Types of Dating Sites
The most popular online dating sites allow members to search within a certain area for suitable matches based on what's important to them, such as age, education or religion. Members can evaluate potential dates by reading their profiles, which typically include several photos and a statement about what that person is looking for in a mate. Some of these sites also suggest other users based on profile information. Most services charge a monthly fee for a subscription period of one month to a year if you want to be able to contact other members.
Free Dating Sites
If you're just not sure you want to commit to a monthly subscription, you may want to try a free dating site. These sites don't make you pay to communicate with other members, though some may offer premium features that you do need to pay for. Features vary widely, but experts warn you should be more on your guard for scammers on free sites. You may also find fewer people looking for something serious on these sites.
Matchmaking websites take a more scientific approach than search-driven online dating sites by hiring notable consultants to create compatibility or personality questionnaires. Users must fill out one of these before they can create a profile. Typically, the pairing up is done for you based on your answers, though some matchmaking sites also allow users to search profiles for themselves. Generally, matchmaking websites are considered a better route for singles looking for a long-term relationship since users must be more invested in the process to join.
Finding The Best Dating Sites
"Best Online Dating Sites of 2018"
"The 9 Best Dating Apps for 2018 to Help You Find That Special Someone"
"The Best Online Dating Sites of 2018"
There are dozens of expert
reviews and roundups of online dating sites, many of which involve hands-on
testing. The most helpful include detailed comparative reviews and rankings
based on real-world usage from sites including Ask Men, Top Ten Reviews and
Digital Trends. Expert roundups from sites such
as CNET were also helpful, even if they didn't involve rankings.
Though we hold user reviews of
products in high esteem, such reviews of online dating sites are hard to
evaluate, as they tend to be highly negative: One bad experience is often
enough for reviewers to write off a particular service entirely. We found large
collections of user reviews at sites including SiteJabber and Dating Sites Reviews.
To evaluate reviews, we focused on membership, ease of use, features, cost and
security of each site or app.
Best Dating Sites
Match.com (Est. $18.99 per month for six months) is one of the biggest,
longest-running online dating sites out there. Started in 1995, the site had 35
million unique monthly visitors in November 2016, according to Statista.
Members skew a bit older: Match.com says 25 percent are under 30, close to 49
percent are 30 to 49, and 26 percent are 50 and up. Seventy-four percent of
members say they have at least some college or a college degree. Most experts
agree that Match.com and its detailed profiles are good for anyone who wants
more than a fling, though as editors of AskMen.com say, the huge user base
means users can still "find what they are looking for, be that a casual hookup
or serious relationship."
Though its interface is busy, the
tradeoff is extensive search options that make it easier to find dates that
better match what you're looking for. Joining Match.com is free -- you can
create a profile, browse and search others' profiles, and "wink" at other
members without paying. However, if someone catches your eye, you must pay for
a one-, three-, six- or 12-month subscription to communicate with other members
(Est. $36.99, $19.99, $18.99 or $16.99 per month, respectively). Match.com
offers a guarantee with its six-month subscription: If you don't find someone
during that time, they will give you another six months free. However, you must
comply with certain rules, including communicating with at least five different
members via email each month. If you want to try the site for free, email
promotions sometimes yield a free-trial offer that lets you have full access
for a few days. There are mobile apps for iOS and Android phones as well as
Amazon devices such as the Kindle Fire.
When you're a free member, potential
matches are sent to your inbox, but reviewers and users warn that many of the
matches are inactive members, and you can't find out who is an active
subscriber until 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. There's no certain way to know how many members
are inactive, but in 2012, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging that
more than half of member profiles were inactive or fake. A more recent
class-action lawsuit alleging Match.com creates fake profiles to entice members
was dismissed in 2014. Match.com screens its subscribers against national sex
offender registries and provides several safety tips on its website.
While Match.com offers the chance to find a
committed relationship, getting started and searching for dates can be quite a
commitment. Major competitor Zoosk.com (Est. $12.49 per month) takes a more low-key approach, feeding you better
matches as you click on profiles you like. "You don't have to take a
3-hour-long questionnaire or play around with the site for days to figure out
how to make it work best for you," say
AskMen.com editors. The site claims 33 million visible profiles, and while it
doesn't publish a demographic breakdown, users skew younger and tend to be
looking for more casual relationships, experts say. It had 11.5 million unique
monthly visitors in November 2016, according to Statista.
