What is the Best Life Insurance in Canada?

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Did you know that 22 million Canadians have a life insurance plan? The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says that the average household is protected for up to $442,000. That coverage totals an astounding $5.1 trillion!

Is your family protected?

A good life insurance plan is one of the most powerful tools you have for assuring your family's financial stability. This guide decrypts what can seem like a confusing product. Continue reading to learn how life insurance works, why you want it, what to look out for, how to find affordable coverage and who has the best policy for you.

What are the best life insurance companies?

Did you know that there are over 150 life insurance providers operating currently in Canada? With so many options to choose from, making a decision can be overwhelming. To help you filter out the noise, we have created our picks of the top life insurance companies.

Canada Life life insurance: Comprehensive options from one of the country’s largest insurers

Keep in mind

Founded in 1847, The Canada Life Assurance Company was Canada’s first domestic life insurance company. In 2013, the company merged with Great-West Life insurance and London Life insurance. As one of the largest insurance companies in Canada, it collects over $36 billion in insurance premiums each year and employs over ten thousand people.

What types of life insurance policies does Canada Life offer?

Let's take a look in the table below at the range of coverages available from Canada Life:

TypesTerm Life InsuranceWhole Life InsuranceUniversal Life InsuranceParticipating Life Insurance
TermFrom 5 to 50 yearsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Guaranteed burial insurance
Debt repayment
Inheritance transfer for beneficiaries 
Value growth in your life insurance
Increases your savings (non-taxable)
Participation in investment results (in the form of dividends)
Canada Life life insurance coverage types

Canada Life: pros & cons

Pros

  • Flexible terms ranging between 5 and 50 years
  • Wide variety of optional riders
  • Unique Business Growth Protection Rider

Cons

  • Minimum $100,000 coverage or
  • Minimum $500 premiums
  • Limited online features

Sun Life life insurance: A great option for families

Keep in mind

Sun Life has been providing insurance since 1871. Originally headquartered in Quebec, the group now provides insurance over the whole American continent as well as in India, the Philippines, the UK and North Africa.

What types of life insurance policies does Sun Life offer?

Sun Life offers term, permanent and whole life insurance. Let's take a look at what Sun Life offers for its term life customers.

TypesTerm Life
Term10, 15, 20, 30 years
Age
  • Term 10: 0 - 75
  • Term 15: 0 - 70
  • Term 20: 0 - 65
  • Term 30: 0 - 55
PriceBetween $26 and $107 per month depending on age, term, and the amount of coverage
Coverage Amount$50,000 and up
How Sun Life term life insurance works

Sun Life has a range of policies to suit every individual need. Take a look at the table below to see what other types of life insurance they offer.

PolicyFeatures
Participatory permanent life insurance
  • generates short-term cash value
  • covers you until death
  • generates long-term cash value
  • seeks to increase death benefit through investment
Non-participatory permanent life insurance
  • covers you until death
  • death benefits of $5,000 to $10 million
  • generates long-term cash value
  • seeks to increase death benefit through investment
Universal life insurance
  • wide variety of death benefit options
  • covers you until death
  • option to cease payments after 70 and remain covered
SunLife insurance offers

Sun Life: pros and cons

How much does it cost to get insured with Sun Life? Each person and situation is different, however, we have drawn up a table of estimated costs for $500,000 of life insurance coverage over a 20-year term to help you get an idea of premiums.

Sun Life offers term, permanent and universal life insurance. However, it has a wide variety of optional riders that can be added or bought separately. For example:

Pros

  • Intuitive online platform for making claims
  • Slick mobile app
  • Fast-tracked digital customer service

Cons

  • Not all plans can get an online quote

Manulife life insurance: Synergy plans combine life insurance with disability and critical illness coverage

Keep in mind

With over 33 million customers Manulife is one of the most popular insurance companies in Canada. They recently announced a net zero carbon policy and work to keep investments green.

What types of life insurance policies does Manulife offer?

