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Match.com has a large, diverse dating pool

There are two main types of online dating sites:  sites like Match.com (Est. $42 per month) that let you search profiles and find your own dates, and matchmaking sites like eHarmony.com (Est. $60 per month) that do most of that work for you. Most dating sites take a self-service approach. They allow users to search through profiles on their own for compatible singles according to parameters like geographic area and age. It's a time-consuming process, but self-searching gives users more control over their matches. With these sites, the profile process is fairly brief and may take just a few minutes.

Launched in 1995, Match.com is one of the largest and most diverse dating sites. It's user-friendly and has flexible search capabilities, including a keyword search. There's even a mobile application and the ability to communicate anonymously by phone for extra fees. You must pay for a one-, three- or six-month subscription to begin communication with other members. Match.com offers a guarantee with their six-month subscription (Est. $24 per month):  If you don't find someone suitable during that time, they will give you another six months free. However, you must comply with the program rules, including communicating with at least five different members each month, to qualify.

You can set up a profile, search for matches and read profile information with free registration. Potential matches are sent to your inbox as a free member, but reviewers and users warn that many are inactive members, and you can't find out who is an active subscriber before you sign up. Additionally, more than a few past users report getting a flurry of matches in their inbox after canceling when, as subscribers, they got very few.

Lavalife.com for casual relationships; young demographic

Long-term relationship success has been reported from some users on Match.com, but if that's not what you're looking for, Lavalife.com (Est. $20 per month) may be a better choice. You have a choice of three communities: relationships (for long-term relationships), dating (for more casual relationships) and intimate encounters (for sexual encounters). You can choose to belong to any one, two or all three of them when you sign up. Reviewers stress that this site caters mainly to people under 32 years old who are seeking casual relationships.

Reviewers at NextAdvisor.com note that "Lavalife cultivates a more playful atmosphere than most online dating sites." Creating a profile, searching and reading profiles are all free, and there's an added bonus on this dating site: You can reply to emails and instant messages from paying members without subscribing. Lavalife.com also reveals a member's last login date, letting you see right away who hasn't been active for weeks or even months.

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