Less than half (48%) of homeowners have a policy and four in five renting households do not have life insurance, and research by Aviva has found.
Among those who owned their home outright, 25% had a life insurance policy, the interviews of 2,000 people added 18-55 living as part of a family group found.
Critical illness policies were held by 17% of home owners questioned, while 5% of homeowners and 4% of private renters held a policy.
Having private medical insurance was most common among those with a mortgage, with 16% having a policy, compared to 12% of those who own their home outright and 10% of renters.
Income protection policies were held by 3 % of renters, 5% of homeowners and 12% of those with a mortgage.
Families were more likely to live in privately rented accommodation, with 21% of couples with dependent children living in such in 2014, and 31% of single parent families, analysis of Office for National Statistics figures by Aviva found.
Louise Colley, managing director, protection at Aviva, said: "Renters might not have a mortgage to pay, but they still have financial obligations like bills and monthly rent.
"Not having a savings cushion in place means unexpected costs could make day-to-day living a struggle, while a lack of income protection could be disastrous should they become ill and unable to work.
"With growing numbers of parents in rented accommodation, it's vital all families think about the future and put financial plans in place, regardless of whether they are a homeowner or not."