Manulife offers term, whole and universal life policies. Under each type, they have a number of plans. Here is a table showing the difference in each life insurance option available:

TypeTerm LifeWhole LifeUniversal LifeGauranteed Issue
Term10-year incrementsLifetimeLifetimeLifetime
Coverage plans 
  • Family Term with Vitality Plus
  • Family Term
  • CoverMe Term Life
  • CoverMe Easy Issue

**
  • Manulife Par whole life insurance
  • Performax Gold whole life insurance
  • Manulife UL with Vitality Plus
  • Manulife UL
  • InnoVision
  • Guaranteed Issue up to $25,000
Manulife insurance plan

Interested in combining life insurance with disability and critical illness? You can we Manulife synergy 3-in-1 policies.

Manulife: pros and cons

Pros

  • Online client service portal
  • Online claims submission
  • Access to My Vitality
  • Online chat option available

Cons

  • The site can be difficult to navigate
  • Quebec residents cannot obtain a quote online

Desjardins life insurance: life insurance with Canada’s leading cooperative financial group

Keep in mind

Desjardins is the largest insurance provider in Quebec but also operates across Canada. They have over 200 outlets where you can speak to an advisor face to face and over 700 points of service.

Which types of life insurance policies does Desjardins offer?

Desjardins offers a variety of life insurance policies to suit different needs. Have a look at our table below to see how they differ.

TypesTerm Life InsuranceWhole Life InsuranceUniversal Life InsuranceParticipating Life Insurance
Term10, 20, 30 yearsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
AgeUntil aged 65From ages 50 to 75 years oldNo age limitNo age limit
Guaranteed burial insurance
Debt repayment
Inheritance transfer for beneficiaries
Value growth in your life insurance
Increases your savings (non-taxable)
Compare Desjardins life insurance

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Desjardins life insurance?

Pros

  • Desjardins is an asset management expert
  • Desjardins offers health and retirement coverage in addition to life insurance

Cons

  • No life insurance quote online
  • No online chat forum is available

Protect your future ad safeguard your loved ones.

iA life insurance: an insurance giant with a variety of policies

Keep in mind

IA, or Industrial Alliance, is a financial services group that also provides life insurance. Founded in 1892 it has over 4 million clients.

What other types of life insurance policies does iA offer?

iA has a variety of different life insurance policies to suit clients at different life stages and with differing lifestyles. Take a look at the table below to see what kinds of insurance they offer.

TypesLife and Serenity 65Whole LifeAccess LifeChild & health Duo
TermUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Tax-free?
Benefit$1 million$10,000$500,000$500,000
Fixed premiums
Cash surrender value
Compare iA life insurance

What are the pros and cons of iA life insurance?

Pros

  • Flexible policies
  • No-medical and guaranteed options
  • Optional disability add-on

Cons

  • Paper policies only
  • Term life is more expensive than competitors

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is an insurance product designed to provide for your loved ones financially after your death. You pay monthly, or more rarely annual, premiums. If you die while you are covered, your beneficiaries receive money. This helps ensure that they can continue paying off the mortgage, and existing loans and afford a funeral. It can be a critical component of estate planning.

There are several kinds of life insurance in Canada. These include term life and permanent life insurance. No matter your needs or budget, there are life insurance products designed for your family's needs. 

Good to know

Why is life insurance important? Life insurance, no matter the type, is a critical tool in a family's financial planning. Do not leave major expenses behind for your loved ones.

How does life insurance work?

Life insurance works by spreading out risk over a large number of policyholders. This is the idea behind other types of insurance too. Some people will have a need, but most will not. Everyone pays a small amount in order to be protected. You buy peace of mind, knowing that in the event of a catastrophic need your family will be okay.

Life insurance policies provide financial payouts to the beneficiaries of someone who unexpectedly dies. This coverage is provided during a specific period (known as term life insurance) or for life (known as permanent life insurance). It is a powerful financial product for protecting your loved ones. Tis can assure

How much is life insurance in Canada?

