It sucks that we’re back to talking about Covid tests and where to find them again, but here’s some good news: It’s a lot easier to find Covid tests now than it was this time last year.
That’s, in-part, because the FDA has provided emergency authorization for several retailers to begin selling at-home Covid tests without a prescription.
Emergency authorization is not the same as FDA approval. Basically, it means the FDA decided the benefits of allowing these tests to be sold outweighed the risks, and they cut through a boatload of red tape in order to authorize these Covid tests to be sold by Amazon, Walmart, Target and other retailers.
I’m here to help you figure out which test is right for you by answering a few easy questions:
- How much does this test cost?
- When will I have my results?
- Is this test safe for my kids?
Read on for what I found, and stay up to speed on all your shopping questions by downloading the KCL app.
Retailer Covid Tests vs. Clinical Lab Covid Tests
Amazon is the only retailer that’s selling its own testing kit. Everyone else is selling testing kits produced by various clinical labs that have gained emergency authorization for their products. That means — despite differences in price or quantity — retailers are selling the same testing kits you would find if you bought directly from the clinical labs where these tests are manufactured.
1. Order free at-home Covid test kits from Labcorp.
Labcorp, a multibillion-dollar clinical lab, offers its Pixel at-home Covid test free of charge for anyone experiencing symptoms or who has had potential exposure to Covid-19 (there’s an online questionnaire you fill out prior to checkout).
If you aren’t experiencing symptoms and have not been exposed to Covid-19, then the test kit will cost $119.
The Pixel test is a PCR (think: non-rapid) test. After completing your test, you’ll drop off your test kit at your local FedEx, which will then ship it back to Labcorp for processing.
When to expect results: 1 – 2 days from when your sample is received at the lab.
2. Find the most affordable, rapid at-home Covid testing for under $25 at Walmart.
If you’re looking to buy BinaxNow, an at-home Covid test from Abbott Laboratories, Walmart has it on sale for $14 (reg. $23.97). It’s safe for kids (when administered by an adult), which cannot be said for every testing kit.
This is another nasal swab antigen test, which the CDC has recognized as a very reliable way to test for Covid-19.
When to expect results: 15 minutes after you complete the test..
PRO TIP: If you decide to go with BinaxNow, be sure to download the Navica app from the App Store or Google Play. From there, you can watch an instructional video to ensure you perform the test correctly.
See all Walmart deals.
3. Skip Amazon’s $36.99 at-home Covid test if you’re testing kids.
Don’t even consider Amazon’s at-home Covid test if you need to test children; Amazon’s test kit is only for adults 18 and older. Even if you are older than that, you might be overpaying unless you have the right healthcare plan.
The test kit is $36.99, but it can be purchased with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) card. Simply add the card during checkout.
If you don’t have one of those, then Amazon’s offering isn’t worth the price. It’s the same kind of test you can get elsewhere for much cheaper or even for free.
When to expect results: 1 day after your sample is received at the lab.
See all Amazon deals.
4. Buy Ellume’s kid-friendly, rapid Covid test from CVS.
Ellume is an Australian-based health company, and their rapid nasal swab test has been authorized for use since the fall of 2020. Its test provides rapid results and is safe for use on anyone over the age of 2.
I found the best prices on the test at CVS, where the Ellume test is listed for $38.99.
When to expect results: 15 minutes after you complete the test.
See all CVS deals.
5. If you prefer the saliva test, then choose Phosphorus.
Although the Phosphorus testing kit requires a mouth swab instead of a nasal test, it still has the same FDA authorization that the other options have. If an oral test is your preference, then go for this one! It’s safe to use on kids ages 2 and up.
The Phosphorus kit cost $49 with insurance and $119 without insurance.
That said, Phosphorus offers unvaccinated individuals (who are older than 21 and a U.S. citizen) the option to join a research study. If you choose to join the study, you won’t pay for the test at all — in fact, Phosphorus will send you a $30 Amazon gift card.
When to expect results: Phosphorus says they aim to provide results within 2 – 3 days of your completed test kit arriving at their lab.
6. Visit a Covid testing site or your doctor for a free Covid test.
If you’re able to visit one of these places, then your Covid test will be both free and administered by a professional who’s probably done more of these tests than you have.
As someone who’s a bit of a wimp when it comes to swabbing my own nose, I appreciate knowing the test will be given by someone who knows what they’re doing.
When to expect results: For rapid tests, results may come as early as 15 minutes after your test; for non-rapid tests, expect results to come one to two days after your test.
Do you have any other questions about buying an at-home Covid test? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll get back to you with an answer.