Save big on eyeglasses

By Anthony GiorgianniLifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

Whether it’s sunglasses for the summer, an upgrade to your prescription, or anything else, if you want to save on buying eyeglasses think online retailers and discounters such as Costco.

Our surveys and reporting consistently find that you can save up to 40 percent by using online glasses stores and discounters.

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On the other hand, if you want the very best in service and are willing to pay for it (or most of your purchase is covered by insurance), buy your glasses at an independent optical store or doctor’s office.

Discounters. In a Consumer Reports survey of nearly 19,500 readers, Costco got top scores among the chains. But Sam’s Club and Walmart got decent scores, too. The main drawback was skimpy frame selection.

Read our “Eyeglass Store Buying Guide”  for more tips for buying eyewear. Consumer subscribers also can view our eyeglass store ratings.

Eyeglass websites. We found a huge selection of frames and very low prices at most online eyeglass retailers, including and We also found helpful learning tools. On some sites, you can upload a photo and try glasses on virtually. Among the drawbacks, buying online can be a hassle if there’s a problem with purchased frames or lenses or you need your new specs adjusted. And eyeglass websites often don't accept insurance. Finally, some sites get terrible marks from the Better Business Bureau. So check out any website at the BBB before buying and look for customer reviews by using a web search with the site name and such terms a “reviews” and “complaints.” And, of course, read the return policy and other terms of sale.

A new segment of eyeglass websites such as Warby Parker promises to delivery single-vision glasses for less than $100. But they primarily sell their own proprietary frames. So if you’re looking for a discount on your favorite designer frame, don’t expect to find it at these sites.Shopping strategy. If you’re having an eye exam (and you should if your prescription is more than a year old), talk to your doctor about the type of lens, frame and coating that is best for you. (Doing some research online beforehand is a good idea, so you’ll know what the doctor is talking about and the questions to ask.) While you’re there, check out the selection of frames. Then go comparison shopping at an online eyeglass websites.  Get your best offer and go back to the location where you originally got your examination, whether that’s a doctor’s office, chain store, or discounter. Try negotiating a better deal based on your best price. It’s only fair to give the walk-in store a chance, especially if it gave you recommendations for lenses and/or frames. Keep in mind, it may be worth paying somewhat more to obtain your specs at a walk-in for the convenience alone. If you find a problem with your frames or lenses, report it immediately, whether you shopped online or locally.

Anthony Giorgianni

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