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Cheap Eye Glasses & Eye Exams

Our top picks for getting a great deal on glasses & exams in the Bay Area even if you don’t have insurance.
By - posted 1/25/2011 One Comment

If you’ve been wearing glasses a while, you’re probably used to plunking down $300 every few years to get a new pair. It seems inevitable and, hey, you can’t go without them.

Heck, sometimes you need glasses and you don’t even know it. In that case you may not feel inclined to throw down hundreds of dollars for driving glasses. That’s where we come in with the secret: online glass shops that sell prescription glasses for as low as 10 bucks. And these aren’t your Walgreens throw-aways. These are glasses no one will know aren’t designers. Read on.

[ Gone are the days you have to drop $300 for glasses thanks to these online companies ]

There’s a number of these but one of the best is ZenniOptical.com, a San Rafael company that makes its own frames and lenses but only does business online. That means that instead of paying $200-$300 for designer glasses you’re paying $10-$30 for frames and glasses mailed to your house. They have close to 3,000 styles to choose from and they look good and fashionable and are so affordable you can buy 2 or 3 pairs and switch around. When we say fashionable, we mean that after buying a pair you start to look at your buddy with the pricey Gucci glasses and you sorta feel sorry for them.

Okay but you’re still buying glasses without trying them on. Luckily, they recently upgraded the Zenni website so you can upload a pic of yourself and “try on” glasses online. Now, of course it means you have to already have your prescription and you’ll need to know something called the pupillary distance (PD) handy and that’s often something the ophthalmologists don’t write. Don’t have it?  Have a friend or family member measure it by holding a ruler just below your eyes and measure the distance in millimeters from center to center. Easy.

– VISIT THEIR SITE: the local Zenni Optical but also EyeBuyDirect and JustEyeWear.

[ Before you get glasses, you need a prescription and we found the big-box retailers are the cheapest ]

If you’re going to get glasses, you have to get a new prescription about every two years. Without insurance, most private optometrist charge around $75 for an eye exam. Lenscrafters has a deal where they refund your $55 eye exam toward the prescription lenses you buy from them and that’s not cheap.

The only thing left is the big-box guys. We shopped around and Walmart’s Vision Center in San Leandro charges $58, Sears Optical in Oakland costs $55 but Costco Optical in San Francisco takes the cake at $49 with no membership needed. Just tell the Costco card checker at the store entrance you’re going to the eye department and they’ll wave you right in. Now, not all Walmarts and Sears have vision centers but all Costcos do and the deal’s the same.

– BIG-BOX RETAILERS: Costco Optical at 450 10th St in SF, Sears Optical at 1955 Broadway in Oakland & Walmart Vision Center at 1919 Davis St in San Leandro, CA

Know any good deals on eyecare or prescription glasses?
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