6 Factors that Affect Life Insurance Rates

Life insurance rates vary from person to person based on a number of factors. Some insurance companies use up to 30 different pieces of data to set an applicant’s rate. However, the majority of carriers tend to rely on some combination of six pieces of demographic information to come up with rates for individuals who apply for life policies.

In addition to the obvious age and gender questions on a typical application, there are usually places on the form for you to list your hobbies, health history, your occupation and whether or not you are a smoker. Even if you do smoke or take part in risky hobbies, it’s possible to buy high risk life insurance. In fact, some carriers cater to high-risk applicants.

Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list. Many insurers want to know about an applicant’s criminal record, credit-worthiness, marital status and more. The key thing to keep in mind is that even when insurance companies ask about items other than the six things on the list below, those six are usually given the most weight when determining a final rate quote. In no specific order of importance, some of the factors that affect a life insurance rate are:


The first question on most applications usually is “What is your age?” In most every case, insurers give this factor the most weight when setting a premium. Younger applicants pay less than older folks. It’s just a fact of life that as we age, our risk of death rises. People of any age, usually up to almost the point of retirement age, can apply for life insurance and get it. For the oldest applicants, however, rates can be very high.


Pilots, foundry workers, and loggers are just three occupations that will put you on a “high-risk job” list. Each insurer has its own preferences in this category, but you can expect to pay more for life insurance if you work with toxic substances or perform dangerous tasks. If your job is not on a high-risk list, then you’ll be described as having a “no-risk” or “low-risk” occupation, which means a lower rate.


Women tend to live about 2.5 years longer than men in the U.S., on average. For purposes of life insurance, that translates to lower rates for female applicants.

Whether or Not You Smoke

Different insurers handle the “smoker vs non-smoker” issue differently. In all cases, smokers will pay more, but there are some variations in how that works. If you still smoke, for example, you’ll pay more than non-smokers. But if you recently quit, some insurers will give you a break based on how long you have been “tobacco-free.” If you already have a policy and quit smoking after you got it, remember to notify your carrier and tell them you are no longer a smoker. You might have to wait a few years for a rate reduction, but the savings can be substantial. Also, remember that some insurers only ask about “smoking” while others inquire about “any tobacco products.”

Family and Personal Health History

If you have a family history of something like cancer or heart disease, your rates will be higher than average. This is particularly true for illnesses that are deemed “hereditary.” Of course, your personal health history also affects rates, so if you’ve had a heart attack, have high blood pressure or suffer from some other serious illness, insurers will take those factors into consideration.


This is one of the areas where each company has its own preferences. If you engage in any high-risk hobbies, you’re likely to get a higher rate. However, while one insurer might define “ultra-distance running” as a risky hobby, another might not. What’s the solution for those who take part in questionable pursuits like hang-gliding, rock climbing, diving, and mountaineering? Shop around for a company that does not include your particular hobby on its “high risk” list.