After three weeks of testing, research and evaluation, the Contour Next One emerged as our pick for the best glucometer overall. This meter is exceptionally easy to use, performed better than all the others in our tests and comes with a mobile app for easy data management. In addition, the test strips are available everywhere and are among the more affordable options available.
Before diving into our recommendations for the best glucometers, it’s important to note that Top Ten Reviews is not a substitute for your primary care physician. Our recommendations are made based on common scenarios, hands-on experience, market cost evaluations and a comparison of important features, but they’re not a replacement for advice from your doctor. We are not medical experts. In fact, due to the diversity and features included with glucometers, Kristen Scheney, a nutritionist from CCS Medical, recommends that newly diagnosed diabetics talk with a medical professional about getting the glucometer that best meets their needs.
Overall Best Glucometer
Overall Best Glucometer: CONTOUR NEXT ONE
The Contour Next One doesn't have a large display, but with Bluetooth and a smartphone app, you can sync your readings to your phone and make all the necessary notes from there. For example, you can record whether the reading was taken pre- or post-meal, before bed, etc. The app makes it very easy to track your diabetes and even allows you to share the data with your physician. This is also one of the most affordable glucometers, with test strips that perform well and don't break the bank.
In our tests, the Contour Next One was the most consistent glucometer, never once giving a reading outside the accuracy range, which we set by calculating the average reading across all the glucometers in each round of testing – any meter that displayed a number between 15 percent above and 15 percent below the average was considered accurate. However, this isn't an absolute statement of accuracy; before hitting the shelves, all glucometers must meet FDA standards for accuracy and go through tests that are more controlled and stringent than those we were able to perform.
The Contour Next One received an A+ for test strip availability – we looked for the strips in more than 20 online stores and local pharmacies, and we found them at every single one. That said, each strip costs about 56 cents, which is certainly more affordable than those used by other big-brand glucometers but still more expensive than many other test strips.
Best Glucometer for Value
Best Glucometer for Value: True Metrix Air
Our pick for best value is the TRUE METRIX AIR. This glucometer syncs your test results to a mobile app over Bluetooth, and it performed well in our accuracy tests. Its test strips are also the most affordable and among the easiest to find.
In our evaluation, the AIR’s test strips received an A+ for cost. On average, they cost 23 cents each, and we found them in almost every store we checked, even the brick-and-mortar pharmacies. To put this into perspective, the most expensive test strips we reviewed were $1.22 each, and the average across all the glucometers we tested was 55 cents per strip. When you consider ongoing costs, you'll pay much less with the TRUE METRIX AIR.
In our accuracy tests, the AIR performed well, though not great, receiving a B. Its test strips had a comparatively high failure rate – failed strips don’t drink up enough blood and produce an error message on the glucometer. Still, since it uses the most affordable strips on the market, a few failed ones isn’t as big of a deal as wasting those that cost more than $1 each.
Best for Insulin Dependent Diabetics
Best for Insulin Dependent Diabetics: Fora 6 Connect
Released in February, the FORA 6 Connect is the newest glucometer to hit the market in 2018, and it's an impressive addition to the ForaCare portfolio of products. This Bluetooth-enabled meter is multi-functional, accepting strips to test for both blood glucose and ketones. While most diabetics don't test ketones, it's a critical measurement for insulin-dependent diabetics. This dual functionality is why it's our pick for the best glucometer for insulin-dependent diabetics.
Even without the ketone strip functionality, the FORA 6 Connect is one of the best glucometer I've reviewed. In my accuracy tests, all its readings fell within the acceptable range. The device’s display is big and easy to read, and its multiple buttons make it the easiest FORA meter to use. In addition, at about 50 cents each, the FORA 6 Connect’s test strips are affordable, which is a pleasant surprise for brand new strips. The only downside is they aren't widely available – currently, you can only order them online.
