We want our senior loved ones to have as much independence as they desire, but we also want the assurance that they’re safe and can receive the help they need in a timely manner. Monitored medical alert systems offer on-call assistance for seniors who need 24-hour access to help. These units can be used to alert friends, family members or emergency services in moments. Seniors use a small wearable device, such as a wrist band or pendant, to call for help when needed, and devices with fall detection and a built-in GPS can send out alerts automatically.

You have multiple options when it comes to medical alert systems, and choosing between different systems can get complicated. Marketing materials might not give you the details you’re looking for and often gloss over potential issues specific systems may have. We’ve created side-by-side comparisons of medical alert systems to help you make the right choice for you or your loved one, so you can break through the marketing jargon and prioritize the details that are most important. Medicaid and private insurance may cover the monthly costs of medical alert systems, so check first to find out whether your plan pays for this type of personal safety system.

This guide covers two popular brands in the business of personal alert systems, Life Alert and Bay Alarm Medical. Both companies are U.S.-based businesses, and both operate U.S.-based call centers for reliable customer service when you need assistance. While both systems offer similar services for basic household emergency use, Bay Alarm Medical has some distinct services at a lower price than most comparable systems that might be useful for you.

Side By Side ComparisonBay Alarm MedicalLife Alert
Up-Front Equipment$0 (with one-time $9.95 shipping fee unless choosing a semi-annual payment plan)$95-$198 one-time fee
Monthly Monitoring$19.95 - $59.95$49.00
+$19/month for an optional In the Bathroom device
+$19/month for an On-The-Go device
Activation Fee$0Included in one-time fee for each device
$1 programming/setup fee for bathroom and on-the-go devices
ContractMonth-to-month, quarterly and annual payment plans available
30 day trial period during which customers can get a full refund if they cancel service and return the device
3-year contract
Quarterly and annual payment plans available
12th month free on annual plans
Optional Monthly Add-On Services+$10/month for optional fall detection monitoring
+$20/month to add On-The-Go service to any other plan
Water-Resistant DevicesPendant and wristbandPendant and wall-mounted bathroom button
ConnectionLandline or cellularLandline or cellular
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)Up to 1000'800-1,000 feet
Battery life and typeNon-rechargeable batteries for in-home systems
32-hour battery backup for in-home systems
3 day rechargeable battery life for On-the-Go system
Pendant has a non-rechargeable battery with a life of 7 years
10 year battery life for On-the-Go and bathroom button systems
72-hour battery backup for home systems
2-way voice communicationThrough On the Go deviceThrough bathroom HELP button
Fall Detection$10 per month in addition to regular planNot available
GPS LocatorIncluded with On the Go and On the Road systemsIncluded with On the Go system
Coverage Away From HomeIncluded with On the Go and On the Road devicesIncluded with On The Go Devices
24/7 USA Call CenterYes; emergency calls answered in 45 seconds or lessYes; calls managed from start to finish--notifies listed contacts of incident
Wall buttons $2.95 per month or $10 for four
Second help button for $1.95 per month
Lockbox to provide emergency workers with an extra key

Bay Alarm Medical Overview

The company was originally established in 1947 as a home security business and added medical device services later. Bay Alarm Medical is a U.S. company and contracts with U.S. call centers for reliable 24-hour service.

Bay Alarm Medical offers an affordable option for medical alert devices, especially since many of this company’s plans are much less expensive than other options. The exceptionally long range of the home base, which reaches up to 1,000 feet, ensures that this service works throughout your home. Optional caregiver features help give seniors and relatives peace of mind.

Pros of Bay Alarm Medical:

  • Established, trusted U.S.-based company
  • Affordable pricing
  • Month-to-month plans available
  • Wearable pendant and wristband options
  • Emergency calls offered in 45 seconds or less
  • On the Go and On the Road options
  • Fall detection
  • Caregiver services, including geofencing
  • Provides multilingual support

Cons of Bay Alarm Medical:

  • Basic coverage doesn’t include many features
  • Uses a third-party call center
  • No price guarantee – monitoring costs may change over time

Life Alert Overview

Life Alert was founded in 1979 and offers nationwide medical alert services for over 150,000 seniors. The company operates its own call center to ensure quality service and a rapid response. Representatives are trained to manage the entire process once a senior sets off an alert, so there’s always someone specific overseeing the emergency response. The company keeps seniors’ medical records on file at the call center to help operators respond quickly and appropriately to various types of emergencies.

Pros of Life Alert:

  • Well-established U.S. company
  • Operates their own call centers
  • Batteries don’t require recharging
  • Mobile app available that connects directly with monitoring center
  • Bathroom HELP button
  • In-house setup included
  • Maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau

Cons of Life Alert:

  • 3-year service contract required
  • No fall detection available
  • Expensive one-time fees
  • On the Go service only available as an add-on plan

Pricing Comparison

The base price for Bay Alarm Medical is lower than the Life Alert system. Life Alert has a required three-year contract, which effectively locks you into the current price until the contract ends. Based on costs alone, Bay Alarm Medical offers more for your money. Bay Alarm Medical doesn’t charge upfront fees, such as activation or equipment fees, making the initial cost much less than Life Alert.

Our Pick

While Life Alert offers a set of classic personal monitoring options, Bay Alarm Medical provides more features for your money. The On the Road program is particularly noteworthy because it offers seniors who drive an easy way to call for assistance in the case of an emergency. The robust feature available to caregivers, including location tracking and the ability to check how often an alert has gone off, makes it an ideal pick for seniors with dedicated caregivers.

Both systems offer landline and cellular connection options and include GPS location services, but the overall costs for these basic features are much higher with Life Alert than Bay Alarm Medical.

Life Alert’s lack of fall detection leaves out a feature many seniors demand in a monitoring service, and the higher price point seems unjustified compared to other similar systems. The bathroom HELP button may be a useful add-on to the basic plan, but water-resistant wearable devices and other wall-mounted buttons, such as those offered by Bay Alarm Medical, work just as well for keeping you safe during baths and showers. Home modifications that enable independent living may also help reduce the need for a wall-mounted bathroom-specific medical emergency call button.

The ease of adding a second family member in the same household onto your plan also makes Bay Alarm Medical stand out in this head-to-head comparison. Incorporating a second personal help button into your household costs just $1.95.

Compare More Medical Alert Systems

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