30 November 2006

Save on DNA tests

In the last post I looked at the trend in prices for Family Tree DNA’s Y-DNA tests since they entered the market in mid 2000. Here's another perspective on how prices might change, and how to save. The bottom line is that while some reductions in analysis costs will likely occur the easiest way to save, while getting results promptly, will continue to be by taking advantage of group project rates.

How do I come to this conclusion? Leaving aside credit card costs, which will be a small percentage of the total bill, the costs can be divided between per sample and per marker amounts.

Per sample costs are for collecting and administering the sample, maintaining the database, shipping and storing the sample in the long term. That's not to mention costs of advertising and technical support. Also the initial stages of the lab procedure, extraction and amplification of the sample are independent of the number of markers tested. The only way these costs are likely to decline is through finding internal efficiencies or reducing service.

Warning – arithmetic ahead!

The other part of the cost is dependent on the number of markers tested, and technology is likely to impact that. At FTDNA rates the difference between the cost of a 67 and 37 marker test, 30 markers, is $US 3.00 per marker. At the same rate for all 67 markers that’s $US 201 out of the price of $US 349. The difference is $US 148. That’s for the individual rate and covers the per sample cost and, presumably, a little profit.

At the group rate for a 67 markers test of $US 269 the difference is $US 68. Applying $US 3 per marker to the 12 marker test leaves $US 113 at the individual price, and $63 at the group price. The range $US 60-70 is an estimate of the per sample cost.

The difference between the 12 and 37 marker cost declined by $US 0.80 per marker with the FTDNA price reduction of Spring 2006. While there would appear to be some scope for additional reductions, prices are likely to be driven by competition and market forces. Based on FTDNA's history of three price changes over six years, the most recent in Spring 2006, don't expect a price adjustment soon.

Finally, some people don't know they don't have to join a surname project to get a discount price. Group discount prices are available by joining an existing regional project, particularly noteworthy for those with an uncommon surname where it might be difficult to establish a viable surname project.