# When to use LinkedList over ArrayList in Java?

###### Posted By: sdellysse

I’ve always been one to simply use:

```
List<String> names = new ArrayList<>();
```

I use the interface as the type name for *portability*, so that when I ask questions such as these I can rework my code.

When should `LinkedList`

be used over `ArrayList`

and vice-versa?

## Solution

**Summary** `ArrayList`

with `ArrayDeque`

are preferable in *many* more use-cases than `LinkedList`

. If you’re not sure — just start with `ArrayList`

.

TLDR, in ArrayList accessing an element takes constant time [O(1)] and adding an element takes O(n) time [worst case]. In LinkedList adding an element takes O(n) time and accessing also takes O(n) time but LinkedList uses more memory than ArrayList.

`LinkedList`

and `ArrayList`

are two different implementations of the List interface. `LinkedList`

implements it with a doubly-linked list. `ArrayList`

implements it with a dynamically re-sizing array.

As with standard linked list and array operations, the various methods will have different algorithmic runtimes.

For `LinkedList<E>`

`get(int index)`

is*O(n)*(with*n/4*steps on average), but*O(1)*when`index = 0`

or`index = list.size() - 1`

(in this case, you can also use`getFirst()`

and`getLast()`

).**One of the main benefits of**`LinkedList<E>`

`add(int index, E element)`

is*O(n)*(with*n/4*steps on average), but*O(1)*when`index = 0`

or`index = list.size() - 1`

(in this case, you can also use`addFirst()`

and`addLast()`

/`add()`

).**One of the main benefits of**`LinkedList<E>`

`remove(int index)`

is*O(n)*(with*n/4*steps on average), but*O(1)*when`index = 0`

or`index = list.size() - 1`

(in this case, you can also use`removeFirst()`

and`removeLast()`

).**One of the main benefits of**`LinkedList<E>`

`Iterator.remove()`

is*O(1)*.**One of the main benefits of**`LinkedList<E>`

`ListIterator.add(E element)`

is*O(1)*.**One of the main benefits of**`LinkedList<E>`

^{Note: Many of the operations need n/4 steps on average, constant number of steps in the best case (e.g. index = 0), and n/2 steps in worst case (middle of list)}

For `ArrayList<E>`

`get(int index)`

is*O(1)*.**Main benefit of**`ArrayList<E>`

`add(E element)`

is*O(1)*amortized, but*O(n)*worst-case since the array must be resized and copied`add(int index, E element)`

is*O(n)*(with*n/2*steps on average)`remove(int index)`

is*O(n)*(with*n/2*steps on average)`Iterator.remove()`

is*O(n)*(with*n/2*steps on average)`ListIterator.add(E element)`

is*O(n)*(with*n/2*steps on average)

^{Note: Many of the operations need n/2 steps on average, constant number of steps in the best case (end of list), n steps in the worst case (start of list)}

`LinkedList<E>`

allows for constant-time insertions or removals *using iterators*, but only sequential access of elements. In other words, you can walk the list forwards or backwards, but finding a position in the list takes time proportional to the size of the list. Javadoc says *"operations that index into the list will traverse the list from the beginning or the end, whichever is closer"*, so those methods are *O(n)* (*n/4* steps) on average, though *O(1)* for `index = 0`

.

`ArrayList<E>`

, on the other hand, allow fast random read access, so you can grab any element in constant time. But adding or removing from anywhere but the end requires shifting all the latter elements over, either to make an opening or fill the gap. Also, if you add more elements than the capacity of the underlying array, a new array (1.5 times the size) is allocated, and the old array is copied to the new one, so adding to an `ArrayList`

is *O(n)* in the worst case but constant on average.

So depending on the operations you intend to do, you should choose the implementations accordingly. Iterating over either kind of List is practically equally cheap. (Iterating over an `ArrayList`

is technically faster, but unless you’re doing something really performance-sensitive, you shouldn’t worry about this — they’re both constants.)

The main benefits of using a `LinkedList`

arise when you re-use existing iterators to insert and remove elements. These operations can then be done in *O(1)* by changing the list locally only. In an array list, the remainder of the array needs to be *moved* (i.e. copied). On the other side, seeking in a `LinkedList`

means following the links in *O(n)* (*n/2* steps) for worst case, whereas in an `ArrayList`

the desired position can be computed mathematically and accessed in *O(1)*.

Another benefit of using a `LinkedList`

arise when you add or remove from the head of the list, since those operations are *O(1)*, while they are *O(n)* for `ArrayList`

. Note that `ArrayDeque`

may be a good alternative to `LinkedList`

for adding and removing from the head, but it is not a `List`

.

Also, if you have large lists, keep in mind that memory usage is also different. Each element of a `LinkedList`

has more overhead since pointers to the next and previous elements are also stored. `ArrayLists`

don’t have this overhead. However, `ArrayLists`

take up as much memory as is allocated for the capacity, regardless of whether elements have actually been added.

The default initial capacity of an `ArrayList`

is pretty small (10 from Java 1.4 – 1.8). But since the underlying implementation is an array, the array must be resized if you add a lot of elements. To avoid the high cost of resizing when you know you’re going to add a lot of elements, construct the `ArrayList`

with a higher initial capacity.

If the data structures perspective is used to understand the two structures, a LinkedList is basically a sequential data structure which contains a head Node. The Node is a wrapper for two components : a value of type T [accepted through generics] and another reference to the Node linked to it. So, we can assert it is a recursive data structure (a Node contains another Node which has another Node and so on…). Addition of elements takes linear time in LinkedList as stated above.

An ArrayList, is a growable array. It is just like a regular array. Under the hood, when an element is added at index i, it creates another array with a size which is 1 greater than previous size (So in general, when n elements are to be added to an ArrayList, a new array of size previous size plus n is created). The elements are then copied from previous array to new one and the elements that are to be added are also placed at the specified indices.

###### Answered By: Jonathan Tran

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