Online dating is hard, y'all — but so is dating in person. Basically, dating is just the worst, which is why we're always trying to save you time by ranking the best online dating sites in general, the best dating sites for introvertsthe best dating apps for college studentsand, hell, even the best sexting apps for those who just want to "date" from home.
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Dating sucks But for some dating apps and sites, the free version may actually be all you need. At some point you've probably considered registering for a dating site — that is, until you see the subscription prices and decide that maybe it's cheaper to just sip a dating at a bar. We got bills, yo. Or maybe you want to test the waters of online dating without investing a lot. The expensive sites do offer free trials, but seven days isn't enough time to find someone. What you need is a free dating site that gives you a free array of options and that isn't a total scam. You want to be able to actually message and match with the people you see on the apps.
We did the research for you and have compiled a comprehensive list of the best free dating apps and sites, and will give you the lowdown on what type of person each one is best suited than. And if you land a hot date out of this, we expect a thank you.
Note: It's almost impossible to find a dating site or app that doesn't have some sort of paid upgrade feature, but these are the sites where the free option gives you most everything you need for the full experience paid options mostly give you more unlimited access, like unlimited swipes or returning to an accidental left-swipe, but to some people, that's helpful. These aren't like Match or eharmony where you site to pay to do basically anything. I've said this a million times before and I'll say it again: OkCupid's advertising is outstanding.
They deserve endless applause just for that, but I realize many people on dating apps care about more than aesthetics. Good thing OkCupid is so much more than that, taking compatibility factors into that other sites haven't even thought of.
Who it's good for: This is the place for, well, pretty much everyone who takes dating seriously, but still wants to have fun. Pof OkCupid's advertisements may have "DTF" better all over them, the site's intentions and matchmaking process are no joke. We also want to mention that OkCupid and its user base is pretty liberal.
The with same-sex couples are an obvious giveaway, but OkCupid has snuck in other little features to weed out more conservative-minded people. For instance, they'll ask questions about whether you're for or against the defunding of Planned Parenthood or same-sex marriage, and if you feel obligated to help fellow human beings — all as a way to tell right off the bat if your potential match leans left or right.
This can help you avoid awkward date conversations in the future. It might take some time and genuine effort to make a profile, but that's what you want if you're looking for something real. You'll fill out a questionnaire with your answers as well as what you would like your ideal match to answer.
This makes the application-building process a lot more fun than other apps, making it feel like an online quiz. It asks a range of questions, from simple stuff to if you smoke and drink to more intimate things like how many dates you typically wait before sleeping with someone. Pro tip: The app says the more questions you answer, the better your matches will be.
The deeper you go, the more accurate your profile is — and in turn, OkCupid will have a way easier time finding matches for you. The downsides: While building your profile can be fun, it can get tedious — so it's probably no surprise that this isn't the site to use if you're looking for something quick and casual. Also, though OkCupid has a super sturdy user base around 30 million usersvariety of won't be nearly as good if you're not in a populated area. For city dwellers, this is fine, but singles in smaller towns may want to opt for a different app.
The bottom line: OkCupid is the perfect happy medium for people who don't want anything to do with trendy swiping apps, but who also don't want to feel like they're desperately looking for marriage. OkCupid genuinely wants dating to be a good experience for you, and their multi-faceted matchmaking and modern vibe help you steer clear of feeling like a loser talking to people online.
The gist: Hinge gives the modern feel and no-patience-required matching like Tinder, but with the relationship rather than hookup mindset that sites like eharmony or Match offer. Pretty much everyone is on the same and knows that that this app isn't for sex, but there's no pressure to rush into marriage either.
Best for something more serious than swiping
It's chill, it's legit, and traditional swiping apps should be worried. Who it's good for: Hinge is the place for people who want a real relationship but don't want to commit to a full-fledged dating site with extensive questionnaires. Hinge calls itself the app "deed to be deleted" because you're meant to find a relationship so you can stop using dating apps. While Hinge first started by showing you Facebook friends of friends, their algorithm has been getting smarter and smarter, and is now able to surpass friends of friends as a predictor of compatibility.
This means you won't be matched with someone all wrong for you simply because you know the same person. Rather, Hinge will help you get to know the other person more deeply by having users answer prompts to show off personality and interests.
The downsides: Hinge only lets you send 10 likes per day, which is a slight bummer. But it means you have to be a little more selective and thoughtful about who you like, which is more conducive to finding a compatible relationship. Hinge isn't meant for constant swiping — and everyone I know who uses Hinge including myself has never felt the need to upgrade past the free version. Having endless potential matches is overwhelming, and if you're trying to find someone you genuinely connect with, there's no point to viciously rushing through every person in a 50 mile radius.
The bottom line: We love Hinge.
