Once upon a time, singles would publish personal ads in the local paper when they wanted to meet someone new. It could read something like “Single man seeking a woman who likes to go camping and drink beer” or “Single woman seeking a man interested in Jeopardy marathons and weekend getaways.”
However, today’s newspapers have historically low circulation rates, so singles will find few date opportunities in its pages. Fortunately, local dating sites can fill that gap and provide the romantic avenues once available in the classifieds.
Instead of writing an ad in the lonely hearts column, singles can create dating profiles on free dating sites and apps that attract a diverse and international dating pool. We’ve listed some of our favorite modern alternatives to dating personal ads to help you get out there and make something happen.
Best Overall Personals Ad Alternatives
We’re going to start with the best of the best in the online dating scene. Regardless of your age, orientation, or background, the following mainstream dating sites cater to everyone. And, best of all, these sites are free to join, so they’re a cost-friendly alternative to paying to put a personal ad in the paper.
Match.com has come a long way since it launched in April 1995. This well-reputed dating site has honed its (read more)
- Match is the world's longest running dating site
- The Discover section has search filters by interests, looks, lifestyle, and more
- Match is available in 24 countries and 15 languages
Match is our #1 pick for singles seeking a local date. This dating site has been around since 1995, and the team has perfected its matchmaking system by studying how people connect online and offline.
Setting up a dating profile on Match is similar to writing a personal ad because you have a lot of space to describe yourself in your own words. The Summary section lets singles talk about anything they want, while the Topics section provides more pointed prompts, including “For fun I like to” and “Right now I am reading.”
Singles can also fill in demographic information about themselves and their ideal partner. For instance, if you’re a never-married grad student seeking a well-educated and liberal atheist, you can put all that information down in your Match profile.
EliteSingles.com maintains a sophisticated network of young professionals seeking a relationship. Over 80% of (read more)
- Over 2 million monthly users
- Premium members receive 20 wildcard matches a day
- Search features include age, height, education, ethnicity, and lifestyle habits
Many single professionals have chosen EliteSingles as their go-to dating site because it maintains a high-quality network of career-driven and relationship-minded singles.
EliteSingles is the premier dating site for the most selective and desirable online daters out there. Over 85% of its members have graduated from college, and over 90% are looking for a serious commitment.
Check out our EliteSingles review for more details about how the dating site works and how it can upgrade the traditional online dating experience.
Zoosk is a socially savvy dating site known for its diverse membership base and behavioral matchmaking system. (read more)
- Send messages to premium members for free
- Over 3 million messages sent a day
- Premium perks include photo verification and sending virtual gifts
In 2007, Zoosk launched as a socially savvy dating site geared toward 20-somethings and 30-somethings. Today, it has over 40 million members, and it sees over 3 million messages exchanged each day.
Zoosk has a lot of communication features, including virtual gifts, likes, winks, pre-written greetings, and instant messaging, and many of them are free to all users. It also has search tools and match recommendations to help singles find compatible dates.
Many Zoosk couples have shared their stories and expressed gratitude to the site for introducing them. “I married the woman of my dreams,” said Philip in a testimonial. “We want to thank Zoosk for bringing us together, and we hope everyone on this dating site finds their true love!”
Since its launch in 2000, eharmony has endeavored to find the formula for love. Its 29-dimension questionnaire (read more)
- Over 2 million people have found love here
- Users can filter their match recommendations by age or city
- Compatibility Quiz identifies common interests, lifestyles, and goals
Every 14 minutes, someone finds love on eharmony. This time-tested dating site has been inspiring deep relationships and marriages since 2000, and it has over 2 million success stories to its name.
The foundation of eharmony’s success lies in its Compatibility Quiz, which includes questions about your daily habits, temperament, family values, relationship goals, and more. The purpose of this in-depth questionnaire is to get to the heart of who you are and what you want.
The Compatibility Quiz is optional and takes about 30 minutes to complete. Once completed, it forms the crux of eharmony’s match algorithm. If you answer the questions honestly, you’ll find your match recommendations and compatibility ratings will become more accurate as a result.
