Every year, thousands of people die in motorcycle accidents on U.S. highways. In 2015, the number of motorcycle deaths in America rose 10 percent to more than 5,000.
Motorcycles are undeniably dangerous, especially pitted against a car or truck in a collision. Surprisingly, despite the risks, life insurers are willing to turn their head the other way and offer motorcycle riders Preferred Best rates.
However, we can’t say the same for many other hobbies and habits, including:
Quick Article Guide:
1. Motor Racing
2. Piloting an Aircraft
3. Scuba Diving
5. Rock Climbing
6. Hot Air Ballooning
9. Being Overweight (Or Losing Weight Too Fast)
10. Traveling to Dangerous Regions
12. Not Shopping Around
Commercial and amateur motor racers don’t enjoy the same leniency as motorcycle riders. Drag racing, go kart racing, midget car racing, off road racing or virtually any other type of racing all trigger what is called a “flat extra” fee for life insurance that can range from $2.50 to $10 per $1,000k of coverage.
Since these activities carry a risk of death, the insurer needs to charge a higher premium to account for the higher likelihood that they might have to pay out.
If you are a commercial pilot with regularly scheduled flights, there is no issue, and your life insurance rates will not be affected by your career. Private pilots are more likely to see higher life insurance premiums, because insurers have no way of knowing how skilled and sensible the person is.
If you are a private pilot, you can give yourself a chance at Preferred rates by flying between 25-200 hours annually with at least 100 solo hours logged. The requirements may vary with each insurer.
Scuba diving fatalities are relatively uncommon, but they do happen. According to the Divers Alert Network (DAN), approximately 16 out of every 100,000 divers die during scuba. Most accidents are attributed to gas supply problems, emergency ascent, and cardiac events. If you are a serious scuba diver, you may see slightly higher life insurance premiums.
If you are an experienced hobbyist who rarely dives deeper than 100 feet, you will likely be in the clear for the same rate you would receive if you were not a diver.
Many people are at least a little scared of skydiving, and life insurance companies are, too. With advances in technology, mapping and weather reporting, skydiving has gotten significantly safer over the past few decades. Only 21 skydiving jumps out of 3.2 million in 2016 were fatal, and tandem jumps have only averaged a single fatality per half a million jumps.
These are great odds for thrill seekers, but they do not affect life insurers’ stance on skydiving, which is that the risk of death is there and thus the premiums must be higher.
It’s important that we differentiate hiking from rock climbing here. Hiking—even on challenging trails—is generally not a concern for life insurance companies. Scaling a mountain, on the other hand, will most certainly raise your rates.
Some insurers consider how many times per year you hike, while others are less mathematical and simply see you putting your life in danger whether once or 100 times.
Hot air ballooning is extremely relaxing and refreshing, but it is not free of risk. Hot air balloon accidents are relatively frequent in the news, one of the most recent being a crash landing near Disney World in Orlando that injured all 16 people in the balloon.
In 2014, NBC News ran a report on hot air ballooning after a freak accident killed three people in Virginia. While fatalities in hot air balloon accidents are rare, the deadliest accidents all seem to be relatively recent. Needless to say, life insurance companies take note of these instances and raise the premiums for hot air ballooners accordingly.
Compared to skydiving and hot air ballooning, hang gliding is one of the more dangerous types of flight. According to HealthResearchingFund.org, the average mortality rate for hang gliding is 1 in 560 flights—long odds, but perhaps a little too close for comfort—at least in life insurers’ eyes, as hang gliders almost always have higher rates.
The health risks associated with smoking—lung cancer, COPD, oral cancer, and throat cancer, to name a few—make tobacco an instant rate raiser for life insurance. Compare the average rate for a standard 10-year term policy with $500k of coverage:
- 10-Year Term Policy, $500k Face Amount, Smoker: $184.01/month
- 10-Year Term Policy, $500k Face Amount, Non-Smoker: $71.92/month
Note that most life insurance companies offer non-tobacco rates to applicants who have been tobacco-free for at least 12 months. After three years tobacco-free, you may even be eligible for Preferred Best rates with some companies.
If you simply can’t kick the habit, consider switching to e-cigarettes. A+ rated insurers such as Prudential will offer you non-tobacco rates with unlimited use of e-cigs, bringing the cost for the same policy as the example above down to $90.57/month.
Life insurance companies charge higher rates to applicants with higher body masses due to their increased risk of health ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.
However, it’s important to note that insurers are also wary of applicants who have lost more than 10 pounds in the last 12 months. While losing weight is usually a result of exercise and/or dieting, it can also be an indicator of an underlying health issue.
Most life insurance companies will not give you full credit for the weight you’ve lost if it’s more than 10 pounds in 12 months. They will instead offer a credit for half of your weight loss during those 12 months. After 12 more months, you can receive the full credit for all of the weight you’ve lost. This is due to the fact that most people will regain at least half of the weight they’ve lost within 6-12 months.
We recommend for clients not to get hung up on weight loss for lower life insurance rates. You also shouldn’t put off life insurance just to lose weight. Each year you age, your cost of insurance rises, and usually more than a few pounds of weight loss will offset.
So, you might save 10 percent because you’ve lost weight, but since you’re a year older, your cost of insurance went up 14 percent. Compounding the challenge is the fact that insurance companies usually round up 6 months to your upcoming birthday when determining your rates.
The best time to buy a life insurance is right before you start a diet. If your weight loss is sufficient enough to save you money, you can cancel your current coverage as soon as you are approved for a policy at a lower cost. If your age has caused your rates to increase more than the amount of money you’ve saved by losing weight, you would simply keep your current policy.
Thinking of traveling to a country torn by conflict, crime or violence? Wait until you have a life insurance policy in place.
Most insurers ask applicants if they have traveled to a “dangerous” location within the last two years, of if they intend to travel to a dangerous location in the near future. They typically rely on the Department of State travel warnings to determine which locations are dangerous. If you have recently traveled or intend to travel to one of these countries, they will likely charge a higher premium due to your increased risk. The vast majority of countries are considered “safe” by life insurance companies and have no impact on your life insurance rates.
An “intention to travel” means that you currently have tickets in hand. As long as you do not have a trip booked when you apply for your life insurance policy, you will not have to pay a higher cost for your coverage, and your family will still be protected. Meanwhile, some states have exemptions that prohibit insurers from penalizing their residents for past or future travel. These states are CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, LA, MA, MD, MO, NJ, NY, OK, TN and WA.
Just like racing is dangerous, so is speeding. If you have multiple speeding tickets on your driving record, you may want to wait for them to drop off before you apply for coverage. Speeding tickets, in particular, can double the cost of your life insurance policy if you have several. In addition, more than 3 moving violations within 5 years can be a concern to some insurers as well.
DUIs are, of course, another major concern to life insurers. Most companies won’t offer coverage to an applicant who has a DUI in the last 12 months or two DUIs within the last five years. If you have been recently charged with a DUI, consider waiting two years before applying for life insurance, or as long as five years for a shot at the most favorable rate class, Preferred Best.
Lastly, are you the type to make impulse purchases? Don’t let that happen with your life insurance. There are so many companies out there, each with different leniencies, products, rates, and requirements.
When you work with an independent agent like JRC instead of a big-box company, you can see rates from dozens of top-rated insurers. You’re only a click or call away from finding life insurance that’s tailored to your needs! Click the button below, or call us toll-free at 855-247-9555.
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