The aim of this trial was to evaluate whether a Nance or Goshgarian palatal arch was most effective for prevention of mesial drift, distal tipping, prevention of mesio-palatal rotation of the upper first permanent molars, and patient comfort and ease of removal. Patients were recruited from a district general hospital and a specialist orthodontic practice and randomly allocated to a Goshgarian (n = 29) or a Nance (n = 28) group. Pre-treatment study models (T1) were taken followed by the placement of the palatal arch, premolar extractions, and upper and lower fixed appliances. The clinical end point was 6 months (T2), at which time, an impression for an upper study model was taken. The amount of upper first permanent molar mesial movement, distal tipping, and mesio-palatal rotation was measured by scanning T1 and T2 study models and then using a software program to calculate molar changes. In addition, the patients recorded their discomfort scores using a seven-point Likert scale at each recall visit. Forty-nine patients (86 per cent) completed the trial. t-tests were used to compare molar movements between the Goshgarian and Nance palatal arch groups. There were no statistically significant differences between the palatal arches in terms of prevention of mesial drift or distal tipping (P > 0.05). There was a statistically significant difference in the amount of molar rotation between the arch types, with both exhibiting some disto-palatal rotation even though they were not activated for this movement. The Goshgarian palatal arch produced marginally more disto-palatal rotation than the Nance arch (P = 0.02), although this may not be considered clinically significant. A Mann-Whitney test revealed that there was also a statistically significant difference in pain scores between the Goshgarian and the Nance arch, with the latter being associated with more discomfort (P = 0.001). This trial did not support any preference in the use of the Goshgarian or Nance palatal arch, unless the slightly reduced patient discomfort with the Goshgarian arch is considered significant.