The meter uses Bluetooth to sync your readings with the iFORA app. While this app was edged out by Dario’s for the best data management system, it's still one of the best on the market. The interface is easy to navigate, and you can add notes to your readings and see the data in graphs and charts. The iFORA app also lets you share this information with your physician.
Best Glucometer for Diabetics With Poor Eyesight
Best Glucometer for Diabetics With Poor Eyesight: FORA TN'G Voice
The FORA TN'G Voice is our pick for diabetics who have poor eyesight because it has a loud voice feature that reads out your glucose levels. The voice guidance system also walks you through the meter’s other features, so you can use each one without consulting the display. Very few glucometers have voice guidance, which is surprising considering how many diabetics have vision impairments. In addition, the glucometer has Bluetooth and the best data management app available.
The glucometer’s voice guidance is loud and easy to understand. Even though I can see just fine, I successfully navigated the features and took readings without having to look at the display. That said, the voice system isn't without its faults. We struggled to turn it off and adjust the volume, which can be annoying in a public space. It also begins every test with "Thank you for using ForaCare products," which is nice to hear the first time you use the meter but not every time you test your blood.
In our evaluation, the FORA TN’G Voice’s test strips received a B+ for cost when compared to those used by other meters – they only cost 40 cents per strip, on average. That said, we only found the strips on Fora's website and Amazon, so you need to track your supply and order refills well in advance.
Best Glucometer for Data Management
Best Glucometer for Data Management: Dario
Dario is one of the newest brands and most unique glucometers to hit the market in recent years. Unlike other glucose meters, the Dario meter plugs into your smartphone. You download the companion app, and it acts as the glucometer’s interface. The app is also a well-designed data management system that helps you track your diabetes. There's no need to sync data via Bluetooth or connect the glucometer to a computer with a micro-USB cable – the data uploads as you take your reading. This is why Dario is our pick for the glucometer with the best data management app.
The app is well designed and easy to navigate. It has animations that let you know it's reading your sample, and the display is only limited by the size of your smartphone’s screen. This makes it far superior to other glucometers in terms of visibility – the numbers are big, and the screen is colorful but with enough contrast that it's not distracting.
However, the Dario requires a 3.5mm audio jack to work, which means it isn’t compatible with the iPhone 7 or newer versions of the smartphone. That said, the company has developed an iPhone-compatible version that plugs into a Lightning port, but it's currently awaiting approval from the FDA.
Another drawback is the availability of its test strips. Dario is not a huge brand with wide distribution, so the test strips aren’t available many places outside of the company’s own website. That said, it offers a subscription service where you pay a monthly fee to have an unlimited number of strips shipped directly to you.
Top Ten Reviews has been reviewing glucometers since 2014, and I've been reviewing them since 2016. While I don't have diabetes, I have diabetic family members and friends. I know firsthand the important role their glucometers play in helping them better manage their diets and keep their glucose levels from getting out of control.
With diabetes being such a serious disease, I've approached my research and testing with a sincere desire to get it right. Unlike most other consumer products I review, a bad glucometer can profoundly affect your life, which is why I emphasize the need to talk to your doctor about what type of glucometer is best for you. Don't just take my word for it.
I've been an expert reviewer since 2013, but I've never intentionally bled for my reviews until now. In my tests, I pricked my fingers between two and five times per day for three weeks. These tests had two purposes: to see if the glucometers produce the same readings when tested on the same blood sample (they don't) and to empathize with the process. I only did this for three weeks, and it wasn't pleasant. The pain of the lancet isn't terrible, but by the end of it, my fingers were sore enough to make playing the drums and the guitar unpleasant. However, many diabetics do this every day with the knowledge that they'll continuing doing it for the rest of their lives.
What We Tested
Above all else, a glucometer needs to be accurate, so that was the first thing we wanted to test. However, we recognize that this isn't without it's difficulties. Every blood glucose meter must be FDA approved before it can be sold in the U.S. To receive approval, the meter goes through rigorous testing that can take months or years to complete, and in the end, it must prove to be within 15 percent of the true glucose level, 95 percent of the time.
