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How to Get the Best Price on Life Insurance
Founder & CEO

If you thought shopping for life insurance might be stressful because you’ll have to negotiate price - like buying a car - take a deep breath. You won’t need to do that.

In fact, that would be illegal. So definitely don’t do that.

You could try to negotiate price (perfectly legal) but it would be a waste of your time because it would be illegal for any insurance broker or carrier to agree to a discount. (I’ll go into why shortly.)

To understand what you can do to get the best pricing on your life insurance, you need to understand the difference between what you can and can’t control - not always easy in life, but pretty straightforward in life insurance!

First, you need some context on how pricing works.

How Life Insurance Pricing Gets Decided

When you apply to an insurance company (aka “carrier”) it assigns you a rating - often called a “health class rating”. This rating drives your premium pricing.

That health class rating picks up your medical history, as well as factors unrelated to your health, such as your driving history and any riskier hobbies.

I think of it as your “premium class rating” rather than your “health class rating” because it is about more than just your health.

The price of a given policy will depend on:

  1. Your premium class rating (aka health class rating)
  2. Coverage amount
  3. Product type (e.g. 20 year vs 30 year term*)
  4. Insurance carrier (aka insurance company)
  5. Your age
  6. Your gender at birth
  7. Your state of residence

*Pricing of more complex permanent policies is outside the scope of this post. 

Notice that nowhere on that list is “discount negotiated” - again, that would be illegal.

Once the seven factors above are decided, a price is set by state law.

Why is that? Insurance regulation. All carriers doing business in a given state must file premium pricing with the state regulator. It is illegal for any insurance policies to be sold at prices different from what was filed with the state regulator.

That means that if you work with Brokerage ABC or Brokerage XYZ or go directly to Insurance Carrier Q, the price of a given policy from Carrier Q in that state will be the same, regardless of where you buy it.

Life Insurance Premium Rating Class (aka Health Rating Class) Names

Different carriers have different names for their rating classes, but most of them follow this or similar language:

For non-smokers (if you quit smoking more than a year ago, you can be considered a non-smoker!):

Preferred Plus (least expensive)

  • Clear health profile: BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol are all excellent, never smoked or quit smoking 5+ years ago, no family history of severe illness before age 60, no significant health issues, no prescription medications, good driving record, no risky hobbies
  • Some carriers permit mild health or lifestyle factors (e.g. mild anxiety)
  • No personal history of major illness, such as cancer


  • Health profile still very good, but there’s a little more “room” on the factors above (i.e. BMI, blood pressure & cholesterol can be a bit higher)
  • Never smoked or quit smoking 3+ years ago
  • Some carriers permit a personal history of selected significant health events

Standard Plus

  • Some carriers don’t have this category because they only have two premium class ratings better than Standard
  • Health profile still good, but there’s even more “room” on the factors above
  • Never smoked or quit smoking 1+ year ago


  • Health profile still good, but the person does not qualify for a Preferred or Standard Plus rating

Table Ratings

  • A table rating is often associated with people who have significant health factors themselves (e.g. major depressive disorder, personal history of cancer that has been resolved, etc.)

For smokers:


  • Currently smoke or quit less than 1 year ago
  • You’d otherwise qualify for a Preferred Plus or Preferred rating above


  • Currently smoke or quit less than 1 year ago
  • You’d otherwise qualify for a Standard Rating above (Standard Plus may get rounded “up” to Preferred or “down” to Standard)

If you don’t understand where a rating class you’re considering falls, you can either ask us or - if you’re talking to someone else - say “how many notches different from Standard pricing is that rating class”? You can also ask “if my policy were priced at Standard, what would it cost?” to find out the dollar amount difference.

Be sure to specify whether you’re talking about rates for smokers or non-smokers, too.

How to Get the Best Price on Life Insurance

Now for what you can control to get the best coverage and pricing: the carrier you apply to and the approach that is used. Here at AboveBoard we work very hard to get this right for each client - it is a critical driver of success.

The most important choice is applying to a carrier that will view your health & lifestyle profile favorably, and therefore offer you a good premium class rating.

Insurance carriers have really different ideas about what kinds of profiles qualify for different rating classes.

We’ve had clients where some carriers would have declined to insure them at all, but we were able to get the client a Preferred Plus rating (the best premium class rating available) because we knew the right carrier to go to.

Sometimes, surprises come up after the application is submitted, such as the insurance company discovering something the client forgot to mention, or a small detail of the medical records makes the carrier want to charge more. When that happens, we activate our client-first process that goes back to the market and re-checks - with the “new information” - what the best pricing would be. You can read about a real example of our relentless commitment to helping a client get the best pricing here.

Choosing a brokerage agency that will put your best interests first is key.

Ready to get a personalized quote from AboveBoard? Visit our Life Insurance Guide to compare quotes from 20+ highly rated insurance carriers.

Wallis is the Founder & CEO of AboveBoard Financial, a company reinventing investment advice and insurance with revolutionary transparency and honesty. Wallis spent over 10 years at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker and hedge fund investor in financial institutions. She founded AboveBoard to cut through the BS and present important choices with clarity and compassion. Wallis lives in New York City with her husband and two young children.