Depending on which agent you talk to, insurance riders are either fundamentally important or a waste of money. I say it depends on which type of policy you’re talking about. For sophisticated products like universal life, a long term care rider can alleviate the need for a separate long term care policy. Some riders are both cheap and critically important, like the “waiver of premium for disability” rider. As the name implies, your premiums are paid by the insurance company if you become disabled. Some term life policies have riders that provide living benefits for severe illness, and those are good as well.
Perhaps the most controversial use of riders is with small whole life policies. The most common riders on these polices are accidental death and grandchild riders. Accidental death is a relatively rare occurrence, and dishonest agents can use certain language to suggest that they are doubling or tripling the amount of coverage with this rider, conflating the death benefit with the rider benefit. Grandchild riders provide a small amount of convertible term insurance for grandchildren. The problem with this rider is that almost nobody converts the term insurance into a permanent policy. You would be much better off buying a “limited pay whole life” policy for your grandchildren. Be weary of agents trying to push these two riders because they might be using them to justify an overpriced policy.