COVID-19 rapid tests: accuracy, types and where to find them - GoodRx (2023)

The central theses:

  • There are two different types of COVID-19 rapid tests available: molecular and antigen.

  • In most cases, rapid COVID-19 tests provide results in less than an hour. There are also many quick at-home test options that provide results in 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Many pharmacies offer rapid diagnostic tests for a $0 deductible. If you have insurance, your plan should reimburse you for eight home tests per month if you prefer to do them at home.

COVID-19 rapid tests: accuracy, types and where to find them - GoodRx (1)

Since the beginning ofCOVID-19pandemicmore than 1 billionTesting for COVID-19 was done in the United States. In the beginning, it sometimes took days or weeks to get results. But the advent of rapid testing has helped to remove some of the barriers to faster results.

Rapid COVID-19 tests are available at community testing sites, provider offices, and even on the shelves of your local pharmacy or supermarket. Here we cover some testing basics and where to find rapid tests near you.

What is a rapid diagnostic test?

Whatmain differencebetween rapid tests and standard molecular tests is the time it takes to process the results.

As the name suggests, rapid tests can provide quick results. Compared to standard molecular tests, rapid tests are often easier. This allows them to process samples faster. The fastest test currently available,ID NOWfrom Abbott, can detect the virus in 13 minutes or less. In general, most rapid tests give results in 15 to 30 minutes.

Rapid tests can also be performed at the point of care (eg, testing center, physician's office). And they don't need an outside lab to process samples. They often use a handheld device to analyze samples so the entire process can be completed in one location.

Additionally, many rapid tests are available over-the-counter (OTC). These tests can be done in the comfort of your own home.

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Types of rapid diagnostic tests

There are currently two different types of rapid diagnostic tests:molecular and antigentests They work differently in the way they detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The FDA has also approved a rapidCOVID-19 breath test, but not yet generally available.

1. Molecular tests

Molecular tests detect the presence of viral genetic material in a sample. They were the first type of COVID-19 test to be approved and widely used. These tests use the techniques most commonly calledRT-PCR(reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction) or isothermal amplification. The genetic material of the sample is copied and compared with the genetic sequence of the virus.

Many rapid molecular testswere authorizedfor use at the point of care. This includes severalyou can also tryfor other viruses, such as those that causegripe🇧🇷 Most of these tests can provide results in 30 minutes or less.

To recognizeyLuciferare two rapid over-the-counter molecular tests that you can perform completely at home. They deliver results in 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Antigentes

Antigenic tests look for specific proteins on the surface of the virus. These tests are generally simpler in design and less expensive than molecular tests.

Many antigen testsare also allowedFor use at the point of care or at home. Several are available without a prescription, includingBinaxNOWby abbot. Antigen tests usually take about 15 minutes to get results.

How accurate are the rapid diagnostic tests?

Standard molecular tests are the gold standard (the most accurate option) for testing for COVID-19. But they are still not 100% accurate. So you might be wondering howrapid diagnostic testsbattery.

If you get a positive result on a rapid test, it is very likely that you have contracted SARS-CoV-2. Eastwas foundbe the case withomicron-variantalso infections.

However, you are more likely to get a false negative result on a rapid test. This means you are infected with the virus but tested negative. This is more likely if you test too early, when there are not enough viruses for the test to detect. As soon as,time is importantwhen rapid tests are used.

If you use the home antigen test, it is recommendedtry several timesover the course of a few days. For example, if you have symptoms but the test is negative, test again 48 hours (2 days) later.

If you have been exposed to the virus and have no symptoms, waitat least 5 daysTry. If you get a negative result, test again 24 to 48 hours (1 to 2 days) later. If you test positive at any time, you likely have COVID-19.

Have in mind:A negative rapid test result does not necessarily rule out COVID-19. You must consider your risk of exposure, vaccination status and symptoms.

Where can I find rapid tests near me?

If you haveSymptoms of covid-1, or think you may have been exposed to the virus, you have several quick test options.

For example, pharmacies likecvyWalgreenswe offer rapid antigen and molecular testing. However, results may take a few hours. You can also use it to find other testing locations near toolprovided by the US government. There should be no additional cost for testing. But you should check with your health plan to be sure.

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Many over-the-counter home tests are also available online and at your local pharmacy and grocery store. You can perform these tests yourself and get results in an hour or less, depending on the type of rapid test. If youhave health insurance, your plan shouldreimburse costseight home exams per insured per month. Keep your receipts in case you need to send them in for a refund.

the end result

Compared to standard tests, rapid tests are a quick and affordable way to detect COVID-19. A positive test result likely means you are infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, if you test too soon, you may get a false negative result.

Several quick test options are available. This includes over-the-counter home tests that you can do yourself. You can find them online and on pharmacy shelves. Other rapid tests are available at testing sites and may take longer to get results.


About. (2020).ID NOW COVID-19-Testfragen.

About. (2022).BinaxNow: what you need to know.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022).Symptoms of covid-1.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2022).How to get your free COVID-19 test at home without a prescription.

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To recognize. (North Dakota.).Recognize Covid-19 with confidence.

Jawerth, N. (2020).How is the COVID-19 virus detected using real-time RT-PCR?🇧🇷 IAEA Office of Public Information and Communications.

Lucira. (North Dakota.).Quality PCR testing in the palm of your hand.

political. (2022).Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) tests performed in most affected countries globally as of September 12, 2022.

Tsao, J., et al. (2022).Accuracy of fast antigen reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assays for SARS-CoV-2 infection in collegiate athletes during the prevalence of omicron JAMA network.

United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2022).Community-based testing sites for COVID-19.

(Video) Coronavirus Pandemic Update 60: Hydroxychloroquine Update; NYC Data; How Widespread is COVID-19?

