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8 Types of Life Insurance Policies-Which Policy is Best for you?

different types of life insurance policies

The Best Life Insurance Policy

While there are many hybrids of the following types of life insurance options, we have focused on the core products. The following list will break down eight of the most common life insurance policy types, as well as provide some recommendations on what might be the best product from among our picks for the best life insurance companies.

Note, there is no “best” life insurance policy because there is no ideal one size fits all product. Each individual life insurance plan should be tailored and focused on using the most appropriate type of life insurance. Continue reading or give us a call today for a free life insurance consultation.

The different types of life insurance include:
  1. Term Life Insurance
  2. Whole Life Insurance
  3. Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance
  4. Variable Life Insurance
  5. Equity Indexed Life Insurance
  6. Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
  7. Accidental Death Insurance
  8. Simplified Issue Life Insurance

When considering from among the different life insurance types available you should also consider the company you will ultimately apply with. We focus on the niche underwriting offered by each of the companies we work with.

For example, finding diabetic life insurance requires that you apply with the more diabetes friendly companies. Failure to do so may result in a much higher premium or being declined altogether.

What are your life insurance plans? Knowing what type of life insurance you need is only half the battle. The other piece of the puzzle is knowing which company offers the best value for that life insurance type.

Life Insurance Definitions

A few definition are in order to better grasp what may be new language to some.

Policy: a legal contract between you and the insurer. It defines the details of the life insurance coverage, names the parties involved, and all the terms, fees, costs, etc.

Owner: the owner of the policy is the one who is entering into the contract with the carrier for the insurance coverage.

Insured: the person whose life the policy is on. The insured is often, but not always, the owner.

Insurer: the insurer is the life insurance company who is offering the policy. The insurer is also known as the carrier, provider, or company.

Beneficiary: the policy owner names a beneficiary of the death benefit. You can name multiple beneficiaries, contingent beneficiaries, and even tertiary beneficiaries. Upon the insured’s death, the beneficiary would receive the life insurance proceeds income tax free.

Death benefit: the death benefit refers to the lump sum payout form the insurer to the beneficiary when the insured dies. There are other option apart form a lump sum, including annual payments, monthly payments, or a lump sum and monthly payments. A death benefit can remain level, increase along with the cash value, or remain level with return of premium, minus withdrawals.

OK, now that we have some definitions to help guide us, let’s take a look at the different policy types available.

Two Main Types of Life Insurance Policies

The two main types of life insurance policies are term life vs permanent life insurance. Within the two categories are a number of other products. Let’s start with the most popular policy, term life.

Term life insurance 

Click to view our sample term life insurance rates by age chart to see how affordable term life can be.

What is term life insurance?

Term Life Definition: Term life provides pure death benefit protection for a specific period of time (typically 10, 15, 20 or 30 years). The specific period of time is the “term” of the policy. Once the term ends the life insurance policy will renew on an annual basis. Most term life insurance policies will allow the owner of the policy to renew until age 95.

But beware, most life insurance policies renew at an increased premium. Many increase as much as 300%, but there are some life insurance companies whose term product only increases a small amount, while some companies keep the premium the same but decrease the face amount.

There are two types of term policies: level term vs decreasing term life insurance.With a decreasing term insurance the death benefit goes down over time, even though your policy premiums stay the same.

Alternatively, level term life insurance offers fixed premiums and a fixed death benefit for the term of the coverage (the term refers to how long the coverage lasts).

Finally, there is also level term life that offers a fixed death benefit, but the premium goes up every five years. The main takeaway here is read your policy.

Ideally, you want to lock into the maximum years you need instead of relying on the renewal option. For those term policy holders that decide down the road they want to keep their life insurance, it is best to exercise the polcy’s conversion option.

Most term life insurance policies include a conversion option rider allowing the owner to convert to a permanent policy with no proof of insurability, i.e. no health screening. The conversion option will change a term policy into a whole life or universal life policy. The premium will increase but the rate class is based on the rate class you originally qualified for the term policy at and not based on your current health status.

