What is a life insurance rate class and why is it so important?

If you’re trying to determine how much your life insurance coverage will cost, you may have come across the term ” life insurance rate class or health ratings.”

A life insurance rate class is that it is a way of coming up with how much risk an applicant for coverage will pose to an insurance company, and in turn, how much to charge in premium.

Whenever anyone applies for life insurance coverage, the insurance company wants to know just how much risk it may be taking on if they approve the applicant for a policy.

There are a number of different parameters that go into the pricing of life insurance. These include the type and the amount of coverage that is being applied for.

In addition, because life insurance rates are also determined in large part on a person’s anticipated life expectancy, an applicant’s age, gender, height and weight, and overall health are typically also considered.

Learn more: See insurance height and weight charts

Likewise, life insurance companies will factor in other details, too, such as whether or not the applicant is a smoker, and whether he or she participates in “risky” activities, such as rock climbing or scuba diving.

If your health is bad a company can offer a rated policy life insurance premium which we will show you in insurance classes below.

Life insurance rate classes offered

While all insurance companies do not have identical rate classifications, most have certain basic rate classes that they place insureds into. Typically, these consist of the following by health ratings:

Preferred Plus or Preferred Best

A preferred plus life insurance rate is the best class you can get. If an applicant is in extremely good health, and also falls into a better than average height and weight range, then it may be possible to qualify for a preferred plus rate class. This will always yield the lowest premium rate.


Those who qualify for the preferred life insurance rate classification (or class) are also in excellent health. However, they may have a slight health issue, such as cholesterol that is just a bit above average.

Standard Plus

With the standard plus rate class, an applicant is again in very good health. However, there may be a few slight issues (which are still not serious, but more so than those in the Preferred category) such as high blood pressure or being slightly heavier than what his or her normal weight range should be.


The standard life insurance rate classification is where those who are in average health will typically fall. That is because insureds in this category have an average life expectancy for their age and gender. Individuals who are in this class may also have some slight health issues, such as being overweight. In addition, they could have a parent who was diagnosed, and subsequently died, due to a certain disease such as cancer or stroke.

Preferred Smoker

Those who are smokers will generally pay two- to three times more for life insurance, all other factors being equal. However, if an individual who is a smoker is in excellent health, and he or she would otherwise fall into the Preferred smoker rate class, they may be a prime candidate for the Preferred Smoker class.

Standard Smoker

Likewise, a smoker who is in average health and would have otherwise been qualified for the Standard rate category will generally be placed into the Standard Smoker rate class.

Compare carriers rates by rate class below

Why is a rate class so important?

This may sound like a shameless plug, but here it goes. Our quote engine is the only one on the web that will show each carrier’s prices for Preferred Plus, Preferred, Standard Plus, and a Standard life insurance rate in one quote.

When you run a quote on our website, you will see the rates from each carrier side by side. In the results below, you will see how much the cost can differ from Preferred Plus to a Standard rate. The price is significant as you get older or need more coverage.

So how do you know which health category you will qualify for? You don’t. And not one does until the underwriting is complete and the underwriter as everything they need to make an offer.

One thing we can do is a pre-assessment of what you may qualify for. It consists of asking a specific set of health questions, and we can get you an accurate assessment.

Life insurance underwriting tables chart

Below is an example of a life insurance underwriting table. you can see how the table effects the rate and overall cost of the policy. A life insurance preferred best rating is the best rate classification you can get. You can see many options below but a life insurance standard vs preferred rate can be a big difference in cost.

Rate Class NameRate Class Pricing
Preferred Plus50-55% lower than a standard rate
Preferred35-38% lower than a standard rate
Standard Plus18-15% lower than a standard rate
StandardBase standard rate
Table 1/A25% above standard rate
Table 2/B50% above standard rate
Table 3/C75% above standard rate
Table 4/D100% above standard rate
Table 5/E125% above standard rate
Table 6/F150% above standard rate
Table 7/G175% above standard rate
Table 8/H200% above standard rate

What is a Substandard Life Insurance Rate?

A substandard life insurance rate is an insurance class a company may ask you to pay for coverage if you’re not in good health? Life insurance rate tables are used to determine the final premium. In the insurance world, they are called table rates and flat extras.

If you aren’t in the best of health, it does not necessarily mean that you won’t qualify for life insurance at all. However, it could be that you will have to pay more for your coverage or opt for a Guaranteed Issue life insurance policy. One reason for this is so that the insurance company can compensate for the added risk that it is taking on due to a lower life expectancy and ultimately, the higher likelihood of having to pay out a claim.

Learn more: How can I get a guaranteed issue life insurance policy

What is a table rating?

Insurers may also use a life insurance rate table for determining what to charge a particular applicant for coverage. In this case, if you have been diagnosed with a health issue that would place you below the standard rate class, life insurance companies usually have something they call “table ratings.” This means that an additional amount of premium will be added to your policy in order to help the insurance company compensate for the added amount of risk.

Learn more: Am I better than a standard rate

In many cases, each “table” is assigned either a number or a letter (such as 1,2,3, or A, B, C) by the insurance company whereby each number or letter represents an additional percentage of premium – usually 25% – to be added on.

So, for example, if you had a health condition that deemed you a Table 3 rating, then the insurance company would tack on an additional 75% to your policy’s premium (25% x 3 = 75%).

What is a flat extra rate?

There may also be cases where an insurance company will add on an extra charge to your premium temporarily. This charge is typically referred to as a flat extra. If, for instance, someone is a cancer survivor, the insurance company may add on an additional $5 or $10 per $1,000 in coverage for the first five years that he or she owns the policy. Once that time period has elapsed, though, the flat extra charge will drop off.

What’s Your Life Insurance Health Class?

Not sure how much you’ll have to pay for life insurance? Life insurance classifications or risk categories will be determined after the underwriting process is complete.

Learn more: Average cost of life insurance

The best way to find out – and to locate the best deal – is to compare several options from multiple insurance companies. And the easiest way to do that is to use our quote engine and work with an independent insurance brokerage like Insurance Geek that has access to numerous life insurance companies.

At Insurance Geek, we are affiliated with more than 30 of the industry’s top life insurance carriers, so we can help you to find the coverage and the premium price that is right for you, and for your budget.

Not all insurance companies follow the exact same underwriting guidelines when pricing life insurance coverage – even for the same type and amount of coverage.

Learn more: Underwriting Process

So, by comparing your options through Insurance Geek, you can not only get the right coverage, but you can do so at the right price. We focus only on insurance, so we’ve already done the heavy lifting for you. Give Insurance Geek a call today!