7 Best At-Home COVID-19 Tests 2022

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, diagnostic tests of any kind were challenging to find, and their use was generally limited to people showing active signs of infection. The tests had to be administered in a medical facility, and the results could take a week to obtain. Later, a rapid form of the test using nasal cells or saliva could detect the presence of antibodies or antigens within 30 minutes, but the test still had to be administered in a lab or doctor’s office.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved several Covid tests for home use, although some still require analysis by an outside laboratory. One of the main selling points of these tests is privacy. If a person needs to know their current status, an at-home test eliminates the need to schedule a doctor’s appointment or stand in line at a busy testing center.

Best At-Home COVID-19 Tests

At-home Covid tests are becoming more widely available, and it helps to know how they work, how long it takes to get results, and how accurate they are.


Best At-Home COVID-19 Tests - Our Top Picks

1. Best Overall: iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test on Amazon

2. Best with App: On/Go COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test on Amazon

3. Best PCR test for budget: Amazon COVID-19 Test Collection Kit DTC

4. Best Value: BD Veritor At-Home COVID-19 Digital Test Kit

5. Easiest to Use: DxTerity COVID-19 Saliva At-Home Collection Kit

6. More Comfortable: Celltrion DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Home Test

7. Fast Convenience: Quidel QuickVue at-Home OTC COVID-19 Test Kit

Notes:

While all the tests on our list have been cleared by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization, we recommend consulting with a medical professional to confirm the accuracy of any at-home test result if you're highly suspicious your result is incorrect. Our editors are keeping a close eye on any product recalls to give you the best and most up-to-date information.

Due to high demand, these products may be hard to purchase. We recommend refreshing your search throughout the day to find an available test. U.S. residents are now eligible to receive four free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests per household, which can be ordered through the COVIDtests.gov official site

What to Look for in At-Home COVID-19 Tests

Results Speed

A big deciding factor when it comes to COVID-19 test kits is their results speed time. According to board-certified allergist and immunologist Sanjeev Jain, MD, PhD, PCR tests must be mailed into a lab to test a collected sample, so it can take several days for them to notify you of a positive or negative result.

That may be fine if you’re getting ready to travel, working from home, or self-isolating because of potential exposure, but not if you were exposed several days ago and need to know ASAP if you’re infected.

“An antigen test provides rapid results in 10 to 15 minutes, so this can be an ideal option if immediate results are needed,” says Dr. Jain.

Types of Test

There are two primary types of at-home COVID-19 tests available on the market: antigen tests and PCR tests.

Antigen: An antigen test is “a diagnostic test that detects specific proteins from the virus.”14 Because of this, antigen tests can provide results quickly, thus are often used for rapid tests.

However, these tests are most accurate when there’s a high viral load present. Because of this, people who have COVID-19 and only have a small viral load at the time of the test could potentially receive a false negative result.

That being said, if you know you’ve been exposed to the virus, they can be a good first step to take to prevent spreading the illness.

Molecular: A molecular test is similar to an antigen test in that they both can detect if you have a current COVID-19 infection. Specifically, a molecular test is diagnostic in detecting “genetic material from the virus." (FDA)

While molecular tests take longer due to lab processing, with a speed of up to seven days depending on your location, you can rest assured that they’re more accurate than antigen tests. The test is considered “highly sensitive,” resulting in minimal false negative results. (R) This type of test is best if you’re planning ahead and can stand to wait a bit longer for results, and are prioritizing test accuracy. 

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a type of molecular test. It is “a diagnostic test that detects genetic material from the virus.”(FDA) PCR tests amplify the viral genetic material, which makes them more sensitive and thus more likely to be accurate. However, the added amplification step requires in-lab testing, which takes longer to process results.

“A PCR test may be a good option if you have been recently exposed and are not symptomatic because it can detect the virus at lower levels in the body,” says Dr. Jain. He adds that while antigen tests give quicker results, they require more of the virus to be present in the body for a positive test result. “Antigen tests are an accurate way to test for COVID-19 in symptomatic persons.”

Accuracy and Recalls

It’s important to note that a number of at-home COVID-19 tests have been recalled for false positives or negatives. We are closely monitoring the recalls in this product category and will update this document immediately as needed.

