How to Choose a Vibrator

Alexandra Fine, Credentialed Sexologist, M. Psych | Written by Dame

The sex toy industry is growing rapidly.

The research company Technavio predicts that between the years 2019 and 2023, annual sales will have grown by an additional $10 billion dollars, making adult toys a $50 billion dollar per year industry. And the firm ResearchandMarketing.com expects that the growth will largely be powered by sales of new and innovative types of vibrators.

Vibrators are already incredibly popular among those with vulvas. Statista reports that of those who own sex toys, 78% of them own a vibrator. (Dildos were in second place, at 60%).

There’s a good chance that you’re in that very large group, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen the vibe(s) which will give you and/or your partner(s) the most bang for your buck. Everyone’s body is different, of course, and every one of these toys is designed to provide different types of stimulation and pleasure.

Those who are new to sex toys, on the other hand, may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of high-quality vibrators on the market.

Before you pull out your credit card to buy a toy that you hope will spice up your sex life, here’s a guide which should help you choose your next (or first) vibrator with confidence.

Why Do You Want A Vibrator?

This is the most important question to ask yourself before you go shopping. Once you’re in a sex shop or scrolling through an online adult toy store or Amazon, don’t let yourself be distracted by pretty colors or sparkly designs. The look of a vibrator may make you smile, but it won’t make you happy in the way that matters.

What really matters is the type of sexual stimulation that excites or satisfies you (and/or a partner). After all, that’s why you’re buying a vibe in the first place, and it should determine which type of vibrator you purchase. Think about the areas on your body where you prefer to pleasure yourself – or have someone else pleasure you – and you’re ready to get started. Just remember, these are guidelines. There are no rules!

External Stimulation

If you’re a vulva owner who prefers or needs clitoral stimulation to reach intercourse, or if you simply prefer it, you’re not alone. Studies like the one published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy routinely report that about one-third of respondents can’t climax without external stimulation, and another third find that it makes things more pleasurable during vaginal penetration. Fewer than 20% can reach orgasm solely through penetrative sex.

And if you’re a penis owner, of course, external stimulation is likely to be both the appetizer and main course on your sexual menu.

Here’s the good news: there’s an enormous selection of external vibrators to choose from. Most are designed for the vulva, but can provide just as much satisfaction when used just about anywhere on anyone’s body. These are the most popular.

  • Bullet vibrators: These small, versatile, and usually inexpensive toys may look like they’re designed for the vaginal opening, but are really exceptional choices for direct stimulation of the glans clitoris (the external part of the large clitoral system that most people think of as “the clitoris”). Their size makes them easy to manipulate and easy to place exactly where they’ll deliver the most pleasure. They’re also terrific for stimulating the clitoral hood, labia, mons pubis – and every other erogenous zone from the nipples to the inner thighs.
  • Wand vibrators: Wand vibes can be powerhouses, and must often be plugged into the wall. They look somewhat like a professional microphone, but the rounded top above the long handle will deliver a lot more satisfaction than a mike when held against the glans clitoris. Be careful when using a wand vibrator during foreplay, though, since it can put you over the top very quickly. It can do double duty as a massager (it was originally made to be a back massager), but it may be too powerful for extremely sensitive spots.
  • Finger vibrators: Small finger vibes are becoming big sellers as “clitoral vibrators” because they fit so easily onto the hand for masturbation, or for partner play during penetrative sex. They’re great for ticking and teasing, too.

Internal Stimulation

If you’re thinking about anal stimulation, hold that thought. We’ll get there shortly. So-called internal vibrators are primarily intended for vaginal stimulation.

  • Standard penetrative vibrators: First-timers may think of these ubiquitous penis-shaped toys simply as “vibrators” when they first consider buying a sex toy. Standard models certainly have their place in the vibrating firmament; they’re easy to use and can provide lots of pleasure, and perhaps even an orgasm, in vulva-havers. They’re available in a huge variety of lengths and widths, and can be used to excite other erogenous zones as well. For earth-shaking climaxes, however, the next option can be a better choice.
  • G-spot vibrators: The G-spot, or something like it, probably exists – at least, according to most experts and anecdotal reports. So does the A-spot, a few inches deeper in the vaginal canal. These incredibly-sensitive areas of the vaginal canal are located where they interact with the internal parts of the clitoris, which is why G-spot orgasms are so legendary. And these vibrators are shaped with a curve toward the end, designed to make contact with the most important spots for G-spot stimulation.
  • Egg vibrators: We don’t have to tell you what these vibes are shaped like. But what they do is fit nicely into the vagina. They’re great for use in the bedroom, but since most come with remote controls or can be controlled via an app, they’re able to be used almost anywhere – including in public – for discreet solo or partner sex play. Since they fit into the hand easily, they’re also versatile toys for stimulation all over the body.

