this coverage you could consider Pacific Life one of the top three or four companies available.
Pacific has a policy specially designed to help provide long-term care. Most companies let you pay extra for a rider that would reassign some of the policy’s death benefit as a living benefit. But Pacific integrates this feature seamlessly into its coverage.
Pacific Life made our list because of its:
- A.M. Best financial stability rating of A+ which is ‘excellent.’
- NAIC complaint index of 0.02 — about as low as you can go considering 1.0 is the median for the industry.
- J.D. Power customer satisfaction score of 776 exceeds the study’s average.
Banner Life isn’t a household name, but it’s an excellent life insurance company, especially if you’re looking for value or for affordable coverage despite a routine health condition.
You could even get a 40-year term life insurance policy through Banner.
If you live in New York State, you can find similar policies under the name William Penn Life Insurance Company which is also owned by Legal & General, the parent company of Banner.
Banner’s term policies don’t exceed $1 million which is not always enough for shoppers with a lot of liability.
Banner Life made our list because of its:
- A+ (excellent) rating from A.M. Best.
- NAIC complaint ratio of 0.05 — literally just a handful of complaints in 2019
- Competitive rates and the ability to cover a variety of medical conditions.
Methodology: How We Chose Our 10 Best Life Insurance Companies
Our top 10 list leaves off a few household names such as Prudential, Transamerica, MetLife (Brighthouse), Lincoln Financial, and John Hancock.
Those are all great companies, too. So why didn’t they make our cut? Here’s how we built this list:
A.M. Best isn’t the only credit agency but it’s become the standard way to measure the financial stability of a life insurance company.
You could also check with Moody’s, S&P 500, and Fitch Ratings which also grade companies on their financial statements. But since A.M. Best measures just about every life insurer out there, it provides an easy way to compare apples to apples.
For this list, we considered only life insurers with an A or better rating from A.M. Best. These ratings reflect a company’s ability to cover potential future payouts with proceeds from current policies.
Rather than consulting the BBB, we used the 2020 J.D. Power Life Insurance Study which identified the best 23 life insurance providers based on their customer satisfaction data.
We also consulted the National Association of Insurance Commissioners which has found a nice way to measure complaints filed with state authorities.
Since not every insurer has the same number of policies in force, the NAIC set up a ratio measuring complaints per policy and then assigned the median number of complaints to the number 1.0.
A company with a complaint ratio lower than 1.0 gets fewer complaints than the median number. A ratio above 1.0 means the company gets more than the median number of complaints.
We had to use 2019 data for this because 2020 data hasn’t been released yet. It takes a while for the NAIC to collect complaints from all 50 state attorneys general or insurance commissioners’ offices.
We considered insurance providers only if their life insurance policy complaints came in below 1.0. In many cases the companies on our list had just a handful of complaints which barely registered above 0 on the index.
Haven Life was an exception to this rule — not because it had complaints but because the NAIC didn’t measure its complaints since Haven Life sells MassMutual life insurance.
Ease of Access
By its nature, life insurance is an old-fashioned business. Insurance shoppers value long-term stability. They often value personal relationships with their agents, too.
But times are changing, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Online shopping for life insurance has become more and more common.
Not every insurance company on our list sells insurance online or even gives online quotes. But many do. Some of the bigger names got bumped off our list this year because other companies are doing a better job connecting people with policies.
The goal of a site like ours is to encourage people to get the life insurance coverage they need to protect their loved ones. Shopping online is fast becoming a big piece of that puzzle.
Putting It All Together
The companies that put all three pieces of our methodology together best scored the highest overall.
That’s how MassMutual topped a few other companies that bested it with individual pieces of the puzzle.
And that’s how some of the biggest and best-established companies in the nation fell off the list.
We expect the job of assessing these companies to grow more difficult in the coming years as more companies embrace online access to the nation’s best life insurance.
How to Choose Your Best Life Insurance Company
More than most types of insurance coverage, life insurance is personal. No two policies are identical because no two people are identical.
Unless you buy group coverage or guaranteed issue coverage — which charges high premiums per dollar of coverage and doesn’t reflect your individual needs — your policy will reflect your life.
Specifically, your coverage reflects your life’s financial risk to the insurance company. That’s why the youngest and healthiest life insurance applicants can lock in the lowest premiums for the best coverage.
They don’t present a high risk of loss to an insurer’s underwriting department.
On the other hand, people who are older or at higher risk of dying early because of their health, their jobs, their hobbies, or their family’s health history will pay higher premiums.
So as you shop for coverage, remember to shop around. Know that you’re looking for the best life insurance company for you. Several questions can help guide you.
