Life Insurance Review Methodology

Purchasing a life insurance policy can be extremely valuable. It ensures that your loved ones are financially supported if you pass away unexpectedly. The proceeds from a life insurance policy can be used to cover expenses like a funeral or final medical bills, or as income replacement, and they’re generally not taxable. 

But with so many life insurance companies on the market, choosing the right provider for your needs is easier said than done. When comparing life insurance companies, it’s best to take a methodical approach, considering the most important features, like financial stability, customer satisfaction, policy types, coverage limits, cost, and riders.

To help you choose the best life insurance provider and the best policy for your family, we researched 91 life insurance providers in-depth. In this guide, we’ll highlight the specific criteria we used to review each company and uncover its strengths and drawbacks.

Rating Criteria

To better understand what consumers are looking for in a life insurance company, we leveraged information from various third-party studies, such as J.D. Power’s 2021 U.S. Life Insurance New Business Study and the 2021 Insurance Barometer Study, published by Life Happens and LIMRA.

Using findings from these studies and our in-house insurance experts, we developed a unique review methodology to score each company in five overarching categories:

  1. Application and online service features
  2. Policy types, features, and riders
  3. Financial stability
  4. Customer satisfaction
  5. Cost

Within each category, we looked at multiple data points, with a total of 55 data points for each company review. We also consulted with company representatives for fact-checking purposes.

We then assigned numeric scores for each data point, based on how well the company performed in that area. Most data points were scored on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 being the best score possible and 0 being the worst. Then, we weighted the data points based on importance to calculate an overall rating for each company. Our individual company ratings were scored on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. 

Application and Online Service Features

When reviewing the 91 life insurance companies in our database, one of the factors we looked at was online capabilities. Here are some of the specific online service features we considered as data points in our methodology:

  • Application process: For each life insurance company, we determined whether consumers could apply online for any type of coverage, or if they were required to work with an agent for all available coverage types. We also paid attention to whether online no-medical exam applications were available and how much coverage was available via a no-medical-exam application process.
  • Online quotes and tools: Getting an online life insurance quote is more convenient for many shoppers, which is why it’s one of the data points we looked at in our review. In addition, we looked at the educational resources each provider offered, like a coverage calculator, as well as live chat.
  • Accepted forms of payment: Most life insurance companies accept checks and ACH transfers for premium payments, but a smaller number of carriers accept credit cards. One of the data points in our review methodology is the availability of credit card payments.

Policy Types, Features, and Riders

When choosing a life insurance company, two of the most important things to consider are the types of policies and the riders available. Each life insurance company has a different selection of offerings, so life insurance shoppers should be prepared to compare multiple providers to find the policies and features they want.

Policy Types

Insurance companies with multiple types of life insurance provide the most choices for shoppers. In our review, insurance providers with the largest selection of policy types were generally given higher scores. The policies we considered include:

  • Term life insurance: Term life insurance offers temporary coverage over a certain period. Unless the policy is convertible or renewable, the coverage expires once the term ends.
  • Final expense insurance: Final expense policies don’t require a medical exam or extensive health questionnaire to get approved. They offer a small amount of coverage that is often used to cover funeral costs, final medical bills, or debt.
  • Whole life insurance: Whole life insurance provides permanent coverage for your lifetime. It has fixed premiums, a guaranteed death benefit, and cash value which grows at a fixed interest rate.
  • Participating whole life insurance: Participating whole life insurance is available from some mutual insurance companies. This policy enables customers to receive potential dividends each year, based on the company’s performance. (Out of the 91 companies we compared, few offer dividends, so we did not assign scores based on this feature.)
  • Universal life insurance: Universal life insurance provides permanent coverage and has a cash value. Unlike traditional whole life policies, universal life has adjustable premiums and a flexible death benefit. 
  • Indexed universal life insurance: Indexed universal life insurance has cash value that earns interest based on the performance of a stock market index, like the S&P 500. There is usually a guaranteed minimum rate of return and a cap on the interest credited.
  • Variable life insurance: Variable policies are a type of permanent life insurance that allow you to invest the cash value directly in the stock market. These are considered the riskiest form of coverage as they can lose value if your investments perform poorly.

