Best DNA testing kit 2020: Unlock the secrets of your past

Discover the best DNA testing kits for getting new insights into your heritage, history and health

best DNA testing kit: 23andMe
(Image credit: 23andMe)

The best DNA testing kits can reveal a wealth of information, about both your ancestry and your genetic health makeup. So you won't just learn more about where you came from, you'll potentially discover details of where you're heading, and point you in the right direction for preventing future problems.

You might think that DNA kits are complicated, but they're generally very easy to use, even if you're not a technically minded person. You can test your DNA in the privacy of your own home, and get some fascinating insights into what makes you, you. 

Best DNA testing kits: Quick links

If you're worried about the cost, be aware you can get some real bargains on DNA tests. You'll often see deep price drops around yearly shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for example, but you'll also find discounts happening all year round. And you don't even have to put effort into finding them, as this page automatically pulls in the cheapest deals daily, saving you the bother.

If you'd like to learn more about what DNA tests are and how they work, we explain everything you need to know here. However, if you already know you want to buy one, simply read on to discover the top DNA testing kits available today.

The best DNA testing kits to buy now

Best DNA testing kit: 23andMe


(Image credit: 23andMe)

1. 23andMe

The best DNA testing kit and service overall

Reasons to buy
+Detailed insights+Excellent dashboard+Constantly updated

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.

Best DNA test AncestryDNA


2. AncestryDNA

The best DNA testing kit for tracking relatives

Reasons to buy
+Best for family tree-building+Easy to use+Good for Ancestry users

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. 

Best DNA testing kits Living DNA


3. LivingDNA

The best DNA testing kit for extra detail

Reasons to buy
+Focuses solely on ancestry+Thorough and accurate+Detailed results
Reasons to avoid
-Turnaround can be slow

UK-based LivingDNA may have only been around since 2016, but it's backed by plenty of scientists and research groups all around the world. And that makes it one of the best DNA testing kit options for thorough, accurate genetic testing that focuses solely on ancestry rather than health.

LivingDNA promises twice the detail of other DNA tests, thanks to its network of DNA experts. It traces your family ancestry to 80 different regions all over the world, and goes way, way back in history to tell you when your distant relatives were likely to have journeyed from Africa to Asia, Europe and the rest of the globe.

Like AncestryDNA, LivingDNA also has some useful family tree features, which it'll populate for you based on your data and using smart machine learning tech, making it less hassle for you. And like 23andMe, LivingDNA will also show you how your father and mother's lines stretch back (though if you're female you're only able to see your mother's line).

One of the only negatives with LivingDNA is that some users report the test can take up to 10 weeks to return results. That won't bother those who want a thorough test and don't care how long it takes, but it is a while compared to rival services.

It's also worth bearing in mind that because LivingDNA isn't one of the most popular tests to date, the pool of users is smaller, so you may find fewer relatives than you would with other services. That said, in terms of features and the overall polish of the system, it's definitely one of the best DNA testing kits around.

Best DNA testing kits MyHeritage DNA


4. MyHeritage DNA

The best DNA testing kit for those on a budget

Reasons to buy
+Cheap+Gets the job done
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most detailed-Smaller user base

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 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.

Best DNA testing kits FamilyTree DNA


5. FamilyTree DNA

The best DNA testing kit for digging into detail

Reasons to buy
+Choice of 3 tests+Comprehensive results+Great starter kit
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most in-depth

Focused on genealogy, FamilyTree DNA gives you a choice of three tests. Firstly, there's the Family Ancestry kit: an autosomal DNA test that analyses the mixture of DNA that's passed on from all your ancestors. This is good for an overview of your family line going back about five generations. So while it's not as in-depth as the kits below (or kits from other companies), it's still a great starter kit. You also get info on your ancestors' geographic origins, plus an opportunity to connect with living relatives.

Secondly, there's the Paternal Ancestry Kit, which analyses YDNA. That's the DNA that only males have, and that's passed from father to son. This provides information about where your paternal line came from (going back about 25 generations or sometimes more) and how they moved around over time. It's a fantastic way of connecting with people of the same surname.

Thirdly, you have the Maternal Ancestry Kit: an mtDNA test that analyses DNA passed on by mothers to their kids, whether they be male or female. This provides information about where your paternal line came from. Again, it goes back 25 generations or more, and tells you how your ancestors migrated over time.

Your results are going to vary depending on which kit you go for, but you'll get a detailed map that explores the geographic origins of your family and your maternal or paternal line, a graph of your personal ethnic breakdown, a migration map that shows how your ancestors moved from region to region, and tables of genetic matches.

As with the rest of the DNA kits of this list, you can contact others who have similar genetic information to you, which means you can connect with distant relatives with the Maternal and Paternal kits, and living relatives with the Family kit.

If all of that sounds a little complex, it's because FamilyTree DNA is one of the most comprehensive and detailed DNA testing kits around. In other words, it's an appealing option for those who take their genealogy research seriously, and want some thorough results to dig deep into.

Best DNA testing kits DNAFit


6. DNAFit

The best DNA testing kit for health and fitness

Reasons to buy
+DIet and exercise insights+Quick turnaround on results+Can combine with 23andMe
Reasons to avoid
-Ancestry not covered

DNAFit focuses on how your DNA can reveal insights about your health and fitness: the best foods, drinks and nutrients you need, the sort of exercises you should be concentrating on, any food sensitivities and intolerances, and so on. In short, you can optimise your diet and your exercise regime to best match the genetic coding you were born with. Tests are done on a saliva swab and DNAFit promises you'll get your results back within 10 days, which is a quick turnaround.

Note that if you've already got results back from 23andMe (entry one on this list), you can use these with DNAFit as well. In which case, you only need to pay £39 for the extra analysis on top.

DNAFit is well worth looking into for those who want to maximise their wellbeing using DNA testing, whether you want to lose weight or gain muscle. On the most expensive plan you get food and drink recommendations from a personal dietician to get you started.

People who've used DNAFit certainly seem to have positive things to say about it, from the simplicity of the language used, to the breadth of information you get back. If you're hunting for the best DNA testing kit, definitely keep this one in mind.

Hand using Rightangled on phone in front of laptop

(Image credit: Rightangled)

7. Rightangled

The best DNA test for detailed health and fitness advice

Reasons to buy
+NHS backed+Detailed insights+Insightful recommendations
Reasons to avoid
-Ancestry not covered

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 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.

Best DNA testing kit

Some DNA testing kits focus on ancestry first and foremost

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.

Best DNA testing kit

DNA testing kit processing can take a couple of months

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. 

Best DNA testing kits

You'll get your DNA testing kit in the post.

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.

Best DNA testing kits

Make sure you do your research when finding the best DNA testing kit for you.

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.