Disposable vapes have been around almost since vaping started, but over the last couple of years they have skyrocketed in popularity - becoming one of the most popular ways to start vaping in the process.
They are an easy way to get started, and provide a convenient and hassle-free way to get your daily dose of nicotine without having to commit to a full vape setup. However, they do come with some drawbacks, especially when used long term.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about disposables vapes, including their pros and cons and the best brands to try. You’ll also learn how to switch to a refillable device when you are ready - a switch that will save you money AND reduce waste.
- What is a disposable vape?
- Anatomy of a disposable device
- How do disposable devices work?
- How are disposable devices different from refillable devices?
- Advantages of disposable vapes
- Disadvantages of disposable vapes
- How to use a disposable vape
- When should you replace your disposable device?
- How to choose a disposable device
- What are the best disposable vape devices?
- Switching from disposable vapes to reusable devices
- Final thoughts on disposable vaping
The Elf Bar is one of the most popular disposable devices.
A disposable vape is an electronic nicotine delivery system that requires no assembly or setup. Instead, it comes pre-filled with e-liquid and is ready to use right out of the box. The e-liquid usually (but not always) contains nicotine. After the battery and/or e-liquid is used up, the device is disposed of.
Disposable devices contain the following elements:
1. A battery, usually lithium-ion, which provides the power.
2. A coil which absorbs the e-liquid and provides heat.
3. A pod, which contains the e-liquid. In a disposable vape this is usually built into the device.
4. E-liquid, which contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and flavourings. It usually (but not always) also contains nicotine.
5. A mouthpiece.
When you inhale on a disposable vape a sensor activates the battery.
The battery powers the coils, which in turn heats up the liquid in the cartridge. This creates a vapour that can be inhaled.
|Battery||Recharged when it has run out.||Disposed of when it has run out.|
|Pod||Refilled when e-liquid used up.||Disposed of when e-liquid used up.|
|Vapour||You can vary the vapour & throat hit you get depending on the device, e-liquid and settings you use.||Disposable devices provide roughly the same amount of vapour and throat hit with every device.|
|Flavours||Thousands of different flavours available, varying sweetness and strength.||Hundreds of different flavours available, usually strong and often sweet.|
|Coil||When the coil comes to the end of its life, you replace either the coil or the pod.||The whole device is disposed of after the coil has been used once.|
|Cost||Start up costs typically from £10.00. Low ongoing running costs.||Typically around £5.00 per disposable vape.|
Disposable vapes offer a number of advantages over other nicotine delivery systems. While it’s important not to over-egg these, they are ideal if you are new to vaping.
First, disposable vapes provide extreme convenience, as they don't require any additional components such as coils or tanks. They can be used right out of the box without any additional setup, and they do not require any maintenance.
Ease of use
Disposable devices are incredibly easy to use. Simply slip off the plastic cover at the ends and inhale.
They are also incredibly discreet and portable, and they can easily slip into a tight pocket.
No need to charge
As they don’t need recharging, they are also great for situations where you will not be near a plug, such as when you are at a festival.
Disposables devices provide a consistent experience in terms of flavour and nicotine content. What’s more, you can buy each disposable in a different flavour, which means it is easy to switch between flavours.
Cheap way to try vaping
Disposable vapes are a very cheap way to get started vaping, allowing you to try it out for £5.00 or less. That allows you to try vaping out without having to invest in a full kit.
Disposables may be a cheap way to start vaping, and they are cheaper than smoking for most people - but they are not a particularly cheap way to continue vaping.
Each disposable contains 2ml of e-liquid. With an average price of around £5.00 that works at around £2.50 per ml. In contrast, e-liquid usually costs 30p or less per ml.
You can buy an excellent vape kit for less than £20.00, so savings soon start to mount up. See our list of Best Cheap Vape Kits for inspiration.
Disposables are also bad for the environment. Each one contains a lithium-ion battery which could be used many times, but is instead disposed of after only one use.
If disposables are not disposed of properly, they can also lead to littering and leaking of chemicals into the environment. As many disposable devices contain a battery and e-liquid in one device, which is difficult to split apart, they are difficult to recycle.
Reusable vapes offer a tremendous amount of control over the experience of vaping. Depending on the device you have and the e-liquid you use, you can control the airiness of the vapour, the amount of vapour you get, the throat hit and more. However, disposable devices offer one experience only, which may not be the right fit for you.
There’s really not much to using a disposable vape device, but the following tips might help!
It can help first to prime your device before using it - take a few short puffs without inhaling to ensure the juice is saturating the coil.
When you inhale, remember that a disposable device is slightly different from a cigarette. Typically you take long, slow puffs with a disposable instead of the short, sharp puffs you’d take with a cigarette.
