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You or your aging loved one deserves access to premium care during times of medical emergencies. But it can be difficult to choose an option in the massive sea of medical alert products out there. That’s especially true if your budget is tight. So how do you choose?
What we usually do is we compare available medical alert systems, but that can be tricky to do when you’re comparing various charges as opposed to a single price. Based on our experience, it’s best to begin with the two highest expenses: the monthly monitoring fees and the equipment fees.
The monitoring fees run anywhere from $19.95 up to $54.95 per month. (We’ve recently noticed some nice discounts when you pay annually.) Also keep in mind most companies offer both at-home systems and mobile “on-the-go” options, with home systems (especially paired with a landline) being the most affordable.
As far as equipment goes, you may or may not be charged. Some companies, like Bay Alarm Medical charge you upfront for equipment, but that allows them to keep monitoring costs low. Others, like MobileHelp, offer free equipment, but you may pay more money per month for monitoring depending on which system you choose.
FYI: For more general information on what to look for when shopping for a medical alert system, read our Medical Alert Systems Buying Guide.
Providers usually offer fall detection as an optional add-on, charging an additional $5 to $10 monthly fee. A few systems, like Lifeline, include fall detection in their monthly fees, but these fees tend to be slightly higher. So it’s a good idea to ask about the cost of fall detection when shopping. Our analysis of the best medical alert systems with fall detection is a great place to start.
Pro Tip: For most at-home systems, fall detection is embedded within a pendant that also includes a help button and is worn around the neck. With on-the-go systems, fall detection is most often embedded within the mobile device.
In addition to fall detection, providers offer extras so that you can customize your system. For example, many providers offer complementary products like a lockbox so that emergency personnel can easily enter your home if necessary. They also offer complementary services like a telehealth option. Some even use AI to help predict when medical emergencies might occur. These extras do come with an additional cost.
Once you’re done with the monthly charges and the cost of equipment and add-ons, look at the fine print for extra charges. Some have a one-time activation fee, an initiation fee, or even membership fee. There may also be a shipping fee that isn’t covered by the equipment cost.
Comparing medical alert system costs truly is a lot of work, so if you’re looking for a shortcut, here’s a guide on the best and most affordable systems we’ve tested. These brands stand out not just because of their price, but also the level of care they provide and how much thought they put into making their medical alert products.
Bay Alarm Medical is known for their low monthly prices. Their at-home systems start at $24.95 per month while their on-the-go systems start at $31.95 per month. These are competitive prices.
On top of that, Bay Alarm doesn’t charge an equipment fee for its at-home systems. Instead, the equipment cost is bundled into the monthly fee. That’s just for the at-home systems, though. The on-the-go systems do require that you purchase the equipment, which is par for the course of most on-the-go medical alert systems in the market.
Lastly, we like Bay Alarm’s customer-friendly policies, such as the free at-home monitoring for spouses, which can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Bay Alarm Medical rents most of its equipment, and still keeps its monthly fees low. All of their at-home and on-the-go systems start at under $35 per month. These are fantastic prices, especially for the mobile systems, which typically run $5 to $10 higher per month. Bay Alarm also offers several hybrid packages combining an at-home product with an on-the-go product. These all-in-one systems start at the relatively low price of $39.95. You can check out our Bay Alarm Medical pricing guide for a thorough explanation of their packages, but we have a quick rundown below:
|Bay Alarm Medical Equipment||Price|
|SOS Home||$24.95 Per Month|
|SOS All-In-One||$37.95 Per Month|
|SOS Mobile||$29.95 Per Month|
|SOS Smartwatch||$34.95 Per Month|
Recently, Bay Alarm added a caregiver tracking app, available with the SOS Mobile and SOS All-in-One. With an older adult’s permission, this app allows caregivers to check on their loved one’s location. Unlike with some providers, Bay Alarm does not charge an additional fee for this feature.
Notably, Bay Alarm does not charge any hidden fees like activation or initiation. The only extra you may need to cover, depending on which package you choose, is a one-time shipping cost.