How much life insurance costs depends on many factors. Age, health, gender, occupation and desired level of coverage all affect pricing. Prices can range from as little as $12 to several hundred per month.

A recent study states that you should be spending 6% of your annual income on life insurance, with an additional 1% for each child or non-working dependant that would need to provide for in the event of your death. How much would that be of your salary?

The table below sets out some ballpark figures for $100,000 of term life insurance coverage for a young, male non-smoker. Remember that these estimates and your actual costs will be adjusted to your personal health and circumstances.

A 20-year term has higher premiums because the rates are guaranteed for longer, meaning that the provider takes on more risk.

Age10-year term / annual cost20-year term / annual cost
30$150$170
40$185$250
50$230$545
60$770$1480
70$2,060$2,560
Average cost life insurance Canada

As we can see from these figures, the older you are when you purchase a term life insurance policy, the more you will have to pay. Taking the rough figures, let's take an example.

Women will tend to pay 10-20% less than men for life insurance, whereas smokers will pay up to 100% more than non-smokers in premiums. Many other factors will affect the offer you are made including work and lifestyle. You can browse life insurance policies at the top of this page or get started comparing personalized quotes right now with a life insurance broker.

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How much life insurance do I need?

A good rule of thumb for calculating how much life insurance you need is to take your annual income and multiply it by ten.

Good to know

Annual income x 10 = how much life insurance you need

This formula is, however, only a guideline. When deciding on coverage there is a lot to consider. The needs of a single parent with dependent children and a mortgage are not the same as someone with a financially independent partner, a paid-off mortgage and no dependents. The former might want considerable coverage. The latter could be okay with a minimal policy or none at all.   

Are you wondering how much and what type of life insurance to buy? 

Here are some good questions to ask yourself if life insurance is worth it for you:

  • What dependents do you have? Besides children and a spouse, some people help support their parents or siblings. 
  • Are you a single parent?
  • Will your children depend on you financially to be able to attend university or secondary education? 
  • What outstanding debt would you pass on to your family? 
  • How much do you still owe on your mortgage? 
  • Could your family stay in your house without you?
  • Do you want to leave a charitable contribution to an organization or religious group?
  • How much money do you have saved?

Why is life insurance important?

Getting life insurance is buying peace of mind. It is a tool that allows you to protect your family financially. 

While it is unpleasant to consider, imagine for a moment that you were to lose your life to an unexpected illness or an automobile accident. You leave behind a spouse and a child. There is still a decade remaining on your home mortgage. 

It is a tragic scene, but life insurance could allow your spouse and child to stay in their home and maintain their standard of life. It could be the difference between your child being able to afford university or not. This peace of mind is the main benefit of life insurance.

What are the different types of life insurance?

There is a great variety of types of life insurance. There is something for almost everyone. Want to protect your dependents until they are adults? Term life insurance may be the right choice. Are you looking for a long-term investment strategy? Then a permanent life insurance policy like whole life or universal life is better. There are plans for everyone. You can even purchase children's life insurance.

Below we take a detailed look at life insurance types.

What is term life insurance?

Term life insurance is a flexible, relatively inexpensive life insurance product. It pays death benefits to beneficiaries if the insured dies within a specific period. 

This period, or term, could be almost any length of time. It is often 10, 20 or 30 years. Alternatively, term life insurance can cover you up to a specific age, say until 65 years old. If the policyholder passes away while the policy is active, their family receives a cash payout to pay for short-term needs like the funeral or long-term needs like their standard of life. The payout, or death benefit, is based on the coverage purchased. 

Getting a term life insurance policy is a great way to protect dependent children.

Term life insurance works differently from permanent life insurance. Whereas permanent life insurance pays out regardless of when the policyholder dies, term life insurance is limited to that specific length of time or up to a certain age.

Good to know

Direct term life insurance, sometimes referred to as “direct-to-consumer” term life insurance, is simply term insurance purchased from a life insurance company or agency rather than through a middleman. It is fast and convenient to purchase and available online or by phone.

