10 High Risk Hobbies That Can Affect Your Life Insurance

If you are one to partake in some high risk hobbies, such as skydiving, you may want to look into how it can affect your options and cost when it comes to life insurance.
By Stephanie L.
Updated Dec 9, 2020
high risk hobbies life insurance
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Life insurance premiums largely depend on underwriters' perception of risk. Typically, this is determined based on a variety of factors, including everything from age and current health status to family history or even career.

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Many people are surprised to discover that hobbies can also play into life insurance quotes. Activities referred to as "high risk" may not be covered by life insurance, as the participant is deemed more likely of dying—and more likely to prompt a payout. As such, you'll want to tackle your search for life insurance strategically if you're involved in one of the following high risk hobbies:

1. Skydiving

To the uninitiated, jumping out of a plane may seem terrifying or downright foolish, but it's not as deadly as most people—or underwriters—think. Research from the U.S. Parachute Association suggests that 15 skydiving fatalities occurred in the United States in 2019, even though an estimated 3.3 million jumps occurred that year. Such statistics do little to limit the practice's impact on life insurance policies, however.

Insurance premiums and flat fees can increase considerably for skydivers. Not all, however, need to pay more for the sake of their hobby.

A lot depends on how often they jump. The occasional adventure may tack on a modest fee. Meanwhile, recreational skydivers who jump more than fifty times per year can see substantial increases in life insurance coverage expenses. 

Slight fee reductions may be possible for frequent skydivers who belong to approved clubs or supervisory organizations. Other factors may include altitude and whether jumps occur alone or in tandem.

2. BASE Jumping

Similar in many aspects to skydiving, BASE jumping comes with its own unique set of concerns that can make life insurance coverage uniquely difficult to obtain—even as compared to other high risk hobbies.

Some life insurance companies are willing to cover skydiving under certain conditions but will not even consider BASE jumping. As a result, many avid BASE jumpers are forced to exclude their favorite activity from their policies. Select life insurance plans, however, offer BASE jumping coverage, provided that enthusiasts are willing to pay higher premiums in exchange for expanded coverage. As with skydiving, underwriters often base decisions on how often jumps take place and whether the BASE jumper holds any certifications or is involved with official organizations.

3. Rock Climbing

Rock climbing can take many forms—and not all are guaranteed to increase life insurance rates. Scaling walls within gyms, for example, presents minimal risk as far as underwriters are concerned. As soon as climbers head outside, however, policies change quickly. Mountain climbing, in particular, is deemed a high risk activity by most life insurance companies.

When assessing individual risk for rock climbing or mountain climbing, underwriters examine where and under what circumstances these expeditions take place. Occasional climbs involving easy routes and supervision from a professional might not be cause for alarm, but dramatic mountaintop expeditions are another story altogether.

Top factors typically cited in climbing-related underwriting decisions include:

  • Average climb height.

  • The tallest recent climb.

  • Whether ropes are used.

  • Whether abseiling or rappelling occurs during most climbs.

  • Plans for future climbs—both in terms of height and location.

4. Drag Racing

Drag racing crashes regularly make headlines, to the point that the motorsport seems a lot more deadly than it actually is. Still, its risks are sufficient enough to prompt considerable life insurance expenses for aspiring policyholders.

A 2014 report from the Charlotte Observer suggests that, during a 25-year span, over 520 people died in auto racing. The majority of these fatalities occurred at short tracks, where, until recently, safety precautions remained minimal. While this is beginning to change, the life insurance industry continues to charge a premium for those who regularly hit the track. This is also true for other forms of competitive motorsports.

When determining fees or the need for exclusions, life insurance underwriters may consider the following:

  • How often drivers participate in races.

  • Average and maximum speeds during events.

  • The type of vehicle used for racing.

  • Whether races occur on tracks or roads.

  • Amateur versus professional racing.

  • History of or interest in future driving.

  • Previous traffic violations.

5. Motocross

While most casual motorcycle riders are able to secure life insurance without issue, those involved in riskier forms of racing can sometimes run into trouble. Motocross and supercross, for example, are more dangerous than trail riding, although dirt bikes, in general, pose more hazards than other types of vehicles.

