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Blood glucose meters are, of course, a key tool in managing diabetes because they allow people with diabetes to see what their blood glucose level is within a matter of seconds, empowering them to take corrective action if necessary.

Like all diabetes supplies, however, glucose meters can be expensive and hard to obtain without insurance or the help of a physician. For this reason, drugstore-brand glucose meters are often a good option, as they are more accessible and affordable while providing the same fast results as fancier brand-name glucose meters.

“Benefits of ‘generic meters’ include being easily accessible, and the test strips are really inexpensive,” explains Jamie Kowatch, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) at Saluté Nutrition LLC in Seattle, Washington. “But all of the data shows that they are nowhere near as accurate as the big brand named meters. If people want to have more accurate data, more accurate information to make their judgement calls on, the best way to go about it is have their prescriber write a prescription for the meter and the test strips and go through insurance and get however many test strips they need for one copay.”

Here’s a rundown of popular drugstore glucose meter brands, that can help you decide if they are a good option for you.

CVS Health Advanced Glucose Meter

  • Meter basics. This glucose meter is a small, bean-shaped device that could easily fit in your pocket or a small purse, even when inside its case. It comes packaged with a lancing device, 10 lancets, user manual and quick start guide, carrying case, and two 3-volt lithium batteries. Once you apply a small drop of blood to the test strip, you receive results within 5 seconds.
  • User reviews. This meter received mixed reviews on the CVS website. Many reported inaccurate readings — in some cases, results that were wildly off, whereas others only noticed a difference of 10 to 20 points to comparative readings. Some reviewers noted that the problem could be due to user error because this meter requires the blood drop to be placed at the very end of the test strip, where it can be quickly “sucked up into the right spot.”
    • “It’s not spot-on accurate, so if you are looking for something that will always be accurate within a few points, this device isn’t it. However, I test it regularly against my Verio meter, and they are pretty much always within 20 points of each other. This is OK for getting a general reading, and I didn’t expect anything more.” – Spencer
    • “It has not disappointed. I have had no problems testing and have not had to waste any test strips. Not sure why so many others have been having problems. Next time, I will get the version with BT technology so I can upload data to my phone.” – Ray
  • Meter cost. $19.99
  • Test strips. CVS Health™ Advanced Glucose Test Strips (.24 cents per strip)

CVS Health True Metrix Glucose Meter

  • Meter basics. This meter comes with pre-installed battery, lancing device, 10 lancets, instructions to use, self-test logbook, and a compact carrying case. Users get results within 4 seconds of applying a blood drop. Additionally, this meter has a 500-test memory, the ability to provide 7-, 14-, and 30-day averages, 4 testing alarms, and event tagging (such as if this blood sugar was taken before dinner).
  • User reviews. This meter received a lot of praise, earning an average of 4.5 stars out of 5 from 258 reviews on the CVS website. Some people reported inaccurate readings while using this meter, but most noted that the difference was slight, within 10 to 20 points of comparative readings.
    • “This is a really nice glucose meter. The display is large and very easy to read. The instructions were simple to follow and not overly complicated. The reading time is decently quick as well. This is the best meter I’ve had.” – Adam
    • “I was excited to try this out, as I have been wanting a new blood glucose meter for some time. However, after a long testing period, I found the results to vary widely from time to time. I did not take it to my doctor to confirm, though. I will use this for travel or as a backup.” – Sprout
  • Meter cost. $18.99
  • Test strips. True Metrix Test Strips (.33 cents per strip)

CVS Health True Metrix Air

  • Meter basics. The True Metrix Air system is a higher-end version of the basic True Metrix meter with built-in Bluetooth connectivity that allows it to connect to an app on your smart device, and download glucose data to your computer. It provides blood glucose readings within 4 seconds of testing, has a 1,000-test memory, and offers blood glucose averages and 4 different testing reminder alarms to choose from.
  • User reviews. Reviews are mixed on this meter. At the CVS website, it received an average of 2.9 out of 5 stars, and 56 percent of reviewers recommend this product. Many users noticed inaccurate readings, and several others experienced difficulty using the test strips, stating they were unreliable and therefore often got wasted.
    • “I have to prick myself up to 10 times sometimes because I get an E2 or E3 error. It doesn’t work more than it works. Feels like I wasted my money.” – Lelly
    • “Did five consecutive tests and the meter read between 78 and 189. Why bother testing?” -Kelly
    • “Not sure why it’s rated so badly, as I have had no problems with it… Good meter and it meets my expectations.” – Marcy
  • Meter cost. $24.99
  • Test strips. True Metrix Test Strips (.33 cents per strip)

