Sex toys and products

Vibrators – The Ultimate Guide to Buying, Owning and Using a Vibrator

Published: JUNE 21, 2018 | Updated: MARCH 11, 2022
We cover all the basics, plus a few of the questions we often get about vibrators.

If ever there was one, the vibrator is the quintessential sex toy. Everyone recognizes them, many people own them, and it is estimated that at least half of women have used one (along with a quarter of men!). Of the $15 billion or so worth of sex toys sold in the United States each year, about 20% are vibrators. The vibrator is also the first sex toy to really break through and beyond sex toys' dark, backroom reputation. Nowadays, it isn't unusual to find a vibrator in a drug store, big box retailer or even at the grocery store. So, as an ode to this vibrating sex toy, we've put together the ultimate guide to vibrators. Here we cover all the basics, plus a few of the questions we often get about vibrators. Enjoy!


What is a vibrator?

What is a vibrator? Well, if even if you aren’t a sex toy super user, you probably think this is a pretty obvious question. But the answer isn’t as obvious as you might think. A vibrator is a sex toy that vibrates, and the term is most often used to refer to toys designed to be used on vulvas and clitorises and vaginas. But a good vibrator is a lot more than that. Good, rumbling vibrations stimulate deep tissues, creating bigger, better orgasms. And, for people who have trouble achieving orgasm, these handy devices can be the only thing that makes the big O possible.

Vibrators also have quite a history. They began as medical devices used to treat “hysteria” in young women, then graduated to household devices marketed as back massagers or beautifiers or even fat busters. Nowadays, they’re marketed a lot more honestly as devices designed for sexual exploration and pleasure. And, for the most part, people can buy them (mostly) shame-free in an increasing number of stores - and online. Score!

Vibrators come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny, handheld wonders (they can still pack quite a punch!), to great, big wands with all the power you could ever want. There are so many different types of vibrators available, and even within each category, different brands offer different pros, cons and features. If you’re looking to buy a vibrator, there’s no reason why you can’t find just the right fit for you.


Here we’ll take a close look at vibrators, vibrator types, vibrator features, how to buy and answer a few key reader questions about the most popular sex toy around. Enjoy!

How to Use a Vibrator

This is actually a question we get a lot, and it’s one we’re happy to answer. After all, the only thing better than using a vibrator is using one to the best of its abilities! The best answer to this question is to relax, take your time, experiment and follow where your body takes you. Does your vibe feel best when you hold it here? What about here? What about this setting or that speed? Following how you feel is the best way to find what works for you. After all, we're all different! That said, there are a few key tips that will help you in your sexy explorations with a vibrator.

Play With a New Vibrator Before Using It to Play With Yourself
Yeah. You heard that right. When you get a new toy, you probably want to play with it ASAP and see if you can get your money’s worth. But a lot of vibrators have a range of speeds and vibration patterns. It’s nice to know what these are, how many there are, and how to move through them. This helps you get to know your toy. It also helps you avoid a scenario where, in the heat of the moment, you accidentally flip past the setting you were loving and then find yourself frantically pushing buttons trying to get back to it. Master your controls before you turn the toy on yourself!


Move Gradually Toward Your Target
Whether you’re aiming for the clitoris or the G-spot (or both, you do you!), most people find direct stimulation of the most sensitive areas to be too much at first. Start at a lower vibration setting and start a little away from your hot spots, gradually moving in closer as your comfort and arousal allow. This is a great way to build up heat and tension – and avoid numbness.

Get Your Whole Body Involved
We often assume that vibrators are just for below-the-belt stuff, but the best lovers tend to use their whole bodies as erogenous zones. Use your vibe to experiment with this idea. Run it over breasts, stomach, hips, collarbones – whatever feels good. Sex is about way more than our genitals. If you learn to start playing this way solo, it might just change your sex life.

Use Lube
Lube doesn’t get nearly enough love. In fact, a lot of people assume that it’s just for people who don’t have enough natural lubrication. The thing is, even if you’re one juicy babe, lubrication levels can fluctuate with your mood, your cycle and even the weather. And more lubrication tends to mean more comfortable, longer play. This is true even with a vibrator that you plan to use externally. Even that small amount of vibration against your skin is a form of friction that can create some degree of irritation. Adding a dab of lube will make things so much better. Trust us on this one!


Try It With a Partner
No matter what type of vibrator you’re using, it doesn’t just have to be for solo play. If you love what your vibe does for you, adding it to partnered playtime might just make things even better! Try sliding a small, powerful clitoral vibe between you and your partner during intercourse, have your partner explore your body with your vibrator as a form of foreplay, try a couples’ vibrator, or do it up like a porn star and bring out the Magic Wand.