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GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, government agencies, academic institutions and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, complete and unbiased by reading oureditorial guidelines.

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What type of rapid test is most accurate? ›

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is a type of molecular test. It is “a diagnostic test that detects genetic material from the virus.”1 PCR tests amplify the viral genetic material, which makes them more sensitive and thus more likely to be accurate.

Which rapid Covid tests are more accurate? ›

PCR tests are the most accurate type of NAAT test for COVID-19. NAAT tests are less likely to give false results than antigen tests. They are sometimes used to confirm the results of rapid tests.

What brand of at-home COVID test is best? ›

Our Recommendations
  • Best Overall: iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test.
  • Best Budget: Celltrion DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Home Test.
  • Best for Quick Results: On/Go At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Self-Test.
  • Easiest to Use: FlowFlex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test.
  • Best for Families: Boson Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test Card.

How accurate is InteliSwab Covid-19 rapid test? ›

The InteliSwab® COVID-19 Rapid Test when conducted by a lay user correctly identified 85% of positive samples.

Is there a difference in rapid tests? ›

Rapid Antigen Tests

This test involves collecting nose and throat secretions via nasopharyngeal swab and then examining them for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus. While these tests provide quick results—within 15 minutes—they are generally considered to be less accurate than PCR tests.

Which is better rapid NAAT or rapid antigen test? ›

Antigen tests are less sensitive than NAAT tests and a single, negative antigen test result should not be used to rule out infection. A negative antigen test should be repeated at least 48 hours apart to best detect infection. A follow-up NAAT/PCR test may be needed to confirm results from an antigen test.

What is difference between rapid PCR and rapid antigen test? ›

How do rapid PCR and rapid antigen tests work? Both standard and rapid PCR tests work by looking for genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Antigen tests, on the other hand, look for specific proteins on the surface of the cell. This is what makes PCR tests more accurate than antigen tests.

How accurate are Abbott BinaxNOW tests? ›

Abbott's own clinical data, meanwhile, showed 84.6% sensitivity in the same group. “Equally as important, these data show that if a patient has no symptoms and they have a negative result, BinaxNOW will give the right answer 96.9% of the time,” the company said, referring to the test's measure of specificity.

How accurate is antigen rapid test? ›

Overall performance of at-home COVID-19 antigen tests

However, at-home COVID-19 antigen tests are generally expected to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus at least 80% of the time when someone is infected. When you perform an at-home COVID-19 antigen test, and you get a positive result, the results are usually accurate.

When are you most contagious with Covid? ›

You are most infectious (or contagious) in the first 5 days after your symptoms start. You can also spread COVID-19 in the 48 hours before your symptoms start.

When is COVID not contagious? ›

Isolation should continue for at least 10 days after symptom onset (day 0 is the day symptoms appeared, and day 1 is the next full day thereafter). Some people with severe illness (e.g., requiring hospitalization, intensive care, or ventilation support) may remain infectious beyond 10 days.

How soon after exposure are you contagious? ›

Researchers estimate that people who get infected with the coronavirus can spread it to others 2 to 3 days before symptoms start and are most contagious 1 to 2 days before they feel sick.

Does the rapid test detect Omicron BA 5? ›

Covid Rapid Tests Still Work for Omicron and BA. 5, But Can Give False Negatives - Bloomberg.

How accurate are Flowflex rapid tests? ›

The Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test was compared to an FDA authorized molecular SARS-CoV-2 test. The Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test correctly identified 93% of positive specimens and 100% of negative specimens. 31.

How accurate are Flowflex antigen rapid tests? ›

The Flowflex™COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test is clinically proven to have 98.8% accuracy based on a multi-site clinical study.

Which is better RT-PCR or antigen? ›

Although it is less sensitive than the RT-PCR test, the antigen test is an effective way to monitor infection in people who are in close contact with COVID-19 infected. Rapid antigen tests are often used as mass screening tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection quickly in containment zones or healthcare settings.

Is binax now a PCR test? ›

The BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card is a type of test called an antigen test. Antigen tests are designed to detect proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19 in anterior nasal (nares) swab samples.

Is there a rapid PCR test? ›

Results may be available in minutes if analyzed onsite in 1 to 3 days — or longer in locations with test processing delays — if sent to an outside lab. RT-PCR tests are very accurate when properly performed by a health care professional, but the rapid test can miss some cases.

When is the best time to take antigen test? ›

Both antigen tests and NAATs perform best if the person is tested when they are symptomatic.

What does NAAT stand for? ›

As mentioned, there are several types of molecular tests. These tests run amplification processes to detect the virus in the genetic material. That is why they are also known as nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT).

How accurate is PCR COVID test? ›

Is PCR Testing Accurate? Yes, PCR test results are generally considered to be accurate. While rapid antigen tests commonly produce false negatives and false positives—especially when a COVID-19 infection is still in its early stages—these issues are much less likely to occur with PCR tests.

Is rapid PCR or rapid antigen test more accurate? ›

PCR Tests are most accurate, if you can get one. If the test results are positive, you are positive, and you should not re-take a PCR test. Your PCR test may be intermittently positive for 90 days following infection and neither a positive or negative follow-up result will change management.

Which is more accurate rapid antigen or rapid PCR? ›

Another important difference between the two tests is the accuracy rate. Experts say the rapid antigen test is quite likely to be accurate for patients who test positive for COVID-19.

Which is more accurate RT PCR or rapid antigen test? ›

Although it is less sensitive than the RT-PCR test, the antigen test is an effective way to monitor infection in people who are in close contact with COVID-19 infected. Rapid antigen tests are often used as mass screening tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection quickly in containment zones or healthcare settings.


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