What is permanent life insurance?

Permanent life insurance is a type of insurance that pays out after the policyholder passes away. Unlike term insurance, permanent life insurance guarantees that you will leave behind money for your survivors. 

These products are more expensive than term life insurance if purchased later in life. They have the chief advantage of premiums that do not rise with your age. It can make sense to lock in a lower monthly payment for life by purchasing them when young. You may have expensive premiums early on, but it is an investment that can pay off. 

The main types of permanent life insurance are whole life, universal life and term to 100

Watch out!

While permanent life insurance plans tend to be expensive initially, they can provide better value in the long run. They grow in cash value. 

What is whole life insurance?

Whole life insurance, as implied by the name, is a type of permanent life insurance that provides a policyholder with lifelong coverage. Permanent life insurance pays out to beneficiaries regardless of when the policyholder dies. This is a key difference versus term life insurance, which expires at a specific length of time or age.

These plans are relatively easy to understand. They do not require you to balance assets like universal life insurance. 

They usually allow you to build cash surrender value (CSV). This can be a valuable financial instrument for cash withdrawal or loan collateral. 

What is universal life insurance?

Universal life insurance combines permanent life insurance with a tax-advantaged investment account. These plans have cash value, or cash surrender value, so withdrawals and loans may be permitted.

Universal life insurance’s value depends on how the investments have performed. They, therefore, come with some element of risk. There may not be much money in them to leave behind if investments perform poorly.

Some offer flexibility in the amount you contribute to premiums, unlike whole life insurance with locked-in premiums. You have wide freedom to choose your investments. 

What is term to 100 life insurance?

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Despite the name, term to 100 life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance. Premiums are locked in at the time of purchase. It pays out at the time of death. If you live to 100 years old, the policy generally expires. It may pay at that point or continue without charging premiums. In other cases, it may be extendable. Check the fine print of your contract before you buy.   

There is one key difference with term to 100 life insurance vs other types of permanent life insurance. 100 to life insurance does not build up a cash value to borrow against or provide a cash surrender value if you discontinue payments.

What is dependent life insurance?

Dependent life insurance is a type of life insurance that benefits the spouse and dependent children of an employee. 

These policies are offered by some employers. Dependent children are defined as under 21 years old, or under 25 if they are full-time students. Rates are based on the age, sex and smoking status of the employee. Payouts are generally lower than separate term and permanent life insurance products. Some plans offer death benefits in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 for a spouse and $2,500 to $5,000 for children. 

Good to know

Some dependent life insurance plans allow the employee to purchase additional supplemental coverage themselves. Check with your employer.

How long does a beneficiary have to claim a life insurance policy?

The sooner a beneficiary makes a claim, the better. 

With that said, as long as the policy was active and in good standing when the policyholder died, it should not have an expiration date. You could make a claim years after a policyholder died, but the documentation and process could be longer and more complicated.

How to choose life insurance?

It can be difficult to work out how much you should be spending on life insurance - after all, how do you measure peace of mind? How to balance cost against coverage?

If we break it down to its essentials a good life insurance policy is within your budget and will cover you in the event of your death. If you are young and healthy you will likely be able to find a cheaper policy with a long term that you can start paying into now in preparation for when you are older and more vulnerable.

The amount of coverage you need as well as the type of life insurance best suited to you will depend on your personal situation. Let's take a quick look at the most common types.

Type of life insuranceTermHigher or lower premiumOur verdict
Term life insuranceLimited term: usually between 10 and 30Cheaper premiums, especially if you are young and healthy.The best choice for those who will have no problem passing a medical exam.
Permanent life insuranceCovers you until the end of your lifeGuaranteed payout means much higher premiumsPremiums don't rise with age so this is a good option for older people or people with preexisting conditions.
Whole life insuranceCovers you until the end of your lifeGuaranteed payout means much higher premiumsThe money paid in is invested and can be withdrawn, this is known as the Cash Surrender Value (CSV)
Compare types of life insurance

What does life insurance cover?