Our top 7 picks
It's a step up from hookup apps but the perfect level of serious for 20 and 30 somethings who want something real, but don't need anyone asking how many kids they want just yet. The gist: We'd look like total frauds if we didn't include Tinder. As much as we bitch about this swipe happy app, it's just too popular and works too well to leave it off the list. It has its obvious negatives, but the user friendliness, instant connecting, and massive potential match pool make it most people's first download choice when they need a quick hook up or confidence-boosting attention.
Though it's technically in the "dating app" category, I'm not so sure that everyone's intentions on the app are to find a serious relationship — but it's definitely possible. Whether you love it or think it's trash, it's going to be one of the best for the foreseeable future, and those are just facts. Everyone and their mother is on Tinder, and the wide variety of people means you'll never not be able to find someone close.
Tinder is great for finding a quick hookup with someone nearby where you live, and it's especially handy if you're looking for a vacation fling or a local to show you around while you're traveling. It's pretty much online dating without the commitment: You can use it when you're bored, ignore it for three weeks, and come back to find new matches and a new crowd to swipe through. This isn't to say that Tinder is only used for finding a one night stand or friends with benefits situation, though.
A lot of people are truly on Tinder to find a real relationship, and it's likely that you know at least one couple that met on Tinder if you don't, just look at these mushy Tinder success stories. Because you're making your swipe decision based on someone's photos and a tiny bio that's usually just a Parks and Recreation quote, Tinder gets a lot of shit for being superficial. But let's be honest with ourselves, guys — photos are still the first thing we'd notice on any dating site, even the ones that are supposed to be super deep and connection oriented.
And if you're only looking for a casual encounter, this speedy, no-frills process is exactly what you want. The downsides: You mean, other than the obvious fact that you'll probably get carpal tunnel from having to swipe through so many profiles? Well, there is no real matchmaking process, so Tinder will suggest literally every single person in the age range and distance radius that you set. There's a disadvantage to the whole swiping-based-on-photos thing, too: Because true matchmaking is nonexistent, that face of that hottie who you matched with might be the only thing you like about them.
Matching based solely on physical attraction is just asking for awkward conversations, horrendous disagreements, and unsolicited dick pics down the road. You'll be lucky if you avoid being messaged something totally raunchy and uninvited, but most users are nice humans and will state their intentions in their bios.
The bottom line: Say what you want about Tinderbut it gets the job done. Everyone shits on the shallow matching, but that fast-paced action is exactly what many young people want. If it didn't work to some extent, Tinder's user base would have gone downhill a long time ago. Each time you open Tinder it's a complete toss up, meaning your next match could be your future spouse — or it might just be some rando asking if you're DTF.
Love is a gamble, after all. The gist: If you combined Tinder and Hinge, then gave women most of the control, you'd get Bumble. You create a profile with a bio and personal traits, and you're even able to include what you're looking for in your profile, so people will know straight up whether you're looking for a relationship or something casual.
Bumble is a classic like and match sort of dating app, but there are a couple catches. In heterosexual pairings, women have to make the first move and each person only has 24 hours to respond once the match has been made. In same-sex couples, either person can initiate the conversation. Who it's good for: Because women have most of the control, Bumble is ideal for women who are sick of unsolicited messages from creepy dudes and for men who are tired of always having to make the first move.
It's also for people who want transparency in what kinds of relationships potential matches are looking for. The downsides: You have to be fast and active if you use Bumble as matches disappear after 24 hours if you don't interact with them.
A word from the editor
This is especially rough for men seeking women, because they can't even start the convo if the match is cutting it close to time. The bottom line: Bumble has a great free version that lets you be explicit about what you're looking for. It's ideal for women who like to make the first move, and it sits right in that sweet spot of not a hookup app but not a marriage app either. The gist: Grindr is the world's biggest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people, helping singles get it on since Because there aren't a ton of women on it, it's usually known as the app for gay men — and at 3.
Though it's kind of pegged as a hookup app, finding a lasting relationship on here isn't impossible by any means.
Just keep in mind that many users you'll come across aren't looking for anything serious. What it's good for: This is the place for gay people who can't stand the heteronormativity of apps like Tinder or Bumble, and is especially handy for those looking for a friends with benefits situation. Grindr users have no chill. It's gay paradise, y'all, and if you've been thinking that you've met every gay man in your area already, Grindr might be able to show you some newbies who you never knew existed.
Unless you're in a small town, then you'll probably see the same people recycled on your feed — but just wait until you go on vacation. Instead of swiping right or left to match, you'll get a borderline infinite collage of people who are close location wise, and honestly, it's super jumbled and scary to look at.
It can be a pretty speedy process if you want it to be, and most users just looking to hook up will let you know right off that they're not trying to make small talk. That's not to say it's not for relationships — one of my good friends met his current boyfriend on Grindr — but at the surface level, it's ideal for quick, casual encounters.