Best DNA Testing Kits of 2018

Ryan Brown ·
Updated
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I swabbed my cheeks and spat in vials to test the top seven ancestry DNA test kits and uncovered surprising details about my heritage in the process. I found that Ancestry.com’s DNA test is the best because it is affordable, contains personalized results and has the largest database of any company on the market. If you’re interested in paternity testing, Paternity Depot is our top choice because it’s the most affordable and offers great accuracy. DNAFit is the best health and fitness test because you get your results in 10 days. If you’re testing your dog, Wisdom Panel 4.0 is the most affordable and tests the most dog breeds.     

Best Overall
Ancestry.com
With the largest DNA database of any company we tested and personalized historical summaries based on your DNA, Ancestry.com is the best ancestry DNA test for connecting with others.
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Best Value
MyHeritage
MyHeritage is the most affordable DNA kit we tested. The DNA matching database is much smaller than Ancestry.com’s, but you can still see your biogeographical ancestry percentages as well as find and message genetic cousins.
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Best Paternal DNA Test
Paternity Depot
Paternity Depot is the cheapest paternity test we researched but it offers a similar turnaround time as other tests and 99.9 percent accuracy.
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Best Overall
The best ancestry DNA test kit is from Ancestry.com. When we tested this kit, we received our results in 13 days, one of the fastest turnaround times of the seven ancestry kits we tested. This company also has the largest database by far of any DNA company, with over 5 million DNA samples in its database.
Ancestry requires you to fill a vial of saliva for your DNA sample. The kit comes with a prepaid mailing box and sending the tube off to the lab was simple. I received a confirmation email within one day letting me know Ancestry had received my sample. This company offers one of the most affordable DNA tests that we tested. For under $100 you get access to the largest DNA matching database and other useful tools like your biogeographical ancestry estimate and Ancestry’s proprietary Genetic Communities feature. With the Genetic Communities feature, your DNA is compared to historical groupings throughout history. If you match into these groupings, Ancestry displays these communities for you and you can see how your genetic history spread throughout history. But the biggest reason to test with Ancestry is its database size. By connecting with more cousins, you have a greater chance of learning something new about your family and your ancestry – which is one of the biggest reasons people take DNA tests.
Pros
  • Has the largest DNA database for matches
  • One of the most affordable tests we reviewed
  • Personalized results like Genetic Communities tell your genetic story
Cons
  • No option for add-on health testing
  • Test doesn’t explore paternal and maternal haplogroups
  • Company doesn’t give you an estimated date of completion
$69.00Amazon
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Best Value
If you just want to take a DNA test kit to see what your biogeographical ancestry is, MyHeritage is the least expensive of all the kits we tested. This company’s website is easy to navigate, and in our testing it was easy to connect and chat with matches. However, Ancestry’s test is only slightly more expensive and gives access to the largest matching database of any company.
MyHeritage has you collect DNA using cheek swabs, which are much easier to use than spit samples that some companies make you collect. In our testing, this company took the second longest to send back the results from its test, so if speed is important you might consider another company. The biogeographical portion of the test results wasn’t as detailed as others we tested, but you can easily see your genetic matches and the percentage of DNA you share. One of the best parts about this DNA test is that you can upload results from other companies for free. Other companies will charge you money to upload your DNA results, but MyHeritage lets you upload results from Ancestry.com, 23andMe, or FamilyTree DNA. This is great if you want to expand your pool of matches; it can help you connect with more people, especially if you’ve taken a test through another company.
Pros
  • The least expensive ancestry DNA test
  • Site generates a fun video with your biogeographical ancestry percentages
  • Lets you upload results from most other DNA companies for free
Cons
  • Small matching database
  • Results don’t show Neanderthal traits or haplogroups
  • Fewer status updates than other companies
$59.00Amazon
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Best Paternal DNA Test
If you’re looking into paternity DNA testing, you’re likely looking for high accuracy, a fast turnaround time and an affordable price. Paternity Depot has these attributes and is the best paternity test we researched.
All of the tests we researched advertised over 99 percent accuracy. Paternity Depot, however, advertises 99.9 percent accuracy and will send your results to you in five business days or less. That is one of the fastest turnaround times of companies we researched. If you need a split kit to test people in two different locations, Paternity Depot will send testing kits to both addresses. This company uses simple buccal cheek swabs to collect DNA samples. This company is accredited by the AABB and ISO 17025, the same as other major companies we reviewed. The biggest differentiator between Paternity Depot and other companies is its low price. Other companies charge more than twice as much for the same test with similar accuracy and turnaround time. If you’re looking for avuncular tests or legally admissible tests, the cost is higher and on-par with other companies. But for paternity testing, Paternity Depot has the best price for what it offers.
Pros
  • Most affordable paternity test we researched
  • Only $50 more for a legally admissible paternity test
  • Fast turnaround of three to five business days
Cons
  • Website is clunky, poorly designed
  • Sibling and avuncular tests are more expensive than other companies
  • Instructions are plain text, no video tutorials
$69.99Amazon
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Most Genetic Insights
In addition to ancestry percentages, 23andMe offers unique insights into your Neanderthal heritage and maternal and paternal haplogroups.
While most ancestry DNA tests examine only your autosomal DNA, 23andMe gains additional information from analyzing your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down from your mother. For men, 23andMe also sequences Y-DNA, which is passed down father-to-son. This additional work may explain the longer-than-average turnaround time. In our test, it took 27 days to get results. The detailed results included an estimated timeline alongside your ancestry results, which shows how many generations back your ancestors came from each of your matched regions. 23andMe also offers an FDA approved health screening, which examines your DNA sample for certain genetic variants associated with diseases and traits like lactose intolerance, the color of your hair and if you like the taste of cilantro. 23andMe offers the best features in addition to straightforward geographical ancestry percentages. You can also download your raw DNA data for free to upload to other sites to further explore your heritage.
Pros
  • Tests mitochondrial and Y-DNA as well as autosomal DNA
Cons
  • Long turnaround time
$69.0023andMe
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Best DNA Test for Dogs
For less than $100, Wisdom Panel 4.0 tests your dog’s DNA against samples from over 250 different breeds to find the breed makeup of your canine companion back three generations.
It’s the best dog DNA kit we tested because it offers the most breed information for an affordable price. The Wisdom Panel kit comes with swabs to collect your dog’s saliva, and you get results within three weeks of sending the samples into the company. Though Wisdom Panel’s results can’t verify the purebred status of your dog, it does give you a comprehensive look at the breeds your pup is descended from. It even compares your dog’s DNA against wolf and coyote samples. One place where Wisdom Panel 4.0 is lacking, however, is in its genetic disease screening. This test focuses primarily on two, exercise induced collapse, which can be found in Labrador Retrievers, and the MDR1 gene, which affects drug sensitivity. Overall, with its wide selection of tested breeds, quick turnaround and reasonable price, the Wisdom Panel 4.0 is a great way to see what your dog is made of.
Pros
  • Checks against 250 dog breeds
Cons
  • Doesn’t test for many diseases
US$84.99Wisdom Panel
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Why Trust Us?