Life insurance provides a one-time, tax-free payment to your beneficiaries. The amount of this death benefit depends on the type of insurance and the amount of coverage. Beneficiaries can use this money towards anything from living expenses, to paying off co-signed debt, to the funeral or something else entirely.  

Assuming the account was in good standing, it is rare to have problems claiming benefits from a life insurance policy. Nevertheless, some exclusions do exist. Your contract should clearly explain them. Life insurance plans usually include a contestability period of 1 to 3 years. The contestability period means that a death occurring in the years just after taking on the policy is likely to be scrutinized by the insurer. 

Here are examples of possible exclusions:

  • The policyholder dies or commits suicide during the contestability period.
  • The policyholder committed fraud or intentionally misinformed the insurer on their application by lying about pre-existing health conditions or risky behaviour.
  • The death occurred while committing a criminal act
  • The death occurred while taking part in an extreme sport such as heli-skiing, skydiving or similar. 
  • The death occurred in a high-risk area of the world.
  • The policyholder failed to pay their premiums.

Does life insurance cover natural death?

Yes, life insurance almost always covers natural death and accidents. In the event of illness, heart attack, stroke, old age and similar your estate or beneficiaries will receive the death benefit. Generally motor vehicle accidents, drownings and similar will qualify too.

Deaths that would not be eligible for life insurance payouts are murder by the beneficiary or deaths stemming from risky activities (auto racing, rock climbing, scuba diving, hang gliding, etc). In the event of suicide, it is unlikely to qualify if it occurs during the contestability period shortly after you purchase the policy.

Watch out!

Don't lie on your life insurance application. Even if it means paying more, not disclosing existing medical conditions, family health history or substance abuse issues may be grounds for denying a claim.

How do I get life insurance quotes?

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You can also get individual ife insurance quotes through a life insurance broker, directly through financial and insurance agencies or online. Getting life insurance is a decision with ramifications for your finances now and your family’s future. Weigh your options carefully. 

Different policies require different processes. Instant policies exist, while others require a complex health questionnaire. Others yet require your consent for the insurance company to contact your medical providers to confirm your medical information. Expect more time-consuming, thorough applications for higher coverage.

Good to know

Premiums are based on factors as diverse as your age, sex, medical history, your family’s medical history, occupation and financial situation. Smokers, moderate to heavy drinkers, and overweight applicants will pay more. Some occupations are considered higher risk and incur higher charges as well.

Who offers the best life insurance policies in Canada?

Here are some of the most popular life insurance companies in Canada:

Want to compare quotes from 20 leading life insurance providers right now? You can.

When should you get life insurance?

You can purchase a life insurance policy whenever you like, but it pays to be proactive. Why not get started by comparing life insurance today?

It is cheaper to purchase life insurance when you are younger and healthier. Waiting until you are already sick may bar you from entering some programs or mean more expensive premiums and fewer benefits.

Your life situation plays a role in deciding when you should get life insurance. You may decide that you do not need life insurance at all if you have no dependents. On the other hand, if you have a spouse and children depending on you as a financial breadwinner, it is smart to protect them. 

Good to know

Want to buy cheap life insurance? Buy while you are young. Waiting means higher premiums.

Is life insurance taxable in Canada?

Beneficiaries of a life insurance payment receive a one-time, tax-free payment. Neither term nor whole life insurance is declarable on Canadian tax returns. Similarly, the amount of the death benefit is irrelevant in regard to taxes. Be sure to Name your beneficiaries and update them if they change. It will save them time and prevent complications.

Take care to name your beneficiaries on your policy. Without named beneficiaries, your estate will receive the death benefit. From your estate, it may go to your existing taxes and debts before beneficiaries receive a distribution. It can also trigger estate administration taxes and probate fees. 

Good to know

Need more details on life insurance and taxes? Our life insurance tax guide has answers.

Is life insurance an asset?

Life insurance policies are considered assets when they have a cash value.