Do I Need Term or Whole Life Insurance?
Most shoppers need a term life insurance policy, and any company on this list will excel with term coverage.
Term coverage lasts for a specific period of time, offering a level premium and a potentially large death benefit to protect your loved ones.
Term is not permanent life insurance. If you’re looking for permanent coverage you’ll need a whole life or universal life insurance policy.
Some companies call their whole or universal policies cash value life insurance because these policies accrue their own cash value over time.
You could use the cash later — in retirement, for example. With universal policies, you can invest the cash value in insurance company-directed mutual funds.
Term is life insurance at its simplest. While any company on this list can sell you a quality term life product, we’d recommend starting with Haven Life, Banner Life, and AIG.
For permanent life insurance, we’d recommend starting with one of the mutual companies — MassMutual, Northwestern Mutual, New York Life, or Mutual of Omaha.
Read our review on the Best Whole Life Insurance Companies for more details.
How Much Coverage Do I Need?
Younger life insurance shoppers with new mortgages, low savings account balances, and growing families need a lot of life insurance.
If one of the family’s main income earners died unexpectedly, they’d have a lot of liability and less — or zero — income to deal with it.
In most of these cases, we’d recommend a term life insurance policy. Because it expires, term can unlock millions of dollars in coverage while you need it and then expire when you no longer need it.
For many applicants, a 20-year term is enough to protect loved ones when they’re most vulnerable. Others need a 30-year term. Longer-term lengths normally mean more expensive pricing points.
Shoppers in middle age or older may want to consider a permanent life insurance policy with a smaller amount of coverage — assuming they no longer have multiple dependents.
Whole life and universal life provide a death benefit but they cost a lot more in monthly premiums, partly because of the cash value they accrue.
Do I Have Special Underwriting Concerns?
People with diagnoses such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD, or even high blood pressure will find it’s harder to get affordable coverage. Smokers and people in dangerous professions such as roofing or law enforcement could have the same problem.
If this is you, consider working with an independent life insurance agency that can help you find the right insurer for you.
Don’t accept sky-high life insurance rates or inferior coverage. An independent insurance agent works with a variety of life insurers and can help guide you to the company most likely to cover you for less.
Do I Want to Avoid the Medical Exam?
The application process for most life insurance plans includes a medical exam. You’d consent to blood and urine tests along with blood pressure checks and body-mass index calculations.
Traditionally, a medical exam leads to the best pricing — assuming you’re in excellent health and a non-smoker. Since underwriters know what they’re dealing with health-wise, they know how to price your policy.
You can find a lot of no-exam life insurance coverage options these days. While the underwriting process doesn’t include a medical exam, it may include a lot of health questions.
Plus, insurers will consult national databases to find out how you drive, what prescription medicines you take, and whether you’ve had life insurance before.
You’ll also see life insurance quotes for policies that don’t even ask many health questions beyond determining whether you have a terminal illness.
These life insurance options really are a last resort because they offer very small amounts of coverage and they still cost a lot.
In most cases, a medical exam will be required to open up policies with a large coverage amount. Haven Life is an exception to this rule for applicants in excellent health.
Do I Have a Specific Need for Life Insurance?
Some people buy whole life insurance policies for the sole purpose of paying for a funeral. Insurers call these final expense policies. Check with Mutual of Omaha or AIG if you’d like one of these.
Other shoppers need life insurance to provide collateral for a business loan or some other financial service. We’d recommend Banner Life in this case.
If you’re buying life insurance for its investment potential, you should check with your financial advisor first. While whole life insurance policies can act as an investment complete with tax preferences, other financial products do a better job. You should exhaust those first.
Do I Want Specific Riders?
Life insurance riders adapt your coverage even more specifically to your needs. Riders are add-ons that will increase your premium payments.
For example, the accelerated death benefit rider could let you use your amount of coverage to pay medical bills if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness. Likewise, an accidental death rider could double your amount of coverage if you died because of an accident.
Some term life and permanent policy shoppers ask us about waiver of premium riders which could let you keep your insurance even if you lost your job and couldn’t afford the premium payments for a while.
You could also find return-of-premium riders on term policies. These add-ons could refund all your premiums if you outlived the term length.
If you need a specific rider, make sure the insurance company you’re considering offers it. Most companies have similar riders available.
The Best Life Insurance Companies Do It All
The best life insurance companies have everything their policyholders need: financial stability, solid customer service, and affordability.
As you shop around, it’ll be tempting to compare only premium payments. But also consider the quality of your coverage and your ease of access to your policy.
You’re making a great decision shopping for coverage. Why not finish what you started and get the best coverage you can find?