Method of Collection

There are three ways a COVID-19 test sample can be collected: nasal swab, oral swab, and saliva “spit tube.” You should take the user into consideration before choosing a test—kids, for example, may be more willing participants to a spit test than a nasal swab—but it’s important to know that not all collection methods are created equal.

“Studies have shown that nasal tests and saliva tests are more accurate in detecting COVID-19 than throat swabs, and have become the best-practice standard when performing COVID-19 testing,” says Dr. Jain.

In fact, a 2021 study showed saliva and nasal samples to be equally sensitive in detecting the virus across variable stages of illness. (JAMA)

FDA Emergency Use Authorization

Just because your local drugstore is selling it doesn’t mean a certain test is a smart purchase. If it hasn’t been authorized by the FDA, you should pass it over for one that has. Our roundup only includes tests that have been authorized by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization.

“The FDA maintains a list of tests that have authorization, (FDA) and using an FDA-authorized test ensures that it meets standards for performance and quality control,” explains Dr. Morris. “Many pharmacies sell devices that are authorized, and these are typically not costly. Be cautious of unbranded or very cheap tests, especially those that may come without instructions.”

HOW MUCH DO AT-HOME COVID TESTS COST?

Inexpensive

There are inexpensive at-home Covid tests available in pharmacies that cost less than $20. These are generally antigen tests that provide rapid results after a shallow nasal swab. There is usually a second test available to confirm or recheck the original results.

Mid-range

Many at-home Covid tests in the $30 to $65 range are essentially sample collection kits, not necessarily rapid-response antigen tests. The specimen must still be sent to a professional lab for analysis, and a confidential report is delivered within a few days. Some advanced PCR testing is possible, but most likely the initial test will be for antibodies.
 
Expensive

The most expensive at-home Covid tests cost $100 or more, but the results are comparable to professional lab testing in many cases. A PCR test that checks for the presence of viral DNA fragments is more likely to cost this much.


FDA Warns About Counterfeit Home COVID-19 Test Kits

You should be aware of counterfeit at-home over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 diagnostic tests, as they are not authorized by the FDA. These tests may increase the risk of false results, and they should not be used or distributed. The FDA has identified counterfeit versions of the authorized iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Home Tests and Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Tests.

Signs that a test may be counterfeit include (FDA):

  • The box label, trade name, or printed instructions for use look different from the authorized labeling found on the FDA website
  • Poor print quality of images or text on the packaging or instructions
  • Missing information on the packaging label (such as the lot number, expiration date, or barcode or QR codes)
  • Grammatical or spelling errors on labels

Visit the FDA's website to learn more about Counterfeit At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests.



FAQs

Q. How accurate are at-home Covid tests?

A. The goal of many at-home tests is to provide users with a rapid yes/no result, and the accuracy rate is comparable to other forms of at-home testing. One commonly used antigen test failed to detect 15 infections out of 100, meaning a 15% false negative rate. However, only 1 case in 100 resulted in a false positive. At-home tests don’t perform the more accurate PCR test for the presence of viral DNA.

Q. Why are these at-home tests so expensive?

A. There are only a few companies authorized by the FDA to produce at-home covid tests, so the laws of supply and demand influence the retail price per test. The technology used in the tests is also very advanced and proprietary. Some companies will seek reimbursement from medical insurance companies whenever possible, however.

Q. Is a saliva or nasal swab test better?

A. Both forms of sample collection yield fairly accurate results, so it’s often a matter of personal preference. Many find the saliva collection process to be less invasive than the nasal swab method, but the specimen may be more easily contaminated if it isn’t handled correctly. An at-home nasal swab collection doesn’t require the deep tissue contact of a standard laboratory test.

Q. I just had a positive result on my at-home test. When should I test again?

A. If you’re showing symptoms of a Covid-19 infection, you might want to get a more accurate PCR test performed by a medical professional. If you have a second at-home Covid test available (many test kits include two), you should wait 24 hours after the first test before performing the second test. Antibodies take time to form in the body and an early test may not detect their presence.



Related: 


What You Need to Know About Free At-Home COVID Test Kits

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