Finally, dating in real life has become an option again (if still a nerve-wracking one). The pandemic may have changed dating forever(Opens in a new tab), but one thing that hasn’t is that meeting people can be really hard.
Any person who’s been single and looking for love at some point (read: basically everyone) knows that finding someone who actively wants a long-term relationship versus a hookup or situationship can feel next to impossible and minorly destroy your faith in love. Though dating apps offer a place to meet people, actually meeting that person who wants the same sort of relationship you do and clicks with you makes the whole needle-in-the-haystack search look like a cinch.
All of this to say, apps or otherwise, finding your person takes some time. However, there’s hope — dating apps and sites are not the strictly casual dating space that they’re sometimes made out to be. Over the past year, people have been “prioridating,” which means they’re caring less about superficial characteristics and more about finding genuine connection and compatibility. This shift is reflected in dating apps, too — more and more include dedicated sections about intentions right on your profile — including on the ever-hookup-friendly Tinder.
So, if you’re ready for some commitment and don’t know where to find these daters, or simply just need the breakdown of what apps are best for whom, know that you have more options out there than eharmony and Match.
Can you really fall in love with someone online?
The long-term potential of online dating is still met with a cloud of doubt. However, there is evidence that relationships that started online might have a stronger foundation than those that started offline. A 2017 study cited in the MIT Technology Review(Opens in a new tab) found that people who meet online are more likely to be compatible and have a higher chance of a healthy marriage if they decide to get hitched. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in late 2019(Opens in a new tab) found that 3 in 10 Americans had used a dating site or app, and 12% of Americans had been married or in a committed relationship with someone they met from an app. Whether it involves marriage or not, online dating seems to be a good recipe for a satisfying, long-term relationship.
No one is saying that online dating is the variable that changes everything, but the research does point to the fact that people who sign up for dating sites that require thoughtful responses are more ready to settle down.
How the online dating scene has changed since the start of the pandemic
Covid changed dating forever, and for reasons beyond, “I’m fully vaccinated(Opens in a new tab)” became a turn-on. Communication skills were forced to evolve in the year that most human connection was facilitated through a screen. People learned to voice their boundaries and have serious talks (like about social distancing) early on. Covid anxiety became a natural conversation starter and a universal way to bond.
Though you can meet up in person, virtual first dates are still a regular part of people’s screening process. More single people may now be more comfortable with delving into deeper subjects with someone they met online — a great thing for serious relationship hunters, if true. Tinder thinks the honesty will carry over when things are back to normal, and hopefully, the aggressively horny people will continue to weed themselves out. At the very least, isolation may have simply forced more people to realize that they might crave more company than a booty call, or are down to be upfront with you if that’s all they crave. Tinder says that more daters are open to “seeing where things go” than they were before the pandemic began. That means that you could have more luck finding something serious on a dating app that has historically had a reputation for casual relationships and hookups.
Divorced people and single parents have particularly high untapped potential on online dating sites, too. Being in the over-60 group may mean that more people your age are already off the market — but online dating can prove that the mature dating pool isn’t as bleak as you think, even if your local one is. People over 50 actually have an advantage over the younger crowd: Many people in their 20s and 30s just aren’t ready to settle down. With life experience and possible previous marriages under your belt, older daters know the red flags and what they want. As one person in the Reddit thread from r/datingoverfifty(Opens in a new tab) suggests if you want commitment, a dating site with a high barrier to entry — like eharmony, match, or Elite Singles — could help to weed out people who aren’t about to pay a high monthly price just to mess around.
What makes one dating site better for relationships than others?
Do we even need to get into why Tinder is a long shot? Is being introduced to nearly every person in a 10-mile radius worth the cliché bios quoting The Office or how they’re “not looking for commitment?” Sure, Tinder has its fair share of those lucky success stories, but it’s also the dating app where ghosting, breadcrumbing, and every other disheartening dating trend flourishes.
Singles looking for something serious ASAP might get frustrated with sites that only give a limited number of matches per day. But choosing sites that force you to be selective really heightens the focus on what you’re truly looking for in a perfect match — and gets you closer to cuffing status.