This is a huge benefit for someone who has a term policy that comes down with an illness and cannot get a new policy or additional life insurance. Simply convert the term policy to a universal life or whole life policy and keep the insurance for the remainder of your life.

Typical term lengths available: 10, 15 20 and 30 year. However, some companies offer annual renewable term (ART), i.e. 1 year. There is also the option for 5 year and 25 year terms, but fewer companies provide those option. There is also a company that offers years 16, 17, 18, etc…all the way to 30, so you can tailor the policy down to the specific year.

Many term policies include a terminal illness rider or accelerated death benefit which allows a portion of the coverage to be taken out early for the insured’s use due to a diagnosis of being terminally ill.

Return of Premium Term Life Insurance is also available with up term lengths of 20, 30 and even 35 year terms. Once the policy ends, and assuming you don’t die, the premiums are returned to you. Return of Premium (ROP) life insurance is a rider added to term life insurance. It works by returning all premiums paid by the policy owner over the life of the term.

For example, a 30 year term life insurance policy with a return of premium rider for a healthy 40 year old male would run around $135 a month. After 30 years, the total premiums paid would amount to $48,600. Upon the end of the term, the insurer would pay out the full amount of premiums paid. This is a great option for those who desire to make their life insurance a forced savings account, with the payout upon the end of the policy or when the insured dies.

Term life insurance is the most well known type of life insurance policy and the most affordable. Most financial planners, such as Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman, will recommend you buy term life insurance instead of whole life insurance and invest the difference. However, this is general and not specific advice as each client has his or her own needs and circumstances.

What product is best for you will depend on a myriad of things, including if you are a business owner (such as key man life insurance, or for funding a buy-sell agreement with life insurance), planning for your estate, or simply looking to cover your income if you were to die prematurely.

The team at TermLife2Go would be happy to go over your specific needs and help you make the right decision for you based on your unique circumstances. We work with dozens of top rated companies and will be able to align the right company to your specific health and lifestyle.

Compare Exam & No Exam Life Insurance Quotes

Permanent Types of Life Insurance

We just addresses the first type of policy, term life. Permanent life insurance is the second type of policy. There are four main permanent life insurance types: Whole Life, Universal Life, Indexed Universal Life and Variable Universal Life.

Whole life insurance

What is whole life insurance?

Whole Life insurance Definition: A permanent life insurance policy that provides death benefit protection for your entire life. Generally, whole life insurance offers guaranteed fixed premiums, guaranteed cash value accumulation and guaranteed protection until the day you die. Since whole life insurance will be with you until that inevitable day it will cost you more than other common types of life insurance.Whole life allows the owner to borrow against the cash in the policy.

However, borrowing from your cash reserves may not be a good financial decision. Not only will it diminish your cash value in the policy but the life insurance company charges you interest on the money you are borrowing.

Whole life insurance is great for retirement planning, such as using the funds in your cash value policy as collateral for life insurance loans to invest in various assets, a la infinite bankingThe cash value can be borrowed against to take advantage of unique buying opportunities, such as real estate back in 2011 or other passive income ideas.

But whole life is not the recommended choice for a mom or dad of a young family who need to make sure the children are provided for in the untimely death of a parent. In that case, term life would provide better leverage and bang for your buck than whole life.

However, you may want to consider term life with a conversion option from among the best whole life companies so that you can always covert to a permanent policy down the road. Alternatively, whole life with a term rider is another great option for you if you want to lock into lifelong coverage but need more protection than a small whole life policy.

LTC Insurance

Finally, long term care whole life insurance is another great option to consider. You can choose a linked benefits solution or whole life with long term care rider.

So why is long term care insurance important?

Long term care insurance provides a cash benefit or reimbursement benefit (sometimes both) if you qualify. The normal requirements are your inability to perform 2 of 6 activities of daily living (ADLs). Upon qualifying and after an elimination period, you begin to receive monthly income benefits for the benefit period outlined in your policy.

The primary benefit of a LTC policy is the ability to afford long term care, such as in home care, nursing home care, or care in an assisted living facility. With the rising costs of long term care, you can also add an inflation rider to your coverage so that your benefit amount increases over time.

A secondary benefit of long term care life insurance is that your beneficiary’s future inheritance is not wiped out due to your long term care expenses.

Compare Term Life vs Whole Life Insurance Calculator

Term Life vs Whole Life Insurance Example

For example, suppose you have $50 discretionary income reserved for life insurance. If you are a 35 year old male in good health you will pay around $37-$52 a month in premiums for $1,000,000 of life insurance on a 20 year fixed term. However, your will pay the same premium for whole life or guaranteed universal life for a measly $100,000 in coverage. Now ask yourself, which of these policies is best for a father or mother of three, where all the kids are under the age of 10?

Universal Life Insurance

Part of the permanent life insurance family is Universal Life. Universal life insurance comes in three flavors: Guaranteed UL, Indexed UL, and Variable UL.

You may also want to visit our article covering the carriers that we consider to be among the best universal life insurance companies and policies.

Guaranteed Universal Life Insurance

  • GUL policies come in several options: to age 90, 95, 100, 110, 120 or 121 (depending on company).
  • Only the GUL to 120 or 121 is guaranteed to last the rest of your life, although most will not outlive a GUL to age 90.
  • Unlike Whole Life or other types of UL products, GUL has minimal cash value accumulation
  • Typically the lowest cost permanent life insurance.
  • Many riders available, included accelerated death benefit, critical illness and chronic illness, long term care rider and disability riders.
What is guaranteed universal life?

Guaranteed universal life insurance is a low priced permanent policy, with a flexible death benefit period that can be tailored to last until age 90, 95, 100, 110 and 121. It is best described as a term/whole life hybrid. This type of life insurance will build minimum cash value and the coverage ends at the age specified.

The GUL policy to 121 builds some cash value and is worth the face amount of the death benefit at age 121. The other options to age 90, 95, and 100 end at those respective ages and there is nothing left. Therefore, plan accordingly.

A policy to 121 is the only “sure” bet when it comes to a Guaranteed Universal Life policy. And no medical exam guaranteed universal life insurance policies are available. A no medical exam policy approval is fast with some approvals in 15 minutes. See, Life Insurance: Exam vs. No Exam 

A great universal life policy for estate planning purposes is a second to die policy. A second to die policy pays out on the death of the second spouse and the premiums are generally a lot less than life insurance on just one person.

We also like guaranteed universal life when funding an irrevocable life insurance trust because it offers permanent protection with lower premiums than whole life.

Variable Universal Life Insurance

What is variable universal life?

Variable Universal Life (VUL) is a life insurance policy type in which the face value fluctuates depending upon the value of the dollar, securities, or other equity products supporting the policy at the time payment is due.  Warning: VUL is not for the faint of heart. Depending on the investment vehicle the product is tied to this insurance type financial product can make or break a portfolio.

Variable Life Insurance is great when the market is heading up as this protection can provide a huge boon. However, when the market is trending lower an investor might not be able to keep up with the increased premium payments due. VUL is a great addition to a diversified portfolio but should not be your first type of life insurance choice.

Equity Indexed Universal Life Insurance 

What is indexed universal life?

Although not right for everyone, we do believe IULs are a good option for some. We created the following articles for those interested in investigating if IUL is right for you.

IULs provide cash value accumulation, guranteed minimum returns, and protection from market downturns.

Single Premium Permanent Coverage

Another permanent option is Single Premium Whole or Universal Life, where you purchase a paid up policy in one lump sum. The only drawback of single premium life insurance is it does not qualify as cash value life insurance under IRC 7702. As a result, it loses some of the tax advantages associated with cash value life insurance.

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

What is guaranteed issue life insurance?

