Wellness

How Much Does an Eye Exam Cost Without Insurance in 2021? 

Ashley Brooks08 Oct 2021

The cost of an eye exam can range between $50 to $250. The average cost is about but is about $95. An eye exam’s price depends on whether you are a new or returning patient, your location, and whether you go to a retail vision provider or local private optometrist. Eye exams are often more affordable at major retailers than local optometrists when paying out-of-pocket. 

Without insurance, paying out-of-pocket for an eye exam and eyeglasses can be costly, especially when you still have to pay out-of-pocket for your other preventative care. Mira provides an affordable health coverage option for as little as $45 per month on urgent care and preventive care services. With Mira, you also get up to 80 percent discounted rates on over 1,000 prescriptions. Sign up to start saving!

The Cost of an Eye Exam at Different Retailers

The cost of an eye exam is often less expensive at major retailers than at a local optometrist. You can expect to pay between $50 to $100 when visiting a retailer, compared to nearly $200 when opting for a private physician’s office. 

Below are the average costs of eye exams at vision centers and retailers across the country.

RetailerAverage Eye Exam Cost
Costco$70
Target$70
Walmart Vision Center$75+
Lenscrafters$73+
America’s Best$50 or free when buying two pairs of eyeglasses
Sam’sAmerica’s Club$45+

Source: VisionCenter.org

Additional Costs

According to the CDC, about 93 million adults in the United States are at high risk for severe vision loss, but only about half have visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months. For adults ages 40 years and older, the estimated economic impact of major vision problems is over $145 billion. Below are the average costs for standard additional vision services. 

Additional Costs When Getting an Eye Exam

ServicesCost without insurance
Contact Lens Exam$120-$180
Prescription Glasses$240
Contacts

Nearsighted: $200-$300 annually

Astigmatism: $500-$700 annually

LASIK surgery$2,246 per eye
Cataract surgery$3,500 - $7,000

Factors that Influence the Cost of Eye Exams

The cost of an eye exam will depend on factors such as whether you are a new or returning patient, the state or region you live in, and the type of clinic you visit.

New or Returning Patient

Whether you are a new or returning patient can impact the cost of your exam. On average, an exam costs about $200 without insurance for a new patient, while an established patient can expect to pay between $100-$150 without insurance.

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Location

Across the United States, the cost of an eye exam in the middle and southern regions was lower than in other parts of the country. Comprehensive eye exams in the Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest averaged $90 or less but were most expensive in the Northeast at about $112. You can also expect to pay more if you live in cities with higher costs of living at a private office.

Clinic

The wide range of the average cost of an eye exam ($50-$250) largely depends on the type of vision clinic you choose. You can expect to pay less than $100 for an eye exam at a retail or vision center. A private office visit averaged $128 for an eye exam but could be upwards of $250, depending on your location. 

Eye Exam Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below we have answered some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to understanding eye exams. 

What services are included in an eye exam?

An eye exam may take between 30 minutes to one hour. Based on the findings of the eye exam, your doctor may recommend whether you need vision correction by needing an eyeglass or contacts prescription or perhaps surgical intervention such as LASIK. The visits do not often include a fitting for eyeglasses or contacts, and surgery would require a separate meeting with a specialist. A basic eye exam will only evaluate the following:

  • The sharpness of your vision
  • Refractive errors for your eyeglass prescription
  • Peripheral vision
  • Pupillary reaction to light and close objects
  • Eye alignment
  • Muscular function
  • Ocular health

What are the most common reasons for visiting an optometrist?

According to Ophthalmologist and Oculoplastic Surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Chiang of Wealthy Mindset, the most common reason is when people can’t see well, usually because they need eyeglasses or have cataracts. Other common reasons include pain or irritation of the eye. Some people have diseases of the eye and need to have a regular follow-up for treatment and monitoring. People with diabetes are recommended to have an eye exam at least once a year to monitor diabetic retinopathy.

How often are eye exams recommended?

