menu iconknow your dna logosearch icon
Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate?
Updated on September 23, 2022
Back to top
back to top icon
hello world!
DNA Testing
Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate?

When it comes to DNA tests, accuracy is one of the most important things to look for. But there's no easy way to know which one is the most accurate.

Several factors can affect the reliability of your DNA test results. These include:

  • The DNA test kit that you use
  • The type of DNA sample you submit
  • The credentials of the laboratory testing your DNA

The research used to back your DNA report may also affect its accuracy.

Ultimately, no DNA test is patently inaccurate. However, some DNA testing companies are more reliable than others.

What Does A DNA Test Tell You?

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. Inside it is genetic information passed down to us by our parents and grandparents — all the way to our ancestors.

Genetics dictate which traits and characteristics a person will have. Each person has different sets of genes. This is what makes us unique.

DNA testing or genetic testing shows you which genes you have and what they mean. It can tell you more about your:

  • Ancestry
  • Ethnicity
  • Genealogy
  • Traits
  • Health risks
Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 7

You can also use DNA testing kits to find lost and distant relatives, or to trace your genealogy (family roots). They allow you to track maternal and paternal lines.

If you took a health test, your DNA analysis may include health recommendations such as:

  • Vitamins and supplements that can benefit you
  • Dietary suggestions based on your DNA
  • Exercises that you will likely respond to

Keep in mind: The DNA test kits we covered in this article are taken at home.

They are not given by doctors or health professionals. So you shouldn't use them to provide guarantees, replace medical tests, diagnose illnesses, or substitute medical advice.

That said, at-home DNA tests provide helpful information that you can use to improve your health. You'll also learn fun-to-know facts, like why you have a distaste for certain food.

All in all, genetic testing is a great way to know more about yourself. To save you time, we looked into the top at-home DNA test kits to find out which ones are the most accurate.

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 8

Most Accurate DNA Test for Ethnicity

A person's ethnicity or ethnic origin has something to do with their race. It can influence your biology and genetics.1 Racial background can affect your:2,3,4

  • Physical traits — such as skin pigmentation and eye color
  • Risk for diseases — like type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolism — how you respond to alcohol and specific drugs

Some tests look at your single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to estimate which racial group you belong to. For example, they can tell if you're 50% European and 25% African.

Others use SNPs to approximate your ethnicity based on geography. For example, you might have a 27% genetic match with people from Norway but only 2% with people from Wales.

Best DNA Tests for Ethnic Origin

For accuracy: You may want to use tests that compare your SNP pattern with the DNA of people from the same area. Native inhabitants of a region tend to have similar phenotypes or observable traits, like height and blood type.3

Here are the top DNA kits for exploring your ethnic identity.

1

Ancestry DNA Kit for Ethnicity & Genealogy

KnowYourDNA Recommends

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 9

Ancestry DNA Test Pros

  • Easy to take: Just take a small swab of saliva and send your DNA sample.
  • Precise ethnicity estimates: Get a detailed geographic breakdown of your ethnicity.
  • Migration patterns: Discover the migratory routes your ancestors may have taken.
  • Find lost relatives: Matches your DNA with distant relatives you may not know about.
  • Raw DNA data: Downloadable results that you can use on other DNA testing companies.

Ancestry DNA Test Cons

  • Limited access: If you want to build a family tree, you have to pay monthly fees to access public records and other users' family trees.
  • Doesn't estimate your racial group: AncestryDNA only performs genetic matches based on geography, not racial profile (e.g., Asian, American, and European).

Additional services can get expensive. But their massive database makes them one of the most trusted DNA tests. You can learn more about AncestryDNA here.

2

My Heritage DNA Kit for Ancestry & Ethnicity

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 10

My Heritage DNA Pros

  • Geographic ethnicity estimate: Matches your DNA to over 42 different regions.
  • Racial profiling: Find out how much of your DNA is Irish, Native American, and so on.
  • Ancestral origin: See which places your ancestors might have lived.
  • Family tree builder: Create an online family tree and find matches with other users.
  • Interactive test results: Shows a map of your ethnicities based on genetic matches.

My Heritage DNA Cons

  • Tricky sample collection: You have to remove the plastic arms from the swabs.

