Eye-opening tips to know about frames when buying glasses

It can be fun picking out a new pair of glasses, and a locally-based consumers’ group wants you to know that you don’t have to spend a fortune on frames to get a good quality pair.

“Price points, the big price differences, they’re just kind of window dressing,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at Consumers’ Checkbook.

Brasler said it’s not unusual to find a pair of frames you like for $600 and another, near-identical pair for hundreds of dollars less.

“They might actually be almost exactly the same,” he said. “Designer labels, in terms of eyeglasses, really don’t mean that much because the different labels and even the store brands — they likely were made in the same factory by the same company.”

For those shopping for glasses in person, Checkbook finds that Costco, Walmart and Warby Parker offer very low prices.

Some folks with COVID-19 concerns might be hesitant to enter a store to buy glasses or contact lenses, but if you already have a prescription, Brasler said Checkbook finds some of the least expensive sellers are online.

But it can be worth the effort to compare prices, especially when buying contacts.

“Don’t just assume, ‘Oh, I’m buying online, therefore, I’m saving money.’ No, you still have to shop around,” he said. “The lowest price contact lens sellers, for example, had prices that were less than half of the highest prices we found.”

If you’re new to the contact lens experience, Brasler said it can be frustrating learning how to put them in and take them out. He recommends getting in-person guidance for using them.

Also, dealing with a local retailer will make it easier to exchange them if you’re unhappy, and he said you might be offered free samples to see if they work for you.

“The lowest prices (for contacts) at local stores were found at Costco,” Brasler said.

The lowest online prices for contacts were offered by EZContactsUSA.

Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP readers can have a look at Checkbook ratings and price comparisons 230 area opticians and optometrists for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices for more than 40 years.

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