How Much Does an Eye Exam Cost?

It happens to the best of us. You get a little older and you just can’t see as well as you used to. Maybe it’s when you’re reading. Maybe it’s when you’re driving. Maybe it’s looking at things that are far away.

It’s a sad fact of life that our bodies break down and decay, and our eyes are no exception to this rule. So if you need to get your eyes checked out in preparation for glasses, here’s the skinny on what it’s going to set you back and how you can pay for it.

The Cost of an Eye Exam Varies Widely

One thing that sets eye exams apart from other kinds of medical care is that the eye exam price — just the exam — varies quite widely from the low end to the high end. You might pay $50, you might pay over $300. The main difference is whether you live in a big city — where you’ll pay more — or a small town, where you’re going to pay less.

What’s more, your first exam is going to cost a lot more than your 10th. A first exam is going to average in the mid-$200 range. Once you’ve been going to the same eye doctor for a while, though, you’re probably going to pay about half that. A refractive vision exam comes in at a fraction of that cost.

What About Vision Insurance?

If you have vision insurance, of course, your out-of-pocket cost will be much lower than if you don’t. If you have this coverage through your employer, then congrats. Go ahead and look up what your policy covers, how often it covers it, and what you’re going to shell out for an eye exam.

If you don’t have vision insurance through your employer, then you might want to purchase it yourself. That’s going to cost you somewhere between $10 and $25 a month, but the company will probably want you to pay for the entire year up front. What that means is that if you’re a young, healthy person with good eyesight, you’re probably better off just paying for your eye exam out of pocket and not worrying about vision insurance.

Older people and children need more attentive care for their eyes, however, with check-ups every year at the very least. So if you have children — especially if that “children” is actually a plural — vision insurance can make sense. Shop around to compare prices and policies, and see what kind of coverage you’re going to get, dollar for dollar.

How to Save for an Eye Exam

Vision USA provides free eye exams for people who are low income. Other than that, your best bet is just to price shop around and see who’s offering the lowest price. You might be able to get a deal on an eye exam through a social shopping website like Groupon or LivingSocial.

Like a lot of preventative health care, the cost of getting your eyes checked today will be a lot less than waiting until a huge problem develops. If you think you need an eye exam, you probably do, so go ahead and get one.

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Nicholas Pell

Contributing Writer

Nicholas Pell is a freelance personal finance writer specializing in student loans, consumer credit and living a champagne life on a Kool-Aid budget. In addition to The Simple Dollar, he’s written for Business Insider, Fox Business, WiseBread and MainStreet.