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Save big on eyewear

You can find deep discounts if you know how to shop

Consumer Reports magazine: August 2013

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If you’re like many of our readers, you’re buying prescription glasses from your eye doctor’s office or an independent shop, and you’re happy with the results.

But you’re probably paying much more than you would if you comparison shopped at different types of eyewear stores, including discounters such as Costco and online retailers. Doing just that, we were able to shave more than 40 percent off the prices of frames and lenses. And that’s good news considering that a pair of eyeglasses with just basic prescription lenses can cost you hundreds.

The almost 19,500 readers who responded to a recent Consumer Reports survey spent a median of $244 out-of-pocket on their last pair of prescription specs. Perhaps not surprisingly, they gave one of the least expensive retailers the highest overall satisfaction score among chains and other discounters; that retailer's score was on a par with independent shops and doctors’ offices.

One reason glasses cost a lot is they are part fashion accessory. You may even think paying more will improve not just the view you’ll see but the image you’ll project. And there are so many choices for lenses and coatings, it’s easy to be confused about what’s worth buying.

It doesn’t help that the industry is dominated by just a couple of players, including Italy-based Luxottica, which owns LensCrafters and Pearl Vision, the vision centers at Sears and Target, and vision insurance provider EyeMed. It also licenses many popular eyewear brands and owns Ray-Ban, Oakley, and others.

Another is California-based VSP Global, which owns, among other eyewear-­related enterprises, VSP Vision Care, the nation’s largest vision insurance plan; and Marchon Eyewear, producer of eyewear labels such as Calvin Klein, Fendi, and Flexon.

The best place to shop depends on your needs and preferences. Check our eyeglass store Ratings (available to subscribers) for more details.

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