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Vape Pens, Dab Pens and Wax Pens – What's the Difference?

Vape Pens, Dab Pens and Wax Pens – What's the Difference?

Updated: October 8th, 2020

Vaping has become one of the most popular ways to consume cannabis over the last few years, but entering the vape scene and understanding its nuances can sometimes seem like a challenge.With the booming marketquickly becoming oversaturated with cartridges and waxes, both of quality and not, it’s important for consumers to know exactly what they’re buying and interacting with from an educated perspective. 


Demystifying and differentiating between terms like vape pen, wax pen and dab pen provides a solid base to learn more about the products’differences and similarities. The chart below gives insight into these cannabis pen basics — there’s more from there. 




How it Works

Best For

Price Range

Vape Pen

  • Vape oil is sucked into an atomizer, heated into vapor and inhaled. 
  • Users new to vaping.
  • Those looking to be very discreet. 
  • Users not interested in measuring / loading concentrates. 
  • Approximately $25 - $150.

Wax Pen

  • Wax concentrate is heated in the pens inner chamber, vaporized and inhaled. 
  • Users with more vaping experience.
  • Those interested in having more vape control.
  • Users who desire to measure / load their own concentrates. 
  • Approximately $35 - $150.

Dab Pen

  • Dabs are heated on an inner coil, melted onto a wick, turned into vapor and inhaled. 
  • Users with significant vaping experience. 
  • Those who want a specific vape experience / temperature.
  • Users who enjoy and feel comfortable loading, cleaning and replacing their dab pen equipment. 
  • Approximately $40 - $200.

What is a vape pen?

A vape pen is a simple battery-powered device used to inhale vapor produced by oil or liquid cartridges. Vape pens typically consist of four major parts: the tank, atomiser, sensors and battery. These parts interact — and heat up — together to produce the vapor that’s inhaled. When in use, vape liquid or oil is sucked into the vape pen’s atomizer, heated into vapor, and inhaled. Users breathe these vapors in through their mouths, ultimately feeling the effects of cannabis or whatever essential oil was vaporized. Pens such as these are often rechargeable and accept a range of different cartridges / pods. 



  • Extremely easy to use; requires no hand loading.
  • Very discreet in both form and function. 
  • Inexpensive and plentiful in the vaping realm. 


  • Do not allow for much personalization.
  • Only uses cartridges / liquid forms of THC, no wax or dabs.  
  • Can be cheaply constructed if not made by a reputable brand. 


Best for:

Thanks to their ease of use, vape pens are great for beginners who’re just getting into vaping. Vape pens simply require the placement of a cartridge rather than a wax pen’s complex loading process and also demand much less upkeep. As personal devices, vape pens are also extremely discrete because of their small build and uncomplicated use. 


What is a wax pen?

Wax pens are similar to vape pens in form especially, but they do not vaporize liquid or oil. On the contrary, wax pens melt waxier concentrates of cannabis and other alike substances. Like traditional vape pens, wax pens consist of only a few main components: a battery, chamber for heating / melting wax, and a mouthpiece for the vapor to be inhaled through. Because they require more heating power though — to melt the more solidified wax — wax pens are often encased in steel to protect users from its warm internal temperatures. 



  • Allows for more control in the loading process.
  • Utilizes wax concentrates that can also be used on a traditional rig. 
  • Requires less upkeep / coil cleaning than dab pens.


  • Can be messier than basic vape pen options.
  • Requires knowledge on how to measure, load and clean pen parts.
  • Less discreet than a vape pen that doesn’t require hand loading.


Best for:

Wax pens are best for those who’re looking to up or improve their vaping experiences with more personalization. Wax pens can sometimes providemore temperature control, or at least the option of hotter vaping. Devices such as these also allow for more control when it comes to the concentrate itself. Users will have to commit to additional care for their device in loading and cleaning it, but they gain more dominance over their vaping.


What is a dab pen?

Similar to wax pens, dab pens utilize a denser substance for vaping — in this case, dabs. Dabs are a more informal name for THC concentrates, commonly used to produce more potent cannabis effects. Dab pens utilize many of the same components as vape and wax pens and work roughly the same. Users place their dab / concentrate onto a coil included in the pen, melting the dab onto a wick. The pen’s wick serves to absorb the now liquid dab and heat it further into vapor that can be inhaled. 


Dispensaries and packaging often refer to dab and wax pens interchangeably. However, although they’re very similar, dab pens are the only device that uses dab concentrates specifically. Simply put, dab pens are somewhat of a subset of wax pens. 



