-Walter Gilbert, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for being the first person to sequence DNA
You’re faced with a unique opportunity to learn more about yourself than ever before.
As the Senior Editor at Buyer Ranking, I always tell my team of writers to do basic research. Our mission is to empower you as a buyer, so that you can be confident you’re getting the best bang for your buck. We have to do basic research to accomplish that…
…And, according to that quote above, my team learns about themselves in the process!
That has never been truer than the day I assigned research for this article in particular, where my team and I explored a market quickly growing in popularity…
The year 2019 shattered records for sales of DNA tests. They’re expected to be even more popular in 2020.
Ancestry - Most companies offer this basic service, where you get a detailed breakdown of your genetic heritage. This is a cool feature that can help you feel more “grounded” knowing your place in the world.
Family History - Some people use DNA tests to solve family mysteries! If there are missing links in your family tree or long-lost relatives, sometimes a DNA test can help you find them. This is an especially useful tool for people who are adopted to learn more about their biological family.
Community - Once you find out where you’re “from”, you can bond with people who share your heritage. Much like joining groups on Facebook, this is a cool way to connect with people and make new friends (or family!).
Health Risks - Many health challenges stem from traits written in our genetic code. A DNA test might be able to reveal what risk factors you have so that you can address them ahead of time. Maybe a DNA test can even help you live a longer, healthier life!
Family Planning - Some couples even use DNA tests to know what genes could be passed to their children. This can stoke a prospective parent’s imagination when picturing what their children will be like! It can also warn of what health challenges may be passed on.
With the DNA market booming the way it is, it can be hard to decide which test to try, especially when more and more new companies are popping up and everyone claims to be the best.
That is why I follow 3 rules when selecting the right DNA test
1) Don’t buy from a company just because they appear to be the most popular.
Some companies have really good marketing, but not-so-good services. Have you ever bought a product because it promised to do so much and seemed so popular only to be exceptionally disappointed? This happens to me every time I buy an iPhone! There’s so much hype every time a new one comes out and I get excited, but then it ends up being basically the same phone I had before, just a little faster with a slightly better camera. Don’t let that happen to you when you buy from a DNA testing service.
Don’t get me wrong: 1 or 2 of the popular companies have a really good service! But the rest will disappoint you. And keep this in mind: a less popular company with an exceptional service will eventually rise to the top, so you might have the opportunity to be ahead of the crowd. Have you ever liked a band that most people hadn’t heard of, then watched that band rise to stardom knowing that you liked them before they were cool? It’s like that.
2) Choose a secure, USA-based service.
This shouldn’t be an issue in this day and age, but make sure the lab testing your DNA is USA-based, up to date, safe, and secure. You generally want to make sure that your name and personal information is separated from your sample and encrypted so that only you have access to your information once it’s available. Identity theft via DNA hasn’t happened yet (to my knowledge), but it’s only a matter of time as this technology continues to advance, so it’s best to stay ahead of the game and get your information secured ahead of time.
3) Use the most recently developed, patented software.
This kind of goes hand in hand with Rule #1. Some of the older, more popular companies use older analysis software and never bother to update their technology. It’s like they figure people keep giving them money, so why bother? Newer software is more up to date with the latest advances in DNA analysis and will get you more accurate reports.
Of course, EVERY company will claim that they have the most advanced software, so see if you can tell whether they have really done their homework.
Here’s what I mean by that: some companies will claim to look at hundreds of thousands of genetic markers as evidence that they have the most accurate ancestry test. Here’s the thing though: according to scientific research, fewer than 200 of those markers are relevant to tracing ancestral lineage. So, these companies that are claiming to examine thousands of markers are actually skewing their results by examining markers that aren’t relevant! The most scientifically literate companies that provide the most accurate results will even share the research that supports the relevance of the specific markers they examine.
My team and I sampled DNA tests from 12 different companies. We analyzed them to see which ones accomplish the benefits listed above the best.
Company Reputation - Who is running the show? How long have they been in business? We prefer companies who are led by an expert in their field. Many DNA testing companies are run by businessmen who have little to no connection with genetic science. Our #1 choice is headed by an actual molecular geneticist
Service Offered - Do they only do basic ancestry testing or do they offer other DNA services? All of our top 3 choices have many options, but our #1 choice has the best quality.
Price - How much information do you get for your money? Many companies charge $100+ for a report and then the “report” ends up being just a little paragraph. This can be very frustrating for customers. We made sure our top 3 choices don’t do that to you. Our #1 choice gives the most detailed information of them all.
Customer Reviews - What did other customers say? While we formulated our opinions of each of the companies we tested, we also pored over customer reviews found online. Our top 3 choices have the most consistent positive reviews.
Customer Service - This is the most fun part of our review. We call and email each company’s customer service team with various problems and questions, often where we pretend to be very confused. We scored each company by how responsive, friendly, patient, and helpful they were.