As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surges, there are two things everyone needs to protect themselves and slow the spread as much as possible: a protective mask and a reliable COVID-19 test. In the mask department, we’ve got you covered. From the best N95 masks for protection to KN95 masks from Amazon, you can order face masks easily online. We’ve also got a round-up of comfortable face masks for less risky situations, as well as a guide for spotting counterfeit N95 masks online.
When it comes to testing, a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is still going to be the most accurate and sensitive when it comes to detecting COVID-19 infection. However, with case numbers rising in many U.S. cities, lines at testing sites and wait times for results have become longer. Thankfully, the FDA has given Emergency Use Authorization to a number of at-home COVID-19 test kits, so you can get results in a few minutes on the couch. Rather than risk infection in a waiting room at your doctor’s office or spending all afternoon in line at a walk-up testing site, the best COVID-19 rapid tests can be completed in 10-15 minutes at home.
In addition, this January the Biden administration made 500 million free COVID-19 rapid tests available to all U.S. households. You can have these masks shipped to your home for free via the U.S. Postal Service, but there is a limit on how many tests you can order. Check out our guide to ordering free COVID-19 tests from the government. And if you want to order additional rapid test kits online, keep scrolling for a selection of at-home COVID-19 test kits for sale and in stock online.
Editor’s Note: Many of these COVID tests are going in and out stock quickly, we’ll try to keep this piece as updated as possible, but we recommend purchasing sooner rather than later. This piece was last updated on Monday, January 24 at 12:30 p.m.
1. On/Go At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Self Test
The On/Go test kit, like many others, uses a shallow nasal swab to test for COVID-19 infection in both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. It’s been FDA-authorized for at-home use and gives you results in as little as 10 minutes. You can scan the QR code on the box and download the On/Go companion app for guidance on completing the test and getting results.
On-Go At-Home COVID-19 Antigen Test Kit
On-Go At-Home COVID-19 Antigen Test Kit
2. iHealth COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test
iHealth is another top-rated test brand that has an FDA-authorized at-home test kit for COVID-19. It’s an antigen test that gives you results in 15 minutes. This is one of the top-reviewed COVID-19 tests on Amazon with more than 20,000 customer reviews and counting. The test is designed as a lateral flow assay for detection of a nucleocapsid protein antigen from COVID-19. The test is self-administered via a non-invasive nasal swab and it comes with an app you can use to track test results of a large group, like a school classroom or event guest list.
iHealth COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test
3. BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Self-Test Home Kit
The BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests are among the most popular at-home rapid tests, and this brand of tests is sold at CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies around the country. Unfortunately, due to its popularity, it’s also frequently out of stock online. This test is done via a simple nasal swab and can be taken at home or on the go. You’ll get results in 15 minutes, and each box comes with two tests. It’s designed to detect multiple strains, including Delta, and in our experience can detect the Omicron variant as well.
BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test
BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test
4. Amazon COVID-19 At-Home PCR Test Collection Kit
We want to clarify this is NOT an at-home rapid antigen test, but rather a PCR test collection kit from Amazon you send away to get your results. You gather your sample and send it to a lab for detection of COVID-19 in a few days or less. There’s no prescription required to use it and since it’s a PCR test the results are more accurate. This test meets the requirements for testing when traveling to most places within the U.S as well as some international locations, and they make it easy to view your results online once they’re in.
Amazon COVID-19 PCR Test Collection Kit
5. Lucira Check It Single-Use COVID-19 Test
This kit is more expensive than other antigen test kits on this list, but it’s FDA-authorized for emergency use and designed to give you PCR-level accurate results in 30 minutes. It’s a molecular test, designed to amplify virus genetic material for early detection of the virus in your system. It involves a shallow nasal swab, but a longer wait time for the results. Each test is around $90, but if you’re willing to cough up some extra change it’s a convenient solution.
Lucira Check It Single-Use COVID-19 Test
6. DxTerity SARS-CoV-2 PCR At-Home Collection Kit
This is another at-home PCR test collection kit, not an antigen test you can get results for at home. You self-administer a test sample with this kit, send it away and receive the results a few days later. This test has been FDA-authorized for COVID-19 detection with symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. It’s designed to be easy to use, safe, convenient and accurate. The lab component is also what makes this test more expensive than others, but if you’re not on a budget it’s ready and available for purchase.