Ensure your device is stored upright if possible, which helps ensure the e-liquid continues to saturate the coil. The device is best stored at room temperature.
What NOT to do:
Do not attempt to disassemble or hack the device, as this can lead to a malfunction and will void any warranty from the manufacturer.
Finally, when you have finished using your device, please remember to dispose of it properly and at a recycling facility.
There are a number of signs for when your disposable device needs replacing.
1. The device stops activating. This usually means the battery has run out.
2. The vapour has a burnt taste. This means the coil has stopped working.
3. The device activates but does not produce vapour. This means the device has run out of e-liquid.
4. The light on the disposable device blinks a number of times. This means the battery has come to the end of its life.
If you experience any of the above it is time to replace your device.
One of the most important factors when choosing a disposable vape is flavour. Disposables come in a huge variety, varying from fruity and sweet to earthy and herbal. You can also get devices that clip together, so you can mix two flavours to create a new one. The best example of this at present is the Element Klik Klak range.
If you are switching from smoking, you might want a device with a bit of tobacco in it. However, it often pays to move away from the taste of tobacco as quickly as possible, as that can make it harder to revert to smoking.
Disposable vapes come in different nicotine strengths ranging from 0mg (nicotine-free) up to 20mg (2%). The higher strengths are best for switching from smoking, as they help replace the hit of a cigarette. Lower strengths are best for reducing the amount of nicotine you use.
If you’re not a smoker, we don’t advise using electronic cigarettes. However, if you are going to use a vape device, then you should use 0mg in order to limit the risk of addiction.
Learn more: What nicotine strength do you need?
Battery life is another important factor when choosing a disposable vape. This is measured in mAh, and the higher the mAh the bigger the capacity of the battery. It’s not the only thing that matters with disposables - a more efficient device will last longer. But in general, a battery with a higher mAh will last longer than one with a lower mAh.
Price is always an important consideration when making any purchase, and disposable vapes are no exception. Look for one that fits within your budget while still providing the features you need or want. It’s usually worth looking for multi-buys too, as they can give you a cheaper overall price.
Size & weight
Disposable vapes come in various sizes and weights depending on the model you choose. Look for a size and weight that will feel comfortable in your hand.
Design & style
Last but not least, consider the design and style of the disposable vape before making your purchase decision – do you prefer something sleek and modern or something more classic? Do you want something which is discreet or something that will catch the eye?
For example, if you are looking for something that stands out, you might choose a Crystal Bar.
Puffs and e-Liquid capacity
Disposable devices come with an estimated number of puffs. However, do bear in mind that the number of these are based on a puff counter, usually using quite short puffs! The actual number of puffs you get out of the device will depend on how long you inhale for and how hard you inhale.
What’s more, as already mentioned, in the UK the maximum legal limit for e-liquid is 2ml. Most disposable devices contain this amount of e-liquid. However, some devices are more efficient than others and will last longer. We have found that Lost Mary and IVG Bar Diamond ranges are the best for a consistently long battery life.
Unfortunately, there are a number of illegal devices available in the UK.
All legal devices must be submitted to the UK MHRA before they can be sold. This process requires strict controls on what can go into the e-liquid, as well as emissions testing on the vapour and the device. This is to ensure that the device and vapour are as safe as they can be. However, it is unlikely illegal devices will undergo the same processes, likely making them more harmful than legal devices.
You can usually tell if a device is illegal, as it will have more than 2ml of e-liquid or a nicotine strength higher than 20mg/2%.
Elf Bar: Most Popular
Elf Bar is currently the most popular disposable vape brand, with 40 different flavours and three nicotine levels available. They are particularly known for their 600 range, which can last up to 600 puffs per device.
Also see: The 12 Best Elf Bar Flavours to Try
Lost Mary: Upcoming brand
Created by Elf Bar, the Lost Mary brand is becoming increasingly popular in the disposables market. The BM600 range has a unique ombre colour design and bottle-style shape which make them stand out and offer great value for money, with up to 600 puffs.
There are over 20 fruity, candy, menthol and beverage flavour options available, and the AM600 range also offers a classic bar-style shape with a frosted, translucent design, up to 600 puffs, and 20mg nic salt strength.
Also see: 10 Best Lost Mary Flavours
Crystal Bar: Eye-catching design
The SKE Crystal Bar disposables are stylish vapes with a sleek, crystal-like design. They are filled with 20mg nicotine salt and have a mesh-design coil for a smooth flavourful and satisfying vape.
With over 35 flavours, including tropical fruit, beverage and ice cream flavours as well as more traditional tobacco and menthol blends, the Crystal Bar range offers up to 600 puffs per bar.
Also see: 10 Best Crystal Bar Flavours
This is just a small selection, and new devices are coming up all the time. For a full, regularly updated roundup see Best Disposable Vape Devices.
