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Rate Class. How Much Will You Pay?

Paper scrap with Life Insurance text on cash

By McKenzy Bowers | December 7, 2018

There are several different Rate and Risk Classifications life insurance carriers use to categorize people into risk groups. The carrier’s underwriters decide which one you qualify for based on your individual health, lifestyle, and family history profile. The price you’ll pay for your life insurance is determined, in large part, by the rate class (risk class) you qualify for. If you qualify for the best rate class (often referred to by most carriers as “Preferred Plus”), your premium (the price you pay) will be the lowest available.

Since qualification criteria vary among the numerous insurance carriers, it is not uncommon for an individual to qualify for different rate class (risk class) at different insurance companies.

Most carriers have four primary classes:

  • Preferred Plus/Preferred Best
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus/Select
  • Standard

Life Insurance Class or Life Insurance Underwriting Class or Life Insurance Health Class and Life Insurance Risk Classes are all sometimes used to describe the rating system used by the life insurance industry.

Substandard & Table Rated

People who have more than just minor health problems fall into a fifth substandard category. The substandard category covers a series of several classes called Table Ratings. Table rated policies are usually identified with a letter or number (ex. Standard Table B or Standard Table 4). And pricing will typically go up 25 percent per table over Standard rates.

If you’re buying a policy from an insurance agent, the goal is to figure out which rate class you’ll be approved at, and which insurance company offers you the best rates for your rate class. “Preferred Best” is the best rate class you can get. If you qualify for this rate class, you should be paying the lowest price for your coverage.

The terms Rated life insurance and Table Rated life insurance are commonly used to describe a policy that falls into the substandard rate class for life insurance.

Life Insurance Rate Chart / Table Rating Chart

Rate Class / Risk Class* Basic Pricing
Preferred Plus / Best50% of Standard
Preferred63% of Standard
Standard Plus / Select86% of Standard
Table Ratings
Table 1 / A+25% over standard
Table 2 / B+50% over standard
Table 3 / C+75% over standard
Table 4 / D+100% over standard
Table 5 / E+125% over standard
Table 6 / F+150% over standard
Table 7 / G+175% over standard
Table 8 / H+200% over standard

* Discount percent shown for a particular Rate Class is an average and varies by carriers and policies. Most carriers use +25% per table over standard for Table Ratings. At least one carrier bases their Table Rates as over Standard Plus.

Rate Class/Risk Class Guide

The list below is a guide which will vary from carrier to carrier. No Guarantees are made as to how you will rank with individual carriers based on your health or your family’s health history.

Preferred Plus

  • Excellent overall health
  • Must have a clean driving record
  • Must be tobacco/nicotine-free 3 to 5 years
  • No history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • No family history of health-related death, heart disease or cancer prior to age 60
  • Must not engage in any hazardous activities (private pilot, skydiving, race car driving, etc.)
  • No illegal activities or history (felony)


  • Excellent overall health
  • Must have a good driving record
  • Must be tobacco/nicotine-free 2 to 3 years
  • No history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • No family history of health-related death or heart disease prior to age 60 (some cancers allowed)
  • Must not engage in any hazardous activities (private pilot, skydiving, race car driving, etc.)
  • Well-controlled blood pressure or cholesterol (min 1 year)
  • No illegal activities or history (felony)

Standard Plus

  • Good overall health (better than average)
  • Minor weight issue (BMI <28)
  • Must have a good driving record
  • Must be tobacco/nicotine-free at least 1 year
  • No history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Family history – minor health issues related to heart disease or cancer prior to age 60
  • Must not engage in any hazardous activities (private pilot, skydiving, race car driving, etc.)
  • Minor blood pressure and or cholesterol issues (monitored)
  • No illegal activities or history (felony)


  • Good overall health (average)
  • Minor weight issue (BMI <30)
  • Must have a good driving record
  • Must be tobacco/nicotine-free at least 1 year
  • No history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Family history – loss of 1 parent or sibling prior to age 60 from health-related issues.
  • Must not engage in any hazardous activities (private pilot, skydiving, race car driving, etc.)
  • Minor blood pressure and cholesterol issues (monitored)
  • No illegal activities

Factors that can affect your Rate Class

  1. Smoking or tobacco intake. This is one of the most expensive habits you can have, premium-wise. A cigarette smoker, on average, can be asked to pay up to 50% more than a non-smoker. Quitting tobacco will help bring your rates down, but only after a lengthy observation period. Most insurance firms wait at least one year before offering a partial rebate, and a full three years before allowing for parity in terms of premium rates. If you’re a non-smoker who vapes, you might be subject to the same rates.
  2. Obesity. By itself, obesity isn’t a cause for an increase in premium rates, but because obesity more often than not results in heart issues and/or diabetes, it is considered a major determinant when calculating insurance premiums. If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is even slightly over what is considered healthy, your premium rates will reflect this. It is advisable to make sure you aren’t overweight when going in for your medical checkup and make sure your recent medical records don’t allude to obesity either, because they will be checked.
  3. Other medical conditions. Cancer, cholesterol, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and even depression can disrupt your premium rates drastically. Anything that is indicative of a history of ill health can be detrimental to your insurance premium. The underwriter will investigate your family history too because certain ailments like diabetes and Thalassemia have been known to pass on through hereditary or genetic means.
  4. Driving records. An individual’s driving record is taken into consideration when calculating life insurance rates. If the individual in question has a propensity for violating traffic laws, then it is assumed that he or she is a bigger risk in terms of life expectancy, and the premium will definitely reflect that. The more innocuous violations, like parking tickets, won’t usually affect insurance rates, but accidents and more serious offenses will.
  5. Profession. People with more dangerous jobs such as motor sport racers, pilots, and construction workers are more likely to meet with a fatal accident on the job. As a result, they’ll pay more. The dangers you put yourself in on a daily basis will definitely impact your insurance rates.
  6. Extracurricular activities. Your hobbies can also impact your insurance rates. If you enjoy skydiving, bungee jumping, and other recreational activities that could be deemed adventurous or dangerous, they will end up costing you.

If you can change or improve any of these primary factors, you could qualify for a better rate class. And if you shop for your policy at a company that offers competitive rates from multiple top-rated carriers (like us!), the odds will be in your favor to get the life insurance coverage that best suits your lifestyle.

Common Health Conditions and Rate Class

The chart below covers many common health conditions and shows the relative Rate Class a person with the condition is likely to qualify for under ideal conditions. Most conditions must be well controlled or in remission at least 2 years to qualify for the rate class shown. Each insurance company is somewhat different, in how they classify and qualify individuals for each rating class.

Life Insurance Rate Classes and Common Health Conditions
Health ConditionsPreferred PlusPreferredStandard or Standard PlusSubstandard Table RatedUninsurable for Traditional Coverage
Alcohol / Substance Abuse (sober at least 2 years)X
Alcohol / Substance Abuse (current)X
Arthritis (Osteo)X
Arthritis (Rheumatoid)X
Asthma (Allergy)X
Asthma (Steroid Meds)X
Autistic ChildX
Blood ThinnersX
Blood Pressure (controlled)X
BP and Choleserol (Controlled)X
Cancer (Basel cell)X
Cancer (non Basal cell)X
Cardiovascular / Heart DiseaseX
Cholesterol (controlled)X
Crohn’n DiseaseX
Depression (on-going)X
Depression (situational)X
Diabetes (A1C>10.1)X
Heart AttacksX
Hepatitis A or BX
Hepatitis CX
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)X
Kidney / Liver DiseaseX
Kidney DialysisX
Mental IllnessX
Mutiple SclerosisX
Sleep Apnea (CPAP Compliant)X
Ulcerative ColitisX
This table is only a guide and subject to change without notice. This chart is based on individuals with a single condition and no other health issues. Most conditions must be well controlled or in remission at least 2 years to qualify for the rate class shown.

Insurers (carriers) can refuse to provide life insurance at any rate at their discretion.

Now, take our nifty calculator for a spin to determine how much coverage is right for your life.

Nifty Life Insurance Calculator

Our Life Insurance Calculator can help you get a rough idea of how much coverage you’ll need to make sure your family is okay financially when you die.

  • Annual income before tax: $

    Annual income is an important factor in determining your needs, but it’s not the only one. When you die, your life insurance is like your final paycheck.

  • % of income needed by dependents:  %

    Because you’ll be gone, presumably they won’t need as much as you’re currently earning.  Typically, 80% of your current income is a good place to start.

  • Your Age: years

    The younger you are, the more years of your income your family stands to lose when you die.

  • Number of years benefits are needed:  

    If you died tomorrow, how many years of income do you want to provide for your family?

  • Annual inflation rate (estimate):  %

    Because of inflation, in order to maintain your family’s current standard of living, you’ll need to plan for increases in their annual income to keep pace.  Historically, inflation has averaged between 2% and 4%.

  • Annual interest rate (estimate):  %

    This is an assumption as to how much you believe your spouse will be able to earn on the death benefit proceeds. We have found that most surviving spouses are usually very conservative in how they invest the death benefit. The most common thing we see is that the money gets deposited into a bank account. You know your spouse better than anyone. Pick a number that you feel your spouse will be able to comfortably earn on the proceeds.

  • Based on the information you provided, you need about

    of life insurance to replace your income for the next years.

So what’s next? Call us at 800-442-9899 and let’s chat about the types of coverage that may make the most sense for you. We’re old school so you’ll have to speak with a real person, but we’re guessing that’s the type of service you’d expect.

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