Best DNA Testing Kits of 2018

Rebecca Armstrong ·
Phones & Networking Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent over 60 hours testing and researching nine consumer DNA ancestry tests. The best ancestry DNA test for your situation depends on what you’re looking for. The best DNA service for most is 23andMe because it gives you a little bit of everything, from ancestry percentages to family matching to optional health insights. AncestryDNA is a great match for genealogy enthusiasts who want to trace their genes along a family tree, and National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test offers interesting anthropological context to your personal genetic history.

Best Overall
23andMe
23andMe offers a great balance of ancestry and health information focused around self-discovery to provide a wealth of personal insight.
View on 23andMe
Best Value
MyHeritage
Aside from costing $20 less than other DNA ancestry tests, MyHeritage DNA is our best value pick because it allows you to upload your Raw DNA information from another company’s DNA test to the MyHeritage database for free.
View on Amazon
Best for Genealogy
AncestryDNA
With a massive DNA database and robust genealogical tools, AncestryDNA is a great resource for genealogy enthusiasts, finding new relatives and learning more about your family tree.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Cost
Ancestry Results
Ease of Use
Online Database Features
Upgrade Option
Available Geographic Regions
Database Size
Tester Confidence in Results
Tester Satisfaction Score
Overall Experience Score
Sample Type
Sample Collection and Registration Score
Result Access and Interpretation Score
Turnaround Time (Days)
App
Genetic Relative Connections
Online Family Trees
Upload RAW Data
Download RAW Data
$69 Best Buy
4.5 5 4.5 4
171
>5 Million
A
A+
A+
Saliva
A+
A+
32
X
Limited
N/A
$68.99 Amazon Marketplace
3 4.5 4 4
350
> 10 Million
A
B+
B+
Saliva
A+
B+
35
X
X
N/A
$64.99 Amazon Warehouse
4.5 5 5 0
22
> 950,000
A
A+
A
Saliva
A+
A+
27
N/A
N/A
N/A
$69 Amazon Warehouse
3.5 3 5 5
42
1.4 Million
B
C
B
Cheek Swab
A
A+
16
X
X
X
$79 Amazon Marketplace
3 4.5 4 4
80
> 200,000
A+
A+
A+
Cheek Swab
A
A
27
In Beta
N/A
X
$75.99 Amazon Marketplace
5 3.5 3.5 3.5
24
> 990,000
B+
B
2.33
Cheek Swab
C+
B+
18
X
X
Limited
$22.49 Amazon.com - Seller
5 2.5 5 1
15
Not Disclosed
B+
C
B
Saliva
A+
B
16
N/A
N/A
N/A
$169 Amazon Marketplace
3 1.5 2 1
500
Not Disclosed
B
D
C
Cheek Swab
B
A
62
N/A
N/A
X
$119 Dnatribes
2.5 2 2 1
1200
> 560,000
C
D
D
Cheek Swab
D
D
13
N/A
N/A
N/A
Best Overall
23andMe is the best DNA testing kit due to its breadth. The company offers ancestry service including autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA testing for insights beyond geographical ancestry percentages.
The 23andMe ancestry test includes five reports: Ancestry Composition, DNA Relatives, Neanderthal Ancestry, Maternal Haplogroup and Paternal Haplogroup, if you have a Y chromosome. Within the ancestry composition portion, testers particularly liked the timeline feature, which estimates how long ago your most recent ancestor lived from each matched region. The family matching tools help find relatives you didn’t know you had, and 23andMe lets you share and compare your DNA with other users. The service is more focused on personal exploration as opposed to hardcore genealogy, so it doesn’t feature the expansive family tree builder or genealogical records available with some other services. In our tests, 23andMe proved easy to navigate, from sample collection to receiving our results. It took 32 days to get results from the date we dropped our completed kits in the mail. One tester had to resubmit their sample due to a low concentration of DNA in the original, but the return process was simple. In addition to the ancestry service, 23andMe offers a health upgrade with 87 reports about specific traits or genetic predispositions. Though it isn’t a comprehensive test, it is FDA approved to provide information regarding genetic health risks for diseases including Parkinson’s and late-onset Alzheimer’s. Upgrading after receiving your Ancestry results costs $125, so we recommend buying the Health + Ancestry kit from the start. The upgraded kit is sometimes on sale for about the same price as the Ancestry-only kit.
Pros
  • Tests autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA
  • Ancestry timeline
  • Optional health test is FDA approved
Cons
  • Fewer genealogy resources than others
  • Cannot upload RAW Data
  • Upgrading is expensive
$69.0023andMe
Read the full review
Best Value
For about $20 less than other DNA ancestry services, MyHeritage DNA gives you an ethnicity estimate and access to DNA matches. It’s true value, however, lies in its free Raw DNA uploads.
If you’ve already taken a test with another company, MyHeritage lets you upload your Raw data to its database for free. This feature is particularly useful if you’re looking for lost relatives, as you can pay slightly more for one test with Ancestry or 23andMe, which have larger databases, but still access MyHeritage’s 1.4 million-user database as well. With a 16-day turnaround, MyHeritage DNA was one of the first companies to send back our test results, but I found the contents of my ancestry report to be a bit off, especially when compared to my geographic ancestry reports from other companies. I was born in Korea and therefore expected at least a little of my Korean heritage to make it onto my ancestry map, as it did with other services, but MyHeritage didn’t report any Korean heritage. Instead, MyHeritage DNA reported I that I’m of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese, and Mongolian descent. As I was looking for a reason to explain the discrepancy between tests, I discovered that there are large swaths of the map not covered by any of the service’s ancestral regions. The Korean peninsula is one of those areas, as are southern regions in South America, Africa and almost all of Australia and Russia. The oversight seems odd because MyHeritage could have easily included these missed areas inside a larger, generalized region instead of completely omitting them.
