The Very Best DNA test kit in 2021

By Jovan Milenkovic January 5, 2021

DNA tests are becoming incredibly popular. In 2018 alone, more people used home DNA test kits than in all previous years combined. Americans are fascinated with DNA services because the best DNA test kit can reveal a lot about our genetic makeup and ancestry, help us connect with relatives, provide a solid foundation for creating a family tree, and unveil possible health problems and genetic predispositions. 

A few decades ago, DNA tests weren’t only expensive but far less accurate. Thanks to technological advancements, the level of accuracy has risen and the costs have dropped. Today, you can get a test kit for as little as $60. However, with so many options on the market, it’s hard to pick the best DNA home test kit. That’s why we did the heavy lifting and curated a list of the most accurate testing kits around.

  • Great accuracy
  • Affordable
  • Great family tree tools
  • Some features require a subscription
Price from$99
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  • DNA trait information
  • Neanderthal DNA tracing
  • Easy to connect with relatives
  • Somewhat pricey
Price $99
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  • Great health advice
  • Quick & painless testing method
  • Sub-regional ancestry
  • Expensive
Price $99
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  • Very cheap
  • Quick results
  • Free DNA upload
  • Reports could be more detailed
Price $79
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  • Affordable
  • Trace origins to ancient groups
  • A la carte pricing
  • Grouping all three tests is expensive
Price $79/mo
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1. AncestryDNA

" Best overall DNA test kit "

  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal
  • Processing time:
    6-8 weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry and health
  • Sample type:
    Saliva
  • Privacy:
    Anonymous samples

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great accuracy
  • Affordable
  • Great family tree tools
  • Some features require a subscription

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great accuracy
  • Affordable
  • Great family tree tools
  • Some features require a subscription
  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal
  • Processing time:
    6-8 weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry and health
  • Sample type:
    Saliva
  • Privacy:
    Anonymous samples

AncestryDNA is both one of the oldest and one of the most popular DNA test services. It was launched in 1996, and since then, 15 million people have tested with AncestryDNA. This vast customer DNA network has contributed to enhancing the company’s genealogy and family tree building features, which are its main focus. Currently, AncestryDNA claims it holds an impressive 27 billion records and information about 100 million family trees. On top of being the best DNA test for ancestry, this company also offers DNA tests that can help identify potential health risks.

Features

The whole process starts off with you ordering an AncestryDNA kit online. After you receive the kit in the mail, you’ll find fairly simple instructions. You’ll need to deposit your saliva into a tube, seal it, and then twist the cork to release a blue liquid. This liquid needs to mix with your saliva in order to help preserve the sample until it reaches AncestryDNA labs. Before you send out your sample, you need to activate your kit. The activation process makes this one of the best DNA test kit options around, as it helps preserve your privacy. Instead of labeling your sample with your name, you connect the ID number from your sample to your account. After all of this is done, you need to mail the sample back to AncestryDNA. Once sent, AncestryDNA takes between six to eight weeks to process your results.

Once your results are ready, you just need to sign in to your Ancestry account to view the findings. First, you’ll be greeted with a world map where various regions are highlighted, representing your ethnicity estimates. AncestryDNA is one of the best DNA test kit for ethnicity because it displays both the countries and specific regions that your ancestors hail from.

When you’re done with the map, you’ll get to the most impressive AncestryDNA test feature – connecting with relatives. You get access to an often huge list of people you share DNA with, which can help you connect with cousins and add new names to your family tree. Thanks to AncestryDNA’s many users, you can truly make life-changing discoveries and make a detailed, sprawling family tree. These are some of the many reasons why AncestryDNA is regarded as the best-rated home DNA test kit.

You can also see whether your DNA reveals any genetic preconditions or hereditary diseases, dig up documents related to your family, see your DNA traits, and much more.

Pricing

There are three pricing packages available.

AncestryDNA combines origins and ethnicity data and gives you access to your DNA matches. It’s currently available on discount for $59.

AncestryDNA Traits + Family Tree Bundle will set you back $60 (down from $178) and adds in a three-month World Explorer membership – the feature that lets you explore records and build your family tree.

If you want the best DNA health test kit, then you need to sign up for AncestryHealth. It has everything found in the previous packages except the World Explorer membership, but it adds health reports. The price is only $99.

