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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and new variants spread around the world, at-home COVID-19 tests are an important tool to protect others if you get sick. These tests are easy to administer on your own and spare you a trip to a doctor or test clinic, so you can avoid spreading germs.

The US Food and Drug Administration began granting emergency use authorizations for at-home collection kits in May 2020, and now consumers can choose from many different versions. Heck, you can even order one from DoorDash now.

I tested many of them, and overall my experience was more or less the same. I navigated to the website, took the symptom screening if there was one, put in my personal information, checked out and waited for the test to arrive. When the test was delivered, I registered the kit and collected my sample. I shipped the specimen back per the instructions that came with each test.

I didn't have any particularly great or horrendous experiences with any of these testing companies, so I don't necessarily recommend any one in particular. Only a couple stand out, including the new Ellume COVID-19 test, which is the first rapid at-home test with an EUA from the FDA. 

The best at-home COVID-19 test for you ultimately depends on cost, whether your insurance, FSA or HSA covers the cost, and your preferred collection method (saliva sample or nasal swab).

Nonetheless, it's worth knowing the small differentiators between the 10 coronavirus tests you can get without a doctor, which I describe here.

DxTerity/Amazon
  • Where to buy it: Amazon
  • Symptom screening: No
  • Collection method: Saliva sample
  • Ships to you in: 3 to 5 days
  • Return ship with: FedEx drop-off
  • Get results in: 2 to 3 days after the lab receives your sample

The DxTerity COVID-19 test is the only one available on Amazon. The test isn't Prime-eligible, but even with standard shipping it only took three days to arrive. The testing kit comes with straightforward instructions to guide you through the process.

Amanda Capritto/CNET
  • Where to buy it: LetsGetChecked.com
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Lower nasal swab
  • Ships to you in: 1 to 4 business days
  • Return ship with: UPS drop-off or scheduled pickup
  • Get results in: 3 days after the lab receives your sample

LetsGetChecked was the first at-home COVID-19 test I tried, and I actually had to take it twice because my first attempt ended in "clotted" (inconclusive) results. Overall, my testing experience with LetsGetChecked was simple and straightforward.

Everlywell
  • Where to buy it: Everlywell.com
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Lower nasal swab
  • Ships to you in: 2 to 10 business days
  • Return ship with: Varies, designated on your prepaid shipping label
  • Get results in: 1 to 2 days after the lab receives your sample

Everlywell was one of the very first companies to launch an at-home coronavirus test back in March 2020. At first, the FDA shuttered the operation, but later granted Everlywell an EUA for its at-home COVID-19 test. Like the others on this list, the Everlywell kit provides clear instructions for collecting your sample and safely shipping the kit back.

Pixel by Labcorp
  • Where to buy it: Pixel.Labcorp.com 
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Ships to you in: 2 days
  • Return ship with: FedEx drop-off
  • Get results in: 1 to 2 days after the lab receives your sample

Taking the Pixel COVID-19 test kit is simple and easy. Nasal swabs are generally easier to take than saliva samples, at least for me, since I feel like it takes forever to fill test tubes with saliva. Make sure you send off your sample the same day you take it, or the lab can't process your test.

Vault Health
  • Where to buy it: Vaulthealth.com 
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Saliva sample
  • Ships to you in: 2 days
  • Return ship with: UPS drop-off
  • Get results in: 2 days after the lab receives your sample

The Vault COVID-19 test is just like all the others, except that Vault requires you to schedule a Zoom appointment with a testing technician. The technician oversees the testing process to ensure you follow the instructions, which leaves less room for an inconclusive test result. I definitely felt more confident using this test over the others, thanks to the Zoom supervision.

Vitagene
  • Where to buy it: Vitagene.com
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Saliva sample
  • Return ship with: FedEx drop-off
  • Get results in: 3 days after the lab receives your sample

The Vitagene collection kit requires you to take a saliva sample, which I find more cumbersome than a nasal swab. This may not be the case for everyone, but spitting in a tube takes me forever and I get dry mouth. Otherwise, the Vitagene COVID-19 test was just as easy to take and ship as the others. 

Phosphorus
  • Where to buy it: Phosphorus.com
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Saliva sample
  • Ships to you in: 1 to 2 days
  • Return ship with: FedEx drop-off
  • Get results in: 1 to 3 days after the lab receives your sample

Nothing about the Phosphorus test stands out, except that Phosphorus uses SteadyMD as the ordering medical practice. SteadyMD is a telehealth practice catered to athletes and fitness enthusiasts. That's an interesting partnership -- the epitome of telemedicine. 

Fulgent Genetics
  • Where to buy it: Picturegenetics.com 
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Ships to you in: 2 days
  • Return ship with: FedEx drop-off
  • Get results in: 2 days after the lab receives your sample 

Like the other at-home COVID-19 tests, the Picture collection kit is easy to use. My test arrived two days after placing my order, and I received my results less than two days after shipping the specimen back. In all, the whole process took about four days, which is pretty fast for an at-home collection kit.

Ellume
  • Where to buy it: Participating pharmacies, drugstores and convenience stores
  • Symptom screening: No
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Get results in: 15 minutes

Ellume created the first at-home rapid antigen test for COVID-19 that's available as an over-the-counter purchase at pharmacies and drugstores. You can buy it from Amazon or in person at a CVS Pharmacy.

Navica on the App Store
  • Where to buy it: Amazon, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, HEB, Sam's Club and Walmart
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Get results in: 15 minutes

Similar to the Ellume COVID-19 test, the BinaxNOW kit uses a rapid antigen test that should provide results in about 15 minutes at home. The kit comes with two tests so you can take a second test a few days after your first one.

Who should take an at-home COVID-19 test? 

At-home COVID-19 tests aren't appropriate for everyone. Regardless of which brand you choose, it takes several days to a week to get your results from the time you order the test. Some people may require quicker test results due to their work or home environment, symptoms or other factors. 

An at-home coronavirus test is appropriate for those who: 

  • Have known or suspected exposure to COVID-19 (with or without symptoms) and can stay home until they get their test results.
  • Have mild-to-moderate symptoms and can quarantine until they receive a negative result or symptoms disappear for several days. 

The common denominator? People must be able to stay at home while they await their test results. If you can't stay home until you have a positive test (for example, if your employer requires it), or you need quicker results for any other reason, an at-home COVID-19 test is not right for you. 

More for the health-minded

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.