ChristianMingle is a faith-based dating site for singles who want a relationship grounded in Christian values. (read more)
- For singles interested in God-centered relationships
- Over 3.5 million monthly users around the world
- Available as an app on Google Play and the App Store
One of the biggest benefits of online dating is that singles can pursue the particular types of dates they’re interested in and find niche communities built on shared values and mutual interest. ChristianMingle is a great example of that.
ChristianMingle is definitely one of the most popular Christian dating sites around, and it sees over 3.5 million monthly views. Our dating experts have given it 4.3 stars because it fulfills its promise to connect Christians online and create meaningful matches.
“I knew right away, this guy is special,” said Katheryn, a New Yorker who fell in love with a man she met on ChristianMingle. “It may take a while before you meet that special person on here, but, if you are patient, if will be worth it.”
Since its launch in 2002, BlackPeopleMeet has created an African-American singles network that stretches (read more)
- One of the largest black singles networks in existence
- Straightforward search and matching features
- Use Tokens to appear higher in search results
Since 2002, BlackPeopleMeet has established one of the world’s largest online communities of African-American singles, and it continues growing each and every day.
BlackPeopleMeet’s mission is pretty straightforward — it introduces black and biracial singles to one another and fosters real relationships based on common values, backgrounds, and goals.
Some singles may feel hesitant to state their preference for black dates on a general dating site or in a personals ad, but that’s the norm on BlackPeopleMeet. Members of this niche dating site want to find a dark-skinned cutie to flirt with online and date offline.
Plenty of Fish prides itself on being one of the best dating site for conversations. It supports 100% free and (read more)
- Free registration, searches, and messaging
- The Chemistry Test creates a compatibility framework
- Over 1 billion messages sent per month
As a totally free dating site, Plenty of Fish can reach much farther than a newspaper and offer singles virtually endless opportunities to connect. Plenty of Fish has over 150 million members, and it sees over 4 million daily views.
The POF community is a fun, diverse, and flirtatious place to meet new people. As long as you follow the rules and behave in a respectful manner, you can message anyone on the dating site and build an online rapport before meeting in person.
If you want proof that POF actually works, take a look at its heartwarming success stories, which include many newlyweds starting a life together after meeting on Plenty of Fish.
In 2004, OkCupid's founders decided to create a fool-proof formula for love, and they launched a free dating (read more)
- Free, unlimited communication for everyone
- Singles can swipe or search for a compatible date
- Over 91 million connections every year
OkCupid is a forever free dating site and app where friendships and relationships can blossom naturally.
The OkCupid platform includes advanced search filters (by age, ethnicity, orientation, interests, and other key factors) as well as a swiping section called DoubleTake where users can view and match with highly compatible profiles.
Since launching in 2004, OkCupid has collected thousands of success stories, and it currently boasts creating 91 million matches per year. It’s free to join OkCupid and send messages to anyone you like, and you can always upgrade your account to appear higher in search results and see who’s liked your profile.
In 2012, Tinder pioneered a swiping-based match system that empowered singles to connect with dates who liked (read more)
- Supports active daters in 190+ countries
- The swiping system creates over 12 million matches per day
- Tinder Plus members have unlimited likes and 5 Super Likes
Tinder made a huge splash in the dating scene in 2012 when it created mutual matching and swiping tools to help singles find dates faster than ever.
Instead of reading long paragraphs of dry information, singles can simply look at a photo and decide if they can see a future with that person. Only when two people swipe right on each other can they exchange messages and arrange a date.
Today, Tinder is responsible for over 30 billion matches in 190 countries, and conversations on the app lead to over 1 million dates per week.
Since its launch in 2014, Bumble has positioned itself as one of the queens of the online dating world. The (read more)
- A feminist dating app puts singles on equal footing
- 60% of Bumble matches turn into dates
- Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF spark non-romantic connections
Launched in 2014, Bumble is relatively new in the online dating scene, but it has already made a name for itself as the first feminist dating app.
Entrepreneur Whitney Wolfe-Herd founded Bumble as a female-friendly solution to the superficial hookup culture perpetuated by some swiping apps. She wanted to protect women from unsolicited dick pics and creepy messages, and she wanted to save men the frustration of sending messages to unresponsive women.
