Best Places for Eye Exams

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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.

The Best Places for Eye Exams in 2021

Best Overall : Costco Optical


Costco Optical

 Costco Optical

Key Specs

  • Eye exam cost: About $50 to $100
  • Perk: Ability to bring your own frames
  • Number of locations: 558 throughout the U.S.

Why We Chose It: Costco Optical ranks as the best overall place to get an eye exam because of its convenience and it’s wide selection.

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. For prices call your local Costco.

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

Key Specs

  • Eye exam cost: From roughly $50 to $90
  • Perk: Free eye exam when purchasing two pairs of glasses
  • Number of locations: 700 locations throughout the U.S.

Why We Chose It: We chose America’s Best because of its low prices, frequent discounts, and savings for members.

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

Key Specs

  • Eye exam cost: vary per location
  • Perk: Eyeglasses and eye exam specials always available
  • Number of locations: 419 throughout the U.S.

Why We Chose It: Pearle Vision helps uninsured people by providing discounts and ways to save on their eye exam. The company always has a deal going on.

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.

Eye exam costs will vary depending on your insurance plan, your location and the services you receive during your visit. 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

Key Specs

  • Eye exam cost: Around $79 to $129
  • Perk: Online ordering available
  • Number of locations: 3,000 across the U.S.

Why We Chose It: Walmart Vision Center is found in most Walmart stores across the nation, making eye care accessible and convenient.

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. For the cost of basic eye exam and contact exams, contact the Walmart nearest you. As for eyeglasses, frames start at roughly $12 for women and $20 for men. 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

Key Specs

  • Eye exam cost: Vary per location
  • Perk: Lots of brand name lenses available
  • Number of locations: More than 100 throughout the U.S.

Why We Chose It: Eyeglass World’s showrooms are stocked with thousands of name brand frames for shoppers to choose from and still offers plenty of discounts.

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. Call your local store for the cost of regular eye exams and contact lens exams, 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

Key Specs

  • Eye exam cost: About $184
  • Perk: Treatment for disease as well as glasses exams
  • Number of locations: More than 300 across the U.S.

Why We Chose It: All Vision Source locations are owned by independent optometrists, and always have been. That’s why we listed the company as best for doctor quality.

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.

To find the cost of an eye or contact lens exam, enter your zip code to find an optometrist. Vision Source practices usually accept many vision and medical plans. Patients may join the Vision Source 20/20 Savings Plan for discounts on eye exams and eyeglasses.

Best for Coupons and Discounts : LensCrafters


Lens Crafters

 Lens Crafters

 Key Specs

  • Eye exam cost: Call your nearest location for eye exam prices
  • Perk: 30-day Happiness Guarantee
  • Locations: More than 900 locations in the U.S.

Why We Chose It: LensCrafters offers many deals, discounts, and coupons to help you save on your exams, glasses, and contact lenses.

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.

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.

Final Verdict

Costco Optical won our vote for best overall place to get an eye exam because of their convenience, reasonable prices, and wide selection of frames. Costco Optical accepts most insurance, and most stores employ independent doctors of optometry in their vision centers.

Costco Optical even allows customers to bring their own frames in for a lens update. It’s a great way to save time and money. However, to purchase a prescription, you must be a Costco member.

Compare Places for Eye Exams

Company Price of Eye Exam Number of locations Name brand selection?
Costco Optical Best Overall About $50 to $100 558 Yes
America’s Best Best Budget Roughly $50 to $90 700 Yes
Pearle Vision Best for People without Insurance Vary per location 419  Yes
Walmart Vision Center Best for Convenience Around $79 to $129 3,000 Yes
Eyeglass World Best for Frame Selection Vary by location More than 100 Yes
Vision Source Best for Doctor Quality About $184 More than 300 Yes
LensCrafters Best for Coupons and Discounts Vary by location More than 900 Yes

FAQs

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 testing and evaluation needed to ensure the eye is healthy for contact lenses.

Does Medicare Cover Eye Exams? 

Medicare covers a medical eye exam, which can be completed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, but will not cover a refraction, which is part of a vision exam resulting in a prescription for glasses. You may be charged extra for a "refraction fee" if using Medicare coverage. Or, if you have a secondary provider, that may cover the refraction fee. This fee can vary by region and provider. Usually, your provider will inform you of this fee before the examination.

Methodology

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.

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