14 best free dating sites and apps
Looking for dates, mates, or some casual hookups? Dating apps have it all – when you know which ones to use. With this guide, you can find The One for you.
There are so many dating platforms to choose from, but which app is best for you?
If you're feeling a little fed up with endlessly swiping and getting nowhere, worry not – you've come to the right place.
Check out our list of the best dating apps below, so you can stop wishing love was in the air, and find it at your fingertips instead.
Top dating apps for students
There are options to pay to upgrade the below apps. But, these are the 14 best dating apps which you can download and use for free:
Best for finding: Casual hookups and relationships.
Pros: Tinder is one of, if not the, most popular dating apps. As so many people use it, you're bound to find users to chat with, even if you're somewhere super rural. You can also use Tinder online if you head to their website.
Cons: It's a tad too easy to accidentally swipe the wrong way – particularly with 'Super Likes' (where the other person gets notified) – so swipe with caution.
Top tip: Avoid the typical Tinder cliches in your bio (i.e. "fluent in sarcasm", "don't match if you're not going to talk", "6ft because apparently that matters"...). Be original and keep it light.
Paid-for features on Tinder
- Tinder Plus – Includes bonuses like unlimited likes, the chance to undo your last swipe, the ability to match with people around the world, extra Super Likes and one Boost a month (Boost makes you one of the top profiles in your area for half an hour).
- Tinder Gold – All the same features as the free and Plus versions, and it also lets you see who's already liked you and receive updated Top Picks every day for a slightly extra cost.
- Tinder Platinum – The features from the free, Plus and Gold versions, plus the option to message people before matching, see who you've liked in the last week and Priority Likes (these mean that, when you like someone, your profile will be shown to them before others who don't have Platinum).
Best for finding: Casual hookups, relationships, work contacts and new friends.
Pros: Women make the first move and the first couple of messages need to be sent within a certain time limit, encouraging faster-paced chats. The Bizz and BFF settings also mean you could find a job and a new best pal on here.
Cons: You'll need to be on Bumble often enough to keep up with the time limits to send the first message and reply, or you could end up losing matches with people you like.
Top tip: Bumble have found that, for 18–22 year olds, the best time to go on the Date setting of their app is between 7–10pm.
Paid-for features on Bumble
- Bumble Boost – Lets you SuperSwipe (like Tinder's Super Like function), extend matches for longer, have unlimited swipes, backtrack and use Bumble Spotlight (pretty much the same as Tinder Boost).
- Bumble Premium – The same features as Bumble Boost, plus unlimited Advanced filters, chance to see who's liked you, ability to rematch with people and travel mode.
Best for finding: Casual hookups and dates with gay, bisexual, trans and queer people.
Pros: Grindr is the biggest social networking app for its target audience. You can easily find local dates and hookups on here.
Cons: It's generally known for quite risqué chat and image sharing – if this isn't for you, we'd recommend giving this app a miss.
Top tip: You can share your location with other users on Grindr, but don't rush into doing this. We recommend asking for things like their Instagram and phone number before sending your location, or meeting them in person so you're sure of their identity. Plus, it's always best to pick somewhere public to initially meet dates from apps.
Paid-for features on Grindr
- Grindr XTRA – Offers features such as read receipts, the chance to view up to 600 profiles in the cascade, explore mode and premium filters.
- Grindr Unlimited – Has XTRA features, plus added ones like the ability to view an unlimited number of profiles, unsend messages, see who's viewed your profile and send expiring photos which disappear after 10 seconds.
Best for finding: Dates and friendships with lesbian, bisexual and queer people.
Pros: HER is the biggest free dating app for LGBTQ womxn. They put a huge emphasis on the importance of equality and empowerment, and they usually run cool events (when not impacted by coronavirus).
Cons: You'll likely have to pay for their events and may need to travel to a major hub like London for them, so it could be pricey.
Top tip: If you do need to travel to get to HER's events, check out our guide to getting cheap train tickets to save money on the journey.
Paid-for features on HER
- HER Premium Gold – Includes option to see who's liked you, use premium filters, rewind profiles and use incognito mode (where you can use the app without revealing your identity).
- HER Premium Platinum – All of the Gold features, plus unlimited swipes, ability to see who's online, view read receipts and get one free Boost a month.
Best for finding: Relationships based on individual preferences.
Pros: "The dating app designed to be deleted" – Hinge's slogan makes it clear that this app can help you find a long-term relationship. Its algorithm works out who you're 'Most Compatible' with and suggests people for you to meet.
Cons: Each time you 'like' someone on here, they'll be notified and given the option to match with you, which can make it feel a teeny bit more daunting than a mindless Tinder swipe.
Top tip: On Hinge, you can add comments to your profile in response to some prompt questions – avoid going for anything too predictable in your answers (e.g. saying the most spontaneous thing you've done is go travelling), and instead say something surprising that will spark conversations.
Paid-for features on Hinge
- Preferred Hinge membership – Lets you use added features like unlimited likes, extra filter options (e.g. so you can filter by height or whether someone smokes, etc.) the option to see all the people who have already liked you (rather than just one person at a time).
Best for finding: Long-term relationships.
Pros: Match is a really well-established dating site, aimed at helping people start serious relationships and find love. If this is what you're looking for, you'll be able to find like-minded people on here.
Cons: It's free to register and start using Match, but to read and send messages, you'll need to sign up for a paid subscription. Also, be sure to cancel your subscription when you stop using the site as it renews automatically.
Top tip: Try Match for free before paying for a subscription – you should be able to get a good idea of whether it's right for you based on their basic dating features.
Paid-for features on Match
- Match paid subscription – Unlocks key features, like letting you message other users and receive suggestions of different profiles.
Best for finding: Dates with people you've crossed paths with.
