The Best Places for Eye Exams in 2020

View your options for convenient, cost-effective vision care

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First Look

Routine eye exams are important for maintaining good eye health as well as healthy vision, and an annual eye exam is the best way to protect your overall eye health. Vision changes are a natural part of the aging process. As you age, your risk of glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration rises. Changes in your eye health occur very gradually and often go unnoticed with no obvious symptoms.

Having regular eye and vision exams will help to ensure that you always have the clearest vision possible. A comprehensive eye exam consists of a series of tests to measure how well you can see and to look for any problems that might be affecting the overall health of your eyes. We evaluated several commercial facilities by price, convenience, quality, and frame selection in order to determine the following rankings. Here are our top picks.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Costco Optical

Costco Optical

Costco Optical

Pros
  • Quality frames and lenses

  • Convenience

  • Reasonable prices

  • Accepts most insurance

  • Well-trained staff

Cons
  • Non-professional warehouse feel

  • Membership required for purchases

Costco is a wholesale American company offering a broad variety of merchandise. The company operates as a membership-only warehouse club with retail outlets across the world and opened its first optical lab in 1988.

Costco Optical now ranks as one of the largest optical companies in the United States. It is important to note that most Costco Optical locations will see patients without Costco memberships, although a membership is required to fill an eyeglass prescription or purchase contact lenses. In most states, the company employs independent doctors of optometry within or near the store.

The optical departments offer a wide range of eyeglass frames for the whole family. The company claims to offer the latest technology in high-definition lenses. The price of a basic eye exam averages about $80, with a contact lens exam starting around $130.

Costco also allows you to bring your own frames to fill with new lenses. And, it offers a discount if you purchase multiple frames (for the same person) on the same day. Most major insurance is accepted. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with reduced hours on weekends.

Best Budget: America’s Best

America’s Best

America’s Best

Pros
  • Wide variety of frames

  • Easy to obtain appointments

  • Low prices

  • Discounts

  • Memberships for savings

Cons
  • Examination feels rushed

  • Low quality control

Founded in 1978, America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses is a discount optical chain with more than 700 retail locations throughout the United States. The company offers a wide assortment of frames for the cost-conscious family. A basic eye exam averages about $50, with a contact lens exam starting around $90.

Perhaps one of the biggest perks of the company is the free eye exam that comes with the purchase of two pairs of eyeglasses. The company claims to accept many vision insurance plans, including regional plans.

Customers have the option of joining The Eyecare Club. Membership to this includes three years of free eye exams (up to two per year), three years of contact lens exams for about $99, and a 10% savings on all other purchases. Most locations are open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses offers the lowest price for eye exams, Eyecare Club memberships for savings, several discounts on purchases, and enticing package deals.

Best for People Without Insurance: Pearle Vision

Pearle Vision

Pearle Vision

Pros
  • Trusted reputation

  • Accepts most insurance

  • 30-day return policy

Cons
  • Patient experience varies depending on doctor/staff

  • Limited frame brands

When Pearle Vision opened its doors in 1961, founder Stanley Pearle, an optometrist in Georgia, started the practice with the sentiment of “caring for eyes and the people behind them.” The company has grown to become one of the largest discount optical chains in America.

Since each Pearle Vision center offers frame selections unique to its area, the company encourages you to call to inquire about the availability of certain frames you’re looking for. Eye exams are conducted by independent optometrists at or inside retail stores in most states, while some doctors are employed by Pearle Vision.

A regular eye exam costs about $99, while contact lens exams are priced at roughly $159. The company claims to work with all major vision insurance plans to help patients receive affordable eye care by offering discounts and various package deals.

Also, if for any reason you are not 100% satisfied with your eyewear purchase, you can return it. Simply give back the merchandise in its original condition within 30 days of purchase. Pearle Vision stores are located throughout North America. Hours of operation typically include Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Most stores are closed on Sunday.

Best for Convenience: Walmart Vision Center

Walmart Vision Center

Walmart Vision Center

Pros
  • Wide variety of frames

  • Most insurance accepted

  • Several package prices

  • Open 7 days per week

  • Appointments not necessary

Cons
  • Lesser known frame brands

  • High staff turnover

Perhaps the most well-known discount retail eye clinic, Walmart Vision Center began operating in 2001. Found in most Walmart stores across the nation, the clinic offers eye exams conducted by self-employed optometrists who lease space near the vision center, or who are employed directly by Walmart.

If you already have a prescription, you can purchase frames and lenses without paying to have an eye exam. A comprehensive eye health and vision exam averages around $75. A basic contact lens exam is approximately $125. As for eyeglasses, frames start at roughly $58. And, prices seem to be based on frame materials.

While most locations offer a big selection of frames, including ones for kids, you won’t find many elite name brands. If you prefer to purchase your frames online, Walmart Vision Center will fill them with your prescription for a nominal fee plus the cost of the lenses you select. Contact lenses begin as low as around $20 per box, but that price varies depending on the brand.

Walmart Vision Center honors most major insurance plans, but only for eye exams and in-store purchases. Vision center hours are typically Monday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Best for Frame Selection: Eyeglass World

Eyeglass World

Eyeglass World

Pros
  • Huge selection of frames

  • Most orders are ready the same day

  • 30-day return policy

Cons
  • Eyeglass prices seem higher than advertised

  • Frame materials lack quality

With more than 100 locations throughout the United States, Eyeglass World offers customers a high volume of eyeglass frames for various price ranges.