It offers other financial benefits, too. With every order comes a lifetime price- lock. In other words, your monthly fees will never increase as long as you maintain your system. In addition, Bay Alarm offers free at-home monitoring for spouses. You will need to purchase an additional pendant, but the monthly fee is waived. And finally, Bay Alarm offers a 30-day free trial period — something to consider if you are unsure that you will like the system.
If we have piqued your interest, learn more in our Bay Alarm Medical review.
One of the things we like best about Medical Guardian is that they have a system to fit any budget. As we covered in our full Medical Guardian review, this medical alert system is a great option for customers who want an at-home personal alert system at an affordable price. They offer two different systems — one cellular based and one landline based — for you to choose from. And for those who want an on-the-go system, you will have three great options with one affordable monthly fee.
With the Classic Guardian, you pay just $29.95 a month or $27.95 a month when you sign up for a year’s worth of the service. You get a base station that covers you up to 1,400 feet and a choice of either a pendant or wristband, but only connects through a landline. The more advanced Home 2.0 system is a bit pricier at $149.95, and monthly monitoring is a bit more as well at $37.95 (or $34.95 with annual plan). However, it connects through 4G and includes a 32-hour backup battery. Best of all, it has Voice Assist technology, which lets you find out exactly how your system is doing with just the touch of a button.
Medical Guardian also offers on-the-go medical alert systems at a reasonable price. These start at just $39.95 a month and include a variety of features, such as location tracking with GPS, clear-2-way communication and cellular backup. However, they do come with equipment fees. The MGMove costs $199.95; the Mini Guardian costs $149.95; and the Mobile 2.0 costs $124.95. Here’s a breakdown of the three’s features:
|Medical Guardian Equipment||Features||Cost|
One of the advantages of Medical Guardian over other similarly-priced systems is the range. The Classic Guardian offers 1,400 feet in range, and the Home 2.0 offers a range of 1,400 feet away from the base station. That makes this system great for customers who work outside in the yard or garden.
Medical Guardian’s pricing is transparent which makes shopping with them straightforward and easy. You will not find any hidden fees with this provider.
Lively, formerly called GreatCall, has carved their own niche in the medical alert market. They only sell on-the-go systems consisting of: a traditional help button, a watch that works in conjunction with a smartphone, and two cell phones adapted for older adults.
Although Lively requires equipment fees for all its products, you can save a lot thanks to its very low monthly fee offers. Fees start at just $24.99 per month, more than $10 less than the industry average.
Also, you get a lot of value from Lively’s products, especially when it comes to technology. Lively has partnered with both iPhones and Alexa devices to offer an app through which users can access Lively’s professional monitoring centers. The app also helps caregivers provide premium care to Lively users.
Lively’s feature products are the Jitterbug Smart3, a Samsung Android smartphone, and the Jitterbug Flip2, a Samsung folding cellular phone, which come with equipment fees of $149.99 and $99.99 respectively. While it’s not inexpensive, it’s a considerable bargain when compared to other cellular phones on the market that will likely run in the hundreds of dollars. These phones include everything that other Samsung phones include, plus adaptations and special features for older adults. So if you need to buy or replace your current phone, you will actually be saving money by purchasing your phone and medical alert system together.
We should mention that Lively both hits you up with a few extra charges yet provides places for decent savings. We’ll start with the good stuff. Lively’s pricing system is flexible. Lively frequently runs sales on their monthly fees, so it pays to keep an eye on their website. Also, from our experience speaking with Lively’s sales team, their equipment fees have flexibility, too. So definitely inquire about any promotions or discounts that you could tap into.
That said, Lively does come with some extra costs. First, you can expect to pay a $35 activation fee if you purchase either phone. (The Lively Mobile Plus and Lively Wearable2 do not require activation fees.) In addition, you will be paying an additional monthly fee for talk, text, and data. However, this cost is something that you would pay anyway with any other cellular service.
