Average cost of life insurance July 2024

Coverage type, age, gender and health status can impact the cost of life insurance

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A life insurance policy represents a contract between you and the insurer. In exchange for your making regular premium payments, the insurance company will make a tax-free, lump-sum payment to your beneficiaries upon your death.

How much a life insurance policy costs will depend on several factors, including what type of coverage you have. Term life is cheaper than permanent life coverage because it only lasts for a set amount of time and doesn’t contain any cash value. But there are other factors that also affect the cost of life insurance, including your age, your gender and your health.


Key insights

Term life insurance is cheaper than whole life insurance.

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Women pay less than men on average for life insurance coverage.

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The younger you are, the cheaper life insurance rates are, regardless of coverage type.

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How much is life insurance?

The kind of life insurance policy you have will determine in part how much you pay. Generally speaking, you’ll pay less for term life insurance than you will for permanent coverage, such as whole or universal life, because term coverage is temporary and carries no cash value.

For example, a 40-year-old man in good health who doesn’t smoke may pay less than $20 per month for a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy. However, that same man would pay $216 per month for a whole life insurance policy with the same coverage amount.

Women also pay less than men on average for life insurance. In our sample, a 40-year-old woman in good health who is a nonsmoker may pay $17.84 per month for a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy. But a whole life policy with similar coverage may cost that same woman $180 per month.

If you’re older, in poor health or have been turned down for traditional term or whole life insurance, you may want to consider a final expense insurance policy, sometimes called funeral or burial insurance. Premiums may look affordable, but can be high relative to coverage amounts.

For example, a 60-year-old man may pay $174.17 per month for a final expense policy with $35,000 in coverage. A 20-year term life insurance policy would cost that same man just $77.43 per month and provide $250,000 in death benefits.

» MORE: How does life insurance work?

How life insurance rates are determined

Coverage type and amount aren’t the only factors that insurers use to determine how much you’ll pay for a life insurance policy. Other considerations include:

  • Age: The older you are, the more your monthly premium will be, in part because death rates rise with age. A 50-year-old man may pay double what someone half his age would pay for a 20-year term life policy, for instance.
  • Gender: No matter what age, women pay less on average than men for life insurance. The difference may only be a few dollars per month as younger adults, but rates for men may be significantly higher than for women by middle age.
  • Health: Your overall health, including your weight, medical history, preexisting conditions (such as diabetes or heart disease) and whether you smoke all can all lead to higher premiums.
  • Occupation and hobbies: If you work certain professions (such as construction or manufacturing) or if you’re an adrenaline junkie that loves to climb mountains or scuba dive, you may be considered a higher risk to insure.

Insurers have different underwriting processes for determining insurability and premiums. It pays to get quotes from several insurers in order to find the right life insurance policy for your needs.

“The coverage amount and the term length of the policy chosen by the life insurance applicant can also affect premiums,” explained Randy VanderVaate, a licensed life insurance agent in Dallas. “Generally, higher coverage amounts and longer policy terms will result in higher premiums, and lower coverage amounts and shorter terms will result in lower premiums.”

Life insurance cost by age

In addition to factors like policy type and coverage amount, your age also will influence how much you pay for life insurance. Generally speaking, the younger you are, the less your premiums will be. That goes for both term and permanent life insurance. And if you have a policy with level terms, your premiums will never increase while the policy is in effect.

For example, a 20-year-old woman in good health may pay just $14.97 per month for a 20-year term life insurance policy with $250,000 in coverage. But a woman who is 40 years old may pay $17.84 per month for that same policy, while a 50-year-old would pay $31.97 per month.

Whole life insurance is even more expensive. A 35-year-old woman may pay $156 per month for a $250,000 policy, while a 50-year-old would pay $220 per month.

Term life insurance cost by age

The chart below outlines sample average costs for a 20-year term life insurance policy with a $250,000 death benefit.

Whole life insurance cost by age

The chart below shows sample rates for a $250,000 whole life insurance policy.

Final expense life insurance cost without a medical exam

The chart below outlines sample monthly premiums for a $35,000 final expense life insurance policy:

How to lower your life insurance rate

Life insurance can be expensive, but there are ways to lower the cost while still maintaining coverage.

  • Buy what you need -- and no more. In general, term life insurance is cheaper than permanent life coverage. If all you want is to leave a financial legacy for your heirs, a term life insurance policy may be sufficient. But if you also want investment income, you’ll need a whole or universal life insurance policy.
  • Get multiple quotes. Life insurance quotes are free, and the more options you have, the better decision you can make when buying life insurance.
  • Do it when you’re young. Premiums increase the older you are, regardless of the kind of life insurance policy you have.
  • Stay healthy. You may have to take a medical exam or answer questions about your health in order to apply for life insurance. If you are in poor health or have a history of health conditions, you may have to pay very high rates or not be able to buy coverage.
  • Look for renewal guarantees if you have term life insurance. When your current policy expires, you’ll be able to purchase a new policy without having to take another medical exam and risk not qualifying. Your rate will be higher because you’re older, however.

» MORE: Best life insurance companies

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FAQ

What factors don't affect life insurance rates?

Insurance companies base life insurance costs on actuarial data related to mortality risk, explained Randy VanderVaate, a licensed insurance agent in Dallas. “Race, religion and sexual orientation do not affect the cost of life insurance,” he said.

Marital status also does not affect your rates. “While some policies offer discounts for married couples, marital status itself generally doesn't affect rates significantly,” VanderVaate added.

Do men or women pay more for life insurance?

On average, women pay less for life insurance than men do. This holds true for both term and permanent life insurance and across age ranges.

At what age should you buy life insurance?

Insurance experts say people should buy life insurance when they’re young because rates increase as people age.

Is life insurance worth the cost?

That depends on your needs. If you have sufficient financial resources to support your dependents in the event of your death, or if you have no family to support, you may not need life insurance at all. But if you are the primary income earner in your family, have a mortgage or are raising young children, for example, a term life insurance policy may be something to consider. If your needs also include investment income, a whole or universal life insurance policy may be a better option.

Bottom line

The cost of life insurance depends on a range of factors, including policy type and coverage amount, as well as age, gender, health and even occupation in some cases. In general, term life insurance is cheaper than permanent life insurance. However, if you don’t qualify for this kind of coverage, you may still be able to purchase a final expense life insurance policy or other type of policy with lower thresholds for qualification.


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Progressive, “How Much Does Life Insurance Cost?” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  2. Insurance Information Institute, “How to Save Money on Life Insurance.” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  3. Choice Mutual, “Whole Life Insurance Rates By Age Charts.” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  4. Insurance Information Institute, “Life Insurance Basics.” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  5. State Farm, “What Determines The Cost Of Life Insurance?” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  6. Nationwide, “So How Much Does Life Insurance Really Cost?” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  7. Guardian, “What Is Life Insurance, And How Does It Work?” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  8. AIG Direct, “Tips and Advice on How to Save Money on Life Insurance.” Accessed April 18, 2024.
  9. Experian, “How to Save Money on Life Insurance.” Accessed April 18, 2024.
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