Those who smoke cigarettes know how hard it is to kick the habit. Whether it’s patches, or pills, or just going cold turkey, for many it’s an exercise in futility. But nothing seems to have worked better for millions of ex-smokers than turning to vaping. No longer do non-smokers have to endure the smell or an ashtray or those gnarly cigarette butts just to get their fair share of nicotine.
But with vaping’s incredible popularity comes a plethora of options from dozens if not hundreds of manufacturers. It can be very difficult to separate the best from the rest. While the FDA’s recent regulations may shrink the number of devices available, there’s still a lot of devices to pick from.
With so many options out there, actually finding the best ecigarettes to buy requires hours of research, posting questions to forums, and watching YouTube reviews. Who has time for that? We do. Here’s a breakdown of the best ecigarettes on the market, from no-commitment disposables to pro-level mods. Happy vaping!
Why should you buy this: A wide range of features puts it in a class of its own
Who’s it for: Vapers who need the best in customizability
How much will it cost: $200
Why we picked the SX Mini Q:
At $200, the SX Mini Q is definitely on the super high end of box mods. However, there are few competitors out there that come close to what SX offers in its 200 watt top-of-the-line device. The construction is top notch, it’s a regulated mod (meaning power output won’t decrease as battery charge depletes), and it offers some of the most extensive vape customizability we’ve seen so far.
Now of course those of us who vape know all about wattage, voltage, and temperature control settings. It’s essential to getting us the ‘perfect’ vape. Well, the SX Mini Q takes this all a step further. With a mode called SXi-Q, you can actually further customize how the device operates every half-second. For example, you could set the device to run at a warmer temperature initially, then switch mid-vape to a lower temperature. That’s pretty cool.
Another cool feature? Something called “compensate temperature.” External temperature does play a part in vapor production, and on hot days you’ll notice less vapor production. Set this setting to whatever the temperature is outside, and the mod automatically adjusts.
Also, tests show that this mod actually does reach 200 watts – something a few manufacturers have been criticized for. That’s a positive too, considering its high retail price. While we wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, the SX Mini Q is the one to buy if you’re an experienced vapor looking for the ultimate customizable mod.
The best disposable ecigarette
Why should you buy this: Wide availability and consistent performance
Who’s it for: Irregular smokers and vapers that need an occasional nic fix
How much will it cost: $10
Why we picked the Blu:
While Blu does get its fair share of criticism from vaping purists due to its relatively high cost and the fact that it’s now owned by Big Tobacco (the UK’s Imperial Tobacco to be exact), it still remains at the top of the heap.
Among all disposables we tried, Blu consistently ranked near the top in terms of vapor production and useable life. While there are cheaper options out there, all seem to have some type of issue, whether it’s poor battery life, meager vapor production, or off-putting flavor.
While we don’t recommend Blu’s rechargeable cig-a-like, its disposable line is definitely a top choice. You should figure to get at least two to three days use out of Blu’s disposable if you’re a pack a day smoker. It’s a great option for smokers too who may be in situations where smoking is a no-no. Five flavors are available, regular and bold tobacco, menthol, cherry, vanilla, and glacier mint, although most stories only carry the regular and menthol. Our favorite is the cherry though.
The best mechanical mod
Why should you buy this: It’s American made and super durable
Who’s it for: Those looking for a no-nonsense mod with big vapor production
How much will it cost: $170
Why we picked the Flawless Tugboat V3:
Flawless’ Tugboat has been around for years, but it continues to sell well because it is a high-quality device – and the new V3 is no exception. The company does not cut corners and uses copper in the connections and body. Why is this important? Copper maximizes conductivity, which in turn gives you more power and better battery life – the latter a nagging problem for many mechanical mods.
Better conductivity also results in overall better vapor production, and the Tugboat V3 ranks among the top in this category. A nice feature of this mod is also that it comes with a matching RDA, which gives it a very attractive appearance. We’re also fans of the firing button, which works a lot better than other mods we’ve tried.
Over time with some of our spring button mods, we’ve found the spring begins to compress, sometimes resulting in inadvertent firing. While the V3 still uses a spring as well (many have switched to magnets), it’s a better quality spring and the stronger spring actually allows the device to be stood upright without firing – many cannot. If you’ve got the funds, this is the way to go.
The best cig-a-like
Why should you buy this: Cheaper than Blu, with more options
Who’s it for: Smokers who need the feel of a cigarette to quit
How much will it cost: $30
Why we picked the V2 Standard Kit:
While we picked Blu for its disposables, V2 by far is a better option for those looking for ecigarettes that feel (and look) more like a traditional cigarette. Its starter kit is cheaper than Blu’s, as are its refillable cartridges. You also have a broader selection of flavors to choose from, which we find important too.
