Best Online Dating Sites of 2019

Anna Burleson ·
Entertainment 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 five days trying out 10 different online dating services to figure out which one is the most effective and affordable. That meant monitoring three fake profiles for 24 hours, collecting match data and using the features of every website and app. We looked at which websites give free access to other users’ profile photos and messaging, and whether you have to pay to access extra features. For on-the-go dating, we also used apps and evaluated them based on how user-friendly they are.     

Best for Planned Outings
Match.com
Match.com in an in-depth dating website and app with lots of ways to meet people.
View on Match.com
Most Thorough
eharmony
This is the website to use if you're looking for a meaningful connection.
View on eharmony
Best for Millennials
OKCupid
With a ton of potential matches and free messaging services, OkCupid is the best overall online matchmaking service.
View on OKCupid
Best for Planned Outings
If you’re nervous about trying online dating, start out with Match.com.
To avoid the awkwardness of a one-on-one with a stranger, Match.com hosts group hangouts so you can get to know a lot of singles without any pressure. The Bucket List Event Series even pairs you up based on things you’d like to do before you die so you can make new and exciting memories to further foster a relationship. The website and app are both easy to use and because your matches appear with a compatibility number, you’re more likely to have something in common. Adding something unique to your profile like your favorite MLB team is also a fun add-on a lot of other dating websites lack.
Pros
  • Free access to photos.
  • There is an app and a desktop version.
Cons
  • You pay extra for messaging.
  • We only received 11 matches in our tests.
Visit SiteMatch.com
Read the full review
Most Thorough
If you want a comprehensive online dating experience, sign up for eharmony.
Signing up took us about 20 minutes during testing, which is more than twice as long as most of the websites we tested. You answer questions about not only about your appearance, but also about your religious beliefs and career. You then fill out a comprehensive survey regarding what you want in a partner. The questions even go as far to ask whether you want to have kids, which is an important thing to agree on if you're looking for a long-term commitment. You have to pay for a subscription to access most of the features on eharmony, and even though we couldn't read them with a free account, we got nine emails in 24 hours, which was a pretty decent response rate. There is also an eharmony app that's easy to use, making this a great service to try if you want a thorough experience.
Pros
  • The compatibility quiz is extensive.
Cons
  • LGBTQ users are directed to a separate website.
Visit Siteeharmony
Read the full review
Best for Millennials
OkCupid is a well-designed and fun matchmaking service. The most important features, messaging and viewing other profiles, are free and the site is LGBTQ-inclusive.
Our findings are in line with 2016 Consumer Reports data that found users were most satisfied with OkCupid over numerous other dating services. With free dating apps becoming more popular thanks to Tinder, people are gravitating toward predominately free online dating services. Setting up your profile is fun because of the unique questions you’re asked, like what your ideal date would entail and whether you’d prefer to be weird or normal. You also answer these questions from the perspective of your ideal mate to ensure you are paired with compatible people. Along with up to six photos, you can also add more information to your profile about your lifestyle. In our tests, OkCupid gave us the most matches. On top of that, about half of them were an 80 percent match or higher, meaning they are much more likely to be a compatible match. To eliminate the likelihood of being bombarded with too many messages, you can only see messages from users you’ve “liked,” which we thought was a clever feature. The free mobile app is also well designed and easy to use.
Pros
  • It’s very LGBTQ-friendly.
  • The profile setup questions it asks you are unique and require some soul searching.
  • Users can access their profiles online or through an app.
Cons
  • A subscription is required to access some of the site’s features.
  • There is no match guarantee.
  • The in-depth setup process took 15 minutes, which might be too lengthy for some people.
Visit SiteOKCupid
Read the full review
Best Budget
Plenty of Fish is a free and easy way to try online dating. Its setup process is thorough and the free mobile app is comparable to several others on the market.
Setting up your profile involves a rather in-depth chemistry assessment of more than 70 questions. This means you'll have to think a little bit about your own personality, how others perceive you and what you want in a mate. Questions include whether you consider yourself productive and whether you're seen as stubborn. You answer on a scale, which is nice because it means your answers can be more nuanced than yes or no. There are several other questionnaires available to continue to flesh out your profile, but they're not required. Messaging and viewing user profiles is all free on Plenty of Fish. While our reviewers don't think the website is very well designed, the free mobile app is also an option that's super easy to use. The one downside to any service with free messaging is that you could feel overwhelmed if you find yourself with a flooded inbox. On average, the three fake accounts we set up for testing got 40 matches in 24 hours, the second highest of any service we tested. Of those, 22 percent were "top prospects," which is the site's way of saying those users are highly compatible with you.
Pros
  • Users have free access to profile photos and messaging.
  • There are several compatibility surveys to flesh out your profile and improve the quality of your matches.
  • It’s available online and through a smartphone app.
Cons
  • The website’s design is busy and not very intuitive.
  • It would be very time-consuming to complete every survey.
  • Free and unlimited messaging could be overwhelming for some, particularly women.
Visit SitePlenty of Fish
Read the full review
Best App
Coffee Meets Bagel limits the number of profiles you can view at one time, forcing you to consider the profiles you do see more carefully. It’s also marketed as a ladies choice app, which means women must initiate contact with a match first.
Setting up your profile is fast and only requires a few quick facts about yourself and your appearance. After you write six phrases about yourself and three phrases about what you like in a date, you can start using Coffee Meets Bagel. There is no desktop version of this dating service, though, so you have to have a smartphone, Facebook account and cell phone number to use it. A Facebook account is required because, according to the website, matches are more successful when two people have mutual friends. The app accesses your list of friends to do this but won’t post anything to your page, so there’s no need to worry. This dating app uses “beans” as currency. You can earn beans by logging in often, by purchasing them or by completing certain tasks like using the app’s Photo Lab. You then use beans to unlock special features in the app and to “like” other user profiles. The service gives male users 21 curated matches every day that they can either like or pass on. The women, in turn, get to see which men have liked them and decide whether to like them back. If they do, the matched pair can then chat for free. In our tests, the maximum number of profiles we could like before running out of beans was five a day, which we would think keeps most people from being flippant about their matches. In our tests, our accounts got an average of three matches, which was rather low compared to other services we tried. The messaging feature also has a seven-day time limit for conversation between two people, which kind of forces you to decide whether you want to take action on that potential love connection.
Pros
  • The fact that it limits your daily matches makes you consider profiles more carefully.
  • Names are private until you and another user both like each other.
  • Setup asks you what you like in a mate.
Cons
  • There is no web version.
  • You can’t “like” an unlimited number of users in one sitting.
  • It is advertised as a women’s choice app, which might be unappealing to some men.
Visit SiteCoffee Meets Bagel
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

At Top Ten Reviews, we’ve been reviewing online dating services since 2004, watching them evolve and change with the times. We looked at today’s most popular dating websites and apps and rated their matching tools, costs, ease of use, messaging features and other features. We also spoke to several insightful people, including dating experts and typical users, to get a clear view of the modern dating landscape.
 

Julie Spira, a Los Angeles-based author, online dating expert and CEO of Cyber Dating Experts, said honesty is the key to online dating success. This is becoming easier and easier with social media.

“These days because people are connecting their Instagram accounts to their mobile dating app we have an opportunity to see what someone looks like in real life and whether those photos match the profile,” she said.

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of online dating, Spira said mobile dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have made online dating a generational occurrence.

“It’s not unusual for someone to say their little sister or child is on a dating site and their mother or grandmother are on dating sites,” she said.

Even though dating apps can seem commonplace, 26-year-old Abby Einrem met her fiancé David on Plenty of Fish in 2015 but doesn’t like telling people that because online dating seems “desperate.”

“Plenty of Fish was gross because all the guys on there weren’t attractive,” she said. “I feel like attractive guys use Tinder because it’s easy. It links to your Facebook. Plenty of Fish requires more effort and if you’re going through that much effort it’s because you’re desperate.”

But according to a fact sheet provided by the public relations team at Match.com, the internet was the No. 1 place where singles met their last first date in 2017, bucking any assumption that most people are just looking for hookups online. Only 14 percent of singles met their mate through friends, and 6 percent met them at a bar.


Sharon Kroll and fiancé Lee Wallender are the Seattle-based writers and dating experts behind The Dating Gurus. Kroll said it’s easy to get lost in the sea of possibilities when online dating so it’s important to limit the number of sites you’re on to three and make sure you’re not spending all day checking them. It’s also important to make the first message you send count.

“Whether you’re a guy or a girl you have to actually read the person’s profile or little blurb and do your homework,” she said. “Search for clues about the person’s occupation or interests and be prepared in the first contact to initiate a conversation about those specifics.”

If you have some time to kill, we here at Top Ten Reviews have dozens and dozens of stories about going on bad dates. We’ve been ditched, dumped, ghosted and duped so we’re pretty familiar with the pain of dating. Online dating can alleviate a little of that pain because it gives everyone the chance to be upfront about their intentions and preferences.