Term Life Options

Term life insurance is often available for purchase without working with an agent. These policies may also include various features, which we considered in our rating process. Some of those term life features include:

  • Term lengths: Term life insurance policies are available over a certain period of time. It’s common for life insurance companies to offer term lengths of one to 30 years, but some offer longer terms. Companies that offered the longest term lengths received the highest scores for this data point. 
  • Conversion option: Some term life insurance policies are convertible. During the term period, the policyholder can convert their term policy into a permanent policy, without taking a medical exam. When you convert a term life policy, the new premium is based on your current age.
  • Annual renewal: Renewable term life insurance policies can be renewed on an annual basis after the initial term ends. This allows you to continue your coverage without having to take a medical exam, but the premium increases every year.

Available Riders

Life insurance riders are endorsements that change your life insurance contract. Riders can provide additional coverage and financial protection in specific situations, like if you get diagnosed with a terminal illness. Some riders may be included in your policy for free, while others cost extra. In our methodology, we gave higher scores to companies that offered free living benefit, or accelerated death benefit (ADB), riders.

However, it's important to note that every life insurance company offers a unique set of riders, and some offer few to none. When comparing providers and policies, find out what riders are available and which ones (if any) are built-into the policy for free. When scoring life insurance companies, here are some of the riders we looked at:

  • Child term rider: The child term rider, which can be added to your existing life insurance policy, provides a limited amount of life insurance coverage for each of your eligible children and may be convertible to a permanent policy once they reach adulthood.
  • Waiver of premium rider: A waiver of premium rider will waive your life insurance premium payments in certain situations, such as if you become disabled and can’t work or lose your job.
  • Accidental death rider: If you pass away and your death is accidental, the accidental death benefit rider will provide an additional death benefit to your beneficiaries.
  • Guaranteed insurability rider: This rider allows you to increase your death benefit at certain ages or after major life events, such as the birth of a child, without having to take a medical exam.
  • Disability income rider: The disability income rider provides monthly income replacement if you become disabled (based on the insurance company’s definition). Keep in mind that this is not the same as a “disability waiver of premium” rider. 
  • Accelerated benefit riders (ABRs): Accelerated benefit riders allow you to collect money from your life insurance policy while you are still living if you experience certain health events. In our review methodology, we looked at critical, chronic, and terminal illness riders, as well as long-term care riders. 

Financial Stability 

The purpose of life insurance is to financially protect your loved ones when you pass away. Therefore, it’s important to choose a life insurance company that is financially stable enough to pay claims in full and meet other contractual agreements.

As part of our review methodology, we rated all 91 life insurance companies based on their financial strength. To do this, we leveraged ratings from AM Best, a credit ratings agency that assigns letter grade scores to companies based on their financial stability. AM Best rates companies on a scale of A++ to D-. In our review, the higher an insurer's rating, the more points it earned in this category. 

Years in Business

Like financial strength, the number of years a life insurance company has been in business is a good indicator of its long-term stability. For example, insurance providers that have made it through recessions may be more likely to survive additional economic challenges in the future. Insurers with the longest history received the highest score in this category.

Customer Complaints

The number of complaints an insurance company receives is a strong predictor of its overall customer experience. We pulled data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Complaint Index to better understand the amount of complaints each insurance company received.

Companies that received a number of complaints expected for their size have a complaint index of 1.0. Companies with fewer complaints than expected have an index below 1.0, and companies with more complaints than expected have an index above 1.0. Companies with an index of 0 received no complaints.

In our methodology, we averaged each life insurance company's complaint index over a three-year period. Companies with the lowest complaint index received the highest scores for this data point. 


Cost is one of the most important factors when choosing a life insurance policy and selecting a provider. We considered the cost of term policies, or “pure insurance,” to get a sense of how providers compared for this type of coverage. In our review, companies with the lowest rates received the highest scores in this category.

To evaluate cost for each provider, we collected term quotes from each company for men and women in different age groups, who are in excellent health. The quotes were for $250,000 30-year term policies. Here are the criteria we used to get quotes for six different sample applicants:

  • ZIP code: 94027 or 90666 (depending on policy availability)
  • Birthday: 11/01/1996; 1981; 1966
  • Health: Exceptional
  • Nonsmokers
  • No medications
  • No negative family health history
  • Length of coverage: 30 years
  • Coverage amount: $250,000

For the purposes of our review, we used sample rates to better understand the prices from each provider. However, keep in mind that your life insurance premium will depend on a variety of factors, including your age, health, policy type, desired coverage limit, and general risk profile.