Pros
  • Quick turnaround
  • Can upload Raw data for free
  • Cheaper than other tests
Cons
  • Gaps in geographical coverage
  • Smaller family-matching database
  • Fewer tools and features than others
$75.00Amazon
Read the full review
Best for Genealogy
With over 10 million samples in its database, AncestryDNA is one of the largest players in the consumer DNA testing industry. Its DNA ancestry test paired with its extensive genealogical data from family trees and historical records makes Ancestry the perfect destination for a holistic view of your family history.
Getting the most out of your AncestryDNA results requires a bit of work, as the DNA test works best in concert with the site’s other available resources. You can use the DNA service without creating a family tree, though the results are much less interesting. Ancestry uses information gleaned from its user’s DNA and family trees to create compelling stories about your family’s recent history and migrations. Testers with European roots could trace their family’s movements across the Atlantic and see what stops they made on their way across the U.S. I took the AncestryDNA test in 2016 and was disappointed by my initial report, which put my results into a giant area encompassing at least 15 countries labeled “Asia East.” Since then, Ancestry has updated its algorithm and reference population to make its results more specific, but it still only supports 17 regions in Asia and West Asia compared to 296 regions in Europe. Our testers received results from Ancestry 35 days after dropping their tubes of spit in the mail. We generally liked the company’s website and found the interface easy-to-use and navigate. While Ancestry does allow you to download your Raw DNA data, it does not allow you to upload Raw data from tests taken through other companies.
Pros
  • Largest sample database
  • Recent history and migrations
  • Robust genealogy resources
Cons
  • Cannot upload RAW data
  • Relatively long turnaround
  • Weak non-European heritage data
$89.70Amazon
Read the full review
Best for History Buffs
The National Geographic database doesn’t specialize in finding long lost relatives, but the Geno 2.0 test does give you plenty of information linking you and your DNA to the past.
With autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA genotyping, the Geno 2.0 test examines your ancestry in three time periods, including your Regional Ancestry report, which spans 500 to 10,000 years ago. The test also delves into your Deep Ancestry through your maternal and paternal line haplogroups and you Hominin Ancestry, which tells you how much Neanderthal DNA is hanging out in your genetic code. One quirky but interesting feature explores possible relations to famous geniuses throughout history and estimates how many thousands of years ago you shared a common ancestor with Abraham Lincoln or Charles Darwin. Testers appreciated the amount of information and context given with each report. For example, the regional ancestry report matches your DNA to broad world regions on a map, but it also compares your DNA to two more-specific reference populations. My regions were Northeastern Asia and South China Sea, which fit the Korean and Japanese reference populations. Another tester was matched to 11 geographic regions throughout Europe, North America and West Asia, and they were matched to Argentinian and Puerto Rican reference populations. The Geno 2.0 test uses a Helix spit-tube test, which is extremely easy to register. It took National Geographic 27 days to notify testers of results. Because Helix uses exome sequencing instead of the more-common genotyping, you cannot download your Raw DNA information from this test to upload into other databases. You can, however, purchase more DNA apps from the Helix Marketplace to run your data through partner databases without submitting additional samples.
Pros
  • Easy registration
  • Genius matches
  • Variety of DNA history information
Cons
  • No family matching
  • Cannot download RAW data
$99.79Amazon
Read the full review
Best for British Ancestry
Living DNA supports 80 geographical ancestry regions, 21 of which are located within Britain and Ireland alone, making it a great DNA test for people wanting to delve deep into their British heritage.
Of course, it also covers 60 regions outside of the British Isles, and is expanding its efforts to bring the same level of detail to other world regions. Although I have absolutely no British or Irish ancestry, I found my results extremely satisfying. I particularly appreciate that living DNA gives you a lot of ways to view your data. You can see your ancestry results as color-coded dots filling up a person’s silhouette, on a map, as a pie chart or on a timeline. All the graphics present the same set of data, but each has its own appeal. Within each graphic, you can also choose to view global or regional matches and cautious, standard or complete estimates, which each have a different level of detail and certainty. Like many of the best DNA test kits, Living DNA examines autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, as well as Y-DNA for males. The service’s Family Networks feature, currently in beta, allows customers to find DNA relatives within its database. I received test results 27 days after dropping my sample in the mail. One fun Living DNA feature is that you can order your DNA analysis in coffee table book form.
Pros
  • View results in multiple formats
  • Tests autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA
  • 21 regions within British Isles
Cons
  • Several steps in sample collection process
  • Family matching is still in beta
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Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