For online daters who want the power to peruse the dating pool, you need to seek out detailed, high-energy profiles that give a well-rounded idea of who you’re messaging. Apps and sites that guide your search with compatibility scores based on questionnaires — like eharmony and OkCupid — can give a greater sense of direction in your search than location-based apps like Tinder. Plus, seeing an actual compatibility number attached to someone’s profile just makes more sense than occasionally being thrown “top picks” you seem to have nothing in common with (looking at you, Hinge).
Beyond putting all your faith in the power of the score, you can tell how much other daters care about the process by how much effort they put into their profile. If a single sentence about being drama free is the extent of someone’s bio, you can assume that 1. they’re not taking this seriously and 2. they create drama. When you’re looking for something real and long-term, hearing what an algorithm has to say, along with being discerning and following your gut, can take you far.
OkCupid has a particularly strong red flag game: The site has found that personal politics are a major deciding factor(Opens in a new tab) for young people choosing a partner, and profile building revolves around make-or-break stances(Opens in a new tab) on things like women’s issues or whether they bother to vote. Aside from a compatibility percentage, OkCupid shows what issues the person gives a shit about (or not), so you don’t get stuck on a first date with someone who’s on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Potential matches will analyze your dating profile, so make sure it does you justice
On its face, it makes sense to question the legitimacy of a connection with someone who is only showcasing their best self. Then again, how much more information are you really getting from the tipsy person hitting on you at the bar aside from what they look like IRL? The dating sites that let users express themselves with prompts — from favorite movies to where you want to retire — are setting you up for success by avoiding an unnecessary argument six months in.
The best way to attract genuine people? Be authentic yourself. That’s easier said than done when your biggest worry is that a truthful answer — like the fact that you might not be as good of a communicator as you would like — will deter “the one” from swiping right. But deep down, you know that lying on a compatibility questionnaire probably won’t lead to a healthy relationship. It’s crucial to remind yourself that people who get freaked out by your honesty aren’t ideal potential partners, anyway. Besides, relationships can be hard enough work without all the effort it would take to upkeep a version of yourself that simply isn’t real. Trust that your right person will also want to date a person — as in a flawed but lovable human being and not a perfect partner robot. Speaking of robots, we’ve left out the dating sites that get torn apart in reviews for being ravaged by scammers and fake profiles, but asking to video chat before meeting up IRL is a smart way to confirm that the photos match the person behind them.
Until a smarter AI can read minds and simply ban hookup seekers from serious sites, these are the best datings sites for serious relationships:
Best eharmony alternative
- Free version: Yes
- Three months of Standard: $95.97 ($31.99 per month)
- Six months of Standard: $137.94 ($22.99 per month)
- One year of Standard: $227.88 ($18.99 per month)
- Three months of Premium: $104.97 ($34.99 per month)
- Six months of Premium: $149.94 ($24.99 per month)
- One year of Premium: $239.88 ($19.99 per month)
Long-term relationships are the name of the game at Match (no “dot com”). It’s OK to admit it: It’s kind of comforting that you’ve been seeing TV commercials about the success of Match for the past 20-some years. Launched in 1995, its decades in the business help Match bring a comforting level of experience to the table for singles wary about online dating(Opens in a new tab).
Match continuously solidifies its spot as a well-rounded choice for all ages because it refuses to get lost in the antiquated, corny trope. Its questionnaire evolves with what modern singles care about — for instance, Match prefers to narrow down matches based on shared interests (like volunteering or clubbing), pet preferences, whether you want (or have) kids, and dealbreakers like smoking or drinking.
Most of us would like to believe that anyone paying over $20 per month is serious, but Match has had its fair share of extreme catfishing(Opens in a new tab). But they’re working to make this better: Match is set to follow Tinder as the second Match Group app(Opens in a new tab) to utilize location-based emergency services via Noonlight, as well as photo verification to authenticate faces with real humans. They’ve also partnered with Garbo(Opens in a new tab), a background check platform, which allows all users two free checks and premium users four free checks. Though it does have a bit of a history, these days, Match is one of the less bot- and hookup-heavy websites, as having most features behind a paywall tends to attract daters looking for commitment.