The company claims that all of its showrooms are stocked with thousands of name-brand frames. It offers men’s, women’s, and children’s frames made by Ray-Ban, Oakley, Christian Siriano, Vera Bradley, BCBG, Nike, Steve Madden, and more.

The discount optical chain claims that since it orders so many frames from its vendors, it is able to pass on big savings to its customers. In fact, the company offers a running promotion of two pairs of eyeglasses for one low price every day.

Kids 13 and under receive a free upgrade to impact-resistant lenses with the purchase of eyeglasses. With regular eye exams starting at about $69 and contact lens exams beginning at roughly $119, Eyeglass World has some of the lowest fees around. However, a quick Google search reveals several negative reviews about the lack of quality materials.

Hours of operation typically include Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with most stores closed on Sunday.

Best for Doctor Quality: Vision Source

Vision Source

Vision Source

Pros
  • All locations owned by independent, optometrists in private practice

  • Personalized/professional experience

  • Treatment of eye disease

Cons
  • Higher examination fees

  • Limited appointment hours

Founded in 1991, Vision Source was established by a group of private-practice optometrists who wanted competitive advantages to compete with commercial and retail locations. Vision Source boasts unmatched personal care, advanced eye care services, state-of-the-art technology, and high-quality vision products.

All Vision Source locations are independently owned by optometrists as franchise locations. Each one is owned by the doctor and all business is controlled as they see fit. Most Vision Source locations offer large opticals with both high-end and budget-friendly frames.

Vision Source's private-practice optometrists offer the latest technology, new instruments, and diagnostic equipment, as well as treatment of eye disease, injuries, and infections.

An eye exam averages about $100 and a contact lens exam is around $150. Vision Source practices usually accept many vision and medical plans. Patients may join the Vision Source 2020 Savings Plan for discounts on eye exams and eyeglasses.

Best for Coupons and Discounts: LensCrafters

LensCrafters

LensCrafters

 

Pros
  • Name brand frame selection

  • Several package deals

  • 30-day guarantee

Cons
  • Pricey lens options

  • High doctor turnover

LensCrafters is an international discount eye clinic with retail stores in North America, Hong Kong, and China. Its stores boast digital eye exams by independent optometrists and an Accufit system for an accurate fitting of frames.

Each of its store opticals includes top brands and styles, and they offer assistance in finding the perfect frame for your particular face shape and lifestyle. Founded in 1983, LensCrafters’ founder is credited with developing the idea for a “while you wait” eyeglass retail store.

A regular eye exam averages about $80 while a contact lens exam costs around $125. Frame prices seem to run about average compared to other opticals. The company offers a nice variety of package deals to help bring your final cost down, and it claims to accept most insurance plans.

Particularly alluring is the company’s 30-day Happiness Guarantee, which promises to make sure you’re happy with what you buy within the first 30 days of your purchase. The company offers minor repairs at no extra cost. Most stores are open seven days per week, with reduced hours on the weekends.

How We Chose the Best Places for Eye Exams

We conducted extensive research to evaluate the pricing, breadth of services, convenience, accessibility, and frame inventory, which included examining both discount retail eye clinics, as well as discount optical chains with a national presence. To determine overall value, we evaluated the prices of basic eye exams and contact lens exams, as well as the prices of frame inventory.

Other factors we investigated prior to choosing the top companies included convenience, hours of operation, health insurance acceptance, lens options, upgrades, package deals, and any free services or resources offered. For best overall, Costco stood out for its wide range of eyeglass frames for the whole family. America's Best was our pick as a good budget option since one of the company's perks is the free eye exam that comes with the purchase of two pairs of eyeglasses.

What Is an Eye Exam? 

An eye exam consists of a series of tests that measure how well you can see and how healthy your eyes are. During an eye exam, a doctor of optometry or ophthalmology will look for problems that might affect the overall health of your eyes and quality of vision. These can include eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, and cataracts. How often you should have an eye exam depends on a variety of factors, including your overall risk for specific problems.

Does a Doctor Have to Provide Eye Exams? 

An eye doctor is a person who specializes in the examination, treatment, and care of the eyes. The term “eye doctor” can refer to either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Specialized equipment is needed to perform a professional eye examination and can only be conducted by a doctor who has the training and education to fully evaluate your vision and eye health. Do not confuse an eye exam with a vision screening, which is not typically conducted by an eye care professional and is usually only a measure of central visual acuity.

How Much Does an Eye Exam Typically Cost? 

The average cost of a routine eye exam with a private doctor is around $150. In some regions of the country, it could be $115 or less, and in others, it's more than roughly $300. Optical chains and discount retail eye clinics offer basic eye exams for around $90, on average. Contact lens exams cost more on average because of the extra work that is needed to complete the exam and fit contacts to the eyes.

Does Medicare Cover Eye Exams? 

Medicare does not cover routine vision exams. Medicare will pay for an eye examination if the patient’s chief complaint or previous diagnosis is medical in nature. "Routine" suggests a simple vision screening in which the end result is a new pair of eyeglasses. However, Medicare does pay for health screenings for glaucoma.

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