Trends

According to the Pew Research Center, public perception of online dating has become more and more positive. As more people use these services, more research becomes available showing us exactly how and when people use them. In 2016, Business Insider reported dating apps saw a big spike in usage on the first Sunday of every year. Presumably that's when people are done celebrating New Year's Eve and are trying to make good on resolutions. The spike in usage continues through Valentine's Day, with another even higher spike right after. These are good times to use dating apps because of the spikes in traffic. The odds of getting a match increase.

That being said, research is showing a lot of people use online dating as a form of entertainment and never actually intend to go on a date. The same Pew Research study found one-third of people who have used online dating services have never actually gone on a date. In short, don't be too disappointed if you find yourself striking out. It might be that there aren't a lot of people in your area looking for a meaningful connection.

How We Tested

In a world where everybody and their mother seems to be on free dating apps like Tinder, we especially looked for services that have both desktop and mobile platforms. We also prefer ones that cater to a wide audience and give users the most features for free.

We created three made-up online dating profiles and spent five days trying out each service and monitoring the responses our fake profiles received. We created a woman seeking a man, a man seeking a woman and a woman seeking a woman to make sure our data was well-rounded. All three profiles were similarly generic: They were white with bachelor’s degrees with low to midrange full-time jobs. To create these accounts we had to make fake email accounts and, for some sites, fake Facebook accounts and phone numbers as well.


For our fake dating profiles, we counted how many matches and messages we received in 24 hours. We also noted whether you could block or report inappropriate behavior, how long the profile setup process was, how in-depth setup questions were, and whether we encountered any obvious bots (fake profiles like ours). For sites that require you to “like” users to get matches, we did so to the first 30 accounts we came across.

And don’t worry; on sites that let us send and receive messages for free, we made sure to tell anyone who reached out that the accounts were created for the purpose of a review and would soon be deleted.

The Best of the Rest

We also tested and reviewed the following services:

Elite Singles: This paid dating website has a comprehensive signup process and tells you a lot about how compatible you are with other users. You can send messages or "smiles" on both the app on the website, and while it's not the easiest to use, we had a fair response rate in our tests.

Tinder: This popular dating app works well because of its popularity; there are a lot of people using it and therefore a lot of potential mates. Available in a desktop version or an app, you can browse photos and short biographies of single people in your area.

Bumble: Available only as an app, Bumble shows you basic information about potential matches. Once two people have shown interest in each other, you have one day to start chatting or the match expires. Similar to Tinder, this free app is easy to use.

Zoosk: Zoosk verifies each user’s identity, which helps eliminate scammers and fake accounts. Available in a desktop version or app, the website pairs you up with matches based on a survey you take when you sign up.

Chemistry: This dating website asks users unique questions during the sign-up process, but we didn't get very many matches during out tests. It lacks an app, and you also can't send any messages unless you pay for a subscription.

How Much Do Dating Websites & Apps Cost?

Even free dating websites and apps give you the option to sign up for a premium option, which does in fact cost you. Premium options cost about $10 each month for basic service, or if you want more effective pairing with people you’re more likely to get along with for an average of $40 per month. You could also pay less if you purchase a membership for several months at a time.

Hinge

Since our last round of testing, the dating app Hinge has gained lots of popularity. Founded in 2012, it's similar to Tinder but emphasizes matching you with people you share Facebook friends with. Once you’re out of Facebook connections, you start seeing potential matches you have fewer friends in common with. You're able to see each user's job, educational background, physical traits and a short biography. Scroll through users and select the ones you'd like to get to know better. If that user likes you back, you're connected via the app's messaging platform.

Matches are location-based so you only see people near the city you set in your profile. If you travel and want to see if there are any matches in your area, you need to change where you are in your profile. The app also has a "We Met" section where you can leave feedback after any Hinge date. It's almost like leaving a Yelp review for a person. Users can also specify whether they have kids, want kids, have any strong religious beliefs or vices. This gives you a little more of an in-depth look at a potential mate than some dating apps. Hinge is only available as an app and it's free, but you can pay for a membership if you want extra perks like being able to use additional filters, see likes you've received and access Hinge experts to help you along the way.

Your Profile Picture

One of the most nerve wracking parts of online dating (aside from literally the entire experience) is selecting which photos you'll use on your profile. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so it's a pretty important part of making a good first impression. Do you go with something that shows your adventurous side? Should you include a snapshot of your dog? Which photo will show the world you're a fun, interesting person?