It doesn't provide comprehensive ancestry DNA test results. But if you want a fun way to learn your ethnic background and family history, My Heritage does its job.

Most Accurate DNA Test for Ancestry

Ancestry refers to a person's lineage, ancestral origin, or line of descent. Some DNA tests trace your ancestors. They can also help you find distant relatives and lost family members.

Ancestry DNA testing uses different methods to explore genes:

  • Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) test tracks the paternal line in men
  • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test traces the maternal line
  • An autosomal DNA test identifies genes from maternal and paternal lines

Y-DNA and mtDNA testing can still be useful for genetic genealogy, like tracing ancestors and building family trees. But an autosomal test is more comprehensive.

Autosomal DNA tests check for single nucleotide variants (SNVs). SNVs can be inherited from both parents regardless of your gender.5

Best DNA Testing Kits for Ancestry

For accuracy: Choose at-home kits that perform autosomal DNA testing. However, some ancestral testing services may also offer mtDNA and Y-DNA testing.

Men may want to use tests that combine these methods. For women, autosomal and mtDNA testing may be enough. Based on this criteria, here are the best ancestry testing services:

1

23andMe DNA Personal Ancestry + Traits

KnowYourDNA Recommends

23andMe logo

23andMe DNA Test Pros

  • Thorough ancestry test: Track your DNA ancestry from over 1,500 different regions.
  • DNA matches: Helps you find lost and distant family members.
  • Understand your genetic traits: 23andMe tests your DNA swab for genetic markers associated with various traits, including freckles, hair, taste, and more.
  • No hidden fees: Once you pay for the test, you get full access to their services.

23andMe DNA Test Cons

  • No cross-platform support: You can't upload raw genetic data from competitors.

23andMe does all three tests: mtDNA, Y-DNA, and autosomal. Combined with a massive DNA database, it's one of the most accurate tests for ancestry. You can read more about it here.

2

Living DNA Testing Kit

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 11

Living DNA Test Pros

  • Complete genealogy: Trace your matrilineal and patrilineal ancestry.
  • Detailed ancestry report: Can match your ancestral DNA to over 150 regions.
  • Extended ancestry: Discover your ancestor's migration routes.
  • Value for your money: Affordable pricing for a comprehensive test.

Living DNA Test Cons

  • Not for everyone: May not be as accurate for people with Asian descent.

If you have ancestral origins from Europe, Africa, and Britain — it's the best DNA test kit for the job. You can read our review of LivingDNA to learn more.

Most Accurate DNA Testing for Health

Sometimes, our genes contain errors called genetic mutations. They can cause genetic disorders which you have from the moment you are born.

Examples include cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, and sickle cell anemia.6

Certain mutations also make you more susceptible to disease. They can increase your risk for illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer — among others.6

While these mutations don't always affect your health, you can be a carrier and pass them on to your children. A DNA test can:

DNA health testing can also uncover genes that influence your health in other ways. For instance, there are genes that impact your taste, metabolism, and sensitivity to foods.

Best DNA Testing Kits for Health

For accuracy: Use autosomal DNA tests or those that combine it with mtDNA and Y-DNA testing. This allows you to check for DNA from your mother's and father's side of the family.

These kits can help you identify health risks and genetic conditions that you may have inherited from one or both parents. Here is the best DNA test for your health:

Autumn

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 12

Autumn DNA Pros:

  • Personalized vitamin results from 415+ billion combinations
  • Free saliva collection kit or upload results from other services
  • Analyze 500+ Health markers
  • 4 days to get your results

Autumn DNA Cons:

  • Only includes vitamin/supplement report

23andMe Health + Ancestry Service

23andMe logo

23andMe Health and Ancestry Pros

  • Learn your genetic risks: See which health problems you're more likely to develop.
  • See if you're a carrier: Results tell you which diseases you might pass on to your kids.
  • Explore your genetic ancestry: Trace your ancestors from over 1,500 regions.
  • Matches your DNA with their database: Find people you may be genetically related to.
  • Downloadable raw DNA: You can upload your 23andMe DNA data to competitors that offer these services, like Ancestry.com or Living DNA.

23andMe Health and Ancestry Cons

  • No cross-platform support: You can't upload raw DNA from competitors.