We will say, though, that Lively’s monthly packages are really affordable, especially when you consider that you’re getting phone service and medical monitoring in one device. Lively offers two Health & Safety packages. The Basic package, costing $24.99 per month, includes access to professional monitoring and a caregivers app. The Preferred package costs a little more, $34.99 per month, but features a telehealth service. Fall detection can also be added to either Health & Safety Package for $9.99 per month with the Lively Mobile Plus or Lively Wearable only.
Overall, we think Lively offers affordable systems given their low starting monthly fees and comparatively low equipment fees. But, Lively offers yet a few other enticements. If you’re an AARP member, you can save $5 per month on select health and safety packages with the purchase of a Lively Wearable2 or a Lively Mobile Plus. And, with their Refer-a-Friend program, when a referral activates their Lively phone or device, both you and your referral will receive a one-time $25 credit on your monthly bill.
One thing to be aware of is that the Lively Wearable has been discontinued. However, while you can no longer purchase this device on the Lively website, you can still find it in some retail stores.
Read more about these affordable and comprehensive on-the-go systems in our in-depth Lively analysis.
MobileHelp makes our list of most affordable systems due to its relatively low monthly fees coupled with no equipment charges. In addition, it offers two really appealing bargains: an on-the-go system for couples or two members of the same household and a hybrid system with both at-home and on-the-go devices. And it also includes MobileHelp Connect, an online portal, as part of all of its packages. This definitely brings added value to their systems. Speaking of systems, MobileHelp offers seven of them: three at-home (mobile and cellular), two on-the-go, and two hybrid (at-home and on the go).
With seven MobileHelp at-home and on-the-go systems to choose from, you are likely to find something that fits your needs at an affordable price. One of the nicest things about MobileHelp is that you pay no up-front costs for equipment. Instead, you choose a monitoring plan and the equipment for that plan is absolutely free. Of course, you’ll pay extra for any extra devices or equipment. And the cost of those monthly plans? The cheapest of MobileHelp’s at-home systems, MobileHelp Classic runs just $19.95 a month, while the MobileHelp WiredHome plan costs $24.95. You’ll pay a one-time connection fee of $49.95 activation fee. Still, if you use the system more than five months, it beats other systems that charge $10 more per month. And these are highly-rated at-home systems with excellent ranges of 1,300 to 1,400 feet.
The basic on-the-go system is the MobileHelp Solo. The device’s design is not the most discreet we have seen, but it contains all of the important safety features we expect, like two-way talk, location detection, and optional fall detection for a $37.95 monthly fee. (Most mobile devices come with monthly fees between $37 and $40.)
Where you will really see some savings is with a few of their two-for-one systems. And while they are not exactly two-for-one, they still offer fantastic savings. For example, the Mobile Duo for spouses offers two of the Solo devices for only $44.95 per month. And the MobileHelp Duo offers the Solo plus an at-home base unit and help button for only $41.95 per month. That is complete protection at a low cost. And don’t forget — no equipment fees. But be aware that you will be charged for shipping.
You’ll also have an opportunity to save some money through MobileHelp’s referral program. If you refer someone to MobileHelp, they will reward both you and your friend with a $200 service discount after the friend purchases a system and remains enrolled for at least 60 days.
You can find more information about MobileHelp’s pricing and packages in our MobileHelp review.
If you are an older adult living on a tight budget, you may be tempted to dismiss medical alert systems as “too expensive” or “not necessary.” Let’s start with the “not necessary.” The truth is, medical alert systems can save a life in the case of a heart attack, stroke, hypoglycemic episode, head injury, slip or fall, or other serious medical event. The quicker that emergency personnel respond, the better your chance for a positive outcome.
And what if you fall and can’t communicate? If you have fall detection on your device, an alert is sent to a call center regardless of whether you respond, and they will dispatch emergency services. We can’t know when an adverse medical event will happen, but if it does, having a medical alert system increases your survival odds significantly.
