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Best place to buy contacts online for 2021

You can save money by shopping online at these reputable sites.

If you need vision correction but would rather not wear prescription glasses, contact lenses can be a godsend. But let's face it, they can be awfully expensive -- there's no such thing as "cheap contacts." And unfortunately, many vision insurance plans won't cover both glasses and contacts and limit how often you can use your benefits.

If you're paying out of pocket for contacts, there's good news: A number of online stores offer cheaper prices than what you'd typically pay at your local optical shop or optometry office. Just be sure to get an eye exam first.

When you buy contacts online, you might not save hundreds of dollars the way you would buying glasses online, but it's still possible to find affordable prices. And most of these online contact lenses stores let you return unopened boxes of lenses if your prescription changes after an eye exam. Pro tip: Right after your contact lens exam, it's almost always worth it to get a year's supply of your current prescription. A good tip to save when purchasing contacts online, regardless of whether you're buying daily disposable contacts, monthly lenses or even multifocal contacts is to buy in bulk -- it's the best way to find rebates and discount contact lenses. 

Here are CNET's top recommendations for the best place to buy contacts online. We'll update this list periodically as new options become available. Note that first you'll need to get an eye test and contact lens exam from your optician or optometrist. An eye doctor can help you in your search for the best prescription lenses for daily wear, whether that's daily contacts, soft lenses, contacts with colored lenses or multifocal lenses. They can also tell you if you need to skip contacts altogether and get eyeglasses, either from an optical shop or online. Further, your eye health is important, even more so if you have conditions like dry eye or astigmatism. 

As such, all of these shops require a valid vision prescription from an eye doctor to dispense contact lenses. And if you do get a contacts prescription, be sure to follow your doctor's eye care instructions -- if you don't, your vision problem could also become an eye infection or some other ocular ailment. It's not a good time.

So, ready to ditch the frames and dive in? Here is where you can find contacts at an affordable price. And if you know of a site that isn't mentioned below, especially when it comes to colored contact lenses -- shout it out in the comments to help others find it.

Scout by Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the company that made a name for itself by offering affordable and stylish eyeglasses, has launched its own Scout contact lens brand. The company promises that these daily lenses are breathable and offer superior comfort because they are made of a material that is supposed to stay moist all day. The contacts also come in space-saving packaging that's virtually flat and easy to transport.

A three-month supply of Scout daily contacts (a total of 90 lenses) starts at $47, which is a good deal for daily contact lenses. Depending on where you shop and the brand you use, prices online can vary from $60 to $200. You can get a six-day trial pack of Scout contact lenses for $5 to see if you like them before committing to a full supply.

Warby Parker also sells name-brand contacts on its website and in retail stores.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Personal story time: I found Lens.com too many years ago to remember now, and it has been my go-to for cheap contacts since. I keep coming back because its customer service is great and the prices are usually the lowest I can find on prescription contact lenses. It has an impressive selection of brands -- including Acuvue, Air Optix, Dailies and Biofinity Toric for astigmatism -- plus it takes returns and covers the cost of shipping unopened boxes back. 'Nuff said.

Lens.com does not accept vision insurance, but you can submit the receipt to your insurance company for reimbursement (and always check with your insurance company to see what it covers).

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

One of the best-known contacts stores, online retailer 1800Contacts, stocks all of the most popular brands, and you can even get hard contacts through its call center. One CNET editor praised it for the customer service for going above and beyond.

Like Lens.com, you can text or email your contact lens prescription, which speeds up the ordering process. 1800Contacts also offers discount contact lenses for students and free shipping on all orders, and allows you to update your prescription through an online test (only available for adults between 18 and 55 years old). Finally, you can sign up for a subscription, which sends you lenses when you need them.

Accepts vision insurance with a valid prescription.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

A popular source for contacts among my fellow CNET editors is ContactsDirect because it accepts our company's vision insurance and often sends out coupon codes to customers. It has a wide selection of lens type options, including multifocal lenses, colored contacts, soft contact lenses for dry eye and toric lenses for astigmatism. And it offers returns on products that were purchased within one year if your eye vision changes and you need a vision correction from your doctor. ContactsDirect (and 1800Contacts) also sells contact lens solution.

Accepts vision insurance.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Coastal is a one-stop shop for both contact lenses and prescription glasses. What makes it so appealing is that it has a price match guarantee that includes the total cost of a purchase (including fees and shipping) from another authorized online contact lens retailer -- some conditions apply. It has a wide selection of lenses, including non-prescription colored contact lenses, offers free returns and has a subscription program.

Does not accept vision insurance, but you can request reimbursement from your insurance company.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Eyeconic has a wide array of contact lens brands to choose from, including Acuvue, Air Optix, Biotrue by Bausch and Lomb and Extreme H2O. The site will help you find an eye doctor or clinic. Like others on this list, it offers free shipping and free returns.

Accepts vision insurance.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Last, but not least is GlassesUSA.com. Like with Coastal, you can order contact lenses and glasses through the site, and it offers deep discounts if you order both. Like every other retailer on this list, GlassesUSA.com has all of the popular lens brands, including Acuvue, Biofinity, and more and offers free returns and free shipping on prescription lenses.

Does not accept vision insurance, but you can request a reimbursement from your insurance company.

More health and wellness recommendations

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.