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What's the best place to buy contacts?

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Finding the best place to buy contacts is a matter of finding the best value combination of price, convenience and service. Before deciding where to buy, take some time to carefully consider the pros and cons of buying contact lenses from your eye doctor, an online vendor or a retail store.

Wherever you choose to buy, you will need a valid contact lens prescription from your optometrist or ophthalmologist to place your order.

Buying contacts from your eye doctor

For many contact lens wearers, buying replacement contacts directly from their eye doctor is the best option.

People often wrongly assume that purchasing contacts from their eye doctor will be the most expensive option. In fact, many eye doctors offer very competitive pricing compared to buying contacts online or from a large retailer, and they provide the added value of more personalized and knowledgeable service.

Check shipping rates before ordering, whether you purchase from your eye doctor, online or at a retail store. Sometimes the charges are significant; sometimes there's no charge at all.

Also, if your contacts are bothering you, your eye doctor can often see you that day to evaluate the problem.

A potential downside of buying contacts from your eye doctor is that service hours are limited to the days and times the office is open, but many have addressed this issue by offering automatic reordering and home delivery. Some doctors also offer the ability to order lenses from their websites.

And if your contact lens prescription has expired, you can often get your next eye exam and pick up a new supply of lenses at the same time.

SEE RELATED: Your complete guide to buying contact lenses

Buying contacts online

It’s tough to beat the convenience of purchasing replacement contact lenses online. And pricing usually is very good. However, some online sellers fall short when it comes to service.

Several factors to consider when buying contacts online include:

If you purchase contact lenses that arrive damaged, what's the return policy? Check before you decide where to buy.

  • Product availability. Do they have a wide selection, with the exact lenses your doctor prescribed consistently in stock and ready for immediate shipment?

  • Shipping charges. Is free shipping available? If so, how many lenses do you need to purchase to qualify?

  • Professionalism. Does the seller require a valid prescription to fill your order? Do they attempt to sell you an in-house brand that’s “essentially the same” as the lenses your doctor prescribed?

  • User experience. Is it easy to place an order (and return a product, if necessary)? Is the ordering process easy and straightforward? Are the customer service representatives friendly and knowledgeable? What happens if your lenses don’t arrive — or arrive damaged?

When purchasing a medical device like contact lenses, service is a key part of the value equation. When searching for the best places to buy contacts online, look for a seller that has an excellent service record. For example, Coastal was recently awarded “America's Best Customer Service 2020” by Newsweek magazine.

SEE RELATED: How to buy contact lenses online

Buying contacts from a retail store

The other main option for buying contact lenses is the brick-and-mortar retail store.

Some retailers, such as LensCrafters, have licensed optometrists on-site for easy availability of eye exams and more extended hours of operation compared with a private eye doctor’s office.

While pricing is often very good, the selection of lenses in stock and ready for immediate pickup may be limited in some cases. If LensCrafters doesn't have exactly what you need in stock, you can always order your contacts online after your exam.

Still, the combination of professionalism, convenient hours and in-person service makes retail stores the best place to buy contacts for many people.

Do you have vision insurance?

Insurance benefits can be an important factor when choosing the best place to buy contacts.

If you’re covered by a vision insurance plan such as EyeMed or VSP, check the details of your benefits before choosing where to buy your lenses. Your policy could offer significant savings at specific locations.

The bottom line on buying contacts

When you're researching the best places to buy contacts, be sure to consider all three components of the value equation: price, convenience and service.

No matter where you decide to buy — online, from your eye doctor or at a retail store — be sure to have your eyes checked on a regular basis. With smart shopping and proper eye care, your contact lens-wearing experience can be both economical and healthful.

READ NEXT: Best places to buy contacts in 2024

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