We spent over 60 hours compiling information about DNA ancestry tests through interviews with experts, thorough research and testing. We submitted 17 DNA samples and poured over 23 results profiles. We spoke with representatives from six of the services we tested. We analyzed white papers published by industry leaders 23andMe and AncestryDNA.


When I took my first DNA test in 2016 I was disappointed, in part because I didn’t do my research, so my goal in this review is help others avoid that scenario. Beyond ancestry tests, there are companies that recommend wines or exercise regimens based on your DNA. With all the available options, it’s easy to default to a recognizable name, which isn’t necessarily bad. But certain tests do specific things better. Our goal is to match your expectations with the test that fits best.

How We Tested

For our evaluations, we assembled a group of testers willing to spit into a tube on camera. We chose four individuals of varying backgrounds. Two had previously taken one or more DNA ancestry tests, and two had not. Two had fairly well-documented family histories to compare against, one was adopted, and one had information about one side of the family, but not the other. All of us took DNA tests from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, National Geographic and Family Tree DNA. One tester also took each of the five additional tests we reviewed. After collecting spit and cheek cells, we mailed all of the tests at the same time and waited for results, noting all communications from the company in the meantime and how long it took each service to notify us that results were ready to view. We collected data based on testers’ impressions of their results, each service’s features and extras, how easy it was to use and navigate the service’s website, along with several other factors. We added this testing data to rigorous research and information gleaned from conversations with representatives from Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritageDNA, LivingDNA, Humancode (now owned by Helix) and 24genetics.

How Much Do DNA Testing Kits Cost?

