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What is the best DNA test?

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Updated on: March 2, 2021
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However, since the offerings from each DNA testing service vary so wildly, it can be difficult to find the perfect testing company. To do so, you have to consider three important factors: your needs, budget, and what the DNA test kit includes. Each genetic testing kit offers very different DNA results depending on the test type. 

For example, a health test will explain what genetic conditions you may develop or pass on to your children. An ethnicity estimate or ancestry test will tell you things like how much Irish or neanderthal blood you may have. If you’re trying to add some new branches to the family tree, ancestry tests can also be used to find distant relatives and long lost family members.

To help you narrow down the best DNA testing kit for your needs, we focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the biggest testing companies on the market. We looked at DNA testing services like AncestryDNA, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage DNA. After plenty of research and thought, we narrowed down this list of best DNA testing kits on the market for any budget.

Make the most of at-home DNA testing

If you’re asking what the best DNA kit is, the answer all depends on what you’re looking for. You may be interested in exploring your genetic makeup, learning more about your family history, looking for a detailed health report, or trying to expand your family tree. In any case, we have some resources to help you make the most of your DNA self-discovery:

What is the best DNA test? 8

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 had your DNA analysis, you may be keen to learn more about the genetic data of those around you. Keep in mind, others may not be so willing to uncover some of the DNA results that genetic testing can reveal. However, this isn’t at all a problem when it comes to your furry friends. For your pet, knowing about their health + ancestry and potential risks can only be in their best interest.

The best DNA tests for your pets

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Before deciding on which DNA test kit to buy for your pet, it’s best to ask yourself what you’re looking to find. The services currently on offer tend to draw a line between health + 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 data; so even an ancestry test can be used to explore health-related genetic markers by giving your raw data to another DNA testing company.

We took every DNA test so you don't have to. Read our 2021 review of the best DNA tests.

The best of DNA testing for health

Assessing your health risks 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 health 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 kits 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 DNA testing service you try. This is also mainly due to the proprietary methods and mutations that each DNA testing 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 data 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 kit, there are two main options in the health field: 23andMe and AncestryDNA.

23andMe vs. Ancestry for genetic health

When it comes doing to a DNA analysis for health, it’s mostly a battle fought between AncestryDNA and 23andMe. Here’s a quick run-down of each:

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

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23andMe offers the only health test that’s authorized by the FDA. For this reason alone, 23andMe should be your first choice when searching for a DNA test kit to check for health conditions. But not only do you get health results with this package, but you’ll receive a full ancestry DNA test as well! Making this an excellent deal for $199!

Key Features:

  • FDA-approved
  • 150+ personalized reports
  • Easy to take swab test for submitting your saliva sample
  • Test for health conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease and Celiac Disease
  • 690,000 genetic locations tested
  • Only consumer test to offer BRCA1 and BRCA2 screening for breast cancer risk
  • Autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA (maternal line) and yDNA (paternal line)
  • Health predispositions, carrier status, and wellness suggestions
  • Updates health reports as research and their DNA database grows (Opt-in)
  • No subscription or pay-wall, one-time fee

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

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AncestryDNA is one of the largest DNA testing services available with a bigger DNA database than all of the competition. While the company can not differentiate between maternal lines and paternal lines, but it is able to check for a variety of factors that could affect your health. AncestryDNA’s health test may not have the same FDA recognition as 23andMe’s does, but their DNA analysis is widely trusted in the industry.

Key Features:

  • Biggest database of DNA samples
  • ~700,000 genetic locations tested
  • Autosomal DNA only
  • Easy to take swab test for submitting your saliva sample
  • Test results that are both personalized and actionable
  • Genetic counseling resources available
  • Family history health tool can be used to track health issues across generations
  • 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 testing kit would be the best at assessing your health-related genetic data and predispositions. 23andMe is miles ahead of any other competitor in the market if you’re looking for a one-time DNA test kit 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 exploring 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 distant relatives and family members, but this option is often gated behind a monthly subscription.

MyHeritage DNA vs. AncestryDNA vs. Living DNA for Ancestry and Heritage is one of the oldest and largest consumer DNA testing companies, with vast experience in genealogy and family history network building. They have one of the biggest DNA databases in the industry, increasing your chances of finding a distant relative to add to the family tree.

It has earned the position as the service that all else is compared to. Two other well-known offerings - MyHeritage DNA and Living DNA - both compete in the ancestry DNA test niche, with slightly different targets of focus.

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

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With AncestryDNA’s Genetic Ethnicity Test, you’ll receive a full ethnicity estimate, learn more about your family history, and can even build an online family tree! You can track your ancestry across generations and map out the unique migration patterns your ancient relatives took. Another cool feature is this test can tell you if you’re carrying any neanderthal DNA!

Key Features:

  • Biggest DNA database of DNA samples, over 10 million people
  • Focussed on ancestry over health
  • Easy to take swab test for submitting your saliva sample
  • Track your distant relatives’ migration patterns
  • Build an online family tree and find new family members to add to it
  • Autosomal DNA test only
  • Subscription-based model for ancestry, family trees, genealogical databases
  • Facilitates communication with relatives, helping to build a family medical history

MyHeritage - Rating: 2.9 (You get what you pay for)

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MyHeritage DNA may not be as large as, but it’s still a decent option. Like AncestryDNA, MyHeritage DNA’s ancestry testing kit will help you discover your ethnic origins, expand your family tree, explore migration patterns, and delve into your family history. How it’s not like AncestryDNA, is the kit only costs $49 with free delivery (from Amazon).

Key Features:

  • Fast and cheaper than other offerings
  • Autosomal test only
  • Easy to take swab test for submitting your saliva sample
  • Find DNA matches to long lost family members
  • The #1 DNA testing service for finding DNA matches in Europe
  • Ability to upload raw data files of relatives for free
  • No return shipping included with the kit
  • Small DNA database limits successful genetic connections
  • Some options are behind a monthly subscription pay-wall
  • Free raw DNA data service for family matching

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

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Living DNA offers a great midrange priced ancestry test. With it, you’re able to explore both your recent and distant ancestry and get historical records from across 150 different regions. The test can compare your DNA sample with samples from reference populations and determine the migration patterns your relatives may have traversed. By examining genetic markers, they can even tell you if you’re carrying neanderthal DNA!

Key Features:

  • Beautiful, informative visuals
  • Autosomal test, mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA (‘maternal line’) and yDNA (‘paternal line’)
  • Easy to take swab test for submitting your saliva sample
  • Explore your genetic information with an in-depth DNA analysis
  • Small DNA database limits successful genetic connections
  • Free raw data upload service for family member matching

Best DNA Test for ancestry and heritage: AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA comes out on top with its massive DNA database of samples and historical records. MyHeritage DNA has a lower price tag - minimized by a lack of return postage - but doesn’t have a comparable DNA database to power their DNA matching service. 

Living DNA is a close second after AncestryDNA, adding an mtDNA and a yDNA screening on top of the autosomal test; they falter as well at the size of their DNA database, returning minimal DNA matching connections.

Read our Review.

Buy on Amazon.

The best DNA tests

To sum it all up, the main competition in the field still comes down to AncestryDNA vs. 23andMe. The best test between the two all depends on what your focus is - health or ancestry - with 23andMe being the king when it comes to a health test, and AncestryDNA leading the way for ancestry tests. Living DNA and MyHeritage are also valid options, especially if you’re on a budget.

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

Cheap DNA Kits (all under $60). Read our 2021 Guide.

@ 2021 by Know Your DNA. All right reserved.
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