Want to know how Match stacks up against eharmony? We got you.
Best dating app for marriage
- Free version: Yes
- Six months of Premium Light: $69.90 per month
- 12 months of Premium Plus: $49.90 per month
- 24 months of Premium Extra: $39.90 per month
Ever see a commercial for eharmony and wonder if a dating site that corny actually works? Weirdly enough, it does. A spokesperson for the site says it’s been used by 54 million people and is apparently responsible for 4 percent of U.S. marriages. That doesn’t mean you’re going to walk down the aisle within the first year, but it at least narrows your options to singles who are open to being exclusive, meeting the family, or moving in together.
What was once a doozy of a sign-up process is now short, sweet, and free of the cheesy, religious questions that held it back from being a top choice for the younger crowd. The 80 questions(Opens in a new tab) now cover 32 dimensions(Opens in a new tab) (up from 29) of what makes a happy relationship, with dimensions including gender roles, boundaries, compromise, and communication style. Instead of blatantly asking if you get mad easily or if you’re emotionally stable, eharmony may ask how you handle apologizing after a fight or if a certain action would piss you off. These hypotheticals draw more natural responses, and a few other fun ones are thrown in to cover surface-level basics like hobbies, too. Though 80 questions is thorough, they’re only designed to take you around 20 minutes, which seems like a fair buffer for anyone signing up for a website where they might find their life partner.
It should be noted that eharmony hasn’t always been a welcoming place to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Following a 2010 lawsuit, their gay and lesbian spin-off site Compatibility Partners has been folded into eharmony’s overall site, but users on Reddit as recently as 2019 say that it still seems geared more toward straight people. Only a year ago did the site finally change its interface so bisexual users could look at profiles of men and women at the same time.
Want to see how eharmony compares to EliteSingles? Go here.
Best for liberals and leftists
- Free version: Yes
- One month of OkCupid Basic: $34.99 per month
- Three months of OkCupid Basic: $23.33 per month
- Six months of OkCupid Basic: $17.49 per month
- One month of OkCupid Premium: $44.99 per month
- Three months of OkCupid Premium: $29.99 per month
- Six months of OkCupid Premium: $22.49 per month
For young, progressive singles, politics aren’t just a “well, if we agree, it’s great” thing when looking for a partner — it’s the make or break for a solid romantic foundation. OkCupid’s 2017 redesign is more than just millennial aesthetics (though navigating their website and app is super easy): It’s geared toward ensuring that you don’t end up on a date with someone who doesn’t pay attention. Twelve gender identities, 20 sexual orientations, and the option to choose your pronouns make it an ideal space for non-binary and queer individuals to find love while using the pronouns they love.
Users can weed out people they’d fight with on Facebook by answering inquiries like “Would you date someone who keeps a gun in the house?” or “Should the government require children to be vaccinated for preventable diseases?” In June 2020, the site introduced a Black Lives Matter badge for your profile, and in May 2021, a vaccination badge. You’ll even get to see the percentage of how much you have in common with other daters based on the questions you both answer and have the option of filtering users out by answers, even without a paid membership. In general, though it’s definitively a more in-depth dating site, free users can still enjoy access to some of OKC’s best features.
On a more basic level, you can also be sure that people matching with you have put in a baseline amount of effort into their profile — only users with actual photos of their face up can start swiping.
Best Tinder alternative
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Hinge+: $29.99
- Three months of Hinge+: $59.99 ($19 per month)
- Six months of Hinge+: $89.99 ($14 per month)
- One month of HingeX: $49.99
- Three months of HingeX: $99.99 ($33 per month)
- Six months of HingeX: $149.99 ($24 per month)
Young people looking to at least go on a few dates with the same person before staying the night was a major blind spot for dating sites — until Hinge blew up. The general appeal might be in the same realm as Tinder and Bumble, but Hinge’s unique profile criteria and algorithms based on that criteria set the scene for long-term potential. By covering so many bases before the first message, Hinge lowers the chance of meeting someone you’d hate.