Zoosk recommends showing your natural smile, citing a 2015 study that found people are drawn to a genuine show of pearly whites. That same study found people prefer a photo if the subject is tilting their head slightly, and if you're a woman seeking a man, make sure to incorporate the color red somewhere in your photo. If you really can't decide which photo to choose, don't be afraid to ask for a little outside help. A 2017 study found people tend to pick out less favorable photos of themselves when compared to letting others choose, so go ahead and ask your friends to help you!

A Helping Hand

If the thought of signing up for an online dating service without any help is scary, you can hire a ghostwriter to help you out. You might have even encountered some of these ghostwriters yourself and not have known it. Essentially, writers are paid to build your profile in a way that’s pleasing and more likely to get you dates. Thrillist even profiled an online dating ghostwriter who took details submitted by would-be daters and turned them into dating bios and even conversation starters. If this sounds like something you would benefit from, there are numerous services you can sign up for.

VIDA Select offers their services to men and women who feel comfortable in person but don’t usually communicate well in writing. There's also SpoonMeetsSpoon, run by Meredith Golden. Signing up for the least expensive $200 package will give you a perfectly curated dating profile but you can pay more if you want more comprehensive help. Pimp My Profile sells a messaging package, along with profile editing that includes text and photo selection. If you find yourself at a loss for words while chatting with potential dates the service will give you three opening messages you can use to get the conversation started with the match of your choice.These companies aim to enhance the personality you already have, not totally change it. While these services can be helpful, it’s important to be honest with anyone you want to date.

What You’re Looking For

It’s important to be upfront about what you’re looking for online. If you’re interested in something casual, free sites that require less information to sign up could work perfectly. It’s probably not worth paying for a membership if you’re not looking for anything long term and are willing to risk going on a couple of potentially bad dates. If marriage is what you’re after, then you might have better luck on paid sites that pair you with people who have the same priorities.


Cost
A lot of dating websites and apps advertise the fact that they’re free, but be careful what you’re signing up for. Setting up a profile is always free, but most of the websites we tested offered only some of their matching services free of charge. Many dating websites make you pay to view user photos and send messages.  Apps, on the other hand, are predominantly free. Upgrades are available if you want to use the app’s extra features, but for the most part a free account is all you need.

Spam & Bots
The downside of online dating is the lack of face-to-face interaction, at least when you first start chatting with someone. This leaves users vulnerable to chat bots, or computer programs made to trick real users into thinking they’re interacting with a real person. These programs often attempt to steal credit card or other personal information from real people.

One sign you may be chatting with a bot is that they continually urge you to buy goods and services. Bots are computer programs, which means you should also keep an eye out for odd responses or unnatural wording. While people slip up with the occasional typo, bots often phrase things strangely. Regardless of whether you think the person you’re talking to is real, never give out your credit card information; it’s not worth having your identity or money stolen.

If you’re not sure whether you're chatting with a bot, try being sarcastic; bots don’t pick up on that kind of humor. Finally, if you think you may be chatting with a bot, ask to meet in person. If they continually cite reasons why they can’t meet you, there’s a good chance that you're not talking to a real person.

Specialized Websites

We tested online dating websites and apps aimed at broad audiences, but there are many options for tailored dating experiences. If you’re looking for something specific in a mate, odds are there's a dating website or app just for that. For example, the Color Dating app allows users to focus on a specific ethnicity. Christian Mingle caters to singles of the Christian faith. Silver Singles is a paid service for people entering their golden years who are looking for a relationship. There are also websites for people with certain medical needs. SpectrumSingles.com is geared toward people on the autism spectrum, while Dating4Disabled is an option for people with disabilities. There are also options for people living alcohol-free lives, like Single and Sober. It's similar to OKCupid, but its users don't drink. In short, there are plenty of online dating options, no matter what you’re looking for in life.

The League
If you're willing to pay for it, The League is a dating app that does all the work for you. You’ll need active Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to log in, and you'll be assessed based on the information you've provided on these profiles, like your education and professional career. On top of that, you have to fill out an application and then are placed on a waiting list for an undetermined period of time that varies by the city you live in. Once you’re a member, you’ll have access to a personal concierge who does a lot of the work for you and helps curate your profile.

Part of what draws some people to The League is the ability be extremely picky about the kind of people you want to match with. You can filter not only by age and location, but also by race or even education. Then every day at 5 p.m. you'll get to see five matches and decide whether to like them or not. Each user profile displays photos, location, height, age, education, career and hobbies. If both users like each other, you can strike up a conversation on the app's messaging feature. If you want more than your allotted five matches, you'll need to upgrade your membership, which costs more. The League also hosts events and group hangouts for users who feel more comfortable meeting people that way.