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance Definition: Guaranteed issue is a quick and easy type of life insurance. It is guaranteed issue life insurance so everyone within the required age bracket will qualify for this coverage. Typically, the amount you can qualify for will be from $5,000-$$30,000 depending on the carrier.

Most come with a graded death benefit limitation which provides that the full death benefit will only be paid for natural causes after the policy has been in force for two or more years.

Caution: that means that if the primary insured dies before the 2 year graded death benefit limitation has ended, the policy will not pay out for natural causes. Most guaranteed issue policies will pay out the full amount in the first 2 years for an accidental death. And most have a 5-10% return on top of premium paid if the primary insured dies in the first two years of natural causes.

Accidental Death Insurance

  • Covers accidental deaths: trip and falls, poisoning (accidental), acts of God (fall into large hole that opened in ground, etc…), does NOT cover suicides, EVER!
  • Does NOT cover natural death, i.e. heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc…
  • Good policy option for specific individuals who do not qualify for anything else.
  • Double indemnity if on a common carrier (plane, train, taxi, boat- commercial, not private).
  • For more see our Accidental Death Insurance Review
What is accidental death insurance?

Accidental Death Insurance Definition: an insurance policy that pays benefits to the beneficiary if the cause of death is due to an accident. However, it is NOT life insurance. Read the fine print on an Accidental Death policy. The policy only covers accidental death, it does not cover sickness (think heart attack, stroke, cancer), suicide, or reckless activities such as skydiving, bungy jumping, and/or parachuting/skydiving. It works well as a rider on a regular types of life insurance policies but it should not be your only coverage, unless you have no other options available.

Simplified Issue
What is simplified issue life insurance?

Simplified issue refers to the concept of issuing a policy quickly due to less underwriting.  These policies will typically not require a medical exam, but will have health related questions to determine the applicants overall health.

Simplified issue no medical exam life insurance is available. A simplified issue policy is great for someone who does not want a medical exam either, due to fear of needles, or due to a family history of high blood pressure or cholesterol.

At TermLife2Go, we like to say, “If you don’t know, don’t test.” Instead, choose simplified issue coverage and get the policy locked in place. Then you can take an exam and see how your results turn out.

Simplified issue is also a great choice if you believe you may have a health issue but your doctor has not confirmed it. Sometimes it is better to take a no exam life insurance policy than risk getting denied on a fully underwritten policy.

Accelerated Underwriting

What is accelerated underwriting?

Accelerated underwriting life insurance is a fancy way to differentiate between simplified issue policies and the more substantial term and permanent coverage available. Accelerated underwriting is the wave of the future and involves automated underwriting using big data to insure people much faster than the old traditional fully underwritten process.

Fully Underwritten
What is fully underwritten life insurance?

Fully underwritten life insurance policies requires a medical exam. With this type of life insurance product the examiner typically comes to your home and checks your height and weight and takes a small blood and urine sample. See What do life insurance companies test blood and urine for?

Your lab results are then processed and the life insurance carrier offers you a policy based on your results, among other factors. In some cases, a physician’s statement may be collected if the carrier feels more information is needed.

For healthy individuals the typical time it takes for the life insurance carrier to make an offer can be as fast as 48 hours. However, the normal time for a healthy individual is 2-4 weeks. For someone not as healthy it can take 4-6 weeks or longer.

The one advantage with a fully underwritten policy is that for those who are healthy the savings can be substantial on both term and permanent insurance.

No Medical Exam
What is no exam life insurance?

No exam policies do not require a life insurance health exam. Often, the difference in cost between a medical exam policy and a non medical exam policy are small. A no medical exam policy helps a client avoid some of the most common reasons for policies coming back at a higher rate class than applied: high cholesterol and high blood pressure. If you are concerned about your blood work then paying a few additional dollars might very well save you money once your lab results come back.

These are a few of the many different types of life insurance policies available. Do you have a life insurance plan in place? If you would like to go over what options are available to you, just give us a call today to see what we can do for you!