How do I use the vibration settings on my vibrator?

Well … that depends on the vibrator. And, as we said above, you should really test things out on your hands before you try to get down to business. However, beyond the specifics of how your particular vibrator works, there are a few key things to mention here. The first is to start low and slow. Virtually all vibrators start out on the lowest setting when you turn them on. This is how you say, “hi” and “hello there” to your vulva and let it know what’s up. It’s polite. And it helps get some blood going down there without making things too sensitive. Then, you can gradually turn up the volume as things start to feel better. Once you are a bit warmed up, you can also test out some of the vibrator’s patterns. Again, you may want to scale up in intensity here as you go.

What are the different types of vibrators?

Whoo boy. There are sooo many different types of vibrators out there – and the list just keeps growing! We’ve put together a fairly comprehensive list of vibrator types to give you the lay of the land.


Rabbit Vibrators

A rabbit vibrator is what’s called a “dual stimulation” vibrator. In other words, it’s designed to stimulate two places at once, the clitoris and the G-spot. Rabbit vibrators get their name from the original version, in which the clitoral stimulator was made to look like a cute, little rabbit, whose ears vibrated to provide external stimulation. It's actually just a wee bit creepy, when you think about it. But, at the time, making sex toys cute was a way to make them approachable for consumers – and get them past strict rules against phallic toys in China, where many of these toys were made.

Nowadays, rabbit-style vibrators come in many shapes and styles that look nothing at all like a rabbit. The term rabbit vibrator is now used to refer to most toys with both a shaft and external clitoral stimulator.

Bullet Vibrators

A bullet vibrator is another popular vibrator style. Typically, these compact vibrators are shaped much like, well, a bullet. This allows them to provide very direct, very intense vibration to the clitoris, which many people like. It also makes them easy to carry and conceal. They’re like a concealed weapon. Or … perhaps concealed ammunition is more accurate.


Because they are small and simple, bullet vibrators tend to have fewer vibration settings and features than larger vibes. That isn’t such a bad thing, though – it also tends to mean that as a whole, they provide a less-expensive option. That said, there are also fewer waterproof and rechargeable options in this category (although that is getting better!).

G-Spot Vibrators

A G-spot vibrator is designed to stimulate – you guessed it – the G-spot, that small, spongy area on the front wall of the vagina. Not everyone likes G-spot stimulation, but those who do tend to really enjoy the fully body, intense orgasms it can create. G-spot vibrators come in various shapes and sizes, but they all tend to have a curve, bulge or bulb at the end of them. That’s the part that designed to nestle up against the G-spot. What works best depends on the person, but here are a few popular shapes.

LELO MONA Wave G-spot Vibrator

There are G-spot vibrators with curved, pointed ends, like the LELO Mona Wave.

Picobong Moka G G-spot vibrator
There are G-spot vibrators with a curved shaft and flat tip, like the Picobong Moka G.

There are also G-spot vibes with ridges, vibes that thrust, vibes that knock against the G-spot and so much more. What the best G-spot vibrators tend to have in common are deep, powerful, rumbly vibrations, so they work well for external play too.

Clitoral Vibrators

This is a big – and fairly amorphous – category that includes just about anything designed to stimulate the clitoris. Bullet vibrators, clitoral massagers, butterfly vibes and most other small, external vibes belong here, but so do vibrators that are too big to use internally. This includes wand massagers like the Magic Wand, LELO Smart Wand, Tantus Rumble and Doxy Massager.

As we’ve mentioned in other sections, almost any type of vibrator can be used externally as well, but the best clitoral vibrators tend to be shaped in ways that help them do the job even better. The We-Vibe Touch’s coved end allows it to fit right over the clitoris to better stimulate the whole area, while its pointed tip can be used for ultra-intense, on-the-spot sensation. Wand massagers, on the other hand, tend to employ a large, powerful head designed to vibrate way down deep into the clitoral complex.

Another sub-category here are compact vibrators called lipstick vibrators. These vibes are made to look just like a tube of lipstick, making them easy to tuck away and conceal. The best of the bunch right now is probably the We-Vibe Tango X.

Wand Vibrators

The term wand vibrator can be used to refer to any vibe that resembles, well, a wand, but it is most commonly used to refer to large, powerful massagers. The basic wand shape, however, has been around for a very long time, and it is one that most people still recognize. It’s likely that these were designed to be phallic … but not too phallic. And, while vibrator styling and design has definitely evolved since then, there are still some good classic “smoothies” in this space. Besides wand massagers, which are for external use, classic wand vibes can be used internally and externally. Some people like the simple, hard plastic smooth vibes for their ability to transmit powerful vibrations.

