Updated: April 2022 by Kayleigh Jenkins
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 vape 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 devices than you may have expected, and there is some disagreement about which are best for new vapers.
So we’ve put together this vape device buying guide to help you navigate the sometimes-confusing world of vaping and to ensure you hit the “buy” button on the best kit for you.
- Types of vape devices
- General things to think about
- Where & when will you be vaping?
- For just-switching or recently-switched smokers
- For established and longer-term vapers
- Have you vaped before? What did you think?
- Vaping modes
- Putting it all together
A crash course in types of vaping devices
Before you make your decision, it helps to understand what you’re actually choosing between.
Vape devices all work in the same basic way – vaporising e-liquid using an electrically-powered heating coil – but there are big differences between the different types of devices:
These are single-use vapes that have a fixed coil and battery and are prefilled with vape juice. They cannot be recharged and are disposed of once the battery runs out.
These are electronic cigarettes that look 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 you’d smoke a cigarette.
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 means that some now offer the power and performance of decent mod devices.
This all means there’s a huge choice of systems. Closed pod systems, such as the Hexa Pro and Hexa Mini kits, are perhaps closest to cigalike systems and come with replacement, fixed-coil pods. Next up come refillable pod systems, such as the Uwell Caliburn G, which are still easy to use but use replaceable coils and can be used with any vape juice.
See our round up of the best pod vapes for more examples.
Vape pens take their name from their pen-style rounded shape and come in various sizes and device types. Usually lower-powered Mouth-to-Lung devices, vape pen kits consist of a battery and either a tank or pod that stores the e-liquid and coil. They usually come with a buttonless or single-button design. Many newer models also feature adjustable airflow that allows you to tailor your inhale between tighter or more airy. Do note that vape pens are distinguished by their appearance – which means that some vape pens are also pod systems. An example of a popular vape pen is the Innokin Endura T18II pictured below.
See our round-up of the best vape pens for 10 of the best.
Pod Mods such as the Voopoo Drag Series combine some of 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.
These are the biggest vape devices, but come in a range of shapes and sizes. Many early devices were box-shaped, and these became known as ‘box mods’ but you’ll now find mods in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Along with bigger, longer-lasting batteries than pod and pen-style devices, they also offer extra features and modes and can support a wider range of different tanks. Mods bear no resemblance at all to cigarettes.
Also see: A Beginner’s Guide to Vaping
General things to think about when choosing a vape kit
No matter who you are, there are a few factors that you need to consider when looking for the best vape kit for your needs.
These aren’t the most important things for your decision, but it’s worth keeping them in mind as you consider the benefits and drawbacks of different devices.
How much are you willing to spend?
This is a subjective question as everyone has a different budget and, like any product, the cost of vape devices can vary depending on how advanced they are. Nowadays, there is a vape kit to suit every budget – with kits available from as little as £5.
Switching from smoking to vaping will almost certainly save you money compared to smoking – up to £800 a year, according to the University College of London!
Getting started doesn’t need to be expensive as you can purchase a starter vape kit for less than the price of a pack of cigarettes. There will be running costs such as replacement coils, pods and vape juice along the way but there are ways to keep costs as low as possible – check out our 8 tips to vaping on a budget, which will help you reduce the cost of vaping.
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 device 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 device for your needs, make sure you don’t put too big a dent in your bank balance.
Ease of use
One of the main factors that can help you distinguish between the different vape kits available is how easy the device is to use. No vape device is really that complicated, but some have a bigger learning curve than others.
Disposable vapes have become very popular thanks to their ease of use and are the easiest introduction to vaping. This is because they require no setup or maintenance and are a budget-friendly option for those simply wanting to try vaping out. However, this disposable design does make them a lot less environmentally friendly and more expensive in the long run. We would recommend moving on to a reusable device as soon as possible.
Cigalikes are also very simple: 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.
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. 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 or disposable, but still very straightforward and well suited to beginners. Some devices also come with pre-filled pods, which is a nice halfway point for vapers graduating from disposable devices.
Mods (and some pod mods) are the only devices that may be too complex for new vapers. These usually have display screens, two or more buttons in addition to the main “fire” button and often have features like the ability to adjust your wattage or set a maximum temperature. However, mods may also include a menu system (to change and select modes, 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 more basic device.
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.
The way you vape, or your ‘ vaping style’, is an important factor in choosing a kit.