Despite the fact that dating apps actually can be fun, no one actually wants to be on them, and with its famous “designed to be deleted” motto, it’s clear Hinge gets that. The app’s real-world statistics(Opens in a new tab) speak for themselves: The “We met” feature asks users how the first date went. Some 90 percent said the first date was great, and 72 percent said they’d be down for a second date.
So what makes for the high rates of success? Instead of droning questionnaires and emails about the 50 winks you were sent, Hinge uses witty personal prompts, and lets you send up to eight likes per day (along with a message, if you so choose). And that’s what makes the difference: you actually have to put some time into your own profile, put effort into saying something interesting or witty to matches rather than just sending a like, and be a bit more intentional about who you’re picking out from the crowd due to the limited number of likes. Basically, Hinge combines the convenience of a swiping app while encouraging people to actually put in some effort. Plus, the sections for dating intentions and relationship type allow users to indicate how serious they’re willing to get, and whether or not they’re interested in non-monogamy.
This reputation is well-known, so add that in with the fact that this app encourages you to show off your personality and put yourself out there, and it makes sense why its user base tends to be less afraid of actual long-term commitment.
Best dating app for professionals
- Free version: Yes
- Premium Classic: $59.95
- Three months of Premium Light: $173.85 ($57.95 per month)
- Six months of Premium Comfort: $269.70 ($44.95 per month)
The great part about online dating is that it gives you the chance to meet a whole pool of people you wouldn’t otherwise. But it only takes dating one person with completely different professional goals to make you realize that a relationship can’t stay afloat on romance alone and that maybe that pool of people might be a bit too wide.
For those unwilling to budge when it comes to their partner’s educational values and passion for success, EliteSingles attempts to create a space where you can find a range of people who you know off the bat share similar values when it comes to your professional life. The site’s claim to fame is that 82 percent of members are college grads (most being between the age of 33 and 50). This is the place for folks who have hit a comfortable stride professionally and are now pursuing a partner who’s at the same point in their life. The site’s questionnaire decodes 29 personality traits to suggest matches who not only have an income compatible with yours, but with whom you’d mesh based on communication styles, ideal first dates, and whether you’re one to make the first move.
Past users report a feed full of people who live way farther away than they indicated in their preferences, which is borderline ironic considering the whole conceit of the site is about showing you a specific pool of daters. Plus, the lowest distance you can filter your search to is 50 miles away, so there is built-in leeway for the reality that looking for a more specific type of person may require you to expand your physical location horizons some. And unfortunately, it’s hard for any dating website to catch everyone who’s lying about their job or income.
Best dating app for queer women
- Free version: Yes
- One month of HER Premium: $14.99
- Six months of HER Premium: $59.99 ($9.99 per month)
- One year of HER Premium: $89.99 ($7.49 per month)
Apps like Tinder and Bumble are technically for *everyone,* but they’ll be damned if they don’t sneak some male profiles into feeds belonging to people who requested otherwise. Given the existence of Grindr and Scruff, the need for an online dating arena specifically for queer women was clear — thus, HER.
The founders of the award-winning app are committed to cultivating a space that’s “so ragingly queer(Opens in a new tab)” that frustrated women can delete apps that don’t feel like home. As the user base of over 4 million grows, HER could widen your dating pool beyond the queer women you already know. As the app grows, users online have complained that there does seem to be an increase in bot accounts, so if you do come across a profile that seems suspiciously sparse, you’ll want to remain wary.
Still, HER remains the main app solely for queer women. Users can get creative in profile building with categories like diet preferences (like veganism), and star signs, as well as a “What does this mean?” field in the sex, gender, and pronoun categories to supply a more well-rounded understanding of identity.
The traditional text bio is where you can flex your sense of humor or describe what kind of relationship you’re seeking. Joining niche groups like “newly out” or “travelers” can introduce you to people using the app for similar reasons. The app also has a social media component for you to check out events going on in the queer community, either local to you or online, so you can make connections beyond romance. In addition to matching with people, you can also add them as friends if you’re the type that likes to start things platonically and see where they go. To make your intentions about something serious clear (and know where others may lie), you can also fill out the “Looking For” section.
