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As new COVID-19 variants spread around the world, at-home COVID-19 tests are an important tool to protect yourself and others during the pandemic. These easy-to-administer tests can spare a trip to a testing site or doctor, and they can help you avoid spreading the virus.

The US Food and Drug Administration issued emergency-use authorization for the first fully at-home collection kit in December 2020, and we now have several ways to get hold of a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Heck, you can even order one from DoorDash.

After trying many at-home COVID-19 tests, I found that my overall experience was more or less similar with each test. I visited the website, took the symptom screening for COVID-19, entered my personal information, checked out and then waited for the self-test to arrive. When the test was delivered, I followed the instructions to register the kit, collect my sample and ship the specimen back.

Only a couple tests were different, including the Ellume COVID-19 test, which was the first rapid over-the-counter test that could be used completely at home without a prescription and without sending it to a lab.

There are a lot of COVID-19 testing kits out there. I didn't have either a great or horrendous experience with any of these testing companies, so I don't necessarily recommend one over another. The best one for you ultimately depends on cost, whether your insurance, FSA or HSA covers the expense and whether you prefer to take a saliva sample or nasal swab. Nonetheless, it's worth knowing the minor differences between the 10 coronavirus tests you can get without a doctor or clinic visit. I describe each test here, so you can pick what fits.

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. Here the swab sample will be sent to their laboratory and the analysis will include either PCR testing or transcription-mediated amplification. 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 first companies to launch an at-home coronavirus test to find COVID-19 infection in early 2020. At first, the FDA shuttered the operation, but later granted Everlywell emergency-use authorization for its at-home COVID-19 test. Like others on this list, the Everlywell kit provides clear testing requirements and instructions for collecting your sample and safely shipping the kit back. You can easily do testing at the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. This test detects the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is not an antibody test.

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. 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. The Pixel by Labcorp COVID-19 at-home kit is a molecular test (also known as RT-PCR test). If you get a positive result, make sure to limit your exposure to other people and get medical help.

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 that is a false-positive result or a false-negative result. I definitely felt more confident using this test over the others, thanks to the Zoom supervision. Vault has also got rapid testing options apart from PCR testing. The rapid COVID test includes rapid molecular testing and rapid antigen testing. They also provide FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines and workforce solutions for COVID-19 testing.

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 test kit uses a rapid antigen test that should provide results in about 15 minutes at home. This home antigen test 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 negative 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. 

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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.