ATTENTION—A few words in reply to the criticism of this post. We hear you saying that Optometrists offices provide a higher level of care which is worth paying more for and that these six ‘rules’ are sometimes but not always true. We appreciate your feedback. We do not wish to refute your statements. This post was written by simply looking at the dollars and cents savings potential of making your optical purchases elsewhere. Our statistical data was pulled from two studies, which we invite you to review: 1 and 2.
The average cost of prescription eyeglasses from the eye doctor is over $212—and the markup? Oh, the markup is gonna make you mad. Listen to this:
1. The average markup on frames is 250%.
That hundred dollar pair of frames you think is a bargain? Your optometrist probably paid around $40 for it.
2. Eyewear sales make up 62% of an optometrist's salary.
It’s no wonder you’re getting the hard sell after every eye exam. For private practice optometrists, a reported 62% of their salary comes from the sale of prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses.
3. The optician helping you select frames is paid on commission.
That woman helping you pick the best frames for your face shape? She’s probably incentivized to help you find the most expensive pair of glasses in the store. Now, that doesn’t mean she’s necessarily out to take advantage of you, but she’s not the impartial third party you thought she was.
4. Lenses are billed on top of frame prices.
The vast majority of optometrists don’t have their own in-house lens processing labs, so plan for additional lab fees to be added to your frame cost.
5. Insufficient sales mean higher costs for you and the doctor.
While it’s a fact that the optometrist’s office is probably the worst place to get a deal on glasses, it’s not the eye doc’s fault. Private practices don’t have the same buying power as larger operations because of their low volume sales.
6. Brick-and-mortar operating costs make discounts rare.
Running a brick-and-mortar optometry office is expensive. Between rent, insurance and employee salaries, private practices can’t afford to discount their eyewear.
So, what’s the alternative? Here are the three best places to save money on exams, glasses and contacts!
Best place to get an eye exam: Costco
Costco’s $49 eye exam is the cheapest exam around. Costco’s licensed eye doctor will perform a vision and eye health check right in the store. Best part? You don’t have to be a Costco member to get the exam! Just let the door attendant know you have an appointment. (Schedule an appointment here.)
Best place to buy glasses: GlassesUSA.com
Select from 1500 frames. Get free prescription lenses with every pair. Upload a selfie and try on glasses virtually. All you need is your prescription.
Best place to buy contacts: ACLENS.COM
The best places I’ve found to purchase contact prescriptions are ACLens.com and DiscountContactLenses.com. Both sites have a large variety of contact lenses for prescriptions including bi-focal and astigmatism for about 70% off. Plus, shipping is always free.
Final word: Get a cheap exam, then take your prescription online!
If you’re feeling uneasy about asking for your prescription ‘to-go,’ here’s an excerpt from the 1978 Trade Commission ruling:
PART 456–OPHTHALMIC PRACTICE RULES–
Sec. 456.2 Separation of examination and dispensing.
It is an unfair act or practice for an ophthalmologist or optometrist to:
(a) Fail to provide to the patient one copy of the patient’s prescription immediately after the eye examination is completed.