  • Provides users with the most control and room for creative choice.
  • Allows for hotter vapes to be taken compared to vape pens. 
  • Utilizes dabs that can also be used on a traditional rig. 


  • Can be more expensive than more basic vape pen options. 
  • Requires the most upkeep and cleaning with regards to all three devices. 
  • Less discreet than a vape pen that doesn’t require hand loading.


Best for:

Dab pens are best for those well-versed in vaping and looking for a more intense vape. Pens like this require a commitment to upkeep and a user who has a complete understanding of how to load, clean and replace parts like coils. With more responsibility comes more room to experiment and personalize though, giving dab pen users maybe the most control over their individual vape whether that’s in the form of concentrate or temperature. 


Similarities Between Wax Pens, Dab Pens, and Vape Pens

Wax, dab and vape pens share quite a few commonalities. Because dab pens are technically a subset of wax pens and use concentrates, they’re very similar. Although these pens are fairly different from their liquid and oil vape pen counterparts, the three devices still share a lot of similarities. 


One of the largest selling features for vape, wax and dab pens is how portable they are. Given their small size, pens can easily be stored in a carrying case and traveled with safely. The devices’ size also makes them incredibly discreet; they can be stashed away in a purse, backpack or even a back pocket for timely, appropriate uses. All three devices’ small size is partially thanks to their similar batteries and storage. Typically, oil and wax consumption uses up a similar amount of battery life.


Beyond just their size, vape, wax and dab pens are also known for their ease of use. While certain specifics can vary from make and model, all of these pens can typically be used with just the press of a button and an inhale. Dab pens and wax pens may have a more complex process, but they still follow the same train of thought. All of these pens may also feature a temperature control feature that allows users more choice in their vaping experience. This temperature management can serve both as a way to personalize each vape use, and as a safety precaution. 


Differences Between Wax Pens, Dab Pens, and Vape Pens

While they share their similarities, wax, dab and vape pens also hold several significant differences. Investing in a quality pen can be a bit pricey, so it’s necessary to distinguish between each device to ensure the right one is purchased. 


A large difference between vaping instruments is what type of product they use. Wax and dab pens use waxy concentrates and dabs, while pens typically use oils or liquid. This is part of what makes vape pens convenient and easy to use — an oil cartridge can be loaded into the device and even kept there during periods of unuse. Conversely, wax and dab pens are loaded with a user-measured amount of concentrate or wax by hand. Loading wax and dab pens can be dirtier / messier than vape pens for this reason. Wax and concentrate will also build up and need to be scraped and cleaned away regularly. The heating coil may need to be replaced as well during this process of maintenance; vape pens don’t necessarily require this upkeep.


Considering their denser vaping substance, it’s to be expected wax and dab pens might also usea higher temperature than vape pens. Vape pens usually require a heat of just 315 to 385 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas wax and dab pens require temperatures of 350 to 400 for use. 



  1. What is a vape pen battery?
    1. A vape pen battery is the power source of the pen. Vape pens typically use a rechargeable lithium ion battery; they’re slim, light and powerful. For example,Vessel’s vape pens are powered by a high-quality 240mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery core. These batteries should also hold a charge for a significant amount of time, although that’s more dependent on frequency of use. 
  2. Can a dab pen get you high?
    1. Yes, dab pens can definitely cause a high. Dab pens use dabs / concentrates of THC to produce a vapor that’s inhaled by users. If the product that’s being put into a pen device of any kind contains THC, it has the potential to cause a high. 
  3. How much does a dab pen cost?
    1. Dab pens can range in cost anywhere from as low as $20 to far over $100. The cost of a pen can be largely dependent on its materials and how much control it gives its user. With any vaping device, it's of the utmost importance to invest in quality pieces and avoid cheap and potentially unsafe products. 
  4. Dab pen vs. vape pen, what’s the difference?
    1. Dab pens use dabs or waxier THC concentrates while vape pens use liquid forms of THC. The build of these two pens is slightly different as well. Dab pens have a more bulky build that includes a heated coil, while vape pens are usually slimmer and work with an atomizer. 
  5. Wax pen vs. dab pen, what’s the difference?
    1. Dab pens exclusively are the only vaping device that can utilize dabs. Wax pens utilize wax or concentrates. Although sometimes their names are used interchangeably, dab pens are more of a subgroup of wax pens. 


To sum it up:

Buying a vape, wax, or dab pen doesn’t have to be difficult, especially when the proper research has been done to determine which is best for the individual and their scenario. Above all, vaping proves to be an experience based on personalization; simply allow safety and preference to guide the way.

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