Education and counseling are important aspects of the management of patients starting dialysis. Free choice of modality may enhance patient well-being and, in the absence of clear survival benefits for either hemodialysis (HD) or continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), should have the major role in modality selection. This prospective study examines factors influencing this choice. Three hundred thirty-three new patients started renal replacement therapy at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital (Birmingham, UK) between August 1, 1992, and July 31, 1998. Data were incomplete for 14 patients, 11 patients were not counseled, and 54 patients had contraindications to a particular modality. The remaining 254 patients were offered a free choice. One hundred thirty-nine patients (55%) chose HD and 115 patients (45%) chose CAPD. Independent predictors for choosing CAPD rather than HD were being married (P = 0.004), being counseled before the start of dialysis (P = 0.019), and increased distance from the base unit (P < 0.001). Independent predictors for choosing HD were increasing age (P = 0.030) and male sex (P = 0.041). Use of these data should enhance planning of dialysis services and bring nearer the goal that all new patients with ESRD are able to have the dialysis modality of their choice.