During our AncestryDNA review, we learned that the kits are affordable. But you have to pay a subscription fee if you want to use the family tree and record searching features. If you want to access US databases on ancestry alone, the monthly fee is $24.99. If you want worldwide records, the monthly fee is $39.99.

Final Thoughts

AncestryDNA is impressive across the board and definitely one of the best ancestry kits around. The robust genealogy and family tree building features combined with its large customer base make for a superb DNA testing service. The only downside is the subscription fee they charge for family tree building and accessing records.

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2. 23andMe

" Best DNA test kit for finding relatives "

  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA
  • Processing time:
    Six to eight weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry and health
  • Sample type:
    Saliva
  • Privacy:
    Anonymous samples

Things we liked / disliked:

  • DNA trait information
  • Neanderthal DNA tracing
  • Easy to connect with relatives
  • Somewhat pricey

Things we liked / disliked:

  • DNA trait information
  • Neanderthal DNA tracing
  • Easy to connect with relatives
  • Somewhat pricey
  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA
  • Processing time:
    Six to eight weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry and health
  • Sample type:
    Saliva
  • Privacy:
    Anonymous samples

Next to AncestryDNA, 23andMe is the most widely used DNA kit. The company was founded in 2006, and its services have since been used by millions of people worldwide. During our best DNA test kit reviews, we learned that at its core, 23andMe has a lot in common with AncestryDNA. Both use saliva samples to run autosomal DNA tests, which help uncover info about your ancestry and ethnicity. With over 10 million users, 23andMe is second only to AncestryDNA. Thanks to their large customer base and advanced laboratories, you can be certain that 23andMe won’t leave you disappointed.

Features

23andMe home DNA kits are ordered online and usually take between three and five days to arrive, depending on your location. Inside, you’ll find a tube for your saliva sample, identical to those found with any other best DNA heritage test kit we reviewed. Deposit your saliva and close the funnel lid, which will release the preservation liquid. You’ll then need to place your sample in a sealed bag and mail it.

Before you seal in the sample tube, make sure you use the barcode on it to register your sample online. This guarantees privacy and allows you to connect the sample to your account. When all this is done, send the sample back to 23andMe using the prepaid return mailer and wait between six to eight weeks for your results. This is the average processing time with any best ancestry DNA kit.

The results are accessed exclusively online through your 23andMe account. Your DNA report contains a plethora of useful information. First, you’ll get data on the geographic origins of your DNA, which is compared to more than 150 populations and over 2,000 regions around the world to give you a visualization of your roots. 23and Me reviews also praise DNA trait reports, which tell you how your DNA influences various physical traits such as hair and eye color.

23andMe also comes with social media-like features, which enable you to connect with other users that you share DNA with. Like many of the best DNA ancestry test kits, 23andMe also has an automatic family tree builder.

Moreover, the service offers a pair of great standout features – haplogroup testing and Neanderthal DNA tracing. Haplogroups include Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, allowing customers to find maternal and paternal ancestors. On the other hand, Neanderthal DNA tracing digs into your heritage and tells you just how Neanderthal you are.

Pricing

There are three different pricing plans. For just $99, you’ll get a comprehensive breakdown of your ancestry with the Ancestry + Traits Service. The package includes more than 30 trait reports and a DNA relative finder. If you want insights about your health based on your genetic data, sign up for the Health + Ancestry Service for $199. The plan comes with more than 60 health reports, including a family health history tree. Finally, there’s the $499 VIP Health + Ancestry Service, which gets you premium customer support and priority processing.

When making the 23andMe vs Ancestry comparison, the latter is currently offering better prices thanks to its discounts. However, there is very little that sets these two companies apart with both offering an accurate and comprehensive service.

Final Thoughts

23andMe is a great choice for users who want extensive reports about their DNA makeup. The depth and accuracy of the results, coupled with haplogroup testing, make 23andMe one of the best choices on the market.

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3. Living DNA

" Best DNA test kit for health reports "

  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA
  • Processing time:
    Six to eight weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry and health
  • Sample type:
    Mouth swab
  • Privacy:
    Doesn’t share info with third parties

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great health advice
  • Quick & painless testing method
  • Sub-regional ancestry
  • Expensive

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great health advice
  • Quick & painless testing method
  • Sub-regional ancestry
  • Expensive
  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA
  • Processing time:
    Six to eight weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry and health
  • Sample type:
    Mouth swab
  • Privacy:
    Doesn’t share info with third parties

Living DNA is a UK-based DNA testing company founded in 2016 and is widely considered one of the best human DNA test kit providers on the market. The company focuses on the ancestry part of your DNA, and it offers the most detailed heritage information for regions located in Britain. In addition to regular autosomal DNA testing, Living DNA also bundles haplogroup analysis with extensive and detailed health reports.

