Medical alert devices are small, wearable emergency call buttons that connect users to an emergency call center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These devices can help seniors and adults living with disabilities remain independent in their homes and communities while ensuring that help is always close at hand.

The most basic medical alert systems pair a wireless pendant or wrist-worn button with a base unit that connects with a landline. When the medical alert button is pressed within range of the base unit, a call is placed to a medical alert monitoring center and an operator initiates a two-way call with the caller over a speakerphone. Some medical alert systems also offer mobile medical alert systems that work through cellular networks, while many systems have additional safety features, such as automatic fall detection, activity monitoring, location tracking and wellness check services.

Finding the right medical alert system can be difficult — that’s why our team of senior care specialists have carefully researched the dozens of medical alert companies and devices on the market today. In this guide we’re comparing the medical alert systems Alert1 and Life Alert. As you’ll see in this review, we find that Alert1 is a clear winner due to lower costs, no required contract and the availability of fall detection.

Side By Side ComparisonLife AlertAlert1
Up-Front Equipment$95-$198$0
Monthly Monitoring$49-$68$19.95-$58.95
Activation Fee$0$0
ContractThree-year contract; can be cancelled, if subscriber is institutionalized or passes awayMonth-to-month up to 12-month contracts
Optional Monthly Add-On ServicesWall-mounted help button serviceNone
Water-Resistant Wearable DevicesPendant and wristbandPendant
ConnectionLandline or cellularLandline or cellular (T-Mobile network)
2-Way Voice CommunicationThrough in-home base unit or mobile pendant/wrist buttonThrough in-home base unit or cellular-connected mobile pendant/wrist button
Range (From in-home base unit to landline service)800'-1000'Up to 400' for fall detection system
Up to 600' for entry-level system without fall detection
Battery lifeCall button battery is non-rechargeable--Battery rated for up to 10 yearsUp to 5 days on the Kelsi Pro Mobile fall detection pendant
Up to 2 years on in-home fall detection pendant
30 days for On-the-Go pendant (without fall detection)
24 hour battery backup on in-home base unit
Fall DetectionNot offeredOptional
GPS LocatorIncluded in mobile devicesIncluded in cellular-based/mobile devices
Coverage Away From HomeIncluded in cellular-based devicesIncluded with cellular-based devices
24/7 USA Call CenterYesYes, two U.S.-based, UL-listed command centers with support in up to 190 languages
Wireless, waterproof wall buttons
Extra medical alert buttons
Up to 10 help buttons; medical alert devices can be linked to one in-home medical alert system

Alert1 Overview

Based in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Alert1 consistently receives positive reviews from subscribers and caregivers. This medical alert company offers landline and cellular medical alert systems with fall detection and GPS locating, and it has two U.S. call monitoring centers.

Alert1 help buttons are all pendant-style and waterproof for use in the shower. There are no long-term contracts require;, however, in order to get the lowest prices on monthly monitoring, customers must prepay for 12 months of service.

Pros of Alert1:

  • Company headquarters and emergency call center located in Williamsport, Pennsylvania
  • Service can be canceled at any time, for any reason and without penalty
  • Subscribers can choose who the call center contacts in case of an emergency
  • No limit on the number of emergency button activation or talk time with emergency operators
  • Automatic fall detection available
  • Pendants and wristbands are shower-proof
  • Two U.S. call centers with service available in 190 languages
  • A second user in the same home can be added for a discounted price

Cons of Alert1:

  • Subscribers must sign up for one year of service in order to get the lowest monthly monitoring price and a free PIN-protected lockbox
  • Limited range of just 400′ from medical alert pendant to base unit for the in-home fall detection system and 600′ for the entry-level, landline-based home system
  • Cellular-enabled services provided through T-Mobile, which doesn’t offer service in all areas of the United States
  • No wrist worn option for medical alert button

Life Alert Overview

Life Alert is one of America’s oldest and most recognized medical alert companies. They offer in-home, landline connected devices as well as wireless medical alert buttons that operate using the AT&T cellular network, and all of their call buttons are waterproof.

Life Alert is CSAA-certified and their UL-certified monitoring center answers approximately 2 million calls each year. The emergency pendants are equipped with a non-replaceable, non-rechargeable battery that’s designed to last up to 7 years.

Pros of Life Alert:

  • Family-owned medical alert company established in 1987
  • Medical alert devices can be worn on the wrist or as a pendant
  • Services and products endorsed by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Kopp
  • All wearable and wall-mounted call devices are waterproof
  • Offers GPS tracking on cellular-enabled devices
  • Spouse/roommate coverage available at a discount

Cons of Life Alert:

  • Pricing and service terms are not posted online by Life Alert — customers must call a sales center for information and speak with a commissioned salesperson
  • Life Alert doesn’t offer automatic fall detection service — subscribers must be able to activate their medical alert device in order to call for help
  • Subscribers must sign up for a 3-year contract that can only be cancelled if the subscriber passes away, is placed in a nursing facility or needs 24/7 care

Pricing Comparison

Monthly monitoring prices for Life Alert start at $49.95 per month for basic in-home landline based service, which is notably higher than the $19.95 monthly fee charged by Alert1 for its home medical alert system when subscribers pay for 12 months of service in advance. Alert1 subscribers who prefer to pay on a semiannual basis pay $22.95 for basic service and $25.95 when paid quarterly.

The monthly cost of Alert1’s premium package, On-the-Go + Home Fall Detection, is $52.95 when paid annually. By comparison, Life Alert’s most expensive monthly package is $68, and subscribers must pay between $98 and $198 in up-front equipment costs.

Our Pick

Alert1 and Life Alert offer similar emergency call answering services through either an in-home base station activated by a wireless button or a standalone cellular-enabled medical alert button, and both companies have call centers located in the United States. Both also offer GPS locating; however, fall detection is not available through Life Alert.

Life Alert uses the AT&T network for mobile services, while Alert1’s mobile services are provided through T-Mobile, which has a slightly smaller coverage area than AT&T. Before purchasing any medical alert system that uses a cellular connection, customers should verify carrier coverage in their region.

Alert1 and Life Alert are accredited through the Better Business Bureau. It’s worth noting that despite maintaining an A+ BBB rating, more BBB consumer complaints have been filed against Life Alert than against any other U.S.-based medical alert company. Many of these complaints are related to the long contract that is required, difficulties cancelling the service and high-pressure sales tactics.

When choosing between Alert1 and Life Alert, we prefer Alert1 because their prices are much lower than Life Alert and readily available on their company website. We also appreciate that Alert1 offers in-home and mobile devices with integrated fall-detection technology, and subscribers don’t need to sign a three-year contract as they do with Life Alert.

Compare More Medical Alert Systems

Click on the links below to read about Medical Alert system comparisons.