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When should you get life insurance?

While you should think about life insurance when you become an adult, it’s particularly important as soon as you have children, or have a partner or family members who rely on your income. No matter what your age, our guide helps you choose the right life insurance policy.

While you should think about life insurance when you become an adult, it’s particularly important as soon as you have children, or have a partner or family members who rely on your income. No matter what your age, our guide helps you choose the right life insurance policy.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Faith Archer
Insurance expert
Last Updated
16 JANUARY 2024
8 min read
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Are there age limits for taking out life insurance?

You should be able to take out some form of cover up to about 90 – and many providers offer life insurance if you’re over 50. There are certain circumstances, however, when you’ll need to have a medical or show a doctor’s report.

It’s worth keeping in mind that taking out a policy is more about the stage in life you’ve reached and your changing circumstances like your financial security, rather than just your age.

There’s no minimum age for life insurance, but you’ll need to be 18 to take out a financial contract such as an insurance policy.

How does age affect the cost of life insurance? 

When talking about how much life insurance costs, generally, the older you are, the more you should expect to pay for a policy. That’s because you’re considered more of a risk to an insurance provider as you get older because you’re more likely to die during your ‘policy term’ – that is, while the policy is running. A provider will take into account many other factors though, such as your health and whether you smoke.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost of life insurance by age group:

Age Monthly cost of level-term life insurance policy[1]
18-29 £2.95
30-39 £4.86
40-49 £9.31
50-59 £19.73
60-69 £31.43
70-79 £41.02
80+ £192.25


[1]
51% of customers could achieve these premiums per month for their life insurance for a 10-year term, up to £175k worth of cover, non-smoker and no critical illness cover. Based on Comparethemarket data in December 2023.

How can I get the cheapest life insurance?

While the price of your life insurance premium is a main consideration, the cheapest policy might not always be the best life insurance policy for you.

If you want to save money without reducing your level of cover, check out these tips and compare life insurance quotes:

1. The earlier, the better

The older you get, the greater your chance of developing health problems. So taking out life insurance when you’re young and healthy will typically cost less than starting a policy in later life.

2. Stay healthy

Healthier lifestyle choices like exercising, a well-balanced diet and not smoking could make you a lower risk and help you save money on life insurance.

3. Buy life insurance with critical illness cover

Combining critical illness cover with your life insurance can often work out cheaper than buying two separate policies. 

4. Choose the right policy type

Choose a policy that best suits your needs – for example, term life insurance can be limited to a set number of years, offering cheaper premiums and a high level of cover when it’s needed most.

5. Check your cover every now and then

Review your policy to make sure it still meets your needs, especially if there have been major changes in your life, like marriage, new family members or divorce.

6. Shop around

As well as price, check cover levels and exclusions of different policies to make sure you’re getting value for money.

Compare life insurance quotes in less than 4 minutes[4].

What else could affect my life insurance premium?

Before comparing life insurance, it’s important to keep in mind that:

  • With the exception of specialist over 50s life insurance, providers will typically ask whether you have any medical conditions or unhealthy lifestyle choices that could potentially lead to an increase in your premium. For instance as a smoker, you can expect to pay a higher monthly premium than a non-smoker if you’ve used any tobacco products in the past 12 months.
  • If you and your spouse/partner both need life cover, it may cost less to buy a joint life insurance policy, rather than one policy each. However, make sure that’s the right option for your circumstances, because if one of you dies, a joint policy will end after one lump sum pay-out, leaving the other policyholder without cover. So, if you and a partner both die in the same traffic accident, for example, there would just be one pay-out with a joint policy instead of two with individual policies. It’s important to be sure that if the worst happens, a child or other dependants are protected.
  • Ask yourself whether you also need critical illness cover. For a slightly higher cost, you can arrange for the policy to pay out not only in the event of your death, but also if you become seriously ill with one of the conditions listed on the policy. Learn more about critical illness insurance.

