Even if you’re the kind of person who loves the thrill of the hunt, the seemingly never-ending ups and downs of dating can start to feel like a bit of a drag. Bad dates can be extremely demoralizing, especially if you’re having the same kind of negative experience over and over again. You start to lose faith in humanity when it feels like people are disappointing you on a loop. But this might just mean that your current dating strategy isn’t serving you. If that’s the case, then you’re going to want to try one of the best dating apps for partnership, friendship, networking, and everything in between.
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
The Best Dating Apps in 2023
After a seven-year relationship unexpectedly ended in my mid-30s, I knew that I had no choice but to get on dating apps, despite never having used them before. Luckily, I had friends with plenty of experience in the online dating world to direct me to the best of the best dating apps. I was fairly certain that Tinder wasn’t right for me—it just felt like the kind of thing you use to have fun in your 20s—and most of my pals agreed. That’s certainly not to say that you can’t find lasting love on Tinder, it’s just that most people don’t use it to find something long-term and serious, so you might as well skip it .(Unless some temporary fun is what you’re looking for, of course!)
Anecdotal evidence shows that if you’re willing to pay for an app, then you’re more likely to match with others who are also serious about finding love. However, that doesn’t mean you have to shell out money to find your future partner. The best dating apps give you the option to pay, but don’t force it. This way, you can bop around and see what’s right for you without committing to a monthly payment.
Best for Young Adults: Hinge
Hinge’s motto immediately pulls you in. Designed to be deleted? Yes, please. For those wary of dating app-fatigue, this one’s for you. The app and its users are goal-oriented: the said goal being finding a meaningful relationship. Hinge is one of the best dating apps because you really get a sense that the other users are looking for a true connection. It’s not as oversaturated with users as more popular apps like Bumble and Tinder, though it is quickly gaining traction.
As a result, for the most part, it all feels quite purposeful and earnest. The fact that there are fewer users does mean that you run out of swipes faster than on other apps, but that means also you waste less time scrolling. I met my current partner on Hinge and am quick to recommend it to those looking for the real deal. What can I say, it worked!
- Intuitive user experience makes the app easy to learn and use.
- Easy to learn what people are looking for.
- Different membership tiers offer sophisticated filtering options, so you can more easily find someone with a similar lifestyle/interests.
- Can change your location to anywhere.
- You’ll quickly run into your daily “like” limit with the free membership.
Best Personalized Experience: Zoosk
The catchiest names are often the strangest—and this app has the double benefit of being both memorable and brilliant. When it comes down to it, I’m looking for a dating (or networking, or friendship-building) app that gives me as personal an experience as possible—and Zoosk definitely delivers. It uses Behavioural Matchmaking technology to adapt its suggestions to connect you with the people you’re looking for. An app that doesn’t make you sift through endless never-going-anywhere conversations? Sign me up.
- Matchmaking software leads to well-aligned connections.
- Free to sign up. Payment plans start at $29.95/month to access features like unlimited messaging, incognito browsing mode, and the ability to see who likes you.
- No refunds are offered.
- Despite the app’s Behavioral Matchmaking technology, it can take a while to match up with someone who feels like a good fit as the app learns your preferences.
Best for Single Parents: Stir
Speaking of personalization, Stir is a great option if you’re a single parent looking to match with people whose family structure is similar to yours. I’ve had conversations with friends who say that on other dating apps, the minute they share that they have children, the conversation stops. I love that Stir provides a space for single parents to meet other like-minded folks with similar responsibilities and schedules. Plus, the interface is gorgeous, and if you’re planning on spending a little quality time on an app before meeting IRL, might as well be an aesthetically pleasing experience, right?
- Well-designed user experience that’s beautiful to use and easy to learn.
- Attracts like-minded users with similar schedules and responsibilities.
- You can sign up for free, but relatively expensive subscription plans allow for more access.
Best Matchmaking Services: Tawkify
While some might argue that love is simple (when you know, you know, right?), with myriad ways to connect—and, unfortunately, ghost—the prospect of building and maintaining a connection with someone can feel overwhelmingly complex. Thankfully, Tawkify is all about dating “with intention,” and is geared toward users who know what they want and sign up in pursuit of a real, deep, and meaningful connection.
As a matchmaking company, Tawkify pairs clients with matchmakers with whom you share your relationship goals and personal values. After that, the search begins. It’s a curated, premium service—so if you know what you want, chances are, Tawkify is the best way of getting exactly that.
- Curated support services help you connect with viable matches.
- Tawkify reports that 80% of matched clients find relationship success within their first 12 matches.
- Potential matches go through background screenings and live video interviews to gauge fit.
- Because this is a personalized matchmaking service and not just a dating app, the investment is steep, with payment plans beginning at $5,000.
Best for Making Friends: Bumble
I’ve definitely spent a fair amount of time on Bumble and for the most part, found that the people who are on it are serious about finding relationships. There are a lot of people using this app, which is great because you never run out of potential lovers to check out. That said, because of the sheer volume of users, a ton of time can be spent swiping away with little to no success, so it’s definitely something to do while watching a chill show in the background.
Unfamiliar with Bumble? It’s designed around the concept that women make the first move. By putting you in the dating driver’s seat, it empowers you to connect with people you want to talk to. No dodging dicy messages necessary. (Plus, if you’re looking to meet new gal pals or network professionally, Bumble offers options for either of those, too.)
- Many people use the app, so you have plenty of options.
- Women message first, letting you guide the direction of the conversation. (A far cry from our Tinder days… )
- Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz give you the opportunity to meet friends and network in addition to dating.