Most ancestry DNA kits cost about $100. AncestryDNA, 23andMe’s Ancestry test and National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test all fall nicely into that price point. If you’re looking for a bargain, we recommend waiting to buy until your preferred test is on sale, as they’re often available well below their usual price. To get the most for your money, buy an Ancestry or 23andMe kit on sale then upload your Raw data to MyHeritage DNA’s database, which is free.

How Accurate Are DNA Ancestry Tests?

Our testers took multiple DNA ancestry tests, and the services returned slightly different results for each person. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any one company is more accurate than another. Every DNA testing service uses its own algorithm and data set – different reference populations drawn from different databases. Nacho Esteban of 24Genetics told us, “Ancestry is not an exact science. The top five companies in the world would show very similar results when talking about continents; the similarity is smaller when talking about countries. In regional ancestry, some border regions are difficult to identify and sometimes there may be discrepancies. So we cannot take the information as something 100% sure. But at the end, it gives a great picture of where our ancestors were from.”

In our tests, we did find consistency across our results on the continental level. For example, my ancestry is exclusively East Asian, but 23andMe breaks it down into 80 percent Korean, 10.5 percent Japanese and 0.8 percent Chinese, with the remaining 8.7 percent in broader categories. However, Ancestry reports my DNA as 98 percent Korean and Northern Chinese, with only 2 percent Japanese. National Geographic places 85 percent of my ancestry from Northeastern Asia and 14 percent from the South China Sea region, with my DNA most closely matching the Korean and Japanese reference populations.

Database Size and Reference Populations
When asked about how database size affects ancestry results, David Nicholson, co-founder of Living DNA, told us, “The tests absolutely rely on the reference database. If you have Polish ancestry but there are no people in the database who are Polish, then what the test will do is show what the next closest group is next to Polish, like German or Eastern European ancestry.” Each ancestry DNA service has its own sample database and reference panel made of the DNA samples collected from their users and information collected from sources like the 1000 Genomes Project. The database consists of all this information collectively. A reference panel is made of certain curated samples with known family history and roots in a specific place. The services use insights gleaned from the reference panel to give you geographical ancestry results. In theory, a larger database leads to more information available to create a good reference panel, which then leads to better results for customers.  


In testing, we found that many tests have much more specific and detailed results for European ancestry than anywhere else. This is due more to the diversity of the database than size. For example, AncestryDNA has the largest database with over 10 million samples yet results for Asian ancestry are markedly less specific than results from several companies with much smaller databases, including 23andMe and Living DNA. Instead of pulling reference samples directly from the existing database, however, many companies seek out high quality data with special research projects. 23andMe, for example, offers its Global Genetics project, which sends free kits to people with all four grandparents born in certain countries that are underrepresented in the database.

Should I Buy a DNA Test?

Direct-to-consumer DNA tests are still relatively new. The first ancestral DNA test launched in 2001 by FamilyTreeDNA, but companies didn’t start genotyping autosomal DNA until 2007. Still, tests and results have come a long way since then, with much lower prices and streamlined sample collection, registration and results. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to buy a DNA ancestry test for yourself or as a gift, here are a few things to consider.

Why You Shouldn’t Test Your DNA
There are several examples of people finding out a little more than they wanted because of results from a direct-to-consumer DNA test. There are Facebook communities full of people who found out they have different parents. There’s little you can do to prepare for that shock, though most services with family matching features do include warnings about unexpected discoveries in their terms of service. You can also opt to not receive family matches if you’re simply looking for medical or geographical ancestry information.

Another reason you may want to avoid taking a DNA test is if you’ve committed a crime or you know someone closely related to you has committed a crime. Law enforcement has recently taken to testing DNA evidence from crime scenes through open DNA databases like GEDmatch after successfully solving several cold cases after the arrest of the Golden State Killer in April 2018. There are several open DNA databases floating around the internet, where people upload their raw DNA data after taking another test like 23andMe or Ancestry. Most companies do not release database information to law enforcement, however, a recent study estimates that up to 60% of Americans with European heritage can be identified via third-cousin-or-closer DNA using publicly available data.