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The best DNA tests: Top kits for ancestry and health

What is the best DNA test? Our list includes the top DNA testing kits from brands like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and Nebula Genomics. We analyzed and tested accuracy of results, usability, testing capabilities, and price.

DNA test kits have become more broadly available and affordable in recent years. What was once an intensive scientific process can now be delivered straight to your door -- for less than $100 in some cases.

Although these tests were first used as paternity tests or to solve crimes, the tests can now help you discover your heritage, any health risks you might have down the line, and even relatives you may not know about.

We've rounded up the best DNA test kit options available, no matter if you're looking to build out your family tree or get a snapshot of your health.

23andMe

Best to gauge the future of your health

23andMe
Amazon

23andMe's test kits can help you discover how the sequences in your DNA might impact the future of your health. The Health and Ancestry kit looks at how your DNA might affect your chances of certain health conditions, including diabetes, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, migraine, Alzheimer's disease, and more.

The kit can also look at your lifestyle factors to determine the future of your health with things like lactose intolerance, muscle composition, caffeine consumption, and alcohol flush reaction. In addition, the company was the first DNA test kit approved by the Federal Drug Administration as a screener for potential diseases.

Pros:

  • Also provides ancestry reports and DNA relative finder
  • Easy to understand results

Cons:

  • Your DNA information goes into a database with over five million other people
  • Expensive compared to other tests
  • No guidance on how to alleviate risks if you're prone to them

AncestryDNA

Best for historical research

AncestryDNA
Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com is known for helping people find out where they came from, but it also offers a complete DNA test kit that can aid in your family's historical research. This DNA test kit includes information about your geographic origins across more than 1,500 regions.

Suppose you're looking into your family's history and hit a roadblock. In that case, your DNA results may give you a clue where else you can look further to find more information, making AncestryDNA an excellent option for those digging deep into their family's history and origin. While the company does offer health testing, it is not as robust as competitors but will do the basic job.

Pros:

  • Help with your family tree research
  • Can download your raw DNA data to use with other sites

Cons:

  • Health testing is not as complete
  • Access to Ancestry's historical records costs extra 

FamilyTreeDNA

Best to build a family tree

FamilyTreeDNA
Amazon

While AncestryDNA is great if you've already delved into the world of your family research, FamilyTreeDNA is a better place to start if you're just building out your family tree. Some features of this test include providing you with a percentage breakdown of your origin, such as ancient European groups, and the ability to connect with relatives from within the last five generations.

Another great feature about FamilyTreeDNA is that it offers paternal and maternal ancestry kits if you have gaps in either of those areas that you want to finally discover. Aside from family matters, FamilyTreeDNA looks at your health insights like fitness, nutrition, bone and heart health, and sleep routine, giving you access to meal and workout plans based on your DNA.

Pros:

  • Four different plans to choose from
  • Access to Group Projects so you can further your family tree research
  • Does DNA testing in house

Cons:

  • Privacy terms allow law enforcement agencies to use their DNA data 

Living DNA

Best for those concerned about privacy

Living DNA
Living DNA

Those who are hesitant about purchasing a DNA test kit due to privacy should consider Living DNA. The company has an extensive privacy statement that goes in-depth about what personal information it holds, why it saves it, what it does with it, and how it protects it. Because Living DNA is based in the UK, it is subject to the strict policies and regulations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), making its privacy by far the best on this list.

As far as what Living DNA's test kits will tell you, it gives you 21 subregional DNA breakdowns from over 150 worldwide regions to precisely tell your heritage. The company also offers DNA health insights, such as how your body responds to vitamins, food, and exercise, all based on your genetic makeup.

Pros:

  • Add-on services keep costs low, but options open
  • Does an excellent job at protecting all elements of your data

Cons:

  • Less complete of analysis compared to competitors
  • Customers say the results take longer than the company says 

Nebula Genomics

Best for experts

Nebula Genomics
Nebula Genomics

The most comprehensive DNA testing kit on this list is the Nebula Genomics Whole Genome Sequencing DNA test. This test kit uses sequencing technology to decode 100% of your DNA, compared to others that interpret only the most essential parts of your DNA, thus providing you with more specified information that only experts or knowledgeable customers might be seeking.

The company says it decodes more than 20,000 genes in the human genome, which can help spot very rare genetic variants that might cause genetic diseases. In addition, Nebula Genomics identifies mutations in your genes and allows you to find out more about your oral microbiome, which is a crucial indicator of disease and maintains the balance of your overall health.

Pros:

  • Incredibly accurate DNA results
  • Offers three choices with three different prices
  • Data is available to download

Cons:

  • The more accurate DNA test kits are super expensive
  • Must pay for a subscription on top of the test kit, which increases the overall price
  • Longest result time at 12-14 weeks

What is the best DNA test?

The best DNA tests from our list includes 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and Nebula Genomics among others.

How did we choose these DNA tests?

We looked at the most well-known DNA test kit companies for this list. We read through each company's privacy policies to ensure basic privacy protections of your DNA if you so choose to use one of these brands. 

We also considered low- to mid-tier pricing to compare each kit, rather than looking at the most expensive options, since many of these brands offer kits at various price points.

How do DNA tests work?

DNA tests are relatively simple and all work the same way. After choosing which brand you want to use, the company mails you a saliva collection kit. You simply spit into a tube and mail it back to their lab. After several weeks, you receive your results and learn about your health or family tree in detail.

Most DNA tests (including 23andMe) use genotyping to look at specific locations in your DNA and identify the variations that make you unique. Focusing on any specific variation can lead to clues about your ancestry, health conditions, and other traits.

Other tests, such as AncestryDNA, use autosomal DNA testing, which measures your autosomal chromosomes and matches them across a database of people who share DNA with you to find relatives. 

Why should you take a DNA test?

DNA tests can provide you with a variety of information. For example, most kits on the market can break down your lineage and tell you a percentage of your heritage (i.e., 25% German heritage or 40% Irish heritage). In addition, DNA tests can cross-reference your DNA with others in a company's database so you can even find long-lost relatives.

Aside from domestic purposes, DNA tests can give insight into your health and if you are predisposed to certain diseases or conditions. Especially if you are looking to proactively take charge of your health, taking a DNA test kit could be worth it. 

Do DNA tests compromise your privacy?

Many people might be hesitant to order a DNA test kit because of reports about compromised security and privacy. If you are concerned about your privacy, be sure to read through the DNA test company's privacy policies. In addition, it's important to note that companies do not share your DNA info with third parties (such as public databases or an employer) but may provide information to law enforcement if required by a valid court order or search warrant.

However, according to an investigation from Consumer Reports, these direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies unnecessarily compromise consumers' privacy regarding your non-DNA data like facts about your address, name, email, etc. As a result, CR recommends opting out of DNA research from your testing service or considering deleting your data once you are done using it.

Are there alternative DNA tests worth considering?

Here are a few other DNA test options to look into: