The best DNA testing kits can tell you things about your ancestry and heritage that you might never discover otherwise. Plus they can reveal vital information about your genes that may help safeguard your health, and even potentially save your life. At the very least, they'll give you something to chat about with friends and family!
They're very easy to use, too. You don't need any medical knowledge or specialist skills to test your DNA: anyone can do it. In fact, often all you need is a saliva sample, which you can from the comfort of your own home.
Best DNA testing kits: Quick links
The best DNA home test kits can be expensive, but they do offer excellent value. Plus this web page automatically pulls in the cheapest deals in real time, so you'll certainly find the best prices here.
To learn more about DNA tests, skip ahead to our section How Do DNA Testing Kits Work? Otherwise, read on to discover the top DNA testing kits available today, and the facts you need to choose the right one for you.
The best DNA testing kits 2022
One of the first DNA testing kits on the market and still one of the best, 23andMe boasts more than 10 million users and provides a thorough, detailed analysis of your ancestry and health. There are two services to choose from. Ancestry + Traits focuses on your ancestry composition and provides information about your DNA relatives, while Health + Ancestry also provides personalised health insights. For a full look at what's on offer, head to our 23andMe DNA review.
With 23andMe, all of the detailed data you receive about your genetic make-up is presented in the form of easy-to-understand visuals. These are typically colourful, interactive and come with lots of explanation to make the process of combing through your results fun and easy, rather than overwhelming.
In terms of ancestry, you're presented with interactive elements that show how you’re made up of different ethnic backgrounds and where they’re likely to have come from. You can view this data in a pie chart, on a map, or as a timeline; you can even see how your results affect your chromosomes. You can also view your maternal and paternal lines (or just maternal if you're a woman), as well as how many Neanderthal variants you have in comparison to everyone else who's had their DNA tested by 23andMe. A customisable and easy-to-use messaging system makes it easy to connect with relatives (although you can, of course, opt out of this bit).
If you go for the Health + Ancestry set, you can also find out more about your health. You'll learn, for instance, about any health predispositions for things like Type 2 Diabetes, as well as carrier status reports for genes that can cause health issues. You'll also discover predisposed wellness characteristics; for example, if you have the genetic muscle composition of an elite athlete.
One final benefit to using 23andMe is that the company continues to update the service long after you’ve taken the test, adding in new health information and reports every few months. And that can be a really nice surprise, especially if you're on the hunt for distant relatives. For more details, read our article I took 23andMe's home DNA test and turns out I'm part Neanderthal.
One of the most world's popular genealogy websites, Ancestry is hands-down the best place to start building your family tree online. Back in 2012, the company launched AncestryDNA: an extra service that provide you with a personal DNA test that could add your genetic data to your family tree, making it more accurate and connecting you with living relatives. Head to our full AncestryDNA review for more detail on this service.
As with 23andMe, you send off a saliva sample for your AncestryDNA test, then get your results within a few weeks. You won’t get any health data, information about genetic traits, or really deep ancestral data like your Neanderthal percentage. However, you will get access to the huge AncestryDNA database size of more than 15 million users. This means you're more likely to get accurate information, be able to connect up with relatives, and, ultimately, build an awesome family tree.
The AncestryDNA test is particularly useful if you already have an Ancestry account and family tree data, because it'll seamlessly supplement what you already know and add in some fascinating data. Alternatively, if you're interested in starting a family tree from scratch, it's a great place to begin.
You'll also find out information about your ethnicity, and there are some neat ways to visualise that information, as well as the option to dig deeper and find out more about how your genetics compare to the native population. If you're an existing users of the Ancestry service, or are especially interested in family history, this is the best DNA testing kit for you.
The MyHeritage DNA testing kit is one of the cheapest DNA testing kits available, but still provides interesting insights about your ancestry. As we cover in our MyHeritage DNA testing kit review, this service maps ethnic groups and geographic regions that you and your ancestors are likely to have originated from.
Admittedly, this one of the more basic tests you can buy: you don't get the health data that 23andMe offers, for instance, or any deeper ancestral analysis. But if you're primarily interested in where you came from, and want to connect with distant relatives, MyHeritage (opens in new tab) DNA gets the job done.
You can use your results to go on and create a free family tree, which has some useful features. And you can also opt-in to DNA matching, which matches your info up with people you're related to. Bear in mind though that, like LivingDNA, this service has fewer users than the likes of 23andMe and AncestryDNA, so you're likely to get fewer matches.
The Dynamic DNA test is a bit of a mixed bag. The company, based in Missouri, is a relative newcomer in the direct-to-consumer genetic testing world, and offers a variety of test types that covers not only family and ancestry, but also proactive health (nutrition, fitness, skin), and personalised medicine. The company's focus seems to be less on the first of those three categories. We're hesitant to get into 'personalised medicine', but in our Dynamic DNA review we tried the ancestry, fitness and nutrition tests. As ever, swab collection was straightforward, and you should get results back in under 3 weeks (ours took a little longer... thanks COVID).
However, our tester was less than impressed with the ancestry results. Her ethnic breakdown was far from specific: a mixture of 'North Asian' and 'Eastern Asian', with no light shed on which parts of those enormous areas that might refer to. Here, the company might suffer from its newcomer status, which means it has a smaller database to base its findings on. Whatever, the reason, we wouldn't recommend this service for ancestry info at this point.
