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Your risk classification (a.k.a. risk class or rate class) is what ultimately determines how much you pay for your life insurance policy.

Risk classes can be divided between two groups: standard and substandard.

Standard Life Insurance Risk Classes

While each life insurance company may have slightly different names for their risk classes, for the most part, there are six standard risk classes:

  • Preferred Plus
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus
  • Standard
  • Preferred Tobacco
  • Standard Tobacco

The Standard risk class indicates average health and normal life expectancy. If you’re healthier than the average person, you can qualify for better rates i.e. Preferred Plus, Preferred, and Standard Plus.

Tobacco Risk Classes

If you use tobacco, you’ll most likely be put in one of the “tobacco” risk classes. If you currently smoke cigarettes regularly, carriers will almost always put you into a tobacco risk class. However, certain companies are more flexible if you only smoke cigars or e-cigarettes, or use chewing tobacco.

But again, all the companies view these usages differently. There are two main smoker classifications: “Preferred Tobacco” and “Standard Tobacco.”

Essentially, if you are offered a policy at the “Preferred Tobacco” risk class, this means that after reviewing your health, family history, and lifestyle habits, the underwriters would have considered you “Preferred” or “Preferred Plus” if it wasn’t for your tobacco use.

The same goes for “Standard Tobacco,” which mirrors the “Standard” or “Standard Plus” non-tobacco risk classes.

Substandard Life Insurance Risk Classes

If your life expectancy is below average, you’re considered high risk to insure and therefore will receive substandard ratings.

Substandard risk classes are expressed as a “table rating”. These table ratings run from Table A-J or 1-10, depending on whether the insurance company chooses alphabetical or numerical names.

As the table ratings descend, your life insurance premium increases 25% on top of the Standard risk class rate.

Certain health issues, like obesity, being in treatment for chronic illnesses or major health conditions, such as prior heart attacks, cancer, and diabetes, and abnormal lab results can result in being table rated.

Table Rating (alphabetical)Table Rating (numerical)Pricing
A1Standard + 25%
B2Standard + 50%
C3Standard + 75%
D4Standard + 100%
E5Standard + 125%
F6Standard + 150%
G7Standard + 175%
H8Standard + 200%
I9Standard + 225%
J10Standard + 250%

There are situations in which an applicant can carry too much risk for the insurance company. While being declined is rare, it’s possible. Thankfully, Quotacy works with over 25 of the nation’s top insurance companies and often are able to find our clients coverage.

See what you’d pay for life insurance

Comparison shop prices on custom coverage amounts from the nation’s top carriers with Quotacy.

Life Insurance Risk Classes and the Cost of Life Insurance

The risk class you’re assigned to by the insurance company determines what your premium will be. Your risk class is determined by evaluating the following factors:

  • Your Age
  • Your Gender
  • Personal Medical History
  • Smoker Status
  • Marijuana Use
  • Height/Weight
  • Your Family Medical History
  • Prescription Record
  • Motor Vehicle Record
  • Your Job
  • Any Risky Hobbies You Participate In
  • Medical Exam Results

This list is not exhaustive, but includes the most common factors.

In general, a younger age group and better health correlates with lower life insurance premiums — but you can still receive a Preferred or Standard life insurance risk class even if your health isn’t perfect.

Also, your risk class isn’t set in stone. If you purchase a life insurance policy and later change your lifestyle habits, it’s possible to reapply and improve your risk class.

Pricing differs from one risk class to the next. So, it may be worth it to try reapplying for a better risk class in the future.

The table below shows how a risk class impacts the life insurance premium of a 35-year-old male applying for a 20-year $500,000 term life insurance policy.

Male, Age 35, $500,000, 20-Year Term
Risk ClassMonthly Premium
Preferred Plus$21.14
Preferred$26.00
Standard Plus$34.59
Standard$39.96
Preferred Tobacco$84.14
Standard Tobacco$118.14
Table 1/A Non-Tobacco$49.95
Table 2/B Non-Tobacco$59.94
Table 3/C Non-Tobacco$69.93
Table 4/D Non-Tobacco$79.92

Once your life insurance policy is approved and activated, your risk class won’t change unless you decide to reapply. If you’re given a Preferred Plus rating and end up being diagnosed with a severe medical condition, the insurance company can’t change your risk class. This is just one reason why we advise people to buy life insurance as soon as you need it.

What risk class will I qualify for?

Our term life insurance quoting tool allows you to see real-life pricing instantly. You’re able to enter many factors that impact a risk class, such as your age, height/weight, and smoking status, in order to get a good idea of what your policy may cost.

However, your official risk class will not be given to you until after the life insurance company reviews your application and whatever records they deem necessary to pull. You may also be required to take a free medical exam. These lab results will be reviewed by the life insurance company as well.

One of the greatest benefits of working with Quotacy is knowing that you will get the best possible risk class, meaning, the best price possible. When you apply, your Quotacy agent first reviews your application before it’s submitted to the insurance company.

If you have any risk factors that may have a significant impact on your risk class, your agent will shop the market to ensure you’re matched with the insurance company that will be most lenient with your application.

It may be surprising to learn that not all life insurance companies evaluate risk factors in the same way. For example, one company may be much stricter with a depression diagnosis than another. Or one company may place pipe smokers in the Tobacco Risk Class while another may approve them as Non-Tobacco.

Being paired with the right insurance company can save you hundreds of dollars in premium payments each year. Your Quotacy agent will work hard to find you the most affordable life insurance coverage.

Get a free, no-obligation term life insurance quote instantly without even giving away any contact information. When you’re ready to apply, the online application only takes a few minutes to complete. After submission, your Quotacy agent will keep you posted every step of the way.

Note: Life insurance quotes used in this article accurate as of August 18, 2021. These are only estimates and your life insurance costs may be higher or lower.

Watch the Life Insurance Risk Classes Video

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius, CLU

Senior Editor and Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.