There are 2 main vaping styles – Mouth-to-Lung (MTL) and Direct-Lung (DL) vaping. In MTL vaping, you inhale vapour and hold it before then inhaling again into the lungs. In Direct-Lung vaping, you continuously inhale the vapour into the lungs.
For more in-depth information, see MTL vs DL explained.
It’s important to keep your preferred vape style in mind when choosing a kit as you need to ensure the device has the correct power and compatible resistance range to support it.
Generally, MTL vape devices are less powerful and work with higher-resistance coils – think pod devices and vape pens. See our list of Best MTL Vape Kits for some great suggestions.
DL devices are generally higher-powered and work with lower-resistance coils – usually in the form of mods or higher-powered pod mods.
However, if you like to switch vape styles or think you’d like to experiment in the future, a device with a wide power range and choice of coil resistances such as the Smok Morph Pod-40 is a good choice.
Many vape devices and tanks now also have an adjustable airflow feature. That means you can adjust and tailor the airflow to create a more airy or restricted inhale depending on which you prefer.
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 a vape device looks like a cigarette 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 mod, 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 device can do rather than what it looks like will probably lead to you getting a more capable device.
Do you need something discreet?
Not all vapers want to blow huge clouds. Although most vape devices 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 pod 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 smaller and easier to conceal.
Combined with some stealth vaping techniques, if you use a cigalike or a compact pod system such as the Aspire Vilter, you’ll be able to vape in a way most people won’t even notice. If you’re likely to “stealth vape,” you should keep this in mind when you’re choosing your kit.
Your lifestyle: where and when will you be vaping?
One big factor in determining the right vape 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 vape 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. A pod device or vape pen 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 device 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 device will get knocked around while in your pocket or even have something dropped on it. This means you’ll need a solidly-built device.
Your best bet is probably a Geekvape device such as the Geekvape L200. 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 device. However, if you won’t be able to charge the device at work, high-capacity (meaning high mAh rating) devices are the best choice.
Home: At home, your device 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 vape 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.
Outdoors: If you spend a lot of time outdoors, vaping can be more tricky. Firstly, you have the elements to contend with – you need a device that can withstand water, dust and knocks. When choosing a device for outdoor vaping, something to check is its IP rating – a numerical code that tells you how waterproof, and dustproof it is. The higher the IP rating the more likely your device is to survive the elements. Something like the Geekvape L200, with an IP rating of IP68, is a great outdoor device.
Battery life is also something to consider here – if you’re outdoors a lot you may be away from a charging point for long periods of time. There are two options to combat this. You can choose a fixed-battery device with a high capacity or a replaceable battery device so that you can swap the battery with charged replacements.
See our Guide to Outdoor Vaping for more information.
In transit: When you’re moving around a lot, 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 device in all of these places, so the best “all-round” device should really win out in this area. Mods and pod mods have the most potential to be great vaping companions wherever you are, but vape pens and pod systems can get the job done too.
For just-switching or recently-switched smokers
Finding the right vape 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 device if you’ve only tried one or two of them?
Thankfully, your smoking habits and what you’re looking for from a device 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 a vape device.
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 a device that can last you through most of the day and provide enough nicotine. Unless you prefer your vape device to look like a cigarette, we’d recommend you choose a vape pen 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 vape pen, pod system or cigalike.
For heavier smokers: Cigalikes definitely won’t cut it, and there’s a chance even standard pod 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 vape juice to help you deal with your cravings.
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.
For established and longer-term vapers
So for someone with limited experience with vaping, 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, 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 vape device is for you is what you have right now.
Are you still using a kit you got when you first started?
Are you using a mod but find it too complicated?
Do you like the simplicity of disposables or 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 lower-resistance coils. The best option is a mod, especially when paired with a tank that uses low-resistance coils. Pod mods are also better than cigalikes and low powered pods in this area.
Not enough flavour
Similarly, flavour will generally improve with better coils.
Cigalikes aren’t great for flavour. Simple vape pens and pods 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 vape pens and pods last longer between charges than cigalikes, and mods last longer than pod devices. However, other vape devices 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, mods are definitely worth the extra start-up cost.
Running costs too high
Running costs can vary between vape kits. In general, disposables and 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.
Do you want big clouds?
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 TECC Specter, which offers up to 40W, 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 vape kit, whichever one you have. See our guide to maximising vapour clouds for more information.
Have you vaped before? What did you think?
You can get quite a long way towards finding the right vape kit on the basis of your smoking habits and what you’ll need from your device, 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 vape, your experience can give you some important clues as to which 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 vape juice, and you can do this with any type of device.
