Most patients starting dialysis can choose between peritoneal dialysis and haemodialysis. There is little evidence proving that one form of dialysis is better than the other; although there may be an early advantage to peritoneal dialysis (PD) in young patients with residual function this effect is short-lived. Technique failure develops after years on PD so dialysis modality will often change during a long dialysis career. Quality of life studies, which must be interpreted carefully, indicate that patients require information about the impact of dialysis on their lifestyle as well as health-related outcomes so that they can choose the most suitable dialysis modality. Increasing numbers of frail elderly patients are starting dialysis; support in the home by nursing staff may facilitate the use of PD in this group. In the UK guidelines prioritise the patient's choice of dialysis modality (where feasible) based on good quality predialysis education. Cost of treatment is generally lower on PD, which is particularly recommended for patients with residual renal function and few comorbidities.