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Drive-Thru PCR Testing: Everything You Need To Know

Adult men driving to a drive-thru PCR testing station.

As you already know, multiple COVID testing methods have been developed since the pandemic broke out in 2020. And it’s fair to say that at first, most people found getting tested inconvenient and even intrusive.

However, as research progressed, COVID testing methods also became more convenient and accessible. Rapid antigen testing and drive-through PCR are two great examples of this.

PCR drive-through testing (also known as drive-thru PCR testing) has become extremely popular because it allows individuals to be tested from the comfort of their cars. And in this post, we’ll tell you all about it.

Today, we’ll answer some frequent questions, including:

  • What is a PCR test?
  • When should you get tested?
  • How does a drive-thru COVID testing work?
  • The benefits and limitations of drive-thru PCR testing

Let’s dive in.

What is a PCR Test?

To get started, let’s begin by defining this type of test. PCR tests are viral tests that determine if you’re infected with SARS‐CoV‐2, also known as the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, they’re the most effective tests for diagnosing COVID-19, and the pricier option on the market.

It’s important to note that PCR tests don’t reveal whether you have been infected with COVID in the past. In that case, you should get an antibody test instead.

When Should You Get Tested?

As you already know, getting tested is necessary in certain situations. Getting tested is recommended if you:

  • Show mild to strong symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. loss of smell or taste, fatigue, fever, etc.)
  • Had close contact with an infected person
  • Have been asked by health authorities to get tested
  • Are traveling abroad

It’s fair to mention that COVID-19 has symptoms similar to the flu and RSV, such as fever, sore throat, fatigue, and more. By getting tested, you will be able to determine whether you’re infected with COVID and receive the correct treatment.

How Does Drive-Thru COVID Testing Work?

Drive-Thru PCR tests take about 10 minutes without leaving the car, and the process will vary depending on the testing center you visit. But generally, it will consist of 4 steps:

  • Registration
  • Sample collection
  • Final instructions
  • Exit


Having entered the testing facility, patients will answer a questionnaire about their personal information, symptoms, and epidemiologic factors.

Sample Collection

The examination takes place at a screening booth. Here, examiners take the patient’s temperature with a contactless thermometer and they will collect a sample from the respiratory tract with a nasal or oral swab.

Final Instructions

Before leaving, the examinee will be instructed:

  • How to check their test results
  • How to conduct quarantine until they get their results
  • How to contact their local healthcare authorities in case their symptoms get worse

Generally, test results are available within 72-24 hours after taking the test. Nevertheless, if you pay an extra fee, you may get them ready within 2 hours. This is a great option for those who don’t want to quarantine, or need the test results as soon as possible.

The Benefits And Limitations of Drive-Thru PCR Testing

At one time or another, most of us have suspected that we had COVID. However, if you only had mild symptoms, you likely feared that you would actually get sick while waiting in line for a PCR test.

This is where the major benefit of drive-thru PCR testing comes into play: it prevents cross-infection between testees as they wait to get tested.

How? Simple:

  • People are quarantined in their cars while they wait in line
  • The testing procedure is conducted in a well-ventilated area

This way, drive-through PCR tests are the most effective method for diagnosing active COVID infection while minimizing the further spread of the disease.

Nevertheless, drive-thru testing centers also have their limitations. For instance, they are often located far from cities. Moreover, only those who have a car can take advantage of this testing system.

Key Takeaways

Getting tested remains of utmost importance in order to prevent the spread of new strains and keep the virus under control. Luckily, there are several ways to get tested for COVID-19, including:

Want to get tested before your next adventure? No matter where you are, or what type of test you need, find testing locations with our global directory.

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