True Metrix Blood Glucose Meter

  • Meter basics. The Walgreens True Metrix also uses a 0.5-microliter sample to deliver blood glucose readings within 4 seconds. This meter offers a 500-test memory, alternate site testing, 7-, 14-, and 30-day averages, event tagging, and the ability to download your data to a computer.
  • User reviews. This meter received an average of 3.9 stars out of 5 from 368 reviews on the Walgreens website. While 75 percent of the reviews are positive overall, many users reported inconsistent results and unreliable test strips that often lead to error messages.
    • “This blood glucose monitor is really compact and easy to carry anywhere without it being too bulky or heavy. The readings are quick and has memory with the dates which is really helpful for statistics and the display is large and easy to read. It gives an error code sometimes and works again with a restart. But most of all I love that it has alerts, in case you forget to monitor.” – Sunny
    • “I love the fact that this meter can monitor glucose in the blood with such speed and accuracy. My stepfather is new to having diabetes and was in need of a reliable meter to check his blood glucose; now, he and my mother love the quick and accurate results that they receive every time.” – Rika
  • Meter cost. $18.99
  • Test strips. Walgreens True Metrix™ Test Strips (.84 cents per strip)

True Metrix Go Blood Glucose Meter

  • Meter basics. The Walgreens True Metrix Go is a clever, highly compact meter that actually snaps onto the top of a test strip vial, so you have everything you need all-in-one. Like its partner model, the True Metrix Go meter uses a 0.5-microliter sample to deliver blood glucose readings within 4 seconds. It also offers a 500-test memory, 7-, 14-, and 30-day averages, and data downloading capabilities.
  • User reviews. This meter received high reviews, averaging 4.8 out of 5 stars from a dozen reviews on the Walgreens website. Users love its small size that makes it easy to always have a glucose meter on their person no matter where they go.
    • “This meter is extremely small and I was skeptical at first, but this has been the best meter as it is so portable, and ease to take with you when you just don’t have the space or desire to drag around the typical blood glucose meter and strip “pouch.” Just attach to top of strip vial, slide on the sleeve and lancing device and your good to go.” – Tom
    • “Works great. Easy to operate. That in itself is a very big deal. I like that it fits on top of the test strips canister, good idea.” – Roger
  • Meter cost. $13.49
  • Test strips. Walgreens True Metrix™ Test Strips (.84 cents per strip)

ReliOn Premier CLASSIC Blood Glucose Monitoring System

  • Meter basics. The ReliOn Classic is an easy-to-use meter that displays results within 5 seconds. The Classic model has a 500-test memory, can provide glucose averages, and has a low blood sugar indicator that will alert users when they are experiencing hypoglycemia.
  • User reviews. Reviews are generally positive for this meter, receiving an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars out of 282 ratings on the Walmart site. Many people reported it being fairly accurate, but some also noted slightly higher readings in comparison to their other meters.
    • “I like the ReliOn Premier Classic Blood Glucose Meter because the ease of using. It doesn’t take much blood for a sample. The control solution is a great way to be able to test your strips. The alarm is a handy reminder to test your blood. A very nice feature. The memory is a great feature also because you can go back and look at your reading levels or use the phone app.” – Chantill
    • “Works well, and inexpensive. I got the same reading as with a meter and strips costing easily 5 times more.” – JMW
  • Meter cost. $9.00
  • Test strips. ReliOn Premier Test Strips (.20 cents per strip)

ReliOn Premier COMPACT Blood Glucose Monitoring System

  • Meter basics. The ReliOn Compact is a smaller meter that offers on-the-go testing abilities. Like the other ReliOn models, the Compact requires only a 0.5-microliter blood sample to test and displays results within 5 seconds. Users have the option to use alternate site testing in addition to their fingers, including forearm, palm, thigh, and calf. It also comes complete with a carry case, starter set of test strips, lancing device, and lancets.
  • User reviews. Reviews are positive for this meter, receiving an average of 4.0 out of 5 stars out of 214 ratings on the store’s website. Users especially liked the device’s slim design and accessibility.
    • “I think that this ReliOn Blood Glucose Monitoring system is the best I have ever used. It is lightweight so you can carry it everywhere. It has a fancy design to it. The results were faster than other monitors and with less or no pain. And the results were accurate. I love this system.” – Elaine
    • “Very reliable for the price. I took mine to the hospital and compared my readings to their machine… Bingo! it read very close. Love the size, too. Easy to carry, easy to use.” – Ron
  • Cost. $19.44
  • Test strips. ReliOn Premier Test Strips (.20 cents per strip)

