How To Get Prescription Glasses Without Insurance

Need prescription glasses but don’t have vision insurance to help cover the cost? It can be a daunting and expensive process to get the eyewear you need, especially if you’re on your own for payment.

What if we told you your out-of-pocket cost for prescription glasses without insurance can be even cheaper than buying Rx glasses with insurance? Sound too good to be true? We’ll show you how.

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Online Retailers

One of the best ways to save on prescription glasses without insurance is to buy glasses online.

Ever wondered how online eyewear retailers can afford to offer such competitive prices? It’s called low overhead costs.

No brick-and-mortar stores to maintain equals big savings for you, the customer.

Perks of Buying Glasses Online

woman shopping for eyeglasses on laptop

Convenience is key here. Browse at your leisure, say goodbye to lines, and enjoy shopping from your couch.

Next up is variety. Online retailers often stock a more diverse range of styles and brands than local stores.

Savings is one of the main reasons to shop online. Even if you’re looking to buy a designer frame, you can often save a good chunk of change by purchasing a pair of Ray-Bans or Oakleys online than if you purchased them in-store.

Lastly, you have the advantage of customer reviews, giving you some real user info on whether the frame you’re interested in is any good or not.

Caveats to Keep in Mind

woman in glasses looking in mirror

Obviously, online shopping isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Without a physical try-on, you run the risk of fitting issues.

(Though some shops like Warby Parker and Liingo Eyewear offer free home try-ons before you buy.)

Some online retailers might charge shipping fees, adding to your cost. Also, don’t forget you need a valid prescription and your pupillary distance handy before clicking ‘buy’.

A Few Noteworthy Online Retailers

Here are a few popular online optical retailers you should consider:

  • Zenni Optical: Super affordable pricing (frames start at $6.95) with a very broad selection of styles.
  • Warby Parker: Stylish frames and a convenient home try-on program. They also have many retail locations where you can try on frames and get an eye exam.
  • EyeBuyDirect: Offers both budget and premium designer options.

Tips to Enhance Your Online Shopping Experience

pd on eyeglass prescription
Have Your Pupillary Distance (PD)
  1. Know (or Measure) Your Pupillary Distance: This ensures the optical center of your lenses align with your pupils for the clearest vision.
  2. Check Your Prescription: Keep it up-to-date. If it’s more than a year old or past the expiration date, get an eye check-up to make sure your prescription hasn’t changed.
  3. Shop Around And Crunch The Numbers: Don’t automatically assume you’ll pay more if you buy Rx glasses without vision insurance. You can often pay less out of pocket for a complete pair of Rx glasses from a retailer that offers economical frames and lens options than using insurance at one with inflated prices.

How To Measure Your PD

Independent Opticians and Eyeglass Stores

When figuring out how to save on Rx glasses, it’s easy to overlook independent opticians and eyeglass stores. But don’t!

Locally-owned businesses can be treasure troves offering unique benefits that can offset costs and provide personalized service.

The Personal Touch

Building a relationship with an independent optician often opens up opportunities for flexible pricing, special discounts, or payment plans.

Such personalized treatment is rarely found with larger chains or online retailers. You’d be surprised how many times a friendly chat can lead to a better deal!

Value for Money

glasses in display case

Did you know that local stores often stock high-quality frames in a lower price range? If you’re hunting for a bargain without compromising quality, your local optician might have just the thing for you.

A World of Unique Frames

One of the perks of independent eyeglass stores is the potential to find unique frames that have been discontinued or are from previous seasons.

It’s like finding that vintage piece at a thrift store – stylish, distinctive, and affordable.

Freebies and Savings

Some independent stores offer free adjustments and fittings – a simple service that adds to your savings in the long term. Imagine, no more extra costs every time your frames feel a bit loose!

Maximizing Savings – It’s All in the Approach

Here’s how to get the best deal from your local optical:

  • Ask About Discounts or Promotions: If you don’t see an advertised special or promo, ask if there are any discounts available. Many stores run seasonal promotions or discounts that can save you a fair bit.
  • Explore Payment Options: Discussing your payment options can often reveal flexible plans that fit your budget.
  • Long-Term Value: Look beyond the price tag. Consider the value of additional services like free fittings and adjustments.

Big Box Retail Stores

costco retail store

Next time you’re stocking up on household goods, why not swing by the eyewear section? Big box retail stores, with their vast inventory and bargaining power, often offer lower prices than traditional optical shops – especially on eye exams.

Benefits of Shopping at Retail Stores

One of the primary advantages of these retail giants is availability. Most areas in the U.S. have a Costco, Walmart, or Target within driving distance.

You can find some very decent, quality eyewear at affordable prices at these chain stores.

Additionally, they typically have an in-house or contract optical shop right in the store, making it a one-stop-shop for all your eyewear needs.

Drawbacks of Retail Stores

The selection of frames might be limited compared to specialized eyewear stores or online retailers. Plus, you may need to be a member if it’s a wholesale club to take advantage of discounted pricing.

How To Buy Glasses Online With Insurance

Big Box Eyewear – Who Offers What?

walmart store

Here are some familiar big box retailers you should consider for your next pair of prescription glasses:

  • Costco Optical: Known for quality products at great prices. You don’t even need a Costco membership to make an appointment with an optometrist (though you do if you want to buy glasses or contact lenses).
  • Walmart Vision Center: Their Vision Centers offer budget-friendly exams and a range of affordable frames and lenses.
  • Target Optical: Their in-store optical departments offer eyewear and eye exams at competitive prices. Plus they have plenty of designer brands too.
  • Sam’s Club: With a wide variety of affordable eyewear, Sam’s Club is another good wholesale retailer that offers eye exams and frames. Plus, you can save even more if you’re a Sam’s Club Plus Member.

