If you’ve got problems with your eyesight it can be frustrating to have to fork out for regular eye tests, glasses and contact lenses, especially when there are so many different opticians on the high street. Don’t panic! We’ve rounded up the best websites where you can get bargain-basement prices for the same frames you’d get on the high street. All you need to know is your optical prescription.
- Get your eyes tested for less
- Try on lots of frames for free
- Find and order glasses online
- Returning them
- Get more help with the cost
- Consider contact lenses
First of all, find out if you’re entitled to a free eye test. The NHS website lists those who are eligible.
Otherwise, eye tests can be quite pricey – between £20 and £30 – but there are often deals to be had.
- Tesco instore opticians offer sight tests absolutely free.
- Vision Express are offering half-price eye test vouchers on their website, along with a 10% discount on prescription glasses. All you have to do is fill in your details and they’ll email you the voucher which you can then print off and take with you to the appointment.
To buy any glasses online you’ll need to have an up-to-date prescription (not more than two years old). You must make sure that the prescription includes:
- Sphere: The strength of the lens (plus for long-sightedness, minus for short-sightedness).
- Pupillary distance: This is the horizontal distance between your pupils measured in millimetres. You can have a go at measuring this yourself (as a guide, the average is between 60mm and 66mm), but it’s important that you look through the centre of your lenses and so you have to be accurate.
- Cylinder: This is your astigmatism correction. Not everyone has astigmatism (when the eye is slightly rugby ball-shaped) so leave this blank if you don’t.
- Axis: This corrects an astigmatism. Again, if you don’t have an astigmatism, you don’t need this measurement.
Whilst you’re getting your eye test, you might as well profit from free advice on frames. The optician will tell you which frames would suit your face shape and then will help you pick out ones they recommend. Try on as many as you need to get a good idea of the shape (rectangular/circular) and the style (metal/plastic/rimless) that suit you.
This will help make your online choice more informed. Sometimes, even though we want them to, frames we like just don’t like us, so it’s good to have an idea before buying. Alternatively, if you want a pair of designer frames, note down the model name and number of any that take your fancy at the opticians and then you can search for them online to get them much cheaper.
There are loads of websites to get cheap glasses from. Here are a few of the best for glasses online:
- Go to Glasses Direct, which has a good range of designer and non-designer frames. They have 2-for-1 offers for £55 including some designer frames.
- Goggles4u is not for you if you’re after designer specs, but it really does have some brilliant styles starting at just £1.99 including delivery. So if you’re not fussy about brands, you could get a great deal.
- Spex4less has a good range of designer and other glasses. The great thing about them is that they offer an unbeatable guarantee to refund or exchange your glasses if you don’t like them for any reason (even if you’re not keen on the colour). All their glasses have a 12-month warranty for defects and breakages which also covers the lenses.
- Selectspecs is great as it gives you thin and light lenses, anti-reflection, UV 400 and scratch resistance all for free. That means that you can get a very swish pair of designer glasses for under £55 and a pair of budget but good-quality glasses from £6.
- There are others to check out, including PerfectSpecs, Glasses2you, Designer Glasses and SpecsOnTheNet. Remember to shop around and check out all prices for extra coatings, glasses cases and shipping.
Are there any lenses that you shouldn’t get online?
The only lenses that are really complicated to fit are varifocals. Because of this, some websites do not even offer them, probably because there’s a potential for lots of returns.
If you do have to get varifocals, a way to save money would be to buy the frames you want online and then just get the lenses fitted at the opticians. Although these kinds of lenses can be expensive, at least you don’t run the risk of paying for a pair of glasses that you can’t return or use.
The best deal for designer glasses
Although there are great deals to be had online, some of the high-end designer glasses are in excess of £150 even when discounted. If you’re going to spend this much, it would be worthwhile to first check whether you can get the pair you want as part of one of the high street 2-for-1 deals.
Specsavers currently has a 2-for-1 deal on designer specs including French Connection, Tommy Hilfiger and Gok Wan.This means you can get two pairs of the same designer glasses (not one pair and then another from the premium own brand range), and your second pair has the same lenses as the first even if you have picked the most expensive lenses and added all the extras. This means that you could effectively get the pair of designer glasses you want and then another one on top for the price you pay on the internet.
The advantages of getting glasses on the high street are that they are fitted for you and can be adjusted once they’re assembled. However, you should do a quick search on the internet and see whether buying them online or going for the deal is going to suit you best.
You’ve got to be careful when ordering glasses online because if you make any mistakes with your prescription you often won’t be able to get a refund. If you have any questions about your prescription it’s best to contact the site you want to buy from directly and they should be able to help you out.
Check the refund policy of the site before you buy the glasses – some will be happy to give you a refund as long as you return the glasses within the designated time, whereas others will only refund you if they have made a mistake.
Spex4less are great if you’re worried about whether you might need to return your glasses. They offer an incredible guarantee allowing you to return or exchange your glasses even if you just decide you don’t like the colour, or if you simply change your mind.
To ensure a good fit, check the frame dimensions online and try and get the same dimensions as an old pair of glasses that fitted really well. On the inside arm of your current glasses you should be able to find a pair of two digit numbers, the first number represents the width of the lens and the second the width of the bridge, use these as a guideline.
If you want a really good fit, you can always get your glasses online and then take them to a high-street optician for the final fitting.
On the NHS
NHS vouchers also help some people get money off their glasses. If you’re under 16, under 19 and in full-time education or over 60 you’ll be eligible for vouchers. You can also get vouchers if:
- You or your partner are on benefits
- You have an HC2/HC3 low income certificate
- You’re entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- You have complex lenses.
A lot of the websites are now accepting these vouchers, so you’ll still be able to get online bargains using them.
With a health cash plan
If your family suffers from poor sight or you really want a hot-shot pair of designer specs but you just don’t have the money, a health cash plan will give you an annual contribution towards your optical costs.
This won’t cover the whole cost of a pair of designer glasses, but it’ll certainly contribute a big chunk to it and you also get dental care and contributions towards other preventative health care costs for as little as £6 a month. Want more info? See our full article on health cash plans.
If you’re one of the many people who want to avoid wearing glasses and so put up with having poor vision, contact lenses could be for you. After a little initial discomfort when first starting to use them, you’ll forget they’re even there and inserting and taking them out will become second nature.
If you wear monthly or daily contact lenses and you’re buying them from an optician on the high street, it’s likely you’re paying far more than you need to. There are ways to buy cheap contact lenses online.
GetLenses sells all the leading contact lenses including Focus Dailies, 1-Day Acuvue Moist, coloured contact lenses and loads more, for a fraction of the high-street price – meaning you can make enormous savings of over £145 a year.
Boots Opticians has launched its not-to-be-missed Contact Lens Reward Scheme. Members receive 10% off Boots-branded products across their health and beauty range. You’ll get free delivery every three months on most lens types, plus inclusive eye tests. Even contact lens wearers need specs sometimes and with the Reward Scheme you’ll also get a whopping 50% off glasses!
AC Lens promise that you can save up to 70% on their wide range of lenses, and they also offer glasses and accessories. While you’re working out what you’ll do with all the money you’re saving, they’ll have your lenses winging their way to you within seven to 10 days.
Lenstore sells the big-brand contact lenses and also has an option for next-day delivery if you need them in a hurry. Customers of Lenstore also benefit from the support and advice of their in-house optician.