ReliOn PRIME Blood Glucose Monitoring System

  • Meter basics. The ReliOn PRIME meter has a big, bold, red-framed display that is easy to read. It displays results within 7 seconds. It has a 250-test memory, fingertip or palm testing capacity, and comes packaged with an English/Spanish product manual, a carrying case and logbook.
  • User reviews. Reviews are rather average for this meter, receiving 3.7 out of 5 stars out of 662 ratings. People liked the product’s price, but many found it to be unreliable and difficult to use.
    • “I like my product. It is easy to use. The price was unbelievable.” – Thelma
    • “Highly unreliable. I finally used my old Bayer glucose meter to check against my ReliOn results, and ReliOn reads 30+ mg/dL higher than the Bayer meter, which seems to be correct when correlated with my A1C. The stores don’t carry the control solution, so you have to order and wait 2 weeks. I can’t go that long without having an accurate meter, and Walmart should not send out a meter with such a large discrepancy, IMO. They did refund my money.” – Amy
  • Meter cost. $9.00
  • Test strips. ReliOn Premier Test Strips (.20 cents per strip)

ReliOn Premier VOICE Blood Glucose Monitoring System

  • Meter basics. The ReliOn Premier VOICE meter has a big, bold, green-framed display that is easy to read. It is contoured to hold easily in one hand and displays results within 7 seconds. The VOICE model differs from other meters as it features voice prompts in either English or Spanish. It features up to 29 different voice prompts to guide users through meter setup, testing, and review of results. Voice guidance may be turned on or off based on user preferences. Additionally, the VOICE model offers a 500-test memory, low blood sugar indicator, blood glucose averages, and a carrying case.
  • User reviews. Reviews are good for this meter, receiving 4.2 out of 5 stars out of 98 ratings. Ninety-eight percent of the reviewers say they would recommend the product. However, some people complained about readings running falsely high, and the fact that the lancets and also the control solution — supposed to be used to calibrate before first use — are not included in the package and have to be ordered separately.
    • “{This} is one of the easiest blood glucose meters I’ve ever used. It’s true that it takes less blood than most (always a plus in my opinion) and the strip even lets you know you have applied enough blood for the test. This wonderful meter takes 5 seconds to vocally tell you what your results are, it doesn’t get any easier than this… There are other perks like large memory storage, it tells you again vocally if your testing results are HI/LO, and lets you keep track of whether your reading is pre- or post-meal.” – Lisa
    • “I like that it ‘talks’ but it would have been nice if it would have come with a lancing device & lancets – Had to use the lancing device from my old kit just to try it.” – Happyme
  • Meter cost. $14.98
  • Test strips. ReliOn Premier Test Strips (.20 cents per strip)

ReliOn ALL-IN-ONE Blood Glucose Monitoring System

  • Meter basics. The ReliOn ALL-IN-ONE is Walmart’s equivalent to the True Metrix Go is a clever, highly compact meter that actually snaps onto the top of a test strip vial, so you have everything you need all-in-one. It is marketed as disposable, and is the only meter that requires just a tiny blood sample size of 1 microliter to check your blood sugar. The meter comes packaged with 50 test strips, lancing device, 10 lancets, and a carrying case.
  • User reviews. Reviews are mixed for this meter. Overall, it received 3.7 out of 5 stars from 24 ratings, and only 37 percent of reviewers would recommend it to a friend. Like the other ReliOn models, many people were happy with the meter’s price, but reported getting inaccurate readings.
    • “Works great! I’ve been using this for a couple of years now, with no real problems. Sometimes the meter might not come on, but if I remove and reinsert the strip, it works fine. So much more affordable than other testing kits, which makes it a lot easier on my wallet to test my blood sugar more often.” – PG
    • “I’m a first time user and found the instructions to be lacking. There were no directions on how to use the lancet. I bought this to be proactive with my health, not on the recommendation of a doctor. It would be perfect if they had a video (YouTube) to help us newbies out.” – Cheri
  • Meter cost. $9.00
  • Test strips. ReliOn Premier Test Strips (.20 cents per strip)

Leading brand-name glucose meters generally offer more features and have reported more accurate readings than drugstore meters. For instance, if you are looking for a highly-rated glucose meter that has built-in Bluetooth and a mobile app so you can track your blood sugars, you might need to consider upgrading to a more sophisticated option, like the Contour Next One.

Additionally, data shows that brand-name meters, such as the Contour Next One or Roche Accu-Chek models, are the most reliable and accurate meters on the market. In a 2018 study, only 6 out of 18 glucose meters passed researcher’s accuracy standards for these systems. Of those 6 meters, only the Abbott CVS Advanced meter passed with a 97 percent accuracy rating.

Of the meters we looked at, the most affordable by far were the Walmart ReliOn CLASSIC and PRIME models. The meter model offering the most modern features and connectivity was the CVS Health True Metrix Air. And the most compact, portable meters were the Walgreens True Metrix Go and ReliOn ALL-IN-ONE meters.

Overall, drugstore glucose meters may be a good option if you are looking for an inexpensive meter and test strips, but you do have to be wary of inaccurate readings while using them. Many people suggest keeping a drugstore meter on hand as a backup or while traveling or on vacation, because they are so easy to use and quick to replace.