no insurance? Here’s How to Get Cheap or Free Eye Exams and Prescription Glasses

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Eye exams and prescription glasses are often surprisingly expensive, especially if you don’t have insurance. Fortunately, there are alternatives for people who are concerned about cost. If you’re looking for ways to get cheap or free eye exams and prescription glasses, here are some options to explore.

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Explore Programs for Low Income Individuals

There are several national programs that help low-income individuals and families get important eye care, including free or low-cost exams and prescription glasses. EyeCare America specifically targets people who are at least 65 years old and at high risk of developing glaucoma. While they don’t offer glasses, it’s a simple way to get a free eye exam if you qualify.

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Vision USA helps connect low-income individuals with providers who will perform free eye exams for them. The program may also provide glasses, though it depends on your state. Lions Clubs International is another resource that does a similar job, which makes it worth exploring.

There are also programs that require referrals. New Eyes requires a referral from an eye care provider, social worker, or similar professional, but can provide free glasses (not an exam) if you qualify. OneSight’s Onsite Voucher Program requires a referral from an approved nonprofit, and once you have the referral letter, you can get free glasses from participating eyeglass stores. The VSP Global Site for Students focuses on children from low-income families and usually requires a referral from an appropriate school or community organization.

Find placements in optometry schools

Optometry schools require individuals to come in for appointments so that students have the opportunity to learn and grow while pursuing their optometry degree. Often, these appointments cost less, and some may even offer free eye exams to eligible individuals.

While a student will conduct the test, their work will be overseen by a licensed professional. As a result, you can expect high quality care. Just be aware that these placements tend to last longer than traditional placements, as the instructional element of working with students can slow down the process a bit.

Typically, these programs will not have arrangements to provide you with glasses. However, you will get a copy of your prescription, and you can use this to buy glasses from any suitable source, including many low-cost providers.

low cost eye exam center

Some retail eye exam centers are known for their low prices. Often, the total cost of an eye exam and glasses is much less than what you would find in traditional optometry offices.

A prime example is America’s Best, which offers flat-rate eye exams or deals — such as a free eye exam and two pairs of glasses for a specified, low price — that are more than what you’d spend in many other places. There are very few. Eyecare America is another option, as well as Target Optical and Walmart Vision Center.

Costco Optical Centers are another excellent resource. While you need to be a Costco member to buy glasses there, the savings are worthwhile if you already have a Costco card. You don’t even need to be a member to get an eye test, and the cost is usually very low.

Discount Online Eyeglass Retailers

If you get a free or low-cost eye exam and need glasses, there are many discount online eyeglass retailers that can help you pay less for prescription glasses. EyeBuyDirect, ZenniOptical, Pair Eyewear, Warby Parker, and GlassesUSA are all examples of online retailers in this area.

Usually, you can try on glasses virtually by uploading a photo of yourself, which helps you see what the glasses will look like before you buy. Some even have home try-on programs that allow you to try on frames (without prescription lenses) to make sure they fit and look good.

It’s important to note that the advertised cost at these retailers usually only includes the basic lenses. If you need specialty lenses like bifocals, or have a higher prescription strength, expect the price to go up a bit. Still, they often beat out many optometry offices, so it’s worth the search.


Do you know of any other ways that someone can get cheap or free eye exams and prescription glasses? Have you used any of the above options and want to tell others about your experience? Have you put off getting new glasses because of the cost? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Tamila McDonald'sTamila McDonald’s

Tamila McDonald has served as a financial advisor to the military for the past 13 years. He has taught personal finance classes on everything from credit to life insurance, as well as other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients meet their short term and long term financial goals.

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