Appropriate choice of a kernel is the most important ingredient of the kernel-based learning methods such as support vector machine (SVM). Automatic kernel selection is a key issue given the number of kernels available, and the current trial-and-error nature of selecting the best kernel for a given problem. This paper introduces a new method for automatic kernel selection, with empirical results based on classification. The empirical study has been conducted among five kernels with 112 different classification problems, using the popular kernel based statistical learning algorithm SVM. We evaluate the kernels’ performance in terms of accuracy measures. We then focus on answering the question: which kernel is best suited to which type of classification problem? Our meta-learning methodology involves measuring the problem characteristics using classical, distance and distribution-based statistical information. We then combine these measures with the empirical results to present a rule-based method to select the most appropriate kernel for a classification problem. The rules are generated by the decision tree algorithm C5.0 and are evaluated with 10 fold cross validation. All generated rules offer high accuracy ratings.