We created an online profile for each of the top dating websites and spent over 30 hours comparing each site’s matching capabilities, search features and messaging tools. We took personality tests, answered over 300 dating-related questions and downloaded apps for all the sites that offered them. We focused on general sites that include all types of singles, but also included our best pick for focused dating that caters to specific groups of people. We also added Tinder and plan to review more dating apps in the future.

Best Overall

Best Overall: Match

Match.com is our pick for the best overall online dating site. This website has a vast dating pool and lots of name recognition, so you can be sure that you won’t run out of potential dates. Setting up a free account is simple and only takes a few minutes. Match gives you lots of open-ended questions that you can answer, and you can upload 26 photos to your profile.

You can’t view or send any messages without paying for a subscription, and the subscriptions for this site are higher than some other sites we researched. However, you can view people’s profiles and send likes with a free account.

Best Value

Best Value: OkCupid

If you’re looking for a dating site with great free features, OkCupid is our choice for best value because you can message matches without paying a subscription fee. Signing up for this dating site is simple – you answer a series of questions and then answer the same questions from the point of view of your ideal match. Once you find a potential match you can send a like or a message.

If you sign up for A-List, OkCupid’s subscription service, you can perform more advanced searches and see a list of people who like you. You can pay for one, three or six months of the service.

Best for Focused Dating

Best for Focused Dating: eHarmony

If you’re looking to date within a specific religious, ethnic or age group, eHarmony is our top pick for focused dating because it has match preferences that can filter your matches at a granular level. The free version lets you search at those granular levels, unlike other sites we tested where you have to pay a subscription. This company doesn’t let you see people’s profile pictures without subscribing, but with the free advanced searching you can at least see if eHarmony has people who match the groups you’re looking to date before you pay for a subscription.

Best Dating App

Best Dating App: Tinder

Tinder is our pick for the best dating app because it has the greatest pool of potential dates and because it is easy to use. Tinder is the original swiping app and has more downloads than any other dating app – over 100 million. This app syncs with Facebook so you can see mutual friends and shared interests. A swipe right means you’re interested and a swipe left means you’re not.

Tinder has expanded beyond just an app and you can now view people’s profiles on your computer. This site doesn’t focus on in-depth questions or personality quizzes, though, so it can’t recommend matches based on your preferences.

Best Online Dating Sites: What to Look For

The best online dating sites should have a host of tools to help you meet a large number of potential dates, and to go on dates with real potential. A dating site should act as a screening tool, helping you find people you may like, and helping to protect you from anyone dangerous. The best online dating site is the one that you’re comfortable using and that has enough people for you to find some attractive choices. Most of the sites we researched offer mobile apps, and if connecting on the go is important, be sure to find a site you like that has a usable app.

Is Online Dating Worth It?

The short answer is maybe. You may be too busy to find dates in the traditional ways. With the best online dating sites, you have a lot of the preliminary questions out of the way already. No need for the person with asthma to end up on a date with a chain smoker. Online dating can save you from some obvious mismatches.

All of the sites we reviewed have free profiles that you can use to get a feel for online dating before paying for a subscription. In the case of OkCupid and Tinder, you can match and message with people without paying for a subscription at all. If you’re interested in trying out a subscription to a site, all the sites we researched offer short one to three month subscriptions that can give you a taste of all the features of a site without spending a lot.

Does Online Dating Work?

For members of specific groups who may struggle to meet potential dates, online dating can expand your options. There are sites like OurTime that focus on singles over 50 and lots of sites that focus on different religious groups, including Jewish dating sites like Yenta and JDate. There are also sites dedicated to specific racial and ethnic groups, like LatinoPeopleMeet and BlackPeopleMeet. You can filter for religion, race and other factors on most dating sites, but some people prefer to start with a more specific pool of candidates.

There are thousands of online dating success stories, and while online dating may have had a social stigma years ago, today more and more people are matching and interacting digitally.

Is Online Dating Safe?

There are online predators on almost all dating sites so it makes sense to be cautious. In doing research for this article, we found many matches that were nothing more than scammers trying to lure people to other websites. In general, however, dating sites put a lot of effort into ensuring you’re chatting and setting up dates with real people.

As a precaution, always meet online connections in a public place and don’t give out your telephone number or home address. Catfishing, or posing online as someone you’re not, is something to watch for as well. If something seems off about a match, you can request a recent photo or more details about the person. One of the benefits to using a service like Match.com is that the subscription fee is generally a deterrent to scammers.

The best dating sites help you easily connect with people so you can start meeting people and going out. Read our reviews for specific details about the top dating sites.

Contributing Reviewer: Angie Parkinson