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People living with diabetes should check their blood sugar regularly. There are currently two main options for monitoring glucose levels — continuous glucose monitoring devices and blood glucose meters. The best monitors give reliable, consistent readings to help guide a person’s treatment.

A quick look at 7 of the best glucose monitors

Medical News Today chooses medical equipment that meets the following criteria:

  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a wide range of budgets. Insurance can often cover the price of the products, depending on an individual’s plan.
  • Reputable: MNT chooses products from businesses that require a prescription, adhere to industry best practices, and offer reliable customer service and support.
  • Connectivity: MNT ensures products have a range of connectivity and tracking options.
  • Materials: MNT chooses products that have safe and durable materials that are easy to clean and maintain.
  • User-friendly: MNT selects simple-to-use products that have clear instructions. Where applicable, MNT chooses brands that offer a set-up or advice service.
  • Quality: MNT chooses companies that adhere to high quality manufacturing processes that ensure its products are safe for personal use.

Below, we look at some of the best continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices and blood glucose meters (BGMs) for a person to consider.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for continual measurement from a below-skin sensor: Dexcom G6 CGM System

Dexcom G6
  • List price: no information available
  • Monitor type: continuous glucose monitor

The Dexcom G6 CGM System is a CGM that provides automatic blood sugar updates to a connected device.

The transmitters send information to an app that a person can then access via their smartphone, tablet, or computer. It can also work with a specific device transmitter that a person with Medicare coverage needs for reimbursement.

The compatible app can send notifications if glucose levels drop too low or spike too high.

Dexcom sensors last up to 10 days, and the transmitters last up to 90 days. A person must regularly replace both.

The compatible app can send notifications if glucose levels drop too low or spike too high.

Pros

  • automatic blood sugar updates
  • compatible with most smart devices
  • Medicare and insurance coverage

Cons

  • people need to replace the sensor every 10 days
  • people need to replace the transmitter every 90 days
  • costs vary depending on insurance coverage, and many online retailers are not upfront about the price

Insurance coverage

Individuals can purchase the Dexcom system at various pharmacies, such as Costco and Walgreens.

This CGM device varies in price according to a person’s insurance coverage. As of 2022, Medicare covers the cost of the Dexcom G6 so long as a person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, is on intensive insulin therapy, and meets any other coverage criteria.

Best for predictive glucose spike warnings: The Guardian Connect System

Medtronic Guardian Connect
  • List price: no information available
  • Type of monitor: continuous glucose monitor

The Guardian Connect System from Medtronic is a CGM that predicts potential spikes in glucose levels and sends warning alerts accordingly. The company offers features such as:

  • a 30-day free trial
  • rechargeable transmitter
  • app for both Android and iOS devices

Individuals can register for a 30-day free trial by completing a form on the company’s website.

Pros

  • 30-day free trial
  • rechargeable transmitter
  • coverage with. more than 600 insurance companies

Cons

  • costs may vary widely depending on a person’s insurance coverage
  • the company does not include transparent pricing details

Insurance coverage

This CGM device varies in price according to a person’s insurance coverage and pharmacy system. The Guardian Connect CGM evaluation program allows a person to try the system with no out-of-pocket costs for 30 days.

Medtronic is working with over 600 insurance companies to make the device financially accessible to a broader group of people.

Best for glucose alarms: FreeStyle Libre 2 System

Freestyle Libre 2 System
  • List price: no more than $60 per month with insurance
  • Type of monitor: continuous glucose monitor

The FreeStyle Libre 2 system is another CGM that automatically measures glucose levels.

Some features include:

  • optional glucose alarms
  • 14-day free trial period with guided “how-to” support
  • sensors that last for 14 days

The system currently requires a person to use a compatible device. As of 2021, the app for this system is FDA-approved.

Individuals can sign up for a free trial on the company’s website.