Best for intentional swiping
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Premium: $29.99
- Three months of Premium: $59.99
- Six months of Premium: $99.99
- Lifetime of Premium: $149.99
We have all witnessed someone swiping with chaotic abandon on dating apps, liking any profile that comes across their screen. You know those same people are sending out a “hey” to every match they do get just to see how far their minimal efforts can take them. The quantity strategy is certainly a bold one, but not one all that conducive to finding something real.
Bumble’s whole setup, while being known most for its rule that women must start the conversation, is actually great for combatting this sort of serial swiper. For starters, matches only last 24 hours, so clogging up your queue unintentionally isn’t really a winning strategy for anyone. Since women have to be first to message for the match to stay active, the issue of men sending out a mass “hey” becomes basically moot. (Unfortunately, men do seem to be more guilty of this behavior(Opens in a new tab), but to be fair, there is a lot of pressure for them to initiate after matching).
Beyond that, the app is pretty similar to Tinder, with some prompts and filters thrown in that keep things a step up from casual. Likely, you’ll find a similar crowd here, but perhaps in this space, one more willing to chat and see where things go.
As for its paid options, Bumble is a bit on the pricey side but offers tiers with Boost and Premium(Opens in a new tab), which allow you to go back to those profiles you accidentally left swiped on, extend matches (but only by another 24 hours), and use the advanced filters to your heart’s content. It’s really up to you if you want to spring for the extras since Bumble’s free version is more than adequate to aid in the search for your someone.
Best for people over 50
- Free version: Yes
- Three months of Premium Intro: $57.80 per month
- Six months of Enjoy Love Plan: $23.62 per month
- 12 months of Long-Term Value Plan: $18.70 per month
Dating over 50 means that, more than likely, this is your second or third attempt at love. When match or eharmony’s user bases still pose too much of a never married, no-kids crowd, SilverSingles is here to let you know that putting yourself back out there during your golden years doesn’t have to be scary.
A sister site to EliteSingles, SilverSingles uses the same intense compatibility system that EliteSingles does, bringing in the popular big five personality traits(Opens in a new tab) to assess five levels of your being: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Rather than sitting around sifting through a never-ending pool, you’ll receive five handpicked matches per day. Make sure you pay attention to the locations of potential matches, though. Also, like its sister site, SilverSingles has a habit of ignoring location radius preferences.
The personality test you complete when signing up is fairly standard for a dating site, asking questions about what you’re like with groups of people, what kind of partner you’re looking for, and what you’re most thankful for in your life. It does ask a couple of questions about whether or not you have kids at home and if you’ve been married before, but it would be nice if the test was a smidge more targeted to an older audience. For instance, a question like, “Would you want to have more kids?” is a consideration that’s very different for SilverSingles users than, say, Match or even eharmony users.
Ultimately, the site doesn’t reinvent the online dating wheel, which makes it simple to navigate but maybe leaves you wishing it made better on its promise of being for an exclusively older crowd.
Best for getting back out there
Credit: coffee meets bagel
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Mini: $15
- Three months of Mini: $30 ($10 per month)
- Six months of Mini: $50 ($8.33 per month)
- One month of Premium: $35
- Three months of Premium: $75 ($25 per month)
- Six months of Premium: $120 ($20 per month)
Grabbing coffee is the low-pressure date idea that lets you skip trying to choose a dressy-but-not-too-extra outfit for a concert or a restaurant. Coffee Meets Bagel is like the “grabbing coffee” version of dating apps, aiming to bring an easy-going atmosphere to folks who might just be a little rusty.
Millions upon millions of active users is usually a plus. It is nice to know that your options are virtually limitless, but it’s a bit jarring to have 20 new messages to read every time you sign on. This happens on eharmony and Tinder alike — people want connection, and they want it now.
Every day, CMB offers seven of its best matches (bagels) for you, chosen by your answers to prompts, how you swiped on yesterday’s batch, and who have already expressed interest in you, too. This slow and steady approach is great for singles who are rusty, introverted, or who simply don’t feel like scrolling every free minute.
You’re encouraged to get the ball rolling with matches disappearing in seven days. It’s less pressure than Bumble’s 24-hour time limit but still eliminates a list full of people who don’t care enough to respond or plan a meet-up. Like a few other apps, CMB won’t show your profile to other users unless you have a clear picture, automatically filtering the whole section of faceless profiles you’ll find on other apps.