DxTerity SARS-CoV-2 PCR Test Collection Kit
7. Ellume COVID Test Kit
The Ellume COVID test kit is more expensive than some of the other options on this list, as it only comes with one test per box. If you are having trouble finding other options in stock, then this is a good alternative. Available via Walmart, this rapid test kit delivers results in about 15 minutes.
Ellume COVID-19 Test Kit
8. Everlywell At-Home COVID-19 Test Collection Kit
Like the Amazon test, this home-testing kit from Everlywell will not provide instant results like the other rapid tests featured here. Instead, this kit lets you take a nasal swab and ship it to a lab for testing. Once Everlywell receives your test sample, they promise to provide digital test results within 24-72 hours. If you want a lab to confirm your COVID-19 diagnosis, then this is an excellent and well-reviewed option. Everlywell makes a variety of at-home medical test kits, and so you can trust they’ll handle your test and results with great care.
Everlywell COVID-19 Test Collection Kit
How Do At-Home COVID Test Kits Work?
Most at-home COVID-19 test kits are antigen tests, distinct from PCR tests in that they look for molecules on the surface of the virus within your sample, rather than actual genetic material from the virus itself. This means you can get results in as little as 15 minutes, rather than multiple days, since antigen tests don’t require the expensive equipment that PCR tests do to interpret results.
When used properly, they can detect infection in people carrying a high viral load, meaning that false positives with antigen tests are very rare. False negatives, on the other hand, are more common.
Many at-home COVID-19 test kits use a nose swab to gather a sample. Don’t worry — you don’t have to tickle your brain like in the early COVID testing days. Instead, you get a swipe of each nose, dip the swab in solution, put a test strip in that solution and wait for the results.
Do Rapid At-Home COVID Test Kits Work?
Getting a PCR test done at a doctor’s office or pharmacy is still going to give you the most accurate results. So, if you’re showing symptoms but test negative on an at-home antigen test, it’s recommended you get confirmation from a PCR test before gathering with others.
But, at-home COVID test kits can help you rule out asymptomatic cases most of the time, and can give you some peace of mind before going to school or on vacation.
If you take an antigen test too early on in an infection, it can give you a false negative. According to data gathered by The New York Times, rapid at-home antigen tests are 85% accurate at detecting infection. This leaves behind about 15 positive cases in a group of 100, but given the time, money and convenience factors we still have a lot to gain from using them.
When Should I Use An At-Home COVID Test?
Despite many manufacturers ramping up production, at-home COVID tests are still notoriously difficult to find in some parts of the country. So if you do get your hands on one, use them sparingly.
You should use an at-home COVID test kit if you:
- Develop symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough, body chills, etc
- Are about to visit a medically vulnerable or immunocompromised family member or friend
- Are about to gather with others in a large group for a birthday party, wedding, etc
- Have had a known COVID-19 exposure, after 3-5 days
At-home COVID tests can be super useful for large institutions like schools, sports programs and companies looking to limit COVID-19 spread and gather safely. Many schools have opted to hand them out to students before the start of a new semester, and they’re being used at large companies like Google and the NBA as well.
Are At-Home COVID Tests Safe?
All of the tests on this list have been approved by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization, or EUA, meaning they’ve been cleared as long as the FDA deems them necessary for public use.
None of the tests involve blood or anything too invasive, and all of them are self-administered, so you shouldn’t be too uncomfortable when gathering the sample.
Many of the brands on this list also say they’re safe to use with children, but please consult your medical provider first before employing them on yourself or anyone in your family.
Where Can I Buy At-Home COVID Tests Online?
Before you raid your local Walgreens, you should know there are plenty of at-home COVID test kits you can get delivered to your door, some without a large delay.
Many kits come in boxes with two tests inside, with the recommendation that you test yourself multiple times over the course of a few days for the most accurate result possible. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully in order to avoid false results.
If you receive a positive test, please consult your doctor and/or the CDC website immediately about next steps.