A financial asset is almost anything that holds monetary value. Examples include investment accounts, property, gold and antiques and collectibles. Whole life and universal life insurance policies are assets because they have cash value. The insurance company will generally allow the policyholder to make withdrawals. Competitive low-interest loans may also be available, making these types of policies assets that are easy to tap into. 

Term life insurance, on the other hand, is not considered an asset because you can’t access cash value.

Life insurance typeIs it an asset?
Whole life insurance
Universal life insurance
Term life insurance
Which types of life insurance are assets?

Let’s take a look at an example: 

Keep in mind

Fred lives in Ottawa. He has had a rough financial year. He had to purchase a new car a few months ago, and now the old roof of his home started leaking. He knows that he needs to get it replaced quickly, but used most of what he had in the bank on the car. Getting a personal loan isn’t a good option for him right now because he’s already paying off his mortgage and the car. 

Fortunately, he’s had a universal life insurance policy for the past 15 years. After some reflection, he borrows the $25,000 he needs from that policy to fund the roof replacement. This decreases the cash value of his policy but gives him the flexibility to weather the financial storm. The advantage of using his life insurance policy is that he isn't actually obligated to pay it off immediately or at all (though he plans to do so once he gets his finances back on track).

What is return of premium insurance (ROP)?

ROP stands for Return of Premium. It is a type of life insurance policy which returns the premiums to the purchaser in the event that they outlive the term specified in the policy.

Let's take an example. Terrence purchases a life insurance plan which covers him up to the age of 80. Since Terrance has bought a Return of Premium policy, he will be repaid all of the premiums that he has paid into the insurance once he passes his 80th birthday.

What are the benefits of return of premium?

If you outlive the terms of your policy you will have your premiums returned to you, allowing you to use the money perhaps for the enhanced costs of late-life care or alternatively purchase another life insurance policy.

It can be a method of saving that prevents you from accessing the money for a set period of time.

What are the cons of return of premium?

ROP policies are priced significantly higher than standard term life insurance. The returns you make if you outlive the term are likely to be less than if you saved the money by purchasing a standard policy and invested the difference.

Good to know

Return on Premium riders are far less common in Canada than in the United States; however, Sun Life offers ROP on policy expiry with its Critical Illness Insurance plan. If you outlive the expiry date of your plan then your premiums will be repaid to you.

What is life insurance for a mortgage?

Mortgage life insurance is similar to term life insurance. The policy lasts as long as the policyholder's mortgage term. Should they pass away, the policy covers the remainder of the mortgage balance.

These "life insurance for a mortgage" policies target new home buyers. They protect most families’ most valuable asset, their home. One important distinction, any payout goes directly to the existing mortgage balance. The lender is the beneficiary on this type of insurance, but one's dependents get a paid-off home to live in. This is unlike term or permanent life insurance, which provides the policyholder's beneficiaries themselves with a cash payment. Once a mortgage is paid off, the policy expires. 

Compared to other types of life insurance, mortgage life insurance usually may offer smaller premiums. It is easy to purchase at the same time as a mortgage. Because it may not come with a medical check, mortgage life insurance policies can be a good choice for those with pre-existing conditions.

In Canada, buyers are not required to purchase a mortgage life policy. Both term and permanent life insurance plans can provide your family with similar financial protection. 

What is endowment life insurance?

In simplified terms, these policies are term life insurance paired with a savings and investment instrument. Money paid in premiums goes towards an amount known as the endowment that will be paid out when the policy matures or in the event that you die beforehand.

This type of insurance policy is typically sold with the idea of providing a fund for a child or other dependent's education. Let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Low-risk investment
  • No medical exam
  • The cash value of an endowment is not measured as part of a student's financial threshold (when applying for loans)

Cons

  • Low risk means low returns
  • Combined types of policy are often a worse deal than buying two policies separately

In conclusion, though endowment life insurance policies are often sold to consumers as being tailored to education needs, there are alternatives to consider. Read about student loans and consider purchasing an RESP before buying an endowment life insurance policy.

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