How Much Does Life Insurance Cost?

by @Brad_Cummins

So, how much does life insurance cost? Calculating the cost of life insurance is very difficult because of the many underwriting variables that influence the price of a policy.  The most significant element, with regard to the cost of life insurance, is your rate class.  Additional factors, such as your age and gender, and the type of life insurance policy (Term or Permanent) and the amount of coverage you need, will influence this cost as well.  In this lesson, we offer you a full overview of the other risk factors – the ones an independent life insurance professional can easily identify – that will further impact how much life insurance will cost.

Determine How Much Life Insurance Cost?

Life insurance companies have detailed underwriting guidelines that you must meet before you can determine How Much Does Life Insurance Cost. Remember: Insurers are not charities that award death benefits to every applicant who wants to get life insurance. These companies are, instead, in the business of insuring good risks; they make you qualify to buy life insurance, and earn the cost they assign on your behalf.

Insurers favor people who maintain a healthy lifestyle by offering low cost life insurance and charging these men and women less, to buy life insurance, versus those who are unhealthy and drink, smoke or engage in potentially dangerous activities. Bear in mind, too, that as you age the cost of life insurance – and the coverage you receive – can change considerably.

Secondly, the type of policy you choose will reveal substantial differences in how much life insurance cost. For example: Term life insurance is less expensive than Whole Life insurance. Statistically, most people will outlive a Term life insurance policy, which explains why this coverage is more affordable than a Permanent life insurance policy. The latter will (eventually) pay out a large death benefit, making it costlier than a Term option.

Underwriting Factors That Influence the Cost of Life Insurance.


Every insurer has height and weight guidelines that influence the cost of coverage. Your build, based on your height, weight, and body mass index (BMI), will play a critical role in how much you pay for life insurance.

Along with your age, these factors will yield a variety of prices for a particular type of life insurance.

Most insurers have different height and weight charts for certain ages.

Two applicants with the same height and weight, but different ages – one is 64 or younger, while the other is 65 or older – will not pay the same amount for the same type of life insurance.

A insurer may review an applicant who is 64 or younger, with a BMI less than 30, and another applicant who is 65 or older, with a BMI less than 33, and have very different guidelines for each person.

For the sake of comparison, let us examine the different outcomes for a male who is 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

How Build Effects Your Cost of Life Insurance

Look at the Preferred Best (and maximum weight) for Genworth versus the same rate class from MetLife. The former has a maximum weight of 209 pounds, while the latter is more restrictive at 188 pounds.  The contrast involving height and weight, and the corresponding difference in price, shows how the cost of life insurance can vary a lot.


  • Maximum Weight for Preferred Best Rates
  • 188 Pounds


  • Maximum Weight for Preferred Best
  • 209 Pounds

Look at the maximum weight for a male 5’10. Each rate class varies from company to company.  This is why it’s important to know the underwriting guidelines of each company to give yourself the chance at the best rate class possible. This is why we emphasize working with a skilled agent can help you find the right company and give you a chance of getting the lowest life insurance cost.

Company Preferred Best Preferred Standard Plus Standard
Genworth 209 229 243 243
MetLife 188 193 220 263
Banner 196 209 219 228
Principal 204 233 254 254

Family Related History:

Insurer’s review an applicant’s family medical history, to determine risk factors that will influence the life insurance cost.

Insurers will want to know the number of relatives (parents and/or siblings) who died from one of the following conditions before the age of 70: Cardiovascular disease (heart attacks or strokes), cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease or renal failure.

Some companies will only want to know about any such deaths if they happened to a relative younger than 60.

Another company may focus exclusively on deaths from cardiovascular disease. This insurer is ideal for people who have lost a parent or sibling from cancer, for example, when the deceased was young.

Please note: Not every insurer has strict guidelines concerning your family’s medical history, but each company can review this information as they choose.

With the right independent life insurance professional – like the experts at Local Life Agents – you can find the company that best suits your needs, if you have a family medical history of serious diseases and potentially fatal conditions.

Tobacco Use:

The cost of life insurance if you smoke will be 75% to 100% more than a nonsmoker.  Most companies will offer a preferred rate class to a smoker, but qualifying for that rate if you smoke is difficult.  We go into detail about life insurance for smokers here.  You can learn how to get a preferred smoker’s rate, as well as, how long you have to have quit smoking to get a non-smoker rate.

Smoking causes a lot of harm to your overall health and insurance companies know that.  They know that cigarettes cause 1 in 5 deaths. 480,000 a year in US.  Therefore the cost will be more for a smoker than a non-smoker.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol:

Preferred best rates can typically be obtained with a BP reading of 140/85 with most companies.