Despite these strict regulations, glucometer brands still tout and market their meters as being more accurate than others. As such, it was clearly something we had to test. If they are as accurate as the FDA claims, then they should all produce similar readings when tested on the same blood sample.
In addition to performing these tests, I evaluated how easy each glucometer is to use, how well its data management app is designed, and how available and affordable its test strips are. Here is the breakdown of each test:
After making sure every glucometer was calibrated according to its instruction manual, I started each round of tests by washing my hands. This is important because dirt and other contaminants can cause a reading to be inaccurate. Once my hand was dry (also important because water can dilute the blood sample and produce an inaccurate reading), I used the deepest setting on a lancet to puncture one of my fingers and create a drop of blood from which I could test all 11 meters.
Usually, when you touch the end of a test strip to a drop of blood, the strip drinks up the necessary amount like a paper towel soaking up water, but sometimes it doesn't because the strip is faulty. In some cases, the strip seems to drink it up, but the meter produces an error message that there wasn't enough blood. I made a note of these failed strips, then tested the meter with another one. Some strips are more prone to failure than others.
In each round of tests, I averaged all 11 results. I then calculated an acceptable range of accuracy with the maximum set at 15 percent above that average and the minimum at 15 percent below it, similar to the FDA requirements. For example, if one round of tests produced an average reading of 108 mg/dL, then the acceptable range for accuracy would be 92 to 124 mg/dL.
While I couldn't know my true glucose level without a lab test, it's reasonable to think that it was within that acceptable range and likely closer to the average than otherwise. This means it's also reasonable to think that any readings that fall outside of this range have a high likelihood of being inaccurate. Every round of testing produced at least one inaccurate reading. Most had two or three.
After 30 rounds of these tests, I consulted with a medical expert in the diabetes industry (who declined to be named for this article) about my testing methodology. At this point in the testing, seven of the 11 glucometers had already produced inaccurate readings more than five times, but to meet FDA regulations, they couldn't have more than five failed readings out of a 100. The expert suggested that I may be introducing too much lymphatic fluid into the blood sample when I squeezed my finger to get the blood sample, which would throw off the accuracy.
He recommended that I test each glucometer on drops of blood produced without squeezing the prick site. In other words, I'd have to prick my finger 11 times for each round instead of once. He suggested that I'd get more consistently accurate results this way. So, I continued with this more painful methodology for the remainder of the tests. However, the results were no different than when I tested each meter on the same blood sample. The readings weren't more closely grouped and each round had between one and three readings that fell outside the acceptable range.
In addition to accuracy, I also routinely tested consistency by using each glucometer three times in a row on the same drop of blood. Usually, if you get a reading you suspect is inaccurate, it's recommended you test again – sometimes the sample is contaminated or the test strip is bad. However, my consistency tests showed that the glucometers were usually consistent, with only a 5 to 10 mg/dL difference between the lowest and the highest readings, with only a few exceptions.
After all the tests, I graded accuracy, noting whether each meter tended to read high or low, though some had no distinguishable pattern and were all over the place. It's important to make it clear that this was a small-scale test and not an absolute indication of accuracy. And it's perfectly reasonable to think that my methodology has issues. In fact, I hope that's the case because it would explain the worrying lack of consistent readings. In other words, trust what your doctor says.
Data Management & Connectivity
I asked Angelica Khachaturova, an EVP with GlucoMe (which currently has a glucometer in the final stages of the FDA-approval process), what she sees as the most common mistake people make when choosing a glucometer. She said they often don’t pay enough attention to data management systems and the way glucometers connect to those systems.
Since diabetes is a chronic disease without a cure, people need a good data management system that provides them and their doctor with the relevant information to best treat the disease and minimize long-term health effects. She explained that "[t]oday's glucose monitor manufacturers are developing different features to solve the connectivity issue. So it is highly recommended to check how the monitor transfers the data and its usability for this particular patient."