Features

Unlike companies we previously reviewed, Living DNA test kits do not require your saliva. Instead, you need to take a  mouth swab, which involves collecting samples from the inner sides of your cheeks. This is a quick and painless process. Once you’ve taken the swab, you need to package it according to the instructions provided and mail it back to the company. Like with other best genetic testing kit companies, the mailing costs for sending the sample are already covered by Living DNA.

As we saw with all other ancestry DNA tests, the average processing times is between six and eight weeks. You can get your results from the Living DNA site. Once you log in, you can first view ancestry and ethnicity information gathered from your DNA. This data is represented on a world map with over 150 regions. This is far less than the 2,000 regions available with 23andMe, but still provides a decent amount of information on par with the best DNA testing kits. Among those 150 regions are 21 sub-regions within the British Isles and 72 generic regions on the African continent.

The company uses its unique DNA Constellations method to give you greater insight into 500 years of your family ancestry from all over the world. In addition, you can get access to the optional Family Networks feature, which allows you to connect with other people you share DNA with. This tool is optional in case you don’t want to be contacted by random relatives.

Living DNA is our best DNA kits list because it offers autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA testing, granting you access to the most detailed DNA report possible. In addition, the so-called Wellbeing Kits offer data on your food metabolism and vitamin responses and provide nutrition and exercise advice. Of course, this is more of a guide and shouldn’t replace advice given by doctors.

When it comes to privacy, Living DNA’s policy clearly states the company doesn’t share any personalized information with third parties and that customer data is stored on secure servers. You can permit the company to use your DNA samples in genetic research.

Pricing

Living DNA is a bit pricey compared to what we’ve seen in our DNA tests ancestry reviews so far. The standard Ancestry kit is currently $89 (down from $119), while the Wellbeing kit is $99 (down from $149). If you want the bundle, it’s currently being offered at a discounted price of $119.

Final Thoughts

While Living DNA lags behind some of the competition when it comes to the level of detail in their ancestry reports, the company makes up for it in several ways. The inclusion of both paternal and maternal ancestry tests and the quality of their Wellbeing Kit are worthy of praise.

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4. MyHeritage DNA

" Best budget DNA test kit "

  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal
  • Processing time:
    Three to four weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry
  • Sample type:
    Mouth swab
  • Privacy:
    Anonymous sample registration

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very cheap
  • Quick results
  • Free DNA upload
  • Reports could be more detailed

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very cheap
  • Quick results
  • Free DNA upload
  • Reports could be more detailed
  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal
  • Processing time:
    Three to four weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry
  • Sample type:
    Mouth swab
  • Privacy:
    Anonymous sample registration

One of the best ancestry test companies around, MyHeritage DNA currently has over 92 million users around the world. This Israeli company made headlines by helping reunite migrant families in the US and has only soared in popularity since then. It focuses on ancestry and heritage research and also offers useful health reports. While the results tend to be lacking in detail, everything is presented in an impressive manner.

Features

When it comes to the collection of the sample, MyHeritage DNA asks for a mouth swab. In order to get the most accurate DNA test, MyHeritage DNA requires two swabs – one for each inner side of your cheek. Before you mail back your sample, make sure you activate/register your kit first. This connects the sample to your MyHeritage DNA account without labeling it with your name. Once this is done, you mail the sample back to the company. Note that MyHeritage DNA currently doesn’t cover mailing costs. However, the processing time is shorter than that of other best DNA test kit companies – only three to four weeks.

Once your results are ready, you’ll receive an email notification. When you first access your results, you’ll be treated to a fancy animation of earth showcasing your possible ethnicity matches and a little local music from each of the highlighted regions. MyHeritage DNA’s database covers 42 ethnicities and over 2,100 regions – a pretty big number. These ancestry DNA tests also reveal specific genetic groups you might hail from. In our DNA test kit reviews, we certainly found more accurate ancestry reports, but we can’t say we are disappointed with MyHeritage DNA.