23andMe offers comprehensive DNA testing results for your health. Find out what you can do with your 23andMe DNA results.

How We Picked the Best DNA Testing Kits for Accuracy

If you want accurate results, there are three things to look for in a DNA testing service:

1. Large DNA Database

Most of the home DNA testing kits we recommend are from well-known companies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe. Why? It's because they have more customers.

The more DNA test takers, the more genetic information a testing company has. It also means they have a large database to compare your DNA samples with.

This improves the test's accuracy and your chances of finding DNA matches. In turn, you're more likely to find distant relatives, lost family, and ancestors from places around the world.

2. DNA Testing Method

Ancestry tests were traditionally performed using mtDNA and Y-DNA. Unfortunately, these testing methods have limitations.

Y-DNA is transmitted only by fathers to sons, while mtDNA is passed on by females to offsprings. At most, these tests can reflect origins from 1 paternal and 1 maternal ancestor.

We picked autosomal DNA tests because they're more comprehensive. The testing method can assess over 500,000 autosomal variants, also known as SNPs and SNVs.

Unlike mtDNA and Y-DNA, you can inherit autosomal DNA from both parents.

Ancestry DNA test kits that use autosomal DNA can tell you where they come from. They can also estimate the percentage of your ancestry from each region.5

3. Depth of DNA Results

For genetic ancestry, we picked tests that can provide information that matters most. This includes your recent ancestry (genetic genealogy) as well as your ancestral origins.

The best DNA test kits for health assess your genetic predisposition to rare and common conditions like Alzheimer's Disease — so we included them in our list.

More Things to Consider When Choosing the Best DNA Tests

Accuracy is not the only measure of a reliable DNA testing company. There are other things you should also consider as well, such as:

1. What You Want From A DNA Test

DNA companies offer tests for health, ethnicity, ancestry, and traits. Some kits only test for one of them. Kits like the 23andMe Ancestry + Traits Service test for several things.

You should order a test that gives you the results you need.

If you're more interested in learning about your family roots and heritage, you should get a test that looks into your ethnicity and/or ancestry. But if you want to know which health conditions you're at risk for, then a DNA health test is your best choice.

Keep in mind, however, that health and ethnicity are partly influenced by your DNA. Factors like culture, environment, diet, and lifestyle can still affect your overall health and wellness.

2. Access to Raw DNA Data

Go for companies that let you download your raw data. You can upload it to other DNA testing services to find more matches and expand your family tree. This way, you can make the most out of your DNA results.

3. Cost and Additional Fees

Before buying a test, consider its cost and what you get from it. You should also see what fees you have to pay for other features — and whether you want to pay for them.

Features that may require extra fees include health reports, creating family trees, and access to public historical records.

4. Ease of Connecting with Potential Family

DNA matches are of no use if you can't connect with people who share similar DNA. When finding distant relatives and lost family members, the testing company should offer ways to communicate with them.

5. Actionable Health Report

Discovering your genetic risk for various health conditions is crucial to DNA health testing. But so is knowing what you can do about it. For these types of tests, pick one that offers actionable insights that you can follow.

6. Privacy of Your DNA Information

It's important that you read the privacy policy when making your final decision. Ideally, you want to pick a company that stores your genetic data in a way you're comfortable with.

For example, DNA companies may hold on to samples unless you ask them to be destroyed. Others destroy them as soon as they're done with DNA analysis.

What Is The Most Accurate DNA Test?

It all depends on what you're looking for. The best DNA test kits for ethnicity and ancestry are those that help you learn more about your family, ethnic groups, and ancestors.

AncestryDNA and 23andMe are the best in this category.

But if you want to better understand your genetic health, you should go with DNA health tests. Our top recommendation is the 23andMe Health test.

Dr. Dhingra
Dr. Harshi Dhingra
Medical Reviewer
Dr Harshi Dhingra is a licensed medical doctor with a specialization in Pathology. Dr. Dhingra has of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work, including managing all sections of Pathology laboratory including histopathology, cytology, hematology and clinical Pathology.
Joel
Joel
Content Contributor
Joel is a writer that loves exploring DNA, at-home health, and optimizing my health. He believes that the democratization of home health is in its early stages.
Back to top icon