When browsing for contact lenses online, you may notice that they vary greatly in price. Many factors affect the cost of contact lenses, including the type of lens you need, how often you should replace them, and where you buy them.
This article will cover the many factors that affect contact lens costs to help you figure out what you are likely to pay when buying different types and brands of contacts. It will also provide tips on how to get the best deals when shopping for lenses.
Factors That Affect the Cost of Contact Lenses
Contact lenses can cost anywhere from $185 to $335 per year, according to Vision Center. But that is just the average price of common prescription contacts. In reality, total contact lens costs vary and are rarely straightforward because of the following factors:
1. Wearing schedules
Contact lenses are designed to be removed and replaced regularly to prevent deposit buildup that would otherwise cause irritation and increase your risk for eye infections. Contact lens wearing schedules are classified in the following ways:
- Daily wear – Daily-wear contacts are designed for use while awake and removed before sleep. Depending on the material, daily-wear contacts are categorized into daily, bi-weekly, and monthly replacement schedules.
- Extended wear – Extended wear contacts are FDA-approved for up to six nights of overnight wear before removal, with one night of rest without contacts in between pairs.
- Daily disposable – Daily disposable contacts are used once and then discarded, but some eye care professionals (ECPs) call any lens used for a month or less “disposable.” To avoid confusion, some manufacturers add “one-day” to the name of their daily disposable lenses.
- Frequent or planned replacement – These include bi-weekly contact lenses (replaced every two weeks) and monthly contact lenses (replaced every month).
How often you replace your contact lenses will affect your total contact lens cost. You can buy a box of daily disposable contact lenses for roughly $50. It may seem cheap, but it only lasts a month, and therefore, you have to spend $600 for a year’s supply.
2. Lens material
Lens materials also affect total contact lens cost. These materials include:
- Hydrogel – Hydrogel is a thin and pliable material that conforms to the shape of the eye. Contact lenses made of hydrogel are comfortable, durable, and easy to handle.
- Silicone hydrogel – Silicone hydrogel is a polymer containing hydrogel and silicone. Silicone is a gel-like polymer with a high degree of flexibility, making it a superb material for contact lenses. Like hydrogel, silicone hydrogel contains water and is more breathable than hydrogel.
- Gas-permeable compounds – Rigid gas-permeable (RGP) contact lenses are made of silicone-containing compounds that are gas-permeable. This means they allow plenty of oxygen to reach the eye’s surface. RGP contact lenses are more permeable to oxygen than many soft contacts, including silicone hydrogel lenses.
Generally speaking, silicone hydrogel lenses are more expensive than hydrogel ones because of their high breathability. However, RGP lenses are even more costly than silicone hydrogel lenses per lens, as each RGP lens can cost upwards of $100. That said, RGP lenses can be worn daily for at least one year before they need to be replaced, provided that they are removed, cleaned, and stored properly.
3. Refractive errors
Contact lenses that are specifically designed to correct refractive errors, such as toric lenses and multifocal lenses, cost more than regular contact lenses.
Toric lenses correct astigmatism — an imperfection in the curvature of the eye that causes blurred vision. Toric lenses work by focusing on different parts of the lens to correct the nearsightedness (blurry distance vision) or farsightedness (blurry near vision) that often occurs with astigmatism. Most toric lenses also have a design feature that keeps them in place all day. All of these features make toric lenses more expensive than regular contacts.
Moreover, it generally takes more expertise for an ECP to fit a patient for toric lenses than regular contacts. For this reason, a toric contact lens fitting may cost more than a standard contact lens fitting.
Multifocal lenses, on the other hand, correct presbyopia — an age-related eye condition that makes nearby objects appear blurry. Multifocal lenses cost more than regular lenses because they have multiple focusing powers. These focusing powers allow you to switch between looking at objects near and far without having to remove or wear eyeglasses. However, as is the case with a toric lens fitting, a multifocal lens fitting may also cost more than a regular lens fitting.
During a lens fitting, your ECP will recommend a specific contact lens brand. They base their opinion on what they learn about your eyes and their professional opinion about which contact lenses best meet your needs.
However, many top contact lens brands, such as Acuvue, Air Optix, and Biofinity, are expensive. Do not be afraid to ask your ECP for a less expensive brand recommendation during your lens fitting.
5. Where you buy contact lenses
Where you buy your contact lenses will affect your total lens cost. Many contact lens manufacturers offer rebates for purchases made through online stores, such as Lens.com. Popular brands with rebate offers include Acuvue, Dailies, and Air Optix.
Online retailers like Lens.com can offer high rebates by ordering stock in bulk and avoiding the overhead associated with brick-and-mortar stores. Note that online retailers still require a copy of your contact lens prescription before processing your order. Ask your ECP for a copy of your contact lens prescription. They are required to provide it immediately after your fitting.
6. Special features
Special features, such as tints and ultraviolet (UV) protection, can also raise the cost of contact lenses. Expect to pay more for lenses that enhance the color of your iris (color enhancement lenses) and lenses that change your eye color completely (opaque lenses).
Some contact lenses are formulated to reduce your risk of developing contact lens-related dry eye symptoms. These lenses may cost more than regular lenses if they feature new technologies and/or materials that ensure a comfortable lens-wearing experience.
Other Factors to Consider
Besides the cost of the actual lenses, there are other costs to consider. These include:
- Comprehensive Eye Exam Fee – A comprehensive eye exam evaluates your vision to determine the proper eyewear and prescription for your needs. Every ECP sets their own fees for eye exams, but the average price of a standard eye exam is $95. You can save money on routine eye exams by opting for cheap online vision tests. Most of these tests can be completed in 10 minutes or less, and you can do so in the comfort of your home. However, online vision tests are not intended to replace comprehensive, in-office ones with an ECP.
- Contact Lens Fitting Fee – A contact lens fitting is performed during an in-office eye exam with an ECP. Since this is a specialized service, an additional fee is required. As with eye exams, every ECP determines their own lens fitting fees.
- Contact Lens Solution – Regardless of the type of contacts, you will need to buy lens solutions to clean your lenses. Your annual cost for lens solutions will vary depending on the replacement schedule of your lenses.
Many health insurance plans include vision care that covers the cost of routine eye exams and contact lens fitting fees. Typically, the eye exam and contact lens fitting fee are covered or require a small copay, while your materials allowance can help cover or defray the cost of contact lenses.
Before you make an appointment with your ECP, understand your health insurance coverage to know what services to request. You can also check with your employer or vision insurance provider to learn more about your coverage.
When buying contact lenses, factors like type, replacement schedule, and insurance affect the cost. Contact lenses that last months to a year may be cheaper in the long run, but they also require regular cleaning using a contact lens solution. On the other hand, daily disposable contact lenses cost more annually but may be a better option if you are looking for convenience. What’s more, your vision insurance plan can affect your out-of-pocket expense.
Ultimately, the best way to determine the cost of contact lenses that suit your eye health needs and lifestyle is to consult your ECP when you get a comprehensive eye exam or a contact lens fitting.
At Lens.com, we understand that contacts can be expensive, which is why we offer rebates for both six-month-supply and year-supply orders. Choose from a variety of our high-quality lenses and enjoy hassle-free returns, quick shipping, and a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee.