• December 18, 2017 - To keep our review current, we’ve re-vetted the policies and financial stability of every US-based term life insurance provider we could find. TIAA continues to stand out for having less expensive quote estimates than our other top picks, but all four remain excellent options for the best cheap life insurance. We also removed one former runner-up, Lincoln Financial, which has lost financial stability since we first published our review in 2016.

Our Picks for Best Term Life Insurance Companies

  • TIAA Life

    Best Overall

  • New York Life

    Most Flexible Term Lengths

  • Transamerica

    Most Tobacco-Tolerant

  • Amica Life Insurance

    Best Web Customer Service

Shopping around for the best cheap life insurance is a sound financial move. But there’s a strategy to finding the right plan. Insurance expert Tony Steuer told us that financially savvy people think about expenses first; earnings second. That means weighing the amount you’ll have to take out of your pocket now against what it could put into your family’s pocket down the road.

The life insurance product that does the best job of balancing short-term budget constraints against long-term payouts is a term policy. Of the two major types of life insurance — term and permanent — term is the most affordable. It spans a set number of years rather than your whole life, and it’s designed to cover the decades when your dependents most need a financial cushion if you become unable to work. (If you’re retired, with kids out of the house, you might be better off with our life insurance recommendations for seniors instead.)

Are permanent policies ever a good idea?Permanent life insurance costs about ten times the price of term — prohibitively expensive for many people. But it can be a viable investment if you have a high level of disposable income. Learn more about it in our review of Best Whole Life Insurance.

Our favorite term life provider, TIAA Life, consistently gave us the cheapest quotes, no matter what personal variables we plugged in. When we checked back in a year later, those same low rates still held true. Plus, TIAA gives the option to convert a term policy into a whole life policy at any time, without requiring a second medical exam. If you become ill right as your contract is about to expire, this option ensures that you can still maintain coverage without an exorbitant rate increase — an option that’s both invaluable and pretty much unheard of. TIAA is the only one of our providers to offer it.

But, we can’t stress it enough: You should get quotes from more than one company, since personal variables will affect the terms you’re offered. Other standout providers include New York Life, which offers a customizable range of term lengths, rather than the 5- and 10-year increments of our other finalists. (If you know that you only want to pay for life insurance until your 2-year-old turns 18, you can opt for a 16-year policy and shave off the extra costs associated with a 20-year term.) Another good option, especially for tobacco users, is Transamerica, which offers reasonable premiums that were slightly cheaper for smokers than those we found elsewhere. Finally, there’s Amica, which stood out for a detailed, informative website that includes a live-chat option, good if you’re new to life insurance and feeling a little overwhelmed.

We plugged in a lot of numbers to get our quotes, and they should provide you with insight into your best options. But know that the only reliable way to find the cheapest policy is to compare quotes yourself.

Our Picks for Best Cheap Life Insurance

Best Overall — TIAA Life

Logo for TIAA Cheap Life Insurance

If you’re shopping for quotes, we’d suggest making TIAA your first stop. It exceeded our expectations for price and convertibility, two of our biggest considerations when comparing policies. Its rates for non-smokers of all ages — for all term limits and coverage amounts — beat out the competition.

The company offers its term life insurance coverage in five-year increments from 10 to 30 years (although there is, frustratingly, no 25-year term). At any time during your term period, you have the option to convert to any of TIAA’s permanent policies. TIAA is the only one of our top picks to allow so much flexibility. All other providers restrict either the window during which you can convert (like New York Life and Amica), or the permanent policies that are eligible to convert to (Transamerica).

In those cases, if conversion is necessary (maybe you develop a terminal illness, or you have a special-needs child requiring prolonged care), you could end up being forced to convert to a more expensive policy — if you’re able to convert at all. Unrestricted conversion eligibility puts TIAA Life on top.

Most Flexible Term Lengths — New York Life

Logo for New York Life Cheap Life Insurance

Even though New York Life’s quotes for convertible term insurance were a tad more expensive than TIAA and Transamerica, it could end up being cheaper in the long run for certain people. New York Life’s draw is that it allows to choose any term length between 10–20 — no five-year increments here. If you know your need for insurance will end after 16 years (when your last child graduates college, for example), you can buy a 16-year term policy and pocket four years’ worth of premiums rather than being saddled with a 20-year policy that you don’t need.