Motocross tracks tend to be riskier because they include jumps and a variety of other extreme obstacles. Injury and fatality rates are far higher for motocross than for general dirt biking, so it should come as no surprise that life insurance rates follow suit.

Many of the considerations that determine motocross-related life insurance echo the drag racing factors outlined above. With dirt biking and motocross, however, on-road versus off-road riding can complicate matters—especially for bikers with dual-purpose vehicles. Miles logged using motorcycles as basic road-based transportation should be treated differently than those involving obstacle-heavy tracks.

6. Aviation

Few hobbies offer a blend of thrills and scenery quite like recreational aviation. Unfortunately, just as working as a pilot can sometimes impact life insurance, flying for fun can also prove problematic.

While general aviation has become safer over time, it's still more dangerous than commercial travel. In 2018, for example, 97 percent of flight-related fatalities involved general aviation. That year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported a general aviation fatality rate of 1.029 accidents for every 100,000 hours of flight time.

Proper precautions can make general aviation safer, as reflected in life insurance company policies. Factors such as flight time, pilot licensure, and aircraft type can impact whether policies cover general aviation—and if so, the extent to which premiums increase upon disclosing flight plans. With a strategic approach, it's possible to secure an excellent policy at a reasonable cost.

8. Hang Gliding

Many active hang gliders and paragliders are able to obtain whole or term life insurance policies, despite these activities often being deemed high risk by insurance providers. As with other air-based hobbies, underwriting decisions tend to involve the type of aircraft, how frequently enthusiasts fly, and the typical altitude.

With hang gliding, the use of motorized or non-motorized gliders may also come into play. Location may be a greater factor for hang gliding than for other flight-based activities, as gliding suitability is largely determined by weather patterns and the surrounding area's terrain. Training should also be considered, as skill level plays a huge role in overall risk for this activity.

9. Scuba Diving

Scuba divers are often disheartened to find that their hobby of choice is regarded as high risk by some life insurance companies. In reality, the fatality rate for scuba diving is actually quite a bit lower than many of the activities highlighted above. Still, the damaging perception of scuba diving may lead to significant premiums among some providers.

Thankfully, some life insurance companies are surprisingly flexible, with many taking the type of diving and the frequency with which it occurs into account. For example, casual scuba divers who only occasionally pursue this activity under supervision should have little trouble securing coverage, particularly if diving takes place in open water.

Other factors that may influence scuba divers' life insurance eligibility or rates include:

  • Certification.

     To qualify for the best rates, scuba divers should obtain certification from approved organizations.

  • Depth.

     Divers who regularly reach depths of over 100 meters may be viewed as too risky.

  • High risk dives.

     Many providers are willing to work with open-water divers but may be wary of higher risk activities such as cave diving or spear diving.

10. Big Wave Surfing

Scuba diving is far from the only water sport that can cause issues when seeking life insurance coverage. Certain types of surfing can also prove problematic. This is especially true of a popular niche known as big wave surfing.

As this activity's name implies, surfers take on sizable waves, many of which reach heights exceeding twenty feet. These surfers often use specially designed boards referred to as guns.

When determining whether to cover surfers, life insurance companies may delve into specifics such as how often potential policyholders hit the water—and how high of waves they're willing to take on. After all, the risk associated with standard surfing is quite low, with data cited in Wavelength Surf Magazine suggesting that fewer than ten surfers die each year. As wave height increases, however, the risk rises dramatically.

As with the other activities mentioned above, surfing frequency also matters. Some life insurance companies are willing to accommodate those who only pursue extreme waves on an occasional basis. This can be complicated, however, as some thrill seekers nearly always opt for big waves, while others surf on a regular basis but typically stick with smaller challenges.

If you love the thrill of adventure, there's no need to sacrifice the financial security that life insurance provides. A little extra effort could unveil a variety of excellent plans, regardless of how often you hit the sky, the sea, or the race track. The right resources can streamline this process to ensure that you find a life insurance plan that provides the level of coverage you need—at a rate you can afford.

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