Health

How Much Does a COVID-19 Test Cost in Canada?

Updated on

COVID-19 tests can be free (ie. publicly-funded) if you’re symptomatic, are an essential worker, have been exposed, or for other medical reasons (find a location), but if you need a negative test result to satisfy travel requirements, vaccine policies or entry to a private venue, you’ll have to purchase a private test from a pharmacy, travel clinic or other medical service provider.

The average cost of a private COVID-19 PCR test in Canada is $170 and ranges from $80 to $280, while the average cost of a rapid antigen test service is $67 and ranges from $16.99 to $157. Do-it-yourself Rapid Antigen test kits can be purchased for around $10. Options include the BTNX Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test Kit which is made in Canada and Health Canada authorized, BD Veritor, Roche and Panbio. Here is where you can find them for sale online.

TestMinAverageMax
PCR$80$170$280
Antigen$16.99$67$157
Antibody$65$93$179

The following factors can affect the cost. Expect to pay more for:

  • Convenience – mobile services that come to you or in-home virtually-supervised testing kits compared to in clinic tests
  • Shorter turn around times – results under 8 hours compared to 24 to 48 hours
  • Availability – tests performed and analyzed after-hours or on weekends/holidays compared to regular business hours

There are 2 primary types of tests to test for current COVID-19 infection: the molecular test and the antigen test.

  • Molecular tests (known as Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR): Checks a saliva or mucus sample for the presence of the virus’s actual genetic material or its fragments as it breaks down. PCR is accepted as the most reliable and accurate test for detecting active infection because it will have fewer false negative tests. Sample collection only takes a few minutes, but most PCR tests typically take hours to perform and it usually takes 24 to 48 hours to get a result back. They are considerably more expensive than antigen tests.
  • Antigen test: Checks a saliva or mucus sample for the presence of bits of proteins on the surface of the virus called antigens. Rapid antigen tests are most accurate when used within a few days after exposure or of the start of your symptoms, which is when the largest amount of virus is present in your body. They typically take only 15 to 30 minutes to complete and get a result. In addition to being quicker, they are considerably cheaper than PCR tests.

There is also a test used to check for for past infection: the antibody test.

  • Antibody test: Checks a blood sample for the presence of antibodies that the body’s immune system produced in response to the infection. It is done after full recovery and can show whether or not you’ve previously been infected with the virus – results are typically ready within a few hours and in some cases within 15 minutes. Testing is not recommend until at least 14 days after the onset of symptoms to improve accuracy.

These tests must use devices approved by Health Canada.

COVID-19 PCR test cost

A private COVID-19 PCR test for international travel, work or school typically costs an average of $170 and ranges from $80 to $280. The cheapest we found was $80 at Rexall’s In-Store Travel Clearance COVID-19 Testing, while the most expensive was $280 at Ace Travel Clinic in Downtown Vancouver.

This test is for asymptomatic individuals who are travelling and require a negative PCR test result for their flight and entry to another country. Most providers require you to bring your flight details and health card/passport to your appointment.

For example, Canada only accepts PCR, NAT/NAAT and RT-LAMP tests for entry. Here is IATAs travel regulations map showing the entry requirements of other countries.

ProviderCostLocationTurnaround (hours)
Rexall$80.00Select locations (450+)24 to 48
Equity Health Services$85.00Calgary, AB
Pharmore Pharmacy$99.00Markham, ON24
IDA, Guardian, Remedy’s Rx$140.00Belleville, ON24 to 32
Numi Health$140.00ABStandard
Jean Coutu$149.99Montreal, QC48
Pharmasave$150.00Barrie, ON36 to 48
Pharmasave$150.00Barrie, ON36 to 48
Shopper’s Drug Mart$150.00Select of 1300+ in Canada (excl QC)48
DynaLife Medical Labs$150.00AB48
Life Labs$150.00 + $80 per visit (GTA only)ON, BC48
Ichor Blood Services$150.00AB, ON, NB48
Dynacare$155.00Montreal, QC30
Jean Coutu$159.99Montreal, QC48
GoTestRapid$160.00North York, ON24
Switch Health$160.008 clinics in GTA, Calgary & Halifax24 to 48
A+ Travel Tests$170.00Vancouver, BC15 to 28
Jean Coutu$175.00Montreal, QC48
HCP Diagnostics$179.00 + $70 per visitGTASame day
GoTestRapid$185.00North York, ON18
Numi Health$195.00ABRapid
Sante Medic$199.99QC24
Life Labs$200.00ON12
Okanagan Testing Clinic$228.00BC24 to 36
Pharmasave$240.00Stouffville, ONSame-day (8 hr)
Start Drug Testing Services$249.00Winnipeg24
London Drugs$249.00BC, AB, SK, MB24
Saanich Plaza Medical Clinic$250.00Victoria, BC48 to 72
Ace Travel Clinic$280.00Vancouver, BC12 to 24

Some providers offer mobile service where they will come to your home or workplace for an additional fee or higher price tag ranging from $80 to $100. For example, LifeLabs charges $80 per visit in the GTA and HCP Diagnostics in Toronto charges $79 per visit.

Expect to pay more as well if you need a faster result – Pharmasave in Barrie, ON charges $150 with a typical turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours, but their Pharmasave in Stouffville, ON quoted $240 for same-day results for a Christmas-eve test.