However, the type of vape you tried may also have been an issue. In general, cigalikes/disposables are less satisfying than pod systems, and pod 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 vape juice 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.
Learn more: Nicotine & E-Liquid: What strength do you need?
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 vape device 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 refillable device or a mod, you can use any type of vape juice, 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 vape juice you tried. Again, mods and refillable pod devices let you choose your liquid to suit your preferences, but higher-power devices can increase the throat hit too.
Also see: The Vapers Guide to Throat Hit.
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: most pods and mods allow you to use any e-liquid flavour. In contrast, cigalikes, disposables and closed-pod systems, only offer the choices produced by the manufacturer. So if you want to find the best flavour, refillable devices and mod kits are the best approach.
Also see: 10 Tips for Flavour-Chasing Vapers
Overall, unless you tried a more complicated device and want something as simple as possible, pod 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.
They’re also more satisfying than cigalikes, and this is more likely to be an issue than the reverse.
What modes do you want/need?
When you start vaping with a simple device, you’ll probably find there is only one way to operate it, but as you try out more advanced devices, you’ll notice more options of different features and ‘modes’ to choose from.
Different modes change the way your device operates and the kind of vape you get. As you try more advanced devices, you’ll find modes that do everything from make the device easier to use to those that improve flavour. While there are too many different vaping modes to list here, and some you won’t necessarily need, it’s worth knowing what they do.
Here are 4 modes you’re likely to come across. See Advanced Vaping Modes for a more in-depth list.
Variable Wattage (VW) mode: One of the most common modes found in all kinds of devices from basic pods to advanced mods, VW mode simply allows you to adjust your device’s power output by increasing or decreasing the wattage using a button or buttons.
In more advanced devices like mods and pod mods, VW mode will allow you to adjust between specific numerical wattage values (e.g 5 – 200W), while some more basic pod devices will have set power levels such as ‘low, medium and high’ or ‘soft, medium and hard’ options to choose from.
Bypass Mode: Bypass mode is one of the simplest modes you’ll find in a vape device as it removes the option of variable wattage and instead bases power output on battery life. It is quite often the only mode available in simple devices with no buttons or settings, while it can be found as one of many options in more advanced devices.
In bypass mode, the full power of the battery is delivered to the device. This means that the device’s power output will be higher when the battery is fully charged and will deplete as the battery runs down.
Smart Mode: Usually found in mods and pod mod devices, this is a mode we’re seeing in more and more new devices. Smart Mode takes the guesswork out of controlling your vape device and helps protect your coils from burning out.
In Smart Mode, the device will detect the resistance of the coil being used and automatically set the recommended wattage or wattage range for that coil.
Temperature Control (TC) mode: Once a very popular feature, TC mode is not nearly as prevalent as it used to be. Still, it’s worth knowing about as you may come across it – particularly when using a mod device.
As coil resistance can change under temperature, TC mode effectively sets a maximum temperature that the coil can reach and ensures it stays within this limit. This helps you to avoid ‘dry hits’, prevents vape juice from ‘overcooking’ and protect the coil from burning out prematurely.
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 vape 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 some popular kits, and the benefits and downsides of each.
Hexa Pro: Best closed pod device
- Easy to use with buttonless design & inhale firing
- Fixed coil, pre-filled pods – no need for refilling or coil changes
- Unique nicotine salt blend – great for former smokers
- Low initial cost
- Portable, lightweight design
- Disposable pods mean more expense in the long run
- Restricted flavour choices compared to refillable devices
Innokin Go-S: Easy to use refillable vape pen
- Easy to use, single-button vape pen.
- Refillable. You can use any e-liquid with this device, allowing more choice in flavour. (It is best used with e-liquids with a VG:PG ratio of around 50:50.)
- The 1500mAh 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 mean 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
- Range of 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.
- Has limited modes compared to most mods.
- Only has two power options.
Vaporesso Target 200: Big power, great flavour & dense clouds
- Powerful – up to 200 watts of power.
- Huge power and low resistance mesh coils mean you can produce some serious clouds.
- Choice of 5 modes including flavour-enhancing F(t) mode.
- 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.
- Pricer than other options listed here.
- Lack of higher coil resistance means kit only supports Direct-Lung vaping.
- Steeper learning curve than the other devices mentioned 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 vape 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 vape kit and accessories for your needs.Getting a new vape 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.