Online Dating: How to Choose the Best Site For You

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Online Dating: How to Choose the Best Site For You
Find the dating site that's your perfect match(maker).

Looking to play the field? Check out Lavalife , one of the largest dating sites in the United States and Canada. You can pick from three types of status—none too serious—to indicate what you're looking for: dating, relationships and intimate encounters (you can even post separate profiles—with completely different pictures and info—in all three). If you don't want to pay to join, you can flirt for free—just set up a profile, send someone a "smile" electronically, and if s/he's interested, s/he can contact you (provided that person has paid for a membership). In this way, you can use the site entirely for free as long as you can get others to contact you…so start shaping up those profile pics, stat.

"Unless you're a hot female, you'll probably need to pay," says Michael. "But maybe if you're any female who is looking for a quickie, you'll get a response?" Caveat: LavaLife used to get props for its system in which you could buy credits that never expired; now, the site, like many others, has a monthly fee that is automatically renewed.

Looking for a freebie? Plentyoffish.com is the largest online dating site out there, because anyone can join for free—meaning that you'll never have to pay any dues, but you may also have to wade through a ton of profiles to find someone to your liking (and beware that the profile pics often look skewed, due to a lack of software on the site; once you're on a profile page, the image quality improves). This is a great site to start with if you're new to online dating—since it's free and easy to use, here's the place to dip your toes in the water and get ready to sink or swim (pun intended) in the online dating game.

"I didn't have much luck on Plentyoffish.com, but it's a good place to start if you've never been on a dating site," says Elizabeth. "I know others who have gotten a few dates from it, but you have to go through a lot of profiles and be choosy, because some wacky people are on there!" Caveat: Because nothing is at stake for the people on this site, expect to meet up with a lot of dishonesty (perhaps even more than you'd usually expect on the Web). Also prepare for forum moderators who can be capricious, and usability issues that make you remember that the site is free.

Looking for something specific? Targeted dating sites are perfect if you just can't live without someone who shares your religion—say, Jewish, Christian, Muslim.

Maybe you want a lifestyle match. Vegetarian or vegan? Go to Greenfriends.com or Veggiedate.org. Looking for a cowboy? Equestriancupid.com is there for you. Love sci-fi and fantasy more than real life? Lose yourself in other galaxies with Trekpassions.com. And, no surprise, there are plenty of sites for those seeking wealthy men—Millionairematch.com, Wealthymen.com, Millionairemate.com, to name a few. Niche dating sites—for everything from plus-size to STD-positive to deaf singles to wine lovers—abound, so search around if you have one absolute necessity in mind. Now all you have to do is make sure you're compatible in other ways.