Combined Stimulation

We’ve already established that many vulva owners need or prefer stimulation in several areas at once. There are vibes for that.

  • Rabbit Vibrators: Most sexually-active adults are familiar with the rabbit. Generally speaking, it’s shaped like a dildo with rabbit ears, so the body of the toy can be used for penetrative sex and the “ears” can be used to stimulate the glans at the same time. Also generally speaking, those with vulvas find it to be their favorite toy because it can provide the most “complete” sexual experience.
  • Triple Spot vibrators: There are several models of vibrator that hit three different erogenous zones at the same time: the clitoris, vagina and anus for those with a vulva, and the scrotum, perineum and anus for people with a penis.

Anal Stimulation

Most anal vibrators are designed for penetration. They’re slimmer than their vaginal cousins, with a wide base to make sure they can be retrieved after use. Some are designed to stimulate the “P spot” on prostate owners, while others can be used by both vulva- and penis-havers. You can find vibrating anal beads and butt plugs, too.

For Penis Owners

In addition to prostate vibrators, there are toys designed specifically for those with penises. The most popular are vibrating cock rings and masturbation aids like Fleshlights, but small vibes to stimulate the head of the penis and frenulum, and complicated devices that simulate oral sex are also available. (The latter can also be found for clitoris owners; most of them suck instead of vibrate.)

Other Possibilities

Some of the vibrators becoming extremely popular are couples’ toys like the Eva II and the We-Vibe, which fit hands-free between two partners to stimulate both during sex play. There are also a large number of wearable vibrators and vibrating panties for fun-on-the-go, most of which come with remote controls or apps.

Choosing a Vibrator: Buying Considerations

Now that you’ve made the most important decision – what you want your vibrator to do – you can focus on the other important qualities and characteristics of your new toy.

Materials and Safety

The outer shell of a vibrator is known as its skin, and the material used to make it will largely determine how soft and flexible the vibe will be.

Non-porous materials like Pyrex, ABS (a hard plastic) and stainless steel are the hardest, but they’re also the safest because they don’t have any pores where fluids, bacteria and STDs can be trapped. Glass and steel can be cleaned in boiling water to guarantee safety, too. Medical-grade silicone is also non-porous, and it’s softer and more pliable. Just don’t boil it or use silicone-based lube with it.

Porous materials such as PVC, cyberskin and jelly rubber might feel better for penetration, but can function as a Petri dish even when washed thoroughly. It’s best to use condoms with them in order to prevent yeast infections and transmission of STDs. What about latex? It’s not as porous and is softer than steel or glass, but it can still trap bacteria so condom use is a good idea.

Most vibrator materials can be either smooth or textured; choosing between them is simply a matter of personal preference.

Finally, check the package or website to make sure the vibrator is made from body-safe materials. Some vibrators are made from materials containing phthalates, which are hormone disruptors and should be avoided. PVC, vinyl and jelly rubber are particularly problematic.

Vibration

Yes, vibrators vibrate. But they’re usually powered by motors which run at different frequencies – producing very different types of vibrations. So before choosing a vibe, you should think about the feelings you like. A higher-frequency “buzzy” model may provide pleasurable, good vibrations for stimulating the glans, while lower-frequency “rumbly” toys may be the best vibrators for stimulating vaginal nerve endings during penetration.

Also, check out the number of speeds and vibration patterns that a vibrator has. The benefits of selectable speeds are obvious. Vibration patterns (steady, pulsing and throbbing are just some of the possibilities) can make even more of a difference, varying the experience and greatly enhancing the pleasure.

One more thing to check: combination vibrators (like the rabbit) should have more than one motor. That allows you to vary the speed or pattern of each of the vibe’s functions independently.

Other Factors

There are a few more variables to consider before making a final decision.

  • Power source: A vibrator that has to be plugged into the wall will be more powerful, but more unwieldy to use. A vibe that requires you to change batteries regularly will be much less powerful. Rechargeable vibrators are most common and a good middle ground, but you may have to prematurely stop an extremely-lengthy play session if the charge runs low.
  • Waterproof: Most vibrators aren’t waterproof or water-resistant, but some are – and that may be important to you if you like to play in the shower, tub or pool.
  • Appearance: We didn’t say you should never consider the color or sparkly look of a vibrator, just that it should be the last factor on your list. If you find one that meets all of your other criteria and also looks sexy – go for it!