Egg Vibrators

Egg vibrators are, well, egg shaped. Traditionally, these vibes came attached – with a cord – to a set of controls. These “remote” controls gave users a few additional options. While this type of vibrator still exists, many egg vibrators are now cordless, like the LELO LYLA 2. Their round shape means a broader vibration area, which some people love. A remote control can offer many fun options too, particularly when playing with a partner.

Lelo Lyla 2 Egg Vibrator
LELO LYLA 2 is a classic egg vibrator.

Remote Control Vibrators

Speaking of remote controls, remote-control vibrators are growing into a significant category all on their own, especially as technologies like Bluetooth improve and become less expensive to incorporate into new toys. Today’s best remote-control sex toys can be controlled from way across a room, or from another location (or country!) altogether, thanks to new apps that allow partners – and their toys – to connect over the Internet. Sexting will never be the same!

Butterfly Vibrators

Butterfly vibrators are typically butterfly-shaped contraptions that are held against the clitoris with an elastic harness. They are designed to free up the user’s hands for other types of play, and may be used during intercourse. They are kind of cute and an interesting concept but … they are a bit old-school. In truth, there are much better clitoral vibes – and vibes designed to be used by couples during intercourse.

Vibrating Panties

Vibrating panties are, well, panties that vibrate. Often, they’re really just panties with a bullet vibe in the crotch lining. Fancy, huh? While this type of toy has long been considered a bit of a cheesy novelty item for bachelorette parties, some more powerful, better designed, higher quality options have come along to change things up. These include vibrators like the Jimmyjane Form 1, which fits nicely inside a pair of underwear but otherwise operates like a high-quality vibe should. It can also be controlled remotely.

Vibrating Cock Rings

Vibrating cock rings are considered a couples’ sex toy. They are often made of a stretchy material like silicone or rubber. They fit over the base of the penis, which helps the wearer maintain a harder erection. They also vibrate or are fitted with a vibrating bullet. This is designed to stimulate a female partner’s clitoris during intercourse. Some people love vibrating cock rings for the simple stimulation they provide. Others find them too weak, or too limiting in terms of the types of positions they allow.

Finger Vibrators

A finger vibrator is designed to work as a vibrating extension of the user’s finger, adding a little something extra to self-play. These vibes are often simple, small and inexpensive, which is a plus. That said, many are made of materials that are questionable in terms of body safety. However, this is a fun option, especially for those who are new to vibrators.

Vibrating Dildo

A vibrating dildo is exactly what it sounds like. Yup, it’s a dildo that vibrates. And while the boundaries of this category are pretty fuzzy, there are actually some really good options here. Plus, this a pretty versatile toy, because it’s a standalone dildo and vibe all in one.

Vibrating Tongue Ring

Vibrating tongue rings aren’t common, but there are a few around. Essentially, these vibrating rings are designed to slip over the tongue and stimulate a partner while giving oral sex. It’s an interesting idea, and there’s definitely the opportunity for pleasure here. The only issue is that many of these vibes are low quality and aren’t made of body-safe materials.

Male Vibrators

Many people assume that vibrators are just for women, but penises and testicles also respond well to vibration. Plus, there is an increasingly large number of vibrators designed for male bodies. The Hot Octopuss solo, for example, is a new type of vibrator that fits over the penis. The Fun Factory Cobra Libre 2 is another option here.

Vibrating Strap On

A vibrating strap-on is a strap-on dildo that vibrates, either for the pleasure of the wearer, for the pleasure of the wearer’s partner, or both. Strap-ons can be a fun way to introduce new things to partner play (like pegging!). Adding vibration just adds one more layer of options for sensation. A simple option like the Tantus Silk is great for pegging newbies.

Vibrating Anal Massager

Vibrating anal massagers are massagers meant for anal stimulation. Most of the toys in this category are prostate massagers or stimulators, which vibrate to stimulate the prostate. For many people, prostate massage is incredibly pleasurable and can contribute to a bigger, more intense orgasm.

Apps That Make Your Phone Vibrate

One final vibrator type are apps that make your phone vibrate. While a phone isn’t the best vibrator, it is a fun option that could work in a pinch. Some of the more popular, higher rated apps include the iVibe, Vibrator Secret for Women and iMassage U.

What is the best vibrator?

