What is the best DNA test?

It’s one task to review the available options for at-home DNA testing; it’s much more complicated - but relevant - to officially crown an overall winner.

However, since the offerings from each service vary so wildly between them, it’s best to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each, to find the perfect DNA test for you. With some research and thought, you can find the best genetic test at a comfortable price.

Make the most of at-home DNA testing

If you’re asking what the best DNA test is, you may be interested in exploring your genetics, or seeing if you might have made the wrong choice in taking the test you already have. In both cases, we have some resources to make the most of your DNA self-discovery:

If you’re new and interested in DNA testing

If you’re already tested and looking for more insight

How to protect your privacy after testing your DNA

Once you’ve tested your DNA, you may be keen to learn more about those around you. Keep in mind that others may not be so willing to uncover some of the things that only a DNA test can reveal. However, this isn’t at all a problem when it comes to your domestic companion. For your pet, knowing about their ancestry and health risks can only be in their best interest.

The best DNA tests for your pets

Before deciding on which DNA test to buy, it’s best to ask yourself what you’re looking to find. The services currently on offer tend to draw a line between health and ancestry; while a few offer both, they tend to be at different price-points. Keep in mind that nearly all available tests provide the option to download your raw DNA data; even an ancestry-based test can be used to explore health-related markers.

The best of DNA testing for health

Assessing your health risk at home can be a double-edged sword. Even though 23andMe is approved by the FDA to provide information about your health, they still make it clear that their test is not meant to be diagnostic. Investigating your genetic health is only intended to provide general information to inform future health decisions; for specifics and guarantees, you’ll need to talk to a healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, this state of affairs means that these at-home DNA tests don’t fundamentally need to be accurate – the onus is not on them to medically verify their claims. Because of this, you may receive different answers to the same question from each service you try. This is also mainly due to the proprietary methods and mutations that each company employs to construct its health risk scores and predispositions.

This caveat can be used to your advantage if you’re willing to download your raw DNA and get some second and third opinions. This can take some effort, but many options are cost- and risk-free (disregarding inherent privacy concerns). However, for a one-stop at-home DNA test, there are two main options in the health field: 23andMe and Ancestry.

23andMe vs. Ancestry for genetic health

When it comes to health analysis of your genes, it’s mostly a battle fought between Ancestry and 23andMe. Here’s a quick run-down of each:

23andMe$199 – Rating: 4.6 (Well worth a buy)

  • FDA-approved
  • 690,000 genetic locations tested
  • Only consumer test to offer BRCA1 and BRCA2 screening for breast cancer risk
  • Autosomal, mtDNA (‘Motherline’) and yDNA (‘Fatherline’)
  • Health predispositions, carrier status, and wellness suggestions
  • Updates health reports as research and their database grows (Opt-in)
  • No subscription or pay-wall, one-time fee

AncestryDNA$99 – Rating: 4.4 (For ancestry and family matches)

  • Biggest database of DNA samples
  • ~700,000 genetic locations tested
  • Focussed on ancestry over health
  • Autosomal DNA only
  • Subscription-based model for ancestry, family trees, genealogical databases
  • Mainly nutritional traits, with some unactionable novelty estimates
  • Facilitates communication with relatives, helping to build a family medical history

Best DNA test for health: 23andMe

 

It’s no surprise that the FDA-approved genetic test would be the best at assessing your health-related genetic risks and predispositions. 23andMe is miles ahead of any other competitor in the domain if you’re looking for a one-time DNA test with no added effort.

The best of DNA testing for Ancestry

Regardless of their effectiveness or accuracy when it comes to health, at-home DNA tests chiefly excel at elucidating your ancestry. While the exact location that your ancestors inhabited may not be revealed, you’ll learn about the origins of your genetics and your ethnic makeup. Further, many services offer to connect you with genetic relatives and family, but this option is often gated behind a monthly subscription.

MyHeritage vs. Ancestry vs. Living DNA for Ancestry and Heritage

Ancestry.com is one of the oldest and largest consumer DNA testing companies, with vast experience in genealogy and historical family network building. It has earned the position as the service that all else is compared to. Two other well-known offerings – MyHeritage and Living DNA – both compete in the ancestry niche, with slightly different targets of focus.

AncestryDNA$99 – Rating: 4.4 (For ancestry and family matches)

  • Biggest database of DNA samples, over 10 million people
  • Focussed on ancestry over health
  • Autosomal DNA only
  • Subscription-based model for ancestry, family trees, genealogical databases
  • Facilitates communication with relatives, helping to build a family medical history

MyHeritage$59 – Rating: 2.9 (You get what you pay for)

  • Fast and cheaper than other offerings
  • Autosomal DNA only
  • Ability to upload raw DNA files of relatives for free
  • No return shipping included with the kit
  • Small database limits successful genetic connections
  • Some options are behind a monthly subscription pay-wall
  • Free raw DNA upload service for family matching

Living DNA$99 – Rating: 4.1 (Best for mother- and father-lines)

  • Beautiful, informative visuals
  • Autosomal, mtDNA (‘Motherline’) and yDNA (‘Fatherline’)
  • Small database limits successful genetic connections
  • Free raw DNA upload service for family matching

Best DNA Test for ancestry and heritage: AncestryDNA

Ancestry comes out on top with its massive database of DNA samples and historical connections. MyHeritage has a lower price tag – minimized by a lack of return postage – but doesn’t have a comparable database to power their genetic matchmaking service. Living DNA is a close second after Ancestry, adding mtDNA and yDNA screening; they falter as well at the size of their database, returning minimal connections.

The best DNA tests

To sum it all up, the main competition in the field still comes down to Ancestry vs. 23andMe, with your focus – health or ancestry – mostly deciding your preference.

The best DNA test for health

23andMe: FDA Approved health profiles

The best DNA test for ancestry

AncestryDNA: Over 10 million possible connections

The cheapest DNA test

MyHeritage: Only $59 + return shipping

Sources