Updated January 2021
I remember the confusion vividly.
You’ve seen people vaping and decide that it’s worth a try. It looks so simple: just replace your cigarette smoking with vaping and that’s it. Any old e-cig kit will do the job, right?.
But when you start shopping for a vape kit, things start to look a lot more complicated. There are more types of e-cigarettes than you may have expected, and there is some disagreement about which is the best for new vapers.
So we’ve put together this e-cigarette buying guide to help you navigate the sometimes-confusing world of vaping devices and to ensure you hit the “buy” button on the best electronic cigarette kit for you.
- Types of E-Cig
- General Things to Think About
- For Just-Switching or Recently-Switched Smokers
- For Established and Longer-Term Vapers
- Temperature Control
- Putting it All Together
A Crash Course in the Types of Vaping Devices
Before you make your decision, it helps to understand what you’re actually choosing between.
E-cigarettes all work in the same basic way – vaporising e-liquid using an electrically-powered heating coil – but there are big differences between cigalikes, tank systems and mods it’s important to know about:
Cigalikes: These are e-cigarettes that look quite similar to tobacco cigarettes (hence “cig-alike”). They have small batteries, and the heating coil and e-liquid are contained in a “cartomizer.” You usually use these in the way as you’d smoke a cigarette.
Tank systems: These devices move away from the cigarette-like appearance, having a size comparable to a marker pen or mid-sized cigar. They have a tank to store e-liquid and replaceable coils, and the batteries last longer than cigalike batteries. Unlike most cigalikes, these start vaporising e-liquid when you press and hold a button.
Mods: These are the biggest e-cigarettes, but come in a range of shapes and sizes. Most these days are box-shaped (and called “box mods”) but basically work like big tank system e-cigarettes. Along with bigger, longer-lasting batteries, they also offer extra features and can support a wider range of different tanks. Mods bear no resemblance at all to cigarettes.
Pod Systems: These offer a compromise between the simplicity of a cigalike and the functionality of a mod system. At least that was the original idea – continuous innovation since the introduction of pod systems mean that some pod systems now offer the power and performance of a decent mod devices.
This all means there’s a huge choice of systems. Closed pod systems, such as the Hexa Vape 2, are perhaps closest to cigalike systems and come with replacements pods. Next up come refillable pod systems, such as the Uwell Caliburn G pictured above, which are still easy to use but can be used with any e-liquid. See our round up of the best pod vapes for more examples.
Pod Mods: Pod Mods such as the Oxva Velocity combine the power of a mod with the design of a pod. They may also have some of the functionality of a mod system. While often easier to use than a mod, these are not really for beginners. See our round up of the best pod mods for more examples.
General Things to Think About
No matter who you are, there are a few factors that everyone needs to consider when looking for the best e-cigarette kit for your needs.
How Much Are You Willing to Spend?
Switching to vaping will almost certainly save you money, but the start-up costs may seem fairly high.
Whereas each pack of cigarettes is ready-to- use, when you’re starting to vape, you need to get an e-cig, a charger, a tank and some e-juice. The running costs of vaping – mainly buying new coils and e-liquid – are very low, but you need to invest when you first get started.
So setting yourself a budget is important. Nobody can tell you what the right figure is for you, so you’ll have to consider your situation and see how much you can put aside. That said, for a pack-a-day smoker in the UK, the £11.20 average price of a pack of (kingsize) cigarettes means you’ll spend about £78.40 a week on smoking. That’s more than enough to get even a higher end vape kit!
The most important thing to think about is how much you’ll be vaping. If you want to fully make the switch to e-cigarettes, spending a few days’ cigarette budget on getting set up is more than reasonable.
However, you might not be sure you’ll like vaping, so you might not be keen on spending so much.
The best advice here is to give vaping a try before you commit to a big purchase. If you have a friend or family member who vapes, ask to try their e-cig out and see what you think. Sometimes it takes a while to get into vaping, but this should give you an idea of whether or not it’s for you.
It’s up to you how much you want to spend, and even though we’d recommend focusing more on getting the right e-cig for your needs, make sure you don’t put too big a dent in your bank balance.
You can get some excellent vape kits quite cheaply, so spending a week’s smoking budget isn’t needed.
How Important is Ease of Use?
One of the main factors which can help you distinguish between the different vape kits available is how easy the device is to use. No e-cigarette is really that complicated, but some undeniably have a bigger learning curve than others.
Cigalikes are the simplest devices: you screw the cartomizer into the battery and use it just like you would a cigarette. When you’ve finished a cartomizer, you just throw it away and screw another one in its place. If you want to vape with as little fuss as possible, this is the best type of device to choose.
Pod and tank systems aren’t much harder to use than this, though. The key differences are that you have a pod or tank that must be filled with e-liquid before you start using it, and when your coil has passed its prime, you’ll need to unscrew it and replace it with a fresh one. It’s a touch more hands-on than vaping with a cigalike, but still very straightforward and well suited to beginners.
Mods (and most pod mods) are the only devices that may be too complex for new vapers. These have display screens, two or more buttons in addition to the main “fire” button and often features like the ability to adjust your wattage or set a maximum temperature. For the most part, you use these in a very similar way to basic tank systems.
However, mods may also include a menu system (to change between wattage mode and temperature control mode, for example). Most will display things like the resistance of your coil which beginners might not be too familiar with.
But, just like getting used to a new mobile phone, it doesn’t take long to get to grips with navigating the system and to learn what everything means. On a day-to-day basis, all you’ll really need to do is choose a setting with the dedicated buttons and vape in the same way you would with a basic tank system.
So some vape devices are more complicated than others, and if you want to have the simplest experience possible, it’s best to avoid mods. However, with all of the benefits mods offer, it’s important to remember that they’re really not all that complicated.
What Do You Want Your Device to Look Like?
The clichéd advice that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover is very true when it comes to vaping.
Just because an e-cigarette looks like a cigarette, this doesn’t mean it’s the best replacement for cigarettes. And just because a mod looks nothing whatsoever like a cigarette doesn’t make it the wrong choice.
That said, you may have a preference for the appearance of your device, and if you do, it can narrow your options down a lot. Not everybody wants to vape from a boxy e-cig, and not everybody wants something that looks like a cigarette.
This is completely down to personal preference, so you don’t really need any guidance on this point.
But one piece of advice I’d offer is that a cigarette-like appearance might seem important to you when you’re first starting, but that feeling fades very quickly. Keeping the focus on what the e-cig can do rather than what it looks like will probably lead to you getting a more capable device.
Which Type of Kit is Most Effective for Switching?
If you’re using vaping in an attempt to switch away from smoking, you might be interested to find out which e-cigarette kit is likely to give you the best chance of being successful.
It’s worth noting that there is no “wrong” choice when it comes to finding an e-cigarette, but there is a bit of evidence to suggest that some kits are better than others for quitting.
One study conducted between late 2012 and 2013 found that people who used tank system e-cigarettes daily increased their odds of quitting, but also showed that non-daily cigalike users were less likely to have quit than people who didn’t vape.
The implication from this is that tank systems (covering “eGo-style” tank systems and mods) are better than cigalikes when it comes to quitting. Additionally, another study showed that mods are more effective at getting you nicotine than cigalikes, so it would make sense that these are better to use when you’re trying to quit.
Whichever starter kit you choose, if you’re not successful at first don’t give up! As the graph above shows, many dual users (people who both smoke and vape) end up only using only e-cigarettes.
Do You Need Something Discreet?
Not all vapers want to blow huge clouds. Although most e-cigarettes can produce a substantial amount of vapour, sometimes you don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
If you’re technically allowed to vape at work, for instance, but don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable with huge clouds, great vapour production could actually be a downside. Here, “stealth vaping” becomes a consideration. This is when you vape but purposefully produce very little vapour.
Some devices are much better for stealth vaping than others. Generally, cigalikes or tank systems have a lot more potential to be used discreetly. This is because the vapour production is less than with mods, and the devices themselves are also easier to conceal than a big, hulking box mod.
Combined with some stealth vaping techniques, if you use a cigalike or a compact pod system such as the Innokin EQ Filtr, you’ll be able to vape in a way most people won’t even notice. If you’re likely to need to “stealth vape,” you should keep this in mind when you’re choosing your kit.
For Just-Switching or Recently-Switched Smokers
Finding the right e-cigarette kit for you is hardest if you’re quite new to vaping. How are you supposed to choose from tons of different options if you don’t even know what they’ll be like? How do you find a high-quality e-cig if you’ve only tried one or two of them?
Thankfully, your smoking habits and what you’re looking for from an e-cigarette can guide you in the right direction.
How Much Do You Smoke?
It might not be an exact science, but your smoking habits can lead you in the right direction when it comes to choosing an e-cigarette.
