Eyeglasses

Because many outlets received excellent or at least acceptable ratings for quality of service, you have room to shop for price.
Our ratings tables provides price comparison scores for each outlet for eyeglasses and for contact lenses.

The eyeglasses scores are based on prices our shoppers were quoted for up to 18 models of glasses. This score reflects each store’s prices relative to other stores’ prices for the same models of frames and basic lenses for a common low-correction single-vision prescription.

We set the average price comparison score at $100. A score of $110 means the company’s price quotes were about 10 percent above the multi-company average.

Fortunately, you can find low prices for eyeglasses without sacrificing good service. Our survey identified vision centers with price comparison scores below $90, some of which also receive our top rating for quality.

For eyeglasses, we usually found the least expensive sellers online. But shopping for glasses online is challenging, since it’s hard to tell which frames will look good on your face.

Unfortunately, for eyeglasses, because they don’t sell the same products, it’s impossible to compare prices among the largest chains for the exact same frames. But we found Costco, Walmart, and Warby Parker offer very low prices for the products they do carry, and Costco and Warby Parker also get fairly high overall ratings from their surveyed customers.

Comparing costs for frames is further complicated by the dominance of the Luxottica Group, which not only manufactures millions of pairs of glasses annually, but also markets and sells them via thousands of retail stores it runs, including LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, and optical departments at Target. It’s often difficult to assess whether a designer frame it makes is worth hundreds of dollars more than a nearly identical, far less expensive model that possibly was made in the same facility, and the manufacturing cost of both models probably was less than $5.

Contacts

Our ratings tables also report price comparison scores for contact lenses. These scores show how each outlet’s prices for contacts compared to the average of prices at all other quoting outlets when our undercover shoppers asked for their prices for a year’s supply of six common brands of lenses.

The scores are adjusted so that the average for all companies is $100. The scores are based on the price of the lenses plus exam, fitting, and follow-up visits because most buyers pay for a package that includes an exam and some follow-up care.

As you can see, the variation in price comparison scores is large, with some outlets charging prices more than twice as high as others. As with eyeglasses, we found very low prices for contacts online. But you can’t count on low prices from all online suppliers: Some well-known online sellers offered prices that were higher than the average prices offered by the lowest priced local outlets. The lowest online prices were offered by EZContactsUSA.com.

Among brick-and-mortar outlets, B J’s Wholesale Club was the winner for price. As with our price comparison scores for eyeglasses, we also found lower-than-average prices at some independent stores, many of which, according to our customer survey results, also provide better service than the chains.

If you’re replenishing a year’s supply and not changing brands or type, there’s little reason not to grab the savings by buying from one of these low-cost suppliers.