Thank you for reading our article, 8 Types of Life Insurance Policies. Please leave any comments or questions below.

31 comments… add one
  • Regina C

    I have 6 other siblings and we desire to purchase life insurance for our 82 year young mother. We want enough to cover funeral expenses and have enough to split between siblings for grandchildren.

  • Jennifer L. B.

    Nee d life insurance for my dad who is 75. Need about 20.ooo I’m not sure how to tell diff in whole term and all that. Imm having a,hard time figuring out.

    • Jennifer,

      No worries, we’ll have an agent reach out to you who will be able to answer any questions you may have.



  • Claudette M

    I am needing life insurance. Email me a number to contact someone. If a strange number shows up on my cell I usually do not answer, but if you send me an email with a number and name I will call you.

  • Hi ,

    I am 51 and live in Australia and have Canadian citizenship also.

    Please let me know if I can buy life insurance till I am 65.

    What are my options.

    Kind Regards,


    • Mark,

      Plenty of folks are able to qualify for coverage up till 65. In fact, many insurance companies will even insure folks up to age 80 and beyond.

      Now whether or not you’ll be able to qualify for coverage is a different story and one that we’re probably not going to be able to help you out with because it looks like you’re not a US citizen and you don’t plan on being in the US to apply for coverage.

      You see, because we are a US based insurance brokerage, we’re only licensed to help folks within the United States so we’re not familiar with the rules and regulations that would be applicable for Canadian citizens living abroad.



  • Angela J. A.

    Read your entire message. Need guidance. Thanks! A. J. Avitia

    • Angela,

      No problem, just give us a call and we’ll do our best to help you out!



  • Jennifer T

    Would like to have someone call me to see about life insurance for my dad. My cell number is XXX XXX XXXX.

    • Jennifer,

      Thank you for your inquiry. You should have already received a phone call.



  • Diba


    Looking for good plan for me (39 years) and my husband (39 years). Please suggest.


    • Diba,

      We would be happy to recommend a policy for you, but there are a lot of things to consider before we would know which “type” of life insurance policy is best for you.

      For this reason, why don’t you just give us a call when you have a chance and we’ll do our best to answer any questions you may have and give you the tools to make the right decision for you and your family.



  • Princess Davis

    Looking for life insurance for my 32 year old brother no exam. Thank you

    • Princess Davis,

      You should receive an email from one of our agents shortly with all of their contact information.



  • Meaalii L

    I have a father 79 years ex-smoker still active and we are looking for a a policy that can cover funeral expenses and a little something for his grandchildren

    • Meaalii,

      Just give us a call when you have a chance and we’ll do our best to help you and your father out.



  • rima m

    I have 3 children under the age of 18. I would like to see my best options are as for as life insurance for me. Thank you

    • Rima,

      Thank you for stopping by. We will reach out to you via email shortly.



  • Shena R.

    Hello, My father is looking for life insurance. He is 78 and in great health. He would like funeral expenses covered and to leave something for his kids. Thanks

    • Shena,

      Sounds good, we should have several different products that would meet his needs. Why don’t you just give us a call when you have a chance and we can take a look at what the cost might be.




    Hello I am looking for life insurance for my mother in law she is interested in getting some she is 56 yrs of age with minor health issues looking to find best reasonable coverage as she on a fixed income.

  • Debbie S

    Hi this is Debbie S and need a quote for 200,000 of whole life insurance quote.

  • I am 65 yrs old and would like to get 100,000.00 life insurance in good health no meds would like a quote

    • Emily,

      Sounds good, just give us a call so we can learn a little bit more about you such as:

      – Your current height and weight,
      – What state you live in,
      – Any tobacco use,
      – Etc, etc…

      So that we can provide you with an accurate quote.



  • Joyce L

    I have two grown children with no present jobs one 34 and 29 need life insurance. Have had some mild medical test results but are no longer diagnose with the problems

    • Joyce,

      Just give us a call when you have a chance and we’ll be happy to review what options are available for you and your children.




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