Government Programs website

Besides the traditional retail and online channels, government programs can be a valuable resource for eligible individuals seeking free or low-cost eye exams and glasses.

Types of Government Programs

Here are a few programs that provide assistance with eyewear costs:

  1. Medicaid: A free or low-cost federal and state health insurance program, Medicaid covers eye exams, frames, and lenses for those 21 years of age or younger. Medically-necessary Rx glasses are usually covered for adults on Medicaid.
  2. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): CHIP provides health coverage to children, through both Medicaid and separate CHIP programs. This can often include benefits for eye exams and glasses.
  3. Veterans and Seniors Programs: Special programs and benefits exist for veterans and senior citizens, which can offer assistance with vision care.

Navigating Eligibility and Application

Eligibility for these programs varies. Generally, it depends on factors like your income level, age, military status, or whether you have disabilities.

The application process usually involves submitting an application form and providing supporting documentation.

How To Get Free Rx Glasses

Pros and Cons of Government Programs

While these programs can be a lifeline for those struggling with healthcare costs, they’re not without drawbacks.

Benefits vary by state and sometimes even by county, so it’s possible that not all eyecare services will be covered.

You may be limited to seeing a Medicaid-approved optometrist or ophthalmologist for care and there can also be long wait times for approval.

However, the possibility of free or low-cost eyecare may make it well worth exploring these options.

Tips to Get Started

If you’re considering these programs, here are a few steps to get started:

  • Check Your Eligibility: Websites like and provide detailed information about eligibility and benefits.
  • Contact Your Local Health Department: Your local health department can provide information about state-specific programs.
  • Prepare Your Paperwork: Gather any necessary paperwork, such as income verification and medical records, to expedite the application process.

Vision Programs and Charities

helping hands

If insurance or government programs aren’t viable options, you may still be in luck. Numerous vision programs and charities help low-income or uninsured individuals get free or low-cost eye exams and glasses.

Eligibility and Applications

Typically, these programs require that you meet specific income criteria, are uninsured, and haven’t had an eye exam in a certain number of years.

Again, the application process often involves filling out an application form and providing documentation to prove eligibility.

Pros and Cons

These charities can be a lifeline, offering affordability and accessibility to those who may not otherwise be able to afford eyewear.

However, they may have limited availability, lengthy waiting lists, and restrictions on choice and frequency of glasses.

Vision Programs and Charities to Explore

lions club international

There are several programs worth exploring:

  1. EyeCare America: Sponsored by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, they provide eye care through volunteer ophthalmologists at no cost to those who qualify.
  2. Lions Clubs International: This service organization often provides free or reduced-cost health services, including vision care, through local chapters.

Tips for Finding and Applying

To find these programs and apply:

  • Search Online: Websites such as provide information about various programs and how to apply.
  • Contact Local Organizations: Your local Lions Club can steer you in the right direction for more available resources.
  • Gather Your Documents: Prepare documents proving income level and insurance status, as these are usually required for the application process.

Negotiate Prices and Payment Plans

hands holding credit card and cellphone

Contrary to what you might think, eyecare isn’t always set in stone price-wise. It’s possible to negotiate prices with your eyecare provider if you’re on a budget.

If not, establishing a payment plan that you can handle can also help reduce the cost of eye exams and glasses at traditional optical shops.

What You Can Do

  • Ask for discounts or coupons: Many optical shops offer promotional discounts or have coupons available – all you have to do is ask!
  • Compare prices with competitors: If a competitor offers a lower price for the same product or service, mention it during your negotiation.
  • Request a breakdown of fees: This transparency can help you understand what you’re paying for and can be a starting point for negotiation.
  • Propose a payment plan that suits your budget: If upfront payment is burdensome, discuss a possible payment plan with your eyecare provider.
  • Get it in writing: Once you’ve successfully agreed upon a price or payment plan, make sure to get it in writing so there aren’t any surprise fees added on later.

Prescription Renewals

pair of glasses on prescription pad

In today’s digital age, obtaining or renewing your eyeglasses prescription has never been easier, thanks to innovative online tools.

Online Vision Tests allow you to take a virtual vision test and get an updated prescription without the need for an in-person eye exam.

Prescription Scanners are handy for telling you what your prescription strength is off of your current set of glasses if you’ve lost your script.

Online Vision Tests

If you’re looking to renew your glasses prescription, online vision tests from various retailers including Warby Parker,, or Lensabl can be a handy solution.

  • Benefits: You can take these tests from anywhere, saving you time and money. When used correctly, you can get an updated prescription within 24 hours that’s valid for ordering new glasses.
  • Drawbacks: While useful, these tests can’t detect changes in eye health or diagnose eye conditions. Also, they’re only good for prescription renewals, not first-time prescriptions.
  • Use Wisely: Follow the instructions carefully, perform the test on a quality device, in a well-lit and quiet space, and consult with a professional if in doubt.

Prescription Scanners

eyeglass prescription scanner

For those happy with their current glasses but unsure of the exact prescription, prescription scanners are impressive.

These online tools scan and analyze your current glasses to determine your prescription strength.

Best of all, it’s totally free! You can find out your prescription strength with GlassesUSA, Liingo Eyewear, or SmartBuyGlasses.

  • Benefits: They’re amazingly accurate when you need to order a new pair of glasses with your current Rx but don’t have your prescription handy.
  • Drawbacks: They only replicate existing single-vision prescriptions and you must meet certain eligibility requirements.
  • Use Wisely: These are great in a pinch for when you can’t contact your eye doctor or lost your prescription. You still need a valid prescription to order Rx glasses.