- Again, many people use the app, so it’s likely that you’ll have quite a few conversations that don’t go anywhere.
Best for LGBTQ+: HER
HER is one of the best dating apps for LGBTQ+ women and queer folks. I found it to be a safe and inclusive space to connect with queer women and to find out about LGBTQ+ events. It can be tricky to navigate traditional dating apps as a queer person, and HER makes negotiating all of that much simpler.
It feels like a very grown-up app—the people on it are serious about dating and it has a fun, sweet, yet no-nonsense vibe. The app’s motto is “Find your person,” so it’s a good place to start for anyone looking to go beyond the hookup world.
- Provides a safe space for queer folks and LGBTQ+ women to connect.
- Users are intentional and won’t waste your time.
- Not for you if you’re simply looking for a hookup or to “have fun.”
Best for Serious Relationships: Match
Match is one of the OG dating sites from the mid-aughts that made the switch to an app-style platform but retained its subscriber-only model. The benefit of a pay-to-play model is that the people who are on the app are serious about finding someone. No one’s shelling out money who doesn’t actually want to get meaningful results, you know?
It’s one of the best sites for single professionals, so there are lots of high-quality matches to be found (their words, not mine—you can’t ascribe a monetary value to a human!). You don’t need to worry about wasting your time with people who are dabbling in more casual scenarios because everyone on the app is on a mission to find love.
- Subscriber-only model ensures users are serious about finding relationships.
- Good if you have a busy schedule and need support making connections.
- Because Match doesn’t require users to complete their accounts to use it, you may encounter people whose profiles offer limited information.
Best Conversations: Lox Club
Lox Club is a members-only dating app primarily for Jewish people, though anyone can apply. The gist? “The Lox Club is like a deli; it’s culturally Jewish, but you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it.” I’m not Jewish and I was accepted back when I was single and mingling. It’s primarily based in the states, but is available everywhere, so members can see compatible matches from cities all over the world—perfect if you’re looking for a way to get an EU passport. (Wink, wink!)
The app specifically recruits funny, down-to-earth, ambitious people who are looking for something real. Compared to other apps, it’s a pretty small pool of members to pick from, but we’re talking quality over quantity here.
- Allows you to connect with people all over the world.
- Attracts intentional users who are often easy to talk to.
- The approval process is slow, and it can take a while to be accepted.
Best Compatible Matches: OK Cupid
Similar to eharmony, (but much more affordable) OK Cupid matches users based on an extensive questionnaire and an algorithm-based matching system that links you up with compatible potential dates. It’s a fairly successful and decently accurate system if you’re willing to be really honest about what you’re looking for and who you’re interested in.
Some more good news? This dating site is insanely popular! Like Match, OK Cupid started out as a website that turned into an app, making it much more convenient.
- An affordable alternative to other dating apps with a similar approach to matchmaking.
- The long-time dating app is popular, meaning more users who could be a potential perfect fit.
- Users have critiqued the prevalence of fake profiles.
Most Exclusive: Raya
For reasons we needn’t get into here, I was blacklisted from Raya a few years back and wasn’t able to take advantage of this exclusive dating app while I could. Luckily, I have plenty of friends who have found long-term relationships on the members-only app and lived to tell the tale.
Raya used to be a secret dating app for celebrities, but now most people can get on it (present company excluded) if they have a friend pass and are selected by a mysterious committee. If you’re not put off by the slightly status-y vibe or the monthly fee, then you’ll be able to check out some seriously cool people all over the world.
- Given what it offers (in terms of support and the dating pool you’re picking from), the app is surprisingly cheap: $9.99 per month. However, there are additional in-app purchases that can add up.
- Plenty of famous people use the app—you’re likely to connect with credible and interesting matches.
- The small user base means you run out of matches faster than other apps.
Best for Swiping With Friends: Ship
I knew I had to include Ship on this list of the best dating apps, because unlike most other options, Ship requires the cooperation of your friends. They’re the ones doing the swiping for you! My friend Jessie and I made profiles for each other last year and had a blast sending each other potential matches. You set up your profile, get matched to other users that your friends like, and then get to chatting!
I found it to be an incredibly refreshing and fun take on the traditional dating app. It felt much less arduous—and since it’s still pretty small-scale compared to other apps, there’s less wading through mud, if you know that I mean. By the time I got to my mid-30s, I knew it was time to recruit some pals to weigh in on my questionable dating habits. This free app made the process easy and fun.
- Your friends do the swiping, making for a casual, easy-going atmosphere that’s fun and entertaining.
- No financial investment required.
- This isn’t the dating app for you if you’re looking for something serious. While you may find your soulmate, most people are on the app for a good time.
Best ‘Let’s Skip the Small Talk’: Coffee Meets Bagel
One of the reasons that Coffee Meets Bagel is one of the best dating apps is that users fill out an extensive profile that potential matches can see immediately. It completely eliminates the need for small talk, one of the most dreaded parts of online dating.
Coffee Meets Bagel pushes back against the notion that dating apps are for hookups, and actively combats the ambiguity or confusion that can sometimes surround online dating. If you’re on Coffee Meets Bagel, then you’re looking for something serious.
- It’s mutually understood that if you’re on Coffee Meets Bagel, you’re looking for a committed relationship.
- Because of the limited features in the free version, it’s only worth using the app if you pay for it.
- There’s no way to verify your account and fraudulent accounts are reported as common.
This post was originally published on June 22, 2021 and has since been updated.