With this in mind, I closely evaluated the data management apps and desktop software that come with these glucometers, paying particular attention to connectivity and ease of use. Mobile apps are preferable to desktop software because Bluetooth allows the glucometer to almost instantly sync data to your data management system.
Using an app also makes it easy to add notes to readings from your phone just moments after testing your blood, which makes for more accurate records. You don’t need to worry about a cord or having to enter notes for readings directly into the glucometer, which isn’t easy to do and may discourage you from writing important things like "ate an apple" next to a reading. However, Bluetooth has connectivity challenges as well. Bluetooth-enabled glucose meters aren't always so easy to pair to your phone.
Test Strip Costs & Availability
The most expensive part of using a glucometer isn't the device – it’s the test strips. These disposable strips made of plastic and metal can cost between a dime and a few dollars each, and they aren't interchangeable. For example, you can't use the same test strip on a FORA glucometer and an Accu-Chek glucometer. Each device uses only a specific type of test strip, which means that two meters that cost $29.99 could represent a difference of thousands of dollars in ongoing costs.
You also have to consider availability. If you test your blood every day and run out of test strips, you can't wait several days for an order to come in – you must find the test strips at a pharmacy. If you can't find them in a pharmacy, you have to buy an all new glucometer, so availability matters.
To evaluate price and availability, I compiled a list of over 15 online stores and five local pharmacies. I then noted whether the stores carried the test strips and for how much. Some test strips were available everywhere, while others were only available in one or two online stores. Some cost an average of $1.22 per strip and others costs as little as 23 cents each.
What Else You Should Consider When Buying a Glucometer?
Glucometers vary quite a lot with concern to features and cost, which means it can be easy to choose the wrong one. Kristen Scheney, a nutritionist for CCS Medical, recommends not using price as an indication of quality. She continues, "just because one glucometer is more expensive than another does not mean that it will be more accurate. Moreover, just because a device includes more features than another does not mean that it is the device for you. Sometimes simple is the best way to go to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need out of your glucometer."
Again, you should consult with your physician about what type of glucometer is best for helping you manage your diabetes. That said, here are some additional considerations:
You don’t need a prescription to purchase glucometers, test strips or lancets. These are all over-the-counter products. However, since the long-term costs can be high, many insurance plans cover the meters and the test strips. While co-pays and coverage may vary, you should contact your insurance provider and talk to your doctor about what brands are covered under your insurance plan.
The one downside to using insurance to offset some of the costs is your plan often dictates which brand you can use. This is one of the most common complaints among diabetics because too often the only glucometer brands approved by their insurance providers have very expensive test strips.
Medicare Part B covers some diabetic supplies, including test strips, with a 20-percent Medicare-approved co-pay. However, this only applies if your physician and pharmacy are enrolled with Medicare.
A backup glucometer allows you to double-check a strange reading you think may not be accurate. For example, if you have a very high reading but you feel fine, you can check your blood again with a second glucometer. If the reading is high on both, then you can act accordingly. But if the backup glucometer gives a normal reading, you know that your primary glucometer needs to be calibrated.
Backup glucometers also help in situations when you run out of test strips. For example, if your primary glucometer is made by FORA, you'll likely have to order test strips online. And if you don't order them with enough foresight, you could easily run out before the refills arrive. A backup glucometer can be used to fill the gap.
Every glucometer we tested came with its own lancet – a device with a spring-loaded needle that you use to prick your finger, palm or forearm. Unlike test strips, you don't have to use the lancet that comes with your glucose meter; you just need something that draws enough blood to test with the glucometer, so use whatever is easy and affordable. I used all 11 lancets that came with the devices and found no difference in pain, but some are easier to load and unload. (It's important to use a new lancet needle for each test.)