PCR self-collection kits cost

There are also PCR self-collection kits available such as Rexall’s Take Home Travel Test Kits ($199.99 each), which allow you to collect the sample on your own (for example at home) with online supervision, then return it to the testing location for processing by a lab.

Rapid COVID-19 Antigen test cost

A rapid COVID-19 antigen test costs an average of $70 and ranges from $16.99 to $157. The cheapest we found was $16.99 at a Costco Pharmacy (followed closely by $19.97 at a Walmart Pharmacy) while the most expensive was $157 at Boundless Medical in Victoria, BC.

The test can be used by workplaces, schools and other organizations to allow them to test staff more frequently and cheaply as it can be performed by non-professionals.

Rapid antigen tests are accepted for entry to only a few countries including the US and UK (Lateral Flow). This is because they have an increased chance of false-negative results – meaning it’s possible to be infected with the virus but have a negative result. Depending on the situation, the doctor may recommend a PCR test to confirm a negative antigen test result.

ProviderCostLocationTurnaround
Costco$16.99Select locations (79) across 8 provinces15 min
Walmart Pharmacy$19.97AB, ON, MB, NS15 min
CanaPHEM$26.25Whitby, ON15 min
Rexall$30.00ON, MB, AB20 min
Equity Health Services$30.00Calgary, AB
IDA, Guardian, Remedy’s Rx$39.00Belleville, ON
GoTestRapid$40.00North York, ON15 min
Shopper’s Drug Mart$40.00Select of 1300+ in Canada (excl QC)20 min
Jean Coutu$40.00Montreal, QC15 to 30 min
Numi Health$49.00AB
HCP Diagnostics$49.00 + $110 per visitGTASame day
Ichor Blood Services$50.00AB, ON, NB15 min
Jean Coutu$50.00Ottawa, ON15 to 30 min
Life Labs$60.00ON
Switch Health$75.008 clinics in GTA, Calgary & Halifax0.5 hr
Dynacare$75.00Montreal, QC30 hr
Pharmasave$80.00Barrie, ON24 hr
Start Drug Testing Services$99.00Winnipeg15 min
Sante Medic$119.00QC15 min
Numi Health$125.00AB
Okanagan Testing Clinic$129.00BCSame day
Ace Travel Clinic$145.00Vancouver, BC8 hr
Boundless Medical$157.00Victoria, BC

Some providers offer mobile service where they will come to your home or workplace for an additional fee or higher price tag ranging from $80 to $100. For example, Numi Health in Alberta charges $125 for mobile service – $76 more than their $49 in-clinic test. Other providers offer to virtually supervise the test as you do it yourself for a fee of $40 to $50.

Rapid test kits are available to purchase for around $10 each such as the BTNX Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test Kit, which is made in Canada and Health Canada authorized. Other examples include BD VeritorTM and PanbioTM tests with nasal swabs.

Free Rapid Antigen Tests in Canada

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan offer rapid testing kits free to the public without symptoms, but access in other provinces varies.

Ontario provides free tests to high-risk communities, organizations and workplaces through an application process and is now distributing them through the LCBO and at pop-up locations.

In British Columbia, qualified businesses and high risk organziations such as long-term care homes can get free tests for their employees through safescreenbc.ca.

Alberta provides free rapid tests to employers and service providers with an approved COVID-19 screening program through the provincial government website.

Federally, companies with 10 to 199 employees in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario can access free rapid tests through the rapid antigen test initiative from participating pharmacies.

COVID-19 Antibody (serology) test cost

A COVID-19 antibody test costs an average of $93 and ranges from $65 to $179. The cheapest we found was $65 Canadian Travel Clinic in Edmonton, AB while the most expensive was $179 at Sante Medic in Quebec.

ProviderCostLocationTurnaround
Star Drug Testing Services$69.00Winnipeg15 min
Dynacare$70.00ON
GoTestRapid$75.00North York, ON1 hr
Life Labs$75.00ON, BC, SK24 to 48 hrs
Ichor Blood Services$120.00AB, ON, NB15 min
Sante Medic$179.00QC

An antibody test may be done after full recovery to show whether or not you’ve previously been infected with the virus – results are typically ready within a few hours and in some cases within 15 minutes. Testing is not recommend until at least 14 days after the onset of symptoms to ensure accuracy.

If the result comes back positive, it may mean that you have some immunity, but there is a lack of evidence on whether having antibodies means you’re protected against reinfection – or for how much and how long – and confirmed cases of reinfection have been reported. Ongoing studies will eventually reveal more data on this. Regardless of the outcome of the test, you should continue to follow all public health guidelines to protect yourself and others.

Find a COVID-19 testing location in your province

Find a location for either symptomatic or asymptomatic/private testing:

How much have you been quoted or paid for a COVID-19 test?

We’re interested to know how much Canadians are paying for their tests. Let us know by leaving a comment with the type and amount below!

About the author

Alex Wideman
Alex Wideman is a consumer rights advocate, serial entrepreneur and educator. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Queen's University. Alex is passionate about helping others save time and money and has been creating consumer-focused online resources for over 10 years. More about Cansumer Read more

Was this article helpful?

Leave a comment