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends scheduling a baby’s first eye exam around six months of age. Dr. Chiang suggests children who don’t see well should have an eye exam every year. If good vision isn’t developed during childhood, someone may never have good vision; a condition called amblyopia. 

Dr. Chiang also recommends adults who wear contact lenses should be seen annually. Wearing contact lenses puts a patient at high risk for corneal infection. Adults who wear eyeglasses only (no contact lenses) can be seen every two years. Adults with no vision issues typically go for eye exams less often. You can follow these general guidelines for how often you should get an eye exam:

  • If there is a family history of eye disease, they should get eye exams depending on their family history.
  • Once someone reaches the age of 60 to 65, they should get an eye exam every year due to a higher incidence of glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
  • If someone has diabetes, they should have a dilated eye exam every year.

When should someone seek an optometrist vs. an ophthalmologist?

According to Dr. Chiang, if someone has healthy eyes other than wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, it is fine to see an optometrist. A person should see an optometrist if: 

  • If they have diabetes but no vision problems and no damage to their eyes from diabetes
  • You’re seeking annual monitoring (as long as the optometrist dilates their eyes for the exam)
  • A patient has mild cataracts and good vision

If someone has an eye condition or disease, especially one that requires treatment or possible surgery, they should probably see an ophthalmologist. Common eye diseases include glaucoma and macular degeneration. A person should visit an ophthalmologist if:

  • A patient has sudden change or loss of vision urgently
  • A patient got metal in their eye or another foreign body; they should see an ophthalmologist urgently

Are there programs that allow for savings or discounted rates on eye exams?

There are many ways to save on eye exams, especially for children of low-income families and seniors; read more to learn about the qualifications and general information.

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New Eyes

The not-for-profit organization New Eyes purchases new prescription eyeglasses for children and adults who cannot afford to purchase glasses on their own. To receive this benefit, you must apply, or a social services agency can apply on a client at a retail or vision centerYoulives behalf. Approved applicants must have an eyeglasses prescription dated from the last 24 months before approval. Additionally, this service covers a basic pair of single or lined bifocal glasses. Still, the organization states that those requesting upgrades such as tinted, progressive, or Transition lenses are beyond their scope.

Sight for Students

Vision Service Plan (VSP) offers Sight for Students gift certificates to provide free eye exams to youth and children up to 19 years of age with no-cost eye care and glasses. To be eligible, the child’s family must be at or below 200 percent the federal poverty level (FPL), have no vision care coverage through private insurance or government program and have not received care through VSP over the last 12 months. 

Through the VSP Eyes of Hope program, adults may be eligible for the same benefits and those impacted by disaster. VSP provides those with disaster relief Giftcards for no-cost eye care and replacement glasses should individuals have no vision insurance coverage or available benefits through existing vision insurance coverage that need eye care due to a disaster such as fire, hurricane, tornado, or flood.

InfantSEE

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends scheduling a baby’s first eye exam around six months of age. InfantSEE offers no-cost eye assessment for infants ages 6-12 months. InfantSEE, a public health program by Optometry Care (AOA), ensures that all families receive eye and vision care regardless of income or access to insurance coverage.

EyeCare America

EyeCare has partnered with over 5,500 volunteer ophthalmologists to provide over 2 million patients with eye care at little to no cost. They offer two programs, The Seniors Program and the Glaucoma Program. The Seniors program provides eligible seniors aged 65+ with a medical eye exam and one year of follow-up care for any conditions diagnosed during the initial exam. The Glaucoma program offers glaucoma eye exams to those eligible and uninsured.

Bottom Line

Millions of Americans with visual impairment do not seek vision care. The cost of an eye exam depends on whether you are a new patient, your location, and the clinic you choose. Without insurance, an eye exam can range between $50 to $250 but is often lower-cost when received from a retailer. Neither contact and eyeglasses fittings nor the eyeglasses or contact lenses themselves are included in the cost of a basic eye exam.