Background The clinical performance of six molecular diagnostic tests and a rapid antigen test for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) were clinically evaluated for the diagnosis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in self-collected saliva. Methods Saliva samples from 103 patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 (15 asymptomatic and 88 symptomatic) were collected on the day of hospital admission. SARS-CoV-2 RNA in saliva was detected using a quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) laboratory-developed test (LDT), a cobas SARS-CoV-2 high-throughput system, three direct RT-qPCR kits, and reverse-transcription loop mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP). Viral antigen was detected by a rapid antigen immunochromatographic assay. Results Of the 103 samples, viral RNA was detected in 50.5-81.6% of the specimens by molecular diagnostic tests and an antigen was detected in 11.7% of the specimens by the rapid antigen test. Viral RNA was detected at a significantly higher percentage (65.6–93.4%) in specimens collected within 9 d of symptom onset compared to that of specimens collected after at least 10 d of symptom onset (22.2–66.7%) and that of asymptomatic patients (40.0–66.7%). Viral RNA was more frequently detected in saliva from males than females. Conclusions Self-collected saliva is an alternative specimen diagnosing COVID-19. LDT RT-qPCR, cobas SARS-CoV-2 high-throughput system, direct RT-qPCR except for one commercial kit, and RT-LAMP showed sufficient sensitivity in clinical use to be selectively used according to clinical settings and facilities. The rapid antigen test alone is not recommended for initial COVID-19 diagnosis because of its low sensitivity.