The first thing to think about is how much you smoke. Are you a pack-a-day smoker? Do you smoke more? Or are you more of a light or social smoker?
For pack-a-day smokers: Your options are fairly open, but you’ll need an e-cigarette that can last you through most of the day and get you enough nicotine. Unless you prefer your e-cig to look like a cigarette, we’d recommend you choose a tank or pod system to get the most out of vaping.
For lighter smokers: You’re unlikely to need a mod, and will probably be satisfied with a pod system or a cigalike.
For heavier smokers: Cigalikes definitely won’t cut it, and there’s a chance even standard tank systems won’t be enough. Pod mods are a bit more work to get into, but the learning curve will be worth it if you’re looking to kick your smoking habit. Beyond the kit, you should also ensure you choose a higher nicotine strength e-liquid to help you with cravings for cigarettes.
As always, these are just recommendations. If you’re a heavy smoker and you really want a cigarette-like appearance, then, by all means, use a cigalike. Similarly, if you’re a light smoker but still want the performance of a mod, then there’s nothing wrong with that. However, there are reasons behind the recommendations, so they’re definitely worth keeping in mind.
Your Lifestyle: Where and When Will You Be Vaping?
One big factor in determining the right e-cigarette kit for your needs is where and when you’ll be using your device.
When Will You Be Vaping?
All the time: Most people looking for a new e-cigarette kit will be hoping to completely replace smoking with vaping. This means you’ll need something you can use all day without it running out of battery. Cigalikes aren’t great for this, so consider getting a pod mod or mod system. To maximise battery life, the higher the mAh (milliamp hour) rating of the battery, the better. There’s more information on battery capacity and battery life in this guide to vape batteries.
Sometimes (e.g. just in the evenings or while at work): If you won’t be vaping all day, every day, then your options are a little more open. If you want something to use while you’re at work, battery life is still important (so a pod or tank system is preferable to a cigalike), but a mod probably isn’t necessary. If you’re vaping at home in the evening, you’ll be able to charge much more easily, so a cigalike or a pod system will be suitable.
Where Will You Be Vaping?
While precisely where you are when you vape doesn’t really matter, the general environment you’ll be in when you vape can be useful to consider.
Will there be a risk of your e-cig getting knocked? Will you have access to a USB port or plug socket for charging?
Work (dangerous environment): If you’ll be vaping at work, but your job is physical or involves some risks, there’s a chance your e-cig will get knocked around while in your pocket or even have something dropped on it. This means you’ll need a solidly-built e-cig.
Your best bet is probably a Geekvape device such as the Geekvape Aegis Boost. While Geekvape devices generally have a bit more of a learning curve than other devices, these waterproof, shock-proof and dust-proof vapes are some of the toughest kits available.
Work (safe environment): If you’ll be vaping at work but you’re in an office or your working environment isn’t particularly risky, you can use pretty much any type of e-cig. However, if you won’t be able to charge, box mods or high-capacity (meaning high mAh rating) tank systems are the best choice.
Home: At home, your e-cig is unlikely to be put in harm’s way and you’ll probably have access to a USB port or plug socket to recharge. In this case, any type of e-cig kit is absolutely fine: you won’t risk serious damage to your device, you’ll be able to keep it charged and portability isn’t essential.
In transit: If you’ll be doing a lot of vaping out of the house but not somewhere like work where you’ll probably have somewhere safe to leave your device, portability becomes essential. However, this has to be balanced against battery life, especially if you’ll be travelling for a while. For this reason, although cigalikes are the most portable, pod mods and mods are much better suited to your purpose. Pod mods strike the best balance, but if you’re willing to use something a little bigger, mods are also worth considering.
These groups aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, if you’re vaping all day you’ll probably be using your e-cig in all of these places, so the best “all-round” device should really win out in this area. As you may have picked up from the above, box mods and pod mods have the most potential to be great vaping companions wherever you are, but tank and pod systems can get the job done too.
Have You Vaped Before? What Did You Think?
You can get quite a long way towards finding the right kit on the basis of your smoking habits and what you’ll need from your e-cig, but nothing is as useful as having tried vaping already.
Whether it was a full-fledged quit attempt or just a couple of puffs on a friend’s e-cig, your experience can give you some important clues as to which e-cig kit is right for you.
There are many different issues you may have run into and many things you may have liked, but here are some key things to think about when making your choice:
Vaping didn’t satisfy you: If you tried vaping but didn’t get enough nicotine to find it satisfying, there could be a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, you may just need to try a higher-nicotine liquid, and you can do this with any type of device.
