Seniors who want to retain their independence without compromising on their safety may want to consider a medical alert system. These systems combine the services of an emergency call center with small, wearable call buttons to provide the peace of mind that comes with knowing help is always close at hand, even when the phone is out of reach.

There are dozens of medical alert systems on the market today that offer a wide variety of monitoring services, options and devices. Every company provides 24/7 call answering, while some service packages include activity monitoring, GPS location tracking, medication reminders and fall detection. Traditional medical alert systems combine a small neck-worn button with a base unit connected to either a landline or cellular device, and many companies now have wrist-wearable buttons and medical alert smart watches.

And although medical alert systems are largely geared towards seniors, companies are increasingly marketing their emergency call devices to people of all ages who live with a medical condition, need GPS tracking to stay safe at work, or want to ensure help is always close at hand.

Choosing the right medical alert system can be challenging. To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve prepared a series of articles detailing the prices, features and options offered through every medical alert company in the United States. In this guide we compare Life Alert and Medical Guardian.

Side By Side ComparisonLife AlertMedical Guardian
Up-Front Equipment$95 - $198$99
Monthly Monitoring$49.95 - $89.95$29.95 - $44.95
Activation Fee$0$0
ContractThree-year contract - can be cancelled, if subscriber is institutionalized or passes awayMonth-to-month, three-month, six-month or annual prepaid contacts--Full refund of any unused, prepaid services
Optional Monthly Add-On ServicesWall-mounted help button service+$10/month fall detection
+$5/month device protection plan
Water-Resistant Wearable DevicesPendant and wristbandPendant and wristband
ConnectionLandline or cellularLandline or cellular (AT&T network)
2-Way Voice CommunicationThrough in-home base unit or mobile pendant/wrist buttonThrough in-home base unit or mobile pendant/wrist button
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)Up to 800'Up to 1,300' from base station
Battery lifeNon-rechargeable battery on emergency pendants last for up to 7 years
Battery backup on landline-linked base unit last up to 72 hoursCall button battery is non-rechargeable--Battery rated for up to 10 years
Non-rechargeable batteries in wristband/pendant of at-home, landline-based devices
Up to 48 hours on Freedom Guardian smart watch
Fall DetectionNot offered+$10 per month
GPS LocatorIncluded in Life Alert mobileIncluded in cellular-based/mobile devices
Coverage Away From HomeIncluded in Life Alert mobileIncluded with cellular-based devices
24/7 USA Call CenterYesYes
Wireless, waterproof wall buttons
Extra medical alert buttons
PIN-protected lockbox
Additional neck buttons (pendants) and wrist buttons

Life Alert Overview

Life Alert introduced medical alert systems to America through a marketing campaign that used the tagline, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” The Encino, California, company is the only medical alert provider to be endorsed by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop.

Life Alert has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and a five-star rating with Consumer Affairs. The Life Alert emergency call center is UL- and five-diamond CSAA-certified, and operators handle more than two million calls each year.

The company offers three medical alert packages — a basic landline-based service, a wireless, waterproof help button designed for installation in the bathroom, and a GPS-enabled, cellular-powered system with two-way voice communication. All Life Alert systems come with a wrist or neck-worn pendant that has an integrated help button.

Pros of Life Alert:

  • Experienced, U.S.-based company in business for more than 30 years
  • All wearable devices are waterproof
  • Discount available for second medical alert device for a spouse or roommate

Cons of Life Alert:

  • Subscribers must enter into a three-year service contract that can only be cancelled if the subscriber moves into a care facility, requires 24/7 care or dies
  • Life Alert doesn’t offer automatic fall detection — users must be able to activate the help button in order to summon assistance
  • Prices are not disclosed on the company website; therefore, potential subscribers must phone a sales agent for information, which may lead to undue sales pressure

Medical Guardian Overview

Medical Guardian is a dedicated medical alert company that has a UL-certified monitoring center located in the United States, and operators are fluent in English and Spanish. Equipment is included in the monthly monitoring fee, and subscribers have their choice of either a wrist-worn or pendant call button with either a landline or cellular wireless connection.

The newly released Freedom Guardian device is a smart watch with GPS location tracking, text-to-speech messaging and a free companion app that allows caregivers and loved ones access to location information. Medical Guardian also offers the Family Guardian system, which combines a cellular-enabled base station with a waterproof medical alert system and three in-home activity sensors that loved ones can use to monitor subscribers’ activity levels.

Pricing for Medical Guardian monitoring starts at $29.95 per month for the Classic Guardian system and goes up to $49.95 per month for the Mobile Guardian and $79.95 for the Family Guardian systems. The Freedom Guardian costs $44.95 per month plus a one-time $99 fee for the Freedom Guardian smart watch. Additional incentives, such as lower monthly costs, a free PIN-coded lockbox and a free month of service, are available to subscribers who prepay for a semiannual or annual plan.

Pros of Medical Guardian:

  • Established U.S. company based in Philadelphia, PA

  • Cellular-connected service provided through the AT&T network
  • Fall detection available for a fee
  • Free lockbox provided with annual rate plans
  • The Family Guardian system adds three safety sensors to the in-home base unit and pendant to monitor subscribers’ activity levels via a free, secure app
  • Spousal monitoring is free with purchase of a second pendant (on Classic Guardian and Home Guardian plans)
  • Prepaid plans can be cancelled at any time, and refunds are provided on a prorated basis

Cons of Medical Guardian:

  • Consumers must sign up and prepay for a 12-month monitoring subscription to get the lowest possible monthly price along with free shipping and a lockbox
  • To use the MobileGuardian service, subscribers must keep a small, pager-sized device within 350′ of either a wrist or pendant call button
  • The Freedom Guardian (smartwatch) device costs $99 upfront in addition to monthly service fees

Pricing Comparison

Monthly service fees for Life Alert start at $49.95 and go up to $89.85, while Medical Guardian’s monthly monitoring fees range from $29.99 up to $79.95. Each company offers periodic time-limited promotions, such as one free month of service or a free lockbox, so it’s worth inquiring about special sales when contacting either company.

Our Pick

We discovered that while both companies offer similar basic services and equipment, Medical Guardian is the best medical alert company for those searching for premium features that go beyond what’s normally offered through other medical alert providers. The variety of devices and service packages includes smart watches with integrated medical alert capabilities and the innovative Family Guardian senior monitoring system.

Medical Guardian offers a wider range of service options than Life Alert, which allows subscribers to choose the package that best fits their particular needs and budget. Despite offering a greater variety of services, pricing for Medical Guardian monitoring packages is significantly lower than monitoring through Life Alert, which is another reason why we’re recommending Medical Guardian over Life Alert.

Compare More Medical Alert Systems

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