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If you find yourself buying prescription eyeglasses for the first time in forever, you’ll probably experience the kind of sticker shock normally reserved for college tuition.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have vision insurance for your family, expect to pay a few hundred dollars over and above what your insurance will cover. That’s right – a standard pair of prescription eyeglasses at your average eye doctor’s optical shop will set you back $200, $300 or more. You might think greedy eye doctors and opticians cause skyrocketing prices of eyeglasses, but the real reason is more complicated.
One Italian company, Luxottica, monopolizes nearly all of the market for eyewear in the U.S. Luxottica owns almost any brand of eyeglasses or sunglasses that comes to mind, plus nearly all of the major chains that sell glasses, including Ray-Ban, Pearle Vision, Lenscrafters, Oakley and Sunglass Hut. They also make almost all of the eyeglass frames found in your local eye doctors’ offices. Eyewear from designer brands such as Versace, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Prada, DKNY, Chanel and Coach come from Luxottica, too.
Luxottica owns the eyeglass world to the point where there are few options available to avoid the company’s expensive frames. It’s important to note that you don’t have to buy glasses where you have your eye exam, though. You can request a copy of your eyeglasses prescription and shop around for where to buy glasses at the best price. Here are some ways you can save money on glasses for your family.
Shop Luxottica’s main competitors – Walmart and Costco. Frames at Walmart and Costco generally cost less than $100. I bought a pair of nonprescription sunglasses at Walmart Vision Center a few months ago and chatted with the optician who took my order. He told me that Walmart carries the exact same lenses you’d find at any eye doctor’s office – regular, multifocal, bifocal, transitions, progressives or whatever you need, same brand, same quality.
I visited my ophthalmologist recently for a routine eye exam and looked over the eyeglass frames while I was waiting. I didn’t see any frames selling for less than $200, and the majority cost well north of that number. In perusing Walmart’s selection of eyeglass frames, I found they looked equally attractive and felt just as sturdy and well-made as the ones I saw in my eye doctor’s office. The main difference was the astoundingly lower prices.
Walmart accepts most vision insurance plans, so you can buy glasses there whether you have insurance or not. A $55 Costco membership might be worth if if you have family members who wear glasses and you like their selection of frames better than Walmart’s. I have not looked over the frames in a Sam’s Club, but I assume they would have frames similar in selection and price to Walmart’s. All eyeglasses from Walmart Vision Center include scratch resistant lens coating plus a one-year satisfaction and repair guarantee and lifetime adjustments.
You could also try online eyeglasses shopping at Coastal to save a ton of money. The eyeglasses pictured above came from Coastal, and my 10-year-old daughter wears them. They were originally intended to be her backup glasses. Her first pair of glasses cost over $300 after insurance. I wish I’d known about the alternatives before springing for her initial pair of eyeglasses (pictured below).
Coastal sells numerous frames costing less than $100, and some for less than $50. Once you sign up for Coastal’s email list, they’ll regularly email you coupons for even better deals. Through January 7, Coastal is running a special end-of-year clearance of up to 70 percent off, plus you can save $10 off a $50 glasses purchase using code 10HOLIDAY4xy5, or $25 off a $100 glasses purchase with the code 25HOLIDAY3st9. Coastal also has a selection of glasses available at two pairs for $99.
Coastal glasses include the cost of standard lenses in the price of the frames, and glasses with progressives start at $175 – a significant savings over most optical shops.
To buy Coastal glasses online, you’ll need a copy of the eyeglasses prescription from your eye doctor. You’ll also need the sizing numbers from the insides of the arms of your current glasses, near the lens. If you can’t read these or can’t find them, you should carefully measure the arms as well as the lens diameter and bridge width. Coastal’s Web site has information on how to properly measure your glasses to make sure you order frames that’ll fit your face.
Going outside the standard eyeglass world can save you a boatload of money on glasses for yourself and your family. However, if you like the frames on your current eyeglasses and they’re still in good shape, check to see if you can keep the frames and get new lenses only. Frames make up most of the price of new glasses, so you may not want to discard perfectly good frames. This might not be a good option for some children, if they’ve grown out of their frames.
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