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How to Get Affordable Eye Exams, Glasses and Contacts Without Insurance

From discounted health programs to affordable retailer clinics to online contact lens shops, there are options available to keep vision care affordable.

Luke Daugherty Contributor
Luke Daugherty is a freelance writer, editor and former operations manager. His work covers operations, marketing, sustainable business and personal finance, as well as many of his personal passions, including coffee, music and social issues.
Jessica Rendall Wellness Reporter
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health technology, eye care, nutrition and finding new approaches to chronic health problems. When she's not reporting on health facts, she makes things up in screenplays and short fiction.
Expertise Public health, new wellness technology and health hacks that don't cost money Credentials
  • Added coconut oil to cheap coffee before keto made it cool.
Luke Daugherty
Jessica Rendall
6 min read
Studio shot of flying black glasses high-res stock photo
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Staying on top of vision changes and health is vital to well-being, but not everyone is getting the care they need. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 million adults in the US are at a high risk of developing serious vision loss, but only half of them have visited an eye doctor in the last year.

In many cases, that's because vision care is too expensive. Roughly half of adults in the US go without vision insurance, which isn't included in standard health plans. And without insurance, a typical eye exam often costs more than $100. Add in the cost of glasses or contacts, and it's no surprise that many Americans avoid going to the eye doctor or keeping their prescription up to date.

Getting an eye exam without insurance doesn't have to be overly costly, though. There are several ways to find cheap eye exams or low-cost eye care, and we'll explore them here.

Read more: Best Places to Buy Glasses Online

Where is the most affordable place to get an eye exam?

Some of the best places to look for eye exams or glasses without insurance are discount eye exam centers or online glasses retailers. There are quite a few options, but our favorites are:

  • America's Best: This popular chain offers eye exams for $69, or you can buy two pairs of glasses for $80 and get the eye exam for free.
  • Costco: Not all Costco locations have a Costco Optical, but this can be a good option if your nearest Costco offers it. Exams range between $50 and $100, but you'll need a Costco membership first.
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  • EyeBuyDirect: Online glasses retailers have exploded over the past decade, and EyeBuyDirect offers some of the best deals for glasses without insurance. Frames start as low as $6, and basic prescription lenses are very affordable. 
  • Eyeglass World: Another online retailer, Eyeglass World, offers deals on glasses as low as two pairs for $89. The company also offers eye exams at more than 100 locations around the US.
  • GlassesUSA: This online retailer offers similar deals to those you'll find at Eyeglass World, with a variety of discounts and sales to make glasses without insurance even more affordable.
  • Jonas Paul: The costs of eye care can add up quickly for families, but Jonas Paul aims to change that. Based on Warby Parker's model of home try-on kits and donating a pair of glasses for every pair you buy, Jonas Paul offers affordable, stylish glasses for children and teenagers, starting at $59.
  • Sam's Club: As with Costco, you'll need a Sam's Club membership to access this benefit. Eye exams range between $50 and $100, on average.
  • Target and Walmart: If you'd rather not get a membership to Costco or Sam's Club, you can still get cheap eye exams while you shop at Target or Walmart. Eye exams at these major retailers also fall in the $50 to $100 range.

If you just need new lenses for an existing frame, you can save money by checking out online options for replacement lenses. For contact lens-wearers, learn how to extend the life of your contacts to save money in the long run. 

Read more: Best Places to Buy Contact Lenses Online

Programs that offer free or discounted eye exams 

Aged woman getting an eye exam.
Morsa Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The above retailers may still be too costly for some folks, but they aren't the only options for eye exams without insurance. Many programs offer free eye care or low-cost options for those who qualify, including: 

See a student eye doctor 

If you're willing to receive care from students studying optometry or ophthalmology, many schools offer cheap eye care and free eye exams for patients. Students conducting the exam are supervised, so you can still be confident you're getting quality care. You may also find opportunities to participate (for free) in college research studies. 

Look for participating schools here, and call any schools in your area to inquire about student exam programs and costs.

Medicare or Medicaid may help cover costs

Little girl getting her eyes testes
Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Participants in Medicare or Medicaid may have plan-specific options when it comes to finding low-cost eye care. 

Medicaid, which provides free health care for low-income children and some low-income adults, generally offers some level of vision care. All Medicaid plans include eye exams and glasses for children under age 21, but coverage for adults varies by state. You may be able to get free eye exams, glasses or both. To find out what Medicaid covers in your state, contact your state Medicaid agency. Children who are ineligible for Medicaid may be able to get vision coverage through their state's Children's Health Insurance Program.

Medicare is a program for adults over 65 and some people with disabilities. It generally doesn't offer vision coverage, but it does help with certain eye conditions, including cataracts, dry eye, macular degeneration and glaucoma. 

You may be able to get more extensive vision coverage through a Medicare Advantage program. This Medicare-approved coverage is offered through private insurers and often includes vision coverage for eye exams, glasses and contacts

Where to buy affordable contacts and glasses without vision insurance 

Once you have a prescription for your glasses or contacts, getting discounted prices online is fortunately easier than ever, thanks to the plethora of online companies that frequently run sales and take some of the legwork out of vision correction. Most will give you straightforward options for uploading or entering your prescription, and then the company does the rest.

A few of our favorites include: 

  • Zenni was voted the best budget option on CNET's list of prescription glasses. You can get a pair of prescription glasses at a very marked-down price through a very straightforward ordering process, so long as you have your prescription and know your pupillary distance.
  • Warby Parker glasses start at $95 for prescription lenses and frames. This company was voted best shopping experience by CNET, thanks to its "try it at home model" that lets you test multiple frames, plus the fact that Warby Parker has many in-store locations for people who'd rather talk to an associate while finding their glasses. Warby Parker also sells contacts, and you get 20% off your first order. 
  • 1-800 Contacts makes the process of ordering contact lenses seamless, which is why (like Warby Parker) it landed on our list of best places to order contacts online. 
  • Retailer Target Optical, in addition to being a good place to get an affordable eye exam, offers good discounts on a variety of popular contact brands. 
  • GlassesUSA is a great place to shop if you don't have vision insurance, because of all the sales the company runs. (For example, right now it's running a "buy one, get one" sale on glasses and a 50% off coupon for your first set of frames. GlassesUSA.com also sells contacts at discounted prices. 

The best way to ensure you're getting the best deal on glasses and contacts if you don't have insurance is to shop around and look for deals. For more options, check out or list of the best places to buy contacts online and the best places to buy prescription glasses.

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.