FYI: The length of time, or “lie time,” that someone who has fallen and is unable to get up on their own is significant. Researchers determined that a lie time of 72 hours or more increases mortality by 67 percent.1
The expense of a medical alert system is a bit more complicated. Those who are living on a fixed income are balancing lots of needs and expenses. After evaluating most systems out there, we can say with confidence that not all medical alert systems are priced the same. Some providers offer pricier-than-average plans, and we have steered clear of them in our discussion. But others offer economical plans. It is also important to point out that any one particular system can offer several packages of varying prices.
Before selecting a medical alert system, compare the various features available to determine which offers you the most features at the lowest price. Here are some things to look for when selecting an affordable alert system.
Affordable medical alert system providers offer 24/7 emergency response. This feature is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. After all, what good would an alert system be if the monitoring center closed at dinnertime? However, not all monitoring centers and emergency personnel are created equal. Look for a TMA Five Diamond certified monitoring center for the best service for you or your loved one.
“Cheap” and “low-quality” often go hand in hand — but not in the world of alert systems. The market abounds with high-quality, affordable systems that deliver reliable peace of mind for seniors. With that said, no system is perfect. That’s why some providers now offer a lifetime warranty. With this feature, you’ll get a free replacement should your alert system malfunction. Most warranties cover only normal wear and tear and exclude devices that are lost or stolen.
Get 24/7 monitoring from well-trained agents without breaking the bank. That’s the promise of many alert system providers. This, of course, is a good thing! Most aging adults live on a fixed income, so it’s nice to stretch dollars and save where they can. Thankfully, there are several affordable alert systems on the market that offer rock-bottom monitoring fees — some starting at $19.95 per month or less.
No English? No problem. You still have a range of affordable medical alerts to choose from. Multilingual support enables assistance in your mother tongue. Sometimes this means that a monitoring center agent who speaks a language other than English (usually Spanish) is available to provide assistance. More often, providers are outfitting their support departments with a translation service that can accommodate hundreds of languages — from German to Swahili. Chances are you’ll find help in your native language.
A money-back guarantee takes 100 percent of the risk off of your back by essentially allowing you to test their product. It’s not uncommon to find 30-day, money-back guarantees, also known as free trial periods. If you don’t love your alert, just send it back for a refund. Most often these refunds cover equipment and monthly fees, but some providers refund shipping costs, too. Look for this feature to protect your pocketbook and eliminate buyer’s remorse.
Several medical alert providers make it easy and affordable to add free or discounted coverage for your spouse. Most of these offers are for at-home systems, but we have seen one or two for on-the-go systems. It happens all the time that a loved one sees the value and peace of mind that alert systems deliver, and suddenly they desire one of their own. So look for this feature — one that offers seamless integration of a family member into your plan.
Affordable coverage matters. That’s why nationwide coverage is an important feature for seniors who desire low-cost, on-the-go cellular monitoring. Whether travelling across the state or the country, you don’t want to be caught in a dead spot during an emergency. These affordable medical alert companies are constantly expanding their coverage area. From Florida to Minnesota, and California to Maine — look for this feature to get the nationwide coverage you need and deserve.
Is it possible to find a low-cost alert system with no strings attached? You bet it is. No-contract monitoring plans are incredibly popular among seniors on fixed incomes. That’s why it is unusual for providers to require contracts. (Although we do still occasionally see it.) No-contract plans offer minimal commitment, with month-to-month coverage for those who value flexibility. Remember, you’re not married to your alert system. Don’t like it? Try a different system.
Don’t be too surprised if you come across a “free equipment” offer. This feature is commonly advertised by the cheapest alert system providers. Know that providers either rent or sell their equipment. So while an upfront cost may be eliminated with a rental agreement, the equipment isn’t actually free. The cost is often absorbed in the monthly fees. Still, cash-on-hand today is better than cash-on-hand at some future point in time.
Gurley, R J et al. (1996, Jun 27). Persons found in their homes helpless or dead. National Library of Medicine.