Cost of an Eye Exam Without Insurance

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Unfortunately, about 30 million people in the United States don’t have health insurance. Additionally, many insurance plans do not include vision benefits. 

An annual eye exam will help keep you up-to-date with your vision care. Routine eye exams will help detect vision problems such as eye strain, astigmatism, myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and other age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration. They can also help monitor your overall health and detect symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health problems.

Eye vision test chart seen through eye glasses.

However, there are still several options for people who don’t have insurance but need an eye exam. You can go to your local eye optometrist or visit an eye doctor in a large chain store such as Wal-Mart, Target, or Costco. 

Many retail vision providers will charge less than $100, while independent eye doctors may charge more. An eye exam's average cost without insurance is around $200 for a new patient and $100-$150 for an established patient.

How Much is an Eye Exam Without Insurance?

RetailerEye Exam Cost
Costcoaround $70
Targetaround $70
Walmart Vision Center$75+
America’s Best$50 or free when you buy two pairs of eyeglasses
Sam’s Club$45+

What is Included in a Vision Exam?

During a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist or ophthalmologist will use a variety of instruments to evaluate your vision as well as the health of your eyeballs. It will take between 30 minutes to an hour and will examine:

  • Visual acuity (the sharpness of your vision)
  • Refraction to check for refractive errors (determines your eyeglass prescription)
  • Visual field (peripheral vision)
  • Pupillary reactions (to light and close objects)
  • Eye alignment (how well your eyes work together)
  • Muscle function
  • Ocular health

At the end of your vision test, your doctor will tell you if you need any vision correction or if you have any eye problems. If you need eyewear to correct your vision, you will need to see an optician to be fitted for eyeglasses. You can also be referred to a specialist to discuss surgical options, such as LASIK.

A regular eye exam will only measure your vision and eye health. It does not include fitting for glasses or contacts. If you need contacts, you’ll have to schedule a contact lens exam.

Tele-Optometry and Eye Exams

Tele-Optometry Eye Exam

Tele-optometry is providing patients with new options for digital eye exams. These eye exams are similar to in-office appointments. They are not quite as comprehensive, but they are much more convenient since they can be performed from the comfort of your home via cell phone, tablet, or computer.

With the rise of COVID-19, tele-optometry may see an increase in availability and usage.

During a tele-optometry eye exam, your eye doctor will perform three steps:

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1. Collect Patient Information

Your optometrist will ask a series of questions to collect your information. These may include questions about your insurance, family history, medical history, allergies, and medications.

2. Perform Eye Exam

You will then undergo a series of exams. These may include:

  • Autorefraction. This test estimates your eyeglass prescription.
  • Lensometry. This will confirm the prescription in your current glasses.
  • Retinal imaging. A photograph will be taken of the back of your eye (retina).
  • Non-contact tonometry. This is a glaucoma screening that measures the pressure of your eye.
  • Refraction test. Using an HD digital optical system, your optometrist will perform a refraction test to determine your new prescription. 

3. Review Results

Your optometrist will then review your results and (if necessary) provide you with a new prescription. They will also let you know if anything unusual was detected and can provide you with references to specialists for additional treatment. 

“Teleophthalmology produces the same desired clinical outcome as the traditional system. Allowing specialists to provide care over a large region through a remote portal improves health outcomes. A high satisfaction level and acceptance is reported in the majority of the studies because of increased accessibility and reduced traveling cost and time.”

- Study published in Clinical Ophthalmology

Vision Discount Plans

Vision discount plans, or vision savings plans, are a budget-friendly alternative to vision insurance plans. Purchasing a membership from Careington will help you save on eye exams, frames, and more.

Typical Sample Savings*

BenefitAverage Cost Without PlanAverage Cost With PlanMember Typical Savings
Eye Exam$134$80$54
Single Vision Lenses$83$45$38
Transition® Lenses$96$77$19
Anti-Reflective Coating$76$45$31

*These costs and savings are based on regional fee schedule averages

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Author: Michael Bayba | UPDATED October 19, 2020

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats - Health Insurance Coverage. 14 Apr. 2020,

Sreelatha, Omana Kesary, and Sathyamangalam VenkataSubbu Ramesh. “Teleophthalmology: improving patient outcomes?.” Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 10 285-95. 10 Feb. 2016, doi:10.2147/OPTH.S80487

Find out What Marketplace Health Insurance Plans Cover.  

“Get Help Paying For Eye Care.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,



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