New York Life’s policy-conversion opportunities are where things get a little tricky. If you want the option to convert to a permanent policy after the first 10 years, the company requires you to purchase a separate rider — and you need to purchase it when you initially sign up with them. You can’t do it after the fact. The good news: These conversion riders aren’t typically very expensive, although prices will vary.

If you want the opportunity to continue your term coverage without having to convert to a permanent policy, you’ll also want to look into their Policy Purchase Option. This rider guarantees approval for a new term policy at nine different points in your life — every three years from age 22-46, on the anniversary of the policy — without requiring a second medical exam. This option may be valuable if your long-term plans change: You have another child and want to extend coverage by another ten years, for example. While New York Life’s specific dates might not coincide perfectly with your major life event, this rider does give you an additional layer of flexibility.

Most Tobacco-Tolerant — Transamerica

Logo for Transamerica Cheap Life Insurance

The major standout for Transamerica doesn’t relate to policy practices or general costs, but instead how it adjusts premiums for tobacco users. Smoking is one of the biggest red flags for insurers, and will immediately slot you into a “high risk” category. But based on our quotes, Transamerica doesn’t appear to weigh the risk of smoking as heavily as the other top providers we researched.

We also noted that Transamerica generally charges less for young people and slightly more for older customers than TIAA, but the differences are so small ($1–$3 per month) that they’re hardly significant.

TIAA Life Transamerica Amica Life Insurance New York Life State Farm
Female, 30, Smoker $40 $34 $42 $39 $43
Female, 40, Nonsmoker $19 $20 $22 $25 $27
Male, 30, Smoker $51 $42 $53 $45 $53
Male, 40, Nonsmoker $21 $24 $32 $30 $32

Best Web Customer Service — Amica

Logo for Amica Cheap Life Insurance

While convenience and price don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, time is money, and we appreciated how easy Amica’s website makes it to get answers. No excessive scrolling, searching, or ever having to pick up the phone. (New York Life, by contrast, required all three.) In addition to all of the policy information clearly listed on Amica’s site, we loved the company’s live chat, which is available 24/7 and a useful way to answer one-off questions without having to fill out a form or wait to hear back. Amica is the only one of our finalists to offer this feature.

Amica also stands out in that it’s a “direct writer” for its insurance products. One comprehensive company issues its policies, rather than a network of insurance agents. While direct writing doesn’t necessarily mean a cheaper premium, it does eliminate the incentive for a rep to push a more expensive policy on you in order to get a higher commission.

Amica was competitive in our quote comparison, matching TIAA and Transamerica in many scenarios. But it loses major points for not allowing you to convert your policy after the first 10 years at all — there’s not even a rider to make up for it, as was the case with New York Life. But Amica does offer one unique rider that adjusts the policy’s death benefit to account for inflation, a perk that might not save you money now, but protects your money’s value in the long run.

Did You Know?

The amount of coverage you need depends on your dependents.

You might have heard to multiply your annual income by 10 to find the right death benefit amount, and that’s a decent rule of thumb. But a more accurate determination should take into account how much your spouse and children will need to maintain their standard of living, pay off debt, and cover future expenses like college. That might be 10 times your annual income, but it also may be higher — or maybe even lower.

A little bit of life insurance is still better than none at all.

If your budget forces you to choose between a longer term and a higher death benefit, opt for the longer term first. This way you lock in at least a minimum amount of insurance for as long as you know you’ll need it. But as soon as you can, you should buy another policy to increase total coverage to your desired amount, since it’s only going to get more expensive as you age.

There are other ways to save on premiums.

Insurance companies price their policies according to all sorts of risk factors — things like age, physical build, medical history, driving record, and even “risky” hobbies. While there’s nothing you can do about your age or your genes, losing weight or quitting smoking before you apply for life insurance can dramatically reduce your premiums.

Since many providers require you to take a medical exam, prepping for it helps ensure you’re taking the most flattering snapshot of your health to send to your provider. If stats like blood pressure are hovering on the border between okay and oh no, laying off vices, guzzling water, and de-stressing in the days leading up could make the difference between falling into one risk percentile versus another.

Improving your credit score will also help, as will paying your premiums annually instead of monthly.

The Best Cheap Life Insurance, Summed Up

Cheap Life Insurance
Best...
TIAA
Overall
New York Life
Flexible Term Lengths
Transamerica
For Tobacco Users
Amica
Web Customer Service

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