What if I didn’t buy life insurance when I was younger? 

There can be cost benefits to buying life insurance when you’re younger. But if you didn’t take out insurance when you were young, don’t worry – you can use our comparison service at any age to find great cover at the right price for you.

Your circumstances may also change in later years. You might no longer need life cover to pay the mortgage, fund childcare or replace your salary if your mortgage is cleared, your children now have their own jobs and you receive a pension. However, you might like the peace of mind from knowing you’ll leave an insurance pay-out towards, for example, funeral expenses, inheritance tax bills or caring costs for a partner.

It’s important to know that, if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness and try to buy life insurance after that, any pre-existing conditions are likely to be excluded from a pay-out if they cause your death.  

Do I need life insurance? 

While it isn’t a legal requirement like car insurance, life insurance could be important for providing financial protection for the people you love. Think about it like this, if something were to happen to you, would your loved ones be looked after? If you’re unsure, you should consider taking out life insurance.

If you’re buying a home, mortgage lenders will sometimes insist on you taking out life insurance, in order to protect your home and their investment.

Why do I need life insurance?

There are several reasons why you might need life insurance. Let’s take a look at them:

Supporting your family

Life insurance is there to help take care of people who depend on you financially when you die. It’s worth considering if you have dependants, for example:

  • Children
  • A partner who relies on your income
  • Other family members who rely on you to pay for their care.

For many people, life insurance can be a good option to help dependants cope financially after a death. So, it can be worth considering life insurance when you move in with a partner, get married or enter a civil partnership, or have children together – particularly when your income is needed to support the household.

Non-working parents might also want to consider life insurance. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, there would still be a financial impact if you were to die. Childcare would need to be paid for, or the working parent would need to cut their hours. Either way, there’s the potential for a financial impact on your household income.

Buying a home

Most mortgage providers require you to take out life insurance to cover your mortgage payments, so that they know the debt will be paid if you die. This is particularly important if you have dependants who live with you, because if they’re not able to pay the mortgage repayments then the provider is likely to want to sell the home to pay off the debt.

If you’d like a life insurance policy which will track with your mortgage, a decreasing term life insurance policy might be the best choice for you. This type of policy is usually cheaper than other types of life insurance, like level-term life insurance or whole of life policy. You can set the amount of cover and payout to decrease in line with your outstanding mortgage balance. 

Just remember, you don’t have to buy your life insurance from the same provider you get your mortgage from. You might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere.

Changing jobs

Changing jobs can be an opportunity to review whether you need life insurance.

Some companies offer death in service benefits, where a named person or people will be paid a sum of money (usually a multiple of your salary) if you die while you’re working for the company.

If, for example, you’re earning £30,000 and get three times your salary as death in service benefits, your named beneficiary would receive £90,000. If you move to a company that doesn’t offer this kind of benefit, it might be worth thinking about taking out life insurance to replace it.

Paying for a funeral

You may also want to think about how your funeral would be paid for. According to SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report 2022, a basic funeral cost, on average, £4,056 in 2021. That’s a significant amount for your loved ones to pay, when you’re gone. The right insurance policy could cover these costs for them.

So, if you want your family and loved ones to manage financially if you die, then it’s worth considering life insurance.

When don’t you need life insurance?

Life insurance may not be worth considering if:

  • You’re single and have no dependants
  • Your partner earns enough for your family to live on
  • Your income is low and your dependants could be eligible for state benefits.

Should I get life insurance over 40?

Your forties may be a good time to get life insurance. At this age, you might be thinking about your responsibilities to your dependants, but you’re still young enough to benefit from affordable premiums. Over 40s life insurance options include whole of life insurance as well as term insurance, so you should be able to find a policy to suit your needs.

Compare life insurance now

Life insurance is something we should all think about sooner rather than later, especially so if you have a family, mortgage, debts or dependants. But you could need a life insurance policy at any time of your life.

Start a life insurance quote and see if you can save.

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