AD&D vs. Life Insurance – Differences & How to Pick

People often call in asking about choosing between accidental death and dismemberment insurance and life insurance. The significantly lower cost of an AD&D policy vs. life insurance causes confusion, particularly for younger people and new parents, which offers more value for the money. 

In this article, we’re going to cover what both policy types pay benefits for, common scenarios for the best choice, premium comparisons, and whether or not having both is a good idea. 

Let’s get started. 

Quick Summary

Accidental death insurance, as a standalone policy, can provide some financial protection when traditional life insurance is not available. The main difference between AD&D and a standard life insurance policy is the limited coverage – deaths as a result of a covered accident. Life insurance products cover all causes. Dismemberment coverage adds a cash benefit for severe injury, like loss of sight or loss of a limb.

Accidental death coverage works well for young people, people in hazardous occupations, or when other financial obligations make the lower premiums of AD&D more manageable than term life insurance policies.

To see what your accidental death policy rates could be, use the Instant Quotes tool on this page. If you aren’t sure what the best option is for your budget, give us a call at (858) 703-6178.

What Accidental Death (AD&D) Covers

AD&D covers people who pass away as the result of an accident, like a car crash or drowning. You can get a high amount of coverage for lower premiums. The underwriting is fast and does not require a medical exam. 

What's the difference between accidental death and life insurance?

They don’t cover the deaths resulting from natural causes such as cancer or a stroke. 

Accidental death is the leading cause of death for people in the United States between ages 25 and 44. After 44, people start to encounter surprise health issues that can pop up out of nowhere. But those natural causes are only covered by life insurance. 

The “&D” potion of an AD&D policy means “& dismemberment” which provides some additional benefits to the policy. Dismemberment covers loss of one or several limbs, sight in both eyes, hearing in both ears due to an accident. It won’t pay the whole benefit amount. 25-50% is the industry standard. 

You’ll find both types of accidental death policies have similar premium ranges, with the addition of dismemberment being fractionally higher. 

Common Scenarios to Choose AD&D

Choosing the right coverage depends heavily on your age, your income, and your family situation. 

If you are young, with no kids and no spouse, and don’t have a parent financially dependent on you, an AD&D policy may be just the thing to have in case of a sudden death. That way, your funeral expenses are covered, and you can pay off any debts. 

Particularly if you’re married with no kids and healthy, having enough benefit to avoid your spouse paying down your debts, covering your final rites, and staying in your family home is a loving thing to do for them. 

Another common scenario where we recommend accidental death is for people with hazardous occupations or medical issues. In those cases, qualifying for life insurance may be too difficult or expensive. Accidental death would provide benefits despite risky occupations, hobbies, or health conditions. 

Examples of Accidental Death

Car accidents are the most common. Although if you are the one driving and you’re inebriated, the insurance company often reserves the right not to pay. But if you’re sober, even if the car insurance company finds you at fault for the accident, you’ll be covered. 

Other common examples are fire, drowning, firearm accidents, and even workplace accidents. 


Accidental death and dismemberment versus accidental death is just the difference between having the extra benefits for the dismemberment. 

Also, sometimes we see accidental death policies called ADB or accidental death benefit policy. It’s confusing but means the same thing. 

What Life Insurance Covers

Life insurance covers all causes of death, as a rule. 

With all rules, there are some exceptions. Suicide in the first two years, dying as a result of war, or passing away while committing or attempting to commit a felony are common exceptions. It is generally thought of as better, more comprehensive coverage than AD&D.

The main confusion about life insurance starts at the difference between term and permanent insurance. 

Term life insurance tends to be the less expensive option. It covers you for a set number of years, at which point it expires, and you no longer have coverage. 

Permanent life insurance will cover you for your whole life or until the policy matures (usually around age 121), at which point they’ll pay you the benefit. 

The types of insurance can be explored more in this article on term vs. permanent insurance.

Accidental Death & Dismemberment as a Life Insurance Rider

Many life insurance companies will allow you to add an accidental death and dismemberment rider to your life insurance policy. 

In this case, it will pay a benefit on top of the total life insurance benefits if the death results from an accident. The dismemberment potion works the same as described above, a portion of the benefit for loss of limbs, sight, or hearing. 

While it’s a commonly offered rider and can work as supplemental benefits as your assets increase, most people try to purchase as much life insurance as they need. It covers more, and your chances of dying from natural causes increase as you age. 

Common Scenarios to Choose Life Insurance

Life insurance is more common than accidental death. It makes more sense for people with dependent family members and children because it provides a broader coverage base.

Permanent life insurance, like indexed universal life, can also build up a cash value that families can use for any reason they wish. That adds some living benefits to the policy, which are always nice to have. 

Couples with mortgages often purchase life insurance to cover the remaining mortgage amount. 

People with children tend to buy life insurance to help their spouse or other family member cover the cost of raising them and perhaps even sending them to college. 

Single people often get a cash value oriented policy to build that up during their working years. It’s an uncommon financial tactic but can be advantageous.

Premium Comparisons

In the tables below you can compare the monthly premiums between AD&D coverage, a 20-year term life insurance policy, and whole life insurance.

The tables reflect rates for someone in good health who doesn’t smoke, looking for $250,000 in benefits. Your rates may differ depending on your age, health, state, and desired benefit amount. Use the Instant Quotes tool on this page to see what rate may be for you.


MenAD&D20-Year TermWhole Life
Age 35$22$16$281
Age 45$20$32$415
Age 55$23$74$649
Yes, we triple-checked the AD&D rates for a 35-year old male. Occasionally premiums turn out different than the general rule.

WomenAD&D20-Year TermWhole Life
Age 35$14$15$243
Age 45$15$25$357
Age 55$17$53$579

Choosing AD&D vs. Life Insurance

You can assess your own risk by keeping your general health and age in mind. Still, the choice will come down to your financial goals and the financial safety nets that will bring you peace of mind. 

When should you buy accidental death insurance?

For most people, life insurance is the better choice, even with tighter budgets. If life insurance is simply too costly, an accidental death policy is better than nothing.

Do I Need Both Life Insurance and AD&D?

As a rule, generally not. If it helps you sleep at night, go for it. Getting a good night’s sleep is worth a few dollars a month. 

But if you have your children, mortgage, and spouse covered with enough life insurance, then you shouldn’t need a supplemental AD&D policy. 

You can determine how much life insurance you might need here.

How to Get AD&D Coverage

Click over to our article review our favorite AD&D companies to see what policy would best suit you. Several make it easy to apply online, or you can also give us a call at (858) 703-6178 and we will find the right policy for you at the lowest possible price. 


Life insurance is better for most people, but accidental death and dismemberment is better than nothing at all – particularly for younger people. 

How Abrams Insurance Solutions Can Help

If you have any questions about what type of policy would best serve you and your family, give us a call at (858) 703-6178. We promise to help you find the best coverage for the lowest possible premiums. 

You can also run accidental death quotes using the instant quotes tool on this page to see what your rates might look like and do a little comparison shopping for yourself.