Bumble empowers women to send the first message to the men they match with (either gender can message first in a same-sex match), and it also puts a 24-hour time limit on the conversation, so they have an added incentive to say hi.
In a recent survey, 85% of Bumble users said they want to find a serious relationship, and just over 25% of users said they had gone on a Bumble date within the last month.
Best Senior Personals Ad Alternatives
Some seniors may have fond memories of newspaper personals, drive-in movie dates, and pen pal romances, but these old-fashioned dating tropes miss the mark in the 21st century. According to a 2017 survey of newlyweds, brides meet their spouses online more often than they do through friends or at work.
Online dating has become an unstoppable force in the lives of singles of all ages, and we’d encourage seniors to give it a try if they’re feeling lonely and want to find someone special.
SilverSingles is serious about helping singles over 50 meet one another, and the site doesn't allow anyone (read more)
- An exclusively senior membership base
- Over 800,000 monthly users worldwide
- App available for free on Google Play
SilverSingles has earned the trust of countless singles in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s. The senior dating site caters to an older crowd and streamlines the online dating process to make newcomers feel right at home.
From the quick signup process to the straightforward matching, SilverSingles makes it easy to jump on board and start flirting with people who share similar values and life experiences.
SilverSingles prioritizes online security and customer service. Anyone can use the Help Center to get their bearings, and the dating site has a paywall set up to ensure only verified subscribers can send messages and view photos.
OurTime is an over-50 dating site with a lot of helpful features to facilitate friendships and relationships. (read more)
- Open to straight, gay, and lesbian singles over 50
- Free match recommendations and conversation starters
- Use Tokens to promote your profile and send virtual gifts
OurTime is another premium dating site built to serve seniors in the dating scene. Its free basic membership includes unlimited flirting and searching, and you can also edit your profile and upload photos to your personal gallery.
As a People Media site, OurTime has an extensive database that grows by almost 20,000 members every week. The team supports online matches as well as live members-only events to help seniors come out of their shell.
Many of OurTime’s members are divorced or widowed and use the dating site to start fresh in a new relationship. “I would recommend your site to everyone and anyone,” said a 70-year-old woman who found love on OurTime. “Thank you for sending me the best man in the world.”
Since 2003, SeniorMatch has built its reputation as one of the world's leading senior dating sites. The site (read more)
- Doesn't allow members under 45
- Available as a dating app in Google Play
- Dating advice and safety tips shared by senior daters
When you have a dating site like SeniorMatch on your side, you can find date prospects, pen pals, and new friends in just a few clicks. The dating site’s motto is “you don’t have to be alone,” and it lives up to that by fostering a thriving senior-friendly community.
SeniorMatch has over 1 million members, all of whom have been verified as over 50, and it facilitates over 1.6 million conversations each month. What’s more, the dating site has more than 36,600 success stories to its name. You can rest assured you’ll have plenty of options on this bustling platform.
“We met on your wonderful site, and it was literally love at first site — or sight,” said a SeniorMatch member in a testimonial.
Best LGBT Personals Ad Alternatives
Back in the days of newspaper personals, gay and lesbian singles couldn’t really take part in the fun because it’d mean outing themselves and risking harassment from homophobic people. Instead, locals had to build underground spaces (gay bars, softball leagues, etc.) where the LGBTQ+ community could thrive.
Online dating has offered a less public and more targeted way to meet LGBTQ+ singles in town, and many queer singles have jumped on it. Today, 65% of gay couples meet online, and the following dating sites and apps support singles across the sexuality spectrum.
Since 1996, MenNation has connected over 93 million men around the globe. This men-only dating site measures (read more)
- One of the largest gay hookup sites in the world
- Search filters for age, location, physical attributes, and more
- Available in 12 languages and counting
With over 98 million members, MenNation has declared itself the largest gay dating and hookup site in existence. This all-male dating network is open to gay, bi, and questioning guys from all walks of life.
Whether you’re a single seeking a hookup or a couple seeking a threesome, you can pursue your desires freely on the MenNation site. All it takes is an email address to get started. You can choose a unique username, browse anonymously, and pick up dates who are interested in no-strings-attached sex.
