Overview of Eye Exam Costs and Options
Without vision insurance, the average cost of an eye exam is about $200. However, the cost of eye exams can vary from $50 to $250 based on the location, type of exam, and if it's your first visit.
About 30 million people in the U.S. don't have health insurance. Additionally, many medical plans don't include vision benefits. Affordable eye care may seem out of reach if you don't have vision coverage.
However, there are several low-cost options for people who don’t have insurance but need an eye exam. Eye health is an essential part of overall health. While taking online vision screening tests may be tempting, they can't detect eye conditions. Nothing can replace a comprehensive exam with a licensed eye doctor.
How Much is an Eye Exam Without Insurance?
|Retailer||Eye Exam Cost|
|Costco Optical||around $70|
|Target Optical||around $70|
|Walmart Vision Center||$75+|
|America’s Best||$50 or free when you buy two pairs of eyeglasses|
Does Insurance Cover Eye Exams?
This varies based on the provider. Most health insurance policies don’t cover routine eye exams.
However, many insurance providers offer separate vision plans. These will usually cover at least a portion of your eye exam costs. If you have vision insurance, the average co-pay for an eye exam is around $10 to $40.
What’s Included in a Vision Exam?
During a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist or ophthalmologist will use a variety of instruments to evaluate your vision and eye health.
These tests take 30 minutes to an hour and 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 exam, your doctor will tell you if you need vision correction or if you have any eye problems.
If you need eyewear to correct your vision, you must see an optician for eyeglasses or contact lenses. They may also refer you to a specialist to discuss surgical options, such as LASIK and LASIK costs.
A regular eye exam will only measure your vision and eye health. It does not include fitting for glasses or contacts. You’ll have to schedule a contact lens exam if you need contacts. An optician can assist with ordering and fitting glasses.
Tele-Optometry and Eye Exams
Tele-optometry provides patients with new options for digital eye exams. These eye exams are similar to in-office appointments. They aren't a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam but may be a convenient option for some people.
Tele-optometry can be performed from the comfort of your home via cell phone, tablet, or computer.
During a tele-optometry eye exam, your eye doctor will perform three steps:
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
2. Perform Eye Exam
A tele-optometry exam is more limited than what you can expect when you visit an eye doctor’s office. A virtual eye exam may include:
- Visual prescreening. This includes autorefraction to determine your current eyeglass prescription, photos of the front and back of your eye, and a glaucoma test
- Refraction test. The optometrist uses a phoropter while talking to you via remote conferencing to see which lenses provide clearer vision
Complex diagnostic exams typically require an office visit.
3. Review Results
Your optometrist will then review your results and (if necessary) provide you with a new prescription. They will also inform you if anything unusual was detected and can provide 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*
|Benefit||Average Cost Without Plan||Average Cost With Plan||Member Typical Savings|
|Single Vision Lenses||$83||$45||$38|
*These costs and savings are based on regional fee schedule averages
Free Eye Exams (Ways to Save)
There are several public and private organizations that provide free or low-cost eye exams and glasses. Here are some of the best ways to get free eye exams for you and your family.
InfantSEE offers free eye assessments for infants six to twelve months old. This program is managed by the American Optometric Association (AOA). It is funded by their charitable organization, Optometry Cares - The AOA Foundation.
The AOA recommends scheduling your child's first eye exam at around 6 months.
EyeCare America is also funded by Optometry Cares - The AOA Foundation. It is a public service program managed by the Foundation of the American Academy of Opthalmology. Qualifying seniors can get free eye exams. It also provides discounted eye exams for adults.
Medicaid is a federal and state-funded health program that offers healthcare coverage to low-income individuals. Requirements for qualifying for Medicaid vary from state to state, so it’s essential to check with programs in your state even if you think you do not qualify.
Medicaid covers many preventative services, screenings, and treatments for health conditions, including vision care issues. The program pays for many services for eligible children, including vision care, dental care, and routine eye exams.
Sight for Students
Sight for Students is a program managed by Vision Service Plan (VSP). It includes free eye exams and glasses for low-income children without medical or vision insurance. It’s a national program that has been operating since 1997.
New Eyes purchases glasses for low-income children. The non-profit program also recycles glasses donated by the public and distributes them to people globally. The program was founded in 1932 and has provided free eyeglasses for low-income people worldwide.
Why is it Important to See an Eye Care Provider?
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
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Hyperopia (farsightedness)
- Macular degeneration
They can also help detect symptoms of other health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Where to Get Affordable Eye Care Services
For an affordable eye exam, you can see your local optometrist or an eye doctor in a large chain store, such as:
- Sam’s Club
- Costco Optical
- Target Optical
- Walmart Vision Center
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 to $150 for an established patient.
Common Questions and Answers
How can I get my eye prescription without insurance?
You can get an eye exam without insurance at places like Walmart, Sam's Club, and Costco. They work with licensed optometrists and provide cheaper rates on eye care, glasses, and contacts.
Can I do an eye exam online?
Yes, online eye exams are available. They are often cheaper and more convenient than in-office visits. However, online eye exams may take longer to complete than in-office exams.
What is the cheapest place to get an eye exam?
Sam's Club, Costco, Target, and America's Best are the cheapest places to get an eye exam.
How much is an eye exam without insurance at Visionworks?
Eye exam prices at Visionworks vary depending on your vision care provider and location. Call a local Visionworks store to determine pricing and schedule an eye exam.
How much is an eye exam without insurance at Walmart?
The average cost of an eye exam at Walmart is $79. A contact lens exam is $129.
How much is an eye exam at America's Best?
An eye exam at America's Best is $50 or free when you buy two pairs of eyeglasses.
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