Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) with nonpolar matrices has been investigated for its applicability to the characterization of atmospheric resid crude oil fractions. The data obtained by use of nonpolar matrices was compared with that from polar matrices as well as from direct LDI-MS and field ionization mass spectrometry. Nonpolar matrices, such as anthracene or 9-cyanoanthracene, yield only a single radical molecular cation upon LDI. Thus, no interfering matrix-related ions are present during the MALDI-TOFMS analysis of the crude oil sample. Nonpolar matrices yield molecular mass distributions from linear mode MALDI-TOFMS that are comparable to distributions found with LDI-MS. An advantage of nonpolar matrices is the increased production of analyte ions, which allows reflectron mode MALDI-TOFMS to be performed. Nonpolar matrices are also shown to be less sensitive to solvent and sample preparation conditions than conventional polar matrices. These results suggest that nonpolar matrices may be favorable alternatives to more traditional polar or acidic matrices commonly used in the MALDI mass spectral characterization of crude oil related samples.