However, the type of e-cig you tried may also have been an issue. In general, cigalikes are less satisfying than pod systems, and pods systems are less satisfying than mods/pod mods. So if you tried a pod system but it wasn’t enough, getting a mod or pod mod may be the best idea.
You got too much nicotine: If you had the opposite experience and got dizzy or slightly nauseous from too much nicotine, the advice reverses. You could try any type of e-cig with less nicotine, or a smaller, lower-powered device.
However, mods usually allow you to adjust the wattage, so you can always use a mod at lower settings too.
Vaping made you cough/gave you a sore throat: Coughing or getting a sore throat when you start to vape is pretty common, but for most users it clears up as you get used to vaping.
This could be due to the type of e-cig you were using, but it’s probably more closely linked to the liquid you used. High PG and high-nicotine liquids are tougher on your throat. With a tank system or a mod, you can use any type of e-liquid, so it’s easier to choose your blend to minimise any irritation or coughing.
You didn’t get the “throat hit” you get with cigarettes:
This is the opposite of the previous point – if you didn’t get that same sensation at the back of your throat as you do from smoking, it’s probably down to the e-liquid you tried. Again, tank systems or mods let you choose your liquid to suit your preferences, but higher-power e-cigs can increase throat hit too.
Enjoyed or didn’t enjoy the flavour
Whether you really liked the flavour you tried or you didn’t like it, the advice is the same: tank systems, most pods and mods allow you to use any e-liquid flavour. Cigalikes, in contrast, only offer the choices produced by the manufacturer of the e-cig. So if you want to find the best flavour, tank system and mod kits are the best approach.
Overall, unless you tried a more complicated device and want something as simple as possible, pod/tank systems and mods are preferred for most purposes because they give you more options when it comes to your experience. This is mainly because they let you use any e-liquid with them.
For Established and Longer-Term Vapers
So for someone with limited experience with e-cigarettes, there are still a lot of different things you can use to find the right kit for your tastes. If you’re already a vaper or have quite a bit of experience with e-cigs, it’s much easier to find the right kit for your needs.
The advice is very similar to the above, but the bonus of having experience is you’ll have a much better idea of what you like and what you don’t.
Your Current Setup – What Do You Have and Why Do You Want Something Else?
The best thing you can think about to determine what the right e-cigarette is for you is what you have right now.
Are you still using a tank system you got when you first started?
Are you using a mod but find it too complicated?
Do you like the screw-together- and-vape simplicity of cigalikes but don’t get enough vapour?
So, thinking about your current device, what is it you’re dissatisfied with?
Not enough vapour: This is a simple issue. If your device doesn’t offer enough vapour, you’ll need something more powerful and with a better coil. The best option is a mod, especially when paired with a sub ohm tank. Pod mods are also better than cigalikes and low powered pods in this area.
Not enough flavor: Similarly, flavour will generally improve with better coils.
Cigalikes aren’t great for flavour. Simple tank systems are better, but sub-ohm tanks or other options like the Innokin Zlide tank paired with mods offer the best flavour.
Limited battery life: Bigger batteries tend to last longer. So tank systems last longer between charges than cigalikes, and mods last longer than tank systems. However, some tank systems offer substantial battery life too, so it’s worth considering anything with a higher mAh rating than your current device.
If you’re a chain-vaper and regularly run into issues with battery life, vape mods are definitely worth the extra start-up cost.
Running costs too high:
Although the biggest expense for a vaper is getting the device, running costs can vary between kits. In general, cigalikes with disposable cartridges are the most expensive to operate. For tank systems and mods, the main cost (apart from e-liquid) is buying replacement coils, and keeping this to a minimum means choosing the right tank.
For example, Aspire Nautilus coils (5 for £10.99) are more affordable than Atlantis coils (5 for £13.99), and Innokin iSub coils (5 for £9.99) cost even less. Generally, clearomizer coils like the Aspire BVC coils (5 for £8) are the most affordable.
Since cloud-chasing is fairly popular among vapers, it’s worth looking at the issue of vapour production in a bit more depth than in the previous section.
If you’re serious about producing big clouds, getting a mod (or a powerful pod mod) is almost mandatory.
This is where the maximum power outputs from mods start to get important. More power (higher watts) means more vapour. So something like the Smok Nfix Mate, which offers up to 25 W, is not going to be able to put out as much vapour as the Aspire Vrod 200, with its 200 watts of maximum power.