LesbianPersonals.com is powered by Friend Finder Networks, so it encompasses a vast network of sexually active (read more)
- Free membership includes viewing profiles and sending likes
- Exchange revealing photos and videos privately online
- Simple search filters by interests and appearance
LesbianPersonals is a frisky dating site where women can run wild and let go of their inhibitions. The sex-positive space encourages singles, couples, and groups to arrange romantic encounters that fulfill their deepest fantasies.
Couples who consider themselves unicorn hunters will enjoy this open-ended dating field. LebianPersonals is full of sexy playmates who want to experiment and push the boundaries.
A saucy flirtation may start with a few texts on LesbianPersonals, but it could soon escalate to trading raunchy photos, setting up a video call, and arranging a steamy hookup with someone in your neighborhood.
HER is a women-only (or "womxn" as the team says) dating app that helps cis, trans, and non-binary identified (read more)
- A quirky and unapologetic womxn-only dating community
- Queer events get users connecting IRL
- The constantly updated Feed facilitates social networking
Designed by a queer woman on behalf of queer womxn, HER is less about facilitating hookups and more about building relationships. The dating app has over 4 million members worldwide, and 100% of its members are female.
HER provides a safe, dude-free zone for lesbian, bisexual, queer, and trans womxn seeking new friends, hot dates, and potential partners. The Community Guidelines urge members to be supportive, inclusive, and loving throughout the online dating experience.
The HER community spreads positivity by sharing stories, posting photos, and creating local events geared toward LGBTQ+ singles. You can see HER’s impact by viewing #WeMetOnHER Instagram posts created by couples who are blissfully in love.
Grindr became the world's first gay geosocial app in 2009, and it continues growing its all-male user base (read more)
- Social networking for gay, bi, trans, and queer men
- Location-based matches spark instant chemistry
- Grindr Equality advocates for LGBTQ+ interests on the global stage
Last but not least, Grindr is the ultimate gay dating app known for its powerful location-based matching. The app can help gay singles find dates who are in the same bar or on the same block as one another.
Grindr’s real-time matching and chatting often lead to hookups, but we’ve also heard of a few Grindr relationships that have gone the distance. In fact, about 84% of Grindr users have fallen in love with someone they met on the app, and 56.5% say they believe love is possible here.
“My boyfriend and I met on Grindr while he was visiting on vacation,” said a Reddit user. “Relationship is still fresh and long-distance is hard, but we are talking about the future.”
Best Hookup Personals Ad Alternatives
Dating sites geared toward relationships can be a major drag for singles who just want to fool around and get laid. Casual daters and serious daters often have different expectations regarding intimacy and long-term commitments, and that can lead to a rocky dating experience where neither party is satisfied.
If you’d rather skip the small talk and get right down to business, then a hookup site — not a dating site — is going to be the best place for you. We’ve listed some of our top choices for singles and swingers interested in exploring the raunchy side of dating.
BeNaughty invites singles to walk on the wild side and explore their sexuality in a fun, free-wheeling (read more)
- Sexually active adults in 10 countries
- Browse the Like Gallery for hot singles
- Stimulate conversation in intimate private messages
The BeNaughty site keeps things casual and empowers singles to flirt outside the lines. Members can browse by age, gender, and location whenever they want to scope for dates.
Highly selective singles can also use advanced search parameters for orientation, ethnicity, body type, hair color, and eye color. We’d recommend sorting the dating profiles by popularity or last activity because that’ll mean the flirtatious members show up at the top of your list.
If you want to get the ball rolling quickly, you can send a mass text message to everyone who falls within your search parameters. BeNaughty can recommend a flirty message that has proven to work, or you can write something flattering, funny, and original yourself.
In 1996, Friend Finder Networks began harnessing the power of online networking to help adults meet sexually (read more)
- Among the largest online sex and swinger communities
- Completely free no-obligation registration
- Live chat rooms and discussion forums open 24/7
Since 1996, Adult Friend Finder has built the world’s largest sex and swinger community and created over 4.6 million connections online.