Pros

  • automatic measurements
  • sets alarms for glucose levels outside the target range
  • has FDA-approval
  • offers a free trial

Cons

  • not all insurance will cover this system
  • people must replace the sensors every 14 days
  • the free trial is not as long as some competitors

Insurance coverage

This CGM device varies in price according to a person’s insurance coverage. According to the website, a person with private health insurance will pay no more than $60 each month for FreeStyle Libre 2 sensors and no more than $65 each month for a FreeStyle Libre 2 reader.

The product website also notes that the FreeStyle Libre 2 system costs 70% less than the list price of other CGM systems.

Best for tracking and sharing with medical professionals: Contour Next One

Contour One Next
  • List price: around $20
  • Type of monitor: blood glucose meter

The Contour Next One is a BGM that uses test strips to provide accurate blood glucose measurements. Some features include:

  • ease of use, with test results within 5 seconds
  • second-chance technology — allowing a person to reuse the same test strip if they did not take enough blood the first time
  • connection to a free Contour Diabetes app for tracking and sharing data

The Contour Next One system requires that a person use the same brand test strips for accurate results.

Pros

  • offers quick results with accurate readings
  • compatible with a free app
  • a more affordable nonprescription option

Cons

  • only works with Contour One test strips

Insurance coverage

This BGM device may vary in price according to a person’s insurance coverage. Medicare B covers the cost of Contour Next test strips.

People who sign up for the Contour Choice Savings Card program can save money on test strips.

Best for a monthly digital subscription: One Drop Glucose Meter

OneDrop
  • List price: around $50, with a monthly subscription from around $31
  • Type of monitor: blood glucose meter

OneDrop is a BGM that uses a small amount of blood to test blood glucose levels. A person can purchase a kit that includes:

  • an FDA-approved digital meter that has app connectivity via a subscription
  • 25 test strips
  • 10 lancets
  • carrying case
  • lancing device
  • batteries

The consumer may choose the One Drop Premium plan that includes:

  • health coaching
  • personalized content
  • information on blood pressure
  • health tracking data

Individuals may choose to sign up for monthly or yearly subscriptions to the test strip plan and automatically receive 50 testing strips each month.

Some consumers choose The One Drop Complete Diabetes plan, which includes the glucose meter kit, test strip plan, and One Drop Premium with one-on-one health coaching and a free blood glucose meter.

A person can sign up for any of these plans on the company website.

Pros

  • offers health coaching
  • offers personalized content
  • offers a variety of subscription plans depending on how often a person measures their blood glucose

Cons

  • One Drop does not accept insurance
  • a subscription can cost up to $90 per month, which may become costly

Insurance coverage

One Drop states that insurance does not cover its products as it provides a direct-to-consumer service. People will need to pay out of pocket to purchase this device and its subscriptions.

Best for complete diabetes management: Dario Smart Glucometer

Dario Smart Glucometer against a blue background.
  • List price: around $30 with an optional subscription of $396 per year
  • Type of monitor: blood glucose monitor

The FDA-approved Dario Smart Glucometer is a BGM glucometer that connects to both iOS and Android smartphone devices. It syncs with the Dario app to measure, record, and track blood glucose levels.

This monitor also measures a person’s carb intake, blood pressure, weight, physical activity, and more to provide complete diabetes management. The product provides options for on-demand sharing and emergency hypo-alerts with a GPS locator.

Those who purchase Dario’s blood glucose meter starter kit receive:

  • all-in-one glucose reader
  • 10 lancets
  • 25 test strips
  • a free mobile application

Dario offers the Diabetes Success Plan that includes individual and personalized support from a Dario Coach. The plan also includes diabetes supplies, such as unlimited strips and lancets.