Clouds aren’t all about your choice of device, though: there are many other useful tips you can use to get more vapour from your e-cigarette, whichever one you have.
If you’re looking for a mod, a common feature on many devices is temperature control (TC). But do you need TC? Is it worth paying more for a device like the Eleaf iStick Power which features it, or would you be equally happy with a more basic style mod like the Innokin Adept?
There is a definite advantage of TC for newer vapers: if you use it, you won’t experience unpleasant “dry puffs” when you vape. These occur when there isn’t enough liquid in the wick, and taste really horrible.
TC devices stop this by limiting the coil’s temperature so your e-liquid can’t get “overcooked” and your wicks are much less likely to get burned. TC also offers more consistent flavour from your e-juice.
But TC isn’t necessary to enjoy vaping. You may have to take a few steps to protect against dry puffs with a non-TC mod, such as keeping your tank topped up and reducing your power setting if you start to notice an issue (we have some more tips in this post), but it really is quite easy to do.
TC mods always have a non-TC mode too, but if you don’t think you’ll need it, you can save money by getting something more basic.
We’d recommend TC if you can afford a slightly higher-end device, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Personally,
I own several TC-capable mods but rarely use the feature. I prefer the hit I get in wattage mode, and since TC wasn’t around when I started vaping I’ve gotten used to wattage-based vaping.
However, this might not be the case for you, and TC definitely makes it easier to get consistent performance, so this is something to keep in mind when you’re making your choice. It’s not a deal-breaker, but is definitely a handy bonus feature to have.
Putting it All Together
This post should have shown you that there are tons of things you can consider to help you find the right kit for your needs. But you might be left a little overwhelmed by everything there is to consider. So here’s a brief run-down of a few popular kits, and the benefits and downsides of each.
- Simple to use. Screw on the cartomizer and use it just like you would a cigarette.
- Portable. It’s not much bigger than a cigarette, so carrying it around with you is as easy as can be.
- Suitable for stealth vaping.
- Perfect for anybody who wants a cigarette-like appearance.
- Low start-up cost. Just £19.99 for two batteries, five cartomizers and a charger.
- Less battery life than other options. Not ideal for heavier smokers.
- Vapor production is less than other options (though still good!)
- Less throat hit than other options.
- Running costs are higher due to disposable cartomizers.
- Can’t be refilled with e-liquid.
- Easy to use. The tank kit is more complicated than the cigalike kit, but still very beginner-friendly.
- Refillable. You can use any e-liquid with the tank kit, allowing more choice in flavour. (It is best used with e-liquids with a VG:PG ratio of around 50:50.)
- The 1500 mAh battery should last most vapers through the day.
- Ample vapour production (unless you’re a cloud-chaser!).
- More satisfying. Better at getting you nicotine than cigalike devices.
- Very affordable!
- Coils aren’t replaceable. While convenient, it does you need to buy new pods.
- Battery life still less than some mods.
- Can’t be used with sub ohm tanks.
- A little more difficult to use than cigalikes.
- Limited customizability
Innokin Adept Zlide: Easy-to-Use Mod, Great for Heavy Smokers
- Different coil options for different styles of vaping.
- Very easy-to-use for a mod device.
- Long-lasting 3000mAh battery.
- Can be used with a range of e-liquids, including high PG and high VG juices, depending on the coil used.
- Compatible with Z coils, which means you have plenty of choice if you want to experiment with different resistances.
- Has limited modes compared to most mods.
- Only has two power options.
- Powerful – up to 230 watts of power.
- Huge power and low resistance mesh coils mean you can produce some serious clouds.
- Uses external batteries, which have several advantages – when the battery fails, you don’t need to buy a new mod, and by having a number of batteries, you can ensure you never run out of charge.
- Choose between Temperature Control and Variable Wattage modes.
- Pricer than other options listed here.
- Much more of a learning curve than other devices listed here.
Choose Carefully, and You’ll Be Rewarded With a Great Vape
As you’ve seen, there is quite a bit to consider when it comes to getting the right e-cig kit for your needs. However, the key point is to think about what you personally want out of your vaping experience when you’re making your choice. Then, as long as you understand the basics of each device and what they offer (which you do now!), you will be able to find the right e-cig kit and vape accessories for your needs.
Getting a new e-cig kit is an important purchase, though, so take your time over your decision and if you need help do get in contact with our support team.