How Much Does an Eye Exam Cost? Exploring Costs With and Without Insurance

Routine eye exams are crucial for maintaining healthy vision, but the cost can vary based on your location, the type of exam, and whether you have vision insurance. In this guide, we’ll break down the cost of eye exams, explain how vision insurance works, and provide tips on finding affordable eye care.

Eye Exam Costs: What to Expect

  • Without Insurance: A standard eye exam can range from $50 to $250, depending on where you live and the type of exam.
  • With Insurance: Vision insurance can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket costs. You might pay a copay or deductible, but your plan could fully cover exams.

Types of Eye Exams

  • Basic Exam: Focuses on vision testing and assessing overall eye health.
  • Comprehensive Exam: Includes a broader range of tests to detect eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Why Regular Eye Exams Are Important

Eye exams not only determine if you need glasses or contacts, but they can also detect:

  • Common Eye Conditions: Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
  • Serious Health Issues: Glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
  • Underlying Health Problems: Diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.

Eye exams can also reveal signs of brain tumors, heart disease, high cholesterol, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disease.

Read: 20 Surprising Health Problems an Eye Exam Can Catch

When Should You Get an Eye Exam?

The frequency of eye exams depends on your age:

  • Ages 0-2: Once between 6-12 months.
  • Ages 3-5: Once.
  • Ages 6-17: Annually.
  • Ages 18-64: Every 1-2 years (annually for at-risk patients).
  • Ages 65+: Annually.

Affordable Eye Exams at Retail Chains

Many retail chains offer convenient and affordable eye exams. Here are some cost ranges:

  • America’s Best: $69
  • Costco: $70+
  • Lenscrafters: $79
  • Pearle Vision: $50-$200
  • Target: $70-$100
  • Visionworks: $75+
  • Walmart: $75+

These chains accept major vision insurance plans, allowing you to use your benefits to reduce exam costs. Most also offer optical departments where you can purchase glasses or contacts.

Understanding Vision Insurance

Vision insurance is separate from health insurance and focuses on eye care. It usually requires a monthly premium and may involve copays for exams or glasses. Plans often cover:

  • Eye Exams: Routine exams are typically covered partially or entirely.
  • Eyewear: Discounts on glasses, contacts, and lens treatments.
  • Allowances: A set amount for eyewear each year.
  • Corrective Surgeries: Discounted rates on procedures like LASIK.

Who Should Consider Vision Insurance?

  • Those with a History of Eye Problems: It can make corrective lenses more affordable.
  • Screen Workers: Regular exams can monitor eye health and reduce strain.
  • Older Adults: Annual exams are recommended for those aged 65 and over.

How to Enroll in Vision Insurance

  • Through Employers: Check with your HR department for available plans.
  • Marketplace Plans: Some health insurance plans include vision benefits.
  • Individual Plans: Shop around for stand-alone vision insurance options.

Managing Eye Exam and Vision Health Costs

Here are some strategies to keep eye care costs manageable:

  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs): Use pre-tax dollars for eligible eye care expenses.
  • Medicaid: Coverage may be available for low-income individuals and families.
  • Discounts: Look for offers from vision insurance plans, AARP, or student organizations.
  • Price Comparison: Compare quotes from different optometrists and retailers.
  • Local Health Clinics: Consider free or low-cost screenings from charities or student clinics.


Regular eye exams are essential for maintaining good vision and detecting potential problems early. By exploring vision insurance and utilizing cost-saving strategies, you can protect your sight without breaking the bank. Prioritize regular eye exams to safeguard your vision throughout your life.