Dario also offers a Pro Membership plan that includes:

  • Free blood glucose monitoring system
  • 100 lancets
  • Unlimited test strips
  • Smart app connection
  • Weekly progress reports
  • Personalized diabetes programs for lifestyle and eating habits
  • Live coaching webinars
  • Advice from a personal specialist

Pros

  • emergency alerts with GPS sharing
  • returns results within six seconds
  • weekly progress reports
  • personalized diabetes programs for lifestyle and eating changes
  • live coaching webinars
  • offers insurance coverage

Cons

  • the Pro Membership Plan may be too expensive for some people

Insurance coverage

Dario states that it has partners that it will work with to verify a person’s insurance benefits. If a person is eligible, insurance will cover the cost of the monitor and test strips.

However, insurance does not cover the cost of the Pro Membership Plan.

Best for a free meter: Accu-Chek Guide Me meter

Accu-Chek Guide Me Meter against a blue background.
  • List price: free, or around $30
  • Type of monitor: blood glucose monitor

The Accu-Chek Guide Me meter has a large, easy-to-read display. The company states that this model is its most accurate device yet.

It is compatible with the mySugr App, which allows people to track their measurements, meals, and more.

Accu-Chek offers the Guide Me meter for free, or people can purchase the meter directly from the website. To claim a free meter, a person must fill out an online form.

The company also provides coupons for use in a pharmacy and bundle packs that reduce the overall cost of glucose monitors and test strips. People can learn more about the company’s discount programs on its website.

Pros

  • easy-to-read LCD screen
  • four-second results time
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • pharmacy discount program
  • people can receive a free meter

Cons

  • the monitors are only compatible with Accu-Chek test strips
  • some reviewers state the product has a short battery life

Insurance coverage

Accu-Chek states that Medicare Part B covers its glucose monitors.

Private insurance coverage may vary. People should contact their insurance providers for more information.

Consumers may save on Accu-Chek products through their pharmacy with the Accu-Chek Pharmacy Discount Program. The Accu-Chek Simply Start kit currently costs around $49.99. Consumers may then also save on refills through the Simply Refill program.

The table below gives a snapshot of how the best blood glucose monitors compare.

PriceMonitor typeFree trialInsurance coverage
Dexcom G6no information availableCGMnoMedicare and private insurance
Guardianno information availableCGM30 daysover 600 insurance companies
FreeStyle Libreup to $60 per monthCGM14 daysMedicare and private insurance
Contour Next Onearound $30BGMnoMedicare and private insurance
One Droparound $50BGMnonone available
Darioaround $30BGMnoMedicare and private insurance
Accu-Chek Guide Mefree or around $30BGMnoMedicare and private insurance

There are two types of glucose monitors:

  • continuous glucose monitor (CGM)
  • blood glucose meter (BGM)

Both types of monitors have different characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks that a person with diabetes should consider.

Both CGM and BGM monitors require a prescription.

CGMs

CGMs check blood sugar levels automatically at timed intervals. In most cases, they reduce the number of times a person needs to prick their finger to test blood sugar levels during the day.

A CGM sensor requires insertion under the skin, typically of the abdomen, buttocks, thighs, or upper arm. Some models require a person to insert the device themselves, while others may require a visit to the doctor’s office.

A CGM contains three components:

  • sensors
  • transmitters
  • receivers or display units

The sensors test for the presence of glucose and create an electrical current that transmitters pass along to receivers. The device tests every 5 minutes and either provides real-time data, a regular report, or a combination of both.

Some CGMs require regular calibration using BGMs, while others may need infrequent calibration. A person should follow all instructions from their doctor, healthcare professional, and the device manufacturer.

Each part of the unit usually has a separate cost, and both sensors and transmitters need regular replacement. How often a person should replace the strips or transmitters can vary by brand, as can the price.

CGM pros and cons

Pros

  • According to a 2020 study, CGMs improved glycemic control in people with types 1 or 2 diabetes.
  • A 2017 study found that CGMs can help with assessing periods of extreme fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
  • CGMs prevent periods of extremely low blood sugar levels.
  • CGMs insert under the skin and therefore reduce the need for repeated finger pricks.

Cons

  • Most CGMs still need at least two finger pricks per day for calibration.
  • Doctors cannot make a treatment decision based on CGM data alone.
  • CGMs are often more expensive than BGMs.
  • User error, including device installation, can hinder effectiveness.
  • Requires under-skin insertion, which may deter some people.

