- Vision & Eye Care
How to Buy Contact Lenses for Cheap
You Can Buy Contact Lenses Online
Many people are surprised to find out that you don't have to buy your contacts and glasses through your eye doctor. There are alternative, trustworthy ways to buy your contact lenses, and they don't require a whole lot of internet savvy or adept coupon clipping. Once you have your prescription from your optometrist, you can buy contacts directly from online stores, often for steep discounts.
What You Need
- Your vision prescription that is less than two years old (this should include the base curve, the diameter, power, cylinder, and axis--more on this below)
- A credit card
What You Don't Need
- A lot of knowledge about vision and eye care
- Permission from your eye doctor
How to Get Started
When you start your contact lens search, it's a good idea to have your prescription in hand. You'll need to provide the information that they normally provide at the doctor's office. That information includes:
- base curve (BCR, BC, or BCOR): the measurement of the shape of the lens (usually a number between 8.0 and 10.0)
- the diameter: this is your corneal size
- power: the measurement related to 20/20 (it should have a plus or minus in front of it); this could be different for both eyes
- cylinder: you will only have a number here if you have an astigmatism
- axis: if you have an astigmatism, you will need this number
- eye doctor's name and phone number
You'll also want to decide whether you want a year-long supply (24 boxes) or a six-month supply (12 boxes). A year's supply can be cheaper in the long run, offering discounts for buying more at once. However, a six-month supply is a lower purchase price right now and can give you the option of trying out different kinds to find your favorite.
Sometimes, you may not want to make this decision until you see the actual purchase prices, including rebate options. Rebates can often make it easier to by a year's supply at once, and may not be available on the six-month supply. Usually, the rebates come directly from the manufacturer and are often applied at the time of purchase.
Where to Buy Contacts Online
Now that you know a little bit more about the process of buying your contacts online, you'll want to check out a few sites. If you have time to shop around, you'll probably find a variation in price. Some of these sites offer great deals to first-time buyers as well, so keep an eye out for coupon codes and incentives to choose one site over another.
- Pharmacies often offer online contact lens purchases. You can buy your contacts online from CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart pharmacies. A lot of these larger retailers bought smaller contact retailers, bringing the knowledge of contact lenses to the larger retailer. However, I'm not sure whether it benefits the consumer much. VisionDirect.com was my personal favorite online contact lens retailer. They've now been bought by Walgreens. I consistently found the lowest price at VisionDirect for my 12-month supply of Acuvue Oasys, but they're not as cheap on the Walgreens site. However, they have a wide variety and an easy-to-use website.
- Online glasses retailers, such as GlassesUSA, often offer contact lenses as well. GlassesUSA is really big on coupons and discounts, and they often have huge sales around various holidays.
- Lens.com is another popular online retailer of contact lenses. You can get several brands on here, and their customer service is ready to help. They offer low prices and manufacturer rebates. Pay close attention to the cost per box on their site, as the way it is described can vary.
- 1800contacts.com is a larger retailer of contacts. They probably have the largest selection but the prices seem to be generally a little bit higher. However, you can renew your prescription online if you're fairly certain it hasn't changed and don't want to pay for the visit to your eye doc.
A Few Notes Before You Buy
Even though you can buy your contacts independently, you need information from your eye doctor. If it is your first time getting contacts, it may be best to buy at least your first six month supply through her or him, especially if you're not sure how often you want to change them.
If you don't know which kind you like, you'll want to ask your doctor for suggestions to help you pick out what type of contacts fit your lifestyle and budget. Once you know what type you want, or if you want to narrow it down a little more, you can find more information about each type from a retailer website or directly from the manufacturer.
Buying your contact lenses through your eye doctor isn't always as expensive because a manufacturer's rebate may be available. If you do choose to go this route, fill out the rebate as soon as you have the paperwork in hand! They're very easy to forget and often require a little extra paperwork.
Overview of Contact Lens Brands and Types
When you're deciding what contacts to get, you need to decide which brand you want, how often you want to change them, and what you want them to feel like. Your doctor will tell you if you need a special kind for astigmatism or another vision problem. Below are a few popular brands and types of contacts to give you an idea of some of the options that are out there.
- Bausch & Lomb have several types of contacts, including:
- 2 Week
- SofLens Dailies
- Acuvue is a contact lens brand owned by Johnson & Johnson. They have several types of contacts, including:
- Acuvue Oasys
- Acuvue 2
- 1-Day Acuvue
- Acuvue Advance
- CIBA Vision makes the popular FreshLook color contact lenses and DAILIES disposable contact lenses. They are a division of Novartis AG. You cannot buy the contacts directly from their website. They do, however, have a helpful search engine to help you decide which DAILIES contact lenses are right for you. Their selection includes:
- Air Optix
- Focus Dailies
- Cooper Vision specializes in problem prescriptions. If you have a very specific need, Cooper Vision contacts may be right for you. You can read about each type of contact they offer on their website, but you cannot buy them directly. Many of the retailers above carry Cooper Vision contacts. Their selection includes:
- Frequency 55
Helpful Links for Making Your Contact Lens Decision
- FAQ: Types of Contact Lenses, Wearing Contact Lenses, Contact Lens Safety and More - AllAboutVision.
Frequently asked questions about contact lenses, including disposable and extended wear contacts and where to buy contact lenses.
- Types of Contact Lenses
Types of Contact Lenses - info from the FDA