How to Find the Best Dating App for You

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If you are newly single after being in a relationship for a long time, if you’ve been single with no luck for a long time, or if you are hovering anywhere in between, you might be wondering how to find the best dating app for you. 

Online dating can feel daunting and you may feel that the odds are stacked against you, but a 2017 study found that nearly 39% of heterosexual couples in the United States reported meeting online, up from 22% in 2009.

Whether you’re new to the game or just trying to take a new approach, here’s how to find the best dating app for you. 

Define Your Parameters

It’s important to go into any dating situation thinking about what you’re looking to get out of it, but particularly in online dating and dating on the apps where you are literally filtering out potential matches based on the preferences you select. 

For example, if you are sober, would dating someone who had a few drinks a week be a deal-breaker for you, or vice versa? If you are religious, would a relationship with someone non-religious or outside of your religion be a non-starter for you? 

Try Different Dating Apps

It can pay off to be on several dating apps. “Some people act like they’re buying a house when they’re signing on to a dating app, like it’s such a big commitment,” says Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a psychologist and author of "Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating."

Chloe Carmichael, PhD

Someone wouldn’t limit themselves to one singles bar so why one dating app? 

— Chloe Carmichael, PhD

While you may be the type of person who makes decisions by creating spreadsheets, Carmichael says the best way to find out the best app for you is to just jump in and try them out. “It’s like trying on a dress—you need to actually experience it to see if it’s right for you.”

Carmichael views dating as an issue of supply and demand. You are in limited supply; you want to create demand for yourself to increase the likelihood that you meet someone. “The more we can create demand and options for ourselves, what’s to lose?” 

Dating Apps to Try

Bumble: Women are in the driver's seat for this one—they are the ones to message first. For same-sex couples, either party can message first.

Tinder: One of the first to introduce the swipe-right format. Users like it for its simplicity, though it is sometimes synonymized with more casual, hook-up relationships.

Grindr: This app is for gay, bisexual, trans, and queer people to connect with each other, used predominantly by those who are male-identifying.

Her: Similarly, Her is an app for lesbian, trans, bi, and queer women.

Dig: If 'must love dogs' is one of your criteria, Dig is known as "the dog person's dating app" for the people who love dogs to find each other.

BLK App: This app is for Black singles interested in dating each other—especially since many Black women don't feel safe dating on other mainstream apps.

Hinge: This app is geared toward people interested in more serious relationships. It requires people who use the app to answer prompts about their interests, lifestyle, and relationship goals.

Feeld: This app is for couples and singles looking to explore alternative relationship structures such as ethical non-monogamy.

OkCupid: OkCupid is for people who are looking for romantic relationships, but also for those who want to meet friends or network with others.

Coffee Meets Bagel: This is a service that is geared toward people who are looking for love and serious relationships. Once you and another person "like" each other's profiles, you have eight days to message on the platform before conversations expire.

Should You Pay for a Dating App?

While there are many dating apps that you can access without ever paying a penny, there are also apps that either charge a full membership fee or that charge a la carte for different levels of access to features.

Your budget matters when considering how to find the best dating app for you. Here are some things you might want to consider when deciding if it is personally worth it for you to pay for a dating app.

In a la carte situations, where paying simply boosts your profile to be seen by more people, Carmichael thinks of this similarly to advertising—“it’s just another way to create demand,” she says. 

But in a situation where, for example, a woman might pay in order to be able to extend the conversation and message a man, Carmichael just suggests that someone be aware of their values. “I have a lot of [female] clients who prefer more traditional courtships, who it might not align with their values to need to pay to have a longer time to message this man.”

Privacy Matters

If you live in a small town or work in a high-visibility field or something that might cause ethical or sticky situations seeing someone you know on an app—or being seen—you may also want to consider apps that will allow you to have a private profile or to block certain people.

How Much Effort Do You Want to Put In?

Some apps have more detailed profiles to fill out than others. Is it important to you to have a lot of conversation and information about someone before you potentially meet up, or are you the type who matches with someone and wants to quickly nail down a match and get to meeting up in person quickly?

Considering this will help as you think about how to find the best dating app for you.

For Your Approval

While many or most apps allow anyone to sign up, there are some apps that only allow users in after approval. Users create profiles that are then vetted by the staff of the apps.

“For people who are able to join—it’s a real plus,” says Carmichael. “You’re going to know you have something confirmed in common, if someone has vetted you both. You’ve gone through the vetting process and you show that you’re both invested in the process. That starts people off on common ground, which is a great place to start.”

To Niche Or Not to Niche

While there are many larger sites and apps that you may be familiar with, if there’s a niche you can think of, there’s probably a dating site or app for it, such as Dig, a dating app for dog owners.

The advantage to niche sites, says Carmichael, is that “you know you have something in common, just as if you were to meet someone at the gym or at church. It’s nice to have something in common especially if it’s something that connects to your lifestyle and general attitudes."

However, due to the generally smaller user bases of niche apps, she recommends an “all-of-the-above approach” of trying both these bigger and smaller apps.

If you are in a typically marginalized group that is underrepresented on dating apps—or it is important to you to date within your culture—these types of niche apps can help you separate the wheat from the chaff so that you are only seeing the type of people who interest you.

Those in marginalized groups may experience racialized sexual discriminationon apps, which adversely affects their mental health, so niche sites might feel safer for those who prefer to date within their culture or race.

You might also want to think about whether you want to be a big fish in a small pond or have a wider range of matches to choose from. Some people will get overwhelmed by having a huge dating pool while others feel like it increases their odds.

Although dating apps can feel really daunting and overwhelming, Carmichael suggests only spending 10-15 minutes a day—no more, no less—on the apps to “stay on even kilter with it. People often binge-date on dating apps and will spend an hour on the apps every day for a week and then burn out and get frustrated.” Research supports this—more time spent on apps led to worse mental health outcomes.

A Word From Verywell

Whether or not you're new to using dating apps, they can feel overwhelming or frustrating at times. Remind yourself that it's OK to go slowly. It's even beneficial to take a break from dating apps once in a while. However, used mindfully, dating apps can be a great way to learn more about what you desire in your dating experiences and relationships, as well as potentially meet other single people who share your values.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rosenfeld MJ, Thomas RJ, Hausen S. Disintermediating your friends: How online dating in the United States displaces other ways of meetingPNAS. 2019;116(36):17753-17758. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1908630116

  2. Wade RM, Harper, GW.Toward a multidimensional construct of racialized sexual discrimination (RSD): Implications for scale developmentPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. 2021;8(4):401–406.

  3. Holtzhausen N, Fitzgerald K, Thakur I, Ashley J, Rolfe M, Pit SW. Swipe-based dating applications use and its association with mental health outcomes: a cross-sectional studyBMC Psychol. 2020;8(1):22. doi:10.1186/s40359-020-0373-1

By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer.