Buying Contact Lenses – Shop Around and Save Money
Buying contact lenses is a considerable expense, but there are some ways to make sure you get the best value for your money. If you are a first time buyer, you will have fewer options as you need to be evaluated and fitted by a eye care professional. But don't go running to the expensive, local optician just yet! Discount chains like Walmart, Target and Costco are now offering eyecare services at their major stores, so be sure you shop around for the best price before making an appointment.
If you already have a contact lens prescription, you may be able to re-order lenses from a mail-order or internet providers for less than you'd pay in-store.
Factors to consider when choosing a contact lens provider include:
- Availability (are your lenses in stock for immediate shipment?) and delivery time
- Special discounts offered, such as bundled products and services
- Price of the lenses, including any applicable coupons or rebates rebates
- Customer service availability and reputation, in case problems arise
- Convenience – when looking to purchase your lenses in-person, be sure to consider travel costs and time
If you have vision coverage, be sure to read the fine print before scheduling an appointment or purchasing lenses. Your insurance may entitle you to a special discount at certain retailers or eye care providers, or you may be able to order direct from a lens seller connected with your insurance provider. This could save you money in the long run. On the other hand, if prices are inflated to begin with, the ‘discounted' offer may not actually turn out to be your cheapest option.
Compare types of retailers
- Eyecare specialists - Get a quote from your own eye doctor first. With their bulk-buying power they may not be as expensive as you might think. Buying in bulk is also the way to save money, ordering a year’s supply at once, for example. If the price is higher than elsewhere, check whether it includes regular check-ups in the price.
- Optical chains - Lens Crafters and Pearle Vision are two of the most common optical stores in the US. They have optometrists on site who can perform eye exams and contact lens fittings and can sell you a supply of lenses. The advantage of such shops is that you will likely not have to wait for your lenses, will not have to pay any shipping fees, and if you're wary of online and mail-order shopping in general, you may consider these to be more trustworthy suppliers.
- Other brick and mortar retailers - Non-specialist companies such as Walmart, Sears, Costco and Target have opened optical departments with specialist staff who own or lease the premises. They are generally low-priced, are open many hours of the day and lenses are available almost immediately.
- Mail order and internet retailers - The internet makes it easy to compare prices, and since online businesses have low overheads, prices are likely to be lower. However there is always a time delay before the lenses are delivered and shipping costs are usually added to the purchase price. If you choose to buy online, look for a company with a good reputation and positive reviews. You might also want to check the Better Business Bureau's website to see if there is a history of complaints.
Compare online retailers
It is often advantageous to choose a larger online company rather than one of their smaller brethren, as their stock is likely huge and they can probably ship very quickly. They are also more likely to be established and still be still be in business later if you need to return something or have a problem with your order.
Some other things to consider when looking at online stores are:
- Will they ship ASAP? They should be able to tell you if your lenses are in stock and how long it will take to verify the prescription (required by law) and supply.
- Do you trust this company with your credit card information? Check their feedback on the Better Business Bureau's website.
- In addition to any email contact information, is there a toll-free number for customer service? Try it. If you get their voicemail during business hours it's probably not a good company to choose.
- What is their return policy? Look to see if they allow returns and if so, if there are “restocking” fees or other charges.
- Read the About Us page to get a feel of the company’s history and credibility. Bad spelling and vague statements are not a good sign.
- Is the checkout process secure? On the page where you enter your personal information the URL in the address bar should start with https instead of http.
- Before submitting your order, check the final invoice price. Have additional fees been added?
Start by asking for replacement lens prices at your eye doctor’s office. Remember to ask about buying in bulk to get the best price. Next, call or stop in at local optical shops and chains like Walmart and Target. And then finally, check online. Rather than going about it in a hit-and-miss fashion, choose a site which shows comparisons of many suppliers, such as BizRate, MySimon, Shopping.com or Yahoo! Shopping. Be aware that the lowest prices quoted per box are probably for a one year supply, and shipping costs will likely be added to the purchase price.
In the end, you will have probably spent quite a bit of time shopping around, but saved yourself a considerable sum in the process, making it all worthwhile.
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