Where the Dynamic DNA redeems itself somewhat is in its nutrition and fitness testing. Here, the company offered some interesting insights and plenty of specific details. Because it's not a blood test, it can't give results specific to you, but it can tell you how your genotype might affect things (what kind of diet you're likely to respond best to, your likely metabolic rate, if you're genetically predisposed to having higher calcium levels etc.). All in all, a promising addition to the home DNA tests landscape.
There's one thing worse than lacking information about your health and fitness, and that's getting unreliable, incomplete and potentially misleading information about your health and fitness. So it's great news that Rightangled (opens in new tab) is funded and backed by the NHS, Britain's national health service, signifying that this a serious service that will provide meaningful and accurate results. For full details, read our Rightangled review.
Rightangled offers three tests. The first is an allergy intolerance test, which is not DNA-related. The second is 'Fitness DNA', which looks at how your body reacts to exercise and diet. And the third is 'Heart DNA', which unpacks your genetic risk of various heart complaints and how your body is likely to react to certain drugs. If you opt for the 'Wellness Pro' package, you get both DNA tests.
These tests involving swabbing your saliva and sending it off, as well as completing some quite lengthy questionnaires. The reports are then compiled by a qualified personal trainer (for Fitness DNA) and a doctor (for Heart DNA).
The answers you gave in the questionnaires will help them tailor your report more precisely for your needs. For example, if you say that you're looking to build muscle, the fitness report will recommend some suitable workouts. The best thing about Rightangled's health reports is that it doesn't just scare you by highlighting potential risks, but shares useful ways for you to minimise them.
How do DNA testing kits work?
Although there are some slightly different methods from DNA kit to DNA kit, most DNA testing kits have the same initial set-up process. This involves answering some standard questions over the web, then ordering a kit, collecting a sample (usually of saliva, but sometimes of blood), registering your kit, sending it back to be analysed, and finally awaiting your results online after analysis has taken place.
One of the most important parts is registering your kit before you send it off. All of the entries in our best DNA kit buying guide require you to do this, and you won’t get your results back if you don’t. This ensures that the sample you’re sending back is definitely yours, and that nothing gets messed up at any point in the sending and testing process.
Registration also protects your privacy too, so that your name won’t be associated with your sample. Of course you'll need to sign in with your name and details on the service’s website to access the results, but your DNA sample, the results, and any associated data will be assigned a unique reference number or barcode, rather than your personal details.
Once your kit has been sent off, most companies will email you to tell you it's been received and will be processed. From there, the processing can usually take between two and eight weeks, after which you'll receive an email and then be able to log in to view your results.
What can DNA tests tell you about your ancestry?
Most of the best DNA testing kits focus on helping you discover more about your ancestry. It’s worth noting that men and women will get back different ancestry results. Women who have the XX chromosome are only able to trace back their maternal line, whereas men with the XY chromosome can trace back both their maternal and paternal lines. So, if you're a woman and have a brother, it's worth asking them to take the test too so you can find out more.
Most of the tests then show you details about your ethnicity, which is usually accompanied by a map that presents different countries, and sometimes even regions within countries, where your ancestors are likely to have lived.
What can DNA tests tell you about your relatives?
Because most of the DNA tests concentrate on charting your ancestry, it means you have the option to view and contact relatives – both close and distant – using the services. In fact, most continually search for DNA matches, so even years after you’ve had the DNA test and received your results, you can still get notifications that second, third or fifth cousins have also added their data too. This means a DNA testing kit becomes a gift that keeps on giving.
How this works differs from service to service, but you can decide what you do with these notifications about new relatives, and how much information your relatives can see about you. Some services allow you to share full profiles, others lock your information, and you'll find a lot of customisation options along the way.
If you're looking to connect with distant relatives, build on your family tree, or are just really curious, these ongoing matches can help. On the other hand, if you wanted to do the DNA test for other reasons, you have control over who can contact you and find out about you and your DNA.
What can DNA tests tell you about your health?
A few of the DNA tests on the market, primarily 23andMe, reveal information about your health; from traits like hair colour and tasting preferences, through to more serious genetic health risks, such as the likelihood to carry the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes, which are associated with a risk of certain kinds of cancers.
Before you purchase a DNA testing kit for health and genetic health risk reasons, you need to read the small print. In some parts of the world, 23andMe doesn’t provide this information, whereas in the UK and US, it does. You’ll just need to ensure you purchase a test that covers Health + Ancestry, not just Ancestry.
Things to know before you buy a DNA test
Getting an at-home DNA testing kit may sound fun and fascinating, but it's also worth considering some of the cons of uncovering more about your genetic coding. For starters, DNA testing kits can reveal health results that are surprising or worrying. You might find you have a gene associated with a serious condition, such as breast cancer or Alzheimer's. Some testing kits, such as 23andMe, keep these results locked unless you ask for them, but even so you could be in for a shock.
In short, you'll need to prepare yourself for your results and consult a doctor straight away if you're worried about them. A doctor will be able to tell you how likely you are to develop these conditions, and may send you for further tests to get more conclusive results. Always remember that a lot of genetic health risks are just that, risks. So just because you have a gene associated with a particular health problem, it doesn’t mean you actually already have it, or ever will.
Another thing to consider is privacy. Right now all of the major companies offering the best DNA testing kits have strict privacy policies, and take pains to assure users their data is secure. But if you're very concerned about your genetic data falling into the wrong hands one day, the only way to 100% avoid that is not to take the test in the first place.
That said, if you're curious, prepared, and have the cash to splash on finding out more about yourself, the best DNA testing kits are mostly fascinating and fun, providing you with a great insight into your ancestry. They also make fantastic gifts for people you think might be interested in learning more about their genetic coding.