Pros: Happn shows you people you walk past, or are likely to cross paths with, which might be more up your street if you'd ideally like to meet someone in person. Plus, it should make it easier to arrange dates if you already live, work or socialise near each other.
Cons: You can see when people were last active on the app, which can make it a little awkward in the early stages of dating between establishing you like each other and having the "let's delete our dating apps" chat.
Top tip: Happn's great for city life where you'll be crossing paths with loads of people each day. But, if you live somewhere more rural, we'd recommend an app like Hinge that shows you people based on your preferences, rather than just your location.
Paid-for features on Happn
- Happn Premium subscription – Premium features include seeing who's liked you, rewinding when you accidentally skip a profile and getting up to 10 'FlashNotes' to send per day (FlashNotes are a bit like Tinder's Super Likes).
Best for finding: Dates with people who share your interests.
Pros: On CLiKD, you can find dates where you both (you guessed it) click. You find people by setting three questions – if others get at least 2/3 of your questions right, and you get theirs right, you both pass the tests and match.
Cons: It's less well known than some of the other apps in this list so it may be a bit harder to find matches in quieter areas.
Top tip: Think about your dealbreaker questions carefully. Try to choose ones that genuinely reflect you and your interests, but that are also easy enough for others to work out.
Paid-for features on CLiKD
- CLiKD Premium – Includes getting unlimited Recommends and Superlikes, as well as the chance to boost your profile, see who's taken your test and give people who fail your dealbreakers the chance to answer another question.
Best for finding: Love based on compatibility.
Pros: eHarmony offers a free trial, letting you take a compatibility test and start seeing how other profiles match up to yours with a 'compatibility score'. You can also start interacting with other users by sending Smiles and Icebreakers.
Cons: While you can try out the app for free, you'll need to pay a subscription fee to use all of the dating features on eHarmony.
Top tip: If you're looking for the ideal date location near you, have a read through the suggestions on the Great Date Guide on eHarmony's website – you could discover some lovely new places in your area.
Paid-for features on eHarmony
- eHarmony Premium membership – Subscriptions on eHarmony allow you to message other users, see unlimited photos of your matches, find out who's viewed your profile and see your Personality Report.
Best for finding: Dates with curious and open-minded single people and couples.
Pros: Feeld is hugely inclusive, with over 20 options for sexual and gender identities. On the app, you can find couples/single people looking for threesomes, as well as others looking to explore kinks, ethical non-monogamy and alternative relationship structures.
Cons: Some users report finding the app buggy.
Top tip: Feeld usually host loads of events like talks, parties and workshops which are great opportunities to meet like-minded people.
Paid-for features on Feeld
- Feeld Majestic Membership – Lets you see who's liked you, hide your profile from Facebook friends, know when someone was last online, and more.
Best for finding: Relationships based on a slow-dating method.
Pros: Each day at noon, Once will show you a profile of someone it thinks would be a good match for you. Plus, they've got a (rather brilliant) feature that replaces nude pics sent in chats with images of kittens and, honestly, we're sold.
Cons: If you're in a hurry to meet someone, this might not be the app for you...
Top tip: Matches are chosen each day for active users who have been online within the last 48 hours. So, even if you're not convinced by your match for the day, it's still worth checking the app every day, or every other day, to keep getting suggested matches.
Paid-for features on Once
- Once VIP subscription – Offers the chance to receive up to three more matches each day, see who's given you four or 5 stars, more accurately define your distance settings, find out if someone's passed you and read chat requests.
- Once Crowns – Paid-for features include choosing your match for the next day (without them knowing 👀) and getting matched with someone else who's currently online.
Plenty of Fish
Best for finding: Dates based on a character test.
Pros: Plenty of Fish (POF) is one of the oldest and biggest dating sites. When registering for the app, you can expect to answer a series of questions so POF can more accurately work out who you'd be well-matched with.
Cons: The character test slows down the sign-up process.
Top tip: A recent study by POF found that, according to singletons, the three least popular images on dating apps are bathroom selfies, gym selfies and heavily edited/filtered pics. You're a catch, so leave out these types of pics on Plenty of Fish and you'll quickly get chatting with salmon great.
Paid-for features on Plenty of Fish
- Upgraded POF memberships – Becoming an Upgraded member means you can appear on the Meet Me section more often, upload up to 16 images to your profile, get read receipts and see who's seen your profile and said 'Yes' to you in Meet Me.
Best for finding: Casual hookups, relationships and new friends.
Pros: Search filters include whether people want to make new friends, chat or date which helps you quickly identify the ones who are looking for similar things.
Cons: You can see who's visited your profile, which isn't the nicest thing to know if they haven't liked you back.
Top tip: Badoo have some useful safety tips on their site, including a suggestion to ask for recent photos (within the last four weeks) before meeting someone offline.
Paid-for features on Badoo
- Badoo Premium – Includes seeing who's liked you, the ability to undo last votes and the chance to chat directly with popular users on Badoo.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Best for finding: Relationships based on the app's suggested matches.
Pros: Coffee Meets Bagel's algorithm works out who you're likely to be compatible with and picks a selection of potential matches (or bagels) each day for you. This would suit anyone who's tired of the constant swiping on Tinder, but is also hoping for more than one match a day, like on Once.
Cons: If you don't check your bagels for a day, you could miss the chance to like them unless they're suggested to you again in future.
Top tip: Any time you're not keen on the suggested matches, don't ignore them completely – responding with a pass can help the app's algorithm find you better, more suited bagels. 🥯
Paid-for features on Coffee Meets Bagel
- CMB Premium Subscription – Allows you to get activity reports on bagels (e.g. to see how often they message first), see read receipts, and receive extra 'beans' that let you buy other special features.
Ever wondered how much it costs to get over a breakup? (Spoiler: it's a lot).