BGMs

BGMs are single-use blood tests to check blood glucose levels. It is a manual process in which a person needs to prick their finger, collect a blood sample, and run the test to obtain their current blood sugar level.

BGM pros and cons

Pros

  • They provide accurate results.
  • BGMs are often less expensive than CGMs.
  • Added features on some models can provide additional benefits, such as not needing test strips and downloadable results.

Cons

  • User error can affect accuracy.
  • They provide limited data.
  • A person needs to do multiple daily finger pricks.

A person with diabetes may need to check their blood sugar levels several times daily. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), times will vary based on the type of diabetes a person has and their medications. They note that the most common times to check blood sugar include:

  • when first waking up or after a long fast
  • before a meal
  • 2 hours after a meal
  • before going to sleep

A person should check with their doctor how often they should self-monitor their glucose levels with a BGM.

When using a CGM, the device will typically check blood glucose levels every 5 minutes. A person can often access charts, graphs, and other data related to their results.

Individuals with diabetes will typically monitor glucose levels with either BGMs or a combination of BGMs and CGMs. Some of the following factors may affect a person’s decision to purchase a particular brand or product:

  • Cost: BGMs are generally less expensive than CGMs.
  • Insurance or Medicare coverage: How much of the costs will insurance cover?
  • Ease of use: How easy are the devices to use, including running tests and recording data?
  • Added features: Several devices come with companion software, different display options, and other features a person may find appealing.
  • Third-party testing and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval: Blood glucose monitors are medical devices that should undergo independent testing and obtain FDA approval.

The NIDDK recommends a person follow all instructions provided by their doctor or healthcare professional and the glucose monitor’s manufacturer.

When using a BGM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a person follow these safety tips:

  • never share any needles or other portions of the device that come in contact with blood
  • thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before testing
  • clean and check the monitor before use
  • properly dispose of the lancet and strip
  • store test strips at room temperature

According to the CDC, a person should contact a doctor if their symptoms do not improve with diabetes medication or any other treatments their healthcare team prescribes.

It is also important to seek professional advice if a person’s blood glucose levels are higher or lower than typical.

People with diabetes should see their healthcare team at least twice a year. The CDC also recommends people visit a dentist, eye doctor, and foot doctor at least once a year to screen for any diabetes complications.

Learn more about the complications of uncontrolled diabetes here.

Here we answer some common questions about these devices.

What is a normal blood sugar level for a person with diabetes?

Doctors classify diabetes as a fasting blood sugar test of 126 mg/dL or above, and 200 mg/dL or above after a glucose tolerance test or a random blood sugar test.

People with prediabetes will typically have fasting blood sugar levels of 100—125 mg/dL and glucose tolerance test levels of 140—199 mg/dL.

According to the CDC, a person with diabetes should aim for 80—130 mg/dL of blood sugar before a meal and 180 mg/dL or less two hours after a meal.

Can I check my blood sugar without pricking myself?

Yes, continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMs) attach to a person’s skin and use a sensor to give continuous blood sugar readings. With these devices, a person does not have to use a lancet to prick the skin.

What is normal blood sugar for a person without diabetes?

A person without diabetes will have 99 mg/dL or below of blood sugar after a fasting blood sugar test, or 140 mg/dL or below after a glucose tolerance test.

Glucose monitors test glucose levels to help a person better manage their type 1 or type 2 diabetes. There are two main types of monitors, CGMs and BGMs.

CGMs provide regular, automatic monitoring of glucose levels, and BGMs require manual blood sugar tests, typically using a finger prick.

Both have some advantages and disadvantages in their use. A person should consult their doctor about the best glucose monitor device to fit their needs and lifestyle.

Please note: Medical News Today does not imply warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or endorse any of these applications. Medical News Today has not evaluated these for medical accuracy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them unless otherwise indicated.