Even with vaccines and PPE, preventing the spread of COVID-19 requires frequent testing.
To get a COVID test without insurance, some free options are available; on the other hand, you could be paying up to $250.
In this article, we’ll go over what a COVID-19 test is and the different options you have for getting a test without insurance. We also cover how you can get a test for free.
Cost of a COVID-19 Test Without Insurance
Currently, there is no federal regulation on the price of COVID-19 tests.
Therefore, like many health care services, hospitals and laboratories can set their rates for cash-paying or insured individuals.
Because of this, prices vary widely from location to location.
There are also several options for how to get tested:
- In-home testing kit with almost immediate results
- In-home testing kit that requires a lab to read the results
- Hospital testing
- Urgent care testing
- Laboratory testing
- Private testing locations
With so many options for testing and no federal regulation, the price range is extensive.
After looking at a wide range of private testing sites, the cost of a COVID-19 test typically ranges between $80 to $250.
The price differs depending on whether you want a PCR or antigen test. In most cases, the antigen test is the least expensive of the two but not in every case.
Here are some other ways you can purchase tests to take at home.
LabCorp has teamed up with Walgreens to offer take-home PCR tests available to Walgreens customers for a cost of $119 each.
The kit arrives in the mail in one to two business days, and after dropping it off at a lab, results are available in one to two days. Some tests are also available for pick-up in stores.
Walmart has antigen test kits available for sale online, ranging from $20 for a two-test kit up to $1000 for a 45 pack.
They have multiple antigen tests, and you can choose if you want to do a nasal or saliva swab. CVS also offers the same test kits for roughly the same price.
Some insurance companies are also offering rapid antigen tests free of charge.
Please go to your individual insurance company website to see if yours does.
Factors That Affect the Price of COVID Tests
There are several factors affecting the price of COVID-19 tests. As mentioned before, the makers of the test and those who administer or sell the test can set their prices.
Where you live affects the price of the COVID-19 tests in your area.
If testing costs in your area are higher, check costs at other sites in your region to find a better price.
Place of purchase
The facility you have your test taken or where you purchase it from affects the price.
Hospitals have the highest cost for testing, and urgent care centers may also be more expensive because of the additional fees.
Private testing centers can charge their fee based on the going rate in your area.
At-home testing can be a more affordable route.
What is a COVID-19 Test?
A COVID-19 test is a tool to determine if you are currently sick with COVID-19 and could potentially spread it to others.
The test uses a specimen from your mouth or nose to see if you are currently infected with the virus. These tests do not check for previous infections or your level of immunity against COVID-19.
COVID-19 tests can be done at home, in a laboratory, urgent care center, hospital, or testing site.
Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as:
- Fever and chills
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
Other reasons to get tested include upcoming travel or an event, experiencing a recent exposure to COVID-19, visiting with immunocompromised friends or loved ones you want to protect, and work or school requirements.
Types of COVID-19 Tests
Currently, the PCR and antigen tests are the two ways to check for an active COVID-19 infection.
PCR testing has been used since the beginning of the pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers it to be the “gold standard” test.
The PCR test can detect COVID-19 even in the earliest stages of infection.
The PCR test is a long sterile cotton swab used to collect a sample from your nostril or sinuses.
To perform the test, insert the swab and rotate it around your nostril or sinus for about 10 to 15 seconds. Remove the swab, and take a second sample from your other nostril.
The swab may tickle and cause you to sneeze, cough, or gag, but these effects are temporary.
Depending on where this test is done, results can be ready in as fast as 15 minutes or as long as two days.
The design of the antigen test is rapid diagnosis of an active COVID-19 infection. However, they are less sensitive than the PCR test, meaning there can be a false negative.
You’ll get the most accurate results from an antigen test by taking it within five to seven days of having symptoms.
The antigen test includes a swab that takes the sample from your nostril or sinus. It is performed the same way as the PCR test.
Test results take approximately 15-30 minutes to complete.
Saving Money on COVID-19 Tests
There are some ways you can save money on COVID-19 tests, including the below.
Order free covid tests
Everyone in the U.S. can order a third round of free at-home tests through the mail. To order your free COVID-19 test, visit the website COVID.gov.
There is a link on the site to place your order.
The tests you receive in the mail are antigen tests, not PCR. Take the test anywhere with no lab drop-off required, and results are ready within 30 minutes.
Use a free testing center
There are also testing sites that offer low or no-cost COVID-19 testing.
Some pharmacies and retail companies have partnered with state and local governments to provide this service to their communities.
Not everyone will qualify for free testing. You can find out more at your nearest location.
Pharmacies offering free or low-cost testing include:
- CVS Health
- Rite Aid
- Walmart, in partnership with Quest Diagnostics
- Local independent pharmacies
Health centers around the nation offer COVID-19 screening and testing at a low or no-cost rate.
In addition, if any out-of-pocket expense is required, health centers can provide a sliding fee discount based on income and family size.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Community-based testing site for COVID-19. (2022.)
PCR test. (2022.)
Test for current infection. (2022.)
What is an antigen test? (N.D.)