The average American man is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 196 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is considered “overweight” on the CDC’s body mass index charts. And if he only gains 7 pounds, he will be officially “obese”.
But even at 203 pounds, a 5-foot-9 man isn’t too heavy to find life insurance, far from it. He can easily find many life insurers who will sell him a policy.
What it takes to be refused
NerdWallet has looked at the maximum weights of some of the nation’s largest insurers to find the point where a person is considered too fat to purchase life insurance. Each business has its own limits, but we’ve found that in general, middleweight men and women would need to put on over 100 pounds before they can buy life insurance.
It is only when the 5-foot-9 man reaches around 329 pounds that he will be denied life insurance by some carriers.
The average woman in the United States is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 169 pounds – also officially overweight by CDC standards. According to NerdWallet research, the average woman, based on her overall health, might still get the best rates at some companies.
She is expected to reach 283 pounds before being denied life insurance by some companies.
How height and weight affect life insurance
Each life insurance company has its own “dashboard,” which lists the maximum heights and weights allowed for each price category. Each 1 inch height increment has a different maximum weight. Agents use these tables to determine the rate their client will receive.
Even people considered overweight can benefit from very good life insurance rates, assuming there are no other health issues to raise the price. So don’t worry about the CDC’s judged BMI classifications: Men and women of average height and weight can still get “preferred” rates at many companies, despite being officially overweight.
You usually have to be extremely overweight to be too fat to buy life insurance and face downsides from several companies.
You could still be covered if you had access to group life insurance at work. Your health or weight is not taken into account when the employer pays for the coverage. This “free” insurance, however, is generally limited to one to two times your salary.
Be prepared to pay more
For individual coverage, the extra pounds will result in higher premiums. The reason is that overweight people tend to have a lower life expectancy, according to insurance underwriting calculations.
NerdWallet looked at the rates available through our life insurance comparison tool and averaged the four lowest quotes. Here’s how it went:
Men: Average prices of a term life insurance policy of $ 500,000 over 20 years assuming a 35-year-old male 5 feet 9 inches tall and of various weights:
Women: Average prices of a term life insurance policy of $ 500,000 over 20 years for a 5ft 4in 35 year old female of varying weights.
How does the life insurer know your weight?
Life insurance claims ask for height and weight, and these numbers will be verified when you take your life insurance medical examination. But don’t consider going on an emergency diet to lose 20 pounds right before the exam to get a better price.
Life insurers can pull applicants’ medical records to examine past weights, as well as past and current medical conditions. The trend of your weight is more important than your weight at any given time.