Battery life in the V2 is comparable to competitors, and you should be able to get about 200 puffs per charge with the batteries included with the kit. Vapor production is comparable to other cig-a-likes on the market, and we are big fans of V2’s decision to offer a wide array of nicotine levels (five versus Blu’s two).
Better yet? V2’s cig-a-like also has refillable tanks, which you’ll especially appreciate down the road if you’re new to vaping. While most beginners appreciate the simplicity of pre-filled tanks, more experienced vapers seem to prefer more customization. V2’s setup allows that, which puts it at the top of our list for sure.
The best box mod
Why should you buy this: It offers a perfect mix of value and performance
Who’s it for: Box mod fans on a budget
How much will it cost: $60
Why we picked the KangerTech Dripbox 160:
While we did pick another (much more expensive) box mod as our top pick, we definitely wanted to include KangerTech’s Dripbox in our list. Over the past year or so, the company has made a big move into mods. You’re getting a ton out of just $60 here. Not only does the Dripbox 160 push out a stunning 160 watts of power, but it can also do temperature control too.
While this technically includes an RDA, it’s a special type. There are holes in the bottom from which e-liquid held in the tank which is part of the mod itself. Squeezing this tank forces liquid up into the RDA, which then can be vaped. It’s a pretty cool idea if you ask us.
Performance of this mod is almost the same as those two or even three times its cost, although we’ve noticed as battery charge decreases there is a noticeable drop in vapor output. This is due to the fact that power is unregulated just like a mechanical mod – something you’ll find on more expensive box mods. Still, overall at $60 you just can’t go wrong with the Dripbox.
How we test
To help you navigate the wide world of vaping, we test extensively before putting together the most succinct and easily digestible reviews of every ecig that crosses our desks. Here’s how we separate the best from the rest.
For each vape and ecig we test, we start with a rundown of the specs and noteworthy features. No beating around the bush here — we get right to it and explain what makes a particular vape noteworthy from the competition. Does it have a unique design? Is it more modifiable than most? The standard specs/features we go over include:
- Battery size / charging style
- Chamber/reservoir volume
- Heating element type
- Min/max temperature settings
- Connectivity options
- Design and Vapor Quality
After the specs, we dive into an honest assessment of the device’s design. Can it fit in a pocket, or will you need to throw it in your bag? How does it feel in your hand? How does it feel in your mouth? Is it comfortable to hold and take a drag from? Is the button hard to find?
Then we turn to the good stuff: the vapor. What kind of temperature settings does the unit have? How accurate are they? Is the vapor smooth, or harsh? Weak, or flavorful? Does it just taste burnt? There’s no truly objective way to relay this information, so we’ve put together a special testing system that helps us land on a more rounded opinion.
Part one is a vapor comparison performed with a reference mod. We puff on both devices interchangeably and take note of the differences. This side-by-side test helps us tease out the review mod’s strengths and weaknesses and gives us a base for comparison.
Part two is a visual test, where we take a good, long drag from the device in question, then exhale it in front of a plain background. We’ll put together a short, looping video of this, so you can see the thickness, color, and consistency of the exhaled vapor.
Battery Life, and Maintenance
Over the course of our testing process, we keep a close watch on how long the device’s battery lasts, and let you know how our findings align with the specs listed on the box. Nobody wants to charge their vape every day (that’s what the iPhone is for, right?), so we’ll be honest with you about how long you can puff before it dies.
For higher-end vapes, we’ll also provide some notes on repairability. No matter how nice your vape might be, there’s a good chance it’ll stop working properly for some reason or another after you’ve used it for long enough. If you’re using a cheaper vape it’s easier to buy a new one; if you spent over $100, DIY repairs will be a better option. So for the more expensive vapes we test, we’ll assess how difficult it is to clean or replace parts that are most likely to break/malfunction after prolonged use.
Choosing the right device and buying smart
As you might expect, the best ecig for you depends on your specific vaping needs. The casual smoker is best off with a rechargeable or disposable device given how affordable and widely-accessible they’ve become in recent years, while heavy smokers may want to consider a mod as they allow for a greater level of customization and longer battery life.
We recommend testing out a few different models, if possible, so you’ll have a better idea of which type of model you like best. Additionally, everyday vapers will likely benefit from purchasing a back-up ecigarette. It certainly doesn’t need to be top-of-the-line, but it’s never a bad idea to have an extra device to hold you over if your main ecig ever malfunctions.
Do note that the prices we list here are just a general guide. We have found some outlets that may have these cheaper. A word of caution though: watch out for Chinese suppliers, both websites and on eBay. In recent months, some manufacturers have begun to refuse service to those purchasing from these companies, both due to widespread counterfeiting and illegal sales.
It’s always better to purchase locally anyway: these small businesses are locally-owned and you’re supporting the local economy. Better yet? Instant gratification and no need to wait for it to ship.