Which at-home COVID-19 test is best?

Since early 2020, COVID-19 has become an awful yet unavoidable part of daily life. At-home tests can help identify COVID-19 cases or give some peace of mind that you’re negative to protect those around you and slow the spread of the virus. 

Choosing the right one can seem daunting with a wide range of at-home COVID-19 tests available. If you’re looking for a reliable molecular test you can take at home, the Lucira Check It COVID-19 Test Kit is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy an at-home COVID-19 test

COVID-19 test types

At-home COVID tests generally fall into two categories: antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction tests. 

Antigen tests are also known as lateral flow tests or rapid COVID-19 tests. These are for use at home or in other settings where a near-instant result is needed. While they aren’t as accurate as PCR tests, individuals can complete these tests at home from start to finish and get the results within 15 minutes. These tests are intended to pick up asymptomatic infections and are great before events or gatherings, to avoid spreading infection. 

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should get a PCR test. Rather than detecting antigens, PCR tests detect COVID-19 on a molecular level, making them significantly more accurate. You can’t carry out PCR tests in their entirety at home, but you can take a sample at home and send it off to a lab for analysis.

While there aren’t any PCR tests that deliver results at home, you can buy home tests that utilize other molecular testing methods, such as loop-mediated isothermal amplification. These are roughly as accurate as PCR tests but may not be accepted where proof of a negative test result is needed. Such as when traveling.

Sampling method

Most at-home COVID-19 tests require users to take a nasal swab sample. This can either be a shallow, nasal swab, going roughly 1/2 inch into the nose, or a deep nasal swab that asks users to insert the swab as far up the nose as they can go without resistance or significant discomfort. However, you can also find some tests that require a saliva sample rather than a nasal swab. 

What to look for in a quality at-home COVID-19 test

Ease of use

A quality at-home COVID-19 test will be simple to use with clear instructions to avoid confusion or inaccurate results. 

Multipacks

Some COVID-19 tests are sold individually, while others come in multipacks. You can even buy large multipacks of 50 tests or more, which are great for schools or workplaces. 

Response time

Antigen tests and at-home molecular tests return results in just 15 to 30 minutes. PCR tests give you results in roughly 24 to 72 hours of receiving your sample at the lab. 

How much you can expect to spend on at-home COVID-19 tests

Antigen tests generally cost $15-$30 for a pack of two tests, while PCR and other molecular tests can cost $30-$100, depending on sampling method and whether you send them away to a lab or process your results at home.

At-home COVID-19 test FAQ

What’s the difference between self-testing and self-sampling? 

A. Self-testing is when you complete a COVID-19 test at home from start to finish. Self-testing is usually done with rapid-results antigen tests, but some self-test molecular tests on the market use similar testing methods to PCR tests. Self-sampling is when you take your COVID-19 sample yourself at home and then send the sample off to a lab for testing. At-home PCR tests are self-sample tests.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?

A. If you take an at-home COVID-19 test and the result is positive, you should stay at home for 10 days and ideally isolate yourself from others in your household. When you receive a positive test result from an antigen test, you should also get yourself a PCR test as antigen tests aren’t entirely accurate. You may choose to order a self-sample at-home test or visit a local testing center. If the latter, drive or walk to the test center but don’t interact with anybody on your 

What’s the best at-home COVID-19 test to buy?

Top at-home COVID-19 test

Lucira Check It COVID-19 Test Kit

Lucira Check It COVID-19 Test Kit

What you need to know: This is one of the only at-home molecular tests on the market that offers quick, accurate results comparable to a PCR. 

What you’ll love: This test kit returns results in 30 minutes and is 98% accurate. Only a shallow, nasal swab is required. FSA/HSA eligible, so you may be able to receive reimbursement through your medical plan.

What you should consider: The testing apparatus is single-use, so it creates a lot of waste for just one test result.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top at-home COVID-19 test for the money

iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test

iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test

What you need to know: This is a two-pack of affordable rapid result antigen tests. 

What you’ll love: Not only is this test simple to use with a non-invasive nasal swab collection method, it gives you your results in just 15 minutes. It comes with access to a results management app, which is ideal for event planners. 

What you should consider: It has occasional quality control issues, such as receiving visuals without the necessary fluid inside.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Amazon COVID-19 Test Collection Kit

Amazon COVID-19 Test Collection Kit

What you need to know: This is an at-home self-sample PCR test. You take the sample yourself and then send it to a lab for processing. 

What you’ll love: This test is reasonably priced compared to some other similar options. You’ll receive your results within 24 hours of your sample reaching the lab. It only requires a shallow, nasal swab.

What you should consider: May not be accepted for travel use due to the self-sampling nature of the test.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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