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How to buy term life insurance

Buying term life insurance has many similarities to other types of insurance shopping, but there are some nuances to consider. Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you want to provide some financial protection for loved ones, you might decide to buy term life insurance. This purchase can enable your family or others you designate as beneficiaries to receive payouts in the event you pass away during the coverage period. If you end up outliving the term, then there might not be any payout, but that might still give you peace of mind during the years you're covered.

Yet not all term life insurance policies are the same. If you're thinking of getting term life insurance coverage, you'll likely encounter a multi-step process.

If you're in the market for term life insurance then start by getting a free online price quote now so you know exactly what to expect.

How to buy term life insurance

Determine the coverage amounts

If you buy term life insurance, you can choose different coverage amounts, which might vary depending on your budget and goals. The higher the coverage amounts, the more the premiums generally cost.

One rule of thumb is to obtain coverage for 5-10 times your annual salary, which could give your spouse and children a financial buffer if you pass away young. 

But you might decide to obtain higher coverage amounts, if available, such as to cover debts like your mortgage. Or, maybe you're looking for more limited coverage, such as if you're close to retirement and want to leave your spouse with a little bit of extra money in case you pass away in the near term.

You can easily see how much coverage you're eligible for here now.

Figure out the coverage period

In addition to determining your coverage amounts, you'll also want to figure out your coverage period. With term life insurance, you're buying coverage for a given timeframe, as opposed to whole life insurance that lasts a lifetime.

Depending on the insurance company, the lengths might be different, but common examples include 10-year, 20-year, or 30-year term life insurance policies. So, if you're mainly looking to help your kids in the event you pass away before they get deep into careers of their own, you might choose a 20-year policy, for instance.

Get quotes

Once you have a good idea of what you're looking for regarding term life insurance length and limits, you can start to obtain quotes. Some life insurance providers let you obtain quotes online by inputting information like your age, sex, and general health status. In doing so, you can see how different variables, like raising or lowering coverage amounts, affect what your monthly payments would be.

You also might have to get a medical exam before buying life insurance, though some insurance companies let you buy no-medical-exam life insurance policies. However, policies that don't require medical exams tend to be more expensive.

You can get a free online price estimate here now or use the table below to review some top life insurance providers.

How the term life insurance purchase process is similar to other insurance types

In many ways, buying term life insurance is like buying other types of insurance, whether that's whole life insurance or other forms of insurance like car insurance

Some of these similarities include:

  • Shopping around: You generally want to compare quotes from different insurance companies to find good rates.
  • Determining coverage amounts: Many types of insurance have different coverage levels. You might be willing to pay higher premiums if it could lead to higher claims.
  • Comparing coverage terms: In addition to comparing rates and coverage amounts, shopping for term life insurance is similar to other types of insurance in the sense that you want to dig into details about the policy. Make sure you understand the fine print before purchasing. Ask questions from your potential insurance provider and/or turn to a trusted professional like a financial advisor.

How the term life insurance purchase process is different from other insurance types

While you might notice many similarities with other insurance types when you buy term life insurance, you also might notice differences like:

  • Deciding on coverage length: As mentioned, term life insurance only covers a set length of time. So that differs from whole life insurance, and it also often differs from other policies like pet insurance or car insurance that you can renew annually. With term life insurance, you might buy a policy now that lasts for decades.
  • Getting a medical exam: Some other types of insurance might just involve inputting basic information about the asset you're trying to insure. But when it comes to life insurance, you might need to get a medical exam to get your application approved. That said, this can be true for term life insurance as well as other life insurance types.
  • Involving loved ones: Because term life insurance typically only pays out if you pass away, or perhaps has a rider that allows for claims when dealing with a critical illness, that can mean that deciding to buy term life insurance is more of a family decision than a personal one. Even when other forms of insurance involve loved ones, like if you're buying family health insurance, the purchase process for term life insurance can be a little different. That's because you're thinking about passing money on if you're no longer around. So, that might bring up some uncomfortable but important discussions related to end–of–life care, building a family legacy, etc.

The bottom line

Overall, buying term life insurance has many similarities to other types of insurance shopping, but there are some nuances to consider, like thinking about the possibility of your death.

If you're the primary earner in your family, have young children, or want to help your spouse pay off your mortgage if you pass away before them, for example, then term life insurance could be a good decision. 

Consider what your loved ones might gain from your purchasing term life insurance and then see if there's a policy that meets your budget and financial goals. 

Start by getting a free online price quote now so you know exactly what to expect.

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