Zoosk has a cleaner, more intuitive interface than
Match.com that draws a lot of inspiration from social networking sites. As you
use the site more, you'll receive more tailored recommendations. Like
Match.com, Zoosk allows you to sign up and browse members' profiles for free,
but you'll need to purchase a subscription to communicate with potential dates.
This includes use of the site's chat function. Subscriptions are available for
one month, three months and six months (Est. $29.95, $19.98, and $12.49 and per
month, respectively). You can also buy or earn "Zoosk coins" regardless of
whether you have a subscription to do things like boost your profile visibility
and see whether members have read your messages. There is no money-back
guarantee. Apps are available for iOS and Android devices.
Some reviewers complain that Zoosk sends too many
emails and texts regarding activity on the site, though potential members
should note that they can opt out of such messages. Many reviewers also say
that it's hard to tell whether members have paid subscriptions, leading them to
try contacting people who have no way of receiving their messages. Others don't
like being pressured into buying coins for other features even after they've
paid for a subscription. As for safety, Zoosk has an extensive online-dating
security guide on its site, but says it "does not routinely screen our members"
against any sort of database, unlike Match.com.
dating sites keep money in your pocket
While many dating sites follow a subscription-based
model that requires you to pay to communicate with other members, some allow
you to do so for free. Free sites typically make money via ads or paid upgrades
that let members unlock additional features. While free sites have undeniable
appeal, consider the flip side: Since it's easy to join, they may attract many
users who only want a fling, or worse, scammers who have eyes only for your
If you feel like too many online dating
sites emphasize beauty over brains, OkCupid (Free) gives you a chance to show
off your quirky side in hopes of finding a kindred spirit. One of its main
features is matchmaking questions that sometimes err a bit on the goofier side
("Which would you rather be? Normal or weird?") that also allow you to explain
your answers. Launched in 2004, the site had just over 10 million unique
monthly visitors in November 2016, according to Statista. Experts say users are
looking for a range of relationships here, but are more interested in casual
relationships than some other dating sites, such as Match.com, for instance.
Aside from completing its
questionnaire, OkCupid also lets you write
a profile essay and conduct your own search for others using criteria including
age, location, marital status and sexual preference. Unlike sites such as Match.com and Zoosk, OkCupid lets you
communicate with other members for free; a chat feature is included. A number
of advanced features are available if you sign up for a premium "A-List"
membership (Est. $9.95 per month for six months), including advanced search
options, ad-free viewing, and message-read receipts.
Reviewers warn that the
ability to use OkCupid for free means scammers have free reign -- there are
many tales of users coming on strong and eventually asking for personal details
and money. On the plus side, your profile is available only to OkCupid users
who are signed in to the site. Unlike most other online dating sites, you can
see the last time someone was online, so you can tell if a match has been
inactive for a while. Though there are safety tips on the site, OkCupid says it
does not screen its members.
Another free site, Plenty of Fish (free), claims to be "the world's largest dating site" and
says it has 150 million registered users worldwide. That's a staggering number,
but how many of those accounts are active is unclear; there were 23 million unique
monthly visitors in November 2016, according to Statista. There is a broad age range: As of 2016, the
site said 20 percent of users were 18 to 24, 38 percent were 25 to 34, 22
percent were 35 to 44, and 20 percent were 45 or older. Experts say the large
user base sets Plenty of Fish apart, but they warn that quantity does not
necessarily mean quality. Users indicate this might be a better place for
casual dating instead of serious relationships.
Plenty of Fish isn't
known for its dated interface. If you can get past that, the underpinnings are
solid: There is an in-depth personality test helps provide better matches, or
you can use a detailed search function to show potential dates based on
anything from basics (age, ethnicity, relationship type) to very specific
criteria (personality type, car ownership, level of self-confidence and
ambition). As with OkCupid, it's free to communicate with others, but there's a
premium membership that adds additional features (Est. $12.75 per month for
four months). Those include getting your profile highlighted in searches,
skipping ads, and seeing whether your emails were read.
Again, one of the dangers
of free sites like Plenty of Fish is that the low threshold for joining means
it's easy for potential scammers to hop on, too. Reviewers also report another
common problem: Many users aren't active and may not respond if you message
them. There are safety tips on the site, consisting of basic precautions that
anyone on any dating site should take. Like OkCupid, Plenty of Fish does not
perform background checks or screen members.