Preferred rates could be obtained with readings of 150/90 with some life companies.

Blood pressure is not as big of a factor as it once was.  If you can show controlled history of blood pressure then you can still get preferred rates with most insurance companies. Which will lower your life insurance cost.

Insurance companies look at LDL, HDL and total cholesterols levels.  If you have these levels controlled and you’re on medication you can qualify for preferred rates and maybe even preferred best rates.

Total cholesterol of 150-300, cholesterol ratios could look like this Male-4.5 Female-4.0.  Find out more about buying life insurance with high cholesterol here.

Driving Record:

If you have a suspended driver’s license, you may be unable to get life insurance. This factor can quickly result in any and all insurers declining to offer you coverage, or a postponement of coverage until your license is active.  

If you do not have a driver’s license, an insurance company will want to know why you do not have a license before approving a policy.

You can learn more about these carriers, as well as which life insurance company offers coverage if you have a DUI, DWI or a suspended license by clicking here.

If your have reckless ops or DUI in the last 5 years you can expect to pay more for life insurance as you may only qualify for a standard rate class.

Medication History:

The medications you take will play a major factor in the price you pay for life insurance.  Underwriters view script reports (also known as RX reports) to help them determine if you’re a good risk to insure.

Trying to hide anything from your past will easily get picked up on a RX report.

If your prescription reports, also known as RX reports, contradict your answers on your application – or, if you purposefully exclude certain “red flag” medications from your application – this information will be exposed during the underwriting process. Insurers use these reports to determine the risk factors concerning the cost and type of coverage someone is eligible to purchase.

Criminal History Information:

If you have a criminal record, it will influence the cost you will pay for life insurance. An insurer may also decline to offer you coverage if you have been incarcerated, are awaiting trial, or are on parole or probation. The following things will almost always prevent you from buying life insurance:

These two will get you declined in most cases.

  • A felony conviction with the past 5 years, or your pending trial for the commission of a felony.
  • You are currently on parole or probation.

Health History:

Life insurance companies underwrite based on your past medical history. The following medical conditions can increase the cost of life insurance and some may even get you declined:

Alcoholism (and Drug Addiction), Alzheimer’s Disease, Asthma, Basal Cell Skin Cancer, Cancer, COPD, Crohn’s Disease, Depression, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Emphysema, Heart Disease, Kidney or Liver Disease, Mental Illness, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sleep Apnea, Stroke, Ulcerative Colitis or Ileitis, and Vascular Disease.

Non-medical Risks:

These factors involve are non-medical risks that can negatively impact the cost of life insurance, or contain an exclusion of death benefits for any of the following activities:

Motor sports, hang gliding, piloting, rock climbing, scuba diving, sky diving and other highly dangerous pursuits.

Foreign Travel:

Some insurers may review any foreign travel that may increase the risk factors and cost of life insurance. These companies do not want applicants to have traveled to one or all of the following countries:

Algeria, Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Libya, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea and Rwanda.

This list is a mere sampling, as each company has different underwriting guidelines relating to foreign travel. So, if you plan to visit a foreign country for an extended period of time, you should disclose that information on your application.

Trying to Determine the Cost on Your Own.

Simply getting a quote on-line at a website does not mean that is what the cost of your life insurance will end up being once you submit your application and go through the underwriting process. Some people say life insurance is bait and switch kind of situation, right? No, it’s not. You have to go through underwriting to get the final cost and to determine the rate class that a life insurance company will offer you.

Remember, buying Life insurance is not like buying an airline ticket on Kayak. Although you can get quotes online, remember life insurance is a product that you have to qualify for. You have to submit an application and go through the underwriting before a final cost will be ultimately be determined.

If you have health challenges and you are considered high risk determining the cost before you apply will make things even more of a challenge. Yes you can get a ball park figure, but until the result of the exam are in and you medical records are reviewed it will make it difficult to get you a exact cost. You can see the average cost of term life insurance on our quote engine at any time and we are the only life insurance agency to show the consumer every price at every rate class.

Working with a good agent who knows exactly what questions to ask and one who has experience field underwriting should be able to get you an average cost of life insurance per month assuming their are no surprises during the underwriting process.

We have created a high risk life insurance guide where you can learn even more about what you’re up against and how your impairment could effect the cost if you have a preexisting condition.

“7 in 10 women think everyone should have life insurance, yet 43% have no coverage.”