The downside to this app is it's built-in elitism. It's meant to feel exclusive, and the language used in the marketing materials isn't exactly warm and fuzzy. For example, one of the website's taglines is, "We do the scouting and the vetting, you do the matching and the petting." Still, if an exclusive and upscale dating app experience is what you’re looking for, The League could be for you.

Raya
There's even a specialized app for creative people looking to meet other artists and creators. Raya is free to download but then becomes membership-based. First, you fill out an application, which is then reviewed by a committee of people and an algorithm. You may be put on a waitlist for a short time while your application is reviewed. Once you're accepted, you need to sign up for a one-, three- or six-month auto-renewing membership plan. As a member, you also have to agree to a code of conduct in an effort to keep interactions respectful and cordial. As the website puts it, it believes using technology to meet someone should feel safe and exciting. Because of its exclusivity, the app has become well-known for its famous users. We weren't able to get a membership, but several blogs and reviews circulating online claim the app has been used by the likes of Cara Delevingne, Ruby Rose and Demi Lovato.

Once you’re a member, you can look through other user photos and see a person's name, age, location and Instagram handle. User photos are set to a song of their choice, which shows a little more personality than most other dating apps. You can also browse the app's map and see which users are closest to you. It has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars in the Apple Store and is relatively easy to use if you can get your foot in the door.

LGBTQ+
One new dating scene app caters specifically to queer women. HER, available for free in both the Apple App Store and Google Play, serves as a place where female-identified and non-binary people can connect to find both friends and dates. You can sign up using your Facebook or Instagram account and swipe through profiles to find people in your area. The app is also a place to coordinate and find queer events like parties and meetups. User profiles show you photos, names, a person's sexual preference and physical attributes. Much like Tinder, once you match with a person, you can chat in the app's messaging component.

There's also a user feed feature in the app that's similar to Facebook. Along with a dating profile, users post information about their day-to-day lives, likes and dislikes. One of the app's most unique features is its "relationship mode," which you can turn on to let other users know you're only looking for friendship, not a date. Take note, though: The app's 3.9 out of 5 star App Store rating (as of December 2018) is far from perfect. As such, the app might not be for everyone. It also has a 2.5 star rating in Google Play, with users noting glitches in the interface. In addition, you have to pay for some features, and some people didn't like that they only found that out after downloading the app. That aside, HER is a safe online community for queer woman to connect.

Happn
Have you ever crossed paths with a stranger and felt an immediate connection? Have you always regretted not introducing yourself to that cute guy in the elevator or that really funny waitress? Happn is a dating app that gives you a second chance with missed connections. Every time you cross paths with another person who has the app on their phone, you'll be able to view their dating profile. You can also see how many times you've crossed paths with a person and if you don't want to match with them, you can simply remove that profile from your timeline. If you've found someone you'd like to get to know more you can like them with the app's heart button, and if the feeling is mutual, you'll be able to message back and forth.

The app is free and there is no desktop version. You can purchase credits separately in the app or pay monthly for the premium version, which lacks any ads and lets you see who has liked you, among other features. It has 4.2 out of 5 stars in the Apple app store, and some user reviews note the app can be very confusing in busy urban areas, like New York City. We're guessing it's also not very effective in less populated rural areas, as it relies on a lot of people having the app on their phone. You can also play the app's built-in game CrushTime, which lets you guess who has liked you from four profiles you've recently crossed paths with.

Be a Wingman
The dating app Wingman takes matchmaking into the 21st century. With this app, you can create a dating profile for your friend and tell the world how amazing they are. Along with selecting the most flattering photos of your friend, you get to write their bio. It can be hard to self-promote and this app eliminates that problem. Once you set up a profile, the app is pretty similar to Tinder; you simply swipe through user profiles to find folks you think might be compatible with your friend. Like the profile you created, those you flip through are monitored and used by the friends of the person actually going on the date. If they think it’s a match that might work, you can facilitate a conversation or a meet-up.

With Wingman, there’s no need for any more embarrassing blind dates. This also means if things don’t go well at first, your friend never has to know about their online dating fail and can simply look for more fish in the sea. The app is free to download, and you need to verify yourself as a wingman to get your friend set up. It went live in 2017 and is currently available for both Android and iOS. However, there isn't a desktop version.