Online Dating Sites – What is the Price of Love?

If you’re like many singles, the approach of the New Year signifies a chance to recommence your search for love with renewed fervor and to ensure that when the holidays roll around next year, you won’t be single any longer. And while these goals are admirable, chances are good that meeting them this year will be just as difficult as it was last year – unless you change your strategy. Instead of checking out the same singles scene, networking with the same group of friends and going on the same awkward blind dates, it’s time to take destiny into your own hands and to (finally) join the world of online dating. But with so many online dating sites to choose from, where should you begin? Is it worthwhile to pay for online dating services, or to experiment with free dating sites? Can love be purchased for a certain price?

Over the past year, I’ve tested some of the best online dating sites, and sadly, some of the worst. And while the price isn’t the only thing that differentiated the best from the worst, it was a critical factor. Think for a moment about whether you’d prefer to get your clothing from a second-hand store (or donation bin), or from a reputable retailer. If you prefer the former, you’ll probably have wild success looking for love with free dating sites where you’ll find thousands of equally frugal singles. But if you’re comfortable spending money in exchange for peace of mind that you’ll be receiving a quality product, you may feel more comfortable paying for an online dating service, where you’ll find thousands of equally discriminating consumers.

Online dating services that require payment generally offer services that free dating sites can’t provide, such as personality analysis and superior search features. While these things may seem insignificant, they aren’t. I tested the personality analysis of eHarmony, Chemistry.com and PerfectMatch, and found each one to be extremely accurate (perhaps a bit too accurate). At the risk of sounding controversial, it may be that the reason you haven’t yet found Mr. or Mrs. Right is because you aren’t looking for the right person – or because you aren’t completely in tune with yourself. I found the personality assessments offered by these online dating sites to be extremely insightful and useful in the search for a long-term partner (and for a new-found self-awareness).

If you’re an extremely busy professional (or student, or single parent), another benefit of paid online dating sites are the relevant match suggestions that can be received both from personality matching services and from many traditional online dating sites. Match.com, for example, offers up to five suggested matches per day, based on certain lifestyle indicators. If the system doesn’t find five, they’ll send you less – but you won’t be flooded with an inbox full of uninteresting prospects (though you may still receive some uninteresting prospects).

One thing to consider before registering for a premium online dating site is that the registration process is often more time consuming than the instant registration offered by many free services. The downside, of course, is that busy people don’t often have the 45 minutes or an hour it takes to register. The upside, however, is that while free sites are bursting with incomplete profiles, paid online dating sites tend to be filled with useful information and profiles of users that have shown their commitment to the process by spending time on their online dating profile. If you like to think that ‘time is money’, it’s worthwhile to consider that while registering with a free dating site may save your hard-earned cash and time during the registration process, it will likely require you to spend more time on the prowl which will result in the loss of valuable time and money in the long run.

Guest contributor Sari Holtz is the lead researcher for Consumer-Rankings.com, a website dedicated to helping consumers make smart purchases. In addition to compiling dating site reviews and other product reviews, she also blogs about saving money and plays Bananagrams whenever possible.

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