I spoke with DNA experts from the National Society of Genetic Counselors, Ancestry.com and with CeCe Moore, the DNA expert for PBS’s Finding Your Roots. I spent more than 15 hours researching dog DNA tests, DNA health and fitness tests and paternity tests. I also spent more than 20 hours researching ancestry DNA tests alone. I swabbed and spat to submit my DNA to seven ancestry DNA companies and spent hours browsing my results from each company.

There are many different DNA tests for sale right now. As Brianne Kirkpatrick, a certified genetic counselor by the National Society of Genetic Counselors and founder of private DNA consulting company WatershedDNA told us, “It can be hard to know as a consumer which test is best for you, because there are many different things that can come from testing and each company provides a slightly different offering.”

We focused our research and testing on tests that consumers can easily take or administer in the privacy of their homes. I took all of the ancestry DNA tests myself, just as a consumer would, by signing up and paying for the services directly. We didn’t have access to any premium features or portals that regular consumers don’t have and we researched and cold-called companies as if we were normal people.

Top Ten Reviews has been reviewing tech products for over a decade, and we’ve been reviewing DNA products for over a year. I am an experienced writer and reviewer and I have tested and written reviews for many digital products and services for Top Ten Reviews.

How We Tested

We ordered ancestry DNA test kits from the top seven companies. When the kits arrived, I swabbed my cheeks, spat into vials and filled out paperwork to send my DNA samples away for testing. I compared how easy it was to follow each of the company’s instructions, tracked how long it took for the samples to be processed and observed what kinds of notifications each of the companies sent me.

When the tests were completed, I compared the online user portals and noted how much information each company gave me and how personalized the results were. I also sent a message to one of my newly matched cousins on each of the platforms to see how fast they would respond to my general inquiries.

How Much Do DNA Testing Kits Cost?

Most popular ancestry DNA tests cost $70 to $100. Kits with health screening or fitness aspects tend to cost more, and some companies charge extra for services like matrilineal or patrilineal ancestry information. We found that kits that cost less give less specific results, but more expensive ones don’t necessary offer more value, unless you’re looking for something specific. Our advice for finding the best deal is to check for DNA test kits on sale. Many, including Ancestry DNA and 23 and Me, are frequently available below their list prices.

What to Look For When Picking an Ancestry DNA Test

Database Size

National Geographic has over 800,000 samples in its database, but Ancestry.com dwarfs all of the competition with a database of over 5 million samples. A larger database means more potential relative matches as well as more potential for insights. Anna Swayne, a member of Ancestry.com’s DNA testing team told us, “As more people join the database, the more data there is for the science team to evaluate and make new discoveries. We only know what we know today, but we’re learning as we get more data.”

Biogeographical Ancestry (Ethnicity Percentages)

We didn’t compare tests on the accuracy of their biogeographical ancestry estimates, but it’s important to consider what you’re looking for when taking an ancestry test. If you’re simply looking to see what countries and ethnicities your DNA connects you with, it doesn’t make sense to pay for the most expensive test. However, if you’re hoping for personalized information about your genetic past and ancestors, you’ll need to pay for a more expensive test like the GPS origins test from HomeDNA or the ancestry test from 23andMe.

Privacy

Besides genealogical research, DNA databases can be used for other purposes as well. Recently, law enforcement used an online database alongside DNA found at several crime scenes to make an arrest on a decades-old series of connected crimes. Though the alleged Golden State Killer never took a DNA test himself, he was found using DNA data his relatives uploaded to an open-source genealogy site, GEDmatch. Though the arrest was not based on information gleaned from direct-to-consumer test kits, it does raise ethical questions about what all those DNA samples may be used for in the future.

Extras

Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com offer interesting extras alongside the DNA matching and biogeographical ancestry information: 23andMe provides a description of Neanderthal traits and estimates what traits are present in your DNA. Ancestry.com has a feature called Genetic Communities that connects your DNA to that of historical communities and shows how your past connects with larger historical trends.

Should I Wait to Buy an Ancestry DNA Test Kit?

If you have grandparents who are still living, don’t wait. Order kits for each of them and record their DNA while they’re still living. Because we only inherit around half of our DNA from our parents, we only have around 25 percent of our DNA from our grandparents. Capturing more of their DNA by testing them before they’re gone is a great way to preserve even more of your genetic heritage and find even more connections.


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