Single vs Joint Life Insurance: Pros and Cons for Canadians (2022 Update)

Key takeaways

  • A single life insurance policy can be best for those who are not in a committed relationship.
  • If you are in a committed relationship, you may want two single policies if each person wants different coverage amounts and term lengths.
  • A joint life insurance policy is better if you do want the same coverage as your partner.
  • A joint life insurance policy is also a good choice if you and your partner are close in age and both in good health.

Which is better: single or joint life insurance?

Joint life insurance might be a better option if you and your partner:

  • Are in a committed relationship
  • Have children, a mortgage, debts or other financial responsibilities
  • Are close in age and of good health

Single life insurance might be better if:

  • You're not in a committed relationship.
  • There’s a significant age difference between you and your partner
  • Either of you suffer from health issues
  • Either of you have children from a previous relationship

In short: Joint life insurance policies tend to be more affordable. Separate policies are more flexible if you and your partner have different needs or want robust coverage for your situation.

This chart can help you decide whether single or joint life insurance is better for you.

Graphic detailing benefits of single vs joint life insurance

What is joint life insurance?

Joint life insurance is a policy that covers two people and pays upon the death of one.

With this kind of policy, the coverage amount and length are the same for both you and your partner.

Pros:

Can be more affordable.

Easier to apply for.

Cons:

Joint life insurance is typically a first-to-die policy.

So while the surviving partner will receive the death benefit if they’re listed as a beneficiary, they will no longer be covered after their partner’s passing.

This first-to-die clause is more likely to be an issue if there's a big difference in ages or health.

The problem for the surviving partner: buying a new policy when you are older will cost more. It's more likely you'll have health issues and this increased risk for the life insurance company means higher premiums for you. 

The same problem can apply if you split up with your partner or spouse later in life.

What is single (or individual) life insurance?

Individual life insurance is a policy that covers one person and is paid by one person. You're the only one who can cancel your policy.

It's different than joint life insurance, which covers two people with one policy.

It's also different from group life insurance, in which you're part of a group contract and your coverage ends if you leave your job or the group plan.

if you're part of a couple, you can apply for two policies separately or do it together and have your insurer combine the two life insurance policies for you.

This is called combined life insurance.

PolicyMe offers a simple joint life insurance application process. You apply jointly for separate policies; it takes about 20 minutes for each partner to apply online. Customize your individual coverage, then benefit together from special savings in your first year.

What's the difference between single vs joint life insurance?

Here's the difference between single (individual) and joint life insurance, in a nutshell:

  • A single life insurance policy covers one person, while a joint life insurance policy covers two under the same terms
  • You and your partner can obtain single life insurance separately, or at the same time through the same company, and have your policies combined
  • Each single life insurance policy is eligible for one payout
  • You can also opt for a joint life insurance policy for more affordable coverage
  • Even though it covers two people, a joint policy only pays out once

Next Steps

  • Use the criteria above to decide if you and your partner need single or joint life insurance.
  • Research the best life insurance companies in Canada. See which ones offer the best deals for couples, or have the most robust coverage options.
  • Use an online life insurance calculator to estimate your coverage needs.
  • Get quotes from your list of top providers and compare them to the advantages and disadvantages of going with each company.
  • Compare prices and coverage options.
  • Make your decision!

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder

About the Author

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