Updated on  April 29, 2024
7 min read

What You Need to Know: Eye Exam Costs and Financing Options

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Overview of Eye Exam Costs and Options 

Without vision insurance, the average cost of an eye exam is about $75 to $200. However, the cost of eye exams can cost more or less depending 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$70-$100
Target Optical$70-$100
Walmart Vision Center$75+
America’s Best$50 or free when you buy two pairs of eyeglasses
Sam’s Club$45+

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 comprehensive eye exams, 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. If you need a contact lens prescription, you’ll have to schedule an exam; 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 convenient 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
  • Allergies
  • Medications

2. Performing an 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 is 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 or vision savings plans are a budget-friendly alternative to vision insurance plans. It offers discounts on vision services and costs less per year than vision insurance, which ranges from $5-$35 a month. However, you may pay more out-of-pocket for eye care visits and corrective glasses or contacts.

The overall cost of a discount plan depends on the following factors:

  • The level of coverage you want
  • The number of family members you want to include
  • The amount of the discount
  • Whether you want an individual or group plan.

Purchasing a membership from Careington will help you save on eye exams, frames, and more. Eye care providers who have signed up as network participants will provide discounted fees for their services.

The discount plan can also help reduce the fee for basic vision care services. Some plans can cover elective vision correction surgeries as well.

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

Free Eye Exams (Ways to Save)

Several public and private organizations 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

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 offering low-income individuals healthcare coverage. 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

New Eyes purchase 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
  • Astigmatism
  • Myopia (nearsightedness)
  • Hyperopia (farsightedness)
  • Macular degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma

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.

You can also opt for online eye exams. They are often cheaper and more convenient than in-office visits. However, online eye exams may take longer to complete than in-office exams.

Updated on  April 29, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on  April 29, 2024
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats – Health Insurance Coverage.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.
  2. Sreelatha et al. “Teleophthalmology: improving patient outcomes?.” Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.), 2016.
  3. Find out What Marketplace Health Insurance Plans Cover.” Healthcare.gov, n.d.
  4. Get Free or Low-Cost Eye Care.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2022.
  5. EyeCare America.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, n.d.
  6. Vision Coverage.”Healthcare.gov, n.d.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.