It might sound counterintuitive, even risky, but you should almost always skimp on home pregnancy tests. That’s because whether you spend $30 or $1, all Food and Drug Administration-approved test strips check for pregnancies by measuring levels of hCG, a hormone released by the placenta. In other words, most urine tests are identical, save for a few peculiarities like how long it takes to see results.
Are Cheap Pregnancy Tests Accurate?
Cheap pregnancy tests — yes, even home tests from the dollar store — are accurate as long as you buy them legally within the United States. If that seems hard to believe, think of cheap pregnancy tests like generic drugs. At the end of the day, both generic and name-brand drugs are regulated in the same way, and at a chemical level, they’re the same thing.
"I would only caution that it needs to be sold legally," said Stephanie Caccomo, FDA spokesperson, in an interview with USA Today.
The FDA also regulates pregnancy tests, reviewing a number of factors, including the device’s precision and accuracy, along with the product's manuals, inserts, and box labeling.
“The pregnancy tests you get at the drugstore work 99 out of 100 times. They’re just as accurate as a urine pregnancy test that you’d get at a doctor’s office,” according to Planned Parenthood.
How Do Cheap and Expensive Tests Differ?
If we compare a $1 test and a $7 test from CVS, we see that there aren’t many differences. For instance, both tests boast that they are 99% accurate and provide results in one to three minutes. That said, the cheaper test does require you to collect your urine in a cup before using an included dropper — more tedious than the expensive test’s collection process. But most importantly: Both tests provide accurate results in minutes.
Some consumers even prefer cheap tests from the dollar store. In fact, Reddit is full of threads commending low-cost test sticks.
"I work in a clinical laboratory and we use the dropper ones for our pregnancy tests. They most definitely work just as well!" one popular Reddit comment reads.
"Found out I was pregnant with both of my children using dollar store pregnancy tests. Why would you pay more if it works just as well?" another user wrote.
@askdrmom #stitch with @todays.toddler actually those dollar store tests are fairly accurate when positive. It is when they are negative that it potentially could just be too early because they need a fair amount of hormone in the urine to be positive. #pregnancytestresults #dollarstorepregnancytest #familyplanning #drmommy ♬ Sunroof - Nicky Youre & dazy
How Much Are Pregnancy Tests?
Urine pregnancy tests cost between $1 and $15 per test, making them an affordable, accurate way to check for pregnancy. Some health centers and Planned Parenthood locations offer free pregnancy tests, though you’ll want to avoid Crisis Pregnancy Centers, fake clinics run by anti-abortion activists.
When Should You Take a Pregnancy Test?
According to Planned Parenthood, you should take a pregnancy test right after you miss your period. That said, some tests can detect a pregnancy a few days before your period, or as early as 10 days after unprotected sex, though you might receive a false positive or false negative. For people who have irregular periods — or don't get them at all — Planned Parenthood recommends taking a test three weeks after sex for the most accurate results. If you're still unsure whether you're pregnant after testing at home, make an appointment with your doctor, who can test for the amount of hCG in your blood.
The Bottom Line
- All at-home pregnancy tests should be accurate, provided you purchase them legally in the U.S.
- The differences between cheap and expensive tests are minor.
- Pregnancy tests range in price from $1 to $15 per test, though some health centers offer them for free.
- For the most accurate results, take your test right after you miss your period.