In addition to ancestry data, the company enables you to connect with people you share DNA with who used this service. Even if you haven’t used MyHeritage DNA, you can upload your sample for free if you wish to be found by relatives. The service wouldn’t be complete without the ability to create family trees. You can also scan their massive database to grow your tree.

Pricing

The current price of the ancestry testing kit is $79, which is more affordable than some of the best DNA testing companies we reviewed. If you want priority customer support, access to records, and a more detailed family tree, you’ll need a monthly subscription. The fee currently ranges between $7.42/mo and $16.58/mo, with pricier plans giving you access to automatic family tree building, database searches, and more.

Final Thoughts

MyHeritage DNA won’t impress customers with the level of detail in its reports, but the affordability, presentation, and overall user-friendliness make it a worthwhile investment.

5. FamilyTreeDNA

" Best DNA kit for ancestry tracing "

  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA
  • Processing time:
    Four to eight weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry
  • Sample type:
    Mouth swab
  • Privacy:
    Does not share info with third parties

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Affordable
  • Trace origins to ancient groups
  • A la carte pricing
  • Grouping all three tests is expensive

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Affordable
  • Trace origins to ancient groups
  • A la carte pricing
  • Grouping all three tests is expensive
  • Type of DNA test:
    Autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA
  • Processing time:
    Four to eight weeks
  • Purpose:
    Ancestry
  • Sample type:
    Mouth swab
  • Privacy:
    Does not share info with third parties

Launched in 1999, FamilyTreeDNA initially offered only Y-DNA and mtDNA testing. While tracing heritage across paternal and maternal lines can take you further back in your family’s history, autosomal DNA brings forth most DNA matches, which is why all the best DNA testing kit companies use it. Thankfully, in 2010, FamilyTreeDNA added autosomal tracing to its offer.

Features

Whichever type of testing you decide to go with, the sample taking process is the same. You start by ordering a kit from FamilyTreeDNA. It usually takes up to three days to arrive, but that can vary depending on your location. You’ll then need to take a mouth swab – the easiest sample method available. You’ll get two snap-off swabs that you should use to collect the samples from the inside of your cheeks.

The best genetic testing kit should come with free return shipping, and FamilyTreeDNA ticks this box. However, this does not apply to international orders. Their labs take four to eight weeks to process your sample. When the results are ready, you’ll be notified via email. There’s no anonymous sample registration, but FamilyTreeDNA’s policy very explicitly states they do not share your info with third parties. However, the company does allow law enforcement access to its data.

The company is mainly focused on ancestry. Once you get your results, you’ll be treated to a percentage-based breakdown of your origins, with points of ancestry highlighted on the world map. What landed the company on our top DNA testing kit list is the ancientOrigins feature, which allows you to trace your origin to ancient groups by comparing your DNA to that found on archeological sites. Of course, you also get access to a list of people that you share DNA with, allowing you to establish connections and grow your family tree. Moreover, you can sort the list of your DNA matches by paternal lines for easier structuring.

Pricing

FamilyTreeDNA offers three types of DNA testing as separate services. While we appreciate the ability to purchase each type of testing a la carte, the costs add up if you want to get all three. Some of the other best DNA test kit for ancestry providers bundle all three services into a single package.

The price for the autosomal testing is fairly low. Currently, it’s $59, down from $79. The price for maternal testing is $139 (down from $159), while paternal testing is currently $99 (down from $119).

Final Thoughts

FamilyTreeDNA offers robust ancestry tests but not much beyond that. While we found its ancientOrigins feature interesting, it couldn’t really justify the high prices and the fact that you have to pay for each type of testing separately.

Methodology

Not all DNA tests are created equal. First of all, there are differences in the level of accuracy. But often the main difference concerns the area of analysis the companies focus on. Some are primarily focused on helping you trace back your ancestry or ethnicity, while others help you find relatives and lay the groundwork for creating family trees. There are also some services that are focused on helping you spot possible health issues. Other points of divergence between the best DNA test kits are things like pricing, shipping time, and clarity of the results. Below, we’ll list out all the different aspects we look at when reviewing and comparing DNA testing kits.

