Best Dating Sites

By: Kelly Burgess on January 25, 2018

Editor's Note: Match.com and eHarmony remain the sites to beat for those looking for a serious relationship online, while OKCupid is still the best free option. For app users, we've added Bumble as an alternative to Coffee Meets Bagel and Tinder, both of which we still recommend. Bumble urges women to make the first move, a refreshing change, but keeps things easy to use.

Match.com Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Member search: Yes Personality test: No Apps: iOS, Android, Amazon

Best online dating site

Match.com has two big advantages on its side: a massive user base and one of the most recognizable names in online dating. Reviewers say these two factors mean Match is still the traditional online dating site to beat, and they like that the site attracts users of all ages, many of whom seem to want something a little more serious than a fling. The highly detailed profiles and search functions also make it easy to zero in on promising users despite the crowded field, reviewers say.

OkCupid.com
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Member search: Yes Personality test: Yes Apps: iOS, Android

Best free dating site

If you consider yourself off-beat or simply want to get to know potential matches beyond a superficial level, reviewers say OkCupid can help you do that -- and for free. The site's extensive, unexpected matchmaking questions make it easy to glean insight into someone's personality, but you can still use traditional profile search criteria if you want to control your own destiny. OkCupid also shows you when a potential match last logged on, helping distinguish between active and inactive users.

eHarmony
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Member search: No Personality test: Yes Apps: iOS, Android, Windows

Best matchmaking site

eHarmony has carved out a reputation as the best online dating site for marriage-minded singles to find their true match, and reviewers say it's well-deserved. The site's detailed compatibility test serves two important purposes: It helps users go beyond looks to find someone well matched for their personality, and it makes the site less appealing for scammers or anyone just looking for a fling. Reviewers also say the site is attractive and easy to navigate.

Coffee Meets Bagel Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Member search: No Personality test: No Apps: iOS, Android

Best dating app

Singles tired of swiping through endless photos may appreciate the simplicity of Coffee Meets Bagel, which delivers a handful of matches, or "bagels," each day. Matches are actually friends of friends -- the app integrates with Facebook -- helping ameliorate security fears. Reviewers say Coffee Meets Bagel matches seem higher in quality than those they've gotten via other apps. Having limited matches a day also forces users to slow down and consider the other person instead of hopping to the next possibility.

Types of Dating Sites

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 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
Our Sources
"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.

Free 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 wallet.

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.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Dating Sites buying guide

What every best Dating Sites has:

  • Members in your age group.
  • Members in your area.
  • A profile that reflects who you are.

Read More »

Learn More »