An independent review of tests, companies, and prices

What test do I need?


There are as many reasons a person may want a DNA test as there are companies offering them. Why you or someone you know wants a paternity, sibling, or grandparent DNA test isn't really important. The fact is, the need is there. The biggest question is "what do I do now?" How do you keep from getting taken advantage of by DNA testing companies? Don't be talked into something you don't need, or do not really want by someone on the other end of the phone. The best defense against being taken advantage of is to be informed before you talk to anyone.

We at the Consumer Awareness Institute have made it our purpose over the last 5 years to inform, educate, and assist, the consumer in having accurate and up to date health related information in order to help you make a choice in some of the most important decisions of of your life.

Today, there are a dozen or more companies advertising “cheap” DNA and paternity tests, with prices that range from $79 up to nearly $2,000, and, frankly, it can be confusing. It is also very easy to become overwhelmed on which type of test you should have performed, depending on the services you think you need and then deciding if you need to use the results for legal purposes, only for your personal knowledge, or for medical reasons, etc.

Although a DNA test may seem as simple as an at home pregnancy test, there are many unique factors can affect the integrity of the DNA samples and therefore the accuracy of a DNA test result, in addition to what you can use the results for.

In our opinion, because these testing results may have life long consequences for all of the people testing, as well as additional family members, not to mention future generations, there are really only two considerations when deciding which DNA test to get and how much to pay for a DNA test: 1) accuracy and reliability and 2) what do you want to do with the information.

First, let’s talk about accuracy and reliablity. DNA testing is a highly sensitive test, and because of this careful and precise steps must be taken to ensure the correct result is reported. In a DNA testing laboratory, there should always be at least two independent teams of DNA analysts that run every DNA test twice, they must use state-of-the-art equipment, and the final results are verified by a trained scientist with a PhD degree. For all legal DNA testing, the laboratory that performs the testing MUST be accreditied by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). This is the only way to assure you of 100% accurate results.

Different laboratories perform different types of testing using what are called DNA "markers". These markers are a gene or DNA sequence that have a known location on a chromosome and are associated with a particular gene or trait. Some tests only check 10 markers. These are the lease expense and the least reliable. The standard in the industry are 16 marker DNA tests. Some companies offer a 21 marker test as their standard, and these have been found to reliable and accurate. A very few have begun to offer 41 marker tests, and these are the most accurate on the marker. These higher the number of markers tested, the more expensive the test usually is. In MOST cases, if an option exisits between a 16 makers DNA test and a 21 marker DNA test, it is strongly recommended, if you can afford to do so, that you select the 21 marker for your testing purposes. Remember, the more markers you test, the more accurate the results.

The second thing to consider is what you eventually will use the test results for. Many people need a paternity test to provide legal documentation of paternity—for child support, child custody, immigration, medical purposes, DNA profiles for a company or job, inheritance or estate issues, and a lot of other reasons as well. You may want to consider performing a legal DNA test if you can afford it because the results never change and if, at any point in the life of any of the people being tested there is a need to prove the validity of the test, a personal knowledge test will not be accepted.

A legal paternity test provides documentation of the entire testing process, often called the Chain of Custody, and a trained professional collects the DNA samples from the participants. This type of paternity test costs more, but you can be assured of legally admissible test results should you need them now, or in the future. A court order or attorney is NOT needed to have a legal DNA test performed.

You may just want the paternity test results for personal knowledge. This is called a home DNA or home paternity test and this type of testing "kit" allows you to collect the samples conveniently and in private. The other party does not even have to know that you are testing their DNA. This type of test costs less, but the results are not be accepted in a court of law. Since this test may not be challenged in court, some companies cut costs on these tests. Sometimes when costs are cut, so are processes and you should always make certain the the home test and the court admissible DNA test are performed in the same way, in the same laboratory, with trained professionals. There are companies who use college students or non-professionals working at or near minimum wage to process these non-legal tests and that can lead to errors. There can also be errors made when a person collects their own DNA sample, and that can affect the outcome, but in most cases it is easy and straightforward.

If you feel that a company’s DNA testing prices sound too low to be reliable (usually under $100), it’s probably true. Cheap is not always best. But low prices do not always mean cheap either. You never know what shortcuts a company is taking to drive their costs down below the $100 threshold. Obviously you want to get the most for the least. That is why we are providing you, the consumer, with this informaton. Be smart—the most important test you’ll ever purchase deserves a reliable, accurate and trusted laborator.

Good luck!

How much should DNA testing cost?

I have so many questions!

Our PRICE GUIDE, found in our upper menu bar, lists those companies that, in our opinion based on extensive research, are the most reliable testing companies. We explain their services, and show their prices on the various tests.

Our AABB tab above explains what the AABB is and why their accreditation is so important in the DNA testing process.

Our HOME OR LEGAL tab explores more indepth about the types of tests that are available to you to allow you to make an informed choice on what is in YOUR best interest, NOT the DNA testing companies best interest.
Important disclaimer: It is ALWAYS better, in our opinion, do have DNA testing performed using the highest number of genetic markers available. This helps to make certain that your testing results are the most accurate. We urge caustion, and suggest you think twice, about ordering inexpensive DNA tests using 16 markers or less.
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