CONST, LET, and VAR Best Practices

When should you use const, let, or var?


Note: the tl;dr is also a table of contents! So click to jump to a section or just scroll your way through. It’s your choice and I support both options!

Before we get started

This article assumes you are familiar with the different types of variable declarations in ES6+ (e.g. const, let, and our old friend var). If you need an introduction, here are a few great resources.

Ready? Let’s go!

Goals of these best practices

  • Define a standard variable declaration ruleset
  • Make our code consistent and easier to read
  • Signal code intent (i.e. is this variable meant to change or not)
  • Avoid unintended issues (e.g. hoisting, global object pollution)

Use const by default

A variable should represent one thing. Declaring our variables with const helps us achieve this goal as we cannot change the assignment of our identifier once it has been initialized. We also leave a message (i.e. signal) in our code to our future selves and future developers that this variable should not be reassigned.

const is not a value that doesn’t change, but rather it is an identifier that does not get reassigned.

const WAIT_TIME = 5;
WAIT_TIME = 10; //TypeError: Attempted to assign to readonly property.

Note, that while variables declared with const cannot be reassigned, the values are still mutable when dealing with complex types (i.e. Objects)

const coolestHero = {
  name: 'Iron Man'

//while we cannot reassign the binding, we can change the value = 'Black Panther';

True immutability can be obtained through using const with primitive types.

Change const to let once you see the value contained by the variable needs to change

Why? This will help you clearly denote which variables should change and which should not. Following this principal helps improve code readability as other developers will have a clearer sense of what variables change throughout program execution and which do not.

Use let only if you need to reassign a variable

Some examples:

  • for loops (e.g. i, j, etc.)
  • Counters (e.g. for keeping track of the current number of DOM children)
  • Mathematical formulas
  • Form data (i.e. text input value while the user is typing)
  • Toggling a boolean flag

Let’s create better for loops with let

const messages = ['Hello World', 'Wakanda Forever', 'Good morning'];
for (let i = 0; i < messages.length; i++) {

Do not use var

In honor of our old friend var, let’s talk it out and have a little fun…

Hello, Ajahne
What’s up?

So I really shouldn’t use var anymore?

Why not?
Well for one, using var has side effects and pollutes the global scope. When creating variables using var, not only do we have to deal with hoisting, but we also inadvertently add properties to the global object. Check it out.

var title = 'Awesome Web Page';
//note: window is the global browser object
console.log(window.title);  //Awesome Web Page

Well, I just won’t use var in the global scope and I’ll be fine.
Not so fast, var does not support block scope.

var x = 10;
if (true) {
  var x = 5;
  console.log(x); //5
console.log(x);   //5

Well then.
Yep, that one has caught many a developer.

So what if I am writing legacy JavaScript or am working in a mixed code base?
If you must use var, be sure to declare your variables at the top of your scope chain. But really, it’s time to pour one out for var. Start targeting modern browsers and/or incorporating babel into your workflow :).


By following these best practices for using const, let, and var, we can easily signal to ourselves and others the intent of our variables within the code.

const WAIT_TIME = 5;
const widget = new Widget();
let count = 0;

Additionally, by utilizing these best practices, we create a consistent ruleset for our variables, avoid legacy declaration ‘gotchas’, and - ultimately - produce cleaner code.

Be sure to check out the additional resources below and happy coding!

Additional resources