The AFF community includes single men, single women, straight couples, gay couples, trans folks, and swinger groups who want to enjoy adult entertainment and spice up their sex lives.
Whether they’re sharing erotic stories or sending X-rated private messages through the site, AFF members can be themselves and express their sexual fantasies without fear of judgment or censure.
FriendFinder-X specializes in delivering hot dates to your inbox. For the last 20+ years, this hookup site has (read more)
- Open to casual daters in the U.S. and abroad
- Free members can browse profiles and watch sexy videos
- Chat anonymously in the forum or private messages
FriendFinder-X is the hookup site “where good girls do bad things.” If that sounds appealing, you can create a free account within minutes and start messaging these angels of the night.
Much like the dating personals of old, FriendFinder-X features short ads created by local singles seeking dates. However, the website’s profiles can also include nude photos and naughty content, and it has a two-way video cam option for anyone eager to get some face time with that special someone.
Does Craigslist Have Personals Anymore?
No, Craigslist is no longer in the dating game. It shuttered its personals section to avoid being held responsible for the actions of unsavory folks soliciting sex on the site.
In 2018, U.S. law enforcement agencies cracked down on classifieds websites with dating sections, maintaining that such unregulated spaces were being used for prostitution and human trafficking. After a 93-count indictment, Backpage’s CEO pled guilty to sex trafficking, and the site was shut down for good.
In the wake of these developments, Craigslist closed its dating personals section. “Any tool or service can be misused,” the Craigslist team said in an official statement. “We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we have regretfully taken craigslist personals offline.”
What are Some Sites Like Craigslist Personals That are Free?
A lot of dating sites have the means to create fast connections just like Craigslist personals once did. Several decent alternatives have similar setups and membership bases to that of Craigslist, and some can even offer more matchmaking power and security protocols.
Our dating experts would recommend giving OkCupid a try if you want to explore the dating scene without paying anything or making a big effort. The site is free, after all, and it’s open to people of all kinds.
OkCupid inspires dates and relationships by identifying specific areas of compatibility. The dating site and (read more)
- Men can leave a message to anyone they fancy
- A sophisticated match algorithm developed by Harvard math majors
- The site and app facilitate over 50,000 dates every week
However, if you want to get a higher quality dating experience, you may want to invest in a more traditional and time-tested dating site like Match.com. With millions of active and authentic members, Match can offer a lot more date options than Craigslist ever could.
Match has become a trusted name in the online dating industry by catering to quality singles looking for love (read more)
- In-depth matching appeals to women with high standards
- Only premium members can send private messages to one another
- An established singles network in 24 countries worldwide
Match is a good alternative to Craigslist because it has in-depth profiles, extensive search filters, and ironclad safety features to make sure singles don’t fall for scams or meet people who aren’t serious about meeting up in real life.
What is MWM?
In the context of a dating personal ad, MWM means that person is a married white male. Guys use this shorthand to describe themselves in as few characters as possible. You may also see women call themselves MWF — married white females — or W4M — women seeking men. Check out these dating acronyms to find out more.
What is Doublelist?
Doublelist is a new dating classifieds site on a mission to replace Craigslist in the hearts of singles seeking a local date. The site currently boasts have 170,000 users, which is pretty good for a new kid on the block.
Unlike many of its competitors, Doublelist takes the time to double-verify its new users and send confirmation codes via an email address and phone number. This verification system cuts down on the spam and brings greater transparency to the site. You can create a free Doubelist account within seconds and start chatting up folks online.
Turn a New Page & Make a Date on a Dating Website
Publishing a personal ad in a newspaper may seem pretty old-fashioned now that we have online social networks connecting us 24/7. Dating sites can connect singles faster, easier, and more effectively than the personal ads of old, and singles don’t have to publish their full names or contact information to attract dates here.
We’ve listed 20 dating sites and apps that have proven popular among today’s singles. Any of these platforms can inspire hookups, friendships, and relationships in just a few clicks and swipes.
Next time you’re looking for a local date, you can trade your newspaper subscription for an online dating subscription — believe me, your wallet will thank you. Good luck!