How much does COVID testing cost without insurance?
$10 – $200 cost for a COVID antigen test (without insurance)
$25 – $300 cost for a PCR test (without insurance)
COVID testing cost without insurance
COVID testing costs without insurance depend on the test type and location. A COVID antigen test costs $10 to $200 and provides rapid results but is less accurate than a PCR test. A PCR test costs $25 to $300 but results take up to 3 days.
|COVID test type
|COVID antigen test
|$10 – $200
|For rapid results when screening people that have symptoms
|COVID PCR test
|$25 – $300
|For the most accurate results used to confirm a positive antigen test and for screening health workers or travelers
|COVID antibody test
|$25 – $100
|To determine if someone has been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past
A rapid COVID test costs $20 to $140 at Walgreens and CVS for patients without health coverage.
Several federal programs provide free or low-cost COVID testing for the uninsured based on a sliding income scale.
COVID test cost by type
There are two primary COVID-19 testing methods for diagnosing an active infection: molecular tests and antigen tests. Molecular, or PCR tests, detect the actual genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while rapid antigen tests detect the presence of certain proteins from the virus.
Molecular (PCR) testing
PCR tests cost $25 to $300 on average. PCR testing is considered the best test to detect COVID-19 even in the earliest stages of infection. PCR tests are more accurate than antigen tests, but results take up to 1 to 3 days.
The molecular test uses a long sterile cotton swab to collect a sample from your nostril then the swab is sent off to a lab for processing.
PCR tests are most often used to confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19 or to test people who need a highly accurate test, such as for travel or healthcare workers.
PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, which is a lab technique used to amplify or copy small segments of genetic material.
Antigen tests cost $10 to $200 on average and provide rapid results. Antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, especially early in infection, but they are faster and cheaper. Test results take approximately 15 to 30 minutes.
The antigen test is performed the same way as the PCR test, with a sterile swab that takes the sample from your nostril or sinus.
The sample is immediately mixed into the tube of liquid provided in the test kit, then drops of the liquid are placed on the test strip where lines will appear to indicate a positive or negative result.
You will get the most accurate results from an antigen test by taking it within 5 to 7 days of having symptoms.
COVID testing cost by location
COVID tests for patients without insurance range from $0 to $300, depending on the test provider. Tests are sold as at-home test kits or administered by licensed healthcare professionals at health departments, pharmacies, urgent care facilities, and hospitals.
|Antigen test cost
|PCR test cost
|$20 – $140
|$140 – $180
|Hospitals or urgent care
|$100 – $200
|$200 – $300
|$10 – $20
|$25 – $125
|Free or sliding scale
|Free or sliding scale
Pharmacy testing cost
Pharmacy COVID tests cost $20 to $140 on average without insurance. However, some pharmacies also participate in government-funded programs that provide free testing for uninsured patients.
|Average cost (without insurance)
|$70 – $140
|$20 – $130
|$20 – $110
|$70 – $125
|$60 – $120
Hospital or urgent care center testing
COVID testing at hospitals and urgent care centers costs $100 to $300 without insurance. However, you will likely pay extra fees because the tests are not available without additional physician services and administrative costs.
Testing is more expensive in these medical facilities but offers the advantage of being under the care of an actual physician. The doctor can prescribe additional bloodwork, treatments, and medications to ease your symptoms and speed your recovery.
At-home testing cost
At-home COVID testing kits cost $10 to $25 on average. Most pharmacies sell at-home antigen tests that provide rapid results. An at-home PCR test costs $25 to $125 and produces more accurate results but takes longer.
During the pandemic, everyone in the U.S. was able to order free at-home COVID-19 test kits, regardless of their income or insurance status. This program was suspended in June 2023, so free tests are now available only to uninsured individuals and underserved communities.
Health center testing cost
Community-based COVID-19 testing is available at no cost or on a sliding scale for qualifying patients. Several government-funded programs, including local health departments and other health centers, offer low- or no-cost in-person and at-home test kits.
COVID-19 testing FAQs
Where can I get free COVID test kits?
There are a few ways to get free COVID test kits, including:
Check with your health insurance provider to see if you are eligible for free tests.
Check with your local health department, public health office, community health center, or free clinic to see if they are offering free test kits.
Many schools and universities offer free testing to students and staff.
What is a COVID-19 test?
A COVID-19 test is a diagnostic test to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The two main types of COVID-19 tests are molecular (PCR) and antigen (rapid) tests. Both test types are performed on a sample from the nose collected by a swab.
What do I do if I test positive for COVID?
If you test positive for COVID-19, be sure to isolate from others and warn people you've been in recent contact with that they may have been exposed. Contact a healthcare provider to inquire about treatment options that may be available.
Important: Seek emergency care if you experience the following symptoms:
Persistent chest pain or pressure
Inability to wake or stay awake
Pale, gray, or blue skin, lips, or nailbeds
How long will I test positive for COVID?
The length of time you test positive for COVID-19 depends on type of test you take, the severity of your infection, and your immune system. PCR tests are more sensitive and can detect the virus for longer periods, but most people with COVID are no longer contagious after 10 days of isolation.
Do COVID tests expire?
Yes, at-home COVID tests do expire, and the expiration date is printed on the test kit packaging. Some rapid antigen tests have an expiration period of 6 months, while others have a 12-month expiration period.
Tips for taking an at-home COVID test
Follow these tips to get the most accurate results from an at-home COVID test:
Read the instructions carefully – Each test is different, so it's important to read the instructions before you start.
Wash your hands before testing – Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after taking the test to prevent the spread of germs.
Don't eat, drink, or smoke before testing – Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking for at least 30 minutes before taking the test.
Collect the sample at the right time – The best time to collect the sample is when you are first experiencing symptoms or when you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Collect the sample from the right place – Most tests require you to collect a sample from your nose. Be sure to insert the swab far enough into your nose and swirl the swab around for at least 10 seconds to collect a sample.
Follow the remaining instructions – Once you've collected the sample, follow the test kit instructions carefully to complete the test.
Wait the correct amount of time – Your specific test kit will detail how long to wait for the results. Be patient and follow the instructions for the best test accuracy.