Type of DNA Test

Before you delve deeper into your search for the right testing kit, you should familiarize yourself with different types of DNA tests. These tests differ in their ability to trace back your ancestry, and one of them can only be used on male DNA samples. There are three different test types:

Autosomal DNA: This is the most common type of DNA test that you’ll encounter. These tests measure your autosomal chromosomes, which make up the lion’s share of your DNA. The best DNA ancestry test kit usually involves autosomal DNA testing because it can analyze DNA from both maternal and paternal lines. However, due to the random DNA inheritance patterns, precise conclusions can only be drawn for close relatives. Autosomal DNA tests are considered precise up to your third cousins but can theoretically be used to find your 10th cousin.

Y-DNA: These tests can only be used by males. Y-DNA tests are used to identify male relatives. Via the surname project, men can use Y-DNA tests to find their ancestors. These tests are optimal for the best DNA paternity test kit, as they are more objective than autosomal ones since Y-chromosomes are transmitted between father and son practically unchanged.

mtDNA: This test examines the transmission of mitochondrial DNA, which is transmitted between mother and child. As such, it can be used by both men and women in order to trace your maternal ancestry.

Purpose of the Testing Kit

The best DNA tests can be used for a variety of purposes. As such, finding out what is the best DNA test kit largely depends on what you want to use it for. The most common use for home DNA testing kits is to find out more about your ancestry and relatives. These tests can help you fill out your family tree, connect with relatives that have also taken the test, and find out more about your ancestors.

Meanwhile, DNA testing for ethnicity is slightly more problematic because of how data gathered from DNA tests is interpreted. People often confuse ancestry with race. For example, you take the best DNA test kit for ancestry, and it comes back with a 7% chance that you have genetic ancestry on the Asian continent. This doesn’t mean that you’re 7% Asian, but people tend to interpret it that way. Furthermore, this doesn’t mean that one portion of your DNA is from some part of Asia. DNA doesn’t work like a pie chart, where you can see all of the different ethnicities you’re made of. Instead, statistics such as the one above are percentage estimates of where you hail from. This has nothing to do with race. In modern science, race doesn’t represent a biological concept and is largely interpreted as a social construct.

The best DNA test kit for health, on the other hand, is mainly used to determine an individual’s  genetic predispositions to certain illnesses. As test kit manufacturers will tell you themselves, these health-oriented tests should be used as guides or auxiliary methods and shouldn’t replace the help from health professionals if you have genuine medical concerns.

Sample Taking Method

There are three dominant ways in which DNA samples are collected: through blood, saliva, and a mouth swab. When it comes to home use, the best home DNA test kit options rarely involve blood samples nowadays. Saliva sample tests require you to deposit your saliva in a tube you receive with the kit. This can get trickier than it sounds but still shouldn’t be too hard. Mouth swabs, on the other hand, require you to take a swab of the inner side of both of your cheeks. Each sample type has its unique packaging and conservation methods.

Privacy

The biggest issue with commercial DNA tests is privacy. As most DNA testing reviews will tell you, these services are supervised by very lax international and US regulations. Therefore, those concerned about privacy should definitely look closely at each company’s privacy policy. In our genealogy test reviews, we examine each provider’s privacy policy, the methods they employ, and whether they share or sell your data to third parties.

One commonly used method to guarantee user privacy is anonymous sample registration. By using unidentifiable codes to register your samples, no DNA information can be connected to a specific person. Hence, when using the best DNA kit, you won’t have to worry about someone being able to get access to your personal DNA information.

Pricing

Of course, pricing plays a huge role in our evaluation. When we look at DNA test kit prices, we examine what exactly you’re getting for your money, including the accuracy of the results, the kind of information you’re getting, how detailed the reports are, and whether shipping costs are included. Many of the best ancestry DNA test kit options come with a one-time fee. However, companies like  AncestryDNA have a subscription fee for their family tree features.

The Best DNA Test Kit 2021

  1. AncestryDNA
  2. 23andMe
  3. LivingDNA
  4. MyHeritage DNA
  5. FamilyTree DNA

FAQ

Which DNA test is the most accurate?

It’s hard to make a DNA test comparison since most labs are now equally advanced. However, AncestryDNA and 23andMe are considered to be the most reliable.

Which is better AncestryDNA or 23andMe?

These two services are very similar, but AncestryDNA has a larger customer base, making it easier to find relatives.

Is AncestryDNA accurate?

AncestryDNA is widely considered the most accurate service on the market. The company promises DNA test results that are 99% accurate.

Can a DNA test be wrong?

Even the best DNA test kit can be wrong. This is usually due to human error or if the sample gets contaminated, but these situations are extremely rare.