This is a question we get a lot and, honestly, there’s no one answer to it. There are good vibrators and there are bad vibrators, that much is true. If you want to learn to understand the difference, start reading some sex toy reviews from top reviewers to see what they have to say. Once you understand that, it all comes down to finding the best vibrator for you. And the answer to this question will involve weighing some combination of your preferences, what you’re looking for, how you want to use your vibrator, and how much you are able to spend.

What are some of the features I should look for in a vibrator?

There are so many vibrators with so many different features. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just kind of useless. That said, there are a few key features that can really affect your overall experience with your vibrator. Here are some to watch out for:

Body Safe Materials
OK. This one’s getting easier to find at all price points, so it should be non-negotiable. Some sex toy materials, particularly lower-cost, jelly-like materials, contain chemicals called phthalates. These plasticizers keep toys soft, but they may also have negative health effects. Plus, they may cause a reaction (such as a rash or mild chemical burn) in some people. Look for toys that are made out of pure silicone. Hard (ABS) plastic is another lower cost, body-safe option.

Read: 5 Tips for Buying Body Safe Sex Toys

“Rumbly” Vibrations
Vibrators may vibrate one of two ways. One is in a buzzy way that tends to produce surface-level sensation and may feel a bit itchy and unpleasant down below. These vibes will still get some people off, but you can do better. Rumbly vibes have a deeper, throbbing, more powerful type of vibration. This creates better stimulation, and thus bigger, better orgasms. Most sex-positive sex toy retailers will let you test out the merchandise (on your hand). If you're shopping online, read reviews, or choose toys from brands known for their rubmly vibrations, such as Blush, Fun Factory, LELO and We-Vibe.

Many of the newer, higher quality vibrators on the market are rechargeable and they charge up much like a smartphone, via USB, socket or by sitting in a special charging port. While this isn’t an essential feature, it is a nice one to have. This way, you don’t have to worry about keeping batteries around.

Waterproofing is another nice feature to have in a vibrator. It isn’t essential, but it does mean that you can take your toy into the shower or bath. It also makes toys easier to clean.

The Controls
Pay attention to the controls on any vibrator you choose, as in where they are located and how they work. Some vibrators have excellent, intuitive controls (or just really simple ones). Others are a button-pushing nightmare that makes using them very unpleasant. Also, decide whether the buttons are in a spot that will be ergonomic and convenient for you when you are using the toy.

The Warranty
OK, most retailers and manufacturers won’t accept returns because ewwwww. However, while some companies stand behind what they make and/or sell, others don’t give a damn. Purchase from companies with a reputation for dealing with customer complaints. If you buy a vibe that doesn’t work for you, that’s nobody’s fault, but it’s nice to have a recourse if you buy something that’s broken or defective. You can also check our retailers; some will replace defective or damaged merchandise, others won't.

Where can I get a cheap vibrator?

Well, anywhere, really. They’re all over the internet. But are you really sure you want one? Many of the really cheap vibrators are low-quality knock-offs with low-quality motors that are made of questionable materials. Instead, try shopping around for deals, coupon codes and discounts from higher quality brands. These toys will still cost considerably more, but they’ll bring you way more pleasure too. Plus, good vibrators can last for years, which is a much better deal than buying something cheap that dies or falls apart after a few uses.

Need a few lower cost picks that are still high quality? Check out The Top Low-Cost Luxury Vibrators to Try.

Can I use a vibrator in public?

This is actually a question people search for all the time. And the answer is ... it depends. When it comes to your body and your pleasure, you can do what you will, as long as it doesn't infringe on others. Do you want your partner to secretly tease you with a remote-control vibe in the back of a dark restaurant? Cool! Just keep the fun to yourselves and everything should be fine. While many people are turned on by doing something a little risky in public, performing any sort of sexual act in view of people who did not consent to see it is not cool (and could get you in trouble with the law). So, yes. Use a vibrator in a public if you can do it discreetly. Otherwise, please don't.

Is there anything else I should know about vibrators?

Not that we can think of. They’re a fun, safe, accessible way to enhance self pleasure and your sex life. Why not give one a try? That said, if you do have more questions, feel free to drop us a line!

Kinkly Staff

Sex is a bit like a secret society; everyone's doing it, it's just that no one talks about it. Kinkly's mission is to start that conversation, answer your questions and help you discover new and exciting things about sex, love and your body. We guarantee it'll be illuminating, enlightening, fun ... and a little kinky. And that's OK with us.No innuendos, no judgments and no apologies, just fearless, straight-up talk about sex.

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