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What's the Difference Between an Atomizer, Cartomizer and Clearomizer?

When you first get into the world of vaping, everything can seem a bit confusing or overwhelming. There are a lot of unfamiliar terms, and the sheer number of options available can make it difficult to know which is the best for you.

One of the first big decisions that someone new to vaping will have to make is choosing whether to use an atomizer, clearomizer or cartomizer. To help make your decision simpler, this article will outline what each option is, what the benefits are and what type of vape experience each can offer.

What Are Atomizers, Clearomizers and Cartomizers?

Before we jump into the details, it's important to understand what the basic functions of each are. It's easy to get confused by these three products, so here is a quick breakdown of each one.

  • 1 Atomizers: Atomizers are what turn the e-juice into a fine mist or vapor so that you can inhale it. Cartomizers and clearomizers are technically also atomizers, but when this term is used, vapers are usually referring to rebuildable models that require a bit of work.
  • 2 Clearomizers: A clearomizer is a see-through glass or plastic tank that holds a premade atomizer. These atomizers are usually disposable, which means less fuss and complication.
  • 3 Cartomizers: Cartomizers are usually called "extended atomizers" because they come in a longer case. These are typically found in the cheap e-cigs that are made to look like imitation cigarettes. Of the three mentioned, these are generally the least popular.

How Does Each One Work?

Using an RDA atomizer will allow you drip your own juice onto the wick and control the density which is perfect for those vapers who enjoy tinkering to find that perfect experience. However, using an RDA setup requires quite a bit of prior knowledge and practice to get right, and it's not something you can easily do on the move due to the need to replenish your wick every 10 puffs or so. That's where a good vape tank can really come into its own. A vape tank will allow you to vape anywhere, anytime without any tinkering or hassle. Even seasoned drippers have a few decent tanks on standby that match their setup so they can attach and go, saving the RDA approach for a time they can savour it at home or with friends.&


Atomizers are the most popular choice for vapers today. When you hear the term, most people in the vaping community are either talking about rebuildable dripping atomizers, called RDAs, or rebuildable atomizers, called RBAs.

These devices have a heat-resistant wick wrapped around two heating coils. When you add e-juice to your vape, it saturates the wick, and the coils heat up to turn the liquid into vapor for you to inhale. Atomizers usually require more frequent filling and more maintenance, but they deliver superior taste and vapor clouds.



Clearomizers are a popular choice for newbies because they don't require as much work, but they still provide a great experience. In these devices, the atomizer is replaceable and stored in the base of the tank, which can be easily unscrewed when it's time for a new one.



Generally speaking, cartomizers are intended as "one-and-done" devices. They can be refilled, but it's rarely worth the time and effort to do so. Cartomizers are usually attached to disposable e-cigarettes and have a limited life span. When they're finished, users may just throw away the entire device.


What Are the Benefits of Each Device?

Each method has positives and negatives, so deciding which is right for you will be based on what kind of vaping experience you hope to have.


As you become a more experienced vaper and gain more understanding of how it works, you will likely end up switching to an RDA or RBA. These offer the most control and the most personalized vape experience, which makes them extremely popular choices.

If you're brand new, unsure if you want to vape long-term or not technically inclined, atomizers may not be the right place to start out. However, if you know that you're committed to vaping, an atomizer is a worthwhile time and money investment because you will get the most use and enjoyment out of it in the long run.


  • 1 High level of customization
  • 2 Overall superior taste
  • 3 Great for heavy users
  • 4 Less e-juice consumed
  • 5 Clean and strong flavor
  • 6 Extremely safe


  • 1 Frequent refilling
  • 2 Complicated for beginners
  • 3 More chances for mess


Clearomizers are more commonly referred to as tanks, and they're a great place to start if you know you're planning to vape long-term. They are simple to use and much more convenient for beginners.

Tanks offer a good balance of ease of use and a great vaping experience, and they can be customized as you become more familiar with building coils and your own taste preferences.


  • 1 Large juice capacity
  • 2 Fewer refills
  • 3 Good for heavy use
  • 4 High level of customization
  • 5 Can use disposable or rebuildable coils


  • 1 Coil choices can be confusing to beginners
  • 2 Plastic tanks can taint juice flavor
  • 3 Glass tanks may crack or leak
  • 4 Previous e-juice flavors may linger
  • 5 Can be expensive


A lot of advanced vapers will say that cartomizers are outdated, but the truth is that they offer a good entry-level experience, and they can help you decide if vaping is right for you without spending a lot of money.

Some cartomizers are marketed as single-use, and many treat them that way. However, some advanced vapers will take the time to disassemble the cartomizer and refill it. This is something to consider when deciding whether or not to try a cartomizer.


  • 1 Similar hand and mouth feel to cigarettes
  • 2 Inexpensive
  • 3 Can be found easily
  • 4 Disposable
  • 5 Prefilled


  • 1 Polyfill wick dulls taste
  • 2 Not easy to refill or reuse
  • 3 Limited flavor range
  • 4 Not ideal for heavy use
  • 5 May hold previous e-juice flavor

Let's Recap

Ultimately, the right choice will always come down to your preferences, skill level and expectations. Each of the three options has its own set of positives and negatives, so there is no single "right" choice. Overall, an atomizer will offer the best, most consistent and flavorful experience, but there is a bit of a learning curve.

If you're still unsure, don't be afraid to chat with experts and let them help you choose where to start.