One of our favourite vape devices, the Vaporesso Xros is very easy-to-use.
Given the expense and environmental cost of disposables, I’ve put a lot of thought and research into the best ways to switch from disposables to reusable vape devices. I’ve been helped by our customer service team and the people in our shops, who come across this scenario all the time.
We’ve found three key elements needed for successfully switching:
1. Know the very basics
Using a vape device (especially modern starter kits and pod systems) is not rocket science, but there are a couple of things you need to know.
In every vape device, there is an element that heats the e-liquid and turns it into vapour (the coil). If you choose to use a refillable device (as opposed to a pre-filled pod), you need to leave it a few minutes after filling in order to allow the e-liquid to saturate the coil.
Coils don’t last forever, and from time to time you will need to change them. You will know this because the taste will go or the vape will start to feel scratchy.
Depending on your device, this either means changing the whole pod or simply changing the coil. The good thing is that this is much cheaper (and better for the environment) than buying a new disposable device.
2. Choose the right e-liquid
Bar salts are similar in taste to disposable device flavours.
Disposable devices typically have a very strong flavour and are very sweet in taste. They also have a smooth, often airy throat hit. The smooth throat hit is due to a specific type of e-liquid, called nicotine salts.
So when choosing an e-liquid, you should choose a nicotine salt type. If you like the strong, sweet flavour of disposables, we recommend choosing a bar salt, as these replicate the taste and experience of disposable devices.
3. Choose the right device
It’s also important to choose the right device. This should be easy to use and work well with nicotine salts.
One option is to use a pre-filled pod system. These are really just as simple as a disposable device - you simply clip a pod in and inhale. Elfa Pro pods are the current best option but there are others about to be launched.
Another alternative is the Aspire R1. This device is rechargeable and refillable, but comes with an inbuilt coil. When the coil burns out (typically after about 6-7 refills) you discard it. This makes it a great crossover from disposables to reusable devices.
The third option is the Vaporesso Xros Mini 3, along with the Xros 3. This is our current favourite option, as it is reliable, easy to use, works well with bar salts and gives a great vape. As with disposables, it is button free, so after filling all you need to do is inhale. We find it works well with bar salts when using a 0.8Ω coil, or a 0.6Ω coil for an airier vape.
Disposables sometimes get a bad rep, but it’s worth remembering they have helped many smokers take their last cigarette. If you are a smoker, they can be a really great introduction to vaping.
Over the long term, though, it’s well worth switching to a refillable device. This will both help you save money and reduce your impact on the environment.
How do you recharge a disposable vape?
Unfortunately, in the UK most disposable vape devices are designed to be used once and then discarded. (This is not the case in other countries where disposable devices come with larger amounts of e-liquid. In the UK, the maximum legal capacity is 2ml, and a single charge battery in a disposable is sufficient to vapourise the e-liquid.)
We suggest using either a device with a pre-filled pod or a crossover device such as the Aspire R1, which offers almost all of the convenience of disposables but is also refillable.
Why does my disposable vape taste burnt?
All vape devices have a coil inside them. These have a limited life span, and will eventually ‘burn’. Most coils in disposable vapes will usually last longer than the battery of the e-liquid, but on rare occasions they may burn out first. This can cause what is called a ‘dry hit’, which is when you do not get any flavour or get a burnt taste.
If this happens repeatedly, you can try switching to a different brand or taking lighter inhales. Or, even better, switch to a device where you can switch the pods and/or coils!
What does it mean when a disposable vape blinks?
A disposable device can blink for several reasons (and this may depend on the brand too).
1. The battery has come to the end of its life, and the device must be replaced.
2. The safety feature has kicked in because of a short circuit or overheating. This is very unusual except in the case of an accident, such as dropping the device in water. Occasionally this can be fixed by allowing the device to dry for 24 hours.
3. The puff timer has kicked in. Most disposable vape devices have an inbuilt timer which will stop the device from firing after 8-10 seconds.
How do you refill a disposable vape?
Again, it is not possible to fill a disposable vape. Indeed, it is rather against the point of them! Instead, switch to a refillable device.
How much nicotine is in a disposable e-cigarette?
That depends on the nicotine strength. The highest strength allowed in a disposable vape device in the UK is 20mg (2%) per ml. With a maximum volume of 2ml, the maximum you can get in a disposable device is 40mg of nicotine. However, disposables come in different strengths including 10mg and 0mg (i.e. zero nicotine).
How long does a disposable vape last?
That depends on how often you puff, how long you inhale for and how hard you inhale. However, most disposable devices will last most people a day of use.
How do you know when your disposable device has run out?
Your device may blink, stop working or stop delivering any vapour or flavour.
How do you stop a disposable vape from auto firing?
See our guide: Why Is My Vape Auto-Firing? Causes, Prevention & Fixes