Another standout feature of CMB is the activity report at the bottom of everyone’s profile. Though only available to premium users, it’ll show a user’s stats, like how often they’re active and how long it takes for them to reply. Maybe a bit invasive, but also maybe a bit useful in deciding whether or not a new match is worth your time.
Best for starting out casual
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Tinder+: $13.49
- Six months of Tinder+: $40.50 ($6.75 per month)
- One year of Tinder+: $54 ($4.50 per month)
- One month of Tinder Gold: $22.49
- Six months of Tinder Gold: $67.50 ($11.25 per month)
- One year of Tinder Gold : $90 ($7.50 per month)
- One month of Tinder Platinum: $26.99
- Six months of Tinder Platinum: $81 ($13.50 per month)
- One year of Tinder Platinum: $108 ($9 per month)
Let’s just get this one out of the way. If you’re thinking of dating apps, you’re thinking of Tinder. They pioneered the now-ubiquitous swiping function, revolutionizing the world of online dating and boasting 1.6 billion swipes per day. What started out as a niche hookup app has turned into a wingman that most of us have used at least once in our life. As you’re served a series of photos, swipe right if you like what you see and left if you don’t. When you both indicate interest, it’s a match.
Tinder may not want to advertise as such, but we all know what it’s mostly used for. You’re quite literally deciding if you want to interact with someone based on nothing but profile pictures and a quote from The Office — but hey, we all know those couples who met on Tinder and have been together for years. It’s fast and easy, and if there’s one app that even the shyest, most skeptical people will be on, it’s Tinder. Sure, you may not find someone looking to settle down for a while, but if you don’t mind dating around or taking things slow at first, Tinder isn’t a bad place to be. Plus, with their new “Relationship Goals” feature, it’s easier to suss out from a quick glance at someone’s profile whether or not they’d be interested in something long-term.
Tinder is famously free, but fewer people know about its three tiers of paid upgrades: Tinder Plus, Tinder Gold(Opens in a new tab), and Tinder Platinum. These include extras(Opens in a new tab) like undoing a left swipe (bless), sending “Super Likes” to people you’re really into, seeing which users have liked your profile (for Tinder Gold users), and even, in the case of Tinder Platinum, usurping the known rules of the app to message someone before you match with them.
Best dating app for hooking up
- Free version: Yes
- Weekly Pure membership: $14.99
- Monthly Pure membership: $29.99
- In-app purchases: Varying prices
If you got this far and still haven’t found the app for you, perhaps you’re interested in hookup apps instead? Here is one.
Let’s scrap the dreaded “What are we?” talk, shall we? PURE is the place to find a hookup who won’t text you earlier than midnight. App rules urge you to “pretend like you’re strangers afterwards,” making no-strings-attached the only name of the game here. This minimalistic and hella millennial app is no-nonsense, sex-positive, and even features some art — the blueprint of what a hookup app should be.
Your uploaded selfies, personal info, and conversations with others self-destruct every 60 minutes, promoting spur-of-the-moment and borderline anonymous connections. The app will ask for your phone number and credit card info, but that’s just to make sure you’re a real person. It also uses your geolocation and sends out the sex version of an Uber request, rather than trying to pair you with someone who lives in another state.
We like that Pure gives all the feels of a hookup-only site without the obnoxious spam and nudes everywhere. We also like that though it’s for quick and casual encounters, the app still provides free use of filters so you can really find what you’re looking for. The surge of blatant sex positivity is a breath of fresh air when compared to other dating apps that try to convince you that you’ll find your soulmate.
For those looking for sex
Credit: Adult friend finder
- Free version: Yes
- One month of Gold: $27.95
- Three months of Gold : $59.85 ($19.95 per month)
- One year of Gold: $179.40 ($14.95 per month)
Leah is a shopping reporter at Mashable, where she covers shopping trends, gift ideas, and products that make life easier. She graduated from Penn State University in 2012 and is watching horror movies or “The Office” when she’s not shopping online herself. You can follow her on Twitter at @notleah(Opens in a new tab).